History tells us that all major religions are terribly blood stained.The births of religions and their spreading made havoc with human history. Many a time the might of sword made all the difference in helping the spread of most religions. Always it was a macabre drama. A ‘new found god’ trying to overtake an already existing popular god. Massacre in the name of gods was a very common feature when we look back the human history. Religions have been always vying with each other to ‘prove’ their superiority over the other. Each religion claimed that theirs is the‘only way’ resulting in acrimonious animosity among the followers. Each group wanted to outdo the other. No religion is an exception to this.
No wonder the same sad scenario prevails even today. No doubt it will continue in the decades (millennia?) to come. What would have been the history of mankind without religions is hypothetical question. No answer can be given. But I really wonder whether the world could not have been a much better place to live in? No one knows for sure! Nations have fallen apart; people have fought and are fighting against each other - brother against brother. All in the name of gods.
No light at the end of the tunnel. No hopes to have a peaceful future even in the far distance either. The religions would have been started with noble ideals of bringing out the best in man; to make him follow set ideals; to keep him within boundaries of decency and comradery. But man has not taken the religion in his hands as a guiding light instead it is a torch to burn down his brethren and his belongings; a club to clobber his neighbours. What was meant to be a source of solace is now a source of hatred and enmity. Man is responsible for this. But so also the religions.
Each religion,at least the major religions of the day, teaches man that THAT is the true religion; the only true religion. Preaching are drilled into the minds and dogmas are poured into their growing minds from the very childhood. This and the environment the children have in their early days make them grow very strong in their faith. The greatest horror is that children growing in one religion always gets tutored to hate other religions. Religion possesses them.They in turn become possessive of their religion. The religion becomes a matter of faith. No rationality is needed. It is mere meek acceptance of faith. It is just what somebody taught to somebody. The receiver never questions what was taught. In religion doubting or questioning is an anathema. The Cartesian doubt is right to be remembered in this place:“Doubt everything of which we cannot be absolutely certain. We will then find that most of our beliefs, which we have acquired casually from parents and teachers are not beliefs of which we can be absolutely certain”. But questioning of the religious dogmas is blasphemy to any person of faith.
Mostly we belong to a religion not by faith but by birth. So the conditioning starts from the cradle. The sad thing is that we many a time forget that there are two sides to every coin. We happily stop with knowing and completely accepting just one side of the coin. We are so much entrenched in the teachings of our childhood we do not even accept that there can be another side to the coin. We become more faithful. More the faithful more the fundamentalist. More the fundamentalist less tolerant to other faiths. Even tolerating, leave alone accepting, other religion becomes impossible. Negation of other ideas and religions become the proof of one’s depth of faith in one’s own religion.
Not only that, the feeling of being on the right side makes such a man of religiosity to think that he is a much better man than those belonging to other religions. This feeling of superiority alienates him from others. This alienation leads to intolerance towards the‘unfaithful’. The intolerance naturally leads to hatred. Disharmony is the very final result. What to expect in such a situation other than bombs and bloodshed! It is needless to say that this acrimonious psyche exists more among the three Semitic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
This antagonism grows in the mind of people so much that even people who got converted themselves one or two generations earlier get so much alienated with those who belong to their own earlier religion. So a society with two or three religions becomes virtually a battlefield – each side probably trying to prove that their gods are much superior to other gods! The roles of man and his creator become topsy-turvy – it is now the man who starts protecting his god from others! Our Indian situation is an apt example of this state of affair.
It is true that all religions preach love. But the religions very much stick to their own superiority over other religions also. These conflicting standards of religions make man more parochial. If the religions concerned happen to be organized religions like Christianity or Islam the problems become all the more serious since the decisions taken by a few at the top gush down to the grass roots to be accepted even without any whimper or second thought. It is the fiat of such few people always rules the roost. People at the top invariably are more fundamentalists since they have to prove to their following mass that they are more religious!
Man created religions and discovered god – mostly in his own image!Somebody said:” if triangles have gods, their gods would be BIG triangles”. I prefer to say, if buffaloes have gods, they would be BIG buffaloes,probably with more horns or so!
Religions thus created by man, of course with noble aims, grew into great powerful institutions. What was created became the master of the creator himself. The creation of gods and religions would have been purely for noble purpose but the followers of those institutions failed the original cause. Some religions became organized. Such organized religions became more and more powerful. Present day world is reaping the consequences of this draconian growth of religiosity. And it is very hard to hopefully assume that a day will come when the religious differences will vanish into thin air and people will all feel that they are one and the same – irrespective of their faiths. Faith is strong blind belief.So the ‘faithful’ also become ‘blind’ to other ways of life.
Our grand-parents or at the most, our great grand-parents (especially in the Indian context) would not have been the followers of the religion that you and I follow today. They would have got converted for some reason – definitely it could not have been based on their philosophical moorings; it could not have been after a thorough comparison of the religions concerned. There have been so many socio-economical reasons for the conversions, which most of us are aware. But now we hold on to that religion so dearly mostly due to our birth. When conversion from one religion to another is possible – a convenience we don’t have with castes– religions are like wearing a shirt. What should have been like a‘vest’ has become more like a ’skin’ to us which raises the question:
தோல்களாகத்தரித்துக் கொள்கிறார்கள் ?
A translated version of the above:
Snakes cast off even their ’skins’ so easily;But why these human beingsWear their ‘vests’ more like their ‘skins’?
* A paper read in an workshop conducted by the Inter-religious Dept, M.K. Univeristy, Madurai