Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Losing My Religion


People often ask me whether I am religious. I can never give a straightforward response to that. Yes, I believe in the existence of a supreme intelligence, who I look up to for guidance and succour. When things are going good I thank Him (or ‘Her’, as it suits), when things are going downhill, I bombard Him with why me? He is my constant companion in fear, hope, in happiness and in moments of despair. But what do people mean when they ask, whether I am religious? Do they mean to ask “do you pray and engage in religious rituals”? I pray only under duress, rarely visit temples, do not believe in rituals, and I never fast, unlike most of my friends. Yet I think of this higher being as my protector, benefactor and expect ‘His’ unconditional love. That’s unrealistic isn’t it, considering I hardly work towards this relationship!

But tell me one thing, why do we pray? Is it because it makes us feel good or is it because we are expected to? We meditate to feel closer to ‘Him’, to find inner peace – and rituals are supposed to be a means to that end. But if we are getting stuck with rituals as the end, is it making us any better? We are living in a fast-paced world and many of us lose sight of the intent behind these rituals. It is now more like a duty that has to be performed, rather than being a construct within which we can seek enlightenment.

I know am treading a tricky path – most of us take our religion rather seriously. When we observe Monday fasts, or a Friday fast it is never sans expectations. For many of us religion works as a barter system. Dear God, if you make my son pass this exam, I promise to fast for 12 consecutive Mondays or I will not touch a morsel of food till the moon comes out, for the long life for my husband. One dares not deviate, even if it’s food that one thinks of the whole day, in fear of retribution. We dare not question our age-old traditions because we have fear lurking at the back of our minds. Why are we God- fearing when we should be God-loving.

Once, when I was much younger, I decided to fast on a religious occasion. I was miserable, hungry and salivating even at the sight of karelas. God was the last thing on my mind. So, now you know why I don’t fast anymore.

I do not consider myself an authority on religion – but for me, being religious means respecting other human beings and being kind to others. I try not to be judgemental and am allergic to being sermonized. For me, happiness is my religion. Only if I am happy can I make others around me happy. Only if I believe in love, will I be able to love others.



I have often wondered why unscrupulous people – businessmen, criminals and politicians included – seek the refuge of religion. Do they fear God or do they fear losing their ill-gotten wealth and power? Is God their insurance against misfortune? Their fingers will be crammed with rings with a rudraksha peeking out from their safari suit, the forehead smeared with a large tilak, yet they’ll feel no remorse while cheating their workers of their rightful pay. Isn’t your religion supposed to make you a better person? How can you cheat, steal and murder with impunity and host Jagarans expecting instant deliverance!

Religion was possibly created by our ancestors to try and explain the unknown. It was handed down from generation to generation and formalized into faith, rituals and traditions. As I see it, most religions were conceived to create a moral fabric and taught us to love rather than hate and divide. Buddhism and Jainism found a social following when other prevalent forms of religion at the time were letting people down, creating power lobbies and propagating social evils.

Any ideology when institutionalized is at risk of getting corrupted. Even today religion is constantly being abused, customized by our self-proclaimed leaders to further their vested interests and retain their influence and power. A pastor threatens to burn the Quran. People are getting maimed and killed in the name of ideology. We are living in a world that is getting increasingly paranoid, with each school of influence intent on proving its point right. Is mankind really moving forward? In this age of strife and growing mistrust, shouldn’t we rather broaden our minds and be tolerant of opinions that differ from ours? Isn’t humanity meant to be connected spiritually by the same thread, even if of different colours? I see God in nature’s creations, scientific findings be damned.

So here’s my take. I may not be religious but I wish to awaken the dormant supreme being within me. I agree that most of the times, I lose my way and get engrossed in the business of living. It’s a constant struggle, trying to know my true self. The path of self discovery is not always pleasant. But I wish I could free myself from the fears that plague me. I wish I could become less selfish, less needy of other’s approval. I wish to be spiritual and spirituality knows no religion. I wish to lose to my religion to regain my faith.
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47 comments:

  1. You're right. With the world in such a mess, we should certainly think out of the box and not be constricted to religious beliefs which aren't even true, but are simply taught by word of mouth. How many religious people actually read the Koran or Gita or the Bible?
    I'm an atheist and I strongly believe in the scientific discoveries (was going to write about something like that) but yes, atheist or not, spirituality or simply faith, is no excuse for the misdeeds that we do.

