Attention Silence breakers please!
(Note: May be it is when people refuse to face issues head on frankly and publicly that conspiracy of silence rears its ugly head. ‘Me too’ group spoke out to break out that cowardly hide-out and became the Person of the Year. Sri Varghese, noted for his bold frankly speaking, by his example, invites the silent majority to speak out on burning issues, religious, cultural or social or at least for or against issue he raises below.
Given below is his views – right or wrong — on Syro-Malabar group. What is your view? Compared to the West are their religious practice steady as before, on the increase or decline? What about organized religions in Kerala, India, abroad? What about your beliefs in God, heaven, hell, devil and life here below?
No harm in finding out the rational basis for what you believe unquestioningly, think or do. Some one is here leading you in the Socratic way raising questions? Try to answer them for peace with yourselves or to help others find true PEACE supposed to be the gift of Christmas. james kottoor, editor ccv.)
Read below Pamplanil
Practising the Catholic religion is an integral part of the life of average Syro-Malabar Church member. But on the whole religions on the decline is in socially and economically developed regions of the world, the exception being the Southern Bible Belt in US.
The Catholic population of UK remains more or less steady due to migration from Poland and Asian countries. As a trend, organised religions including Catholicism is on the decline all over the world. The statistics of given out by the Church is unreliable and include every one who was baptised as infants whether they practice the religion now or not.
Episcopal churches as a whole are irrelevant to modern societies. But evangelical types such as Pentecostal and media-hype varieties still hold away among the uneducated and superstitious people especially females.
People in modern well-to-do folks generally ignore religions without bothering to change the so-called Christian names. Displays of religious fervour such as processions in honour of saints, charismatic and other jamborees are conspicuous in their absence in the U.S and U.K. In the modern milieu religion is practised in a civilised and dignified manner or without disturbing others and cluttering public spaces.
In Kerala, the Catholics, by and large, especially women, continue to flock to churches and church-related activities, especially in rural areas. Children are dragged on by their mothers to churches. Such children may turn out to be incompetent and misfit sorts when they grow old. The various surveys conducted by PEW and similar agencies have highlighted the linkage between religiosity and socially and economically deprived, low educated (not literate), disease-ridden societies. Ritualistic religion and overbearing clergy cause disequilibrium and distortion to the social fabric.
Many believers continue to follow the herd out of habit, all the while murmuring protests and passing lewd comments on the clergy in private. For fear of social isolation, very few dare to come into the open to stand up and be counted and take exception to the overbearing attitudes and misdoings and aberrations of the clergy for fear of social isolation. Fearing problems in getting admissions (after paying hefty bribes) under management in church-run educational institutions for their non-meritorious wards, burial in church cemeteries and participation in the long accustomed church rites are the other relevant factors.
They don’t realise that instead of wasting the time of their children for churching, attending Catechism classes and other useless programmes of the church, if they study their lessons and read useful books, they need not fall on the feet of the clergy. Many, especially women suffering from many phobias and expectations and having low esteem of themselves, are mortally scared of the ill effects of the cursing of the clergy. The clergy knowing the psychology and psychosis of the faithful take advantage of the situation, act without accountability to the faithful, generally in arbitrary and dictatorial manner, insisting on implicit obedience. The social milieu of the Kerala Christians with the segregation of the sexes, arranged marriages and tedious weddings in churches etc. reminds of the situation in European Christian countries at least five hundred years ago.
Conspiracy of Silence
There is an all pervading Conspiracy of Silence in the Catholic society. Sicilian Mafiosi style “Omertà" seems to operate among the Syrian Catholic members in Kerala. Unpleasant and uncomfortable facts are sought to be covered up by the thick blanket of “deep mysteries“ purported to be accessible only to the clergy. The “Mark of Cain” is stamped on the foreheads of people who agree to disagree and up and protest and assert their individuality a peculiar characteristic in third world milieu. Religion which impinge on the lives of millions is a taboo to be discussed in the open forum. Many of the faithful follow blindly, without any discussion and questioning the concepts compelled to be believed and followed. Observance of umpteen mindless, empty and meaningless rituals is equated with moral behaviour. Religious rites may be escape routes for immured minds sans individual responsibility and accountability for wrong doings.
