Karl Marx needs no introduction. He was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary. One cannot deem to know anything about left-wing political philosophy unless one gets to know – properly – the writings of Karl Marx.
One of the phrases attributable to this giant of a man and continuously quoted by multitudes of supposed educated writers is the following statement: ‘Religion is the opium of the people.’
It has been used as a powerful battle-cry against organised religion the world over. Inversely, it has been used to portray socialists as immoral atheists – or agnostics at most – by the men of the cloth in their rebuttal.
But Marx did not precisely write the statement mentioned above. His properly translated paragraph, not sentence, on the subject matter in Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right is as follows:
‘Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.’
In the above quotation, Marx is saying that religion’s purpose is to create illusory fantasies for the poor. Economic realities prevent them from finding true happiness in this life, so religion tells them that this is OK because they will find true happiness in the next life. Although this is a criticism of religion, Marx is not without sympathy: people are in distress and religion provides solace, just as people who have been physically injured receive relief from opiate-based drugs.
The quote is not, then, as negative as most portray (at least about religion). In some ways, even the slightly extended quote which people might see is a bit dishonest because saying “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature…” deliberately leaves out the additional statement that it is also the “heart of a heartless world.”
Leaders using religion to commit horrific atrocities
This does not mean that some ‘organised’ religion is not harmful, deceitful, homophobic and an outright danger to society. Centuries of religious history has shown time and time again that slick and disgusting ‘leaders’ of ‘religious’ organisations have managed to interpolate religion in such a manner as to preside over horrific and monstrous calamities which have affected the lives of countless people around the world.
Until the September 11th attacks (even these attacks were supposedly ordered by a dangerous and sycophantic leader claiming that God was on his side), the Jonestown Massacre was the greatest loss of civilian life as the result of a deliberate act in American history. Today, the massacre that resulted in the death of nearly a thousand people in Guyana in 1978 is remembered in the popular imagination as the time that gullible expatriates from the People’s Temple cult literally ‘drank the Kool-Aid’ and died simultaneously from cyanide poisoning at the behest of a deranged ‘leader’.
This ‘leader’, deranged as he was, was a well-liked, respected figure within American society and the political establishment of the time. Jim Jones was known for his charity work and mixed-race activism. He also claimed that he could literally pull cancer out of people; with hindsight everyone realised that it was bits of rotten chicken that he produced with a magician’s flare.
Yes, sometimes organised religion is very dangerous. Even the big religions dominating the religious landscape in these last two millennia have been the main instigators of countless horrors, sorrow and death throughout the centuries. Pope Leo X himself, whilst answering a question on the Gospel by one of his Cardinals, stated that ‘it has served us well, this myth of Christ’. So, if such horrors have, time and again, repeated themselves around the world due to the ruses of malignant snake-charmers evolving through the eons of time, why is our country and our society so complacent in ensuring that this horrific phenomenon does not happen in Malta as well?
Why is our country and our society so complacent in ensuring that this horrific phenomenon does not happen in Malta as well?
This week was an eye-opener on this subject matter locally. An innocent and well-loved Polish female student was brutally strangled, murdered and raped by a local who was, for these last two years but most importantly on the night before the murder, attending and participating in the crazy antics of the self-styled ‘Reverend Pastor’ Manche’s River of Love sect. Immediately afterwards, Mosta priest and neo-Nazi sympathiser David Muscat shocked the already dumb-founded local community by his extreme, fallacious and homophobic statements which were also referred to by Archbishop Scicluna as ‘disgusting’.
But first things first. River of Love.
I can attack the former dancer turned preacher Gordon Manche on a very personal level. Manche grew up in Tarxien, my electoral district and stomping ground for many a year. I remember him and his antics prior to his supposed Saulian Tarsus epiphany. The pattern was there from day one. But I prefer to write with a different style than previous and present local writers who attack the person, not the substance. This farce has been left to rot by the authorities for too long now.
How can any voluntary NGO in Malta with no employees and limited resources rightly undergo thorough annual inspections, reviews and assessments and then having no structure in place in order to properly review and assess someone who decides to create a religious movement in Malta? How come no-one audits the lifestyle of these supposed men of God who lead the gullible and deceitfully confiscate and use part of their wages and savings for God knows why? By deliberately misquoting and misinterpreting Genesis 28:20-22, this charlatan forces his brainwashed followers to part with a tenth of their income. His hare-brained opinions and non-scientific gibberish on COVID-19, illegal gay conversion therapy and other grave and intentional initiatives are more than enough for his cult to be branded as a danger to society and be disbanded.
Why is there no structure in place in order to properly review and assess someone who decides to create a religious movement in Malta?
He has already wrongly stated that the world was supposed to end years ago. His amateurish and factually and scientifically wrong interpretations of the bible is witnessed every week on a TV program. Freedom of expression does not mean freedom to say what you want without consequences.
Gordon Manche is not the only rotten apple out there. We now have a registered political party with a hilarious name, ABBA, which is also home to loonies linked to this River of Love phenomenon. Again, I will not go personal in commenting on this ‘party’s’ chief guru, but for those who wish to know more on the state of mind of the person in question, all they need to do is to read the transcripts of the civil cases at court that he is embroiled in. And what about the Jehovah Witnesses fruitcakes who believe that they have a direct line to God but then got the date of the end of times wrong at least thirteen times? When something predicted to happen does not occur there is irrefutable evidence that Jehovah (even the name is wrong) did not direct the interpretation.
And if one believes that the big religions do not fuck up locally as well, then they have no idea of Maltese history. When all of mankind was holding its breath due to man’s first steps on the moon, half of Malta was interdicted by a zealous and mean archbishop who actually believed he was God in Malta. He orchestrated and set up political parties to represent the Maltese electorate before AND after Malta’s independence. Till this very day, it is deemed taboo to talk about the Church in Malta due to its strong, albeit declining, presence.
This insignificant Mosta parish priest has been uttering extreme and horrible stuff for years now. He is still there. When Fr. Mark Montebello had an issue with the church hierarchy, even though none of his statements were harmful to society, he was exiled to South America and ordered to shut up. It seems that even the sanctimonious Roman Catholic Church of Malta prefers reading Orwell’s Animal Farm instead of the Holy Scriptures.
In the meantime, we crowdfunded for the expenses related to sending back to Poland the corpse of an innocent student. What a shambles.