And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears—that’s what soma is.
This passage comes from the conversation between Mustapha and John in Chapter 17. Mustapha is trying to convince John that soma solves one of humanity’s oldest problems: it offers a way to deal with unpleasant emotions that lead to inefficiency and conflict. He claims that soma allows everyone to accomplish something that previously took years to attain. He also makes a connection between religion and soma. The word soma comes from an unidentified, probably hallucinogenic drug that was used in ancient Indian Vedic cults as part of religious ceremonies. The soma of Brave New World is a perversion of this ancient drug. Instead of giving insight, it clouds over the truth. Instead of being used in solemn religious ceremonies, it is used whenever a slightly unpleasant emotion is felt. Mustapha describes soma as a tool that allows everyone to be moral, but it can also be seen as a tool that the State uses to keep its citizens from becoming unhappy enough to try to change the society in which they live. John rejects Mustapha’s “Christianity without tears” as being too easy, too simple, and too superficial. To John, soma seems to be little more than an opiate of the people.