The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, January 7, 2001

Is religion relevant today?

This refers to "Is religion relevant today?" by Randeep Wawdehra and Amarnath Wadehra (December 10). Religions have "created divisions in society", as the writers have complained, because each religion has projected its own God who is claimed to be wiser and more powerful than the Gods of other men. The apparent illogicity of the stand did not come in the way of the Church condemning Origen for believing that all men, even non-Chritians, will be saved in the end. That was in the 2nd century A.D. Eighteen centuries later, in spite of all the knowledge and the skills man claims to have acquired, Rushdie faced a fatwa for a similar reason, or lack of reason. The knowledge that all natural phenonmena are subject to the same laws everywhere, and that the human heart beats at the same rate in every breast has not led man to univeralisation of religion.

The same charge can also be held against the state with equal force. It is a question not only of a Hindu against Muslims but also one of India against Pakistan, or of Palestine against Isreal, even though everyone knows that the borders between countries are as much man-made as the religions. Patriotism is also a form of fundamentalism, else,what stands in the way of one government for one world?

The fact that we are born Hindus, or Muslims or Christians, or Sikhs also leads one to say that religion is a habit rather than a conscious mental effort. Wisdom plays no part in the practice of religion. Religion cases to be a religion and becomes a system of thought. A universal religion, applicable to all men, much like the laws of biology, or of physics, can be the only relgion relevant to the needs of man today.




Religion is not essentially an antidote to inefficiency but a remedy for it and a protection against moral and ethical disorder. Only region and true faith in God can give meaning to life nd death, work, hardship and suffering. A great thinker says - "By living according to the rules of religion, a man becomes the wisest, the best, and the happiest creature that he is capable of being. Honesty, industry, the employing of time well, a constant soleriety, are the best perservatives, too, of life and health."

Religion puts man in communion and dialogue with God through prayer. There is no thought, feeling, yearning or desire, however trifling, which, if it affects our real interest or happiness, we may not lay before God and be sure of his sympathy.



Religion, in its ritualistic sense, has relevance today while spirtiuality is evergreen and shall remain relevant for all times to come. With increasing competition fast-spreading consumerison and people being afflicted with attendant psychological problems like stress and depression, most people find solace in spirituality. It gives strength, keeps one disciplined, helps one control one's desires and thus, keeps one on the right track. But unfortunately, there are many a people who cannot think of religion beyond rituals which have become more of a habit than rationally justifiable behaviour. A greedy and frightened individual is made to bow before on idol and thoroughly exploited by the so-called keepers of religion the pandas. These tactics, exploitation and befooling of people in the name of religion keeps rational people away from temples.


Role of the thumb

This refers to the article "Rule vs role of the thumb" by K.K.Khullar (December 4) in which the writer describes the importance of the thumb in a delightful way. One tends to suddenly look at one's thumb, twiddle it bit and say in ready agreement, "My god! We really can't do without it". Truly, we will not be able to even hold the newspaper and turn its pages without the thumb.

Many efforts have been made to trace the origin of the term "rule of the thumb". Some learned people say that it refers to Blackstone's codification of the common law in 1767, when he asserted that the husband had the right to physically chastise an errant wife provided the stick he used was no bigger than his thumb.

Some other people assert that it refers to the times when woodcutters expertly used their thumb for quick and rough measurements.

A raised thumb symbolises loads of sheer energy that can be easily transferred from one person to another in a strangely revitalising moment. It can transform an almost vanquished person into a victor.


Pasions of the mind

"Understanding the passions of the mind" by Kuldip Dhiman (December 3), made interesting reading. Freud's analysis holds true even in modern times and more so in Indian society where, on the one hand, young persons enjoy freedom of the modern times and on the other, traditions of the society put restrictions on their behaviour when they come of age. Children in their teens are taught to rein in their desires and adjust to their surroundings because of social sanctions and taboos. The moral demands of the parents and society, termed 'superego' by Freud, teach children what is improper or bad. The superego helps one overcome desires that are not in keeping with the moral code of society.

According to Freud, fumbling with our clothes while we talk, shifting some random objects around in the room, stumbling on words, penning random thoughts etc. are representative of unconscious mechanisms and these actions, if read carefully, can reveal our most intimate secrets.


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