Nature of religion


As far a religion is concern I proclaim myself as Hindu. But Hinduism does not uphold any single belief system, it is essentially an ecosystem of beliefs. However it would be a mistake to say that Hinduism treats all the beliefs at par. Certainly there are superior beliefs and inferiors beliefs and they keep on changing. In fact this ability to bring a change in our attitude towards our own beliefs is what I believe the core of Hinduism.

Atheist View

Human beings have 5 senses. Human beings have survived as a race and have evolved to become the most dominant living beings on Earth because of their ability to use these 5 senses to perceive the world around them to use their “intelligence” to react accordingly. This ability to make the right decision based on the perception is the main skill that has helped us to survive. Isn’t this skill be called Rational Thinking? This thinking has added more and more knowledge to the collective knowledge of humanity. And as a race we continue to base our decisions on this collective knowledge.

For example Apple falls down because of gravitation force is what our collective knowledge says. This basic knowledge has enabled us to send satellites in space. It has helped us to forecast weather in a better way. It has helped us to save lives. In a way certainly this basic piece of knowledge is one contributing factor for our survival on earth.

Hence I believe that this basic set of knowledge must be agreeable to both the atheist as well as believers. Both of them should agree that 1+1 =2 and apple falls down because of gravitational force. And we can have a set of this indisputable basic collective knowledge of civilization.

Getting the unknown in picture.

I feel that there is a vast amount of knowledge that is unknown to civilization. We can’t be sure if we actually have only 5 senses. What if there exists a 6th sense which helps us to perceive the world in a little different way? Or we can also put the philosophical questions like “what is the purpose of our existence?” in this unknown category.

How do we deal with these question and things that mystify our lives? I see that the framework that both the scientists as well as the believers use here is that of “hypothesis”. Hypothesis is defined as an explanation for a phenomenon that can not be derived from the axioms we have but does not contradict with them either.

Only difference is that the scientists remain open to make changes in their hypothesis while the religiously oriented people are closed to any changes. And that makes the MOST IMPORTANT difference.

There is nothing wrong with a particular hypothesis. People a few thousand years ago believed that rain is sent as a gift by gods in return to the rituals they perform. As time went by we discovered more rationally correct reasons for the rain. It is also clear that all the advancements we have made today in our water management is because of the rational explanation for rains and not because of the rituals. No one performs those rituals today and still we see same amount of rain.

However on the other hand we see that Yoga and Ayurveda which are based on the hypothetical beliefs of Vata-Kafa-Pitta in reality give very good results in some of the diseases. Of course, I am not saying that cancer can be cured by Ayurveda but I am referring to more elementary home remedies for cough and skin diseases.

The lessons to derive

Our decisions about our life must be based on the collective knowledge that is what we call science. For the unknown we can always have our beliefs but we must not allow those beliefs to sip into our minds that contradict with the rational thinking.

That would make half the religious literature outdated and false. Which I believe is necessary. We can not allow the “book based” religions dictate our lives on false & absurd hypothesis. We all know that a virgin can not give birth to a kid.

It is also absurd to force people into believing our own set of beliefs and it is also ridiculous to put a ban on other people’s freedom of expression purely because it offends our beliefs. Our beliefs must be open to change and evolution.

We should not fear to offend those who harbor beliefs that are absurd. Especially when the beliefs lead to terrorism, oppression of women and poverty. The best example is the fear that everyone including the United States show when it comes to criticizing Islam. Islam propositions that they are the most superior and deserve more power than what they have is the root cause of so many conflicts all over the world which needs to be shaken.

Whenever we offend those people we must remember that we are actually doing this for their own interests. Surprisingly this sort of mentality is more visible in the missionary activities. People in Goa were slaughtered because the refused to give away their customs and embrace Christianity. The missionaries who claimed to represent Jesus Christ who is a symbol of compassion for poor killed million all over the world believing that while killing these Pagans they were actually working for their interests. The phenomenon I suppose should work opposite.

Do not hate but instill new meaning

However when we assert that there can’t exist a man with 10 heads we are questioning the Ramayana. Many atheist for example the communists in India demanded a ban on telecast of Mythological serials on Doordarshan citing the same reason. Now unless a particular belief contradicts against national interest I don’t think we should be “aggressive” in condemning the scriptures themselves.

Instead we can look at them as our ancestor’s attempt to unravel the unknown and appreciate it. We can use the strong belief that the people have in them to instill a new meaning to these very old rituals. Ganesh Puja can be converted into a mass movement the way Lokmanya Tilak did or like Gandhiji we can have “cleanliness equal to godliness”.

This is more true when it comes to Hindu religion which does not require any strong theological beliefs to assert its own identity. By hating and condemning Ramayana we only make the people ashamed of themselves where as a new meaning can lead to much more constructive things.

Be careful about the world scientific

Science is a framework based on some very important human faculties like logic and rational thinking. It is not about clichés. Several biblical organizations and also Organizations likes Sanatan have the word “Scientific”, “Scientific Study” etc. in their statements but their definitions of science is only about saying things such as “Looking at moon makes your mind more unstable by a factor of 0.0009%”.

We need to be careful about such false propaganda.

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2 thoughts on “Nature of religion

  1. Very thought provoking piece. If more people would embrace your spiritual diversity, there would exist less religious and cultural bigotry.

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