Together with the purpose of life, happiness has always been one of the central questions of philosophy, always remaining the object of definition and never being actually defined. Knowing of this, I do not suppose that my own idea of happiness has something new and original about it; on the contrary, I am quite sure that millions of people before me had expressed the similar thought; but it is still my idea.
In my opinion, happiness is the state of turning one’s dreams and wishes into reality; and not even the state, but process, because human is so constructed as not to be able to stop at what has been accomplished. One man shouldn’t have one dream; moreover, he shouldn’t have dreams at all. A real man should have goals, purposes, the ones that he is able to achieve or makes himself able to achieve and, after doing so, chooses another purpose and goes on turning it into reality.
One cannot be happy and idle. Even if somebody really thinks that one can be happy without doing any kind of objective work, it is self-delusion – if you ever get into a situation when you don’t have to do anything, even if the circumstances are pleasant, you will very soon understand what a real hell is. In order to be happy, a man must work – but not work in the sense of attending some firm and doing the same thing every day – in the sense of doing something that has clear periods, points of achievement, results, improvements and so on.
Happiness is always based on…
The question: Is religion the opium of the people?
Marx's famous critique of religion as "the opium of the people" was based on the idea that it encourages the masses to accept their lot in this world in order to gain a reward in the afterlife, thus placating the revolutionary proletariat.
In the same essay, Marx also said:
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness ... The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
Marx wrote that religion is the opium of the people in the context of his critique of Hegel, who saw Christianity as the "highest religion" – some scholars have suggested that Marx may have seen this critique as being applicable to all religions. However, his argument breaks down because of his ethnocentric focus on Christianity, which focuses more on the afterlife than Judaism. In Jewish thought, there is no concrete vision about what to expect in the "world to come".
The focus on the world we live in now, and how to maximise our potential for self improvement within it is seen in the Ethics of the Fathers, an anthology of rabbinic aphorisms:
A single moment of repentance and good deeds in this world is greater than all of the world to come.
Earlier in the same chapter of Ethics of the Fathers, we have:
Who is rich? He who is happy with his portion, as is stated: "When you eat of the labour of your hands, you will be happy, and it will be good for you"; "you will be happy" in this world, "it will be good for you" in the world to come.
Note again the emphasis is more on this world than on "heaven". Instead of advocating passive acquiescence to suppression for a reward in the afterlife, the Torah states "justice, justice shall you pursue – so you may live". This means that it is the responsibility of every person to pursue a just society which will not come about by chance.
Marx's critique of religion was related to his broader ideas about the best form of social and economic organisation, namely the communist system. Marx considered religion a tool for preventing self-understanding – however, Judaism is a religion which encourages people to think, contemplate and study which it sees as the highest forms of human activity.
Notwithstanding, the Jewish religion is intrinsically anti-revolutionary and would inhibit a Marxist revolution in the name of progress towards social justice. As such, Orthodox Judaism would be seen as supporting the status quo by those who, like Marx did, see government as an institution of repression.
Stable government is (arguably) seen as a necessary evil, Ethics of the Fathers also advises:
Pray for the integrity of the government; for were it not for the fear of its authority, a man would swallow his neighbour alive.
Judaism does perceive a need to change and, indeed, perfect the world but not through violent revolution that is espoused by the Marxist model. The rabbinic concept of tikkun olam ("perfecting the world") has been used in a modern context to develop approaches which increase social and economic justice through peaceful human endeavour.
Judaism shares Marx's concerns about the manifest injustices which led him to develop his political and economic philosophy. As with all the major religions, it also calls for this world to be changed from the "vale of tears" it is and commands that this change must be strived for and achieved in "this world" not just "the world to come".
Marx, in arguing the religion is the "opium of the people", is putting forward the basis for an argument which calls for the abolition of religion. Lenin called for the same thing through education not violence. However, this communist ideal and the resultant process of abolishing religion directly or through "re-education" has in practice caused much suffering in its own right, suffering that one doubts Marx himself would have welcomed. Marxism with its specific dogma and fiercely contested differing interpretations is ironically quite similar to religion in its modern manifestation.