The German thinker and granddaddy of communism provided a perfect slam-quote to explain why religious people were such mindless dolts: "Religion is the opiate of the masses." This short but eloquent thought has inspired countless edgy t-shirts and skeleton-filled posters. So, Marx obviously meant that he considered religious folks akin to mentally impaired, useless drug addicts laying on their own filth, right? There's no other explanation here.
What It Actually Means:
First of all, if the current state of widespread pharmaceutical drug addiction has shown us anything, it's that opiates are the opiates of the masses. But, crippling social issues aside, check out the context in which Marx said that:
Karl Marx Ooh, this would make a great new Thanksgiving topic.
Marx said some pretty nice things about religion and its role in society, before angsty college kids wanting to make their parents feel dumb at Thanksgiving started quote-cropping him. Marx called religion "the heart of a heartless world" and "the spirit of a spiritless situation," praising its ability to help people get through a tough life. He felt empathy for those who seek refuge in religion, not disdain. If he saw you blasting death metal at carolers, he'd call you a thoughtless dick.
Instead of abolishing religion in his red utopia, Marx talks about wanting to create a world so great that people don't feel they need it anymore. It's almost like he's speaking in a way that won't alienate the vast majority of the people likely to be reading his work. He doesn't even appear to use the word "sheeple!" Go figure.
Tim Lieder's fiction has appeared in Lamplight, Shock Totem, and Daughters of Frankenstein: Lesbian Mad Scientists (published by Lethe Press). His latest published stories are in Sugarplum Zombie Motherfuckers. He also owns Dybbuk Press, through which he's published nine titles including King David and the Spiders from Mars. Stephan Roget infrequently tweets over at @StephanRoget, where he's mostly just excited he didn't have to use an underscore. Check out his most recent articles here.
For other famous sayings you're totally botching, check out 6 Famous Literary Quotes Everyone Uses Exactly Wrong and 5 Classic Movie Quotes (Where We Totally Ignore The Context).
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