Is Polytheistic Religion Transforming Into a Means of Religious Terrorism?

PS: These views are my own and the intention is not to hurt anyone’s sentiments. Each one of us has the right to choose and follow what we believe is right. However, forcing someone to follow your footsteps is not right. This article is just an attempt to act as an eye-opener and encourage people to think before choosing any course of action.

Our mind is like a sponge; it absorbs information irrespective of the source or authenticity. Hence, it becomes all the more important for us to ensure that the process of imbibition takes place properly. While there are already enough people out there who are constantly trying to intimidate others in the name of religion, theism, too, has become a means to terrorize people and make them vulnerable. While theism might exist in different forms, Hinduism is drawing the battle lines because of its polytheistic form. People believe in more than one God. In the race to prove whose God is superior, the masters of the religion come up with new and improved political aims that help them harness the wealth and in turn, deteriorates the life of the followers.

Most of us often fail to question the practices that have been passed down to us over the generations. How many of us believe that Lord Vishnu gets impressed if we do the ‘Satyanarayan Pooja’ with a pure heart and genuine intent? Well, isn’t it strange that the thin book that has stories illustrating the presence of God also preaches that one should be intimidated by God and be a dedicated follower? Only when one will worship God, then will he reap benefits. How does it coincide with God’s image of being our guide and parent?

While the millennials are being blamed for their rational thinking and logical reasoning, it is not untrue that religion has now become one of the prime topics of debate amongst people. People have, for aeons, given more importance to the idols of God than the other human beings. For instance, even today, many prefer offering milk to an idol of Lord Shiva than to offer the same milk to a needy. During Ganesh Chaturthi, each household buys an idol of Lord Ganesha. Does God need to exist in so many forms to bless us? Why does everyone believe that their idol should be placed on a higher pedestal? If the younger generation of today questions these practices, they are outcast from society. This article discusses such nuances that come in the way of growing into a better individual.

Here are a few questions/ arguments that might make you think whether or not idol worship is healthy:

If God is omnipresent, why do we limit his presence in an idol or inside a temple?

Right from our childhood most of us have been hoodwinked into believing that God resides inside every being. People even preached that if you want to look for God, look within. And all that adds up well. If God lives within us, then we should keep our body pure, keep sins at bay and helping others should be our prime motive. This was, indeed, the main principle which the Rishis and the Gurus also followed during the Satya Yuga. With every yuga, the notions and beliefs were changed as per one’s convenience. As pointed out in ‘Hindu Dharma and Culture Wars by Koenraad Elst’ that the followers follow their masters based on hearsay, for they have cold feet when it comes to trying out something and then believing it.

When I asked some of my friends who believe in idol worship the reason for their faith, they had some logical things to say. For some, going to temple is like going to an environment that offers peace and tranquillity, which is essential to meditate and focus on the presence of God. For some, idol worship is important because God cannot reside in a body that is under the influence of greed, power and lust. Even though these arguments sounded rational, they might contradict what our religious texts preach.

Is it healthy to use the idea of a supreme presence as a support system?

If you have ever been to a school, you would have heard or read about the big bang theory. The universe was not constituted with the help of ‘God’. It was built after a massive collision that let the atoms and molecules combine. Most of us believe that there exists supreme energy or light that hold the world by the hair. But defining the structure of that light is not something that all will agree to.

To prove my point, I shared my concern with my colleagues and asked them the benefit of believing in Idols rather than energy. The most common response that I got was that they wanted someone to put the blame on when things didn’t quite go right. The second reason was that they didn’t understand the concept of accountability. Hence, it was a better choice to dump the burden of their actions on someone who wouldn’t mind!

The problem here is not about believing in God but about the contradictory things that are taught to us. We have been taught that God is our subconscious- our inner calling. If we were to believe that, then the whole idea of being accountable for our own actions seems fitting. But as we grow older, a new notion overpowers our brain- the idea of believing in the idols of God that determine whether we are treading on the right path or not. Not only this, but people also rely on the idols to predict what lies in store for them. We visit the temples, pray for our success before an inanimate object and hope that all will turn out well. We even install figurines in our houses and spend lavishly on the ‘sthapana’. In this process of leaving everything on a statue of God, we forget that our mind is equally capable of showing us the right path. The varied beliefs, the diverse notions- all a part of the same religion- that is what makes it even more confusing!

