28-Apr-2007

Religion

Today I spent lunch hour arguing with colleagues on faith and religion. It all started off with an innocuous discussion on when the Mahabarath and Ramayan were said to have happened. We were all speculating when a colleague triumphantly announced that as per both mythologies, the world is divided into 4 yugas. The current yuga is around 3000 years old and started at the end of Ramayan. During Ramayan 3 yugas had passed and hence the story must be roughly 12000 years old. I pointed out the fallacy in placing the timing of a mythology by concepts told in the mythology. And before we knew it, all of us were in a full fledged discussion on how true the mythology is.

I have always been an ‘on the fence’ person not being able to make up my mind on whether God exists. In practice, he does, since most of my toughest times involve some serious prayers and results. One thing though I am clear on is that the concept of religion is nothing but a mass movement that evolves based on local politics and cultural ethos. This is why you have a choice of religions across the world. And each of these religions has its own mythologies. Most of these mythologies should be grounded in some kind of historical happening. However, obviously over a period of time, they have been told and retold till the principal characters have reached some status of divinity. So from who was probably a local tribal chieftain’s son, Rama is now a major God.

I thought this argument made plenty of sense. Apparently not. My colleagues insisted that the entire stories of Mahabarath and Ramayan are as divine as they come and it was none other than God who played the principal characters in them. Infact all of them agreed that the Ganges is not on account of the simple geographic phenomenon of continental drift leading to the Himalayas being formed and glaciers being formed and then melting to form a river. Faith makes them believe that the Ganges was created when it fell from Lord Shiva’s hairlock in the heavens above.

Lesson learnt - You can argue with facts. But not with faith. And that is why religion, for all its goodness, is such a dangerous concept.

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