“Come, come again, whoever you are, come! Heathen, fire worshipper or idolatrous, come! Come even if you broke your penitence a hundred times, Ours is the portal of hope, come as you are.”
I think ‘Religion’ has been rightly called the opium of masses by Marx. Unquestionably, religious-based prejudices have led to disintegration and division of man over our short conscious history. I hold Providence’s selectivity of information responsible for these divisions. It looks to me that God tends to be intentionally fickle in his stories; He told three different stories to His key messengers. I find it baffling that a simple matter of the creation of Eve, if she is from Adam’s rib, or created independently could not be explained clearly and unambiguously by the Almighty in the Holy Scriptures. This inconsistent and vacillating behaviour of God troubles me a lot; why does He like to be so confusing when He talks to ‘His Prophets?’ At least the basic truth of creation could have been explained clearly. We are still being told that Noah’s Ark was hanging around Mount Ararat a few thousand years back, or that we are just 6000 years old. That Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s wife (Sura 28:9) is contradicted by Exodus 2:10, where he was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter (otherwise he would also have been adopted by Pharaoh himself).
The Quran states that both the Torah and Gospel are revealed. But in contrast, it also claims that Jesus was not crucified: “They (the Jews) said (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of Allah’, – but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them … ” (Sura 4:157).
A very similar misunderstanding we find in the concept of the “Trinity”, which according to the Quran is understood to consist of Jesus and Mary besides God, God being one of three (Sura 5:116). This is in no way in keeping with the biblical texts. Christians believe in what the Bible teaches. In both the Old Testament (B.C.) and the New Testament we know of ONE God only. (“Christians Answer Muslims, pp. 92 ff.). It is a tragedy that many Muslims think that Christians worship three gods. This is indeed not the case
Of course sometime you find a message common in three scriptures like Quran tells us, ‘Mankind, we have created you male and a female. And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’ The Talmud tells us, ‘The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.’ The Bible tells us, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.'”
Since I was very young, it was difficult to absorb a system of beliefs that was wrought with contradictions. Something in me was reluctant to blindly and unquestioningly follow a school of religious thought which led to more queries than answers. A comparative study of religions only served to confuse me more. On the one hand, you have God, on the other, you have His selective imparting of information to our beloved messengers that are so contradictory. It leads one to think the seemingly blasphemous thought that someone has been making up stories. Such a statement would incite the wrath of the staunch “believers,” who would readily call for excommunication. But I ask God why he has designed me in a manner which gives my mind the free flow of thought to wonder, to probe, to seek answers to the unexplained. Unfortunately, when you pose a question on religion, you become very unpopular in common society and run the risk of being labelled a blasphemer. Ironically, most new ideas, discoveries and inventions have emerged from “unpopular beliefs.” In my opinion, “popular” will and belief without daring to seek more comprehensive answers leads to stagnation of minds.
My idea of religion is different. I believe if religion fails to turn your inside button of self-examination on, it is not worth it. You know what my religion is? It is as Abraham Lincoln said: When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion. Now writing about it is one thing, making it a part of your daily routine of self-equilibrium is reasonably an overwhelming challenge.
This is the test of religion I subject myself to every day. It is how often I feel bad, which I try my level best not to experience frequently. If the balance of self-examination is not hijacked by hypocrisy, one would feel bad the moment he commits an excess. This is the system one develops to maintain self-correction. Faith and hope are noteworthy elements of our life; they are definitely consistent. When hit with utter hopelessness, the two work wonders and give us elements that help us like a miraculous plank for someone who is drowning. Yet, Faith should not turn us into a bunch of ostriches; it is questioning that enlightens us.
Any Synagogue, Church, Mosque or Temple that falls short of revitalization and development of this key faculty of a dynamic self balance of living becomes a ritual or just an addictive drug. There is regrettably no final truth in this world; what was truth of yesteryears is no longer a certainty. The beauty of continual evolution of mind is that profound truth or a philosophy is exceeded by another rational fact.
The real test we face is adapting the world to our conditions; this is how inventions came about. If you read the scriptures and testaments with a completely neutral mind, they are disjointed, unclear in context of timelines and make no coherent sense; they are not in line with new science. Unfortunately, they have only encouraged the status quo and adapting to conditions that existed since eons. Progress of minds and self depends on challenging conventional wisdom. Those who do that regularly are known as mavericks or unreasonable, but it is the unreasonable provocations into realms of the unknown that has resulted in great breakthroughs of thoughts. God has gifted us with open horizons of minds and hearts that help one to seek enlightenment. The source of our very creation is not clear in the present scriptures, and would lead the “unpopular” to embark on a quest to find answers to events related unambiguously. As the world evolves and grows, new prophets of science and technology are answering questions and solving mysteries that help us overcome the trials and tribulations we are going through.
My experience from life is that one is a product of his surroundings, if you argue with a fool, you end up becoming one. Therefore the best route is to maintain a companionship that inspires you. We need to know that consciousness of self-ignorance is the key to any success. Unfortunately some scriptures take you on the road to self destruction as they implant a streak of self-righteousness and false proportions of intellectual grandiosity and nearness to deity. This race to nearness to ‘God’ is also a one way ticket to the bottom sadly.
Inspiration is the product of incessant probing of mind. A society that is religious is a society that is not safe – first of all, it is judgmental, and secondly, an unpopular view is damned in such a society. Vision and imagination rarely comes from books and plans; it is something you develop by breaking the norms and searching for facts. One can claim investigation of truth as a preamble, but if investigation of truth leads to a ‘truth’ that is indigestible, it leads to ostrich-like omission of intellect. A thought that does not encourage examination of multitude of facts where nothing is sacrosanct is not worth its while.
We need to understand that, as we grow in our intelligence and understanding of creation, we will realize that the ‘God’ is within us. It is our own behaviour towards others that determines the virtues and goodness that we expect to spread from us. Fear of “judgment” instilled in us does make us God fearing, yet no amount of prostrating and praying makes us a better human being. It is our goodness inherent within us, our intellectual understanding of love and harmony and global humanity that helps understand the difference between good and evil which makes us such a unique creation.
In future, as our understanding of simple issues grows, and we don’t complicate life with complexities of God, the present contradictions and dichotomies of scriptures that we happily overlook will not be so flippantly treated. It is not a question of one jacket fits all. That is not possible. The philosophical dissent is between the self-righteous “godly” radicals who dare not question God and the “ungodly” who want an intelligent God who created man “in his image” and bestowed him with the gift of free will and thought to pursue knowledge. We are becoming secular not because we are becoming worldly but it is only because scriptures fail to answer questions that confront us in our daily life.
A sign of a vibrant society is one where iconoclasts need to be respected or, in other words, one feels safe and respected when ostracized. These conditions unfortunately do not exist in the kind of scriptures I read, therefore I benefit from the profound truths of open-minded investigation and keep questioning the sacrosanct nature of our beliefs; it gives me immense satisfaction and also the hope that perhaps we will find the holy grail of perpetual peaceful existence.