This is on a touchy subject – “religion”, so it may offend the sensitive types and those that do not want to question the basis of their beliefs. It is not meant to offend, but merely to think about what is often accepted simply because it is ‘inherited’ – like genes! So it is NOT for those that are on the ‘faith’ trip or those that are unwilling to analyse their beliefs – if you are, stop right here and do something else. Please!

That recent post on the sound pollution proliferated by some venues of religious worship did not elicit very much response and it got us to wondering why. A good possibility is that this subject is virtually taboo with regard to expressing an honest opinion – and for good reason I guess. Most folk are very ‘defensive’ or is ‘touchy’ a better word to describe the reluctance to look at their respective beliefs ‘objectively’. There are many ‘intellectuals’ and even ‘men of science’ I know who have unquestionable faith in the beliefs passed down to them by their parents, who follow the rituals, accept the doctrines and will defend their positions even though the science that they accept will not have ‘proof’ to verify their tenets.

‘Religion’, as we are all well aware, has been the root cause of wars and myriad other forms of distress to mankind throughout the centuries. The pressure on the evangelists to convert unbelievers to accept their beliefs is another facet of the negative aspect of ‘religion’ in general. The religious leaders of their respective faiths have immense power over the followers of their beliefs. Here in Sri Lanka, one sees how politicians in particular, in spite of all the corruption and ‘sins’ that they are up to their eyeballs in, troop to meet religious figures at the drop of a hat. And one could not be blamed to presume that these religious leaders are quite happy to have this practice continue, instead of responding in a manner more in keeping with the doctrines the Buddhist philosophy or religion espouses.

So why is it that we are ‘afraid’ to question the beliefs passed down to us? Is it fear of the unknown – that ‘place’ that awaits us after this life is done? And why do folk get to the point that they would kill another who they feel belittles their system of belief? Salman Rushdie was under threat of death passed by some ‘holy’ leader of the Islamic faith for being ‘insulting’ to the religion in one of his books. We saw more recently the furor that was caused by a newspaper in Europe publishing cartoons deemed ‘insulting’ to Islam. And then the Pope, no less, put his foot in it when he made a statement considered derogatory – again to Islam – and ended up apologizing.

The ‘communal’ clashes in many countries are largely based on religious differences and result in large scale mayhem and murder and the most grotesque violence perpetrated on anyone in the way of the mobs. The internal ‘politics’ among the various religious hierarchy is also an indicator of the lust for power within the systems. The wealth and status that religion generates is another factor that motivates would be leaders of these systems. The question is, can anyone who has the capacity to differentiate between what is ‘good’ or ‘moral’ and what is ‘not good’ or ‘immoral’ conclude that what has been described above is beneficial to the human species or not?

This then is the dilemma. ‘Religion’, which one assumes is based on a right way of life and doing no harm to others (including animals and other ‘non-threatening’ life forms), has been transformed into something that is responsible for the most horrendous suffering throughout history, throughout the world, at one time or another. And surely part of the reason for this is the desire to dominate – evolving into the process of the politicization of ‘religion’ and from there it is generally a downward spiral (morally speaking). Or is it?

It seems to us that ‘religion’ is, more often than not, used as a crutch – something you turn to when in need of help. We see ‘poojas’ being conducted in the quest for all manner of favours, be it for passing exams, vows to perform deeds or offer all kinds of ‘rewards’ for the granting of whatever it is that is being asked for. Surely this is not what ‘religion’ is all about? Isn’t it more about following the Ten Commandments (for Christians), The Eightfold Path (for Buddhists), the precepts in the Upanishads (for Hindus)? We haven’t got into the Koran, so we don’t know what Islam recommends, but it is doubtful that it asks for the life of anyone that views it in a different perspective.

Perhaps the ideal situation would be for folk to apply the core ingredients of their respective faiths in the living of their lives, for it does seem that all religions have as their essence, the directions to live a moral life, don’t they? What does it matter what another group chooses to believe or who or what to worship, and why use that to create conflict and the resulting tragedies? Or is ‘religion’ used as an excuse to perpetrate these unspeakable horrors?

The questions are innumerable and the answers would depend on where an individual’s head is at. So take a look at yourself and your stance and try to be objective about why you are what you are in terms of the ‘religion’ you profess to follow. Maybe it will be to your benefit in the long-term – as far as living your life is concerned.

Phheeew! We did need to get that one off our chests – and we do hope no offence was taken, as none was ever intended. In parting, let me end with John Lennon’s thoughts on this and similar conditioned baggage many of us have inherited.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one