Rome, 12 May, 1972
Very dear Dominique and Jean,
I have read with the greatest interest, and with emotion, all the reports and the copies of letters you’ve sent me concerning the Rothko Chapel. Lately, I’ve made a little discovery that could become useful when you try to reunite the non-believers with the believers: “ecumenism" literally means “universal," and so we must therefore take care of everyone.
Here is the little discovery. You certainly know Karl Marx’s phrase: “religion is the opiate of the people.” In reading the entirety of Marx’s oeuvre, I never found this phrase or any other that resembles it. I discovered it recently. It appears in the introduction to an essay of Feuerbach entitled: “The Criticism of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law.”
Marx’s entire phrase is as follows: “Religion is the ardent desire of the oppressed creature, the heart in a heartless world, the soul of soulless times. She is the opiate of the people.”
Religion, as Marx unequivocally says, helps men to bear their tragedies by giving them a glimpse something more perfect, an ethic that could harmoniously and warmly reunite all men.
Here seems to me the concrete ground of discussion with the atheists. Forgive me. As affectionately and enthusiastically as ever.