Monday, September 17, 2007

Belief in God or even agnosticism seems a perfectly rational position

Home > Edits & Columns > WRITE BACK Indian Express: Monday, September 17, 2007 Bridging God and religion Mrugank Inamdar One needs to distinguish between people who believe in God and those who believe in religion
I am not religious; I abhor the fake halo religious people assume. The underlying assumption of the majority of religious people is that their religion is in some way superior to others’. I also notice all religions harp on love and restraint while glossing over their own violent histories. It is important we analyse rationally all our differences and also the actual veracity of the claims religions make. On these points, I am in complete agreement with Saubhik Chakrabarti, in his article, ‘God and us’ (IE, September 14), and congratulate him on his clarity.
However, he does not distinguish between people who believe in God and those who believe in religion. Religious people would be the ones who subscribe to one of the many available forms of worship — the fire-worship of the Zoroastrian, Christ worship of the Christian or the atheism of the Zen-Buddhist. Religion would also include belief in the dogma of that particular religion. You could believe, like Mel Gibson, that your wife would not be welcome in heaven because she isn’t Catholic. You could also believe that blasphemy needs to be punished with death and a fatwa needs to be imposed on those who joke about matters of faith. I may also point out that atheism is as much of a religion as any other, with its own form of dogma.
How can these people be herded together with the ones who only profess a belief in God, but no religious affiliation? How can one equate the pantheism of Spinoza (intellectual love of God) with the fanaticism of the religious? Belief in God or even agnosticism seems a perfectly rational position. And, after all, saying there is a God is as definitive a statement as saying that there isn’t. If the presence of God provides human beings with an impartial judge for their actions and keeps them from harming each other, then that itself is a compelling argument for continuing to believe in Him.
Now to come to Chakrabarti’s point on the need for scientific proof and a rational, unemotional approach to religion and religious symbols (like Adam’s bridge). On the face of it, I couldn’t agree more. Even for the religious, the thing of importance is that a man as perfect as Ram existed. Of what use is his bridge today? Even Ram, the man who inspired the myth, would appreciate the practical benefits of his bridge’s destruction. But then the matter gets tricky. When a man-made object was destroyed — like the Bamiyan Buddhas — the world opposed the destruction of heritage monuments. But what about monuments that are not man-made but inspire people of faith?
I have sympathy for the project, but it did seem stupid that the government had pushed itself into a corner, where it could have ended up hurting some and providing ammunition to those who like to stoke national hysteria.

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