Sunday, December 27, 2009

Defining Religion

I have been feeling a surging emotion for a few months now. Every time I think about what my religion is, I feel unsure. What should I say?

Technically I am born into a Hindu family. But isn't religion about believing in the teachings and following the way of life prescribed by it? That way I am quite the non-believer. Though I have been brought up to perform and participate in basic festivals/poojas, I primarily indulge in teh same to be part of the community. It is fun when everyone sits around, and dresses up, has yummy food, etc. But if you ask me if I believe in idol-worship, keeping fasts, giving money/food to temples/animals, doing all night jagrans.. I would politely decline.

Though I am not as smug as to believe there is no power, as I am still struggling with answers to many of life's questions, like what are we doing on this earth, how and most importantly did the whole universe come into being... I still dont believe in a particular GOD, or theory, or principle. I am also not a firm believer in destiny... that one is helpless, everything is already written for you. I believe everyone makes their own luck or destiny.. we are given situations, and how we react to them, is our choice and hence we decide the course of our lives.

As for GOD/DEVIL I think it is just about good and bad, a little bit of both of which is there in every human being. What part manifests itself more, is upto the person and their situation. Same for HEAVEN/HELL... it is all here on this earth. Whatever you do, good or bad, you reap teh benefits here in your lifetime only.

However, I still think that there is some power, which is behind all which is inexplicable to me, most of the things are otherwise explained by science. But Ramji, Allah, Jesus... I think they all are just mythology. No offense to those who believe in religion and GOD, I have utmost respect for believers. Even if I dont necessarily subscribe to their beliefs.

So where does that place me? I am not exactly an Atheist. Maybe agnostic. But what do I say when someoen asks me my religion? These days I have resorted to saying "None". However absurd it may sound, but that is the truth. Why is it so difficult for someone to accept that someone may not want to have a religion? Why cant we have a column in every damn form where there is an option under religion "None"? It may be common, acceptable, even fashionable abroad to not be religious, but in a country like ours, it is unimaginable. Wonder why.

I am not religious, and I am not ashamed of it. I am thankful when good happens, and I pray for safety when something bad happens. But to no one in particular. I just wish for what I want, from teh bottom of my heart, hoping it comes true.

I am waiting for the day when I will be asked to fill up the religion option in a form or something. And I will leave it blank. And I will be questioned. And I will answer. Lets see what happens then.

A couple was in the news recently, for doing just that. The husband is Muslim, the wife (coincidentally named Aditi), a Hindu. They had a baby, and while getting a birth certificate, the question of religion arose. They decided to not give any religion as an option, they wanted to leave that choice with their children when they grew up. But alas, the authorities would not accept it. "Are you ashamed of beinh a Hindu/Muslim?", they asked. "We are not ashmed of our roots but we dont practise our religion", the couple quipped. Nevertheless, the certificate is auto-generated and cant be printed if any information is left blank. The authorities suggested going for "Others" option. Though the couple was not happy with that, as that option still means defining what religion one has apart from the commonly known ones, in the absence of any other way out, the couple relented.

Like them I know I will be faced with this situation many times in my life, while making a passport, admitting a child in school, or getting admitted into a hospital; but I intend to stick to my guns. Wonder if there will be a day when it wont be frowned upon, or even noticed, when I just leave it blank, or better still there is an option "Not Applicable" or "Atheist/Agnostic"!


Anurag Gaggar said...

I so profoundly share these feelings.
I think it's time we start a new religion - one which has very few binding rules :)

Sugar&Spice said...

@anurag... i totally agree :))

Yashika Totlani said...

For a post that comes right after your marriage, I was expecting a write-up on something wedding related.

Anyway, nice post. The question of religion is (sadly) an important one in our country. I believe our adherence to rigorous religious practices is regressive. It is also expensive and it divides us as a nation. One look at the right wing or MNS... or the furore over babri demolition, atrocities against women, the quota debate, sikh riots... everything stems from a fundamental sense of faith to one's religion (i use it interchangeably with 'caste' here). For the nation to move forward, it needs to unshackle itself from the shackles of religion.

My reasons for attending religious gathering are similar to yours... for meeting people, dressing up, good food, etc. Aditi, whenever you decide to leave that 'religion' column blank in your form... you'll find me standing next to u to give u the essential nudge to go ahead and take that step in the right direction. We need to stand united, and not divided, over our religions.

Keep writing!

Sugar&Spice said...

I totally agree with you yashika.. We talk about economic and technical development.. But we are still so barbaric when it comes to social development.. I dont mean we should kill our culture. Just sift out stuff which makes life more difficult for us.. Rather than help us live better. Meaningless pursuit of tradition is a waste.

Muslimah said...

Just got hold of your blog and I must admit you write beautifully.
I totally disagree with you though in your perception of heaven and hell! I have done so much good in life but all I have got in return so far is evil,evil, and a lot more evil. Only my faith in Allah and the last day keeps me going.
Alas!Religion has made my life a lot easier and alot more meaningful. I believe you should try it sometime!!!

Sugar&Spice said...

thanks for visiting muslimah.. and i appreciate your take on teh subject... but all i can say is... to each his own. I am too disillusioned by religion, rather what ppl have made out of it. it just seems a way to get power, a reason to kill brothers. i just cant subscribe to something which propagates so much hatred and division. but thanks again for sharing your thoughts!