FREEDOM FROM RELIGION BY Geetesh Sharma

 

Ritualism and unquestionable blind faith are two
a pillar over which rests the religion. The day these
collapse, religion will not be able to sustain any
more. So long the man is dependent on these two, he
never be self-reliant. He will be fatalist and have
faith on such a supernatural power, which he has never
seen or tested.
What is needed is to strike directly at the ritualism
and superstition since these two indicators of status
quo that do not allow mankind to overcome the past
legacy and thereby disable them to face the challenges
of the present as well as future.
The biggest myth of religion, the God, considered to
be omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient, is in fact
a product of fertile and cunning human mind. Had the
God been so as He is believed to be, there would have
been just one God for whole of the universe. Whereas
every religion has its own God and to maintain His
domination over the mankind the followers of every
religion indulge into bloodshed and carnage, since its
inception.
The devout persons may forward an argument that the
bloodshed and carnage is the handiwork of man. But
what type of God is this who is sitting tight and has
left the man in restrained to indulge in violence and
bloodshed while He Himself is passive onlookers.
The same set of devout people also says without the
will of the God even a leaf may not sway. Obviously,
therefore, God’s will must have been there behind
every carnage and bloodshed. So, will it not be proper
to bid good bye to such a God who wishes people to
Indulge into bloodshed and carnage?
These days in the name of religion a new inference is
drawn. The propagators of every religion claim that
their religious texts, be it Vedas or the Koran are
full of science. Let us probe the reality of this
claim.
Religion says - the Earth is flat and it rests over
the head of Sheshnag. While according to science the
Earth is round and rotates on its own axis.
Religion says - God did not only create this universe
but every living creature as well. He only willed and
within six days the world came into existence. The
science, however, does not accept it. According to
science it took millions of years for the world to
evolve to attain its present state.
According to religion, God created the man and women
and then dashed them down on the earth to enjoy the
fruits of their own deeds. The science, however, does
not agree with this theory, If one believes in
Darwin’s theory of evolution (there is no reason to
disbelieves either), one discovers that our
predecessors were the apes.
Ritualism and superstitions are deep rooted in our
mind. Every year millions of people go on pilgrimage
covering hundreds of miles of distant and difficult
terrains, go to Haj for Ziyarat, take dips in the
Ganges with a belief that not only all their sins
would be washed away and pardoned but seats would also
be reserved for them in the heaven after their deaths.
During the Shraddha in honour and for the benefit of
deceased relatives offerings are offered to n\Brahmins
with simply this belief that the said offerings would
reach the deceased relative in the heaven. In fact,
all these are myths created by our ancestors, who were
master in it, astonishing and wonderful was their
power of imagination. They did not only create various
myths but presented those in a way to make it look
like real. Our Puranic literature is full of various
such myths.
To read and enjoy the myth is one thing and to have
blind faith and emulate those in one’s life is just
another and there is a basic differences between these
two.
Blind faith over myths makes man dependent over some
super natural power. He starts having more faith on
unknown, unseen supernatural forces rather than his
own self.
If we discuss the myths in totality, we may have to
write few voluminous books. To know their greatness
and might, few examples will suffice.
Let us begin with Saraswati. We will not discuss here
how Lord Brahama gave birth to Saraswati and
subsequently got infatuated with her charm. We will
only focus our mind on the belief that Saraswati is
the goddess of knowledge and learning. She is
worshiped on every Basant Panchmi with much funfare.
Besides, any auspicious work is begun with her
invocation. However it is an irony that the country,
where Saraswati is worshiped has the maximum number of
illiterates in
India. The miracle of Saraswati failed
to educate millions of illiterates in India. Yet
Saraswati is being worshiped in almost every nook and
corner of the country.
