To us, here and now, it appears thus.

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Analysis of Faith.

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With Scott Adams chiming in about atheism and people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris taking up the pedestal as the public faces of atheism, which have long been empty, atheism seems to be the new ‘in-thing’ as it was during the times of Nitzsche and Russell. I’ve been speculating about what motivates the religious to be religious in the first place. And I’m taking Hinduism for analysis. Primarily for three main reasons. One, I’m more familiar with the Hindu scriptures and mythology than with that of other faiths. And secondly all my blood relatives are self-professed Hindus. So, I have had more real experience quizzing them about their faith.

Thirdly, and most importantly Hinduism is what one would compare to ‘Theological Anarchy’. Having no core dogma (or having multiple dogmas), no organised system of faith, no requirements or for that matter anything else. Many Hindus across the world and even across India get flared up with the same issues that are considered ‘sensitive’ – things like conversion, defiling Hinduism, Ayodhya etc.. . On a more practical note, I’ve seen people both in a remote corner of Tamil Nadu and somewhere in the heartland of Gujarat feeling the same thing about those sensitive issues and identifying with one other, even though if they were ever to meet face to face, chances are that it would be highly unlikely that they would even like each other.

Why is it that Hindutva politicians like Modi and friends are able to whip up similar emotions in such a diverse cornucopia of people within India? These are what I will be trying to answer, to the best of my ability here. But, at the end, they are nothing more than wild speculations and I wouldn’t want to treat them as a final thesis on the question of religion and faith.

The most ironic thing about Hinduism, is that most Hindu’s apart from being some vague form of theists aren’t really concerned about scriptures or Hindu philosophy. Many are even ignorant of the wonderful stories, which certainly counts as great literature that abound in Hindu mythology. Further more, many are even unaware of the Hindu pantheon and the relationships among each other. Most have their favourite deities and a bunch of festivals which are universally celebrated, without any thought to the motivations or even the reasons of why the festivals exist. So, that throws strict theology out of the window. The second thing is that its not about God or Gods. Most often, the issues are not against atheists, (which is there, but never comes to the forefront) but against other fellow theists. Because, if it was just about gods, why would anyone object to accepting god, but in a different way? It isn’t about ethnicity either. Then why?

My conclusion would be that it appeals to a sense of identity. Humans, being intrinsically social animals, need identities. A group to identify with, a sense of real comfort. A sense of belonging. All you need is to give a name, and you automatically give it a form, for that is the nature of identity. A group as amorphous and ideologically disparate as the Hindus can subscribe to a common identity, only because there is one – of being a Hindu – which in essence is no more than a name. If this thesis is in essence correct and being given thus, then is there any solution to the problems of conflict that are prevalent in our times? What identities should one appeal to, for the sake of promoting the greatest good for all? Questions I desperately wish I had the answers…

Signing Off,
Vishnu Vyas.

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Written by vishnuvyas

November 24, 2006 at 8:43 am

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