Are all religions equal. Answer to that question is a very resounding NO. Are all people equal ? By default yes. Every individual has equal and basic rights but how we deal with him/her will depend on his/her behavior.
That is where the problem lies. Religion has behavioral consequences on it’s followers. Those consequences are a direct result of the basic tenets of the religion and it’s surrounding traditions. Having said that, there are always exceptions. There are people who drive nicely despite being drunk and there are some people who cant drive enough if they are not drunk, these cases fall on the either side of the bell curve but for most people there is a good correlation between alcohol in blood and inability to make good driving decisions.
Fundamentals of religion reflect in individual’s behavior by a degree of his belief. A word “fundamentalist” is often used in media without much sense but what it is supposed to mean is “someone believing in the most fundamental form of the religion”. It is perfectly fine for a person to be fundamentalist as long as he keeps it to himself. When fundamentalism is coupled of zeal to enforce it on others we call it “fanaticism”.
A fundamentalist Christian believes that abortion or even use of contraceptives like condom is blasphemous. He/she will not use it. In her noble prize acceptance speech (Mother) Teressa described contraceptives as a threat to world peace.
That is how religions impact society. More religious the society more it’s principles affect the behavior. If we look at Tibet which happens to be a Buddhist society you will notice that despite a serious oppression by Chinese the Buddhist monks have not picked up Ak-47. You dont see monks blowing up innocents in Chinese buses and markets. Instead we have seen self-immolation. That is because Buddhism is a true religion of peace. It’s teachings create a mental barrier for it’s followers to accept violence as a method of showing unhappiness. At the same time, patience happens to be another characteristic of the religion and we have seen despite all that chinese have done they have not managed to destroy the spirit of Tibetians.
There is a lot of propaganda by media that Islam is the religion of peace. But see Islamic societies are brutally violent. Ak-47 is the first weapon they seem to use. That has got nothing to do with oppression but is due to the teachings of Islam. Yes, convoluted arguments may be presented to show how the verses of Quran are to be interpreted but as one notices that is not the way the majority of the Islamic society interprets it.
Yes, many teachings of most religions are problematic. A civilized society must seek to mitigate this problem. Thomas Jefferson showed us the way when he clearly separated religion from state and since than the American state and law has mostly stuck to it without coming in a way of personal freedom.
India is a screwed up story. Gandhi and Congress have traditionally made communities as the focal point of their policy making. Congress party has consistently showed disrespect to the individual freedom while upholding community opinions. That has got nothing to do with socialize or compassion as they would like us to believe. In a largely retarded country like India it is much easier to influence a mob than to influence each individual.
The results are here for all of us to see. Today any mob which demonstrates its ability to inflict violence and disturb peace gets its way. They manage to stop Salman Rushdie from coming here, attack Taslima Nasreen, stop some book and stop some movie.
I have deliberately avoided passing any comment on Hinduism here. Unlike monotheist religions Hinduism does not have a fixed ideology. Hinduism is very fluid will adopt to survive the situation. A vedic traditions built around a set of philosophies evolved into a much larger ecosystem of religions accomodative of tribal and pagan practices once the vedic people came in touch with the tribals realizing that their participation was essential for everyone’ well being. Every vedic god had animal gods as their servants in the process. A varna system was developed to accommodates all kind of people and to maintain social harmony. As the survival was assured and focus turned on consolidating power and wealth, the varna system degenerated into a caste system. The case system itself was very fluid as shown by various British census reports. However now after independence certain castes saw a benefit in staying in the same caste and hence today we have a very rigid caste system.
Hinduism is certainly not a religion of peace like Buddhism. It is a religion that is capable of violence and war. But mostly this violence comes a retaliation or as revenge.
Now a days we see Hinduism hitting back in the same Islamic fashion. People asking books to be banned, hitting some painter, beating up girls in pubs and so on. This is just a part of it’s internal evolution process. Hindus are realizing that if they need importance in matters of power, they need to demonstrate their ability to be violent. It is just that this violent phase is in it’s infancy. We had seen it’s potential during Gujarat riot and we might see even worse in future.
The solution to the problem is to first take us out from the delusion that all religions are peaceful and equal. We must build an environment where religion can be discussed in purely philosophical point of view. Let the reason win over mob rule. If some people get offended in process so bit. If the offended people take up violence the state must put them behind bars without any mercy. Hope for humanity lies in the fact that with time reason prevails in the mind of people our blind faith. If we incentivize faith then reason will never find it’s way through.