Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Do We Need a Religion?

Among all the divisive forces such as class, race, country, sex, colour etc on earth, religion has enjoyed a prime space throughout history. 

Barring few exceptions, religion is found among all the societies, in all parts of the world, in some form or other.  Though, on the one hand it is a matter of faith and therefore internal to a person, on the other hand it has often been developed as distinct classification for the followers, by adopting various means for visible manifestation of one’s religion in public.  Dress code, headgear and various other symbols have been used to demonstrate the religious identity of the person; sometimes voluntarily and other times compulsorily. Often they go beyond mere symbols and control their followers’ lives and culture through strict prescriptions and set standards.

When we talk to proponents of each religion, we get to hear the positives of their religion’s teachings.  When we talk to the opponents of the same religion, what we get is only the negatives of that religion.  Is either of them true? I do not think so.  Like human beings, their ideologies and religions are also a mixed bag.  No perfect good or bad choice there.

Often we are coerced to follow a religion that is bestowed upon us by our birth.  In other words, we merely inherit the religion that is followed by our parents.  Even if we find teachings of another religion attractive, we are discouraged by the family and society from changing our religion.  Conversions (voluntary or induced) are often seen as an affront to the convert’s original religion and met with violent reactions. 

Let us keep the relative merits of ideologies aside.  What matters to unaligned people is the practise of the ideology.  Each of the major religions can be blamed for perpetuating injustice and/or violence in some form or other, at different points in time.  I am not going into details of these aspects here.

Now look at the question- Do we need a religion?  The answers differ from person to person.  Some would say following a religion is necessary to communicate with God; others like Immanuel Kant would say religion “is the recognition of all our duties as divine commands”.  In other words, religion may serve the purpose of spirituality (in a sense bonding with God) and/or the purpose of morality.

But how do we make sure we get what is promised to us, while following a religion?  Let us apply the Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) principle to our religions as well.   If we consider the opinions of religious teachers about all other religions, any religion is good for nothing silly talks, if not pure evil.  If we take that logic further, we can even say all religions fall under the same category; more so when we consider their bad effects, including violence and exploitation.  So much hate is spread among the human kind in the name of religions!

If one believes in God do we need a mediator or a method to reach him? I can’t see how to agree with such logic.  Confining that reach to a specific mediator or method goes against the very concept of God. Therefore, I cannot agree with the spiritual utility of religions.

Now comes, morality.  Do you again need a religion to tell what is right or what is wrong?  Do we adhere to something merely because it is believed to be a divine command, and not because we consider it as the right thing to do?  Are we saying an effective moral education is adequate replacement for organised religions? 

And then the question of which is the right religion to follow.  As they say wrongs can be many but right can’t be different.  Even if there are different rights, at least the first right thing to do is to admit the rightness of other rights? Can a right be right while saying all other rights are wrongs? These questions are not new to our times. In fact, Sri Buddha is believed to have been confronted with the same question by many villagers. They asked him about the various religious sects in vogue at the time and sought his advice as to how one should decide which is the right sect to follow.  

Buddha replied their question with a counter question, “Tell me, what would be the result if a person is ruled by anger, ignorance and greed? Would that bring happiness to him and others around him?”

Villagers replied, “No Teacher, they can only bring sufferings”

Buddha continued, “What if he is ruled by love, compassion, humility, equanimity? What if he helps others in their suffering, rejoices in their happiness and treats everyone with compassion and no discrimination?”

“Teacher, such a person can only bring happiness to himself and all around him” villagers replied.

Buddha said, “Now you know what brings happiness all around.  You don’t need any religion to tell you what is right. You merely have to follow what you know is right”.

He continued further, “Do not blindly follow the teachings of anyone, howsoever successful those teachers might have been.  Consider and only accept those teachings that are in agreement with what you consider as right.  Do not adopt anything that you think will bring unhappiness to either you or for others”.

It is needless to say, these words of Buddha make enormous practical sense (it is another matter that Buddha’s own teachings were subsequently reduced to yet another religion, by his followers).  But if we look at this advice more closely, we can make out that it does not meet the requirements of organised religions.  In almost all religions, there is no scope for picking and choosing.  One is expected to follow its creed unquestionably.

But the same advice tells us something more.  It tells us that we don’t need a religion at all.  What we need to know is that what is right?  If we know what is right, we merely have to follow that knowledge in our life and if everyone adheres to this simple practise, then this earth will be a much better place to live.   We may use all the religious teachings to understand what is right; but we need not follow any of them blindly, even when we know something said therein is not right.  We also need not restrict our search for the right, in the religion or religions alone.

As for bonding with God (I do not believe in the existence of God, but that is not the subject here), wouldn’t God himself take care of that, if we merely follow a righteous life?  If we don’t follow a righteous life, any amount of rituals or bribes wouldn’t make God to bond with us. God, as we perceive, cannot be a party to something that promotes hatred and suffering than love and compassion.

What we need is not a religion but the wisdom and virtue to lead a life that is full of love, compassion, humility and equanimity towards our fellow beings.

P.S: This is not against religions per se. This is  to say religion is not the only arbitrator of human relations and what matters more is human values than religious teachings.  


  1. -religion is imposed from birth. and yes conversion, is a taboo.

    -religious fanaticism is a scourge, source of all evil.

    -i dont think there is nothing negative in any religion, it is just the matter of interpretation.

    - i think every religion, just encourages man to live a holy life, stay away from vices etc.

    -is religion necessary, yes it is, it is a basic code of life. and if we do not have those codes of life , we are basically barbaric.

    -most of the time, it is fear of wrath of god that prevents man from doing wrong.

    -do i believe in god, yes i do.. i believe in an omnipotent, super power , who controls all things, who is just, who ensures that good will always win over evil.

