Source : Google photo of origin of religion
Synopsis : What we understand by religion depends on who we talk to so there seems to be no universal agreement on what constitutes a religion. I look at the origin of religious beliefs and how far some have deviated from what they were supposed to believe. I also look at the degeneration of religion in the hands of common people and the reasons.
We hear almost every day a massacre somewhere in the name of religion or against a certain religion known for its extremist views and intolerance for other faiths. Today it is Christ Church in New Zealand and tomorrow it may be at your doorstep somewhere. Often it is not even related to a particular religion and may be related to hate crime due to the feeling of white supremacy some people have or it may be an anti-immigrant hatred that some politicians espouse for their pitiful political gains.
One such hater took the lives of innocent picnickers in Sweden who were out to enjoy the beautiful nature while another one mowed down school children in Beslan and Sandy Hook. The motivation for such crime is a subject for the criminologists to analyze but one thing is sure. This sort of crime will happen again and again somewhere as long as some people are consumed with hate for others that may be related to intolerance for other faiths taught by their brand of religion or it may simply be due to the white supremacy feeling that is very outdated today.
The recent loss of lives in Pulwama in Kashmir and India’s swift retaliation deep inside Pakistan to destroy the terror camps and killing over 300 terrorists is an example that violence always begets more violence.
Today I would like to look at the origin of religion and how some religions use their teachings to create problems for others while other religions preach tolerance and love for one another.
The origin :
We are all in awe of the tremendous power of nature when we see the tornadoes destroying entire city blocks in seconds or tsunamis carrying away whole cities and towns in one swift motion. We are in awe of such power of nature that can rain down catastrophe on anyone anytime with a power that is beyond the comprehension of the mankind.
The primitive man thousands of years ago was just as impressed by this power of nature that he attributed to some higher power he started calling the providence so the idea of divine power started to take root in his mind.
At first it may have been a simple idea to attribute anything he did not understand to something divine and malevolent because he saw the nature’s power in the most destructive way that made him fearful so the idea of wrath of providence became rooted in the nascent religion that was to develop later.
The people started to believe that they were to be punished if they did not behave well because the fear based belief worked quite well that was to become a basic tenet of some of the organized religions that were to come later.
The Christians started the idea of hellfire and brimstone, purgatory and eternal incarceration there for the bad people that the Inquisition took to a new level by torturing and burning people at stake just because their victims were humanists first and religious second. It is a favorite topic in churches where the padres use the hellfire and brimstone line to impress upon the people to behave according to the laws of their faith.
The Moslems have taken the idea of intolerance to a level that has seen increasing intolerance of anyone who disagrees with them that results in their worldwide Jihad. The Sufis and the Baha’is who are known for their tolerance of other faiths have been marginalized by the hard core Islamists who have declared war against all who do not believe in their ideology to impose their will on everyone else so the ISIS terrorists and their affiliates came along to cause mayhem. They have been beaten but the idea persists in the mind of their followers.
If we go back a few thousands of years, we see that the idea of an organized religion was formed when a grave injustice was done to some people. The Old Testament says that the Jews were mistreated by the Egyptians so Moses brought them out to Israel and made some rules set in stone for them all as a guide to be a better person. The Ten Commandments later became a part of the newly formed religion called Christianity but we should also know that Jesus himself never set out to create a new religion on his own. He was a rebel who fought against the evils of the Romans and the usury of the Jews who were exploiting the people so he taught the concept of universal brotherhood and tolerance but also to fight injustice.
His teachings were later misconstrued by the Popes who supported the Inquisition but Jesus never preached such violence against the innocent. So we see that the basic tenets of religions can be twisted later by some people to suit their political agenda whatever they may be that has caused the loss of millions of lives since the spread of intolerance.
Now we go back a few more thousands of years and come to India where the Vedic religion called Hinduism was born before anyone knew what religion was or supposed to be so Hinduism is called the eternal religion. It is not based on just one book like the Bible or Quran but is an amalgam of rules and ethics found in many Vedas and Upanishads.
Most Hindus do not read any of them except a few scholars who read and understand Sanskrit so they base their faith on the epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata that are stories rather than religious texts like the Bible or Quran. Only Gita is the outcome of the battle of MahaBharata that some Hindus read in vernacular because most people do not understand Sanskrit in which it was written originally. The story of Ramayana became popular when Tulsidas wrote it in Avadhi which is a dialect of Hindi most people understand and Mahabharata was written in Bengali and Hindi for the masses to understand. The translation of Gita in many languages is also available for the common man.
The fact that the Hindus are quite diverse in their belief system resulting in many branches of the faith is owed to the diversity of people itself and the regional differences among them because there is no strict definition on who exactly is a Hindu or what makes a Hindu. The dogma based religions on the other hand make sure to define the adherents in no uncertain terms and require people to repeat the dogmas everyday in their churches and mosques.
The dogmas are therefore used to galvanize people to accept the truth and the only truth that is thus propagated boxing people in so that they do not leave the religion and accept something else. The Islamists go even a step further and are told to kill anyone who leaves their faith and accepts another although most Muslims thankfully do not believe in such extreme measures.
So from the primitive times to the present day we see the evolution of religions to rope people in by actively spreading their brand or converting people by coercion or force while others like Hindus and the Buddhists have chosen the peaceful ways of convincing people the values in their teachings so they do not actively evangelize like the Christians and Moslems.
We also see a corruption of the original teachings found in any organized religion because of misinterpretation or false understanding of certain dogma. The Triple Talaq law as practiced by some Muslims was recently found to be unconstitutional and therefore illegal by the Indian Supreme Court bringing relief to women there although some still oppose it because it is the sharia law they obey.
When we see the corruption in some Christian sects that practice polygamy and child sex abuse we know that it has nothing to do with the teachings of Christ. The moral corruption of the priests and nuns that have been exposed in many countries where children are sexually abused is another example that would have horrified Christ. Jesus never said that priests and nuns should not marry but this rule was promulgated by the Popes later on who interpreted the teachings of Jesus differently that opened the door of corruption that no one was truly exempted from entering including the Popes and Bishops.
The Hindus do not have such rules and encourage all religious people to marry because they say that the marriage makes a person complete so a wife becomes a partner in living a religious life. It does not mean that some fake gurus are not sexual predators because they are and many are in jail but on the whole the Hindus live a wholesome life and not a depraved ones that comes from forced celibacy.
Swami Vivekananda used to say that any religion in the hands of the common people degenerates into something else given some time so we see the birth of cults and sects based on some individuals who see profit in such person based cults and become rich. Many crooks use religion as means to accumulate vast wealth tax free if they are good in hoodwinking the common illiterate person( Please read my blog related to this topic called The fake gurus)
It happens in all organized religions because it is easy to convince the masses using certain charm and charisma and fast talking ability to part with their money. These charlatans use many tactics to accumulate vast wealth and show clearly in their TV programs how they do it. First they fill their audience with their partners in crime who pretend to be the fanatic followers who faint on cue by just a touch of a finger and then rise shouting Halleluiah they have been cured of cancer and all sorts of diseases. It impresses others to do the same because we as humans have a need to believe in something. The crooks take full advantage of this weakness in people and make huge profit. No one reads the fine print when these crooks declare Lo and behold, the lame shall see and the blind shall walk.
You will notice that the Mullahs who train the young illiterate suicide bombers stay quite safe behind and send these young people to die by promising them all sorts of benefits in their afterlife that are quite easily made.
This is the degeneration of religion that Swami Vivekananda used to talk about that goes on everywhere so who keeps the common person on the right track and follow the dictates of his faith if not the priests and the mollahs?
The only religion I know of that does not have priests is Sikhism that does not believe in anyone interpreting the divine laws to anyone so there is no one between the person and the Divine. If you go to any Gurudwara, you will see a person reading the Granthasahib which is their holy text while others sitting there just listen or repeat what they hear. The Granthasahib was written in their Gurumukhi script that every Sikh understands unlike in other religions where the original script may be in Arabic that few understand or Sanskrit or Hebrew or even Aramaic that only scholars understand.
So when the common man becomes dependent upon the person who interprets the script that only he can understand then it gives him a lot of power and liberty to push his own agenda that may be different from what he is supposed to teach. This is the degeneration of religion that Swami Vivekananda warned about.
I think all religions have a role to play in guiding people to a better spiritual, moral and humane values but when this role is played by the interpreters then there is some room for mischief as we see in the corruption scandals in many religions.
The Vatican itself is not spared although the present Pope is trying hard to regain people’s trust in them even if it is such a daunting task for any one person. ( Please read my blog called The Challenges facing Vatican that is related to it)
Sometimes I feel that the primitive man was a more God fearing person who lived an honest life and was always helpful and useful to his fellow beings. He was not tainted by the corruption that we find today in our societies and religions. He did not have fancy churches and temples or mosques to go to but he understood his duties and obligation to his fellow being better than the modern man.
Even today the so called primitive people living in the Kalahari live by a higher standard of moral codes than us who go to churches, mosques and temples out of habit and duty than of pure religious volition to listen to the padres or Mollahs who repeat what we have heard many times and do not pay much attention to and do not practice in real life.
I find among the avid church goers some of the meanest, nastiest, corrupt and immoral people who are simply the bad people who tarnish the humanity.
The evolution of a faith should be positive in nature to make people better than before by keeping them honest, truthful, kind, loyal, faithful, moral, decent, dutiful, with empathy for others, sharing, caring for the needy, always doing what is right and oppose what is wrong,
If any religion fails to teach these things then it does not serve the humanity in a positive way. It helps create a gap between the divine and the people that is then filled by the crooks who distort all the good values mentioned about and lead people away from it.
What we need today is for the so called primitive man to teach us how to be a decent human being.
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