Disclaimer: Read at your discretion. Don’t go RSS/ISIS on me.
Before I begin, allow me to affirm a few things: This post is not meant to promote atheism; it does not advocate that religion is bad; all this post tries to do is to assume the things we know about religion to be true, and thereby point out inconsistencies or fallacies in them to try to finally understand religion as it really is.
Think of religion as a company owned by the promoters of God. They can be priests, god-men or your overly devout uncle who must remember God even when he burps. You are the client. Attaining/pleasing/ praying /reaching God is the service this company provides to you. You become a client by birth, your parents’ last names decide which company you join and you sign an instant MoU to abide by the terms they mention. Why do you want this service? Because the company tells you, you must. But how do I know whether the company is right? Shh, you’ve signed an MoU by birth. Read the first term again. No questions can be asked.
The relationship between God and religion is not as obvious as you think. Each religion has a God/ set of Gods (sometimes in crores) that are mutually exclusive and each religion works through a system that excludes the possibility of the existence of any other God or religion i.e. if you follow Hinduism, you can only be a Hindu, you cannot be half-Hindu and half-Christian. Every religion operates like its the only religion. And this is precisely the most important inconsistency.
At the heart of any creationist’s argument in favour of the existence of God is the question, how did the universe come into being if not for God? And thereby, every religion has a theory on how its God(s) created this world. Basically, Hindus think there were 3 central Gods who did, Muslims think it was Allah who did in 6 days flat, Christians think it was Jesus as written in the Bible (Genesis 1:1) and so on. There are different creators, different stories, different time frames. BUT, isn’t there just one Universe? Assuming that God indeed did make the Universe, it could have at most been made in one way, in one time frame and by one entity. Therefore if God exists, there can at most be one God or one set of Gods which contravenes what I stated as a religious fundamental in the earlier paragraph.
Then why do religions operate in such a mutually exclusive manner? The answer lies in the origin of religions. Even today, most followers of a particular religion are likely to be found in a particular region in the world. The slight homogeneity is largely due to migrations of people of one region to another. Go back a few hundred or thousand years, in a world devoid of effective communication and transportation facilities, where community existence was static and people of a particular region grew up exposed to the roughly the same things. If it were possible to draw out a religion-spread map of that age, we would have found that every religion is compactly spread across a piece of land confined to the land boundaries. Business Insider has put up one such map. This essentially means that religion was less about God and more about a shared cultural and geo-spatial existence. In that time where science hadn’t evolved, God was the missing link that ‘explained’ what they couldn’t explain to themselves. Therefore the way in which a particular community imagined its Gods, became the Gods of that religion.
As an example, let’s consider Hinduism. The word ‘Hinduism ‘ does not appear anywhere in Hindu scriptures or major texts of India. The word ‘Hindu’ is not a Sanskrit word. It is believed to be originated from the ancient Persians. The Persians who shared some common culture with the people of Indian sub-continent used to call the Indus River as ‘Sindhu.’ Due to some linguistic problems, they could not pronounce the letter ‘S’ in their language and started mispronouncing it as ‘H’. Thus they started pronouncing the word Sindhu as Hindu. The rest of the world followed the same word and started calling the Indus river valley people as Hindus and gradually the word stuck. Most importantly it became a word to distinguish the native Indian populace from the insurgent Muslim Mughals. ‘Hindusthan’, the old name of India, comes from ‘Hindu ka Sthan’ which means the place where Hindus lived. (Read this: Origins of Hinduism) Therefore, Hinduism was never a religion at all! The Gods that native Indians believed in became the Gods of the Hindu religion. Also, why do you think everything related to Hinduism happened near and around India itself? If Hindu Gods created the Universe, how did India become a favourite? This is also the reason why in contrast to other religions, Hinduism is polytheistic and has different variations in different regions and sects; Hinduism was never a religion, it is just an umbrella that covers many similar faiths of pre-Mughal India.
So what is the point of all this? There are two:
- Each religion is pursuing the same God in different ways. The problem is that these ways are often contradictory to each other. Hindus are not okay with eating beef, Muslims won’t eat pork, Christians don’t mind eating either. Hindus need you to worship idols, Muslims don’t. Christians don’t even mind you wearing shoes at the place of worship. If the end is the same, how can the means to this end be so contradictory? The simple conclusion is that religion is not sacrosanct. Religious practices can be and must be questioned. You shouldn’t eat beef, not because your religion tells you to, but because your logic and ethics do. And eating other forms of meat excluding beef is plain hypocrisy. Religion created rules to establish a moral code in society. What is moral is questionable, it changes over time and circumstance and is subjective. Therefore, a religion forcing you to abide blindly is in my opinion, incorrect. Click on this link and you’ll know what I’m talking about http://qr.ae/7wHQij. Sati, dowry (Hinduism) indulgences (catholicism) and intra-family marriages (Islam) are examples of palpable inaccuracies in religions’ moral codes.
- The epics: Ramayana, Mahabharata; the many short stories of the Bible and so on and so forth might not necessarily be works of factual historical writings, but much rather be fictional stories with great lessons for life. Or could the same God be present at different places in different forms in different stories with different endings, some for every religion when all of them have there heads turned to this same God? When each religion that claims this part of God does not want to acknowledge the other parts?
My next post will talk about a little more about this moral code and how religion made this humble God so famous. Religion is certainly a highly contentious topic, I’d be glad to hear criticism and corrections if any in the comments. Again, I’m sorry if I offended you or your religion, it was not my intention to do so.
Other parts in this series: