I am a fan of Karl Marx's critique of religion as "the opium of the people." Because Marx is the most famous atheist and hostile toward religion, religious people rarely give his critique a chance. We need to listen to what Marx has to say. I refer to this quite often in my messages at the Hollywood Adventist Church.
Haven't you noticed that religion mostly pacifies people? It mostly leads them to disengage with the world and to wish for a world that doesn't exist. What I am working toward in my congregation is a religious faith that motivates people to act. But this is not how we have been taught. Those of us who have grown up Christian—especially, but not only, those in the conservative/evangelical side of the church—have learned, more or less, that Jesus died for our sins, freed us from existential guilt, and accepted us into his family. What remains is to wait for the full consumation of that freedom in heaven or a world made new. The most we might be motived to do, if we are extroverted and altruistic enough, is invite others to to follow us on this path.
In this mode, Christianity is primarily about keeping your nose clean and waiting out this cruel world as we wait for something better to be ushered in by God. This is a religion of disengagement, of passivity and of apathy and Marx was right to criticize it.
Here is a longer section that includes the famous "opium" line, from, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.
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.
You need to be sober to deal with life as it is. In fact, the principalities and powers thrive when those who properly have a vision of the world as it should be are so inebriated by religion as to be of no good to the world. This religion must die, and soon.
My friend, Peter Rollins, is talking about this in his recent conversation with the good folks at Work of the People. Listen as he describes what he calls Crack House Church.
To what extent is your church a Crack House Church?
What can we do to sober people up so that they can feel and engage with the world as it is and work as God's partners to create the world as it should be?