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Do we need Religion?

January 8, 2009

Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum
(To such heights of evil are men driven by religion.)

How Religion poisons everything….is what Christopher Hitchens says in his book….and I agree with him one hundred percent….
Every word has become controversial now.Secular?Religious?Atheist?…
Mull over these questions for a minute…..
Is God overrated and under appreciated? Is God invisible and therefore non-existent?Who or what is God?
Is there a God?
Did God cause the first event? Or was God THE first event?
Did He create the Universe as we know it? Did He create time?
And most importantly, if one doesn’t believe in God then would one have to say that everything that has happened and is happening is one vast ACCIDENT?So many endless questions,simple on the surface and yet so …so.. complicated…

Why or when was the idea of ‘God’ first formed? Was it when man became afraid for the first time? When he couldn’t explain exactly how or why there was thunder and lightning?Why it rained? When he saw shadows in the dark and beasts that hunted him in the night? When he couldn’t put a name to things?
It’s the equivalent of the little kid who thinks there are monsters under the bed and shouts for his parents…hoping that they ,the grown ups will chase away the monsters ,maybe even kill them and make him safe forever.

And so ,it came to be. Man gave birth to the idea of his own parents/protector/guardian(call it what you will). I mean,if we are as logical as science tells us we are, then it is inevitable that the early man must have also wondered about where he came from….okay maybe that’s a stretch…:D,but he definitely did need the comfort of the idea that there was a Supreme Being out there who was making these unexplainable things happen.
That Someone was looking out for him.

But in the world of today,the world that has followed in the footsteps of the Renaissance, Science and Religion have been at loggerheads more often than not.

Hume puts the argument as a dilemna,’’If the evil in the world is from the intention of the Deity, then he is not benevolent. If the evil in the world is contrary to his intention , then he is not omnipotent. But it is either in accordance with his intention or contrary to it. Therefore, either the Deity is not benevolent or he is not omnipotent.’’

The history of religion reveals an ongoing perpetual antagonism between the domain of science or ‘Reason’ and ‘Supernatural Revelation’.
According to Vedantic terms,there are five fundamental concepts of reality known as Annamaya(atom),Pranamaya(life),Manomaya(consciousness),Vijnnanamaya(reason) and Anandamaya(intuition).
On the other hand the world views presented by sciences dealing with the categories are Physical Science,Biology,Psychology,Philosophy and Aesthetics.Science relies on reason and logic and Religion relies on faith.How more contrary can two things be??

Religion says that ‘miracles’ are God’s doing.They are a sign of his presence. Miracles are also the surefire way of identifying the ‘Avataars’.
Scratch any Avataar’s ,Saint’s,Preacher’s biography/history and chances are 100 out of 100 that he/she would have been recorded in the history books as the miracle curer/one who performed a miracle/one in whose presence miracles happened.

J.S Mill observed that an event cannot be considered a miracle no matter how strange it is,if it would occur again,if the same set of conditions were repeated.
So there goes the ‘Miracle ‘theory.I mean ,if Ganesha drank milk today ,for all you know ,he might again do the same tomorrow. If someone was ‘cured ‘ of lameness,who is to say it will not happen again in some other part of the world?

Religion itself is a rather difficult word to define.Everyone knows EXACTLY what religion is until they are asked to define it.:)
I always thought that calling myself am Atheist somehow just didn’t ring true ,so I settled for saying that ‘spiritualism ‘defined me better.Until I realized that Spiritualism too is considered a religion!Okay….okay .. so how about being a Naturalist or an Existentialist?But nooo! coz Man being true to his nature and the innate urge to neatly compartmentalise things into little slots has done the same with these terms too.
So everything has been termed ‘Religion’ .If IT leads and you follow it,then its religion!!…:D go figure!!!…we all follow it ie our own beliefs in some way or the other and yet we are asked to ignore it,to look the other way, to not bother about someone’s religious affiliation.It’s all a hush –hush affair.We are free to follow our own religions but we should also be ‘Secular’.be aware of your own,don’t ask the other about his,hide yours if need be,don’t poke into his,and most of all keep all of it separate from your social life,celebrate but not too much,participate but just about that much…Is it a belief or smuggling? 😀

In today’s politically correct world,where political correctness is being taken to new and absurd heights,where ba ba black sheep can be anything but it any wonder that religion is part of this correctness too?
Why the correctness?You might ask.
Well…you see it’s like this….All the religions of this world are PEACEFUL,TOLERANT AND IN HARMONY WITH EACH OTHER…..

