Thursday, July 19, 2007

"I Believe", in Keeping it Personal

A friend from a mixed marriage talked of the religious identity (or lack thereof) for her children in a recent post, and while reading it, I found links to a couple of other similar posts. As a fairly passive atheist, I have always observed these debates from the sidelines. But increasingly in today's world it is a serious responsibility for parents what religion their children grow up to follow. For the world seeks to categorise, to classify. You can bring up children to believe in an abstract notion of God, or to believe in nothing and therefore everything, or to skirt the topic of religious identity entirely. But your task doesn't end there. As they grow up, the world will ask them what their identity is, and you should ensure that you have given them the confidence to cope with the looks the answer "nothing in particular" will bring them. For this will happen at an age when they will want, desperately, to belong, to fit in, not to stand out for any reason.

At the same time, I hope that, with the world opening up and people's minds keeping pace, there will be plenty of little mixed-creeds, children with mixed identities who choose to remain ambiguous on their religion of choice. Who are therefore sensitive to all faiths but fundamentalist about none. Who can accept that others may believe in different or more or fewer or no gods. As battle-lines are drawn and people are urged to fall in line behind one particular flag, such an army of mixed-creeds will be helpful in retaining sanity and balance in a world that can start leaning, dangerously, perilously, to one side or the other.

For the problem with religion is when people take it outside their hearts and use it as a lens to see the world around them. Sheltered Sanity, another blogger I read, starts her post by saying that organised religion can do more harm than good. That is something I have believed for a very long time. The problem lies not with religion itself, but with interpretations of it. For no one seems to be content with believing that there was a wise man/woman/group of people out there who are our shelter and guide and saviour. They must construct stories around them and when those stories are at odds with other realities there is, literally, hell to pay. So you have Darwin getting flak from Christians for dethroning Adam and Eve as our parents and putting apes in their place. So you have Hindus telling Muslims that we had a temple here first, and then you people built a mosque over it. So you have Israelis telling Muslims, hello, this land is ours, move it! So you have ... a right royal (un)holy mess.

Why is it that something which is just supposed to bring us inner peace becomes a turf for war? How can someone rest his/her conscience if they have used their faith---an intensely personal thing---to commit violence? Religion is a private matter. It is supposed to bring us peace, not snatch the peace of others. We need to keep it individual and personal. After all, at the core of each religion is morality, forgiveness, piety, faith, humility, and spiritual calmness. It is crucial to recognise that every person, from every faith, is just another human being trying for inner peace. Only then will we learn to coexist.


the mad momma said...

is that ur window sill anna?! its lovely. and this is such a beautiful post from someone who on the face of it has nothing to do with this situation.

Anamika said...

Thanks, I think. I may have nothing to do with the situation, but the consequences will hit all of us sooner rather than later :) So I believe in being prepared, with an opinion, if nothing else!

And no, that's not my window sill. But it's what I see across the lane from my window, so I actually have a better view of it than the people cultivating it!

dipali said...

What a lovely , well thought out post, Anamika. What I choose to believe (or not) is entirely private, between me and my Maker. I love the thought of a glorious mix-up of race, cultures and religions, where the paramount feeling is of people's common humanity.

Anonymous said...

well said!


G said...

i like the co-exist banner. very cool. and so is the post.

Tharini said...

awesome awesome take anamika. Can't have been said better than this. First time on your turf, and followed MM's directions here...just lovely!

Anamika said...

Dipali: Thanks for commenting. I can only think wistfully of such a mix-up. It IS starting to happen, but there is so much going against it that it needs to be very strong.

Amit: Thanks for dropping by.

G: Tha banner's from a site called Stamp and Shout, with other cool stuff like More Trees, Less Bush! :)

Tharini: Welcome to my blog, and hope you will come back some more. I love your writing, so this is a big boost to my blog-ego!

OrangeJammies said...

Wow, I couldn't agree more! That is me thinking right there! You said it all for me and so much better than I ever could!

Jenn said...

What you said! I often get worded in my posts, but recently read two things which I will forever carry with me, especially in any future religious discussions;

1)If one becomes so heated and angry over the discussion of their religion/belief system then perhaps their faith isn't as solid as they would like to believe.


2) "Words are both clumsy and easy to manipulate. Communication is indirect and covert, and true intentions and meanings are invisible......If communication were direct and overt, that is to say empathic, we would exchange one another's perspectives immediately and without dispute....Language only makes matters worse by allowing us to manipulate our own and one another's perceptions of the world...Flawless communication can only result in immaculate perception."

Never was that slightly paraphrased paragraph more true than in discussions of religion. I only wish I'd had the idea to conjure it up in my writings, instead of rambling on ad nauseum.

gulshan aunty said...

Yes, TC, religion is, and should be a purely personal, and private matter. And hats off to you for writing this inspite of being an atheist (or is it because?) Andywhichway, attagirl!

iz said...

It's sad but maybe teh answer is in having no religion. Mayeb we need another John Lennon to make teh words of his song a reality.

Anamika said...

Aunty G: Wrote this inspite of being an atheist. Because though I have a different "spirituality" (for want of a better word) I really respect people who have faith in God, for trusting, for being humble and for being able to believe in a higher power.

Iz: True. If we could melt away all cultural, racial, religious differences, it would perhaps be more peaceful. But wouldn;t things get more robotic the more homogenous they became?

Sweta Gandhi-Shah said...


I came accross your blog while browing through my favorite food blogs. Your blog here is everything i've been thinking put into words. And i'm glad to know that more people are thinking this way. I'm going to add a link to this blog, from a related blog that i've written. Hope you dont mind


Pragyan said...

As Sweta said, it seems like I was reading my own thoughts in your blog. I am with you. Wonder why some people misuse religion for their own selfish advantage! It's sad but the world is advancing, there are certain things that have gone way backwards! Thanks for the beautifully written article.