Religious faith is embraced without questions or doubts, based on the belief that religious messages have come from the God. There is no problem in believing whatever we like. What puzzles me is the religious edict that forbids anyone from questioning his/her faith, and the so called blasphemy law that enforce this edict in many countries. This is how a religion becomes a blind-faith.
The religious-faiths are based on thousands of years old phenomena or stories, and we are asked to put our whole faith on them without question or doubt. This proposal certainly undermines our human intelligence. I can’t understand why God will require such an edict and/or a civil law to protect His eternal messages. If God’s message is eternal, it should prevail on its own merit under all circumstances; eternal truth should withstand the test of time, scrutiny, doubt, and questioning. God has given us superb intellects; why would He forbid us from using them to seek the truth about anything, including Him? In my view, religion must have spiritual, logical, and philosophical basis, and it should be established through self-understanding and self-experiences, not through ignorance. I wonder if this edict was introduced by humans for the convenience of propagating their messages.
Religious faiths dominate our lives, and interfere with our daily affairs. Such interferences often create various practical problems in our societies. It has been proven that – the lesser the influence of religious-faiths in our public lives – the better off we are in the society. Why is that? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? The reason for this contradiction is the fact that – we have too many competing religions on earth, promoting contradictory guidelines that often clash with one another. People have been using God, and religions for various personal, political, social, and financial gains. In fact, religious-faith is the most exploited, distorted, manipulated, and misunderstood subject in the human history. The reason for the conceptual misunderstanding is due to the edict forbidding any analysis or debate on this subject. Nothing much a society can expect from a blind-faith concept, except politics, and age-old ritualistic superstitious practices (e.g., commemorative festivity, animal sacrifice, self-sacrifice, idol-worshipping, etc.) in the name of religion.
Most considerate people try to keep their religious views/identities private while engaged in the public affairs or duties. But, there are some people who like to flash their religious views/identities in their public affairs just to promote their religions and sects. Then there are some people, who start exposing their religious identities while in their public duties right after gaining some sort of notoriety. I doubt – any of these behaviors fulfill their missions. But, I know for sure that – such behaviors promote sectarian-tribalism that divides a society, and creates resentment and hatred between different sects in the society.
The Ten Commandments in the Judeo-Christian faith are furnished in Table-1 below.
|Commandment||Jewish (Talmudic)||Anglican, Reformed, and other Christian||Orthodox Christian||Catholic, Lutheran|
|I am the Lord your God||1||preface||1||1|
|You shall have no other gods before me||2||1|
|You shall not make for yourself an idol||2||2|
|Do not take the name of the Lord in vain||3||3||3||2|
|Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy||4||4||4||3|
|Honor your father and mother||5||5||5||4|
|You shall not kill/murder||6||6||6||5|
|You shall not commit adultery||7||7||7||6|
|You shall not steal||8||8||8||7|
|You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor||9||9||9||8|
|You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife||10||10||10||9|
|You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor||10|
Tenets included in the Table-1 are good principles – but incomplete, in my view. Most good humans do follow these tenets either consciously or unconsciously. Christians or Jews cannot prevent others from following these principles, and, by following them, one does not automatically become a Christian or Jew either. Instead, he/she becomes a good human being. Therefore, there is no usefulness in attaching a sectarian religious identity to the very human characteristics that are applicable to all human-beings, except promoting sectarianism to shun others from following these principles. In my view, it would have been much more appealing if these tenets would have been called the commandments of humanity or the human religion. That could have broadened the acceptance. All these issues would not arise – if we had only one religion for humankind. How do we justify more than one religion from the same God, or more than one God for the same universe, I ask?
The ancient Indian spiritual/philosophical scriptures (Veda, Upanishad, Puran, etc.), address to all human-beings, not a particular sect. Therefore, these scriptures should not be used for sectarian purposes. They were written long before Moses (1300 – 1150 BC), and there were no other known organized religions on the earth at the time, meaning they were written for the entire humankind. The religion that follows these scriptures is referred to as the Sonaton Dharma. According to this faith, God established the religion on earth for humankind and He is the protector of his religion; humankind is asked to propagate His messages only. This faith espouses all embracive doctrines – such as – As many views, as many ways, and all paths lead to the same destination, etc. Because of this all encompassing views, countless propagators (Preachers, Sadhus, Gurus, Sannyshis, etc.) took advantage of this view and started to propagate their views or interpretations in their own ways, creating various sub-faiths within the umbrella of Sonaton Dharma. I believe that – due to the self-interest of those propagators – superstitions and ritualistic practices (such as, idol-worshiping, animal sacrifices, etc.) have taken hold of these sub-faiths, and Sonaton Dharma lost its central theme of self-liberation through spiritual knowledge, yoga, meditation, etc. Many propagators propagated their messages as – Faith brings you closer (to God), while doubt pushes you away. Here again, we see the same blind-faith aurgument. Even though a few spiritual branches of Sonaton Dharma exist in the world, primarily it is practiced as various sectarian ritualistic faiths, filled with superstitions. As one of the oldest religious faiths on earth, containing all embracive views, Sonaton Dharma could have been the faith of all human-beings. I believe – it did not happen that way due to the self-interest and sectarian politics of various propagators.
