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EditorialEditorial : Do We Need Religion?


Religion is a collective phenomenon and like every other group behaviour, has its dissidents. They do not want to be bound by a set of practices, beliefs, or adhere to set patterns. They want to be free of any avowals and keep their beliefs and paths fluid, and go beyond scriptures, codes, or manuals. They question the very need for religion.


Group behaviour has been questioned since the birth of humankind. For every group of cave dwellers, who lived and fended for themselves, there were always a few who preferred to stay away from the crowd. They loitered around alone searching for hidden clues to innovation in Nature and were content with the little they came across as food. Every innovation, invention, discovery, revolution, movement has had voices opposing them. There is always another angle to anything under the sun. Religion is no exception.


All isms have had opponents. Religion has its share too. But the question of the necessity of religion has been raised for a long time now. The language and arguments keep changing but the contention remains the same: Religion is not necessary. If it is so vile a thing, why does it keep coming up? Like any other evil propensity of the human mind like stealing, cheating, or killing, why are human beings not unanimous on the futility of religion? That is because we are hard-wired to be religious. We may not always say it in so many words, but adulation is an expression integral to the human psyche. How can we be sure of that? Just look at people who claim to be non-religious. They almost always end up forming groups with the main purpose of decrying religion or anything even remotely religious. There are countless atheist organisations, agnostic groups, and people who do not want to be ‘religious’ but ‘spiritual’. All these people are doing the same thing religions do: have a precept, a following, and propagate one’s beliefs. In effect, these people are being very ‘religious’ about their non-religiousness! The only difference is that they apparently do not believe in God, any avatar, saint, prophet, or messenger. That the main leader of such groups eventually assumes a Godlike stature is quite conveniently ignored.


Probably the most pivotal argument of the non-religious is that religions are illogical. The question whether religion should remain is linked to rationality. This argument has serious flaws. First, it considers all religions or faith systems to be illogical, which is wrong. Second, and more important, it presumes that all human actions are logical. All our day-to-day activities are based on an illogical presumption that we will be alive tomorrow. When it is certain that we will die one day and do not know the exact date of death, would it not be logical to be certain about the uncertainty of our life and therefore, not plan for decades? This is only one example of the illogical mindset human beings have. Love, anger, hatred, and ambitions are some other examples of the human avenues of illogical and irrational behaviour. Yet, when it comes to matters of religion, we are too occupied with arguments of logic.


Religion is everywhere. For some it is religion or God. For some it is money. For some it is sports, movies, books, or music. For some it is people, fame, or power. Almost all of us are religiously bound to something close to our hearts. That is our religion. That is our calling. So, what is the harm if it is God for some people? How many raise slogans or start associations denouncing people who are ‘religious’ about movies and watch them at an insane pace? None. That makes one wonder if those opposed to religion are in fact helping the religious build a strong belief. Over the last few centuries, thinkers have both discounted and upheld religion. The discourses for and against religion have always been in vogue and not even once did religion die. Because deification, respect for and fear of the unknown, and hero worship are ingrained in human behaviour.


Another argument against religions is that they are at best safeguarding ethical behaviour and a good society can always enforce ethical values without being religious. Though this stance sounds great, a little thinking makes us to see through it. Why would someone be ethical if there is nothing to be attained from it? In the race for the survival of the fittest, why would one spend one’s efforts in arresting the pace of growth by binding oneself to an ethical behaviour, if it did not ‘ennoble’ one or did not take one closer to one’s true divine nature? There would be no reason for ethics without a belief in a link of the human beings with the supra-normal divine. Religion is the only human avenue that enables human beings to ponder on the farthest reaches of nature beyond the apparent human paradigm.


What has religion given us? Of course, it has caused torrential bloodshed. It has made one human being stand against another for centuries. It has caused hatred, ill-feeling, rancour, and has led to some of the most diabolical, vile, and horrendous practices humankind could conceive of. But has not religion produced any good? Why is it that most of the inventions or discoveries of humankind were by religious persons? Why do we see that radical, world-changing thoughts took shape in heads that bowed to God? Because they could see beyond the human complex. They could visualise and perceive a bond between the individual and the cosmic. Religion propels the human mind to harness infinite power and to bend nature, external and internal, to supra-human possibilities. The impossible becomes possible through religion. It is the ladder which enables one to peep beyond the wall of name and form.


If religion is so good, then why the debate? Religion is good but the religious often are not. Our half-understandings and passion without vision lead to the blind leading the blind. God does not need certificates of approval. The human craving for approval extends itself to the need for approval of one’s faith by many. If you believe in something other than what I believe in, or worse, if you are against my belief, you can see my knife at your throat! Such catholicity would soon lead to a situation where there would not be many people left to understand! So, religion is not to blame, our convoluted and dogmatic understanding of it is to be blamed.


The way out: Believe and let believe. Have a religion of your own if you will but let others have theirs too. Don’t get carried away by your innate desire to be accepted. Rather, feed to others’ desire for acceptance. Faith in the infinite would enable you to do wonders with the finite. Acknowledging others’ expanse of mind, you can get your views acknowledged. The drive for religious belief should not be for acceptance or propagation but for peace and fulfilment. That would be logical, humane, and would help us outgrow our human boundaries and blur the difference between humanity and divinity, between the apparent and the real.


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