“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. And that’s my religion” – Abraham Lincoln.
If on one hand religion shows us the path to God on the other it has been the cause of wars and vast destruction. Since the time we have had documented proof of human existence, mentions of one clan, civilization or nation conquering the other and enforcing their beliefs and customs on them have been common.
Islamic Spain which existed in the early ages was replaced by Christian Spain, the Persians had to flee Iran when the Islamic revolution broke out. Contemporary Afghanistan of the 60’s came under the jaws stringent and orthodox minded Taliban. It’s not only people that have borne the brunt of battles on religious lines. A vast reservoir of knowledge and monuments of significance like the Bamiyan Buddha‘s in Afghanistan too have been lost. People have had to kill a part of their souls which housed their culture and traditions and start afresh with no turning back, the Kashmiri Pandits being a fine example. Inspite of our advancements in science, technology and understanding of the human race we are still mute witnesses to brutal killings and forcible conversions in some parts of the world like Iraq thanks to the ISIS.
But is religion what religion should be? Is religion what religion is spoken to be? We Indians in particular perceive religion to be the final word of God, which by only following it in the truest sense one attains eternal salvation – the prize for good conduct on earth. While I agree that it serves as a guide to good living but is it the only way?
For one, God never created religion. Study to the depths of any creed, be it Hinduism, Christianity or Islam or consult renowned religious scholars and you shall find no reference of such an act. All that exists is the mention of holy saints, prophets and the Messiah setting foot on this earth and becoming leading examples of true and complete living – without grudge, sin or fear. Men, documented these teachings and created a set of guidelines for easy understanding and fellowship. Since the intelligence or wisdom of God is far greater than man, it’s possible that certain things may have been written without truly understanding the purpose, context or intent. A point to mention here – purity of the soul. Also, since it was man who wrote it, the odds favoured their gender and imposed restrictions on the fairer sex.
When Christ walked on this earth, he never sought the most clean or pious man in the crowd but he looked for the untouchables, downtrodden and the ones drenched in sin. When he met them he never ridiculed them but loved them more in return. And it’s because of this love they followed him and loved him back. Did Christ say that if one had to meet him he had to be clean in mind, body and spirit, dress in a certain attire or be a living saint? Did Prophet Muhammed P.B.U.H or Lord Krishna or Lord Ram say any of this? No. Then why the restrictions while visiting a place of worship? Aren’t we focussing on external cleanliness when the focus on the cleanliness of the mind, heart and soul should be paramount?
Why are women subject to humiliation due to reasons out of their hands? During her menstrual cycle she is forbidden from participating in religious activities, same if she’s a widow or a divorcee or manglik, etc. Wasn’t menstruation created by God itself? In the land of wisdom and sages why were and are women only subject to Sati and child marriages? Why do the widows of Vrindavan still face ridicule to such an extent that their shadow is also termed as unholy? Men, to my knowledge do not bear such restrictions. Then why? Why does the woman only keep a fast for her husband’s long life, the husband which at times is not worthy of such a supreme sacrifice? Why does she have to touch his feet? He is a human not God. Why don’t the men fast for their wives? Are they happy with their wives lifespan?
It’s surprising to note that we as children of the 21st century, blessed with tools of the internet, smartphones and social networking opening various avenues of knowledge and wisdom continue to follow and practice rituals blindly. And some of us who understand aren’t bold enough to stop following it even if it doesn’t make sense to us. There goes our education, there goes our wisdom, all down the drain. If a woman in a house is subject to such shame for no fault of her’s let the entire family boycott such events. Atleast in the eyes of God the family would be considered just than society which wears a garb of purity.
If God had wished that man would follow something blindly without raising a doubt he wouldn’t have given us a brain and blessed us with intelligence. I am not questioning the validity or supremacy of God, I am questioning all that man has made, religion included. Let our love for God guide us and not the fear of God make us helpless. Let us use our intellect and transform ourselves and those around us, so not only we do what is right and ethical but do not deprive someone else of something which is his or her right and worthy of. Let us understand the unconditionally loving and ever merciful God ourselves and not be slaves of someone else’s understanding. It’s only then this system and society at large will change.
It’s time that we as a nation wake up and not just get up every morning.