Once I presented a copy of the book, Amen, by Sister Jesme to a couple who visited me. A few days later I came to know that the husband had flung it out of the car as they were returning home. “I won’t let such books in our home,” he said as he stopped the car near one of the many garbage heaps belonging to the Municipal Corporation.
Sister Jesme’s book is not a particularly outstanding work in any way. It shows that the Catholic Church is as corrupt as any human institution is. It elaborates on the sins and human weaknesses that exist in the religious congregation to which the nun (Sister Jesme) belonged until she left it in disgust as well as the realisation that it was meaningless to continue living a life of sheer hypocrisy. I gifted it to the couple because the lady had shown some interest in it when she saw it on my book shelf and also because the gentleman was very closely associated with the Church and would not allow any criticism of the Church within his hearing.
The man was not even willing to see what was written in the book. He could have disagreed with it, he could have criticised it, he could have questioned his own loyalty to the Church, he had numerous options open rather than fling it on a garbage heap. But he chose to throw it away. Such are most religious believers, I think.
For most people, religious belief is blind. The believers don’t want to open their eyes. They know that they will see too many ugly truths if they open their eyes. It is better not to see. Not seeing is faith. As someone said, “Faith is a blind leap in the dark.”
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The darkness is necessary. It is in that darkness that the faith becomes really beneficial. The gentleman above had got his job because of the help provided by his religion. His social standing owed itself to the parish church where he was a kind of leader with some respectability. In short, his monthly salary and his social stature both came from his religion, indirectly though. Hence his life would be hollow without that religion.
For most people, life would similarly be hollow without their religion. Ask today’s religious activists who go around killing people suspected of eating beef or for some other silly reason whether they know anything about the place occupied by the cow as well as its flesh in the history of their religion and you would realise that they know almost nothing about their religion. Their faith is a blind leap in the dark.
The self-chosen blindness is necessary in religion when it is merely a source of livelihood and social respectability. Today goons are gaining political respectability in the name of certain religious totems. More often than not, religion and politics are games for those who cannot find their way in the light. And, perhaps, the real thrill lies in eclipsing the light that others are enjoying.