IN THE NAME OF GOD

WHAT DO I WANT TO BE- A FEARFUL FOLLOWER OR A LOVING HUMAN?

The man offers his prayers to his chosen God. Pious to a fault. Believing in the one above, whatever form he may be in, believing, that he has been sent to the planet in human form for a purpose to fulfill his will. He then, purposefully moves to his objective and blows himself up taking with him in the process hundreds or tens of human lives, lives who also would have believed in the same God, or maybe different.

Today, the above tragedy may or may not be related to a particular religion. But then, it’s the circumstances that need consideration. For not so long ago, a certain demagogue wanted to wipe out people of a particular race from the face of the Earth. He almost succeeded. A few centuries back, the bloodshed during the crusades, when the sole purpose seemed to be the conversion of people professing other faiths, to your own, which you considered superior, was not even funny to put it mildly. As such, attributing evil to a particular race, religion or laypeople is not appropriate. In other words, evil, committed in the name of religion, knows no barriers; it is secular. Blaise Pascal put it rather blithely, “Men never take to evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”.

Most of us believe in some God. Even the atheists believe that there is some power above us. Some are professed fans of theories of aliens who our ancestors worshipped as Gods. The funny thing is that there is nothing funny in any of our beliefs or belief systems. No one knows for sure. And yet, religion is the world’s fastest growing industry with turnover in billions of dollars.

The irony is not lost on the sentient, that most religions profess peace, brotherhood and universal love for your fellow-men. But the caveat is that the interpreters of one faith spread the belief of superiority in “their” God as opposed to the ones worshipped by the other, that somehow, the others are inferior, and need to either be taught a lesson, or proselytized. And their firm conviction for each such human saved from eternal damnation, they would be scoring pre-determined brownie points that bring them closer to that eternity, they call heaven. It is indeed fascinating as to how something as tenuous as an idea, for which no proof exists, can hold so many people in its sway. Enough to make them want to kill, all in a good cause, or so they believe.

When religion demands that its practitioners possess an unquestioning belief, and to avoid independence of mind, exploration, inquisitiveness, the search for truth, it steps closer to being evil on its own. Inquisitiveness was punished in the past, an example being Galileo who was persecuted as he disagreed with “official” church doctrine. Some like him were even killed. Many Christians became victims of the inquisition for teaching from the Bible instead of “officially sanctioned” Roman Catholic Church material. Thousands died in the bloody Crusades, the so-called “holy” wars between Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

More recently, wars have been fought between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. A close look at all of this shows the underlying struggle for power, and a determination, misguided of course, to enforce one’s world-view on the others. Today, when people kill in the name of God, it is tempting to think, that these people are either unsuspecting pawns of religion or using religion to justify their own evil agendas. Religion perpetrates a vicious circle. It causes violence which calls for revenge and the circle of blood grows bigger, consuming us all in its cavernous greed. Is there place for religion in this world of ours? Does religion have relevance in civilized society? These are pertinent questions for the simple reason that religion appears to be the anti-thesis of civilization. 

So, should we shun religion? It is a deep question that has no easy answers. To answer that, we first need to answer the question as to what we are looking for in the first place. It is again reasonable to assume that happiness is one thing we all crave. That elusive happiness that would make our innings on this planet pleasurable or even tolerable at worst. A true seeker, would then, first be clear or become clear on his definition of God and heaven. He would then go about to achieve that state in the afterlife which would put him in proximity to what he considers his God. But as can be seen this is purely a personal thing. There is no place for others in this equation. It is something that you do because you believe in it. A true seeker is also looking for peace and happiness in this world. He wants the peace that comes with the self-realization that you are leading a good life, doing good to and for others, and leading a life that is in some way benefitting others.

Considering all that has been said above, it would appear that a true seeker is an atheist. Not so. He could be an atheist, but that’s okay indeed if he is not harming anyone else as he goes about life. He could be a religious man, who practices his religion in a visible manner. That’s okay too, as long as he doesn’t insist that others do so too. He can feel superiority in his worldview without having contempt for the manner in which others think. That is the key to being a true seeker. Being non-intrusive and non-obtrusive.  

We are all in some way looking for the truth. What is the truth? No one knows yet. The only one who is understood to have realized the truth is deemed to have attained Nirvana. So we seek the truth. We go after the truth. In the belief that we may get closer to it if not actually realize it. Along the way, if we can help mankind without differentiating between communities and other religious denominations, it would be perfect.

Let us not denigrate the name of God, by doing something evil in his name. Let us first get closer to that God, and get to a point where we can ask him whether or not he is comfortable with us doing things for him, that are undoubtedly destructive. Ask him if he wants us to be his messenger, or prophet, to spread the word, and crush those not believing in him. Ask him if there is really segregation in his world, with different types of Gods actively campaigning to spread their reach at the cost of others. Ask and you shall know.

 Shruti