I've written for rediff.com for some years now, and they've been extremely indulgent of the erratic way I've sent them columns in recent months. My latest attempt to get back to some kind of regular schedule there is up today: Why I am disillusioned with religion, on Pope Benedict's recent imbroglio.
Your comments welcome.
September 22, 2006
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I don't think this negates the enormous good that has also been done by every religion
What good has ever been done by any religion? This is a serious question.
Yes, some religious people have given importance to education, feeding the poor, and so on. I think all that is in spite of religion, not because of it. In fact, every religious "good deed" that I can think of has ulterior motives: the good-doers think it will endear them to God, or it will help bring the beneficiaries to the fold, or whatever. The idea of doing good for good's sake is quite alien to every religion (with the possible exception of Buddhism, which in its pure form I don't regard as a religion).
Its seems that everyone in today's world has choosen to forget Hinduism! I fail to understand inspite of living in Mumbai, Dilip still can't understand Hinduism & its teachings
Now ppl will start getting pedantic abt how Hinduism is not a religion blah blah...Having lived in the west,I know how the westerners like water-tight definitions & how they can't deal with ambiguity.That's why they are confused with what is Hinduism! And we Indians live by their words don't we; rather than believing in ourselves!
All I say is, be a better journalist and try to open up & stop writing articles without believing in them.
Check Freeman Dyson's review of the philosopher Daniel Dennett's book "Breaking the spell: Religion as a natural phenomenon" here:
At the end of the article are also links to letters, among which is Dennett's response to Dyson's review. I don't think I can do better than Dyson - it would be interesting to get your response.
Suresh, I did read Dyson's review some weeks ago, with much interest. Hadn't seen Dennett's responses, but will read them and Dyson's review again, in the light of the recent uproar.
I think it is rushing a little bit too fast to feel “disillusioned with religion”
Dilip. In this connection the link quoted by Suresh, review by Dyson is indeed one of the best analysis of current situation about religion, I have read recently. I am copying below two quotes from this review, which I enjoyed very much and I am sure you and your readers may enjoy. I agree with them.
1. “When I was a boy in England long ago, people who traveled on trains with dogs had to pay for a dog ticket. The question arose whether I needed to buy a dog ticket when I was traveling with a tortoise. The conductor on the train gave me the answer: "Cats is dogs and rabbits is dogs but tortoises is insects and travel free according." The rules governing religious education should be administered with a similar freedom of interpretation.”
2. “Our ways of understanding have been collective, beginning with the stories that we told each other around the fire when we lived in caves. Our ways today are still collective, including literature, history, art, music, religion, and science. Science is a particular bunch of tools that have been conspicuously successful for understanding and manipulating the material universe. Religion is another bunch of tools, giving us hints of a mental or spiritual universe that transcends the material universe. To understand religion, it is necessary to explore it from the inside”
I liked this review very much. Though one aspect, I feel Dyson is quite mistaken-
in lumping Hardy and Erdos together. I did not know Hardy personally, he was a little before my time. But with Paul Erods I have discussed Mathematics, life, politics, India, world etc. often. He used to call children epsilons (epsilon is symbol used in Mathematics for a tiny quantity). Erods was born and brought of in Hungary. Communism he used to call bureaucracy, about his citizensip, he used to say, I am a citizen of this world. His calling
God as SF (short for Supreme Fascist) was in a similar tone and not with the tone in which Hardy very seriously would try to make pun of having some beliefs on atheisms. Erdos was more like an observer. Often he will tell me don’t u think in India also “bureaucracy is too much.” Dilip, don’t you also think that such “bureaucracy” has hurt us much more than any religious foolishness?
One thing I want to ask you Dilip is have you ever wondered about the harm caused by communists, congressis in our country the so called secular breed of politicians, journalists, scientists technologists and those from RSS type lobbies lost in reacting to these people. As a result of this duel between them for more than 50 years, particularly the first lot (since they were in power, they tried to harm much more ). When all other countries were developing industries jobs, quality services etc. we just managed to remain poor and today if you see Palestine or Lebnon cities, they look richer than ours despite of their being lost in religious wars for decades. What have we done in last 50 years, to make lives of average person in our country livable?
Did we not always have much more resources than even European countries? Is crimes done by this lot not much more serious and deserves much more disillusionment than religious lot?. A whole generation in India has remained poor and has lived miserable life, because of our political managers and intellectuals being lost in useless debates of communism, condemnation of USA or Russia, religion etc. and using it as a tool to preserve feudal structure of their power, instead of doing actual work, which similar lot were doing in other countries.
Bomb blasts in Mumbai or nuclear explosions in Japan killed lot more people – they were also done using tools from science and technology- RDX or atoms studies etc. But it does not make writers say “I am disillusioned with science or technology.” Why?
