Category Archives: faith

Will humans ever be able to live without the God delusion?

Robert Maynard Pirsig, an American writer and philosopher, says “when one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion”.

The Oxford dictionary defines the word delusion as “an idiosyncratic belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder”. Does that mean the people who believe in the existence of God almighty are all suffering from delusions? Well, it is a difficult question to answer. However, it is extremely difficult to prove the existence of God. The clergymen, who are the middlemen between God and humans, keep saying that God is very much existent, but to be able to perceive his presence one needs to be spiritually enlightened. And, people like me keep feeling that may be I’m not spiritually enlightened enough to see him and that is why he is invisible to me.

People often slip into mass hysteria after they hear rumors that certain idol started drinking milk or shedding tears. Religion and rationality are poles apart, and if you want to be a believer you need to blindly follow what the clergy says. You can question them only at the risk of being branded as a heretic. In religions such as Islam you can’t even question the existence of God, and if you muster up enough courage to do it, you will immediately be branded as a ‘Kafir’ and will be accused of indulging in blasphemy. And, in many Islamic theocracies, blasphemy is punishable by death.

Every religion promotes its own God and the pagan faiths such as Hinduism offer a new God to the humankind on a daily basis by deifying even humans as Gods. So there is no clarity as far as who the real God is and who is fake.

The scriptural literature is full of ludicrously unscientific things such as God created this universe in six days and on the seventh day he took rest, whereas the evolutionists say that this universe took some millenniums to evolve to this present stage and the evolutionary process is a constant and continuous thing. Another religion says that its Prophet flew to heaven on the back of a winged horse. The scriptural literature of the pagan faiths such as Hinduism is full of myths, which are incredulous but passed off as truths.

The puzzling thing is even the people who gained mastery over science set aside their scientific temper and keep visiting shrines. What drives humans towards religion and God is a difficult question to answer. However, one of the reasons could be that humans, by nature, feel intensely insecure. As they grow old and near the death their feelings of insecurity only get intensified and they start searching for a redeemer. And exactly at that moment the clergymen come into the picture and exploit the situation to tighten their grip over the society.

There are many who say that religion actually played a great role in infusing morality among the humans. Really? The Vatican Bank, which is considered to be the custodian of God’s money has often been the center of corruption. The Catholic clergy are often embroiled in pedophilia allegations and the Pope is finding it difficult to purge the church of malaise. The Muslim religious organizations, which are fighting for the restoration of ‘purity’ in Islam, often run their affairs on counterfeit currency and drug peddling and even by selling women as sex slaves. The black money stashers in India are notorious for dumping wads of currency into temple ‘hundis’ to attract God’s attention in the expectation that he would forgive their sins and grant them ‘moksha’. So one of the cornerstones of the religion business, which is mostly run by the clergy, is to exploit the innate human propensity to ‘sin’ and accumulate money. There are some people who say that religion plays a role in establishing peace on the earth. This argument also sounds feeble if we look back into the history of crusades, the holocaust, discrimination against Dalits and apartheid. And even today, in this technologically advanced 21st century, religion inspired terror, especially the Islamist terror, is playing havoc with human lives.

Can a human lead a morally upright and peaceful life even without following any of the organized or pagan faiths? The answer is yes. Richard Dawkins, the well-known evolutionary biologist, states that morality does not originate from the Bible, rather our moral progress informs what part of the Bible Christians accept and what they now dismiss. He also argues that there is a moral Zeitgeist that continually evolves in society, generally progressing toward liberalism. He is right. Yesterday’s morality may be considered immoral today and today’s moral things may cease to be so tomorrow.

Women hold up half the sky but not at Shani Shingnapur?

Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra. Image Courtesy: shanishingnapur.blogspot.in

Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra. Image Courtesy: shanishingnapur.blogspot.in

Shani Shingnapur temple continues to be on the boil over the issue of barring the entry of women to the inner sanctum. It is indeed an avoidable controversy and it highlights the need for the traditional-minded temple authorities to shift to 21st-century thinking. It is not that women are altogether prohibited from entering the temple. As per the tradition, women are not allowed to gain entry into the inner sanctum (an open-air platform) of the temple, where the rock idol of Lord Shani is installed.  But still this is unjust and as the Bombay High Court has stated in its verdict,  “if men were granted entry to a place of worship, women should enjoy access too”.

