Monday, January 3, 2011

Religion and Fanaticism

This morning a saw a note from my friend Dhurjati in which he expresses his outrage against religious fanaticism. 
He makes a very good point with Weinberg's comment:

"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
  --  Steven Weinberg 

Agreeing totally with the above statement, I couldn't help but think of what my take on this was.

Well, to start with, I wasn't sure! I have never been very religious, but I sure enjoyed singing in the school choir, still enjoy carols, love listening to Baul and Sufi music, and absolutely adore the evening Azaan. I also drool about visiting temples, especially the ones that server rich-ghee laddoos (sweets) or khichdi to people who visit :) However, I do not believe in following any set patterns or rituals of having conversations with God--ranging from the "Please see me through this and I'll never ask anything else of you" to the "Hi there" or "Thank you" ones. 

I get it when people feel very strongly about the way they say their prayers, where they say them, and how they say them. To me these are entirely a matter of personal convenience, habit, and preference. Well, maybe not in that exact order but something close. What I don't understand is 'why' or 'how' people think that 'the Almighty/the many powers that be' is commissioned to ensure their betterment at the cost of "the others."

To the best of my limited knowledge, all (human) religions are institutions based on the fundamental promises and tenets of 'faith,' 'love,' and a sense of 'community.' And that doesn't help me figure out this entire "mine's better than yours," or "I don't like you cause you face xyz when you pray" business. If these weren't enough, there are people across religions who are ready to kill, harm, and justify all actions against other human beings in the name of religion.

Religions are nothing but institutions, and there can be no institution that stands on the basis of 'doing evil' or 'causing harm' to other human beings. As a corollary of Weinberg's statement, it has been observed multiple times across history how people have reformed themselves and went on to live a better ( less harmful :) and meaningful life by virtue of their faith in one or the other religion. 

Would you, for that matter, support the killing of another human being just because they support a different football club/nation?

It's the essence of fanaticism to 'justify' harmful, devious actions for a 'greater good' or 'better cause.' And that is what we should condemn, abhor, and criticize. If people tell you otherwise, ask them to get a life and, probably, shake a leg!