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In the name of religion

, January 15, 2016, 0 Comments

in-the-name-of-religion-radhika-pereira-marketexpress-inIt is astonishing to see how mankind has on the one hand progressed leaps and bounds in medical, technological, exploratory advancements and yet after all that history has shown us, finds itself challenged to address the issues at a fundamental human level. We have only to open the newspaper or switch on a news channel, to be confronted with the range of conflicts around the world that seemingly find its origin in religious dogmas and beliefs.

The current rise of terrorist activities, insurgencies, sectarian clashes seem to all find their origin in religious beliefs or at least so it seems until we look closer and actually review the facts. To ascertain the cause, we will have to undertake an inquiry into the facts. The difference between an inquiry undertaken by someone directly affected by a situation versus someone who is not, is not just a matter of degree but also in the possibility of freedom to inquire without the taint of a biased perspective.

On a preliminary review the cause of this systemic problem seems to point in the general direction of religious fundamentalism. When we ask what is the root cause that connects religious fundamentalism to the problems at hand, we come up with answers which are quite puzzling. Is religious fundamentalism itself the cause of intolerance, radical behaviour, blind faith, fanatical and herd mentality or is there a deeper hidden cause? What seems to be clear is that religious fundamentalism is certainly being used as an ideology to generate the will amongst dissatisfied, troubled, suggestable group of individuals to sell a pre-defined agenda.

The agenda varies from situation to situation but the modus operandi remains the same. In all cases we can see that while religious beliefs may seem to be the direct cause of the conflict, it is in fact a tool to create of a collective will in a target group to champion a so called higher cause. This indoctrination of the so called higher purpose, is targeted towards groups of people who are dissatisfied with their circumstances and lives and who are looking to vent their frustrations, anger, fear, ill will and hatred, bringing to surface the feelings of despondency, hopelessness and alienation experienced by them over a period of time.

When we look around we see that the situation is complex because religious fundamentalism catches hold when the target is weak, does not possess the ability to rationalize or exercise its power of intellect and hence can be an easy target for manipulation. To have an army of indignant beings fired with a purpose which is not questioned and who have no ask other than to belong to the cause is tool that is most powerful. The beauty of religious fundamentalism is that it gives a false sense of ‘hope’ for those whose life is otherwise a drudgery.

When do we look outside for hope or purpose? When we lack it within ourselves. When we stop questioning our own self, our actions, our thoughts and the motives behind it all, we want to find alternate answers outside of us to attribute to the situation we find ourselves in and that is what the perpetrators of religious fundamentalism bank on. There is no accountability for one’s own actions, it’s about blaming that which has been given a face of the enemy as the cause of one’s own misery.

To be able to deal with the problem at hand, we need to understand about the subject matter and the source of the fuel that drives it. The so called ‘faith’ that helps the indoctrination is to be understood. This so called ‘faith’ is not really Faith at all, it is in fact a belief born from conditioning over time based on what we learn from our experiences and the impact of our environment. It is the basis of one’s persona through which he/she views the world. Hence it is true for him/her. It is important to understand that unless we question our own self and inquire into the motives behind our actions, we will never be able to apprehend the truth. Hence, beliefs are strong and can take hold of our minds to colour our thoughts and judgement, thereby affecting our actions.

‘Faith’ on the other hand is born out of a life of giving and selfless serving and hence it brings results which are far beyond the might of an individual, as seen in case of Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa. As their life is in selfless pursuit of a higher purpose, the will that champions the cause born of such faith is a powerful force of influence. The key tangible difference between ‘Belief’ and ‘Faith’ is in the outcome.

In one there is no improvement in circumstances or deterioration, while as in the other there is a demonstrable difference and it is a beacon of inspiration to others. Beliefs are blind because they are not subject to inquiry, hence there is no accountability. In a blind fervour, even negative repercussions are used as fuel to instigate people against an endemic problem being positioned. The fulfilling of each goal is celebrated by the perpetrators of conflict but its outcome is never questioned. The believers, unfortunately are incapacitated by their delusion and unable to ever question what good comes from their acts of fundamentalism. In fact since the results are supposedly judged by a higher being not of this world the authenticity of any of their claims can never be put to the test.

Religious fervour has no boundaries, it feeds on itself. It can only be addressed through the antidote of something more powerful than the illusion it creates. The antidote of love, care, compassion that awakens within us something more fundamental than all that we have learnt and experienced and which is at the very core of being human itself. It’s only when we recognise that any religious propaganda, irrespective of the religion, which is against humanity is inherently flawed, can the spell of the hubris that has taken control is broken. We all know that we are human first and anything else next. Even if our memories were erased and we forget our name, who we were, what religion we belonged to, our beliefs, our hatred, spite, ill will, and love – we will still remain human. Remembrance and recognition of this fundamental truth is what is necessary to bring about an awakening.

Just as the potter knocks the pot to shape from the outside while supporting it from within, also society at large will have to be immunised from the insurgents by enforcing compliance of law on the one side and by actually taking concrete steps to address conditions like hunger, poverty, unemployment, alienation that make people vulnerable targets of manipulation and toxic radical indoctrination.

There is no magic pill to awaken us to universal humanitarian values, but we have to lead by example, to address issues by keeping a larger picture in mind. Otherwise, hatred and fear will give rise to even more hatred and fear. It is time to act judiciously, with wisdom and keeping in mind universal wellbeing. Every human being has the fundamental right to have the freedom of belief, religion, way of life, so long as it goes hand in hand with the duty to ensure that our freedom does not come at the cost of others and is in the interest of the larger good. Being human we have an infinite capacity to live a meaningful life of love, compassion, respect, gratitude, tolerance, to be endowed with ability to serve, share and take care of all the bounties that we are blessed with.

The same power in us that enables us to inflict pain and be uncaring towards others can bring joy and be a torrential force of compassion. It is the realisation of what being human really is, which will set us free. As creatures of this universe, we have been blessed with everything. All the boundaries, norms, religions, socio-economic-political systems are man-made. Although they have been put in place over thousands of years to bring order and create a civilized world, however, the sense of I, me and mine within us distorts that order and throws us at the mercy of greed, envy, hate, fear, anger and lust. So we fall prey to powers that lure us to the sway of our desires, to take up any and all means to achieve our selfish ends. The use of religion is one sure lure to achieve the selfish ends of a few.

This is not about correcting wrongs, there will be no end to it. It’s about making a resolve to awaken ones intellect and take intelligent action born from wisdom. I am not proposing that past be forgotten, all I am say is irrespective of the past, as long as there is a common goal of a united humanity endeavouring to evolve, progress on all fronts will we be able to overcome our differences and coexist making our diversity as our strength rather than a weakness.

Religion, in our lives should signify the epitome of all best qualities that make us human, which in fact unifies us as human beings and not break us up.

Only that which is in the interest of oneself and for the good of everyone is worth preserving and fighting for. Everything else which is because of a selfish pursuit will have bitter consequences. It will always result in fighting against our own self.

It is time that we awaken to our responsibility to the larger good, to enjoy the most of what being human is all about and to enjoy that we have been blessed with in the precious yet fleeting time that we all have.