Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Is religion to blame?

The Mumbai terror attacks have once again brought the spotlight on Muslims in India and abroad. Yesterday, on a private English news channel, one guest,during a discussion on whether tighter terror laws would help, said that he was very glad he did not have a muslim surname, for he feared what he might have been subjected to if that was the case.

Why blame religion, and a particular one at that, for the evils of today? Blame the interpreters, the so called 'custodians' or the self appointed keepers of these religions. In the same manner that we said 'NO taxes", can we also say "no mullahs, no priests, no pundits?"

We have been blessed with sound intellect, reasoning ability and logical skills. We have elders in our homes, who have a wealth of experience of life. Then why do we give more importance to rituals, ceremonies, God men than common sense?

Religion, to me, is actually a particular community's combined wisdom, there for the next generations to benefit from, so that they may go farther and do better than the previous ones.

Wisdom can be shared but never compared. In fact, like the English language, it can borrow from each other to become richer and more relevant. Exclusion always denies knowledge. Imagine if each religion studied others and borrowed from each other to enhance their own!

Can any of the terrorists claim to have read even one of the holy books? The fourth standard pass Kasab may not have read even the Koran in its original state, forget about the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. How many non-Muslims could claim to have read the Koran? How many non Christians would have read the Bible? Maybe the few sane voices that we hear belong to this tiny minority!

Since most of these texts are written in languages long forgotten, they are interpreted at will by manipulative people. The real terrorists are these people who manipulate the meanings of these old texts to suit their gory purposes.

When we logical beings always ask for proof for even the smallest of things, how do we accept opinions that have such a huge consequence without checking out for ourselves?

Also, are we brave enough to stand up and say that since some of these texts were written for a different time, they may not all be relevant today in totality? It does not mean that we are debunking an entire way of thinking, but adapting it to suit the times. Its like how we use a constitution or a school curriculum, constantly amending and reframing it to keep it relevant.

A knife is not evil by itself. It depends on the user and the use it is put to. In a chef's hands it is perfectly harmless, but becomes lethal in the hands of a killer. The intent of religion by itself is not bad. But in the hands of wrong and negative people it can bring in the end of the world.

The fault is ours, who persist in looking outside ourselves for a religious experience. All religious texts like the Koran, the Ramayan, the Bible, and others, were the result of deep meditation and introspection, and observation of the way of life. Religion was supposed to guide us to a more fulfilling and enriched life, not become slaves to it.If we allow our minds to follow our instints without insecurity, we can sense religion and spirituality deep within us, without the aid of texts, priests, mullahs and god men.

The trouble starts when our insecurities and fears, rather than a deep happiness at being born, make us seek religion. This makes us doubt our own ability to find it, and we turn to supposedly 'learned custodians.'