Religions are now again in the news. This time, religions are accused for the wars and conflicts in the world. Almost every day, there is some blast in some part of the world that is caused by so called Religious Fundamentalists and the victims are none other than their own brothers and sisters. As a result religions, particularly Islam, is accused to be the inspiration can cause of the terrorist attacks and violence that has gripped the world in last one decade as most people involved in the violence happens to be Muslims, the followers of Islam.
However, the truth is only partly revealed by terming one religion as violent while calling other religions as peaceful. It is only few decades ago that Christians were fighting against each other in the two World Wars that killed almost 65 millions of people, mostly Christian and resulted of the execution of more than 7 millions Jews including children just because they belonged to a particular religion. It is impossible to imagine how the followers of Christ, the God of love, can engage in such brutalities against each other. A German Philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer has said sarcastically in 18th century
“The fruits of Christianity were religious wars, butcheries, crusades, inquisitions, extermination of the natives of America and the introduction of African slaves in their place”
It is easy to blame religion for the conflict, more so if the people committing violence do not belong to your religion. However, one dare to look in their own religion, they are bound to find out that their own religion had often been used and can be used for creating conflict and wars. The Biblical concept of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot” appears in Bible (Exodus 21:22-27) had been used not only by Jews but also by the Christians. Gita, the Holiest book for Hindus, teaches the concept of eternity of Soul and the need for war in the following words of Lord Krishna
Considering your specific duty as a warrior, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation. O Partha, happy are the warrior to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets. (Gita 2:31-32)
The fact is that religions had always been used for wars.
Yet how correct it would be to blame a religion for the wars?
What’s Wrong with Religion
Let us first understand what we mean by religion? Religions are based on the Scriptures which contains the “revealed knowledge” of the Prophets or saints. The knowledge of the scriptures contains certain truths that are believed by the followers of the religion. As per one definition
“A religion is a system of human thought which usually includes a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices that give meaning to the practitioner’s experiences of life through reference to a higher power, deity or deities, or ultimate truth”.
However, most people of any religion have never read their scriptures and never known these “revealed truths”. They consider themselves as part of the religion simply because they were born from the parents following their religion. Therefore, while they call themselves religious or “theist”, they hardly understand anything of their religion. They are often guided by their Priests, Monks and Imams to know their religions. These people provide the people only “little knowledge’ which suits their vested interest and as always “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” and that danger is often manifested in the form of wars.
Not only religion, but every single piece of knowledge had been used constructively and destructively by human beings. The knowledge of relativity and mass-energy-equivalence discovered by Albert Einstein was not only responsible for the birth of “Modern Physics” and the modern development in the field of electronics but also responsible for the development of the nuclear bomb that killed millions of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Can we call Einstein or the theory of relativity responsible for the nuclear weapon or the wars? Why should we not give Einstein the credit for the development of the modern science and technology and development of nuclear energy for the world?
Every single invention had been misused by the human race. “Dynamites” was not only used for breaking mountains to make roads but also used for making bombs that killed millions. Internet is not only being used for dissemination and communication of knowledge but also for pornography and a number of cyber crimes. The televisions and radios had been used not only for entertainments but also for propaganda.
Knowledge per-se is without any colour or attribute but people use the knowledge for pursuance of their own objective. The reveled knowledge of the scriptures is no exception.
Knowledge of God is as Immense as the Knowledge of Universe
The essence of all religion is spirituality i.e. a belief on a nonmaterial reality in this world that lies beyond the senses. This “Spirit” which permeates all creations of this universe is often called God. We know God as we too are part of God as God resides in all creations including each one of us. Thus the knowledge of God is “inherent” and as natural as the knowledge of the “self”. It is for this reason that Hinduism does not distinguish between “Atman” (Soul) and Paramatman (God or Universal Soul) as there is no difference between a drop of ocean and ocean itself.
Thus the knowledge of God is extremely mysterious as one has to go “inside” the self to know God while all our sense organs only help us in seeing the outside world. Therefore, only with intuition and “Self-Enlightenment” one can know God.
There is no doubt that most of us are ignorant about God just like even the best scientists knows only a little about the universe. Even the father of science , Sir Isaac Newton admitted,
I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding of a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
The same is true with our knowledge of God or the nonmaterial reality of the universe. The scriptures provide immense knowledge about the spiritual world, yet there is lot to be known and discovered by personal effort.
Religion in Theory
Religions had been used by people to achieve their political goals. They ignore all aspects of the religions which are beneficent to the humanity and use only such “words” of the religion that suits them to sow the seeds of hatred in the world and cause conflict and wars. How else a Christian can ignore these sermons of Christ and remember only “eye for eye”,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. (Matthew 5:38-40)
The word “Islam” itself means “Submission to God.” The Arabic word “Islam” means the submission or surrender of one’s will to the will of the only true god worthy of worship, “Allah” (known as God “the Father” in Christianity). Anyone who does indeed submit to the will of Allah as required by Islam is termed a “Muslim,” Islam teaches peace like any other religion as clearly stated in Quoran,
“And the servants of the Beneficent God are they who walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace.” (Quran 25.63 )
Religion in Practice
A truly religious person is one who follows the scripture or the words of God rather than “knows” the words of scripture by heart. A man becomes religious only if he follows the path shown in the scriptures. Thus to become Christian, it is needed to follow Christ and be become like Him. Yet people have found a way to defy everything that Christ said and yet claim that they are Christian.
In the same way, a true Muslim is one who follows the path shown by Prophet Mohammad. Still people call themselves Muslims despite of consuming alcohol and other intoxicants, accumulating wealth and following the path of violence forbidden in Islam.
Hinduism too pays lot of value on the practice and believes the principle of “Karma” which alone is considered virtuous in men. Yet many people engage in evil karma, corruption, adultery and yet call themselves Hindus.
Religion is the Knowledge of God
There seems to be nothing wrong with any religion nor does any religion preach violence and hatred. Religions are nothing but a practice and ritual to know and realize the non-material reality of the world which we call God. It is only by prayers, humbleness, service, love that we can realize God. Yet, the true knowledge of God requires deep introspection and search within to develop the intuitive eyes that alone can help a man know God. Without self-realization, the knowledge of God is not only incomplete but also wrong as God is beyond any description of words. There are many people who are clever to use such ignorant people to realize their political and material goals.