Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Religion - Overrated?

The latest debate on Indiblogger is whether religion is overrated.  I didn't want to join the debate at all because I can only think of religion as something that is as redundant as the vestige of the ape's tail that still remains at the bottom of our spines.  I was, however, encouraged to see quite many bloggers expressing views I agree with.  Most bloggers who joined the debate argued against religion one way or another.  Even if they are believers, they seem to think that religion should be kept out of public affairs.  

The question is whether religion is overrated today.  I think it has always been overrated.  Humanity was bossed over by religion until the last century.  The Enlightenment that occurred in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries altered man's attitude towards religion significantly.  But it took another century or two for man to wean himself from the mother of all illusions. 

Yet, even today, religion remains an overrated phenomenon that serves as the opium of the masses (to use a Marxian phrase). People use religion for all sorts of purposes: as a painkiller (O God, put an end to my disease), as a prop if not a fraud (God, help me during the exam), as a terminator of enemies (terrorism of various hues)... And God is eager to help, it seems.  People love in God's name, hate too in the same God's name, kill, rape, manoeuvre, swindle... do anything because as far as it is done for God it is right. God makes everything right. 

That's why, I think, religion is overrated even today.  I have lived with all kinds of religious people.  I have admired (and still do) the width and depth of their imagination.  Joan of Arc (the heroine of Bernard Shaw's play, Saint Joan) would be a dismal failure before the phantasmagoria exhibited and exploited by the religious people of today.  Anything and everything is grist to the religious mill. 

What does religion really mean to these people who consider themselves religious?  I'm reminded of a parable told by Anthony de Mello (himself a religious priest, but very different from the usual breed).

The pilot announced in midflight, "I regret to inform you we are in terrible trouble. Only God can save us now."

One of the passengers who was half asleep asked his copassenger who happened to be a priest, "What was the announcement?"

"The pilot says there's no hope," answered the priest. 

If we take away the wealth, land, ostentatious temples and cathedrals from the religions, what remains will be the faith of the priest in the parable.

That's why, I reiterate, religion is overrated. Even today. 






22 comments:

  1. Liked the example of the plane. I quite agree with you. However, I believe religion has lost the meaning it originated with. And, anything that causes differences between people, who are same at the core, isn't worth to be carried on.

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    1. The origin of religion is fear. As time changed, religions evolved and became a little more sensible. But there's no religion, even today, which can make human beings better creatures!

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  2. I agree with what you've said Sir . But as I've mentioned in my article..we can either love it or hate it ...but it's difficult to ignore it ...the concept is too deep-rooted irrespective of a person being religious or non-religious....

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    1. It's because religion is an integral part of culture. That's why it becomes difficult to ignore it, let alone shirk it off. There are some legacies that we keep merely because they belonged to the family for generations.

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  3. There is nothing wrong with religion but the man made distortions have given rise to such polemics.Religious faith is a very private thing and allowed to remain so.

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    1. If it remains purely private, I'd have absolutely no grouse about it, Uppal. But I wouldn't agree that "There is nothing wrong with religion." I think there's only wrong with religion :)

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  4. I think religion has been made the way it is now for advantage of some people. Tragedy is that these people rule the world.

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    1. Throughout history religion was a handmaiden of politics or vice versa. Religion is the easiest way for manipulating people's emotions and sentiments. Hence its power.

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  5. But what if we shun religion, Let's do it. Scrap all religions not out of hatred for religion because if we hate religion and denounce it thinking it is the root cause of all the evil we will create another religion out of the ashes of the old religion. This is what has happened always. If we evolve and shun religion out of knowledge. What happens then? well this knowledge of course will be of much higher scale and will require higher intellect. But not everyone will be of a higher intellectual stature, so, they now do not have religion to fall back and seek answers from. These people can't use knowledge because they are ignorant. Now someone will try to impart the knowledge and things will be set right for the moment. But what next? The greedy, power lusting people will distort the knowledge and sell it to masses for their vested interest and then again the viscous cycle of distorted religion and exploitation in its name. As long as humans are sadly enough this will be the rule. As Sigmund Freud said that Humans are basically bad.

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    1. Isn't there a fundamental logical problem with your argument, Datta? Frist, you're saying let's make a society based on knowledge and awareness. I guess you mean everyone will have knowledge and awareness. Then you are saying some people will be ignorant and hence not able to cope with problems. Isn't there a contradiction?

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    2. No, I think I missed out on making the point clear. I meant by what you are writing. We should shun religion. Then what will replace it?
      The answer is Knowledge. This knowledge which will replace religion should be flawless and thus sublime. Because it is sublime it can be understood by the people of higher intellect. But in this society not everyone has a high intellect. So, when we shun religion the society will have a segregation of Enlightened and Ignorant. The Enlightened will seek peace in knowledge. But where will the Ignorant go to find peace? They don't have the knowledge to bank on. So, an enlightened being will make it simple and impart knowledge to the ignorant hoping that the ignorance is all gone. Things will look all right. But as time elapses, the people who have greed in them and are more cunning than the rest will distort the knowledge imparted. And then the same viscous cycle

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    3. Right, I understand now what you mean and I should say you're right. Probably, we'd come to what Marx said, "The history of all hitherto existing human society is the history of class struggles." People always love to CLASSify themselves. It gives them the feeling of belonging, belonging to a CLASS.

      Nevertheless, isn't the struggle between levels of intelligence better than levels of ignorance and illusions?

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    4. Struggle between the levels of intelligence is always better than that based on ignorance. True. I have been the one who has always thought of a solution out of this....still to find answers

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  6. Yes indeed it is over-rated sir and in fact very dangerous I believe. However, mass disillusionment will also be a threat to humanity because who can assume the what destruction would be wrought in case religion ceases to exist. Although i don't believe it will happen, I assume that the devastation that it will cause to the world emotionally will be more horrific than the physical damage it is doing to it today.

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    1. First of all, Brendan, it won't happen. :) Simply because religion is a drug and drugs will continue to be in use as long as human beings exist.

      Secondly, if religion becomes extinct through an evolutionary process there will be no danger at all. It will be a mutation in the human nature. (I avoid using the Darwinian term 'genes' since religion is not in the genes, but it is a meme). The evolution has to be at the intellectual level, not at genetic level.

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    2. Right on both counts sir. I humbly submit. :)

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  7. It is over-rated and treated as a panacea for everything. Unfortunately many times the religious miss the underlying philosophy or the message of a religion and imbibe everything that is superficial.

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    1. Superficiality is the essence of mediocrity, friend. And religion belongs to the mediocre.

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  8. I could'nt have put this in a better way. I believe that, with increase in knowledge and future discoveries, all the secrets of religion will be unveiled.

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    1. But people will create new mysteries, my friend. Mysteries are necessary for controlling people. Some people controlling the others. That's the mystery of religions, managements and politics.

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  9. Even I believe faith triumphs.
    Nice parable, Sir.

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