Shri Ramakrishna Paramhongsha Dev (1836 – 1886) wanted to unite humanity with his unifying messages – There is nothing more than the humanity, and he who loves living-beings serves God, etc. In his vision – Moses (1300 – 1150 BC), Buddha (563 – 479 BC), Jesus (5 BC – 33), Mohammad (570 – 632), Shri Chaitanya (1486 – 1534), etc. were all messengers of the same God. I can conceive this vision as follows. God may have given out messages to different messengers in installments, meaning – no one may have received all messages. To complement the package, each messenger may have added sectarian personal edicts during propagation. If we examine the core messages (without sectarian personal edicts), they all appear to be similar, which is about self-liberation.
Swami Vivekananda (1863 – 1902), as the most devoted disciple of Shree Ramakrishna, introduced the concept of the religion of humankind at the Parliament of the World’s Religions at Chicago in 1893. He established Vivekananda Ashram in Chicago to promote his messages of humanity in the Western world. Unfortunately, his efforts were not strong enough to compete with the strong opposition from the sectarian organized religions on earth. After Swami Vivekananda, others, like Probhupada (1896 – 1977) and Shri Chinmoy (1931 – 2007), have promoted their sectarian visions of the Sonaton Dharma throughout the world.
I do not see any barrier to accept Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Ramakrishna, etc. as saviors of the humankind. We can follow whoever we want without attaching sectarian religious labels (Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.) on ourselves. If we do so – that will achieve the same goal, with an added bonus – ‘peace on earth.’ I believe – our deeds are more important for our salvation than our sectarian labels. There is no patent violation, and no one can stop us from following anyone we like. Religious faith is personal matter, and our goal is to become good human-beings, not good Christian, Hindu, Muslim, etc. God will surely love a good human-being. It makes perfect sense. Isn’t it? Sectarian label neutralizes all the goodness of a faith; it divides humanity, induces segregation, and hatred. The sectarian politics of dividing this world into believers and non-believers do not help, only pushes sectarianism to the climax. I am sure – God’s intent was not to induce interfaith competition that leads to sectarian violence we see around us.
The quintessential question is – what are the tenets of humanity or human religion? As per Darwin’s Theory of evolution (1859), the human race descended from the animal species, meaning human species are improvised animal species, evolved over millions of years. Therefore, it is natural that humans may still possess/share some of the animalistic characteristics. Humans have given up many animalistic characteristics as they evolved. In my view, it’s not the look or the language that makes us human – because, I can find many in the society, who look just like human, talk like human – but behave like animals. Therefore, our behaviors can only differentiate us from the animal. The basic human characteristics that distinguish us from the animal are the tenets of the human religion (humanity). Some of those characteristics are listed in Table-2.
Table – 2:
|Animal Characteristics||Modern Human Characteristics|
|Live freely||Live under constraints|
|Limited intelligence||Boundless intelligence|
|No family structure||Integrated family structure|
|Practice survival of the fittest||Fight for self-defense and just cause only|
|Incestuous relationship||No incestuous relationship|
I am sure – some other human characteristics can be identified by similar comparisons, and some can be found in the contemporary religious doctrines (Table-1). When human characteristics (in Table 1 and 2) are violated, problems could ensue. For example, in quest of enhancing our personal liberties, we often relieve societal constraints (i.e., liberalize societies). In doing so – we shift towards the animalistic behavioral territory; some of which could awaken our dormant animal instincts. We hear stories of incestuous human relationship in our societies. How such instinct does come to a human psyche? I believe – it creeps into a human psyche from the ultra-liberal (constrain-free) view of life. The basic human behaviors are bounded by constrains, responsibilities, and obligations, meaning we are never free as a member of an integrated society. Our ancestors, who lived in the jungle, were freer than us. We have to balance our personal liberties against societal consequences, and the tenets of human religion should help us finding the right balance.
Finally, I would like to sum up all these scattered thoughts as follows. All living beings play certain roles in maintaining the ecological balance, meaning we all have certain purposes as well as responsibilities on this earth. We need to respect the rights and privileges of all living-beings on the earth. Ramakrishna rightfully said – He who loves living beings serves God. I believe – our rights and privileges are preset and predestined, but our purposes are not. Everyone needs to find his/her purpose of life. The essence of a religion, in my humble opinion, is to provide knowledge and guidance to find our rights and privileges, and purposes of our lives. God has given us superior intellects; we should use them to find our purposes. And we should seek God through our intelligence, not through our ignorance, superstitions, and blind-faith. After all, God is a concept and religion is a practice.