Sunday, 30 October 2011

Matters of Religion.

     My earliest memories of a religious nature are those of my grandma teaching me slokas when I was four or five. I did not understand them but learnt them by heart. My experience with religion has been similar. I went through all the motions during festivals without pausing for a second and wondering what I was doing or why. My parents are not overly religious. So, growing up, religion and spirituality were not really a huge part of my life.

     Until recently I never really thought about religion or spirituality. Living alone in a new city without much to do leaves you with a lot of free time, free time which leads to introspection and daydreaming. In one such extended reverie, I was thinking about religion as it pertains to me. So I set about on a mind trip of religious self discovery.

      One of the basic tenets of any religion is the existence of a higher power or God. So, I asked myself whether I believed in the existence of God. I thought about it and came to the conclusion that I had not come across any evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God. So I declared myself an agnostic.

     According to Wikipedia, within agnosticism there are agnostic atheists (who do not believe any deity exists, but do not deny it as a possibility) and agnostic theists (who believe a God exists but do not claim to know that). I thought long and hard and decided that being an agnostic theist is more in line with my beliefs. I like to believe there is a God but can provide no hard evidence to prove it.

     It has become popular among the youth of today to question the existence of God and declare themselves atheists. I can understand their stand on religion because I was one of them. All of the greatest crimes against humanity from the holocaust to 9/11 were committed either in the name of religion or God or under the delusion that it was for the greater good. Religion was and is the most common pretext used to justify the most reprehensible actions and most deplorable prejudices.

      It does not help that religion has been the principal opposition for any kind of scientific progress. From the heliocentric theory to evolution to stem cell research and cloning, self appointed protectors of ethical values, fanatical in their adherence to religion and not reason, have always opposed Science. It behooves any rational man to therefore denounce religion and assert proudly their atheism, right? No.

     It has to be noted all the above reasons to condemn religion are the actions of a few and not representative of all theists. All religions are unequivocal in their condemnation of violence. The religious objections to scientific progress do serve a purpose. Unbridled scientific experimentation at the price of ethics is not in anybody's interest. The human experiments carried out by Nazi scientists are a cautionary tale. Dogmatic adherence to Science alone dehumanises people and turns them into robots without a moral compass.

      It would be great if people were inherently charitable but the reality is most altruism is motivated by guilt or the expectation of karmic windfall, both of which are products of religion. God has been the world's personal pshrink. Faith comforts us in grief and enables us to deal with it. It provides us with the optimism needed to start over and not descend into the vortex of depression and weltschmerz. I have always found that spiritual people lead the happiest lives.

      Blind religious fervour and unquestioning acceptance of faith are not what I advocate. On the contrary, I despise people who quote scripture as an absolute truth and rather than understand the underlying intent, allow themselves to be content in following it to the letter. All religious books without exception contain parts that are reflective of narrow-minded prejudices of the time they were written in. It is the prerogative of every progressive and enlightened person to follow their faith after expunging it of all objectionable practices and baseless prejudices and applying their God given intelligence to temper religion with reason and rationality.

     Only when there exists a precarious mental balance between faith provided by religion and healthy skepticism fueled by a scientific bent of mind can we lead a fulfilling life that is free from ignorance and intolerance.


  1. I think this is your best article yet
    very well written

  2. weltschmerz, eponymous .. I can prepare for toefl by reading your blog

  3. I completely agree with you on your thoughts about religion. I have always thought of religion as being a side to a coin, science being the other. Religion functions as a moral and ethical framework by which we need to interpret all our inventions and discoveries. The greatest testament to this thought would be the case of Alfred Nobel. He invented TNT. TNT was used for constructive purposes, to build building by demolishing mountains, in quarries to mine ores and such. It was also used to kill people. So who teaches us the right way to use TNT?
    We use fire in our everyday lives. Our parents teach us at a very young age not to play with fire or with matchsticks lest we hurt ourselves accidentally. And yet as we grow up, we hear news of how many people were killed in a deadly fire, acts of arson. This should be enough evidence to prove that there is a great need for a moral framework, in which to lead a meaningful life, whilst contributing to the greater good of our community, and to humaity as a whole.
    Science states that everything we see and experience around is energy. Energy is the fundamental block around which all of physics is based around. So why can't we term this 'energy', that's all around, everywhere (omnipresent), part of everything that is physically existent in this universe and is power in everything, right from within us as humans to massive explosions creating stars in the far corners of the universe (omnipotent), and is all knowing since it is a part of everything (omniscience) be termed as God?

    For centuries, mankind has looked at energy and revered it's awesome power. Whether it be the Hindus worshipping Kali, the mother of all gods, a being of pure energy, or the ancient egyptian Pharaohs worshipping the most visible form of pure energy, light from the Sun, or the ancient Greeks worshipping Zeus, the God of Thunder, the Jews worshipping the all knowing light of YHWH, the modern Christians, worshipping the all knowing father, forming the holy trinity, a being of pure energy, just like the Muslims, worship Allah, without a form, omnipresent, omniscience and omnipotent.

    The answer has always been right in front of us. Science can call it energy and religion can call it God. Two different terms meaning essentially the same thing. Two different paths (very different path) to achieve the same thing. Englightment... to know more about oneself and his surroundings.

    I personally, believe that God does exist and he is all around us. The definition of God is someone who is always around, who loves us all unconditionally and someone who looks after us, while guiding us constantly through life. That's exactly how I would define my parents, my family and my friends. They love me unconditionally, they help me get through my life, one day at a time, and they are always around when I need them. If we are according to science made out of matter, and everything we do needs energy that is created within us by consumption of food, then there is a little bit of energy within me, the same energy that is within the stars and the sun. Every religion states that the conscience within is nothing more than the voice of God, guiding me to do the right thing. If we are all made by the will of God, then we all have a little piece of God within us, which speaks his will as our conscience. Two very different ways at looking at the same thing.

    These views are purely my own and at no point do I claim that they are the absolute truth. The different between the truth and lie, is faith and believe. I have merely mentioned what I believe in, and how I justify it to myself, both in terms of science and in terms of religion. How you interpret this comment is entirely up to you.....