When George Orwell first prophesised about Big Brother, little did one realise that the institution that would come closest to performing that role would be neither the CIA or KGB, nor Google or Microsoft, but religion. And it did all of this without any hi-tech spy satellites and surveillance, for it, more than any other would-be Big Brother, fully understood, and thrived on, the human psyche, as it has for centuries. Fear and greed are man’s greatest motivators, and religious institutions have, since time immemorial, exploited these to the fullest.
As I write this, someone out there has issued yet another fatwa, this one against Muslim women working with men; some old men who consider themselves the protectors of Hinduism dig up some old excuse about gotras to brutally kill people and try, then, to justify and legalize it; pro-life petitioners and some other ‘believers’ use all of God’s popularity and public speaking skills to force through anti-abortion and anti-homosexual laws leaving queers and teenage rape victims biting the dust.
I write this, not as a religious expert, but as a layman, albeit a deeply distressed one. Correct me if I’m wrong, but religion was meant to be a way to understand God etc. One is rather skeptical, though, when asked whether it is performing the role it was made for. Today, not only has religion far exceeded its brief and encroached upon the domains of other institutions, but now also seeks to be the ultimate legislature, judiciary and executive all rolled into one, controlled by the will of (as they would have us believe) the Lord himself. In the Medieval Ages, when there were no human rights and democratic governments, this arrangement might’ve done more good than harm (on paper, at least), but today, this is a slap in the face of the modern society said to be based on famed trio of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Each day, the average human is faced with a plethora of warnings and orders from the ‘enlightened’ ones, as to just what (s)he must do in order to reserve her/his seat in Heaven and avoid the eternal torture of Hell (every religion has some variant of this basic concept).
If the religious leaders are to be believed, God really cares about and keeps a track of what each and every person out of the six billion wears and exactly how much flesh is exposed (only for women; God doesn’t seem to care what men wear, for some reason (writer feels neglected 😦 )), what time (s)he gets up and goes to sleep, who (s)he talks to during the course of his day, whether and what (s)he eats, how many times (s)he prays, how much money (s)he donated to religious causes in the day, who (s)he sleeps with, how well (s)he protects her/his religion from outsiders, what religion/caste people (s)he mingles with, who (s)he votes for etc etc etc. Putting all this together, we get one extremely obsessive-compulsive, greedy, prejudiced, control freak of a God. Wait, what happened to ‘unconditional love for all his subjects‘ and all that?
One of the greatest drawbacks of modern society has to be the inability to differentiate between the religious and the cultural/social, and religion and God. A little common sense might make anyone see that many things religions purport to be God’s instructions for everyday living are simply the social norms prevalent at the time of the religions’ inception, thousands of years ago. Some do make sense in everyday life today, and still more don’t. Three people, of the same religion, living in, say, New York, the Amazon rainforest, and Vietnam are likely to lead very different everyday lives. A person living in, say, Arabia a thousand years ago, led a very different life to one who lives there today, even though they might be of the same religion. Rules that define life in modern society (Constitutions and others) are always being amended and modified to suit the time and place. If religious texts are such an effective guide to everyday living, shouldn’t they be open to changes also? But, of course, the mere mention of such a thing would mean blasphemy now, wouldn’t it?
Would a social worker in a bikini who helped change the lives of thousands of people be less welcome in Heaven than an apathetic woman who always covered up from head to toe? Is it unethical to believe in God and not want to jump through the ridiculous hoops religion throws up?
If as much effort had gone into solving REAL problems like illiteracy and poverty, as goes into debating about exactly what is and isn’t allowed by any religion, one wonders where the world would be today. It is a sad truth that many readers of this article will interpret it as atheist propaganda. One hopes, though, that society will someday, open its eyes, see through the holy facade, and realize that religion is, and has always been, Man’s invention, not God’s. Man, who is susceptible to, and hence always restricted by, fear and greed.