"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."
(from Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right)
What if this is a heartless world full of spiritless situations? What if people can't handle real happiness because they can't exist without such illusions? Wouldn't religion then be a very much-needed drug for which the people must have in order to relieve their distress?
Wouldn't this argument then also serve as validation for religion, since certain economic conditions and realities have both allowed and necessitated its existence?