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How can less be more? Religion

9 June 2010 No Comment

Religion is one of those movements that is probably older than civilization itself. It began perhaps as away to explain the unknown but eventually has emerged into one of the most complex systems in the world. Reflective of this complexity are the religions of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism etc. Discussions on this subject matter are always complex and surprisingly, their advocation of peace somehow always leads to conflict. One could see religion as a tool to organize and control people and the alternative view to this, could be that religion is primarily a way of life. However, the drawback of religion itself is that it is too many and provides more room for difference than as a unifying force. But how this came to be has many reasons. For example, in an attempt to bring India under British rule, the Brits used the method of ‘ Divide and Conquer’ to assimilate portions of India. This was done by providing differential treatment to people of one faith which slowly instigated mistrust and jealousy amongst the non-benefactors, which eventually lead to violent conflicts. Today, the country, still, experiences the ramifications of this aspect of British colonization through religious rioting and insecurity.

But on a global level, the religion of Islam has come under fire for apparently preaching a violent battle against the ‘infidels’ in the wake of the September 9/11 and many such attacks. This has led to isolation of the religious community and the doors to dialogue keep closing more than widening. But this is not the only religion to come under fire. Lately, the Catholic Church has had to tale a stand of apology over its treatment of those who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of the church. Even history has time and again shown how religion has rarely aided peace and only brought out more and more differences to the forefront. Too many religions, too many differences and one would feel that we need any kind of excuse for friction. However, the world itself is divided into believers and non-believers. The northern countries, particularly Europe, tend to be more critical of religion whereas the southern poor nations have a large population of believers. One would argue that the northern countries, leading an industrial life and a relatively comfortable lifestyle with available access to food, transport, employment, clothing, tend to take to consumerism as a way of life. Whereas the southern countries, being agricultural economies, dealing insufficiently with natural disasters, poverty, unemployment, corruption, exploitation; basically without much to rely on, depend on God for their peace of mind and well-being. And this hasn’t changed in the last hundred years.

So where religion provided solace in not having much has slowly become the reason to quash the ones who earlier, dominated and subjugated others. This has led to a seemingly irreparable cycle of damage and unfortunately, religion is used as an excuse and the target. This gives rise to the idea of how this can be eradicated but yet, allows people to believe in the ideology of the same. How can religion fulfill societies more with less? Less would be simplifying the number of tenets and religious books and acquiring the wisdom and humanism out of these books, rather than the violent and discriminatory discourse present in them. There have been many religions that have embodied this kind of pluralism such a Baha’i but they have reached the adequate prominence. There should also be prevalent the separation of the state from religion and also, the public space from religion; religious beliefs should be maintained as a personal pursuit. Religion should find form in universal human rights and equality, and any divisive agenda is detrimental to society. But to aid this transformation, religion alone can transform societies. It requires active efforts to eliminate poverty, discrimination and other such social problems, which are some of the reasons for individuals turning to fundamentalism.

But one cannot ignore how religion has managed to bring people together with a common belief or cause. And one can perhaps think we just have to modify the common cause that would be beneficial for everyone and everything. It would, perhaps, be wise then to create a  religion that reveres and respects the earth, so as to preserve her as an entity which we are so bent on destroying. There are parts of many religions which already do so, such as Wicca, paganism, Hinduism but this requires large scale marketing in this age of globalization. These are, of course, rather idealistic in fashion but it is imperative to start evolving a new concept of  what religion means to each one of us.


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