By and large people would like to be classified as Christians, Muslims, Hindus etc. Group identity may confer a feeling of safety in a crowd of like -minded persons as well as anonymity. In this scenario, moral conduct does not operate in “stand alone mode." Many persons cannot get along with others of the society with minimum social friction without the psychological clutch of a religion.
These people expect rewards from their gods for their good deeds and are afraid of punishment for misdeeds from him. Mediaeval mentality seems trouble the psyches of the majority of Kerala Christians. They don’t realise that in the final analysis nothing should matter except our survival on earth without much friction.
In the West
In the West religion and clergy are subjected to rigorous oversight. The majority of people seem to go along with the views of the Polish Catholic monk Copernicus (1473-1543) “that this earth, footstool of God and home of his redeeming pilgrimage, is a minor planet of a minor sun.. ..and this soil we stand is a passing thing, transiently compact of elements that will disintegrate and not leave a wreck behind….the medieval philosophy had rested on “the neighbourly nearness of earth and God, on the constant moral solicitude of Deity for man, this new astronomy was an atheistic blasphemy, a ruthless blow that seemed to overthrow the Jacob’s ladder which faith had built between angels and men”.
By the magic of his mathematics, Copernicus “transformed a geocentric and anthropocentric universe – a world that revolved about the earth and man – into a kaleidoscope of planets and stars in which the earth seemed but a moment’s precipitation of a floating nebula.” “Everything changed – distances, significances, destinies. And God, who had been closer than hands and feet, who seemed to inhabit the friendly and flowing clouds, disappeared into the far reaches of an illimitable space. It was as if the walls of a man’s house had been torn down by some blind and angry wind, leaving him un-sheltered in the darkness of infinity…
“With him secularism begins. With him reason makes its French Revolution against faith immemorially enthroned, and man commences his long efforts to rebuild with thought the shattered palace of his dreams. Heaven becomes mere sky and space and nothingness, or it descends upon the earth and breeds visions of Utopia in the hungry hearts of men who once hoped for Paradise. It was, as in the fable Plato told, of the gods who had cared for man till he had come of age, and then had disappeared, leaving him to the devices of his own intelligence…With Copernican revolution man was compelled to become of age”
Dawn of Darwin
And then Darwin (1809-1882) came, “and the war waged anew …..For what did Darwin do, but offer quietly, and with a disarming humility, a world picture totally different from that which had contented the mind of man before? We had supposed that, that it was a world of order, moving under divine guidance and omnipotent intelligence to a just and perfect fulfilment in which every virtue would find at last it’s just reward. But Darwin, without attacking any creed, described what he had seen. Suddenly the world turned red, and nature which had been so fair in the autumn’s colours under the setting sun, seemed to be only a scene of slaughter and strife, in which birth was an accident, and death was a certainty.
‘Nature’ became ‘natural selection’, that is, a struggle for existence, and not for existence merely, but for mates and power …..The surface of the earth seethed with warring species and competing individuals, every organism was the prey of some larger beast; every life was lived at the expense of some other life, great ‘natural catastrophes came, ice ages, earthquakes, tornadoes, draughts, pestilences, famine, wars; millions and millions of living things were “weeded out”, were quickly or slowly killed. ….
Man son of strife, not God?
“Some species and some individuals survived for a little while – this was evolution. This was nature, this was reality. Copernicus had reduced the earth to a spec among melting clouds; Darwin reduced man to an animal fighting for his transient mastery of the globe. Man was no longer the son of God, he was the son of strife, and his wars made the fiercest brutes ashamed of their amateur cruelty. The human race was no longer the favoured creation of a benevolent deity; it was a species of ape, which the fortunes of variation and selection had raised to a precarious dignity, and which in its turn was destined to be surpassed and to disappear…
”Man was not immortal; he was condemned to death from the hour of his birth. …the old faith fought fiercely for its life, and for a generation ‘the conflict between religion and science‘ was bitter than at any time since Galileo retracted and Bruno burned at the stake”. ( The quotes are from the book “The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time” by Will Durant.)
Hence the smug confidence of the believers that their God, if beseeched ardently, in tandem with hefty bribes to people who claim to be His sole agents, may not have the legs to stand on spreads. It may thus be prudent to lead a normal life unfettered by unwanted fear of sin and punishment, Hell and Heaven. But then who am I to advice the know-alls. Pardon my stepping on feet with cones.