    Amazingly serious post!

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  2. My approach towards religion is kinda similar. I don't pray regularly or fast but there is this feeling that somebody up there cares for you and the occasional one-to-one that I have with him/her is more like a chat that you have with a confidante.

    I so agree with the fact that we get too busy with the business of living and religion doesn't really figure in our list of priorities. Hence, the least we can do is be good human beings.

    This one really brings out the teacher in you, you could have published it in one of your school magazines. :)

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  3. wow! a brilliant heartfelt expression of truth! if you have to tweet this, 'I wish to be spiritual and spirituality knows no religion. I wish to lose to my religion to regain my faith.' would do it.
    if everybody followed this our world would be so much more peaceful.
    BRAVO!!!

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  4. Purba this is a lovely post. -religion masquerades for so many thing-Humanism needs no masks.As for religion and Gods-

    "जिस से पुछा कुछ नया पता बताया तेरा
    या तो तू बेघर है ,या हरजाई है "

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  5. This is indeed very nice article.. I feel, if religion is all about saving the poor and people with good deeds why people as you said who stab other's back are surviving and not just surviving but they are prospering? Since I am an atheist, and believe in science, I would say, its all about survival of the fittest! All these prayers and all are just public stunts!

    You said “Only if I am happy can I make others around me happy.” it’s an open and straight forward statement. How many would accept that they are like this? even though they are in fact like that? I have heard people say “do good to others it will make you happy”. But preaching is far easier than following it isn’t it? I call it hypocrisy.
    It is said "Religion gives good man BAD reasons to be good". People usually do not like atheist, they say it’s like another religion. But for me, I believe in what I am, I do not force others to follow the way I am nor would like others not to force me towards religion.
    Cheers.

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  6. "Yes, I believe in the existence of a supreme intelligence" Well I am alive and well so you cannot deny my existence :P

    on a serious note

    "I was miserable, hungry and salivating even at the sight of karelas. God was the last thing on my mind."
    Swami Vivekananda said that a hungry man needs food. He doesn't care for religious teachings.

    Religion as you said was created to explain phenomenons that could not be explained and with time they became fixed. More evil is done in the name of religion than anything else. And most people are too stupid to realize that they are being fooled by preachers. Or they are usually brainwashed from birth about following their religion like fanatics.

    I feel a child should be allowed to read all scriptures. Like a school curriculum without forcing it on him/her. And then let him/her decide which religion he/she wishes to follow or not. And the age for deciding can be 25 when the person is a bit mature.

    Will stop here before the comment becomes a novel

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  7. Very very well constructed thoughts. When I was writing about faith, in one of my posts, I wanted to emphasize on this, but I was treading on dangerous waters there.

    Its quite amusing that I'm just like you in this respect. I only like to believe that there's a supreme force, and I hang up my faith onto Him.

    Really liked this post. :)

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  8. D2... Our relationship with God is something very personal. Actually, I wrote this post with a lot of trepidation.

    Shalini...Published in a school magazine! none of the kids would have read it...not until it was fetching them marks.

    magiceye...This post was in response to all that hate that goes around in the name of religion. And thank you for clearing my perspective.

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  9. Interesting. I agree with a few points, but beg to differ on some others...

    Was waiting for a sudden jab or joke in the middle!

    A serious, thought-provoking post from the Bumbling Mum!

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  10. Varsha...HE resides within us, don't you think?

    Bhavna...It's only when people are unhappy, they spread misery with their negative vibes. I wish they'd stop doing that.

    Prateek...None of us can be nonchalant when it comes to religion. Look what it did to you :))

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  11. mazingout...Glad we share the same thoughts :)

    Avi....Naaa..religion is no joking matter :) Waiting to read your take.

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  12. "Religion was possibly created by our ancestors to try and explain the unknown"

    I think this is absolutely true. Religion, God and mythology are all metaphors, just a metaphors to the connect and appreciate the mystery of the universe and life ; and each one of us feels this ...

