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Monday, September 18, 2006

When will religion cease to be so damn important?

As Muslims world over react strongly to the Pope’s wild comments or rather his reference to some long dead person’s comments; one thing comes out in the forefront: Since the crusades-jehad period; never has religion been so important in world affairs. People are getting killed in the name of religion at Bali, Mumbai, Malegaon, Southern Thailand, Cairo, Somalia, Uganda, Iraq, Netherlands and New York. Cartoons, Pope talk, Ahmedinajad, US-UK non-action against Israel in the Lebanon crisis, Bande Mataram etc. are all fueling the “us vs them” battle.

Is there a solution for this? People must realize the uselessness of bull-talk like “all religions teach the same truth” and “religious co-existence is possible.” The fact of the matter is that religious co-existence is only possible when one group has totally crushed out the others as during the Mughal rule in India. If differences as between Shias and Sunnis, Protestants and Catholics, and Nirankaris and Amritdharis can lead to so much bloodshed; religious co-existence is an idea as fancy as existence of UFOs.

The only way out seems to be a situation where entire humanity follows the path of western Europe. The frequent bloody battles between Europeans ceased after Europeans learned to be dispassionate about religion and nationalism. Mass education may provide this. Our education systems largely ignore alternate philosophies about life. Children only receive one viewpoint: "that God exists in the form his parents say and everything is explicable through religious means." Children have to be given exposure to alternate view points about life like existentialism and absurdism. The horrors of war and terrorism because of religious and national fanaticism has be explained in detail; videos and posters of mothers crying over the dead bodies of their sons killed in religious feuds have to be displayed everywhere. An educational system that constantly encourages independent thinking has to be instilled. Let’s not forget that Hindu students of advanced physics still do a surya namaskara believing deep in their hearts that Sun is a god and not a star.

It is amazing how religious systems based on ancient men’s fear of natural elements have managed to entrench so deep in our day to day living. We forget that ancient people were wrong in saying that the sun rotated around the earth, that the earth was flat and that the world is made up of ether/ musical notes/ or elements like fire, water etc. We forget that ancient people had no medicines for the fatal diseases; had no cars, aeroplanes; washing machines. We forget that ancient people wrote books that justified slavery for the blacks, celebrated monarchy and stoning by death of women. Because of our forgetfulness and ignorance, we still believe that ancient people who wrote those religious books had enough wisdom on the basis of which we can kill each other. Let’s stop paying obeisance to the agents of the past like the popes, imams and swamis. Let’s respect the achievements of our own generation; we have paid enough homage to those old books and their writers; let’s have faith in our abilities to think independently.


Jayesh said...

As long as people have higher order questions like ' what is life' 'what is my reason for existence' 'does God exist and why'..And religion is a means to answer these will continue to be important....

Aneesh said...

religion as is interpreted by the common man is distorted. Looking above the paltry fights about a particular religion being superior, one might begin to realise the importance of religious philosophy in ones life. Now i myself being an atheist, say that life's phislosphy may come irrespective of religion, but in some cases a lot of things are to be learnt from mythological stories. The Mahabharata for example.

Fr. Gaurav Shroff said...

Perhaps it might be best not to paint with too broad a brush ... just as there is no one monolithic thing such as "Islam" ... or "Christianity" ... there is no one monolithic thing such as "religion."

People have been calling for (and predicting) the death of religion for a few centuries now ... and it's still here, and not just as a rapidly disappearing phenomenon.

Yeah, there's dark sides to religion, but that's not the whole story.

And, perhaps it might be worth reading what the Pope actually said -- this whole brouhaha was in the context of the role of reason in religion.


Deep Blue said...

Absolutely agree with you shivaji, I still don't get why religion is so important to people's life, when obviously some of the things preached by it are plain stupid. Some say, that it teaches you values, what a load of crap. Values are borne out of compassion for another human being and not through any religious preachings, on the contrary some of the religious practices actually teach you to hate "them" or dominate the opposite sex. Also, I have noticed religious leaders struggling to explain things and then trying to retrofit incidents to suit religious texts. The most hilarious comment I heard was by a hindu priest who said that the Indian Ocean Tsunami happened because a lot of people with bad karma had assembled in Indonesia. LOL..what a load of BULL, and so indifferent to the thousands that perished that day.

Anonymous said...

Education (the kind you mention) will go a long way in putting religion in its place. But unfortunately, that is not the case with most education systems in the world.
But I don't agree with you that different religions can't coexist. As long there is humanity, there will be differences. The point is religion has gained too much importance and centrality in too many lives. If me and you can peacefully differ on theories of science, why can't we differ on theories of divine. Religion should be a personal and individual choice.

One more thing, part of the Mughal period (and some other periods in India) were not as divisive as you think.
Akbar (who perhaps had his own personal religion) never discriminated between his Hindu and Muslim subjects (no Jizya, no forced conversions, no mosque building). His most trusted mansabdaars were Rajputs.
The facts given above just show that he was as just or unjust to every religion. Because religion was not paramount in hios life as it has become in the lives of some of today's leaders.

Tanushree said...

I loved your post (here via desipundit). I don't have much hope for the human race unless we are able to give up the yoke of religion. A lot of people say that these attrocities are not what so and so religion actually preaches, and that religion has been perverted into its present form. But present form is the religion! Just as we do not say that we are just a perversion of our apelike ancestors, and we accept and work with the present form that we have evolved into, we must accept that the present forms of various religions are the form we will have to deal with. Widow-burning, suicide-bombing, book-burning, this is what religion is, today, and we have to deal with it.

There isn't much hope that the human race will actually give up religion. Most people don't want to know better. They are happier in their delusional worlds, believing in a personal deity who listens to their specific prayers and has a place in it heart for them, and that no matter how evil they are to other people, they have only to open up their hearts to the ultimate one, and all will be forgiven. No one wants to give up this easy way out.

Anonymous said...

It is true that in India, even educated people believe so strongly in religious crap. So just being educated won't do the trick. People need to be thought to be open-minded or at least, be made to see and admire someone open-minded whom they can follow.

Religion will always be there - people need something to believe in, regardless of whether it is true or not.

Shivaji said...

Thanks for the comments; some of the commenters are still hopeful about the postivities of religion.
Given a long bloody history of religious feuds; i doubt if there is a case for religious co-existence.

Manish Bhatt said...

Never have I agreed so completely with anyone. This definitely is the only solution. The only manner in which religion should carry on is as a personal choice. Like wearing denims rather than khakis, or something as personal as that. I dream of a time when hindu daughters would chose to become buddhist or practrise islam and noone would bat an eyelid.

Manish Bhatt said...

Oh, and I was born a hindu. I am largely agnostic now although I think hindusim is really cool, and so is Buddhism, as a system of concepts amd mythos. You might like this:

Anonymous said...

if only more people could act upon religion rather than just 'hand-me down-o-ye-Mccoys' thinking about it in terms of personal choice , state/group imposed choices etc.?

religious enquiry overlaps with social ethos , but religion is not about social problems. it is mainly because both of these get mixed so much that it becomes difficult to tell which is which for an untrained eye.

[crude analogy : there are economical alternatives to correct a problem , and then there is the legislative ones ; just think about how many times we try to solve econ with legis]