    - and why is communication with god important: because we consider god as holy ,and only when we are in commune with him we will imbibe his holiness,love ,humility and peace.

  2. I was born to hindu parents and raised that way......i read some of the scriptures (far too many).......Ofcourse it had an impact making my charactor..........I attribute whatever goodness i have in me to the words of Swami Vivekananda,Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Lord Krishna, Lord Ram, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi.....I can only talk of our religion because i just have an outsider's view of the other......I feel blessed to be born to hindu parents bcos once i can think of myself i can accept those teaching / guidelines in the strictures (at least some of them).............i did not feel disagreement when i became adult...mayb some person would have......such persons say that nobody should follow religion...IT is bad to say so////Now i agree that religion can be interpretted badly by humans who err often and big............Like in the Case of Sati, Animal Sacrifice etc which has nothign to do wiht the religion but with the barbaric culture of people lived in that age....My basic question is why do you have to imitate the bad habits of people lived before 5000 years? there r lot of good things about them. like yoga, ayurveda etc//

  3. Every human has ingredients of various emotions in him.When he is in a challenging situation,these emotions come to the fore.When we preach to him to come back to a stable mind without a convincing reason he may not be matured enough to take the line.You can say All is well but always a doubt will linger why should all be well!This is where religious texts comes to play.All religious text will have moral stories and guidances,one of which he will be able to identify with his own situation.He may then be able to find a convincing reason to his situation or a solution to the problem.This will help to make his mind calm.

  4. depends on what u think religion is.. As I believe religion is more of a personal thing rather than that is imposed.. Its just what u believe

  5. Religion have brought good and bad things to our life. Of course it is the righteous inner sense and love to our fellow beings that constitute the best form of religion we can have, which need not be attributed to any of the religion we see around or perhaps to all of them. What religion intent to do is to give us the basic set of rules to begin with to reach such a state of mind. And in that aspect, I believe we need religion. Religion followed in this form, will automatically chuck out the evil we see around in the name of religion and otherwise.

    Now about God, I strongly believe that such a perfectly balanced world cannot exist and run without such a super power. There are many things in this universe we cannot solve with our logics, including the perfection of our own body and soul.

  6. Read the post very carefully..Must admit..gave me great insights into this aspect called Religion
    I have always felt that the existence of so many religions around the world is the very reason for the unrest prevailing in the world. What One religion prescribes , suggests and guides to its followers may be the same with the other religions too..but then it is we the followers of a particular sect or religion who interpret these principles in our own way..and in the end we build up lots of sectarian animosity towards each other and aggravate it too..We see it happening around the world day in and day out..Many a times personally.. I have given this aspect a deep thought (whenever riots based of communal hatred takes place) that if only.. there were no diverse religions in this world..Just one and only one Religion in the name of Mankind & Humanity existed..This world would be such a wonderful place to live in..But then again the question as to who would guide us about the right and the wrong, the good and bad vices ?..So, the need of a particular Religion arises..But then Just One Single Religion..which teaches us to have Love and kindness for every person around..Again if too many Religions & their Leaders were to come up with their own perspectives..Matters go out of hand..due to confusing mindset of us the normal mortals..who interpret the Principles of Religion in our own way..and try to prove One's Religion and its teachings the Ultimate Best existing in The world..
    Having said all this..I am a firm believer in God..Be it any religion..all I have come across is the message of Peace And Love .. But the followers of their respective religion try to prove a particular Religion and its Teachings of prime importance and try to find connection to old scriptures..which creates EGO clashes in turn spoiling the religious feelings and ambience in turn, giving birth to animosity among the various religions.
    I do have the habit of communicating with GOD and also go to the religious places to pray..ask Almighty to show me a way to help alleviate someone’s problems and reason for sorrowfulness in their lives. I ardently pray for everyone around, trust me..miraculously I feel is always considered by the Almighty..My personal Experience it is..My prayers for others wellness and benefits have always been answered..So yes..I do believe in Religion but am very much against Proving the Might of a particular Religion over other and creating unrest and strife among the people around the world
    It might be tempting to conclude that fighting between people of different faiths is proof that religion is a bad thing, or even that these particular religions are not true. However, the problem might not be with these religions per se, but with the way people understand and practice it their faith.

    I like the way you concluded the whole post..My Belief too..Love..Trust..Humility and equanimity..peace is the need of the hour..
    Minus these qualities..Any Religion & its beliefs are Meaningless..I see many persons around .. chanting mantras day and night..but when it comes to helping personally or out of the way..they develop a cold then what is the purpose behind chanting these mantras & the process of purifying ones souls..when your mind is lacking humanitarian feelings towards the hapless,wretched, forlorn, pathetic, pitiable. person in front of you ?..

    Am I right Jay ?

  7. I lost belief when I first saw a baby die, why should a newborn die through no fault of his own? To quote Greg House "Either God doesn't exist or he is unimaginably cruel."

  8. I know, I am blessed with the kind of upbringing I have recvd, and the world where I belong. We have always been asked to question, seek the reality, be pragmatic...

    Have always believed Religion is and must remain a private matter.

    Not for a moment disrespect public sentiments, but do abhor anything from the public space that is thrust into my private world!! i.e. Loudspeakers, Politician banners, noisy fire crackers and such!

    If we stopped being blind to following, had faith in our own abilities, reached out for help n support, we may have more balanced thoughts from the masses and hysteria we see in the public space vis a vis Religion!

  9. Do not want to be an Intelectual terrorist with long essays.
    Religion is the only thing most of us turn to when faced with tough choices & failures. Her comes religious-priests presenting a hope he can solve our riddle of failure. We hang with the priest for sometime & get bored & move on to another god (numerous gods in Hindu).
    We never really learn to solve the riddle of failures.