LETTER TO THE EDITOR – THE NEXUS BETWEEN RELIGION, FUNDAMENTALISM AND COMMUNALISM

 

The Webinar in Kolkata on 8th January 2021 on the topic “Role of Religion Amidst Growing Communalism and Fundamentalism” is very relevant in the Indian context.

 

The worldly wise and theologically primed participants seemed to be shy of facing the obvious — the perpetrators of communalism and its twin fundamentalism are organised religions. The major culprits apparently are Christianity and Islam with their attitudes that their god(s) are the only true god(s); other gods are false ones  to be banished by all means; their holy books are the only god-revealed ones and all other scriptures are to be burned.

 

An in-depth analysis of the track record of two organised religions as meticulously as possible, may reveal that Christianity and Islam have been and are the most dangerous religions in the world. Their  stocks-in-trade are irrational myths. Over the ages they have become destructive volcanoes spewing out the hot lava of intolerance, hatred,violence and bloodshed. Rivers of blood had flowed; billions of lives had been lost. Crusades,religious wars, heresy hunting, inquisitions brought out, indescribably cruel  tortures were resorted for obtaining self-incriminating confession. Muslim fanatics resort to terror bombings and preplanned murders of innocents in the name of their god.  It is beyond the comprehension of many of us,that in this age and time of all round intellectual progress, people get attracted to religions, which by their very nature nurture fundamentalism and communalism. They also let loose mayhem and reign of terror. The far right evangelicals in the US have played havoc in the current turmoil there.

 

If religions confine themselves to spiritual and moral matters much harm may not happen. When they dabble in politics and try to interfere in matters of State and governance with vested interests disequilibrium and turmoil are the result.

 

Belief which defy rationality is not everyone’s cup of tea. The major religions of the day;Christianity, Islam and Communism — to me the last one is also a  religion with its holy book the“Manifesto of Karl Max” – may have lost relevance by now.

 

We see the emergence of another dangerous religion—SANGH PARIVAR/RSS, with its ideology based on Caste, Jati and Varna. It seeks to place Brahmins (priests) at the top of the ladder,followed by the Kshatriyas (soldiers) and  the Vaishyas with the Shudras at the bottom. In this milieu others don’t exist. These humans are viewed as non-humans condemned to be dehumanised scavengers forced to  remove night soil with their bare hands and carry the foul load on their bare heads; forced to live far outside the areas occupied by the higher classes; are denied of drinking water from the village wells and debarred from public thoroughfares.

 

Sam Harris has pointed succinctly that if humanity annihilated itself, it is not because it is written in the stars but because it is written in some holy books.  The people of the book may be the nemesis of the human species.

 

PEW researches have shown that religion prosper in socially and economically backward disease-ridden superstitious societies.

 

One speaker alone has suggested the way to get rid of the ills of fundamentalism and communalism: imbibe scientific temper and opt for secular humanism. Secular irreligious societies in Europe are relatively crime-free, altruistic and egalitarian. Individual autonomy espoused by J. S. Mill could be the preferred mode of social concourse. In the world of today, the prescriptions of religions tied to the past are no more relevant. We cannot logically be controlled by the unknown diktats (to most of us) of an unknown entity. It is the word of the shamans we are asked to believe. The priesthood claim their authority from a being outside our universe. Religious institutions with unwieldy infrastructure and gargantuan bureaucracy is not cost effective and outright superfluous. There is no need for a State within a State constituted by the Will of the People.

 

Christianity doesn’t hold much sway in Europe — even in the so-called Catholic Ireland, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Most of the people there are mere namesake Christians and not church-goers. Many do not bother to get rid of their so-called Christian names.

 

Varghese Pamplanil

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