Need a voice of Reason in Religion

The One

One man holding up a message for Humanity

On most mornings you can see him standing at one of the busiest roads of Mumbai with a placard in his hand. The message is shockingly simple – apne dharam par chalo, sabse prem Karo (for the Devanagri challenged it says – Follow your religions, love everyone). People who pass this traffic light often wave out to him as he stands there with a warm smile on his face, braving the fumes.

This junction is a choking point for all people traveling out of Andheri (west), Varsova and Malad – suburbs of Mumbai. Just standing there with this message, he has probably already reached out to more than 1Mn people living in this area, and he has surely has been the topic of countless other conversations that his actions would have sparked – one man on a mission to rescue us from each other.

Why has Religion become uncool? Religion is never be topic of serious conversation between friends, unless it is a religious gathering. If in a mixed religious gathering anyone starts to talk passionately about their own religion, s/he will be merely tolerated for a while with the assumption that s/he has been gifted with poor social values.

There is a general backlash against religion building up. Religion is being banned, along with smoking, in public spaces; schools are increasingly becoming scrubbed clean of any religious references; governments are increasingly forced to relax the limits of what is permissible, since, as the logic goes, if enough people do it then maybe it is acceptable despite its moral or ethical aspects, which is creating an even greater divide between what is legal and what is religiously moral. Not to talk about the divide between religion and Science, but which is a less pressing issue.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Religion was supposed to be the moral compass for people, to help them priorities values, to make people lead ethical lives, and to promote social harmony. Religion has failed in each and every of these aspects.

Religious institutions have themselves set the tone for this wider disconnect with religion. Their leaders make the news for the wrong reasons – Gurus that exploit, Priests that abuse, Mullas that instigate. The more softer and learned voices are equally to blame. They never make the effort to reach out and outshout the small number of bad religious leaders who get a disproportionate ‘share of voice’ in popular media.

Religious leaders also seem to behave as if they have no accountability for their religions too. One of the biggest issues facing the mankind are terrorism and wars. Majority of conflicts are based on religion. The power of Religion to motivate people has been hijacked by evil souls who mis-interpret the texts and misguide the youth for their own evil goals. There is no moderate voice that corrects these interpretations. No one asks for a review of the religious texts, since that is considered blasphemy, and that shuts up all the moderates into their corners, no matter what havoc it is causing the world.

To top it all up, we have this crazy situation where bureaucrats, politicians and the army leaders are fronting conversations about social problems and conflicts which are fundamentally a result of the vacuum left by the religious leaders who are missing (hiding?) from this process. There is clearly something wrong with this equation.

How should we get religion back onto the discussion table? Should the UN, along with a security council, have a Religious council too? Should the world ‘Parliament of religion’ involve the political leaders in their discussions and learn to better appreciate constraints that countries face in execution of programs? Should every country have a ministry of religion?

Religion cant be reduced to a four letter word. There is a need for the religious leaders to stand up and take an honest look at what their lack of engagement with the youth is leading this world to.

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