With due apology to believers, Religion is certainly the greatest impediment in the path of communal unity and Scientific progress in many nations, especially in the developing countries. The word ‘religion’ itself is said to be derived from Latin ‘religare’ = restrain or ‘tie back’, probably out of fear of a supernatural, mystical power.
To those who do not agree with this, I would like to remind them of the Greek philosopher Socrates, who was forced to drink poison because of his scientific beliefs that differed drastically with the ecclesiastical beliefs propounded by the Church. In India too, considerable effort had to be made by educational and social reformers, Indian and Western, to enlighten our people and rid them of retrogressive superstitions which led ignorant folk to support horrible practices such as Sati and child sacrifice.
Yet we hear ridiculous comments to this day from some people in Islamic countries who stick to old beliefs like “The Earth is flat, or the Sun moves around the Earth.”Also Wahhabi Sunnis have no compunction in bombing and blasting, not only temples and churches, but also the mosques of the other Mohammedan sects like the Shias, Ahmediyas etc. who do not agree with their views.
Recently, a Christian lady Asiya Bibi was convicted of blasphemy and was jailed for it. Fortunately, she has been acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan now, and can leave the country.
Saint Meerabai was another victim, who was put to death in the same way as Socrates, for being a strict Vaishnava and a devotee as well as a self professed spiritual wife of Sri Krishna, but married into a family of worshippers of the Mother Goddess who practiced Animal Sacrifice for offering to the Devi, which she as a vegetarian staunchly opposed.
In fact, religion has been used by most communities to keep Women and the weaker sections of society illiterate and downtrodden to serve as chattel of powerful men, or even to justify killing them sometimes. The customs of Triple talaq, Nikah Halala and Female GenitalMutilation are all for the same purpose.
Some years back, I happened to hear the Swami of a math preaching that women need not learn Sanskrit shlokas because the duty of women is only to bring up children and take care of their health and nourishment. Teaching children about religion is the duty of men. I was indignant and felt like telling him that I learnt the Shlokas from my mother who had done BA with Sanskrit, while my father, being England returned, had no interest in any religion.So if my mother had not taught us Shlokas and other facts about religion, we children would not have had any initiation in our Hindu religion! If my parents were like that Swami, I would not have been able to become a doctor.
The first Indian Woman doctor, Anandi Gopal too became a doctor only because of the backing of her unconventional, progressive minded husband who in turn took the help of the British for his wife ‘s education. If he had been narrow minded like the Hindu Swamis and Islamic Maulavis, he would have used every strategy to keep her subjugated without education, like the Taliban of Pakistan did, going so far as shooting at Malala Yousafzai to prevent her from going to school.
History is also witness to the early Christians being forced by Roman Kings to fight with hungry lions or tigers in an arena flocked with many onlookers to see the morbid spectacle, simply on charge of blasphemy.
Most of the inter communal conflicts and wars are due to differences in religious beliefs and codes of conduct of the radicals of all religions, namely, Muslims versus all non-Muslims (including Hindus, Jews, Christians, Parsis and now the most peaceful Buddhists). The former break the Temples, Gurdwaras and Churches of the non Muslims.They exploded the Bamian statues of Buddha of heritage interest despite the requests by the Afghan government not to do so. They also forced the exile of Parsis from Iran like the Pandits from Kashmir. Whom can they live amicably with? (Earlier, the Portuguese too destroyed temples of Hindus in Goa, and the Spanish had destroyed the monuments of American Indians, but now they are no longer in power to do so.)
The Only Powers which can control these fundamentalists, and set all religious bigots, including the Mullahs, Padres as also Hindu extremists right, are the Chinese and Russians, rather than the Western nations who together will be the future Sovereign nations of the entire Asia, including South East Asia.
Only then, there will be an end to the nonsensical fights on Who is the True God, “Your God”or My God”, and among the Hindus, “Who is the superior Deity- Sri Vishnu, Lord Shiva or The Devi”, as well as Who is the superior incarnation of Vishnu- Ram being the dominant favourite in Uttar and Madhya Pradesh, (though it is Sri Krishna who is considered to be the Poornavtar or complete manifestation of Sri Vishnu, not Ram).
A Tamil Iyer Brahmin lady told me, in jest of course, that there is a saying in their caste that the Iyengars who are Vaishnavas in contrast to the Iyers who are Shaivas, are so imbued with a feeling of superiority over the Iyers that “Ayyo, if an elephant chases an Iyengar, and an Iyer’s house falls on the way, the Iyengar would keep running but not enter the Iyer’s house.”!
Anyone would think that Ram, a Human incarnation of Vishnu (who Himself is just one part of the Trinity comprising the Creative, Preservative and Annihilatory aspect of the Supreme Power) is equivalent to the Supreme Power Itself.
However, the True God is neither Ram or Krishna or Buddha or Christ, but The One Formless, Nameless, Eternal Supreme Spirit or Power who governs the entire Universe, including all Humanity, irrespective of religion. For a Human Incarnation is bound to have some faults and be Less than perfect! All the incarnations of Hinduism have supported Patriarchal values, while the Abrahamic religions have conferred their own beliefs and prejudices related to Male Chauvinism, onto the Supreme Spirit, not realising that It is a Neutral Power, not a Human being.
People who fight over religion are like the Proverbial blind men who were asked to define an elephant according to how each one perceived it by feeling the creature. The one who clasped the Tail or the Trunk described the animal as either a Cobra-like Snake or a Python. Those who held the Legs equated it to a structure with pillars, and the ones who felt the Torso compared it to a huge rock, but the fact was that each man got only a Partial idea of the elephant, not the entire concept of it. That is the position with the protagonists of the different faiths.
Actually, the Abrahamic religions, viz. Jews and Muslims have the right concept of there being One Supreme God, but the Mohammedans err in projecting the Supreme Spirit as a stern and harshly punitive Divine entity, because of which they commit atrocities on behalf of ‘their’ God, on anyone whom they regard as pagans or blasphemous, which makes people think of it as a fearsome deity, which is not true! Hence it is the members of that religion who needs to be enlightened about The Truth and chastened more than anyone else.
The Truth is that The Supreme Spirit is neither loving nor cruel. It is an impersonal and impartial Force, which is more like a perfectly automated Machine which operates through Nature to control the lives of all living beings, and gives positive results only when human beings make Collective and United efforts to achieve any beneficial goal, like overthrowing a tyrannical or oppressive power, rather than by individual prayers or sacrifices.
Hence there should be One Univeral Religion, of Mutually Caring Humanity.
All said, It would be interesting to know what definite concept the supposedly irreligious Chinese themselves have of The Supreme Power Running The Universe.