I was born into a middle class Indian family. And like most of my fellow Indians, my childhood had its share of idol worshiping and temple visits. I wouldn’t say I hated any of them. Rather, those were the times when the entire family got together and shared some happy moments. I hadn’t put much thought into what or who god is or the possibility of the existence of an omnipotent entity, then. My mind was happy pondering about why dogs wag their tails or why Superman is wearing his jatti over his pants. Ah! Ignorance was bliss!
But, as I grew up, I got to meet a lot of people and read a few books which kindled me to think about stuff. Stuff which is more important than Superman’s jatti. Exposure to different thought processes and cultures have awakened my idle mind to meditate on the topic of god, to know if there really is a superpower. To find out if it is nothing but a concept, a very old, well formulated concept that has taken deep roots in our society, too deep for people to question its truthfulness. I have wondered several times about how a world without religion, a world without god would have been. Would it have been a better place for humans and other lives? Or a barbarian land with no rules and no peace?
I have not tried to answer any questions here. This article is nothing but me thinking out loud.
Human mind is like a dog. When a dog is calm, it is quite easy to handle it. But, it is seldom so. And, there are only two ways to control a dog – by loving it unconditionally or by using force. Religion seems to be the loving hand at some times and the stick that can instill fear and inflict pain at other times. Our mind needs something to believe in, completely. A belief that no one questions is needed for the doubt-ridden mind to take refuge in, to find solace at times of distraught. And, religion is doing exactly that.
We wanted an ideal figure to whom we can look up and tell our kids to grow into. A superhero of sorts, like the Superman. Both Superman and Lord Shiva have novels written about them and hell yeah, they are best sellers. But, somehow Lord Shiva seems to garner more reverence than the Superman.
Religion is a powerful institution that has the ability to bring people together. It has the potential to create huge impact in the society. But, sadly the men who run these institutions are not bestowed with the “ideal” notions and ideas. Men are marred with emotions. The nature of impact is, hence, not always desirable.
For instance, Jihad has become a word that makes people wince. Jihad, originally, means “to strive, to apply oneself, to struggle, to persevere”. Today, the word has been painted red with blood and smells of terror, thanks to the few men who claim to have taken to violence to uphold their religion. Some say that Quran has verses that endorse violence. Some say that they were interpreted badly out of context. That’s the problem. Human emotions, when combined with ambiguous texts, can have a deadly effect.
How can I not mention about the infamous Gujarat riots here. A train carrying predominantly Hindus was set ablaze on its journey back from Ayodhya. (Was it an accident or a staged trigger, no one could conclusively say!). Thus, triggering one of the worst cases of communal violence the country has ever seen, claiming 790 Muslim and 254 Hindu lives. (These are only the official figures. And we all know how accurate these can be. Duh!)
One of them came out less scathed but humanity lost at large!
As if we have a dearth of Gods, there are self-proclaimed godmen, who have the God’s numbers on their speed dials, claiming to be the conduit to reach the “Almighty”. What makes me sadder is that they have managed to thrive with new ones springing once in a while! Tsk. Tsk. (We know what happened to Stannis Baratheon, the one true king. Thanks to Melisandre. He deserved better!)
These institutions of god are not completely evil. Surely, the Gurudwara of Delhi sending Langars to the earthquake affected Nepal was heart-warming. But, the people who run these can be. After all, they are humans. There is no black and white in real world. People are grey, different shades at different times!
Being a god worshiping guy that I am, who never forgets to mumble under his breath a prayer when crossing a temple on the road, who still loves the peace and serenity of a temple environment, it is really hard for me to accept that:
God is a creation of man which fared really well, better than anyone ever expected it to. The greatest fiction in the history of mankind.
This is a labyrinth, this half-baked state of mind. There are only two exits. One leads you to a place where god prevails and a life of soothing ignorance awaits you. The other leads you to the all-rational no nonsense place.
Temple is the name we have given to the place where the “God” resides. Interestingly, temple also refers to the side of the head (Though both were derived from different Latin words!) Let us not allow the former to shroud the latter. More often than not, the latter has proven to give better, long term solutions.
“Open your minds, my friends. We all fear what we do not understand.”
― Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol