{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Thursday, September 23, 2004

On God and Religion ...

This is cut-paste from one of my discussion with a friend about advent of Religion/God.

We started with pagan gods, (which is quite logical ) basically we can say that we started believing in god as 'something' who can control what we cannot control like extremities of nature. but as human race developed mentally, we devised other means to save ourselves from nature ( like establishments were made near river to do away with drought and cities were built on higher elevation to check floods , to name a few..., and these things are done even now... nature can't be overtaken or abated so we still worship rain gods & the likes..) . So in most of the cases, the identity of GOD started with fear and in the others cases as a custom...When population increased, the emphasis on society and behavior started which was required for the smooth/controlled working of the society... Imagine a situation where everyone worshipping their own pagan gods which donot put any moral limitations on the people. After morality and virtues ( like kindness, love, peace, compassion, brotherhood, code of conduct for men and women, about different strata of society.. so on and so forth) are attached to religion, the need for social security (ppl living in groups want to grow their groups and feel secure with more and more no. of ppl who have the similar beliefs ) also started. I mean to say that by that time ppl have started living in much larger and more organized groups with leaders, territories and the belief defined, so the groups started protecting them by increasing their reach in terms of ppl and lands. One of the way is to annex the territory. But very gradually it would have been realized that it is not going to help in long run as the annexed societies and group will resurface because they will think that they have been enslaved and estranged from their own beliefs. A slower but effective way was to spread your thoughts. And the easier way was to spread your religion which is infact a set of belief in some supreme power and the customs with it. So wars were being fought on the basis of religion. By this time , no one caring about what a religion is, it has become to tool to govern god-fearing masses and to bring more in sphere of influence.The powerful lot were using god and religion to motivation the masses to fulfill their vested interests. But there is one more thing, for the masses, now there is something bigger than the king/leader/master which they can look upto, there is 'some' messiah who can save from the world's pain and agony, ( although no one can see HIM, but he seems to be the Robin hood...). Now god and religion have taken the connotations of 'Savoir' and 'Hope'. In the course, different free thinking individuals came from time to time to propound their philosophy and it had changed the beliefs and ideas of ppl and newer philosophy emerged, this caused the existing ones to fear and to plunder the new ideas. The religion by now turned to the power and the number games. But it kept the masses occupied and thats why Karl Marx has once very rightly said ' Religion is the opiate of the masses'. Every now and then similar questions were raised in different religion like what is truth or what is right code of conduct and what do we get on being moral and where will we go.... and why we have came to the world, hence, all the religions documented their answers and ppl preached them ( most of the time without analysing or understanding them).... I think that bringing some amount of morality to the masses ( although mostly by fear, not by logic) is the most significant achievement of religion. People also found some solace in religion and GOD mostly because they start believing in the philosophy of a religion. So the use/context/need/interpretation of god/religion changed as human race evolved.

Comments invited...


Saurabh said...

"Religion bringing morality to masses". And in another of your post - "who is here to define our moral standards".

Hmm ... anyway. Morality is a function of time. Sahir said in a song in Chitralekha -
Ye paap hai kya, ye punya hai kya
Reeton par dharm ki muharen hain
Har yug me badalte dharmon ko
Kaise aadarsh banaoge

I dont completely agree with him. I would have liked this to be -
Ye paap hai kya, ye punya hai kya
Reeton *ki* dharm *pe* muharen hain
Har yug me badalte *reeton* ko
Kaise aadarsh banaoge

Concept of good and bad - the morality - changes with time. And a religion conforms to the moral standards prevalent at the time of the religion's inception. Then those standards become the written or unwritten rule of that religion which the "thekedars" of that religion follow in word rather than in spirit. So the religion generally is not very adaptable and in due course of time becomes incompatible with the moral standards. And then we see a new religion. So more often than not its the Morality that shapes Religion rather than the other way round.

anurag said...

The concept of morality is the most baffling of all. Religion put some guidelines to follow, some of which are moral standards. Some of these standards may change with time but the basic theme of a religion should not change, otherwise the religion will not survive.
Ramcharitmanas (the only religious book I have read) gives so many definitions of religion. and many of then associate religion with moral standards.

"Parhit saris dharam nahi bhai, par peeda sam nahi adhmai"

"Dayaa Dharam ka mool hai, narak mool abhimaan,
Tulsi daya na choriye, ajb lagi ghat me praan"

A sholak from Ved Vyas, which is taught in elementary Sanskrit text books , says.

||Ashtaadush Puraanesu, vyasasya vachanadwayam
Paropkaarah punyaaya paapaaya Paripidanam ||

(There is no virtue like giving joy to others and there is no sin like being a source of sorrow to others, it is the summary of all 18 puraanas)

So Religion sure gave the basic moral guidelines, to masses.

But these moral stds are twisted and manipulated time by the power mongers.

When I said 'who is here to define our moral stds', I meant 'who *,but we* are here to define our moral stds'. I believe in a particular philosophy or religion, but I refuse to be dictated by those who claim to be 'thekedars' of that religion/philosophy. There come in picture all those babaji's and self-help guru's.

Coming back to the Morality. I had a discussion with one of my friends about morality and its compatibility with free-will.Will be posting it here once things become bit clearer.

Saurabh said...

I am not sure if either of us are coherent here. At least not to me so far. So let me see where exactly we seem to differ. But before that, where we agree is that religion does preach about good and bad and also manages to act as an "Ankush" on the society - to borrow a phrase from the movie Ankush. And you probably mean to imply that religion does a good job at it. And that is where I differ.

Some of religion imposed rules may be eternal truths and can be applied to all scenarios without exception (and we are already talking hypothetically) but then imposing such rules is redundant because they would anyway be followed. But then there are rules (say, one should not kill another human being) which some break and still are called heros and given valiant awards - and if it is not clear enough I am talking about army. And if a religion is not adaptable to such exceptions then either it will not have no follower or all the self-proclaimed followers would be liars. And the exception may be required not only with change of context but also with change of time.

But the inherent nature of a religion is rigid and adaptability is missing, more often than not. However I must add here that my view of religion is blurred by what the "thekedars" make it out to be.

P.S. - I am used to filling Hinduism in the Religion column of any form. There was one form which had the field named as "Religion followed". I wrote Hinduism but I wondered whether I "follow" it. I am still wondering.

anurag said...

You talked about whether religion do a good job in imposing what it preaches and about the contradiction between notion of good and nationalism (army and awards).

One thing is that if you thought that I said that religion did a good job (in bringing some morality to the masses), then I am not able to convey what I meant to. What I said is in the context that whether religion has done some good to humanity or not. Yes, it has dome more good than bad, but knowingly or unknowingly it has done some good too, its bringing some amount of morality to the man, mostly by fear of the supreme (its another point that this godliness is used by the others for oppression). Religion has not done a good job because with time the focus of religion was not to bring morality but to bring masses under them , by hook or by crook. No religion propagates wars but wars were fought on religion.

Nationalism is also such a feeling which has the core feeling of being in groups, and expanding your group. It preaches love for the country (Religion preaches love for God and humanity). Killing people in name of religion or patriotism is as wrong as any killing. We try to acquit ourselves from such charges by stirring sentiments in name of religion or nationalism. If we say nationalism is good and killing on its name are sacred, we need to support naxalities and the likes. This is one more point to ponder on...

anurag said...

Errata: Please read 5th line, 2nd para of my comment as "...more bad than good..."

Rushikesh said...
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Rushikesh said...
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Rushikesh said...
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Rushikesh said...

Oops sorry for the fiasco. 'neway, let me begin.

I don't believe in religion or morals or for that matter any of these pompous words, rather I refuse to get typecasted by any set of ideas or whatever you call it.
Because I think every action a person takes is just a simple reaction to it. I don't want to state Newton's third law here, because I really don't want to draw any parallels between this statement and that of Newton's. What I mean is, response of a person is never determined by the doctorine he/she/it follows, but by the instant reaction that his/her/it's mind generate at that moment of time. This is as true with humans as it is with animals, where we term it specifically as instinctive behavior. There is such a thin line between a graceful and demoniac behavoir that anybody can break it and enter the other world. See to make it simple for you to understand I would give you a good analogy. Our life is like a state machine with infinite ways to go at each state. Depending upon the kind of input, we chose upon one of the many. However, the probability of chosing a perticular path is same for all the path, as it directly depends upon the probability of the input to occur which is again same for all sorts of input. In other words the probability of doing one thing is directly dependent on the probability of one doing the thing prior to it. In philosophical terms we call it as 'Karma'. What we get depends on what we do. Simply because with each action we change the nature of choices that we get next.
I am simply stating what the greats like the scientists responsible for formulating the Quantum Theory have stated. You have to see yourself that even the books of Vedas, that people term as source of tenets of our religion (though I refuse to buy upon the religion aspect and see them simply as books), concurr with the Quantum Theory. I will stop by mentioning what the famous Scientist Max Plank (I am not too sure)had termed about the Vedas, 'The most incomprehensible things of Quantum Theory makes much more sense when one thoroughly go through the Vedas'.

Rushikesh said...

In continuation to that, I think this makes the concept of God simply void. As all actions depends on our previous actions, i.e. probabilistically speaking occurance of every action/event is on chance. The only thing absolute in this world is 'nothing is absolute'.

Conclusion: There is nothing moral or immoral. You are the masters of your own mind. Our actions are like 'light' comprising of all the colors, you just see the color which you want to see and make your own conclusions about the action. People always take actions first, as it is natural, and then conform or justify it with religion and the nullity called GOD. Take my words for that, nobody thinks of morals/religion/GOD before acting or reacting.

Stealthy Guy said...

Religion is a most unfortunate term (mis)used by people of all times to name all that is unknown to THEM but
which they think their "messiah" understood and
explained to them in their Holy Book. The connotations
it picked up along the course of its journey in time
are too many to imagine.

Organised religion is nothing but reform...social reform in the past centuries, moral reform in the present days...but reform anyhow. The importance, if any, of religion in the sense of reform is easy to
understand because all of us, whether we like or not,
are conditioned to some extent (which depends on our
personal rebellion factor) by the morals/social mores
in the immediate environment around us.

Organised Religion is the most convenient,
user-friendly system of morality and oppression that
was ever invented by the genius of Man.

True religion, if any, is to be found rarely in
this world which sells Christianity & Islam through
TV, & sells Hinduism and Zen Buddhism through Swami
Vivekanandas and Senseis.

Professor John Dewey remarked that when a man goes
out in the search of the truth of his being, goes out
in that search fearlessly and honestly, he is the
true religious man. All other definitions of
'religion' may take a ride, for all I bother.