Saturday, 10 November 2012

Religion on Trial

Pardon me, but this is my personal indictment of religion as it is really the strangest gift this world has ever seen.

In its name, many have killed. In that same name, many are healed. One camp invokes it to get rich and another invokes it to remain poor. The rich thank god for prosperity and the poor praises god for poverty. Whilst the rich sees wealth as a blessing, the poor condemns it as a sin. Sadly there seems to be no middle ground to it.

The moderates are denounced as lukewarm or half-hearted. They are viewed as weak, as chaff from the wheat. Strangely, the radicals are viewed as pure and authentic. And to revolutionize the non-believing world by whatever means seems to be the MO for these mindless fanatics.

Thus, religion seems to favor only those who push belief to the extreme, and in pushing it to its tethered ends, many usurp its power and make no amends.

But then, religious fanatics are always driven to the fringe of society. There, they foment and fester, and slowly but surely, plot their revenge and revenge ends with recriminations and the cycle of violence never ceases to bring about more paralysing fear. Alas, the paradoxes of religion do not end here.

Religion has triumphed over governments, heads of state and even military might. It was the inspiration for rebellion against evil empire, against merciless regime and against the power that corrupts.

But when victory is secured, and peace restored, that name is strangely used to perpetuate the same evil that it once overthrew. Once a source of inspiration, it has become an instrument of oppression. Go figure.

Somehow, religion has two faces to it; one of war and one of peace, one of freedom and one of bondage, one of charity and one of venality. Like a holographic illusion, it changes color and shape depending on the angle the viewers take.

As God is a jealous God, so are His creation. And when jealousy in humanity peaks, it even overrides faith, hope and compassion. In the same way that religion brings out the best in us, it also delivers the worse. At times, we can't even tell the difference because blind hypocrisy blurs the distinction. 

The outwardly godly and the wicked alike all fall under the spell of religion, succumbing to its transforming power. The wicked uses it to give them a facade of godliness and the godly mistakes it for true holiness.

Each takes different paths that unknowingly converges at the altar of self-worship. In short, religion unravels us all; it makes saints out of us and devils out of saints. At times, it makes fools out of the wise and the wise fight it in vain.

Can we ever extricate ourselves from the cradle-hold of religion? Can we wean away from its breast that ever so maternally nurtures our existential desires for self-recognition and self-enrichment?

If we are really created in his image, and as his image bearers then, can’t we bear it better, lift it higher, and shine it brighter, instead of projecting another image, a sordid and sullen one, full of hatred, anger and intolerance? Whose image are we then bearing? The image of our God or the image of ourselves as our own lord?

Are we so disgustingly bloated with self-deluded righteousness, we have forgotten that we all come from a hole not dissimilar from another and will one day return to a hole not too different from the others?

If we all share the same inception and destination, why can’t we then take the same journey together without dividing it up into different creeds, which inevitably ends up committing destructive deeds?

In sum, can we just grow up and get along? No, seriously, can we? (fat hope?) Because if religion is not the answer to all our sorrows, maybe its time for us to renegotiate with the supernatural for a better tomorrow.

But then, maybe what we all need is less religion and not more. Maybe, hiding behind all that rituals, orthodoxies, rules and regulations, catechism and doctrines, religion is nothing more than a petulant child, craving for the same attention that we are all craving after. Maybe all that glitters is not gold and all the hype about religion is getting old.

And finally, maybe religion is not the real thing and we have missed the real thing for a momentary fling. So, is there salvation for absent mindedness? If there is, I think the angry ones among us should embrace it to be more calm and less pissed. Cheers out!

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