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Musings Of A Confused Agnostic

Musings Of A Confused Agnostic

December 22, 2010

Does man actually need to protect god and religion?

"Each one prays to God according to his own light." - Mahatma Gandhi

Religion is such a wonderful concept. When Karnataka was hit by massive floods, I remember, how generously people helped in the rehabilitation of the homeless. They held a strong belief that if they help people, God will help them when they are in need.

The same religious beliefs, over time, have led to immense problems. Fundamentalism, riots, conspiracies, treachery - people commit every crime in the name of religion. As a young boy, I was always confused by the concept of religion.

To date, I don’t know if I am atheist or a believer of a supreme power. Maybe, I am an agnostic at heart. But recently, I devised a theory, which has helped me answer many questions that have long since disturbed me.

To understand the theory, you will have to understand the way I perceive ideologies. Whenever I think of a particular ideology, I sideline the man with whom the ideology is associated with, and tend to understand the ideology in its core form. I will explain why I do this. Non-violence is generally associated with Mahatma Gandhi. This shouldn't mean that non-violence was Gandhiji's invention. History has many other followers of non-violence (Gautam Buddha, King Ashoka). Ideology is much larger than the man. A man can have his or her own interests while simultaneously following an ideology. It is man who breeds politics that has its own peculiar engulfing effect. Let me explain this with a few example.

Socialism in its purest form is a beautiful idea. It is an economic order for keeping everyone happy. Whereas, Socialism + Politics = Communism (also Maoism, which have become mayhem for my nation).

Capitalism has its own merits. It is a natural law based on the survival of the fittest. But Capitalism + Politics = Imperialism. India has suffered long by British policies of imperialism.

Patriotism is the base of development in many parts of the country. But when Politics engulfs Patriotism, terrorism is born. Wars are fought.

Nationalism when divided by political barriers becomes regionalism. This is the case with every 'ism'- you name it. Any ideology when merged with politics becomes a curse on mankind.

The same rule applies to religion. When trying to impose religion on others for political motives, dogmas are born and riots take place. I really don't understand exactly what these religious fundamentalists are trying to defend? Does god really need defending!

When Swami Vivekananda travelled the country on foot, he saw innumerable temples that had been by demolished by foreign invaders. He fell at the feet of the goddess Kali in a temple and asked, “How could you let this happen, Mother? How could you permit this desecration?” Goddess Kali replied, “What is it to you, Vivekananda, if the invader breaks my images? Do you protect me, or do I protect you?”

Does god exist? I don’t know. But for those who believe in god, let me make one thing very clear - God exists at a level that is beyond the need for human defense. If man claims to defend god, then that speaks of either a lack of belief in the omnipotence of god or a misplaced sense of vanity in ones' relation with god.

Your relationship with your god is truly a personal matter for you. You have no right to impose it on others, or question one’s relationship with their god. God is similar to our parents. We don't compare parents. Do we?

When your god is being insulted, this is the ultimate test your own faith in god. And when you respond by immediately passing normative judgment and hating another human being, you are failing to acknowledge the cracks in the faith within your own heart. This is an internal insecurity that has nothing to do with the actions and practices of others. You are at fault!

Isn't the struggle of faith, a faith within, a private and internal affair that has nothing to with your neighbor?

Think about it....


  • Khadija
    15.07.12 07:23 PM
    Very nice, very nice.
  • Somyaa
    14.11.11 05:07 PM
    Well :)
    Nice write-up.
    All I would say is , Believing is Experiencing. What you believe, put your faith in , you begin to experience the same thing. :)
  • Sourav Roy
    Sourav Roy
    29.12.10 09:34 AM
    Thanks Alfred. I'll recommend you watch this series of videos. They are in the Indian context but can be extrapolated for in the world view-

    I feel they rightly depict what I've always said...
  • Alfred Jones
    Alfred Jones
    29.12.10 07:28 AM
    Here's my formulation:

    Human being + Human being = Politics

    Politics is nothing but the rules we come up with so we can live together in any social group, e.g a family, a clan, a caste, a tribe, a village, a town etc. And along with those rules we also come up with the means to enforce them. For as long as humans have been living in social groups, religion has been used both to formulate those rules and to enforce them. There is politics in every family, every classroom, every commercial enterprise precisely because all those social groups involve - drum roll please - human beings. Obviously these rules evolve and change over time but it is important to recognize that these rules form the fundamental framework that informs how we interact with each other in just about any sphere of life. It is sheer fantasy to expect people and societies to operate without some sort of political structure behind it. It is tempting to think of politics as just something that greedy and corrupt politicians are involved in but that would be taking a very narrow view of it.

