Which religion do you belong to? Which caste?
Thankfully, questions such as these, which were commonplace when I was a child and teenager, are dying out; at least in the socio-economic circles I move in. But judging by the amount of play religion gets in politics, the media and social discourse, I guess the question of religious identity is still a burning one on the world stage.
Mine is Bigger than Yours!
There are four major religions in the world, amongst a host of others. Correction. There are two major religions – Christianity and Islam. The other two out of the four – Buddhism and Hinduism – are strictly speaking not religions at all, but a prescribed way of life. At least to the best of my understanding. But I guess even Buddhism and Hinduism have become religions judging by current day understanding and practice. Point is, all of them, including Buddhism that has recently joined the fray, seem to be engaged in a battle to win a childlike ‘mine is bigger than yours’ game.
Visualize this. Analyze That.
Allah, Aten, Athena, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Krishna, Lakshmi, Osiris, Poseidon, Ram, Shiva, Vishnu, Zeus and a host of other Gods are peering down at human foibles from the heavens above. All are shaking their heads in despair at the machinations of religious leaders on the one hand and the naivety of their followers on the other. They look up at each other and silently communicate with each other.
“We tried showing them the path of love, compassion, duty and righteousness. We tried showing them that hubris will lead to their downfall. We even led them onto the road to a peaceful world. We demonstrated through the cultivation of logic that Mother Earth is bountiful enough to feed and shelter all. And what do they do but be hell bent on proving the truth of what at least one wise soul, Mahatama Gandhi, said, ‘There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.’ Look at the extent of their greed for power. They even want to prove that their God is bigger and mightier than the others. The one true God.”
“The one true God? What? The rest of us are nothing? So, okay we accept that. We are nothing. We were given the status of Gods by people just like the ones living on Planet Earth right now. Some of us, of course, have died and been cast into the dusty oblivion of history. But hey, wait a minute. Isn’t God eternal? Athena, Poseidon, Zeus, didn’t you come into being during the era of the Ancient Greek kingdom? Aten, Osiris, you and your bretheren were born during the might of the ancient Egyptians. But for all practical purposes, you lot are dead now, right?”
“Shiva, Vishnu, Ram, Buddha, Krishna and Lakshmi’s birth records have been lost and they could be anywhere between 3000-9000 years of age. Allah and Jesus are the youngest amongst us at just around 2000 years of age. Boy, you lot sure are some powerful Gods. You not only live on but the folks down there are waging verbal and physical wars over you, terrorizing anyone who dares to question your existence or your might over your fellow Gods.”
“Maybe we dead Gods are more fortunate because we have been buried and forgotten in sarcophagi in musty tombs. You could even call us gracious. After all, there are so many godmen down there waiting to take our place on the pedestal we never asked for. We knew our place in life. That we were (are) just manifestations of the one and the same God, who resides as much in the people on Earth, as in us. But that’s a moot point because let’s face it – they are not really fighting over us at all. They are fighting to exercise domination and power over each other.”
God is in Us!
Still shaking their collective heads in abject despair, the pantheon of Gods look down again on Earth. Their gaze falls on the serpentine queues outside places of worship in several parts of the globe. All the Gods, past and present, begin chuckling at the sight of people carrying candles or garlands and coconuts to offer obeisance.
The mischief in one erstwhile God prompts him to recite, “God is a bania*; He has a coconut eating mania.”
One of the more sombre Gods wonders, “Do these humans really think that their God can be bribed into arranging for good examination grades, a good marriage, the birth of a son? My God! When will they realise that they are already endowed with God given intelligence and the strength to achieve whatever they want? Can’t they see God’s benevolence in the arrangement of life nurturing oceans, rivers, forests, earth and sun? Are they so blind that they are now systematically killing God given life in their quest for more and more illusionary riches? And what about the killing of the female form and spirit? Don’t they realize that the female life form is God’s channel for the very sustenance of life? If they keep rejecting the hand extended by God like this, there will soon be nothing left to fight over.”
Another God mate interjects, “Perhaps only when there is nothing left to gain, will the one true God rise like the phoenix from inside them. Perhaps, it’s only after they lose everything will they stop looking for a God like human form and realise that God was always in them. They will see God when, amongst all the pain and destruction, they see children of all hues lift their arms up to strangers, trusting them to be their saviours. Children don’t recognize religious identity. Instinctively, they know that all of life is connected in the grand scheme of the Universe. Children have God alive and residing well in them till they are sucked into the maelstrom of adult egos and confused thought processes, which turn them into children of lesser Gods.”
A God who had been attentively listening to the discourse taking place muses aloud, “Children of a Lesser God. There’s hope after all if humans can so eloquently come up with phrases like that. God, the One True One or otherwise, has been turned into a demon by humans. What other name could you possibly call wrathful, vengeful Gods who are ever ready to strike down disciples if they so much as dare to disobey the dictates in the Holy books. And that too books, which were written by mere mortals in the name of their One True God. By the way, that’s what I would term as blasphemy!”
The Devil is in the Details!
At this juncture, one God who was known to be a worrier asks, “This is all very well. But we are supposed to be Gods. Should we just stand by and watch humans self-destruct? Shouldn’t we intervene? Do something, for God’s sake!”
All the Gods turn pensive for a few moments at this million dollar question. Almost as if moved by an unseen hand, they look heavenwards to a luminescent light, praying for wisdom. Their silent prayer is suddenly interrupted by one God exclaiming, “I’ve got it!”
The God in question turns to his God mates and says, “We don’t have to do anything. These humans will come to their senses. They already have a new God. They call Him (Her) the Internet.
This new God is dispensing knowledge far and wide, all the while encouraging lively debate. Already, social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are serving as conduits for people to express the Voice of God, emerging from their conscience. Furious tweets have recently brought corrupt politicians to their knees. True, the Internet is also being misused by counter forces, leading to some governments clamping down with censorship that silences both the Voice of God and the Voice of the Devil. But there is hope. Because people are pushing back at them and other radical forces, getting into their faces and bringing them to book. I think they call the movement Facebook.”
“Then there are other events taking place. Right now, for example, there is this blogger network called Indiblogger, which is running a topic on ‘Is Religion overrated? What is your take?’ Hopefully, quite a few of the bloggers who respond to the question will forcefully point out that religion should not be rated at all. For, how can mere humans evaluate the performance of Gods? Let us also hope that other bloggers will emphatically bring home the point that atrocities are being committed in the names of Gods, which run contra to the teachings of the very same Gods. Namely, us!”
All the Gods looked at the God speaking. Finally, in one synchronized voice, they exclaimed, “You are right. We need do nothing. People will find the God in them. A miracle of miracles is taking place judging by the number of people turning agnostic or atheist. That is indication that people are using their brains and beginning to allow the God in them to rise to the surface. The devil will, no doubt, still be in the details. There will be a conflict which will wage war inside them. A conflict between social and religious conditioning on the one hand and the eternal human search for an understanding and loving God. Let us hope that the God in each of them will prevail.”
*Bania is a word in the Indian language of Gujarati for the trader community.
Author’s Note: This blog may lead readers to believe that I am an atheist. I am nothing of the sort. I am a believer. At times, I even bow down to the images and statues of Gods in my house. I find comfort in that. But I follow not a religion, but a God. That God is my conscience.
Featured Image Credit: Light Festival – India by J’ram DJ (Flickr.com under Creative Commons license)