    As joseph campbell puts it,
    metaphor = fact : extreme religion - highly ritualistic and fundamentalist

    metaphor = lie : bunch of atheists who think everything wrong in the world is religion .

    The key point is "mystery, my way". very well written ....

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  13. Religion is misused because people far too much faith in it..There is a fine line dividing faith and fanaticism and some have crossed over to dark side..If you ask them they are just following God's will without ever knowing God..
    But the topic is way too controversial and above my paygrade

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  14. flawsophy...I have to read Joseph Campbell

    Dhiraj...Never set limits, you never know what you'll discover :)

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  15. nice post..cant comment since i need to think about religion and understand faith.

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  16. This is a very gr8 article Purba
    No ideaology can stay as ideaology for long. It has to get instituitonalised

    But if the basics are strong, it will survive corruption

    Sadly the spirituality today has become something for self gratifaction/satisfaction.
    I cannot agree with the statement "Only if I am happy can I make others around me happy"

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  17. For me, humanity and faith are religions. I liked your point of view too. I visit old temples not because they are temples but they are really peaceful and there's something spiritual about them.

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  18. Menon...At least you are honest.

    Jon...I see nothing wrong in spiritual gratification. And I wish you had elaborated why you didn't agree with my statement.

    Nethra..I visit temples for the architecture :)

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  19. Hi Purba...
    Very well said...
    Even I stopped going to the temple long back when I realized I'm going for my selfish ends.

    My Spiritual guru always says that God know what is good for us. Therefore, he'll give was what we "need" at that point of time than what we "want".
    What we need is to develop the attitude to accept whatever comes our way.
    :-)

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  20. When you believe in someone, you repose your full faith in him, that feeling gives solace to mind & heart.
    That someone can be God or supreme power is immaterial as long as you feel good and relieved.

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  21. Nice, direct-from-heart post! What can I say? i am a born atheist. I think people should believe in, and do whatever makes them happy without hurting others. Religion should be a private matter, not something to brandish or display on streets.

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  22. Satyakam...It's tough but possibly key to happiness.

    S R Ayyangar...Is blind faith always possible? Especially when it gets tested all the time.

    Giribala...Exactly, why make a big show of it!

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  23. Perhaps one reason that people pray is out of desperation - what have you got to lose? Most of us have been brought up to believe in god and even when we later become atheists (like myself), we sometimes feel pressurized to offer up a prayer - it's so deeply ingrained. But it's an urge I've so far resisted :D

    Also, I'm convinced that religion is something that is natural to humans. It seems to really help some people deal with life and so maybe our brain is predisposed to offer up a prayer under stress...

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  24. Very well posted :) Good way of living.

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  25. I am talking of faith and not blind one. As yourself said-'I believe in the existence of a supreme intelligence, who I look up to for guidance and succor.'

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  26. Bhagwad....Yes, we always pray under duress. Like the CWG mess, only God can help us now.

    Saran...Thank you

    Ayyangar Sir...True, the belief that there is a supreme being watching over us, is a great consolation.

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  27. Purba, lovely post. I wish everyone had the purpose of finding faith in life and themselves.

    Science has come a long way though. The more it progresses, the more it leaves one in awe, to each the name he/she gives to this universe's beauty: God, nature or quantum.

    A teacher once said to me "by touching a flower you are caressing a star". Your post is good natured and spreads good will to others. Let us all keep throwing positive attitudes to caress this world into becoming a better place. :-)

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  28. When we celebrate nature, we celebrate His existence.

    And may I add, I loved reading your comment!

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  29. I have faith and it's in me.

    Wonderful post. A 'say it as I feel it' post that echoes what I feel. I don't pray nor do I celebrate any festivals. But if my family wants to, like my husband does sometimes, I help out with everything coz I respect his beliefs (when he suddenly has them...LOL...poor man he forgets more often than not!).

    Man created religion/God. How am I so sure? Well if God made man, he wouldn't have made such a holy mess of it! Too many mistakes and too little corrections in today's world to even for a moment think it was all the handiwork of an all-powerful energy. Too flawed. But it is very easy to think of man creating God and religion: and then going on to fight, kill and destroy men and monuments belonging to another God/religion.