Shani Shingnapur controversy – an attack on Hinduism?

Some people opine that this temple activism is a conspiracy to intervene in the Hindu spiritual affairs and view it as an onslaught on the Hindu way of life. However, their fears are ill founded. Hinduism is so ancient and yet ever renewing. It is like a perennial river which continues to flow even after the innumerable efforts made by the invaders, who followed the Abrahamic faiths, to destroy it. The Hindu shrine, Somnath, stands as an enduring example of the Hindu legacy which has the capability to withstand even the most brutal onslaughts.

Is Hinduism averse to reform?

Unlike the Abrahamic faiths, Hinduism has always been receptive to reforms. It is mainly because of its unorganized structure where the dominance of the clergy is almost nil. There is no pope or grand mufti who can issue edicts or fatwas. Of course, there are ‘swamijis’ but they don’t issue fatwas and even if they issue no one cares. Hindus jealously guard their right to choose whom to worship, how to worship and when to worship. And that is the reason why Hindus can even worship Saibaba of Shirdi, a Muslim fakir, and deify him as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Hindus are in fact inventing new Gods and Goddesses almost on a daily basis and their penchant for inventing new Gods will continue till eternity. No doubt Hindus practice many blind beliefs and useless practices that impose an unnecessary financial burden on them. However, they don’t allow any clergyman to intervene in their religious affairs. And this unorganized nature of Hinduism makes it the most receptive to reforms.

Hinduism underwent many reforms. Sati, devadasi and untouchability are some of the social evils Hinduism by land large could eradicate. However, still there is a lot to be done like ending discrimination against Dalits and the empowerment of women. Though untouchability has largely been eradicated, discrimination against women and Dalits is still prevalent in many parts of the country.

Why are women not allowed into the sanctum of Shani temple?

Hindus believe that Lord Shani wards off evil from them if they keep him happy with their offerings. Mustard oil is believed to be the most loved offering Lord Shani accepts. However, only men are allowed to offer mustard oil to Shani Deva as it is believed that the wrath of the deity is less on women and they are largely unaffected by Shani. In other words, Lord Shani is benevolent towards women and they need not make any offerings to please him.  But Trupti Desai and the members of her activist brigade want to enter the sanctum and offer mustard oil to the presiding deity. If they want to unnecessarily enter the sanctum and carry out an unnecessary ritual, let them do it. Why the temple authorizes are trying to prevent them?

There is no restriction whatsoever on the entry of women into most of the Hindu temples. However, Shabarimala and Shani Shingnapur temples are the rare exceptions. The temple authorities give out many reasons which are actually unreasonable. As the saying goes, women hold up half the sky. Any discrimination against women or any attempt to reduce them to the status of second-class citizens is abhorring and must be condemned outrightly. Even the Hindu nationalist organizations like RSS have condemned the barring of women from entering these two temples.

Resistance to reform will only strengthen the hands of anti-Hindu forces:

There are many Hindu nationalists who trash the women’s organizations as agenda driven and accuse them of being the instruments in the hands of foreign NGOs who are trying to defame Hindus and bring disrepute to the Modi government. They also point out to the fact that these women’s groups never raise the issue of discrimination against their fellow women in other faiths, especially Islam. It is a fact that the status of women in Islam is pathetic, but any effort to bring about reform without the explicit consent of the Muslim clergy will be resisted violently by the Muslims and it will create a law and order problem in the country. Muslims, especially Maulanas are very rigid as far as their religious beliefs and practices are concerned and they feel that their religion, being ordained by God, is unalterable. However, Hinduism does not believe in any such dogmas, and it is useless to compare the discriminatory practices prevalent in Hinduism with that of the practices in other faiths. Irrespective of the intentions of the women’s groups, Hindus should be receptive to reforms and all the meaningless and discriminatory customs and traditions prevalent in Hinduism must be done away with immediately.

Any delay in introducing reforms and any efforts to resist the attempt to bring about reforms will only strengthen the anti-Hindu forces. The left liberals will utilize this resistance to reform as a stick to beat Hindus and Hinduism. The Christian missionaries, who try 24×7 to convert Hindus to Christianity, will get an added impetus to their proselytization efforts. Irrespective of what left liberals or Christian missionaries say or do, it is indeed unjust on the part of Hindus and Hinduism to allow any discriminatory customs and traditions against women and Dalits to continue.