It’s just some followers you see, who make a huge hullabaloo out of it.Mind you religions they tell us are GOOD.They produce law abiding citizens and tolerant human beings and peaceful individuals…..and so on and so forth….It’s just a few individuals …a handful really……okay..okay maybe more.And here’s the weird part…EVERY religion has them…the slightly cuckoo ones you know….The ones who say ‘God ‘gives them instructions,’God told me to conduct the Iraq war’ types,So is it the people or the religion itself?I vote for the latter.Because the minute religion gets out of hand and enters the public domain from the private one…..when it becomes a vote bank,that is when things turn dangerous.I believe it is not faith,belief or even religious ideology that keeps mankind together as a whole.I believe it’s something innate,something we are born with,something thats in our DNA…something that philosophers since ages have simply called HUMANITY…

Marx describes religion as ‘’opium of the people’’,as something that created false consciousness and was directly motivated by class interests.
Men’s ideas ‘reflect’,’express’,’correspond to’, ‘emerge from’ ,or ‘are conditioned ‘by their class interests.
Marx’s theory assumes that men are always impelled by rational calculations of their consciously recognized personal advantages and class interests.Which…somehow rings true…..specially in today’s turbulent times….

If history was written by victors, then religion was shaped and its scriptures written by those who helped the victors come to power.The sources of history and ancient religious texts are self- conscious products and reflect the concerns of those who have wielded power.

BECAUSE ponder this….why are women so conspicuously absent from history books?from sciptures?They exist …they are mentioned…. but only in the margins…..
Why are the various restrictions,the various purifying rituals,the ‘paap’ and the ‘punya’ all associated with women?

As Uma Chakravarti says ,with regard to ‘Subaltern Studies’,’’It is ironical that even as a certain space was opening up for a history of the ‘powerless’,the most powerless among the powerless remained outside the framework of new historical trends.’’

Some questions that I have regarding religion………..
– Has God made man in his image?Or has man made God in his own image?(the latter would actually explain a lot:D)
-How exactly does one define Religion?
-Why is no Religion complete without rites,rituals ..the whole works?
-If there are no rituals ,can it still be called a religion?
-Why this obsession with virgin and virginity?
-Why is the idea of ‘womankind’ absent except as goddesses(always with husbands of course)
-Why this emphasis on ‘celibacy’?
-Why the crazy ,borderline obsession with purity,impurity,being clean ,unclean?????
-If life is precious and each birth a beautiful ‘miracle’,then why are the givers of life …the ones who nurse it in the womb treated so callously?Why are they absent from religious texts?Why are they impure and seen as ‘loose’ ones who are a ‘temptation’ for men?
-If all of us are equal in God’s eyes,why are there some of us who are more ‘Equal’than others?Temporal power ,divine right et al…..
-If being good is all it takes,then why is being good ALWAYS about what God says?Isn’t that Dictatorship of a kind?
-How does whom I marry/like/dislike/sleep with/born to decide if I belong to a particular religion or QUALiFY for heaven or hell in a particular one?
-Shouldn’t choosing religion be like choosing a good college for oneself?(not like choosing a school coz parents choose that for us…err…we are not exactly capable at that age:D )Look at the track record of a particular one ,infrastructure,the faculty,the extra-curricular activities,the possible benefits and the reputation and feedback from past students and then decide?
-If everything is God’s word,then who decides what the words are?Who heard them in the first place?
-If all ancient civilizations had the ‘mother goddess cult ‘ as common ,why and how did we end up with primarily male gods today?
-Does it have something to do with the fact that no Religion has ‘female priests’?
-Why does religion intrude into private life?
-If life is sacred , each birth a wonder and abortion a sin,then why are little girls killed before they are even born?…….and sometimes after…………………………..
-If for every ‘good’ deed there’s a reward ,why is being BLESSED with a baby girl not rewarded?The sheer wonder of giving birth to a girl,to another magical being capable of giving life?
-If procreation is sacred and beautiful, why do ALL religions treat it like a sin?
-AND just how are all ‘GODS’ born of ‘VIRGIN MOTHERS’?Isn’t that asking us to stretch logic,reason and imagination a tad too far?
-If ‘God’ is all powerful and benevolent and omnipotent how come he gets offended by a book or a cartoon or a painting that a mere mortal makes/writes/paints???Is God such a petty person, so in need of an ego boost?And if these artists/writers/people offend one’s sentiments why not just let them be,think of them as crazy lunatics?Why go on a rampage and take innocent lives,cause damge worth millions?
-And this one’s the kicker..:D….What if..there is no heaven or hell??ahem..then all your ‘good ‘deeds were in vain if you were hoping for heaven AND THE EVIL ones will wine and dine and die …all in this world…no hell for them…..

Besides the question of completely overlooking /negelecting/suppressing/(insert a word of your choice) women,religion itself is quite complicated.

As Christopher Hitchens writes in his book,’’Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago..’’

They say religion is beautiful,it’s peaceful,it’s charitable,it’s giving,it’s open……well….pardon me,but in my lifetime I haven’t seen much of it on display…

As Jonah Blank says in his book,’’The pot of religious discontent periodically boils over into violence,but it always is quietly simmering.’’
I think that is true of the world as a whole today….

