u Notes from the Underground: A note to comparers of religion

A note to comparers of religion

Sunday, September 10, 2006

(Very soon, I'll be putting up a personal update. Short note: I am doing good, and am more or less settled, except for that I dont have a phone nor a computer at home and therefore no net access at home.)

(This post has been waiting in the drafts for a long time.)

I have been in a lot of arguments where people try to compare religions and claim that this or that aspect of Islam or Christianity is inferior compared to the ancient wisdom of our Vedas. I have a lot of issues with the claim that the Vedas are a repository of ancient wisdom, and it seems to me that the Vedas contain as much crap (although of a different kind) as any other religious text. But I won't try to argue that here. I have a more substantial point to make: we should stop evaluating religions based on their scriptures and start evaluating them on the practices of those people we normally understand as followers of that religion. In the case of Hinduism, for example, the relevant way to evaluate it would be to look at the practices of Hindus through the centuries and see if they were right or wrong. Similary for Muslims and Christians. It won't do to cherrypick verses from the Upanishads or the Gita and then triumphalistically claim how secular or tolerant your religion is. If you dont agree with the religious practices of Hindus through the centuries, then stop making the vague claims that "Hinduism is a great and tolerant religion". If you call a population who have relentlessly hierarchified and stratified their society and denied basic human equality to a quarter of their fellows "tolerant", then you'll also have to call the apartheid regime in South Africa tolerant - and make no mistake, the system of untouchability has survived for far longer than the apartheid regime. Yes, yes, there are voices that have shouted out against this in our history, but to me what is remarkable is how acquiescent the large majority of the population was in the face of such practices, and how far and few in between such dissenting voices were. It is not just the caste system that bothers me about Hinduism. Recently I've been reading a book called "Being Indian" by Pavan Varma (a former IAS Officer). There are a lot of interesting ideas and observations (both positive and negative) in the book, but one of the ideas is that Hindus/Indians care less about morals than power and wealth, which is somewhat true of most humans but spectacularly true for Indians. Mystical crap about the Brahman and the Atman that no one understands is hardly important when contrasted this blatant amorality and immorality.

5 Comments:

At 11:51 AM, September 11, 2006, Blogger kuffir said...

venu,

glad to have you ..writing again.
i agree with you that evaluation of any religion should be done primarily on ..what its adherents do than what its scriptures say. very valid point.

i am aware of mr.verma's ideas..and i believe they do capture the essence of what's wrong with hindus/indians..or what has gone wrong with hindus/indians over the years. this is something i've myself thought about a great deal..

 
At 3:21 AM, September 13, 2006, Anonymous Venu said...

Pavan Varma's ideas are indeed interesting, and he doesnt pull any punches at all.

 
At 11:29 PM, September 13, 2006, Anonymous Rajat said...

"...we should stop evaluating religions based on their scriptures and start evaluating them on the practices of those people..." - I say we should stop evaluating the religions themselves. What do you care what religion somebody else is following? People should have the freedom to follow their faith as long as the act doesn't impinge on other people's freedoms. Once you begin evaluating religions you face the problem of relative 'rights' & 'wrongs'. You need to evaluate right & wrong on an absolute scale rather than a relative one - all that is needed is common sense and humanity.

On a side note, I would suggest that for the present you rather concentrate on materialistic pursuits like getting a computer, net access etc. rather than spiritual pursuits. ;-)

 
At 3:31 AM, September 14, 2006, Anonymous Venu said...

I consider it an achievement that you are commenting on "philosophical" issues.. :))

I think you are merging two issues here.

1) Evaluating a religion(s):
The state should not care what religion anyone follows. But I, as a private individual, do. What the state should (or shouldnt) do and what private individuals should (or shouldnt) do are separate issues. I have the right to express my opinions on what I consider to be immoral practices of certain religions and if possible convince others of my views too. I have every right to criticise and evaluate religions. You were talking about common sense and humanity. But many people were not humane and common-sensical enough through the centuries or else we would not have had untouchability in our country. Do you not, then, as a common-sensical and humane human being, have the duty to speak out and criticise such religious practices?

2) Comparing religions: I am not a big fan of this game. But when people keep making such arguments all over the place, and I think there is a lot of bullshit in them, because they are glorifying one religion as compared to another, I think I need to call their bluff.

 
At 3:38 AM, September 14, 2006, Anonymous Venu said...

The materialistic issues are being taken care of.. will be getting the phone tomorrow, but I cant decide whether to take a laptop or a desktop. Desktops are bulky, but they are cheaper, better performing, and more comfortable. So.. lets see..

 

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