No More Opium, Please
“For God’s sake conduct God out of our national frontiers” is an appeal I have long been longing to make to fellow citizens but, conscious of the morbid religiosity prevailing in the society, have been a bit ambivalent. Kaushik Basu’s article, ‘About divinity’ (IE, March7), comes as a shot in the arm and his so-called third hypothesis — “there is god but he is not that powerful” — is just the fillip I needed.
The awkward question of whether God exists or not has been posing itself to mankind throughout history and nobody could ever give a decisive answer. There have always been all sorts of people in the world — firm believers, convinced unbelievers, fanatics, atheists, agnostics and nihilists. The sickening obsession with religion in general in the mid-19th century had prompted Karl Marx to call it the “opium of people”. But in our time, particular religions seem to be the opium of particular people.
Modern nation states have chosen one or another religion — expressly under national constitutions or by implication in practice — as their natural and, hence, privileged faiths. This often plays havoc with followers of the other locally prevailing creeds. Paying lip-service to the belief in one omnipotent and omnipresent God, each religious community reserves God’s benevolence for itself, leaving others at the mercy of their own gods who seem to be less powerful than theirs.
In my school days, I read in a Hindi textbook a passage which, still stuck in my mind, would read in English as: “On initially coming to the world, man had faced grave problems for whose solution he had given birth to God. But poor God instead of solving man’s problems, himself became his biggest problem.” Today, the truth of this proposition can be witnessed throughout the world. A man vs man tug of war is being played in the name of religion. Human rights, ironically believed to be enjoined by every religion, are the biggest casualty of religious zealotry.
The evil of religious inhumanities provokes me to share the questions Epicurus had once put forth: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?”
I was once a firm believer in the existence and omnipotence of God. But observing what is happening in the name of religion has made me irreligious. I cannot resist now sharing the agony of a great a jurist-judge of India, V R Krishna Iyer: “Religion is a terrible Satan in its decadent status when people plunge into spiritual illiteracy, miss the divine essence of the lessons of the sages, prophets and seers and kiss the holy nonsense of ‘my religion right or wrong’ and ‘my religionists alone to me belong’. In this vulgar barbarous degeneracy humanism dies and values of tolerance and compassion perish. In the perverse reversal of higher meanings the man on earth becomes the blind ammunition of divine rivals in the skies.” (Abdul Hussain, 1975)
The learned judge’s sardonic reference to “divine rivals in the skies” reminds me of how poet Vipin Jain, on seeing human miseries being inflicted in the name of religion, had once lamented: “Burning human life like coal turning into ashes, I look at these tears, miseries and crashes; who caused this world burn with such brutal flame. whom shall I question who do I blame; do I ask my God or your God or my own soul. I am confused as to who rules the world as a whole.”
The late Enver Hoxha, leader of the communist regime in Albania till 1985, had once said that in a bid to avoid horrors of religious rivalry and bigotry his country had “conducted God out of its frontiers thanking Him for His provisional services”. It is high time, in my opinion, for our beloved motherland to follow suit. Only that can, perhaps, retrieve our perfect religious harmony.
The writer is a professor of law and former chair of National Minorities Commission