Separating God And Religion

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:

Lessons in Marketing From Religion

Religion and People

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19 thoughts on “Separating God And Religion

  1. Certain inconsistencies aside (Eg. Christians don’t believe Jesus created the world, there’s no mention of him in Genesis or the Old Testament, and only Sanatan Dharm Hindus worship idols), your analogy is spot on dude, really cleverly written. I would love to read more of your stuff, especially if it’s this informed and objective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for pointing them out, I’ve made corrections to the post. I’m glad you liked it. You can subscribe in case you wish to be notified whenever I post something new.
      Being objective about religion was the entire point of this article. I want to argue with religious-nutheads not through a clash of opinion, but showing them the wrong in whatever they themselves propound.

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      1. Both are religious extremists. I should probably have used VHP instead of RSS to be more specific. Though RSS is still less violent, both, with respect to religion, are imposing and static in attitude.

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      2. You are right. It is indeed organizations like VHP and Bajrang Dal which you should have mentioned and not RSS. In no matter or form are RSS “religious” “extremists”. I have quoted both words separately because the actions of the RSS are not motivated by any particular religion. As you mentioned in the article, Hinduism was never a religion, but only a way of life (read Supreme Court judgement on Ram Mandir issue). All of RSS’ actions are driven by the desire to preserve the Hindu culture. Now, in the contemporary world, the media has systematically poisoned the word “Hindu” to such an extent that anyone even remotely associated with the same is labelled a “communal” right-winger. If you actually do take the trouble of reading the book “The Essentials of Hindutva” written by Veer Savarkar (the main inspiration of the RSS), you would realize how clearly Savarkar demarcated the roles of both Hindus AND Mohammedans (Christians were a negligible minority during his time, much like Jains and Buddhists) in the preservation of Hindutva (the feeling of being a Hindustani). It is for this very reason that the RSS is one of the most misunderstood organizations in the world. However, in my opinion, they should also evolve with time and change their Hindutva philosophy to one of Bharatiyataa. There is no difference between the two ideologies, but at the same time, the RSS needs to except that the predominantly Left-leaning media has been immensely successful in maligning the word “Hindu”, and embracing the same today is like drinking a poisoned chalice.

        Whether VHP and ISIS can be equated would comprise an entirely different debate. Again, I am of the opinion that you are too radically combining the ideologies of the two. Yes, VHP wants a Hindu India, but in no manner or form is their desire for the same so overwhelming that they will exterminate other minorities from India to achieve the said goal (unlike what ISIS did to the Yezidis). I am not defending the organization as a whole, but I believe you must also conceded that drawing parallels between the two in THIS accept is a little too far-fetched.

        Since you have also very rightly mentioned that we should question religion instead of blindly accepting the same, let me introduce you to the theory of unlearning. Unlearning basically means that you have stopped taking WHATEVER you have learnt in life for granted, and will question the existence of each and everything before accepting the same in order to ACTUALLY learn. Simple example: don’t wear long clothes just because a girl “with morals” doesn’t wear short clothes. Unlearn the relation between length of clothing and morality.

        While this example is extremely simple and there might (hopefully, IS) a general consensus that the notion mentioned in the example needs to be unlearned, I believe that is concurrence, at least between the two of us, that aspects such as religion should be unlearned in order to actually learn something about them, it cannot be selectively applied. While one (not pointing towards you) may believe that RSS and the BJP “running” the nation are detrimental to the “secular fabric” of India, it cannot be denied that the same ideology is somewhat enforced by the (often Left-leaning) media through social conformity given the utter hatred for the RSS withing the young generation (without actually knowing much about them). I am sure you would agree, therefore, that it is equally important to unlearn whatever one thinks he/she knows in order to actually learn. If you are in agreement, do consider reading the book “The Essentials of Hindutva” before forming an opinion on the RSS, and then we can have an even longer debate about the same.

        This process of unlearning has an even greater impact on the process of religiousness and spirituality, but that, again, is a debate for another day.

        Cheers.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. VHP and Bajrang Dal are part of RSS. I agree that the intensity with which VHP and ISIS put forth their views cannot be equated. VHP and specifically Bajrang Dal consist of militants but they still cannot be called terrorists.
        I have talked about the Hindutva idea in my post with the origin of Hinduism; and, even if Hindutva is simply the way of living of Hindustani inhabitants, I still feel that, that way is what Hinduism centres around and what may not always be coincidental with the ways of many other groups of people who have entered and settled in India through the ages. Indians are not Hindustanis anymore. I feel imposing even Hindutva over the larger populace is incorrect.
        Well, I wrote this article completely from an ‘unlearning’ point of view as you have said, and involving a political edge to it (though makes me want to write a separate article on it) was not the intention.

        Also, I really loved how you put ‘unlearning’ as a concept. I believe, not just with religion, unlearning is something that must be applied to everything that we have been led to hold unquestionably true from all these years. I have renamed the categories of this blog and replaced ‘musings’ with ‘unlearning’ and I thank you for that. 🙂

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      4. VHP and Bajrang Dal are NOT a part of RSS, sir! As far as the idea of Hindutva goes, it would be wrong to believe that it means imposing the ideology followed back in 1920s today. Just like humans, Hindutva (and, in fact, Hinduism – unlike all other religions) has evolved. If any organization wants to integrate Hindutva in the contemporary society, it has to be a mixture of the positives we followed centuries ago and the positives we follow today. If any outfit wishes to IMPOSE the 1920 Hindutva, they would be no better than the Islamic outfits who are trying to impose the regressive Sharia law. Hinduism has had many virtues, and many vices (Sati and what have you). Positives from both yesterday and today need to be incorporated, and negatives done away with.

        Really pleased though that you have embraced the concept of unlearning! Do write a blog post specifically on the same so that you can propagate it to your friends. 🙂

        Cheers!

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      5. VHP is a part of the Sangh Parivar which is led by the RSS. Bajrang Dal is the militant wing of VHP and therefore falls under RSS too. Here, read the second paragraph: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishva_Hindu_Parishad

        Hindutva by its very definition means the way of life of the Hindustani (pre-Mughal) people. Since it draws meaning from a historical source, how exactly can it evolve beyond what those Hindustani people did? Yes, you can contemplate a new ideology that keeps the good virtues of hindutva intact, but that is not what RSS does. The activities of the VHP fall under the RSS and thereby I do consider their acts akin to the 1920 hindutva which are regressive to say the least, as you mentioned.

        Thank you for sharing your views on the subject 🙂

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  2. An astounding and invigorating take on an ever sacred, ever vexed topic of the today’s society – Religion. I really liked the analogies in the beginning and the way you managed to intertwine most of the references to the right meanings in the real world, Already a big fan and I hope to keep visiting the ‘unlearn’ section. Kudos !
    P.s. Enroute reading Part 2 😛

    Like

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