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.