On How I Got Old And Got Religion


On How I Got Old And Got Religion

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On my good days i am an agnostic and on my bad days i am an atheist.  Which simply means that most days i am too busy to think much about god and his various malfeasances on my life. Its on those rare days when i have absolutely nothing to do- like days when i am on Sunday duty (on 24 hours duty from Sunday morning to Monday morning) or on jail duty (when i sit inside the prison hospital all day/all alone, waiting to treat the occasional prisoner with a real illness) that i get to think about my lot in life and the role belief in divinity plays in it. Such deep and uninterrupted thinking mostly makes me uncomfortable- as a man of science the more i think about it logically, the more the inherent pattern of the universe reveals itself as orderly evolution and not dependant on the whims and fancies of any single divine entity. Ok, to stop beating around the bush- science and all my scientific temper tell me a creator is not needed as the universe can exist by itself famously and we need look for no further mysterious entities to explain the order and beauty all around us. But and this is a slowly evolving but, except in those rare periods when i allow my brain to over-rule my gut, mostly my gut makes me automatically genuflect to every little roadside deity that i pass by on my commute as in a “What if? Anyway, its not gonna hurt is it? Showing a little respect on the off-chance that god really exists?”

And i find i am doing it more and more nowadays, worshipping god- whom i don’t believe in half the time, reading and researching books about hinduism – the religion i was born in and publicly defending hinduism against various assaults by other unbelievers and intensely religious people of other religions. Which last point is the crux of this post {there, there, i finally got around to it after beating so long around the bush}. Anyway our religion is mostly what we are born with- at least in India. If you are born a hindu , 99% of the time you die a hindu. Its the very rare person who converts into a different religion and not because of any lack of effort from the votaries of other religions.  Its because hinduism is the easiest of religions to follow- it has no single god you need to worship, it has no fixed set of timings or days you need to worship- you can pray as little or as much as you want. You can go for years together without thinking about god and suddenly get religious and start worshipping every calendar or wall poster with a goddess picture on it. There are no strict rules or rituals to follow (if you disregard the brahmin priests who keep trying to thrust their version of an aryanised/sanskritized form of hinduism on others) and you can worship whichever way you want and whichever deity you want. Freedom to worship or freedom not to worship- both are the essence of hinduism. That kind of incredible choice you don’t get in other religions.

Most hindus i know are atheists except on feast days when they adopt religiosity mainly for the sweets served as part of the celebrations. I was like that too- until i recently became fed up of all the proselytizing going on around me trying to convert me. I belong to the hindu religion so i have every right to question the questionable practices of hinduism- like the barbaric practice of sacrificing animals to gods, or the pseudo-sanctity of the priestly class who insist that they alone are eligible to approach the sanctum sanctorum inside temples or otherwise the deity will get polluted and things like those. I can and will raise my voice loudly against such insane acts and self serving beliefs in the name of rote rituals which merely serve to alienate the majority of hindus away from hinduism. But that doesn’t mean i will convert away from hinduism into christianity. No sir, no way. There is no chance of it- when it comes to being stubborn and digging my legs in immovably- a donkey can pick up pointers from me.

Just because i criticize hinduism doesn’t mean i am ripe to be converted into a christian. And i observe that every single time i criticise hinduism or raise my voice against whatever is wrong in hinduism immediately i am flooded with dozens of messages from well meaning christian friends wanting me to understand the superiority of christianity and trying to save me from my sin of being born a hindu. I got nothing against jesus christ, but when a man is questioning the very basis of religion does it make sense to try and preach to him the superiority of our own religion in contrast to his inferior one? Why the average christian is so desperate to convert others is something i fail to understand. Does the conversion of one pour soul- me- an out and out sinner going to make any difference to the kingdom of christ? Does jesus wants me so bad? If so wouldn’t he appear to me directly like he did to saul? To try and save me from any further sins? Or better yet, why didn’t he make me be born directly into a christian family so i could have been a christian from birth? Instead of taking this roundabout way to salvage my soul by converting me in this ripe old age when i already have one foot in the grave.

Whenever i publicly and loudly criticise those charlatans who are giving hinduism a bad name- people like jaggi and sri sri my christian friends immediately join in the chorus to talk about these false priests as the very idiom of the devil but when i also raise the names of dinakaran or sadhu solomon or mohan lazarus they clam up and go defensive. Why? For a fraud is a fraud in all religions. And those who use the name of god to make a fast buck must be called out regardless of whatever religion they profess. Why this double standard is what i fail to get.

Anyhow all this preaching to the wrong choir has at least got me thinking about religion and god and hinduism. I am reading more books on hinduism and trying to learn more stuff to understand why it is the way it is. My understanding of hinduism and religion in general is expanding the more people try aggressively to convert me.  I am trying to read up on all the different streams of hindu thought –advaita/dvaita and all those hard to understand stuff i used to skip during my younger days. I am trying to understand the paths of saints who suddenly discovered god and turned religious. In the recent few months i have turned more religious than i ever was in my younger days- thus perfectly embodying the old adage “you get religion as you grow older”.

And i think i will stay an hindu for the rest of my life- not the rabid hindu fundamentalist type of hindu- but a more gentler philosophical type of hindu- someone who gets that religion is just a different pathway to morality. Something i wish that all my proselytizing friends who wish to convert me will also understand and which will make them better persons in their own religions. Jai Hind.

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