Friday, April 07, 2006

Humbug

I have always held that religion is a bad thing to have in the world today and the sooner that all religions are abolished the better it will be for the world at large. The truth of this argument seems so glaringly obvious to me, that it defies logic as to why most people can’t get it! Religion served a purpose at one point in time. That point in time has passed and so too has the utility of religion. Today, all that religion accomplishes is creating hatred, destroying peace and creating ready-to-exploit vote-banks.

The controversy over the Danish cartoons brought up a very interesting thought process in a discussion I had in my group of friends here. The school of thought that holds that the cartoons were “wrong” says that they violate the principle of Islam that says that the Prophet must never be depicted. Well, sure, that’s true, but there’s another way of looking at that, which a friend brought up.

“It’s prohibited in Islam, but then so is eating pork! Does that mean that no one must ever eat pork?” I must admit that this argument, its simplicity and its absolute irrefutability stunned all of us when we first heard it. It’s simple. Every religion prohibits a number of things. The followers of that religion may or may not choose to accept those decrees and may or may not therefore be accused of blasphemy or whatever, but the rest are completely free to break them with impunity and should not have to fear retribution from the followers of the religion!

That of course leaves just the point of whether the cartoons were offensive in themselves. Personally, I have seen all of them and did not think they were offensive. They mocked the people who use Islam as a shield and justification for terrorism and I don’t think that is at all offensive for the people who do not fall into that category. If I were a peace-loving Muslim who therefore would obviously not like those people, I would agree with the sentiments expressed by the cartoonist! It is astounding that these shold be considered offensive, particularly by those that defended MF Hussain!

The arguments raised by the defenders of the cartoons have generally centered on the issue of freedom of speech and this is where I find that religion is the obstacle! It seems fashionable in the West these days to deride Islam as the religion that seems to place barriers on freedom speech and expression, yet it is my contention, that all religions do so! However much the proponents of any religion may claim that their religion promotes peace and love, the irrefutable and indeed immutable truth of the matter is that no religion actually does so outide itself and the existence of any religion will ultimately lead to the total opposite.

There have been prolonged and painful-to-the-observer debates on the messages of peace in Islam and there have been points and counter-points about certain verses of the Koran and Hadith that certain scholars claim have violent/non-violent connotations. I find all these quite ludicrous and an unimaginable waste of time!

A fleeting glimpse of the Old Testament will serve to prove that Christianity is not devoid of violence either. Indeed, till just before the Industrial Revolution, the history of Europe is extremely bloody, brutal and war-laden…all in the name of religion. I have mentioned before in these musings of mine that all wars and battles documented in the last two millennia have essentially been based on religion! The Crusades, the burning of the witches, the colonisations etc. All these acts were promoted and encouraged and indeed sanctioned by the Church! Yet, few people contend today that Christianity is violent and there is a reason for that. Development! With the advent of the Industrial Age and prosperity, the focus of society shifted from religious to scientific education and education by its very nature is secular.

The relevance of religion in Western society has diminished to the point that there are articles about how the Church is worried about attendances and a few churches have opened malls and entertainment plazas on their premises! True that of late there is a religious Right that has sprung up in some places, but that is a very, very small minority!

By contrast, the less-developed regions of the world continued to wallow in religious fervour and worship. The Gulf, for all its money has nothing barring the oil reserves that have been relentlessly and ruthlessly been exploited by all the oil giants of the world. There is no real knowledge economy there as shown by the amazing dearth of any good institutions for higher education.

In India of course, the religious leaders of the minorities hold the strings and try to curb all attempts at the spread of education in the community. They are abetted by the ever-willing politicians for whom a community that is dependent on its religious leader for advice, represents the easiest of vote-banks to capture. Simple example. Why are the politicians as well as religious leaders so against a Uniform Civil Code? Because it’d drastically reduce, if not nullify, the hold that the religious leaders have over their community!

Religion has outlived its purpose. The purpose of every religion when it began was to create a societal order and bonding between the people. But that was in an age where there was hardly any inter-mingling! Today, with the diversity in all places, all that religions achieve is to create distinctions between people. They’re divisive by nature! Who says religions promote equality? The equality pertains only to people of the same Faith!

Every religious doctrine proclaims that the people of the ‘true faith’ will go to Heaven. A nun at my door once promised to teach me about ‘the true God’. What is all this if not divisive in nature? I believe that no person is a true atheist in the sense that every person has to believe in something. I say I am an atheist in the sense that I do not buy the concept of ‘God’ as it is taught. Yet, I too believe in something. I believe in a Universal Self as taught in the Upanishads and then as taken forward by a number of philosophers, both ancnt and modern.

