Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist Opinion

Marx was far too easy on religion

By George Koumoullis

SOME of the most horrifying crimes have been (and will be) the countless wars perpetrated and fought in the name of religion.

Many political and religious rulers, who are in control of the official religion in the country they run, mercilessly persecute through catechism and sermons people of other religions and faiths. We frequently see the tragic results of this persecution on our television screens. If and when the jihadists get their hands on nuclear weapons, something that could well happen in the next 100 years, it would be the end of the planet.

But Islamists are not the only ones that have perpetrated big crimes in the name of religion. To be fair, Christians perpetrated greater crimes in the past. When Christianity was made legal in the Roman Empire in AD313, all other temples of worship and religious statues (which would have adorned the most famous museums of the world) were destroyed, while the priests of the temples were slaughtered. In other words, people as well as inanimate objects became the victims of the godly wrath and hysteria of the Christians.

When the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099 they massacred all the Muslims while Jews were burnt alive in their synagogues. Not even children were spared from the bloodthirsty rage of the soldiers of the ‘God of Love’. As for the Holy Inquisition of mediaeval times, it burned at the stake ‘heretics’ in a way that even the executioners of the Islamic State would have envied.

In short, nobody can dispute that massacres, exterminations and barbarity were often caused by religions, pagans against Christians, Christians against pagans, Muslims against Christians, Christians against Muslims, Christians against Christians (Protestants and Catholics), Muslims against Muslims (Shi’ites and Sunnis) all, in the name of their God, have been trying to exterminate each other. For how long will we put up with this moral degradation?

The religious leadership of Cyprus has also re-kindled religious intolerance. Only the other day, the Bishop of Limassol reminded us that there was only one church – the Orthodox, of course! – and those who did not belong to it were heretics. I ask for the understanding of Maronite friends who are not considered true Christians. I would urge the bishop to read the views of John Locke, the top English thinker of the 17th century, who explained in A Letter Concerning Toleration, that “every Church is orthodox to itself but mistaken and heretical for the others. Of course, what one Church believes, it believes truly, and anything contrary to this it condemns as mistaken”. In philosophy the word ‘heretic’ does not exist.

Is it not religion that is the root cause of the Cyprus problem? If all Cypriots were Orthodox or all were Muslim I do not think there would be a national problem. We would have united either with Greece or Turkey or have remained independent and enjoyed a good life in comparison to the current tragic situation.

We considered the Serbs as our ‘brothers’ simply because we shared their Orthodox religion. When NATO was bombing Serbia in 1999 we were demonstrating against bombings, but when in 1995, under the guidance of our ‘brothers’ Milosevic and Karadjic some 8,000 male Muslim civilians were massacred, we said nothing.

Given this tragic picture, the world is in desperate need of surgery to remove its tumour. But how can this happen when religious leaders deny the existence of the problem? The greatest philosophers of the 20th century Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre always argued that if nuclear weapons were not scrapped and religious fanaticism not eliminated, humanity would be exterminated. This was why they supported the creation of a world government (See Russell’s lecture “World government or extinction of humanity” –

As Russell stressed in many lectures, the ideal solution would be the emergence of a kindly and ultra-wise world dictator. One of his first tasks would be, with the help of anthropologists and philosophers, to persuade the young generations that it was extremely doubtful there was life after death. If this happened religious fanaticism would significantly subside.

It is said that the most famous aphorism about religion was Karl Marx’s “religion is the opiate of the masses.” Both – religion and opiates – daze people. But it seems Marx was unfair to opiates in likening it to religion because opiate, although an addictive drug, according to doctors, also contains therapeutic qualities. Religion does not seem to have such qualities. And this is not being whispered by an insignificant columnist. History shouts it out …


George Koumoullis is an economist and social scientist


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