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  30. "I wish to be spiritual and spirituality knows no religion."
    loved this line.. and the post too...

    religion was created for some other reason but now it is serving some other purpose.

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  31. Nalini..It's always a pleasure reading your comments.

    Religion in it's purest form, teaches us to love unconditionally. It is we who have corrupted it with myths and beliefs that suit us.
    And most of us follow it blindly.

    Sweta...Exactly, abused, misinterpreted. It is more divisive rather than cohesive.

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  32. Why are we God- fearing when we should be God-loving.

    Brilliant post. Need to tell you that I too share similar thoughts. God for me is not something that I fear but someone who I consider as a friend. So I don't mind asking Him questions as to why things are the way they are if I find them wrong as per my thoughts.

    Rituals and even prayers to an extent are misused by people just as a binding of sorts to tradition. Because you are a Hindu, you should fast on so and so day. Because you are a Christian, you should attend Church every Sunday. Such rituals are imposed on us by parents with the belief that they will bring us closer to God and make us good human beings.

    However it is God himself that has given us the power of thought to think and to try and seek Him in every day life not by rituals and facades but by doing that which is the closest to Him and that is helping a fellow being in some way.

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  33. We as a society are evolving. We are now questioning and rejecting beliefs that have been handed down to us over centuries.

    And am glad I wrote this piece. I got to read such beautiful thoughts.

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  34. Agree with you ma'am. Being religious shouldn't just mean believing in bhajans and kirtans. It has to mean that you better be a good Human Being. And if you're not, stop calling yourself 'Religious.

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  35. U read my mind :)
    Those are the same q'tions I used to ask my mom whenever she forced me to pray!
    Now, I just do it to make her happy!

    Since I was a little kid I didn't think there was anybody watching over our puny, pathetic lives! Why should someone who's as powerful as we think, care for us?!! That's just too insane!
    Nowadays that feeling is becoming stronger!
    Believing in aliens & supernatural beings (ghosts, in particular) is far more realistic!

    Really thoughtful post. Loved reading it :)

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  36. Hey Purba!

    absolutely agree with you.

    Religion should be humanity and not rituals.

    One of your best posts!

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  37. Dhakkanz & Restless...Am glad, my blog helps me in connecting with so many like minded people.


    Girish ...Moms specialize in worrying and like to believe, praying will protect you from all the evils.

    But I do believe guardian angels exist. Read "Many lives, many masters"...you'll know what I'm talking about.

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  38. Well, probably the question should have been - are you spiritually inclined? :-P
    With due respect, i wouldn't blame it on the people who blindly follow things as told by elders. Everything has a logical and scientific answer and not many are aware of the reasons... let me see if I can come up with my thoughts on the little known things :)

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  39. Looking forward to reading your version.

    And I do not expect all my readers to agree.

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  40. "Many lives, many masters"
    Is this a book? Who's the author?

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  41. Many Lives, Many Masters" is the true story of a prominent psychiatrist - Dr. Brian Weiss

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  42. Religion is like sex. If people keep it inside their home instead of flaunting it around, world would be a peaceful place to live in!

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  43. LOL..interesting comparison. But agree when you say, religion is a personal choice.. Why flaunt it?

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  44. hi purba
    I shall be glad to have this content posted in my online newspaper please contact me on theindoaustimes@gmail.com
    hemu

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  45. I too have often discussed on the same with my friends and colleagues.. And that is how this blog evolved - http://zradar.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/when-believing-is-seeing%E2%80%A6/ Have a look and let me know your thoughts

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  46. I too have often discussed on the same with my friends and colleagues.. And that is how this blog evolved - http://zradar.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/when-believing-is-seeing%E2%80%A6/ Have a look and let me know your thoughts

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  47. Nice post...a bit late in reading it :) ! I think most of the rituals which are popularized by TV soaps and Bollywood which we all love to hate started in past 500-1000 years. Almost all of the rituals are outcome of a real-life/make believe story and each story can teach us a lesson even in 2012. But as you rightly said, we dont care to read and understand the essence and barter and negotiate with god, blindly follow rituals. However we cant blame rituals or religion for this. All religions are different, none of them is perfect yet all of them teaches more or less the same thing. Perhaps we can regain our faith by truly understanding the religion we chose to follow !!

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