On Religious Discourse I

My post to the Oriya group:

My friends,
And to all, especially involved in the religious discourses (and the lack of it),
Just as everyone else, I have an opinion to air. So here it is:

I read Chinmaya’s mail and feel this had more validity than any other mail on the subject of religion. He drew from a personal narrative to share what relevance did religion still hold for him and did generalize it to some extent. I appreciate the fact that he debated the contents of texts (“If you do believe in the first place that you are germinated from super soul *PARAMATMA*, it must have its own outlook in directing you.”) and put up a contemporary challenge (“Can you, the advocates of religion, give a guarantee that, you are born with efficacious grace, and other are destined to eternal damnation ?”) only after sharing with us what had happened to him in terms of beliefs in god and godmen.

We need not be intolerant towards opposing views. Especially when they attack the core of beliefs shaped by external factors and normalized by imagined circumstances. My friend, referring to your mail, do we have to ask Chinmaya to quit the thread of Mahabakya, because he challenges them? Since when the so-called ‘great’ verses become so indefensible? If there can be a positive discussion, there can be a criticism piece also. Lets be more democratic than shoving contrary thoughts to obscurity by force. Religious people, historically have been the most intolerant (any standard book or mass experience would show that). But by spirit of the age, we need to raise newer questions.

Who does religions benefit? Which class of people? Where does the discourses on religions lead to? Issues or non-issues? You say no one forces Hinduism on another. Lets not even talk of the array of conversions, the Dara Singh, the Sangh Parivar? Why even discussion of Mahabakyas in a group pertaining to development of the Oriyas in general? If we do so, what happened to other religious texts too? Do we need a Muslim to talk about Koran? By that assumption, are we becoming exclusive a club within the Oriyas? Why does one need to hear black metal (which is not a bad idea at all, anyway) when one starts an anti-religious discussion?

If there can be a fare share for the Oriyas who believe discussing the ‘great’ verses is alright, lets be democratic enough, if not progressive, to allow for discussions by other Oriyas who think little differently.

One thought about “religious jargons”. It thrived historically in order to exclude a mass section of society from practicing. In course of actions, the preachers have not only neglected a section of downtrodden people, they have also systematically exploited them in the name of religion. If not for other religions trying to ‘convert’ and what-nots, the mainstream religion in India would not have given two hoots to those people it subjugated through centuries—our own indigenous people. Its their land, after all. ‘Those’ Adivasis. Their It’s a shame that we still talk the talk of hindu supremacists while we don’t walk the walk of the civilized. High time not only we repented over what we did with the instrument of religion, to completely obliterate sections of people, we got to realize that we still dare to preach the same elitist texts that have always marked distinction among peoples and need “authorized” explanations from only a certain class of folks.

Must we wake up only too late, in our attempt at carrying the legacy of the forefathers who had gone blind to recognize their deadly fallacies? We are all offshoots of a racist, sexist, fanatically war chauvinist world, proudly claiming itself to be a thousands of years old civilization! Whose civilization has it been anyway? One where we relied on our religions to oppress the landless, and rule over women in our hypocritical houses? Shut our children up from asking critical questions, instead urged the child to surrender to the almighty who we had never anyway experienced of being of any use? The older generation never asked the pertinent questions. The younger ones grew up with complexes of identities revolving around families and personal gods. The legacy of rich and privileged continued and the state of the poor remained at the mercy of the manufactured god.

These don’t need any different thread. Or any different group. Or any different situations. Lets be democratic within, even without a phony political system. Lets be aware that not only different questions be welcome to be addressed within the parameters of what we are discussing, but also be properly addressed to and respected as much.

Regarding freedom of choices to make, and emanating frustrations, all I think of right now is between the bushes and kerrys of the worlds, we have not been given the choices, dear. We got to be the choices ourselves. And no freedom is granted by others. It has to be fought for because most times, its suppressed by the environment.

Like you, I have been leading life from the seat of privilege. We must not be blind to the oppression we cause in name of voluntary freedom. We don’t realize that freedom is freedom only when its freedom for all, or its freedom for none. When the parents are in shackle of superstitions, to assume that the child would not have utilized the freedom properly would be erroneous. Its not just freedom to think, which is needed, but also freedom how to think. We will be parents one day and must keep in mind that by going with age-old beliefs, there are more rigidity than flexibility to think around certain texts. And a traditional family does not go beyond providing the authoritative answers, not encouraging critical questions. What results is another generation, content with self, to afford the luxury of discussing religious codes at the time when we know majority are still sans basic necessities. In the US alone, 35 million people are homeless and will seek winter shelter. Orissa is another story. Lets talk about Orissa in a NEW thread.

Friend, in our long roads to progress in life, there will come several junctures in time when we got to stop for awhile and ask a question, “Could I have been wrong all throughout in my core beliefs? Is there a probability of such having happened?”

I have been wrong many times in my ‘core’ perceptions about people, events, places, ideologies and beliefs. May you not be as unfortunate like me in coming to terms with the radically opposing truths.

But may you ask the questions, nevertheless.
In struggle,
saswat pattanayak


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