Story Telling, urban legends & religion

Posted on March 9, 2008

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Caution: You shouldn’t read this post if you have weak religious sentiments which gets hurt easily. Instead, you could read the more polished version on Mutiny.

Long time back I heard about this concept called “truth of thought” At times human beings think of something deeply, they tend to believe that their thoughts are part of the truth. And when they narrate a real incident to someone, they add their ‘truth of thought’ to the facts in pure honesty without even realizing that the actual incident changed. That’s how urban legends are formed.

I think people have missed the point that, that’s exactly how religions are formed too, and holy books written. Unfortunately billions of people live a life which is dictated by few people’s story telling.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Tuesday launched rallies all over the country demanding ‘Monument of national importance’ status to Ram Sethu, popularly known as the Adam’s Bridge, a chain of limestone shoals the group believes dates back to the Ramayana… “We demand an apology from the Union Government for giving the affidavit in the Supreme Court denying the existence of Ram. We want Ram Sethu to be declared a monument of national importance,” said Rajendra Singh Pankaj, National Secretary of the VHP, told IANS.

This issue seems to be on their main agenda for the forth coming Lok Sabha elections. Why should we have a political party campaigning for elections on religious grounds. Yaar, insaano ko sambhal lo pehele bhagwan ke liye baad mein soch te rehena, logo ko do waqt ki roti toh de do…yeh sab to time paas ka issue hai.

They won’t let the Government move ahead with the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project, which proposes linking of the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka through a shipping channel as that would mean the natural floating bridge connecting India and Sri Lanka would have to be broken. Such protest, because they think the bridge is not natural but was built by an army of monkeys under the instruction of a Hindu God. The fact behind this belief, however, is highly debatable.

Another brilliant way to stall the scientific development in the country. We are so proud of our tradition that we would rather live in the age of bullock carts. Let’s scrap all modernity and go back to the jungles.

If there are subject matter experts who think the so called ram sethu has to be done away with to make better sea route then that should be the end of the matter. What business have people got to protest the move. At times I think we gave too much of freedom of protest in our Constitution. Such frivolous protest should be outright uprooted by the law and order authorities.

What I said above, about the truth behind the making of the bridge being debatable and unavailability of any concrete proof behind the story, is also the stand taken by the Central Government in its affidavit filed in Supreme Court. VHP instantly raised a demand seeking apology from Government for taking this stand.

How baseless is this demand. How can a secular Government take its executive decisions based upon one particular religious belief? What right has one got, to seek apology just because the other person doesn’t believe in his stories. Ajeeb zabardasti hai yaar. Aise kaise a bunch of people, who probably know nothing about sea routes and navigation, interfere and stall the development work of the country solely on the basis of a centuries old event, factuality of which is debatable.

I don’t understand what is the need to have political parties with religious agendas. State and Politics should be free from religion. Isn’t it more intelligent to first address problems related to the day to day material needs of the common man, the nations economic growth etc. than worry about God. I thought God, if at all it exists, is smart enough to take care of its own needs. The human need not form groups and parties here on earth to address God’s issues.

Chalo maan liya Ram aur hanumaan ne banaya setu, hundred percent Raam ne hi banaya, par bhaiyaa raat gayi baat gayi. Ram to gaye na wapas swarg mein apsarao ke paas, unhe kya padi hai setu ki, rahe ya na rahe, phone ayaa tha kya Ram ka, ke bhakto meri Setu bachalo, main abhi aaunga holiday pe, Andaman Nicobor Islands, tab agar Raavan ne waapas seeta ko kidnap kar liya to bekaar mein double mehnat karni padegi bichare hanuman ko.

India is a secular state, I say India should be an atheist state where everybody would have the right to practice their religion but no body shall have the right to publicly propagate religion. No state activity should have religious implications, or should be triggered or controlled by religious practices. There should be no public dharna, morcha for the promotion / protection of any religion at all. Schools and other institutions shouldn’t have any spiritual prayers for the God but should have patriotic messages / songs / speeches etc.

In my school, which is a school founded by a British Lord, we used to have prayers like, “Bhagwan tumhi maata pita ho, tum hi bandhu sakha tumhi ho.” and “Asa toma Sad gamaya.” We also used to have Saraswati Puja every year. We shouldn’t have all these religious activity in an institution which is potentially attended by people from any and every religion. Since it is not possible to follow important religious activities of all religions, so let’s not follow any religion at all. Just because majority of students are Hidus why should there be a Hindu puja performed?

 Instead, we should have sung prayers like, “aao baccho tumhe dikhaye jhaanki hindustan ki is mitti se tilak karo yeh dharti hai balidaan ki” 

Over and over again it has been proved that a lot of the tradition and culture in any community / country have religious validity. People have been following these tradition because they think it is their religious duty. For eg. among Hindus people prefer sons over daughter for many socio-economic reasons but there is one strong religious reason as well. As per Hinduism parents go to heaven only if their last rites are performed by a Son. So if you don’t have a son you will burn in hell. That was the starting point of preferring a son.

I am not quoting an example from Hindu religion because I am a Hindu basher before some one jumps at this, but because I only know about this example. There are many such practices of living a life restricted by rules which are illogical and unfair in all other religion too. Earliest practice of patriarchy can be traced back to Christianity and Islam. Excessive compulsory restriction on food habits in Jainism, clothing habits in Islam, control on sexuality in Christianity.

Good thing is Hinduism doesn’t have any such strict compulsory adherence to any particular practice (that doesn’t mean Hinduism is flawless) and that is why it makes sense for India to be a secular State. This is the land where majority of its Hindu population have gracefully absorbed all religions and cultures for centuries, which is why we are proud to be Indian. I don’t understand why some people now are trying to lose this one thing that makes India one of its kind in the world.

Will India be the same India, where people live by the mantra, Athithi devo bhava (The guest is God) if we have a Government which intends to make Hindu religious practices compulsory for all religions. For eg. to teach Bhagwat Geeta to every student and to make them do Surya Namaskar to name a few. No holy book need to be taught in any school at all. Sex education is more important than religious preaching.

The state be atheist and have a central education system free from religious influence, which means no Ram Krishna Missions, no missionary schools no madrasas, just State run education system with syllabus prescribed by State. Education is the back bone of society and it cannot allowed to be influenced by unscientific imaginary claims. The world was created by a big bang. Period.

So let us all keep away all our holy books and concentrate on the Constitution.

Read more about the Sethusamundaram Project here.

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Posted in: Atheism, Secularism