    If anyone that practices any religion understood their religion's core tenets in their most abstract and idealized form, then yes, there is a chance that religious conflict wouldn't arise. But this is not how a vast majority of humans work, i.e. we aren't all enlightened beings like Gautama Buddha, or Jesus Christ, or Shankaracharya. We experience religion not just as abstract ideas but as extensions of how we live. That is, as stories filled with characters that embody our notions of good and evil, characters that speak to each other in languages we relate to, characters that act in ways we relate to, characters that dress up specific kinds of clothes, eat specific kinds of food, adorn themselves in recognizable forms of jewelry, live in places with names, in dwellings that reflect our wishes and aspirations and so on and so forth. What this also means is that the stories, symbols and characters of a religion's mythology and story tradition becomes part of a practitioner's identity. When someone perceives a threat to their religion they therefore perceive a threat to themselves, i.e. their identity as both an individual and as a member of whatever social group they identify with.

    It is a tautology to say that religion-induced conflict is purely the result of politics when both religion and politics are innately human constructs. This is tantamount to saying, "Well, there wouldn't be any suffering in this world if all human beings stopped thinking the way they do." The real question is *how* you bring about change - not just imagine how much nicer it would be if that change had already occured. How do we, as a society, start making changes in how we individually think about religion? What would you tell a Hindu that would stem the tide of resentment and anger he feels when he thinks of temple desecrations by muslim invaders in the past? How would you tell an Indian muslim that allowing the free circulation of Rushdie's Satanic Verses is a good thing and not an insult to his religion? Can we really divorce religion from identity?

    That said, I respect your courage and originality in raising this issue and contributing to the high calibre of authorship on The NRI. I take my hat off to you for that.

  • Sourav Roy
    Sourav Roy
    25.12.10 11:18 PM
    @ B P Harichandra sir

    Thanks for your comment. It means a lot to me.

    Atheism in its core form is a wonderful ideology, although I am not an atheist but the man who inspires me the most is!

    As Shaheed Bhagat Singh says- If a man begins to think of himself a rival of God or he begins to believe himself to be God, he is not a genuine atheist. In the first case he does not even deny the existence of his rival. In the second case as well he admits the existence of a conscious being behind the screen guiding all the movements of nature. It is of no importance to us whether he thinks himself to be that supreme being or whether he thinks the supreme conscious being to be somebody apart from himself. The fundamental is there. His belief is there. He is by no means an atheist.

    Atheism, as the greats have put it, means disagreeing to the existence of God and therefore working for the cause of humanity. That's what Lenin did. That's what Bhagat Singh did. They didn't complain that the non-existence of God is the end of the world, they didn't believe in God nor government. They believed in themselves. They took things in their own hands and tried to fix the issues with their motherland. I feel atheism is that! People who claim to be atheist out of attitude or vanity, and try to impose it on others, are big time posers and need to get back to their roots.

    Sir, my knowledge is very limited as compared to yours, and therefore, I have to acknowledge what you have said. I am honoured. It is indeed true that the greatest religion is humanity and religion is important only from a cultural perspective.
  • Sourav Roy
    Sourav Roy
    25.12.10 11:01 PM
    @ Outstanding

    I completely agree with you but you also need to acknowledge that each of these dharmas have evolved (or distorted) with time. If you go by sanatan dharma, I can point out numerous things that have been abstracted or normalized and can be debated upon. I am a die-hard follower of vedas and upanishads. But how much has the evolved religion we see today has learnt form their own texts is a serious matter of question.
  • Sourav Roy
    Sourav Roy
    25.12.10 10:53 PM
    @ Bhavana Rao