One reason is that if you say that today, you may be ridiculed, since today is era of science and technological ideas based on analytical thinking.
Just like there is no doubt that majority of Muslims may be really disillusioned with extremists in their religion but even intellectuals there say much less than similar people in other religions because of fear of being ridiculed by people in their community, some times even violently.
Just one or two hundred years back, was era of thinking and analysing by religion. No body then would have dared to say similar things about it. Even a scientist like Nappier calculating logarithms (his work has resulted in today’s computers) , was inspired by the thought that his technical calculations in mathematics will prove existence of god.
Even today we have people like our president Kalam. In his autobiographical
book he says that every day in the morning he prays to god to give him enough strength so that he can do 1.5 times work he has planned to do in the day and he says
very rarely god has disappointed him. When Kalam says such sweet sentences, it looks more like a Hindu idea to Hindus. Actually it should really be called Indian idea. Since almost all Indians, irrespective of whether they are Hindus, Muslims Christian, Sikh etc.
(except off course, lot from politicians or intellectuals engaged in proving their secular
credentials or lot of some religious extremists who are engaged in dueling with this lot )
are inspired in similar manner by spiritualism. For every bad guy in religion, there must be millions in silent majority who have done, a lot more positive things in science, arts, or any field, inspired by spirituality.
I can put many more examples and discussion but then it may become an article instead of comment.
Let me just summarize by saying some thing which I and some others
have been saying now for several years, looking at the way simulation and other tools from computers are becoming means to study and predict, just like scientific analysis does today, in fact some times even more effectively. It is quite possible that in next century people may be as surprised about “why people in last century spent so much time in analysing scientifically”, as today we are surprised “why in last century or earlier people spent so much time on religious arguments”.
To Indians these thoughts are not so new, for centuries here people have lived with
thoughts like “vasudev kutumbakam” or “sarva dhrama saman bhava”. After all such thoughts could not have been generated and preserved for centuries as part of culture, without a deep analysis using all tools of science, religion or understanding of one self , in some what similar manner as Dyson does. Unfortunately for past decades
we have been lost in debates on secularisms, socialisms capitalisms etc. rather than studying or using studies as tools to improve average life. We seem to have been more engaged in making our such strengths also look like some kind weakness. I wish we have more popular magazines or webmagazines, which give to such deep analysis and ideas like that of Dyson, space and ask some thinkers from our own countries in science, religion etc. to put their views for general reading and thinking.
This is first time, I am writing on your blog. I enjoy reading your articles often. I like your drive to put things, which bother you, in hard core terms, as you precieve them.
I have a vague suspicion that this (pope's speech)is politics.Pl. check
After posting my comment - which I just typed in one go and posted without much rechecking, I noted several spelling or grammatical errors - like spelling of Erdos etc. Sorry about it. But over all it is understandable. I hope you enjoy reading it.
On September 22, 2006 3:44 PM, Rahul wrote:The idea of doing good for good's sake is quite alien to every religion (with the possible exception of Buddhism, which in its pure form I don't regard as a religion).
It is quite apparent that you are ignorant of the Bhagavad Gita. May I suggest you read it at least once so in future you do not expose yourself as an ignoramus!
It is quite apparent that you are ignorant of the Bhagavad Gita.
Apparently I know more about it than you. The Bhagavad Gita nowhere talks of "doing good for good's sake". What it talks of is "do your duty" (without thinking about what you will gain from it). That is noble in itself, but the text had a very specific purpose: to exhort Arjuna to fight his cousins in battle.
Nobody would read the Gita and come away convinced that, for example, dalits should be given equal rights and respect. An underlying thread in all Hinduism is that, if you see someone in an unfortunate position, it is because of a sin they have committed in their past birth; and therefore you don't really have to interfere. The Gita goes into great details of this rebirth/"moksha"/"paramatma" thing.
In some ways, the main message of the Gita is not about doing your duty, but that it is ok to kill people (such as the Kauravas) because you are only killing their bodies and not their souls ("atma"s). That is exactly the sort of message that pervades every religious text that, taken out of context, can be used to justify any misdeed.
I can't but help to comment on the our good ole' rahul's supreme understanding & the arrogance of understanding the Gita(Ppl have spent their entire lives in understanding the text):
"In some ways Gita says that it is ok to kill ppl"? Is this the way you have understood THE Gita?
Ppl that are hell bent to
contort the context, it shows why some ppl are so pedantic & myopic in their thinking.
Gita is open to anybody with an open mind without any predjudice on race/religion/creed etc.
Don't the courts in most of the lands on earth technically 'kill' ppl based on their 'unacceptable' deeds? Is that rite?
I humbly request you to pls stop showing off your understanding of this text.
Hi Im from Melbourne. Please check out these related essays on politics & culture.
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