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Weaponization of faith



The German philosopher and economist Karl Marx proclaimed “Die Religion… ist das Opium des Volkes.” Loosely translated, it meant, “Religion…is the opiate of the masses.”

Opiate or opium, of course, is a mind-numbing drug which Marx likened to religion having been used throughout the centuries and even today by churches to control and turn people into mindless zombies.

The medieval Catholic Church, especially the popes, held power even over the royalties as shown by Pope Gregory VII excommunicating King Henry IV over the latter’s claimed interference in Church matters.

The king had to bow down to the power of the Church because along with his expulsion, the pope also divested him of his royal dignity and freed his subjects from their duties to him like paying taxes.

Such is the power that the Catholic Church and most other religions hold over their subjects that church leaders, then and now, have been accused of precisely what Gregory accused Henry of – interference in matters outside of their realm.

In fact, this interference by the Church with the Philippine experience under centuries of Spanish rule was the very reason why framers of the Philippine Constitution saw fit to declare a separation of the Church and the State.

But can there really be a separation since the followers of churches overlap as the subjects of kings and the constituencies of presidents and prime ministers?
And who holds sway over the people? Here it must be considered that if rulers of nations have laws to keep their people in check, churches have the ultimate weapon to put unthinking people into a state of catatonia.

While states can put people in jail, churches cajole their flocks with the promise of heaven while threatening them with hell if they do not toe the line or give tithing.

In President Rodrigo Duterte’s own encounters with the Church, we see the latter unable and unwilling to let go of its medieval power over heads of nation by rabble-rousing people with politicized sermons against Rody’s campaign against illegal drugs and corruption.
But with religions projecting themselves as the way to heaven notwithstanding Jesus Christ’s own admonition that it is only through Him that one can enter the pearly gates, church people open themselves up to scrutiny.

In the United States, an 884-page grand jury report accused 301 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children over a 70-year period.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Church leaders silenced their victims through the “weaponization of faith” and a systematic cover-up campaign by their bishops.

The Pennsylvania storyline is an old one – of church leaders and people, and not just from the Catholic Church, having forked tongues in preaching holiness while living depraved lives.

Pope Gregory telling King Henry IV to keep his hands off Church matters hewed closely to Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal’s blockbuster novel Noli Me Tangere which had sold millions and which had been translated into many languages.

In Filipino, the novel’s title Huwag Mo Akong Salingin, or its simplistic English translation Touch Me Not, mirrored what has happened before and what is happening now – of religion, as Marx said, serving as the opiate of the people and a weapon by wolves in sheep’s clothing.