Sunday, November 13, 2005

Misplaced Zeal

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." -- Galileo Galilei

The problem of belief lies in the need for the human being to be sure. He thinks that his belief is sure when he ignores all other voices - within himself and within humanity - and gives himself up to his "beliefs." - Unknown


It has often amazed me that how as a species continue to lay importance to such trivial matters like religion. Religion, according to me is something private, something sacrosanct. I am not a firm believer in religion, neither am I an atheist. I prefer my own way, I make not so frequent trips to the temple, there could be times where I would go “religiously” and at the same time, there could be months before I step into a temple. It is interesting to see that the word “religiously” also creeps in our dialogue. By definition, it is meant to signify any activity which we do regularly, without a break. It is precisely this narrow definition of something which is fundamentally so private in nature that disturbs me. Do we do ablutions in public, if not, why make a song and dance of prayer. Prayer is something which you are supposed to be in privacy, without disturbing anyone. Yet, we insist repeatedly on encroaching on someone’s privacy. We tend to get all riled up if other people come into our “private spaces” but somehow when it comes to religion, all rules are laid to rest. Although I am not a firm believer in any religion, I always question the faith and the beliefs put forth in Hinduism. It is this questioning about my faith in something so fundamentally private that has given me my own personal “hybrid” version of faith. It has nothing to do with what is commonly practiced, it does not interfere with anyone else, it does not cause hurt or pain to anyone else. I have had conversations with several Christians and they also have had the same experiences I have. While not being ‘atheists’ in the true sense, questioning of faith has put forth new questions and I have come to believe that there is space for all forms of belief in all religions.

This is further exacerbated by the fact that we frequently reduce all problems to in an “Us vs. Them” mentality. Any issue to do with terrorism is immediately given the spin on ‘those damned Islamists'. It is precisely this frequently heard rant that had me thinking.
It is Islam and its dogged belief in “He who is not a practicing Muslim is a heretic” that has caused so much heartburn and pain to everyone around. I frequently read news articles and blog-posts which allude to the fact that extremist Islam is not the majority view. However, with all that is going around, I would like to point out that the “vocal majority’ which “moderate Muslims” keep referring to is sure mute!! Why is that Muslims consider someone questioning their faith and beliefs as non believers? Why do they join religious based schools in increasing numbers? What amazes me is that some of the Muslims I have met completely agree with the fact that Islam itself is clinging to outdated beliefs and customs, but surprisingly the ability to question their own faith was missing in them. While this cannot be considered as the majority belief by any sense (Anecdotes do not make a sentence!!), to the common man, a virulent form of Islam threatens to take over the entire world. From Australia to the United States, it seems that Islam threatens to engulf the world, if not by violent outbursts of terror then by spontaneous outpourings. The MSM (main stream media) has also contributed its part by not tackling Islamist extremism head on but rather tends to glorify the “pains and sufferings of Islam” and demonizes anyone fighting terror as “attack against Islam”.The core issue as I alluded earlier is our reliance of religion as a panacea cure for all that ills us. In the 1990s’, as an outburst against mass Namaz, the Shiv Sena came out with the Maha-Aarti. Tit for Tat mechanisms like this do not solve anything; the fight against Islamist extremism can only succeed if the ‘vocal but silent’ majority raise their voices and put a FULL STOP against all extremist activities. In summary, Rabbi’s Bulla ki Jaana conveys a powerful meaning using some simple lyrics. Bulla Ki Jaana is a powerful message for everyone.

Not a believer inside the mosque, am I
Nor a pagan disciple of false rites
Not the pure amongst the impure
Neither Moses, nor the Pharaoh

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Not in the holy Vedas, am I
Nor in opium, neither in wine
Not in the drunkard’s craze
Neither awake, nor in a sleeping daze

Bulleh! To me, I am not known

Neither in happiness nor in sorrow, am I
Neither clean, nor a filthy mire
Not from water, nor from earth
Neither fire, nor from air, is my birth

Bulleh! To me, I am not known

Not an Arab, nor Lahori
Neither Hindi, nor Nagauri
Hindu, Turk (Muslim), nor Peshawari
Nor do I live in Nadaun

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Secrets of religion, I have not known
From Adam and Eve, I am not born
I am not the name I assume
Not in stillness, nor on the move

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

I am the first, I am the last
None other, have I ever known
I am the wisest of them all
Bulleh! do I stand alone?

Bulleh! To me, I am not known

Haroon Moghul has an excellent blog-post about "reformist Islam". Link HERE

4 Comments:

Blogger Rational Designer said...

I remember hearing the following,which I believe to be true: Religion is the greatest invention of MAN.

11/16/2005 2:37 AM  
Blogger The Greatest Hokie Ever !! said...

[Rational Designer] Thanks for your comments.

u are right but I would not deride religion because of its nature or followers. Faith has a place in all our lives, it is just that when your faith intrudes in someone else's domain is when the problems start. Islam is in the middle of a deep identity crisis, they want to use brute force to take over the world, they are worse than the chrisitan missionaries, at least the missionaries serve in areas where even the government has given up, what have the Islamists done?

11/16/2005 11:11 AM  
Blogger doubtinggaurav said...

Hokie,

Interesting post,

1) In order to get insight on present day fundamentalisn, may be you should read "Among the believers" by Naipaul.
I found it very impressive.

2) In my opinion, True nature of religion is not going to temple,mosque or church,which are rituals, it is inquiring into the supreme being ("brahaman").

It has been a long time I went to temple,However, I dont look down upon rituals, as I think even rituals serve a purpose.
As Guru Aurobindo said "We are all idolators".
I have come across many post discussing religion and secularism.
I am trying to organise my thoughts on this and come up with my own two cents.
Hopefully will have posted by next week.

Regards

11/17/2005 10:59 PM  
Blogger The Greatest Hokie Ever !! said...

[doubtinggaurav] Thanks for your comments

1) I will surely try to get my hands on the book you have recommended

2) Looking forward to your post. I fully agree with your sentiments. Religions is mostly according to me is all about symbols. That is the point I was making. Irrespective of relgious convictions, if you try to increase the value of symbols beyond what they are, it leads to enormous problems all around.

11/18/2005 9:28 AM  

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