Similarly, Kali and Durga are the goddesses
symbolizing strength and power. These goddesses
symbolizing women-power, destroy the most powerful and
dreaded demons and save the Gods. But what about the
women power in our country? Whether in the household
or outside, women are the most oppressed and exploited
lot. She is cursed to be dominated by father in the
childhood, husband in the youth and son in the old
age. The society never accepted or honoured her
independent identity or we can say that ‘women’s
power’ was limited to the myths.
Yet, for centuries, we still have blind faith on Durga
and Kali and also on their power.
Lakshmi is said to be the goddess of wealth and
welfare. There would hardly be any household in India
where Lakshmi is not worshiped and on the occasion of
Deepawali festival millions and millions of lams are
lighted and Lakshmi is worshipped ostentatiously. Does
it not strange that there are maximum number of poor
people in a country where goddess of wealth and
welfare Lakshmi is worshiped.
Annapurna or Shitala is the goddess of food grains and
in her country more than half of the population is
victim of malnutrition and hunger. This is also a myth
when it is said granaries of the country are full of
grains. Fact is, these granaries would fall short if
proper amount of food is provided to each and every
citizen.
There is another form of Shitala. Smallpox was
epidemic that used to take toll of millions of lives
in this country every year. People considered it to be
the wrath of Mother Shitala and through various means
endeavours were made to win her favour. People
believed that if Mother Shitala is pleased than only
they would relieved with this dreaded disease.
Meanwhile in 1706, a medical scientist invented the
vaccine through which smallpox was eradicated not only
from
India but from the whole world. It is ridiculous
that we are still continuing with  our worship of
Mother Shitala.
Now let us talk about some Gods.
Vishwakarma is believed to be the God of Creation.
According to beliefs Lord Vishwakarma may create a
whole city within a minute, if he so wishes. However
it is an irony that India where Lord Vishwakarma is
worshiped , has maximum number of homeless people.
Thousands of industries are closed, yet our faith in
Lord Vishwakarma remains unshattered.
Similarly, if somebody or a group of people claim that
such and such book was revealed by God and that
everything mentioned in it was eternal and ultimate
truth , is not the height of superstion or blind
faith? In fact this a blind faith that denies rational
and scientific temper and creates obstacles in the way
of the people and sometimes results in tensions among
various communities and faiths.
If one goes by the religious texts, one has to believe
that Lord Krishna had more than sixteen thousands
concubines: that Lord Ram, Lakshman, Bharat,
Shatrughna were not the legitimate children of
Dasharatha. Similarly,the Kauravas and the pandavas
were also not born from the seminal fluid of their
respective fathers: that the lustful eyes of some sage
were drawn towards the beauity and charm of a young
women, he would use his miraculous powers to create
fog and have sex with her without being noticed etc.
Similarly, one will have to believe that Jesus was
born to Mary while she was a virgin and without having
any physical relation with any man. and that the God
said ‘Kunn’ and the universe came into being: or God
took only six days to create this universe.
One will, thus, have to believe that God lives on the
seventh sky, below which on sixth sky there is
paradise where rivers of wine flow and where Hoors,
the black eyed beautiful virgin women and Gilmas, the
charming boys would be available to serve the men
folk.
In a nut-shell the religious texts want one to set
aside one’s prudence and rationality to have faith in
gossips and figments of imagination. No sooner one
uses one’s prudence than he would be cast into hell.
If any rational person deeply studies the Vedas or the
Puranas or the Bible or the Koran or Hadith, and that
too with an open mind, he will never have a sence of
reverence and faith towards God and religion.
Almost all the religious rituals and festivals are
based on mythological stories that are synonymous to
blind faith. Durga Puja, Chhatha Puja, Holi, Diwali,
Eid, Muharram, Bakr-e-id etc all display blind faith
and the irony is that during past 25 years there has
been a phenomenal increase in the religious festivals
and ritualism. Even hospitals and schools, of late,
have an enclosure for temples. One may only wonder the
utility of idols of Gods and Goddess in a place of
learning and science. It is height of superstition
that an invisible, unearthly thing is worshiped and
considered to be omnipresent.
The temptation of the paradise and fear of the hell
forces man under the authority of God until death. It
is also an irony that the world wherein we live, whom
we can see and enjoy, is said to be ephemeral and
illusion while life after death which no one has
either seen or tested, is said to be the ultimate
truth.
In the name of religion, billions of dollars are
squandered over religious and celebrations every year.
Had this amount been utilized in building schools and
hospitals, quality education and medical treatment
would have been spent over housing projects for the
poor, however small, a shelter might have been
available for them.
People travel and cover a distance of several
kilometers on foot to offer water to Lord Shiva with a
simple feeling that Lord Shiva would be pleased and
would fulfill their desires but has anybody ever tried
to assess the extent of loss of man hours in this
exercise? Has these so called religious people
utilized their labbour in building a common road, they
would have done a great services to the national as
well as their own selves. The same is applicable to
the Haj Pilgrims as well.
It is due to the state of blind faith and superstition
that construction of places of worship has become the
priority for the people today rather than the schools,
hospitals and dwelling houses. The census report of
2001 brought into light a very startling fact in that
there were about 2.4 million places of worship in
India while the number of schools, colleges and
hospitals were only 1.8 million.
No religion grants equal rights to the women. However
lavish eulogy may be there in the religious texts for
the women but the essences of every religion are that
the women are subservient to men. In the Bible, women
are said to be the “gateway to hell’. The religious
texts of Jainism share the same opinion about the
women. Islam, although, claims equality for the women,
but there also the witness of two women is considered
to be equal to that of one man. In property also the
share of man is more than that of a women. For
adultery a women may be sentenced to death while there
is no such provision for a man. According to one
faith, God created man and, thereafter, from the ribs
of man He created women. Men enjoy the liberty to have
four marriages but women are not granted this liberty.
Prophet Mohammed himself had nine wives besides few
concubines, he acquired as Mal-e-Ganimat in the wars.
The women in Islam is said to be the agricultural
produce of the man and the man may graze it in a
manner he desires.
At the age of 55 years, Prophet Mohammed married a
nine-year-old girl Ayesha and consummated the
marriage.
Several such examples of differentiation between men
and women may be cited from various religions.
Without getting rid of religious rituals or rites,
superstitions and blind faith, the all out development
of mankind may not be possible. For centuries, the
western world had struggle against superstitions
during the period of renaissance and the scientific
temper was the result of that ceaseless struggle. Due
to this scientific temper superstition could not stand
the scientific inventions that took place one after
another.
The religious ritualism and superstitions not only
weaken the mankind but also make him dependent over
certain supernatural power. Whenever faced with any
crisis or challenge, instead of confronting or
resisting it he finds solace in the shelter of that
supernatural power.
The sense of deficiency, insecurity and uncertainty
about future forces man to seek shelter in God and
religion. Religion is synonym to status quo. So long
it is there one cannot even dream of any bigger
change. Let alone the basic change in the social and
economic system.
God is held responsible for all the aforesaid
conditions while those are created by man. Deficiency,
insecurity and uncertainty are the legacy of the
political system rather than God.
There are dozens of such countries in the world where
every citizen enjoys the right to life with dignity.
Quality education, employment, housing, medical
treatment are the responsibility of the government,
which grants unemployment allowance in case of
unemployment, pension during old age and various other
such facilities. It is quite obvious that for these at
least man does not have to seek protection of God in
these countries. While in
India one thanks one’s stars
if one has the privilege of having even a seat in a
bus, what to talk of education, employment and medical
treatment. Even for the admission of a child in a
better school, the parents pray to God although it
should be the duty of the system.
Those who claim that India is a religious country and
that the religion here is too deep rooted to be
uprooted, they need to be told that the history of
religion in
India begins since Rig Vedic period, i.e.
around four thousand years back. In south India, the
religion reached in the second or third century A.D.
whereas the history of human civilization dates back
to millions of years. In fact, religion came into
existence3 along with civilization or rather the
concept of God and religion was the invention of the
’civilized’ man. So God is the creation of man. It
might have had its utility sometime, but not today.
