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so instead of being an addictive drug that can kill you, religion is completely harmless and can actually help you sometimes. Seems like an odd an analogy for an atheist.
I see the analogy as “sometimes things do improve even when there no active agent working on your behalf, especially when you believe that there is”. I.e., either a belief that a placebo is an active medicine that will help your condition, or a belief that a benevolent personal god is intervening invisibly on your behalf, may both yield positive results, but not for the reason that the believer thinks.
Fictional atheist on television. Those tend to be more concerned with making cutesy clever statements than real arguments.
Opiates can be beneficial (and if you weren’t planning to do anything for the next several hours, opium can be pretty fun). They can also be addictive, and potentially can kill you. Where they fit into this analogy is that they have specific set effects. Placebos (or religions) have the effect you derive from them. Placebos (and religion) can make you feel better. Placebos (and religion) can treat psychosomatic symptoms. But they don’t actually do anything. They just give you some outside force to credit for what you do.
Religion is not inherently beneficial or inherently harmful. It has the effects that people taking the placebo assign to it.
The opiate of the masses line pause an additional problem in the context of the show, since the character House is addicted to opiates.
Added to the above, the reason doctors tend not to use placebo’s, and judge the use as unethical, is because the “help” they provide is usually subjective (they make you “feel better”), while the objective symptoms are unaffected (e.g. bpi, size of tumour etc.), and they can have negative side-affects on people with different social/cultural expectations (fundies anyone?). As Nox implies above, Marx’s original metaphor was not meant to say that religion’s effects were always bad, only that they were illusory and could lead to society being in a worse condition further down the line if relied on to meet short term needs, and that actually treating the cause rather than the symptoms was a better approach. It’s also purely atheistic in tone, i.e. it presumes the subjective effects are not actually caused by the religion or god in question, but one’s personal belief and trust in it, so not that strange. IMO, it’s actually a much more rounded/up-to-date analogy to religion than morphine.
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