PS- And btw I agree with George Carlin….God definitely is not a woman coz believe me, no WOMAN could have made such a mess of things…
“Man is the religious animal. He is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion – several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat, if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven.”- Mark Twain’’
‘’Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?’’ – Epicurus
Edited to add:- A few days ago on a primetime programme, I happened to hear this from an Islamic scholar and it rang so true..

”Musalmaan Quran ko maanta hai,Quran ki nahi maanta;
Hindu Ram ko maanta hai,Ram ki nahi maanta;
Bhartiya Kanoon ko maante hain,kanoon ki nahi maante….”

I personally don’t yet know what it is that I believe in.For years I had taken my own religion for granted.But in today’s world ,a world that is becoming increasingly intolerant,increasingly bloodthirsty …all in the name of religion…I am forced to take a second look at my beliefs..

As much as I admire and respect all the religions,I have to say that I don’t want any part of this new ‘religion’.The one that I see everyday constantly changing form….one where Ram has gone from being portrayed as a gentle god to a muscular ,military one…muscles and all ,bow in hand about to attack ..all done at the behest of fanatics.One where it is okay to rape a woman to avenge a family’s honour because the Religious law says so….One where honour killing is just another occurence among many.One which denies the idea that animals have a soul and can go to heaven(if there indeed is one)……One which sanctifies caste ……..the list can go on and on…..

All I want to say is that the intention is not to hurt sentiments.The rant is notagainst any particular religion rather it is about the idea of ‘religion’ itself.So my apologies if any feelings have been hurt.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Ajit permalink
    January 8, 2009 9:24 am

    good one………
    Religion is a vast subject and people change it to suit their needs…
    The Bhagavat gita, one of the most revered books in Hindusim was actually used by himmler (the Nazi who started killing jews)…
    It is said that he carried a copy of the book with him at all time coz he felt like Arjuna fighting evil 🙂
    that is how bad things can be….
    Do I believe in religion…. yes, my religion is Indianism….
    and hinduism is my culture….
    I consider the 2 as two different things…………..

  2. Indyeah permalink
    January 8, 2009 10:56 am

    Hey thanks!..
    thats a perspective thats easy to understand and adopt….that does make more sense…Indian first…religion and all…and Hinduism as simply a way of life…:)
    didnt know that about Hitler ….interesting to know..:)spcly for my students…:)crazy guy!!
    hmm.. off to look up culture now..and thanks…:)

  3. Ajit permalink
    January 8, 2009 11:46 am

    hey Indyeah,
    It was not Hilter… it was himmler… (his assistant)

  4. Vinod_Sharma permalink
    January 8, 2009 6:39 pm

    This is a very thought provoking post…there is no doubt that men have killed more men in the name of their God than for any other reason…religion is not a creation of God, it is man’s manipulation to acquire power in God’s name…I wonder why Himmler had to use the Gita to kill Jews…he is perhaps the first and last man to have so used it…goes to show how men brought up with a certain ‘My God is only True’ culture can corrupt everything…that is the power of religion made by man for his selfish and cruel worldly greed.

  5. Indyeah permalink
    January 8, 2009 8:15 pm

    Ajit:-Oops!Hitler is so stuck in the mind ,that thats the first word that comes out..thanks for the correction..

    Vinod Sir:-Yes,it sickened me to know tha smone smwhere in this world could use even the Gita for such a heinous crime..until nw I had thought that it was only restricted to the swastika being used in that manner by the nazis..
    and yes what you say is so true…its ”the my god is the only one and the true one”belief that causes all the mayhem…always has ,always will….

  6. Vinod_Sharma permalink
    January 8, 2009 8:20 pm

    Indeah, small advice… avoid using abbreviated lingo. This, I feel is not the space for it.

  7. Indyeah permalink
    January 8, 2009 8:35 pm

    Vinod Sir:-Thanks for the advice…hmm will definitely do that….have to get out of the abbreviation habit…:)sms culture has done that…spoiled the vocabulary

  8. Sagarone permalink
    January 14, 2009 11:56 pm

    A really good post, this one. Makes you think. Did God create Man in his image, or was it the other way around?

  9. Indyeah permalink
    January 15, 2009 7:02 am

    Sagarone:-Thank you…:)If anything makes one think it’s worth it….:)
    If I absolutely had to choose,I would say that it’s the latter…because if it’s the first one, then God(if he/she exists)is not my version of what a Supreme Being should be……:)

  10. Usha Pisharody permalink
    January 23, 2009 8:33 pm

    Discerning and educative! Your quote bank is quite something, and your views come across as probing, balanced and yet unafraid to face the realities as they are!

    Good one!
    Now, let me read it again 🙂

  11. Indyeah permalink
    January 24, 2009 8:53 am

    :)Thank you….means a hell of a lot…:)
    err the quote bank is very diligently kept ,maintained and remembered by a quote maniac…:D

  12. October 11, 2010 9:03 pm

    thought-provoking and timely.. religion to me is a frame of reference and takes different forms..

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