Sunday, 21 October 2007

Religion as Opiate

I accidently came accross this photo in Google Image, and I love it. Without any context, I interpreted the bandage to refer to the spot where a heroin needle had been inserted, the vein forced to protude by the straps of the phylactery.

What does that say to you? I thought of it as a critique of religion, opium for the masses, a crutch which we rely on to sooth our insecurities and anxieties about the meaning of our lives. I'm 'religious' (in a way, I'm not too fond of the word), but I catch myself doing this kind of thing all the time: innoculating myself from harsh reality of my world, resting on my religion to keep me secure. The danger that religion replaces genuine faith in a God who explodes our categories and promises the impossible is something that has threatened his own people throughout their history.

In this light, I find the following quote (taken from B. Meyers' blog) from Karl Barth pertinent:

“Faith is not a ground on which we can place ourselves, not a system which we can obey, not an atmosphere in which we can breathe. Viewed from a human perspective, what was once called religion, conviction and law becomes rather the abyss, anarchy, void. But ‘the law of the faithfulness of God’ [Rom. 3:27] – which is to say, ‘the law of faith’ – is the place where only God can hold us, the place where there is nothing else but God himself, God alone.”

—Karl Barth, Der Römerbrief 1922 (Zollikon-Zürich: Evangelischer Verlag, 1940), pp. 84-85 (English edition, p. 110).

Just some Sunday thoughts.

By the way, I later looked up the background for this photo and discovered my interpretation completely missed the mark. The photographer is a homosexual Jew struggling with HIV. Come to think about it, heroin addicts don't put bandages on after they've injected, do they?


Reformed Baptist said...

I actually talked about this very issue in a blog post. I did a review, of sorts, of Merold Westphal's book "Suspicion and Faith". He gives an excellent over view of Freud, Marx, and Nietzche.


Phil Sumpter said...

I think my ability to even say this kind of stuff comes from hanging out with Christians who are into a post-modern approach to Christianity. About five years ago I read a lot on philosophy, from Westphal I read something on Nietzsche and something trying to redeem Augustine's Platonism. I'd like to give his book Overcoming Onto-Theology a read, especially given the name of this blog!