No religion has answers to any of the truly philosophical questions. The reason is simple. Religion was not meant to answer these questions or teach the Truth. It was meant only to bind together people of a particular region, lay down laws and provide employment and money to the Godmen. Today, the wealth of the religious organizations and the power they wield bears testimony to the success that these instruments of domination have enjoyed. But their time has passed. It’s time to break down these edifices and look beyond at the naked truth, unmasked by the lies and deception propagated by religion.

I think the asininity of religion is best illustrated by an exchange I had with a priest. It’s a long one, so I’ll refrain from posting it here. In short, he blew up at me and refused to answer my questions after a point. It proved to me all I needed to know: Religion is a pile of crap!

6 comments:

silverine said...

One can't blame religion but the people who have taken over as 'owners' of a religion. I am talking about the religious leaders. Religion has conveniently become a tool for these people to weild power. And we have plenty of people with the herd mentality to follow these leaders. Sad.

anonychooha said...

It depends on which kind of religion. Some religions encourage you to look inwards, while others indoctrinate you towards looking outside and make you more aggressive towards those who do not share your beliefs.

In the case of the first category, there are by definition no "owners" and it would even be questionable to define these philosophies as "religions".

As for the latter kind of outward-oriented religion, no point in blaming religious leaders for taking advantage of their herd's pre-existing religious indoctrination which is what gives the leaders the authority they have. The blame lies squarely with religion.

anonychooha said...

Actually, the only problem with this post is that religion is often a misnomer. One must be clear about that.

There are several "religions" that are not really religions after all. Meanwhile there are some totalitarian, quasi-religious political ideologies that ought to be classified as religions on account of their similarity with certain established religions.

Jim said...

Yessir, I was nodding in agreement so hard, my glasses almost fell off!

Two things I don't understand about religion:
a) It's based entirely on faith in a few central beliefs. When alternate explanations exist for the world around us, (which eliminate these beliefs based purely on faith), why (or perhaps how) then, do people still choose to ignore the blindingly obvious?

b) So many aspects of our lives must be changed simply because of other people's preferences, which they conveniently blame on their beliefs. We must be the ones to bend over backwards to ensure our Christian friends aren't exposed to images they consider offensive, Muslim friends aren't given anything that's haraam, Bramin friends aren't offered meat... Even Bill Waterson, who normally refrains from making religious statements, made a strip in which Calvin is answering a class test where the question is "2+7=?" His answer: "I cannot answer this question as it goes against my religious principles". Where will this end? Tomorrow, I can cook up a religion that prohibits everything I don't like, and then go around claiming that I'm being discriminated against, if things don't work my way.

Darth Midnightmare said...

@Silverine: Quite frankly, religion creates these people. So, the blame does lie in religion itself. It is the religion that bestows power upon the priestly order and therein lies the problem.

@anonychooha: I think you answer yourself in the comment! You must differentiate between philosophy and religion. Philosophy essentially does look inward, while religion is outward.

@Jim: Bingo! I remember seeing the cynicism in that CnH strip when I first saw it. As for that last point you raise, that is the logical extreme that this path leads to! Appeasement of religious tastes is no longer a malaise of one region alone, but is a worldwide disease! It must stop. We need to draw the line and draw it fast.

anupa said...

Nice post again.

About the cartoon row: I personally could agree and you could agree that the cartoons were not offensive. But it still was a tasteless way of expressing angst against the Islam community. To tell you, that these Scandinavian countries are not even secular in the truest sense. It was more like taking a potshot at another religion. There was no context to this. I think the Danish press could have been a bit responsible in not printing such crap which aside from enraging the extremists did distance even the moderates in that community. I mean, nobody likes to see the essence of their religion being portrayed as "Killing".

Now, regarding religion itself, I agree that religion as it is being thought of today is pointless, and the sooner people break away from handed-down tenets about any "religion" as such, the better. I recently read "Middlemarch" by George Eliot. And there's a simple exchange of talks between the characters there where this woman asks the man- "What is your religion, I mean, not what you know about religion, but the belief that helps you most in Life?" - What a simple question. Something that everybody should ask themselves.

I hope the future generations at least among the educated start looking towards some kind of "Humanistic" religion so to say.

Keep blogging. :-)