    I visited your blog and read a few articles. I like the way atheists try to derive logic behind things. Ideologically speaking, I have to make my stand clear here. Although many of the people I worship (Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Lenin) were atheists but I am not an atheist! I am an agnostic. A confused agnostic! In some senses, agnosticism is a stance about the similarities or differences between belief and knowledge, rather than about any specific claim or belief.
    25.12.10 03:22 PM
    In kannada language religion is called matha (not maatha, meaning mother). This word is used in the same meaning in many other Indian languages too.
    There is yet another meaning for the word matha, i.e. voting. In voting we basically select a person on a party to rule us. That means I mean that the person I am voting will protect me better. In the process the country is divided into as many parties as the number of parties contested. Every party wants to see that their party grows, their strength grows. Hardly anybody is interested in the true, sustainable progress of the country. Parties play divide and rule policies and what not, is all well known.
    Exactly, this is the case with religion. In Indian languages, religion is called as matha (which is again voting) Religion simply means relying upon the opinion of an individual. That means, if I vote Christ, I am a christian. If I vote pygamber, I am a muslim. If I vote buddha, I am a buddhist. As parties divide the country, these religions divide humanity. As parties cannot help the country, religious people, (atleast, the way we are seeing today) cannot help humanity. Hence aeithism is not bad.
    Unfortunately, aethism is yet another ism (yet another group) (or yet another religion). This is the “I do not believe in the god group”. This group also wants to increase its strength!!! Like the religious people proudly say that I belong to this religion, it is great, an aethist too is proud (rather even more proud) to say that he is an aethist, and wants to strengthen aeithism. Ultimately there is not end.
    Hence what we have to do is to do away with religions (which includes aethism too), and get back to what is called the dharma, the humanity. A dharmic is simply the one who believes in himself/herself, A dharmic first strengthens not only himself but also promote strengthening of others. (It is a live and let live policy, as against the survival of fittest policy). A dharmic is one who works to strengthen himself/herself moment after moment, and life after life, and also motivate others to move in the path of strengthening oneself.
    With this sense, aethist is basically one who does not believe in oneself and fall at the feet of others seeking blessings. That means, the above (so called) religious people are aethists!!
    Hence a dharmic moves in the path of ahimsa (not troubling others), satya (not being untruthful), astheya (not stealing somebody else’s…), brahmacharya (Not losing ones energy in wasteful activities and reserving one’s energy (internal) only to strengthen himself and his progeny (after giving birth to stronger human being) Brahmacharya is not abstaining married life, as it is commonly believed. Ofcourse, this point need more an explanation for a better understanding. May be in some other time. Aparigraha (not indulging into galloping all the wealth of the world or greed, especially at the cost of others, and understanding that all one need is a happy living).
    Such goes the qualities of a dharmic, which is universal. Dharma is those guiding principles for upliftment of one and all in the universe (which does not mean just human beings, but live and let live animals, birds, nature…….).
    These things do not need any god or whatsoever are said. Only to make these concepts clear people over the globe over years have come out with their own techniques, with their limited understanding. Telling in the form of stories, personified characters is one such thing (which is referred to as mythology). Since the understanding was limited in these, there came difference of opinions among mythologies. There are many things to say. But I end saying, “There are enough people in the world to give their life in the name of religions. But there are not one to lead a religious life themselves”.
  • Outstanding
    24.12.10 10:21 PM
    Actually, it's interesting but if you truly delve into Hinduism (or Sanatan Dharma to give its proper name) it has nothing to do with mythology. The true aim of Hinduism is achieving oneness with the universe. If you read any of the Gita, Vedas and Upanishads you will instantly see that this is the case. The gods and so on are ways of making it easier to relate to the underlying message.

    Christians also believe that Jesus Christ walked the earth, similar to Hindus believing in Gods walking the Earth. That is the whole idea behind holy cities such as Jerusalem. Greek and Roman mythology also included Gods and mortals walking the Earth together. So the Hindus aren't alone in that!