How to identify the Messengers of God?

How did people identify Jesus Christ as the Son of God? They did that after Jesus came back to life after being crucified. How do we identify the messengers of God now? No, not after these messengers come back to life! We identify them based on their appearance, based on their proficiency in reciting the mantras and based on the probability of their predicted outcome. For example, if a man seeks help from one of these messengers regarding his failing business, he will be advised to carry out certain tasks that will make no sense to the rational thinkers. If the man’s business flourishes, he would blindly believe that it is all because of the help he sought. He would ignore the genuine efforts that he must have put for the business to grow. Instead, all credit would go the messenger of God. This concept of probability is what determines the degree of fame.

Once when I was watching a documentary on Tirupati Temple, I came to know about a custom of applying vermillion on every step. Devotees followed this ritual religiously without realizing the consequences of their actions. Not only had the place become dirty, but it had also become completely unsafe for all people. The steps were always wet and slippery; climbing was tough. But all that didn’t deter the devotees from following this tradition. Another notion was to climb the stairs on one’s knees if one wanted his/her wish to come true! If the wish is fulfilled, you would see another few following the footsteps as they would come to know about this ‘magical formula’ through word of mouth. If the wish isn’t fulfilled, you would see an improvised version of the formula! Nevertheless, the people guiding the devotees lose nothing, for they are, perhaps, the messengers of God!

Yet again this baffling concept of choosing the correct and the most genuine messengers of God is tiring. How do we pick and choose? These people do not come with a label, do they? When during my entire childhood I have been told to believe in myself, do my best and leave the rest to God, where does the role of these messengers come in? Why should I let these ‘master’ take the reign of my life in their hands?

Isn’t God-fearing nature similar to terrorism?

The dictionary defines Terrorism as unlawful use of violence or intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. The masters of the religion preach about methods that can be used to impress God or save one from God’s fury. These masters also warn us about the consequences of our actions- actions as simple as eating non-vegetarian food on Tuesdays, eating onions during Navratris or drinking water during Karvachauth. They don’t leave any opportunity to fill our mind with the negative energy and that forces our gullible mind to become scared of our own shadow. You may ask the purpose of all this. Well, for starters, the more scared people are, the more willing they become to spend on rectifying their mistakes (a political aim in disguise). If this is not terrorism then what is?

After a great brainstorming session with like-minded people around me, I have come up with the following points that make me argue the toss and question the credibility and importance of polytheistic religion:

~Young children are taught that God is within every individual. If that is true, then our inner calling becomes that supreme power. Maybe when the world was made, a small part of this energy was stored (like a Horcrux) in every individual. This energy keeps us going. It drives our heart and mind. It depends on us whether we want to harness the energy or drive it out with our ill intentions.

~God is one. He can exist in any form- even in the form of energy or light. If this is what we all believe in, then why are there battles of will when it comes to whose God is to be placed on a higher pedestal?

~God is considered to be a father-figure- a parent or a guardian- the one who will protect his children from all troubles. If this is true, then how can we assume that he will punish us if we forget to recite our prayers one day? How can he punish us if we fail to perform pujas every month? How can he punish us for not being able to fast for our husbands? Or how can he punish us based on birth time?

~How do we study Literature? Do we enforce our knowledge on our children and force them to understand the text the way we interpret it? Interpretation of texts should be left open, for that is exactly how texts should be studied. Each one of us is capable of comprehension. Even if the inference is different, the main motive of the text will still be similar. How is it fair to leave the understanding of the religious texts for the masters? And how mindful is it to follow what they have understood without verifying or reading the text ourselves?

Having many Gods in varied forms is acceptable unless it doesn’t harm humankind and works in favour of serving the community. The only problem that persists is the invisible law that demands each one of us to abide by its guidelines. This law wants each one of us to pursue theism the way the messengers of God want us to follow. And when we argue the toss, the society looks down upon us with glaring eyes. In an attempt to become a part of this ever-changing society, it is becoming all the more difficult to sideline rational thinking and following what others believe in. I know I am not wrong in questioning the notion that has existed for years. I know my inner calling would not permit me to remain silent either when in doubt.

What do you think? Do you think that the fight between rational thinking and misguided beliefs is a no-win situation? Do write your thoughts in the comment section.

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