We choose our own religion

The world has many religions. Many religions have lived, died and continue to live in the world that we live today. When a child is born, they are raised in the religion of their parents or the care takers. A child, who is born with a clean slate, will have his first impressions of the world, amongst other countless things, by the religion he is exposed to. While it may not always define the way he turns out, it makes all the difference in the world for those who accept the religion they are introduced to. I honestly think that the numbers of the latter dominate the numbers of the former.

What makes a religion different from another? Short answer, it’s the ideals they are based on and the way the ideals are perceived by those who practice it. It is entirely possible(and indeed probable) that the same ideals are understood differently by different people and practised in different ways, thus giving rise to a similar, yet different religion.

There are many articles on the internet saying that many of the quotes attributed to Gandhi were not really Gandhi’s. However, if I understood Gandhi, it doesn’t matter that he said these words or not. The truth of the statement is what matters.

No matter where we are born, which religion we are born in, we always choose different things and make them our religion. However, there are a few fundamentals to practice in any religion.

If you haven’t seen George Carlin’s revised and simplified version of the ten commandments, I recommend you to watch it. Here’s a text version, go knock yourself out. In simple words “Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself”.

Gandhi also tried to say the same thing, only, he called it Religious Freedom. Freedom in its true sense is to practice your own religion and let others practice theirs. Because we all share the same world, we should choose what we see, read, and let into our minds, but unfortunate for us, it can get very late before we realize it.

The closest I’ve seen on that idea being practiced(in fiction, of course) is in the movie “The Life of Pi”. I haven’t read the book yet, but it sure is on my list.

Don’t say you haven’t chuckled at 1:55. In the movie theatre, I was jumping on my seat.

Yet, here’s another sensible scene from the same movie.

Seeing a sensible scene played out by an Indian family felt so good(as the author Yann Martel chose, of course), but I believe that every individual or family in the world should allow that freedom for any child. If not, just like an individual is allowed to make his own career choice(well, most of the times), he should also be told that he is free to pursue any religion of his choice or cut his own pie from the ones available.

But why should any one have a religion? Can’t we live without religion? Can’t we just live our lives leading our lives peacefully without any of it? The answer is both yes and no, but if you hard press me for an answer, I’d say no. It is not possible to live without a religion. Hear me out.

All the humans are equal and no one is better than the other on the basis of color, creed, sex, social status, economical status or many of the thousand things that can create a rift among us.

We humans are all different in our own right and thus, and no two people put in the same situation come out the exact same way. That’s a blanket statement to make, but a rich person doesn’t mean a good person and a poor person doesn’t mean a bad person or vice versa. Thus a man who speaks truth all the time is not equal to the man who lies and cheats, his own gain or not.

The last two paragraphs were kind of contradicting. The former says that all humans are equal and the latter says that each individual is different. If I break it down for you, all humans are equal in the eyes of the law. All humans (should) get the same rights. On the latter, no matter our rights, we have different personalities and different perceptions. So, no two people are equal. Everyone has their pros and cons.

Now, what makes each of our personalities different from each other? When left with the opportunity to steal, why do some people grab at once and why do some come out unscathed without any regrets? Why do some people start running as soon as they see the bus approaching at a distance and why do some people keep walking at the same pace and why do some people slow down knowing that they are going to miss the bus anyway and they might as well enjoy their stroll peacefully? What is the difference amongst all these people? Is it fundamental? Can it be attributed to just one thing? I believe that it can be. I believe, and therefore my belief.

Belief

All of these people differ in their beliefs. You and I may believe in the same thing, but perhaps not with the same intensity. Sometimes, I’ll believe it if you believe it. Some times, I can lose my belief on one thing and gain belief in another. At any given time, my actions are governed by my belief.

When asked “Where is God?”, a sage once said “God is in faith”. So, there it is. God exists if you choose to believe it. The choice is yours. Is it bad if you choose to believe that God does not exist? Contrary to what you might have been led to believe, I think it doesn’t matter. It only matters what you do with that choice and and many other choices that come after that choice. The results of your choice should let you decide if your choice was right or less wrong.

However, it’s not always a choice between two things. You can never guess the outcome of the two choices, but you would have to take a decision. There is almost always a third choice, which is not to be in a position to make the choice(or run away from the choices), which is almost always our natural choice. This topic deserves a discussion of its own.

In essence, what we are is defined by how strongly we believe. The actions we take root from this belief or disbelief. If we allow ourselves to believe or disbelieve in anything, we can shape our actions and thus our future.

One of my favourite stories is the Old Cherokee grandfather story. Read two versions of it here. It’s very simple. You feed either wolf by choice. You can feed them equally to be balanced. But the choice is yours.

The question that haunted me most was “Why should I believe at all?”. Should I believe anything without an explanation? Without any reason? All my life, I hated blind faith. I have seen many people believe what they are told and do what they are bid. Therefore, I started to question everything. Looked for reasons in everything. Started to look deeper into everything. However, with this approach, the questions went deeper and deeper, spiralling deep, never hitting any bottom, not finding answers, but just more questions. Questioning is a two headed beast, it can eat you out and not let you do anything or it can show a bold face by helping you avoid the wrong paths.

My quest for all this finally ended in two things:

  • Question, but never let those questions lead you to disbelief. Without belief, you can make no choice, and henceforth, perform any action with full intent.
  • Have blind faith, not in everything, but in things that you believe are good. Having belief in a good thing is reason enough for me to believe it.

Once I establish my beliefs, I can make my choices and perform my actions with full intent. Blind faith in good things can be had without question. When done correctly, we shall see the results in time and we’ll have our proof for that belief. Once we believe, not blindly, we follow it religiously. Therefore, religion.

Most of the people want their choices to be taken by some one else so that they do not need to bear the burden of stopping and thinking for themselves. That choice there is the cause of many miseries. I can tell you about all things I believe in, but if you don’t believe them yourself, you cannot walk and reach the paths I have been through. Perhaps that is why Krishna says to Arjuna “I can only show you the path, but it is you who has to walk the walk”. If you do not believe, you do not exist. If you believe only in what you see, you are falling for the illusion.

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