By Dr. Ashraf Amin
DESPITE excited and zealous slogans of the erasure of religion from human society with the arrival of industrial and scientific ages, religion and religious values stare confidently at such claims. Nothing has prevented people from being religious. The reality is that religion is not a handiwork of man. It has a supernatural essence and origin. There is no alternative to religion for if religion is abandoned through force and compulsion, people would esteem any other ideology as religion like communism, capitalism, materialism, or nationalism often takes on a religious fervor among their adherents. No Friedrich Nietzsche, no August Comte, no James Frazer, no Bertrand Russell and no Richard Dawkins could prevent people from being religious. The reason is not that people are fools or superstitious or deficient in intellect, but that such intellectuals are overestimating their own intellect.
The reality is such that religion is as real as any other human institution, and the need of religion is not to please one’s own self but to make one’s own society an abode of love, harmony and order. No law or ordinance stimulates a man to do or seek the good of others than religion does! Religion teaches selflessness and activism to help others. The motivation and conviction that religion induces in human beings to establish peaceful relationships, charitable works, volunteer pursuits, honest dealings, no other mechanism can match religion in achieving that.
The cause of strife and violence is not religion as claimed by some men who claim themselves as irreligious or non-religious. It is out of scope in this brief write-up to mention all those. The seeds of violence are in fact in the man himself. Any phenomenon could be manipulated by man for his own selfish ends and religion is not an exception! However, humans have to fall back on religion every time it would think of salvation from the miseries of worldly life. And until humans don’t make the right use of religion, they won’t succeed in attaining peace and tranquility in their individual and social lives. And the harsh fact is that it is religion only that could save humanity from the doom of uncertainty.
The major cause of religious tension is the ignorance of other religions. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan has rightly remarked that the Ignorance of other religions is the mother of injustice. So in order to diffuse and pacify the tensions and build on the cordial religions and the spirit of mutual co-existence, religious literacy is the need of the hour. Islam which is unfortunately blamed much for the violence and the broadcasts go in media outlets day in and day out against Islam is perhaps the only religion that has exhorted its followers to forge a dialogue with the followers of other religions. And it would not be inappropriate to say that it was the Qur’an that talked about other religions at a time when people of other faiths were reluctant to even recognize religions other than their own.
Religion is not an acquired thing but already embedded in human nature. Humans are religious by birth though at times, their religious disposition is manipulated the other ways if not polished in a right way. Hans Kung has rightly remarked that peace cannot be attained in a society until religions are at peace with one another. Religious beliefs and rituals have tremendous influence on men in a society. Religion could bind a community into a strong cohesive union or it could divide communities in antagonism. The right understanding and proper comprehension of the essence of religion thus becomes immensely important. Religious people have a tremendous responsibility to partake in the repair and overhaul of the world. All religions of the world have definite and common contours that if working in unison could wrestle religion from the mischief-makers and hate-mongers, fanatics and opportunists. While religions have commonalities, they have differences with one another as well. But religions have a capacity and capability to forge themselves into a meaningful dialogue based on academic arguments. The differences as some people believe as the cause of violence is the greatest folly! There is no field in human life where differences of opinion are not exhibited. If difference of opinion would breed conflict and violence, no human institution would survive. So the choice of religion is a fundamental form of freedom.
While men of great learning from different religions had penned-down books on religions and have attempted to generate religious understanding among different religious denominations. The need of academic departments is equally a pressing need. In this direction, the Department of Religious Studies at Central University of Kashmir which I am a part of is a welcome addition to the religious understanding and communal harmony in India. The syllabi framework and the competent faculty of the department cater to all the needs of students to develop an aptitude of communal wellbeing, religious understanding, widening of the intellect, human progress, and the real expression of religious nature.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- The author is Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Central University of Kashmir
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