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On Religion and Humanity

This piece elaborates my understanding of faith

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion. 
Steven Wienberg

We have been hearing the words of wisdom from religious texts. But when we turn our earthly judgments into divine commands, according to Georgia Harkness, religion becomes one of the most dangerous forces in the world. Religion is also one of the things in our life that does not depend on its right or wrong, but rather how it has been implied in our daily conduct. And it will be in the interest of the humanity to discuss its essence as a whole.

This article does not posit that ‘god exists’ or ‘god does not exist’. Personally, I believe in god’s nonexistence and that religion has no role in my life. However, it is irrefutable that the gods and religions play an indispensable role in the human society. Believe or not, there are more people in this world who take god as god and nothing else.

 Some worshippers view there is no ultimate purpose but to live life to the fullest 

F I L L I N G   T H E   E M P T Y   S H O E S 

To illustrate the point, let’s take an example of illiteracy in a developed society. In the US — the saviour of man from communism and suffering and Osama bin Laden and all the evils — where development of science and technology has reached its comparative zenith, there are 42 million people who don’t know the 4Rs and another 50 million who hardly know how to read. (1) Imagine the huge number of the unfortunates in a third-world country like India, where infrastructure is dismal and access to service is pathetic. Even if the right to education is a constitutionally provided opportunity, it is estimated that 35% of the world’s illiterate population lives in this country. (2) Therefore, religious teachings provide a level platform to the people, to gain knowledge, regardless of their background. That is to say, religion becomes a medium of education and a pedagogy of sharing knowledge. Besides the formal system, learning also includes the study of spiritualism, universal truths and the meaning of nature: some topics that the most logical science cannot even explain. That’s how religion comes into the picture and fills the empty shoes of education.

T H E   E A S T  Vs.  T H E   W E S T  

There is no question on the roles that religions have been playing throughout the history. And people are utilising the several religions for a variety of reasons  for the good or the bad or the ugly, thats another story. It is true that especially the Eastern mystical religions like those found in India and China are so rich in content. We can get a glimpse of our development from those cave-dwelling days to this age of information through the narratives of these religions. We can also find in synonymous terms, all along, faith has been incorporated with philosophies to study the world. It may not be wrong to state that the blending of the Eastern thoughts with those of the Western ideas — which have their origin in Greek thoughts — offers us a better perspective to understand the universe. Yet, instead of finding new thoughts and ideas, we have been bogged down by the clashes of civilization. Besides beyond a god, there is no entity, which severely cripples the study of our origin. We may be religious but we are not humane. Thats another problem.

S U R R E N D E R I N G   T O   O U R   S T U P I D I T Y 

It is interesting to note here, the never-ending debate on the origin of our universe. We have to find the reason for we are a logical being, and we found the gods in varying creeds and colours. In some way, it appeases our insatiable mentality. For the god-worshippers, religion teaches them it was the Intelligent Designer who had created our universe and that there can be nothing beyond god. For those people outside the religious territory, the universe made itself through a big banging random chance. (3) And for some others, the study of our origin is as useless as searching for the meaning of truth.

No matter how much we have evolved from being troglodytes to space conquerors, our inherent primitive nature — some called it the emotion — is still wired to a consciousness of some power above human intelligence. No psychology, biology, sociology, anthropology or philosophy is profound enough but our emotion to explain the significance of our existence. We elaborate it in terms of the good and the bad and the ugly again; the desirable and the undesirable; plus, realising the concepts like, in Hinduism, the dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Some worshipers view there is no ultimate purpose but to live life to the fullest. Perhaps some day we might discover these unknown powers that we have entrusted upon religions is just our ignorance.

T H E  U N I V E R S A L  T R U T H 

The only two things that are infinite, said Albert Einstein, are the universe and human stupidity — and quite humorously, he was not sure about the former. Assume our universe has the size of a football, and then our knowledge is almost like a full stop at the end of this sentence. Our knowledge of the universe is too incongruent that we have developed a displaced sense of the cosmic creation through religion.

A pie chart illustrating the cosmological composition of the universe. [Courtesy: Azcolvin429, Wikipedia Commons]

Suppose the full stop is placed at the centre of the universe, then a religion covers the uncharted portion outside the external circumference of the dot up to the internal circumference of the football. Or maybe this portion is also infinite like our stupidity or maybe there are a lot more footballs with or without the dots. These speculations are staples for the sci-fi fans but take for example, pantheism, of which followers believe we are part of the nature than being set above it. The same old emotion takes the shape of another energy that moulds the understanding of our existence.

It will be more apt to add that science has delved much deeper into the dot than any religion can do. But you know people still perform suni puja and other crappy rites and rituals. Even inside this dot there are unconnected lines and points in galore giving rise to a position: science plugging them in with logic, and religion uniting them with emotion. How religion tries to connect the missing links can be easily seen from astrology (not to be confused with astronomy), leave alone the literal preaching by fakirs.

D É J À  V U 

You have the alternatives to believe about how the universe had started or how it was created. And it does not matter on your personal belief. But religion affects you when it comes out in the open, in the family and the society. For example, take the case of religious festivities. You are in it, no matter which sets of belief you have. It’s another story when a person locks himself/herself up inside his/her room to meditate while the world outside is filled with festal airs.

John Lennon had delivered his sermon, imagining human societies without religion. Yet we have these culture and identity things that are directly affected by what we follow based on our faith. We believe our races share a root. Some people go to the extent of saying we are the offshoots of other creeds. In a strife-torn Manipur — despite the epicanthic, Mongoloid features of the natives — there are people who believe that they originated along with the sharp-nosed Aryans because of the shared religion. And so arises the tension with them against the ‘originals’, and then conflict and bloodshed. The matter is quite simplified for easy understanding but all of us know how religion becomes a tool for the wickedness in us: the rise of arrogant powerful nations, global terrorism and what not. And those who view religion should be separated from politics, Mahatma Gandhi stated, they don’t know what religion is.

We have been watching the universe through our so narrow prism of human knowledge. We called it science and technology, which helps us catch a glimpse of the distorted God's-eye view of the universe. Remember, this position is taken only through theoretical frameworks that were developed on the properties of waves, particles, the string theory among others. And seemingly we have not been able to grasp the universe in a single picture.

Perhaps it was too much for religion when Charles Darwin waggled the world in mid 19th century with The Origin of Species. The universe is an open-ended process, which means reality is manifested in 'becoming', and not merely in 'being'. Darwin proved it without any reference to the gods.


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