Religion is essentially an attempt to reach out to the almighty power. The road down the centuries has been peopled with motley crowds and pilgrim groups walking on it, professing their pet ideas of belief in their chosen deity and invoking that deity with particular rites and rituals. Thereby sprang a cacophony of invocations, prayers and devotional practices. And, all this was gilt-wrapped into an entity called religion. At the demise of wandering preachers or prophets, who never thought of a religious sect, their over-zealous followers built around their memory cults and rituals, thereby giving birth to an entity called religion. Some others had mythological figures to lean on.
The trouble began when these different motley groups went on to assert that theirs was the only patented religion. Dividing walls came up as protective measure against pollution and contamination from other religious groups. The hunger for domination turned into war cries and resulted in religious wars and bloodletting alongside blood sacrifices to propitiate the deity.
Religion soon got wrapped up by ritual practices by the devotees and by propitiating acts in various ways. Such practices and rituals were dictated invariably by male-dominated groups who claimed wholesale a patented patriarchal religious authority. Their diktat carried the day.
Certain clever, scheming religious groups soon hit upon the idea of using religion as a tool to capture political power. In order to do that, they played on the emotions and feelings of their so-called believers or devotees. Scriptures were used to instruct people to fall in line or else to await divine retribution. Myths had an easy entry into the pliable hearts of devotees.
In modern times, the believers or devotees turned into vote bank entities and became a plaything in the hands of power hungry politicians. Unfortunately, the initial attempt to reach out to a supreme power as the essence of religion lost its sheen and originality as religion got entangled in the web of fanaticism, fundamentalism and political manoeuvring. The power of patriarchy has been such that it instilled into its women folk a slavish mentality to follow as meek sheep. Domestication of women by patriarchal religions flourished.
Religion is used today as a manipulating factor by making it the centre piece of political game. Polarise people on religious or minority lines and use lung power to feed the electorate with promises, half-truths and untruths. Once in power, the agenda unfolds with marauding private armies making their own ‘flag march’ to provoke terror and terrorise people into fear psychosis. Lynching hooligans parade their weapons with which they do a neat finishing job.
Under the ruling dispensation patriarchal religious fundamentalism raises its hood to frighten into submission the women folk who claim that they too have their right to do homage to the deity or join prayer festivals. They may quote the nation’s constitutional provision of the fundamental right to equality, but it is of no avail. Here law or legal or even logical arguments do not have a place. Even sections of devotees get on the war path to cross swords with law enforcing agencies to preserve their male privilege to propitiate the deity. The mockery of inflated devotions gets stretched to such an extent that the so-called devotees stretch themselves on the path to the divine presence telling the women devotees: ‘Step on us if you dare to cross the path at your risk!’
Charlie Chaplin has something instructive. “You need power only when you want to do something harmful; otherwise love is enough to get everything done.” When naked power is used to enforce religious fundamentalism, much harm is done. History has ample examples of religious warfare. All in the name of the Supreme being as if this Supreme being is the private property of one particular faction. Devotion becomes a matter of emotion; love is shown the door. Devotees turn fanatics. Their gurus and leaders manoeuvre and manipulate the liver of control over them and use them for temporary communal or political gains. The poverty of a political party is amply demonstrated when, devoid of genuine people-oriented developmental issues, it whips up religious fanaticism and arms its followers with the weapon of hate, terror and attack on other religions or communities. Even neighbouring nations with a different religion may be conferred the appellation: enemy nation or demon incarnate.
When a religion dishes out scriptural truths for public consumption while indulging in hate therapy and terror provoking strategies, it does not merit to be respected as an authentic value-oriented and principled religion or genuine way of life. When it is clear that it uses religious tools to capture political power and to use that power to reconstruct the nation into religion-based entity, it is an indication that sinister forces are at work digging the grave of the nation’s secularism. When parties preach equality and laud court judgements to that effect, and later make a u-turn with the excuse of respecting popular feelings or devotees’ sentiments, they demonstrate the ugly side of hypocrisy. No wonder, even vegetable vendors project a balanced view by calling such parties opportunists and shameless tricksters.
Indications are that religious fundamentalism, cushioned by political vandalism, is tightening its noose around the nation. It is a sinister sign!(Published on 29th October 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 44)