When we pick up an issue like whether religion is overrated, we are actually trying to look for an alternate which is less hyped and more efficacious. The debate instantly spurs the following questions:
What is religion?
How is religion so important?
Can we do without religion?
What is the hype all about?
If not religion, then what?
Genesis of Religion
Perhaps it’s our consumerist mindset that provokes us to view religion – its utility and futility – in terms of rating. Religion is no goods or service which can be ‘rated’. It is a way of life. The way we think. The way we act. The way we perceive life and how it should unfold. Whatever good things that we have been brought up with and taught repeatedly traces its origin back to religion. However, here a distinction is necessitated between religion and ism. When we talk of religion we tend to equate it with either the ism that we are born into (Hinduism, Islam, Christianity etc.) or the rituals (Pooja, Vrat, Brahman Sewa, Teerath Darshan etc.) What we fail to understand is that religion is much beyond all these things and more pervasive and all-encompassing than we realize.
With the dawn of reason, the primitive men realized the strength of unity in order to survive the wrath of Nature and that of fellow humans. Men united to form tribes. To sustain cohesion and harmony within these tribes and prevent men from warring with each other and getting divided into factions religion came handy. It was used to induce fear of isolation, punishment and the inevitable end; at the same time it also introduced and encouraged the ideas of goodness, ethics, propriety and brotherhood. So for early human civilizations, religion acted as an adhesion.
Misuse of Religion
With the growth of social order and its various complexities, religion changed colour and shape. It donned the drapes of various isms, dogmas, practices and rites. And like all other human endeavor, it came to be misutilized as well.
We misuse religion when we use it as a tool to:
Resort to fundamentalism
Create and pursue divisive and discriminatory means
Distort and re-create history on non-secular parameters
Spread hatred and disunity amongst people
Refuse to understand or respect the beliefs & concerns of fellow beings, and above all
Use it to secure personal profits and power
Significance of Religion
Religion is a body of supreme knowledge, revelations and realizations accumulated over ages. Even though a high-powered microscope may not be able to spot it in our DNA, yet it is somewhere mapped into our genetic matrix. Whether we consciously admit or not, we cannot do without it or some form of it in our lives. And that something may or may not fall strictly within the purview of any particular ism but can definitely be what we live for and value the most. It can simply be good deeds like helping the weaker sections of society, providing those who deserve support and assistance, involvement in community service to keep the environs clean and healthy, imparting knowledge and education, shouldering familial responsibilities or simply doing your day to day jobs with great honesty and sincerity. In that sense, religion is very, very personal and your very own.
Problems arise when we restrict religion to what is written in the Shastras and Scriptures which we may or may not be able to follow or assimilate ourselves in its true sense or may be influenced to understand the way these have been interpreted by others. Keeping all complex jargons aside, what we tend to forget is that the very basic aim of religion is to sustain our lives, society, this entire world and the vast cosmic creation beyond, of which we are a part and parcel, in a healthy and wholesome manner. That is what is Manav Dharma all about. This we can only do if we keep away from and discourage the spread of dissenting and destructive factors and forces which time and again crop up within and around us. So, for our own survival and sustenance, it is important that we embrace religion.
Hype about Religion
With the advent and development of modern means of communication, the globe has come to reside next door. When modern day Swamis can travel in extravagance (Mercedes and BMWs) and dedicated TV channels be aired for twenty four x seven telecasting of motivational talks by gurus and professional speakers, religion automatically comes under the spot light. Perhaps it is unavoidable. And why keep it under wraps when we need it so much? But again behind all this avoidable glamorous entrapments we have to seek the true meaning and motive. Otherwise chances are that we may be befooled and beguiled without our knowing.
The Ultimate of Religion
From time immemorial men have taken a break from day to day work and asked these questions:
•Who am I?
•For what purpose have I taken birth on this Earth?
•Where do I go when death takes over?
•Who has created me and this Universe?
•What is the sole motive behind this entire Creation?
•Do I really have a control over my Fate and Future?
•If no, then who is the Creator and Controller of my life and this entire Cosmos?
And again, it is this eternal search that has catapulted men the world over to seek the answers in religion. This search is universal – the ultimate query of every human discipline, study, research and discourse. The ways and paths are merely different. Science and History have sought these answers and Religion has provided the support. Similarly all religious beliefs have spoken the same thing over and over again albeit in different languages. There is a oneness underlying all diversities and divergences. It is we humans who have confused and contorted what is simple and lucid.
Alternate to Religion
When we debate over the relevance of religion in today’s world, it is the doubt embedded therein which comes to the fore. Religious beliefs and the way these have been preached the world over have augmented ambiguity and scepticism more than quenched our thirst for the Ultimate Truth. A seeker must never doubt. A Doubting Thomas can never come upon what he seeks. To know you have to surrender. And in unquestioned submission is reposed Knowledge Absolute, Truth Absolute and Divine Absolute. It is the only alternate to religion.
However, in order to surrender you have to eliminate the unnecessary.
In order to eliminate you have to know.
In order to know you have to perform.
In order to perform you have to believe.
In order to believe you have to practice.
In order to practice you have to take to your own religion which suits you best.
Would you still say that religion is overrated?
(This post is a part of Indispire’s Topic of Debate Is Religion overrated?)