What an irony, man today is subservient or rather
slaves to God and religion, his own creation or
invention.
Similarly, there had been a time in
Europe also when
people believed religion to be quite deep rooted but
since fifteenth century A.D. people started striking
at its roots and the process continued in some way or
the other. As a result of which the western society
today is almost free from the chains of religion.
Superstitions have played a great role in the economic
disparity and social, injustice in
India. For their
wrested conditions people either blame their past
deeds or believe that God is testing them. Under such
a prevalent mental state how can one even think of
some basic or fundamental change? Poverty has been
almost eliminated in many countries of the world and
every citizen is assured of quality education, medical
treatment and dignified life not by any supernatural
power but by the system and all this could be
accomplished by getting rid of superstitions and
religious ritualism.
The irony in
India is that on public platforms people
advocate for rational thoughts and scientific temper
but don’t practice it in their own lives. If people
continue to observe superstitions on occasions like
birth, death and marriage etc., how can there be any
change in the society.
Religious superstitions not only block the rationality
of the human mind but also create differences, hatred,
ill- feelings and violent clashes among various
communities. One example would be sufficed. The Hindu
consider cow as mother and worship it while the
Muslims consider it auspicious to slaughter cow on Eid
and Bakr-eid. This religious superstition of both the
communities had been the biggest obstacle in the way
of communal harmony for centuries and there seems to
be no solution in sight.
Every religion considers itself to be the binding
forces or rather the uniting force of the mankind. The
truth, however, is just contrary to it. Had the
religion been a uniting force, there would have been
only one religion. Secondly, there had been clashes
among various religions since their inception. They
have used both weapons and religious texts to compete
with each other, and the bitter most truth is that
every religion is divided among itself into various
sects. No religion could unite even its own followers.
Pogroms, carnages, communal riots, discrimination
between man and man and the barbaric crimes committed
against humanity are not the legacy of the modern age.
On the contrary, it is a more or less continuing
process since the inception of religion.
Dharmayuddha, crusade, jihad have not only caused
blood shed among various religions but also within one
community even.
During Middle Ages millions of women were killed at
the directives of the church accusing them of
practicing which crafts. In the recent modern times
the Talibans committed savages and barbaric crimes
against the women in Iran on the directive of
Ayatollah Khomeini. Nearly 100,000 women were killed
on the charges of adultery.
The Hindus are by no means less barbaric. Their desire
to have a male child for their Moksha (salvation) is
the principal reason for millions of female feticide
every year to avoid the birth of a girl child.
The Suras, Asuras, Shaivas, Brahmins and non-Brahmins
among the Hindus, the Catholics, Protestants, Church
of England and Orthodox Church among the Christians,
the Shias, Sunnis, Ahmedias, Barelvi, Devbandi,
Wahabi, etc. among the Muslims have been constantly
fighting against each other and millions of lives have
been lost in these struggles. Obviously, therefore,
there is no substance in the claim that the religion
is a binding force. Yet the followers of every
religion are seized with blind faith that far from
reasoning and rationality they prefer self-flattery.
Without any rhyme or reason, the majority of the
Muslim community believes that God Himself revealed
the Koran and through Prophet Mohammed it was conveyed
to the people, so that every word contained in it is
eternal for everyone and every period of time. The
believers are the servants of the God and deserve a
place in paradise while the gates of hell are ajar for
the non-believers who deserve the wrath of the God.
The term Islam denotes peace. However, it’s a
historical fact that since its inception till date it
always had deep-rooted relations with wars and
conflicts. It may be true that Islam did not reach
everywhere by use of sword, but it is also true that
Islam did influence certain nations and societies on
the strength of sword. The Prophet himself had to
fight as many as 36 battles during his lifetime. After
his death the first caliph Abu Bakra perpetrated
terrible oppression and slaughtered those who were
opposed to Islam. In fact, Islam flourished on the
strength of sword during this period. After him three
caliphs were killed in battle against each other. The
Jihad that began during the period of the Prophet is
still continuing. One should have no hesitation to
accept that the Muslim terrorists derive energy and
inspiration from Islam and to justify their terrorist
activities they quote the Koran and the Hadith. The
liberalists may have their peaceful interpretation of
Jihad. However, the fundamentalists always had the
last word. A common Muslim considers Osama Bin Laden
as his hero while Laden had damaged the cause of his
own community more than that of US. The excesses
committed by the Talibans in the name of religion are
known to all. During the rule of Ayatolla Khomeini in
Iran millions of people, particularly the women were
killed for their anti-Islamic behaviour. The
intermittent bloodshed between the Shias and the
Sunnis is also in the name of religion.
It is a fact that almost every religion has more or
less intolerance since its inception. Hinduism and
Christianity, however, attained more flexibility due
to the continuous reformatory process and changed
according to the contemporary demands. Christianity is
comparatively even more flexible than the Hinduism.
In Islam, however, the basic tenet of religion is
static. Nobody has the freedom to be skeptical about
any word of the holy book Koran. The Islamic world is
too sensitive to tolerate any criticism of its prophet
Mohammed. If anybody dares to draw even a sketch of
the prophet, he meets with violent reaction.
Any criticism of prophet Mohammed or Koran is termed
’blasphemy’ by the Islamic countries and the penalty
for which is death. Such an irrational and
unscientific approach of the Muslims only displays the
extent of their blind faith towards their religion and
this is one of the principal reasons for their
backwardness in the fast developing and changing
contemporary world.
It would not be proper to blame the Muslim society for
it. In fact, its leadership never tried to lead the
society out of the blind religious alley, and such a
leadership not only received the support and patronage
from the
US imperialists but also from the power
greedy politicians of India, who used them as vote
bank. The
US does not wish the Muslim Community to be
free from the shackles of the religion, as the
terrorism originating from religious fundamentalism
has been providing it opportunity to interfere in the
affairs of the other countries. Iraq is its glaring
example. At least during the regime of Saddam Hussain
the people of
Iraq were free from religious bigotry
which now is at its extreme and such a condition among
the Shias and the Sunnis serves the US interests
better.
The condition in
India had deteriorated further,
particularly since the second decade after
independence. The religious sentiments of the Muslim
community were highly encouraged and whole of the
community was left at the mercy of the Mullas, Maul
avis and the cunning politicians. What to speak of
challenging the religion. Nobody dares to talk of
reforms even.
It’s not rue that whole of the Muslim community is
under the grip of religion. There are quite a large
number of such people who wish to shed off the
shackles of religion but the absence of any leadership
they are feeling restless under the social pressure.
There is a very small section of the society, however,
which is free from religious bonds.
It is an irony that a little bit of reform, which
could be accomplished in Muslim countries like
Pakistan and Bangladesh, could not be possible in
secular
India. The system of triple Talaq (divorce) is
still in vogue and the Muslims abstain from family
planning methods. Insufficient is the endeavour of the
Muslim Personal Law Board, who tried to reform the
Nikahnama or the marriage agreement.
On the Occasion of Id-ul-Zuha such a large number of
animals are sacrificed, that is quite sufficient to
terrify some one. The system of animal sacrifice had
been there among the Hindus too but due to reformist
movements it has been reduced to minimal; while among
the Muslims it is continually increasing.
Not to speak of the rural area. Even in Madrasas of
the urban areas the religious teachings and education
imparted by illiterate or semiliterate clerics create
a bigot mentality among the students since very
childhood. Most of the Madrasas willingly do not
impart education in science.
This the principal reason for the backwardness among
the Muslim community. This backwardness benefited the
Mullas.
Only launching an attack over religious rituals and
superstitions won’t do. An alternative line of
thinking - a global civil society based on equality
and social justice, should also be initiated.

 

Send questions or comments to Dr. Khalid Sohail