Thursday, 11 August, 2022
YourTurnSubscriberWrites: Discussions and debates on religion are important, but they need not...

SubscriberWrites: Discussions and debates on religion are important, but they need not be only politicised

Being critical of religion and religious practices is a must for an evolving society to free itself from archaic practices of the medieval era, writes Col KL Viswanathan.

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“When a thousand people believe some made-up story for a month–that is fake news. When a billion people believe it for a thousand years–that is a religion,  and we are admonished not to call it fake news in order not to hurt the feelings  of the faithful.”  

– Yuval Noah Harari in his best seller “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”  

There are extended discussions (more like arguments) on religion in the media and social media platforms since a long-long time, more so during these past days. I find the discussions are mostly not about religion per se, but about politics in religion or vice versa. These discussions seldom achieve anything for progress but further mislead the public and create more controversies. There are generally two parts to a religion, beliefs and methods. Both are flawed. For a  learned person, who seeks and finds knowledge, methods are not important.  Simply put, this means that rites, rituals and meaningless regimen can be dispensed with if one realizes their purpose. Once realization dawns, it is no longer a belief. This is to say that beliefs have to be converted to knowledge early in one’s lifetime, to be free in mind and body. The question, therefore is,  are religions and religious leaders doing enough for its followers to convert their  “beliefs” into knowledge. The approach to religion over generations tell us that  the clergy and almost all religious leaders perpetuate ignorance rather than educate. More often than not, they exhort the followers to stick to beliefs as “it is written in the scriptures / holy texts or this is how it was for centuries as  “ordained” by somebody; so, you have to do it much the same way to continue to be a faithful”. In other words, they just perpetuate ignorance for exploitation and blackmail.  

As the connotation suggests, beliefs are just that and they may not represent facts. If a belief is known as a fact, it ceases to be a belief as we have knowledge of that “fact” with which we can make better decisions. Having faith in something or someone is not the same as being sure. Expressing faith in someone to do a task is not entrusting the job to someone who has established measurable capabilities to accomplish the same. This raises the question  whether those who swear by beliefs and faith for guidance are given a raw deal in life. Religious leaders will want us to believe otherwise. Because we do not seek knowledge and rely on beliefs and faith, vested interests such as the clergy and the politicians among others exploit us. I repeat, beliefs and faith are means for exploitation. exploited.  

More than any time since the “big bang”, nature has now indicated that there is  a need to recognize the limitations of humans. Forces beyond the immediate  control of man do not differentiate by wealth, religion, colour, creed, caste, sex  and such material entities of the world. We also know that matters of the body  are controlled by science and that of the soul by thoughts. Your thoughts are  shaped by many things including by beliefs when followed blindly. Let not the  blind lead the blind. Your mind can control your body only to an extent beyond  which, may be only science can revive it. But the mind is ones own to be shaped  at will and not to be controlled by others.  

For some time, I have been asking this question in my circle of influence for  more than a couple of decades. Nobody could give a satisfactory answer. I ask 

again: Why are we scared of religion? Why are we scared to debate religion and religious practices? Why are we scared to discuss and debate old and ancient texts? If we had started the discussion decades back, we would surely have made a lot of ground in understanding religions better. It is apparent that followers of the same religion have differing perceptions of their respective religion. Perceptions are a combination of knowledge and sentiments.  Sentiments are fickle, transient and most times do not follow any logic.  Accumulation of knowledge is a deliberate and continuous action. Where knowledge is shallow, sentiments override thoughts and actions. There is a  constant need to reinforce knowledge. This can be done only through continuous learning – public debates facilitate learning. Hurting religious sentiments is a  misnomer. Psychologically sentiment is an abnormal condition. While there can be a condition of religious sentiment, being abnormal, it cannot be hurt but only aggravated. Sentimentality is an emotional state disproportionate to the situation. It thus replaces extreme and generally thoughtless feelings for normal,  ethical and intellectual judgment.  

As such it is very important that we debate religions, religious methods and practices. Being critical of religion and religious practices is a must for an evolving society to free itself from archaic practices of the medieval era. Instead of shying away, discussions on religions and methods should be encouraged in thinking (wo)men.  

These pieces are being published as they have been received – they have not been edited/fact-checked by ThePrint.

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