Why gender equality has no place in Islam?

Women in Islam are treated as second-class citizens.

Women in Islam are treated as second-class citizens.

Recently a Muslim women’s organization called the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, which has over 70,000 members in 13 states has written a letter to the Prime Minister of India, Shri. Narendra Modi. In their letter, they sought the PM’s intervention in bringing about changes in the Muslim personal law. Mind you, they did not ask for a uniform civil code. They just sought some changes in the Muslim personal law.

As usual, the Main Stream Media (MSM), which spends most of its time provoking the minority against the majority, did not give any prominence to the news and published it in the remote corners of their newspapers. Media and the left liberals don’t utter even a single word against Islam, giving Muslims a false sense that their religion is absolutely perfect and does not require any reforms whatsoever.

The so-called secularists, media and the left-liberals, by posing like the well-wishers of Muslims, just pamper to the religious beliefs and sentiments of them. By doing so, they actually scuttle any effort on the part of the progressive elements to bring about any kind of reforms in Islam. Here is a tweet posted by Malini Parthasarathy, the Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, a well-known daily newspaper owned and run by the communists. Mind you, The Hindu is very notorious for its left-wing rumblings and for being pathologically averse to Modi and the central government headed by him.

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When we talk about gender equality in Islam, that doesn’t mean the other faiths, especially Hinduism, are perfect as far as gender equality is concerned. Hinduism is also very much patriarchal in nature, and women were treated as second rate citizens. However, the situation has changed a lot and these days women in Hindu society are treated almost on par with men.  They are getting educated and became career oriented. They even started competing with men even in those fields which were hitherto male dominated. What made this change possible? Hinduism, unlike Islam, takes criticism in a positive way and introspects a lot. It is not averse to change and is ever-ready to  reform itself. One more reason is, the Hindu clergy, unlike their Muslim counterparts, don’t enjoy much influence over their community. The Hindu pontiffs don’t have the habit of issuing ‘fatwas’, and even if they issue, no one cares.

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A Sunni Muslim leader says that there is no place for gender equality in Islam.

Recently, the Minister for Education of the Government of Kerala, Abdu Rabb, who happens to be a Muslim, made a statement saying that boys and girls should not sit together in the same benches in the classrooms or on the campuses of the higher education institutions. And a high-ranking Muslim clergyman from the same state made a really shocking comment on the status of women in Islam. The influential Islamic cleric, Usthad Shaikh Aboobackar bin Ahmad,  who is the General Secretary of the All India Muslim Scholars Association, and also the founder and Chancellor of  the Sunni Cultural Centre in Karanthur, declared that the concept of gender equality is totally  “un-Islamic” and went on to say that women could never equal men as “they are fit only to deliver children”. Since the statement was made by a high-ranking and influential Islamic cleric, we all have to believe whatever he said about the status of women in Islam to be true. Mind you, these are the voices from Kerala, which is considered to be the most literate and progressive state in India. If the situation of Muslim women in Kerala is this poor, what about the other states? The statements made by the Muslim leaders from Kerala are really shocking and even more shocking is the fact that their remarks did not attract any condemnation whatsoever from the Muslim community.

Shah Bano was deprived of alimony after the parliament pitched in and reversed the judgement.

Shah Bano was deprived of alimony after the parliament pitched in and reversed the judgement given by the Supreme Court.

Now the moot question is whether the Muslim community will stay opposed to any kind of reforms by continuing to remain in the tight grip of their clergy or snub them and move ahead with reforms.  The way things are going, it is highly unlikely that the Muslim community will tolerate any kind of intervention, leave alone reforms, in the Muslim personal law. Even the politicians and the media are not ready to trigger any debate on the need for a uniform civil code, fearing the backlash of the Muslim orthodoxy.  The Shah Bano case bears ample testimony to the distressingly poor social status of Muslim women In India. In the famous case, the judiciary granted an alimony to a 62-year-old Muslim mother of five, but later on the parliament pitched in to deprive her of the alimony, coming under pressure from the Muslim clergy.

It is high time that the Muslim women ignored their clergy and raised their voice against the deep-rooted gender discrimination prevalent in their religion. They should put pressure on the government to listen to their voice and make the required legislations for their empowerment.