    The real problem arises when people are cajoled or forced into believeing something by fear, violence or nefarious methods. This is true evil and should be eradicated as soon as possible.
  • Bhavana Rao
    Bhavana Rao
    24.12.10 09:29 PM
    I am an Atheist and I believe that the reason for the religion to be born is the basic Human instinct to feel safe that some supernatural power is protecting us. This thought was properly used and abused by Roman kings-for Catholic christians to make it one of the biggest religion in history. This is the case for all the other religions too.
    In Hinduism, people believe that mythology was how the Gods lived and some even consider the mythology as history For ex: Tirupati.
    I feel its a pity. But I am not against any person's belief. As you said it is personal. But of course one should not impose it on others. good write up.
  • Sourav Roy
    Sourav Roy
    24.12.10 02:00 PM
    Thanks :)
  • shyam
    23.12.10 11:44 PM
    good thoughts Sourav
  • Sourav Roy
    Sourav Roy
    23.12.10 06:19 PM
    @ Maitreyee

    Hahaha... Thanks for your genuine observation.

    @ Merin

    Thanks :)
  • Merin
    23.12.10 01:46 PM
    Couldn't have put it across better myself! Very well written.
  • Maitreyee
    23.12.10 11:51 AM
    We do compare parents Sourav :) Yr piece for some reason reminded me of a few lines from Milton's 'On his blindness'..."They also serve who only stand and wait."
  • Sourav Roy
    Sourav Roy
    23.12.10 10:12 AM
    @Outstanding and Arpit

    Long back when I had read the writings and speeches of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, In his famous writing “Why I Am An Atheist?”, he mentions-

    Philosophy is the outcome of human weakness or limitation of knowledge

    This quote has haunted me for years, since the first time I had read it. The idea of God came out of man’s mind. According to Shaheed Bhagat Singh, It is man who made god and not god who made man!

    But does this change anything in the belief system of the billions? People will continue to believe that God exists- either as an entity, or a force, or an idea, or a crucified revolutionary. So, God exists (my mother will hug me)! Tangibly or intangibly? I really don’t know. My question still remains. Why did man create God? This is, in fact, the single greatest philosophical question that has troubled man since the beginning of time. Why does anything exist at all? The answer lies in one word- “imagination”.

    Animals don’t imagine. They don’t have these philosophical outbursts either. Humans have very definitive ways of defining concepts like “creation”, “beginning”, “end” etc. And as we learn more, we change our own definitions very conveniently- thats our inherent nature. And there is nothing wrong in it :)
  • Arpit
    22.12.10 08:38 PM
    Great article. I really liked your idea of ideology+politics= mayhem and chaos!
    As far as religion and faith are concerned, i think that religion was devised to control people.I was also confused about religion. So, i started reading about various faiths. And believe me, all the religions have common roots. And it is fear, not faith! People try to be good because they have fear, not of law, but GOD, far greater than any law.
    People have always misunderstood religion. Its not just to follow one set of beliefs and practices or worship a particular God. Religion instead deals with every action that we take. It gives us a light, a ray of hope, a source to which we can look forward to in need of help. It helps us to take better decisions, not always for us alone, but for the mankind. Thus, a person killing in name of religion is not religious at all. He/she has either misunderstood it or has manipulated it to his own interests.
    No matter what religion it is, it talks about oneness. It talks about the universal bond of brotherhood and servitude to mankind. It talks about being good to others and be peaceful in your actions and thoughts.
  • Outstanding
    22.12.10 03:39 PM
    Outstanding article! You have summed up very close to what my feelings are on this matter. The idea that religion can be used as the basis for all kinds of horrible acts is just ludicrous to any truly religious person. It is the contamination of religious beliefs by men that leads to problems.

    It is unfortunate that so many faiths(generally the Abrahamic ones) like to force or convert people to their faith. My view on this now is that one day they will grow up and realize the absolute folly of their ways. They may also realize that ultimately there is balance in the universe and if you do evil you will face the consequences of that evil at some point in the future.

    I think a truly mature society is one that is at ease with all beliefs if practiced peacefully. Which is why I think the Indian model is the closest thing to a progressive ideology on religion. Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma, of course, has never been big on conversion and has peace and respect at its very core. A truly mature and progressive religion in many ways. Other religions would do well to follow this example.

    Again, great article, thanks.

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