It was in school that I first realised how important my religion was. In the school calendars there used to be this column to be filled in 'RELIGION' 'CASTE' & 'SUB-CASTE'. So dad used to write in our calendars Religion: Hindu ; Caste: Kshatriyas; Sub-caste: Nair. There used to be this next line where you had to mention SC/OBC etc., let me confess till I was in 10th grade I never understood what the meaning of these abbreviations were (yes kick me later). As kids we then used to check out our new calendars and see all the castes & sub-castes that were mentioned. Young that we were, we always thought that the distinction was based on the Gods we worshiped. We were later in our lives about to realise that blood was shed and lives taken based on just these simple columns in your school calendar!!
What is a religion? Is it as simple as following a God ? Yes that is what I thought about religion as a kid. When I started growing up I painfully understood that this was not as simple as I thought. An individual who believes in the super power tries to show his FAITH in that power by following that power in a particular name. When there is more than one person following the same name, reading the same scripture, singing the same worship songs then they become a group - a religious group!! This group forms norms & rules for their group to abide by, and such rules are usually based on some scriptures or teachings that they believe in and here begins the problem!!
The group forming the rules do it based on their understanding of the scripture. It cannot be argued that the religious scriptures available in any part of the world is always open to interpretation. If you believe in the whole super natural system then you also know that 'Suspicion' was the first sin that was implanted into the human being, nothing was ever clear about what God really said after that. So yes the rules are made based on books which are open to interpretation. Then as this religious group start growing, someone else reads the scripture more closely and understands it his way, and then he rebels against the original group and then goes ahead and forms another sub-religious group. So now we have the main religious organisation Group:1 and a sub organisation Group:1a
Remember how the original group started, the foundation was 'FAITH' and when these organisations and sub organisations are formed faith gets diluted and what thrives is rules & regulations made by mere human beings. Faith is a belief in the 'Personal' relationship between God and the human being, personal I say and not public not organisational. Your relationship with your God, with your belief is your own and it does not belong to any priest. You have equal rights to get closer to God, like your priest says he does. Your relationship with God is your personal business and not a political or religious agenda. I remember as kids we were asked to touch the feet of the pujari who performed poojas. I have no problem touching the feet of anyone who is worth that, but of a pujari just because he performs some rituals to the idol of the God that they think is, for me is not worth. Mom used to explain that this pujari is then considered as God because in literal sense he touches God when he washes the idol. I mean seriously, how can one even designate a mere human as God...how???
Once after my brother's hand had healed from a fracture, mom did a pooja in a temple. I thought she was thanking her God for making her son alright, but I heard a different story. She said when my brother was in the operation theater to get his elbow fixed, she had prayed to her God that 'IF' everything goes alright then she will do this pooja!! What is God ... some government employee.. whom she was bribing?? You do my work and I will give you Ten Grands!!! not to mention the monday fasts which I obviously never did for capturing a good husband! Is God about all this?? Is this why we have religion??
I have asked this to many of my Muslim friends as to which part of their scripture asks to kill innocent people, and every time, believe me every time I have been told that it is left open to interpretation. I hate the Muslims because of whom my family had to loose their home in Kashmir. I now realise it is not Muslims that I hate, it is the deed of some following that religion, just as the way I would dislike any person from any religious group who would do the same. I then had a chance to read some pages of their scripture during my MBA days where I chose Islamic Finance. I am really thankful to my Prof who would answer my queries after class, and I am sure he often wondered whether I was really interested in Islamic Finance or Islam? Because the last day of the class when I was leaving his room, he told me 'Sunita, Islam does not preach terrorism, if that is what you have been looking for during your entire class'. I have Muslim friends to whom I will remain indebted my entire life for being there for me, they are such good Muslims and fantastic human beings, but some religious fanatics who misinterpreted the whole book decided to shame them all for life!!
Every time a new understanding of a scripture is done by some one or some group a new religion or a sub-religion is formed. In all this the basic idea and belief of faith is all lost. I mean really, do you think when Jesus Christ died on the cross, he was thinking, 'Yo come on dudes, I am dying so that you can have a new religion'. Religion must not have been in his head at all. As though there was not enough of religion in this world then that he decided to get himself killed for humanity to have a new religion. It was all about faith. And now look at the various denominations that have come up in Christianity having different churches to worship.
Once my mom insisted I go to temple with her when I was really wanting to stay home. I asked her since God is everywhere, will He not listen to me if I pray from my house? She stared at me in a way that even if God was around somewhere there, He also must have fled. Before I completely gave up on religion, on knowing the Hindu Muslim fights, I asked my dad, what happens if I am praying to Krishna and Allah hears it and decides to fight with Krishna so that my prayer is not fulfilled...after all it is about Hindu Gods & Muslim Gods right?? He said, 'No it is about Hindu priests and Muslim priests'.
If this is religion then I disown it completely and I did that. I have a faith now, a faith I follow on my own. It was not preached to me by anyone, it just happened once while reading a book. A total and complete faith in God. I do not allow my faith to be dominated by anyone and nor do I try to dominate my thoughts unto anyone else. And what a wonderful change this has been to me. I have improved as a person, my relationship with my God is stronger, and I cannot believe I hated God once upon a time. This is what religion does to you, make you hate God and fall in love with the teachings of the priest. Sadly I still have to mention a religious group in all the forms having my personal details, I hate doing it but it seems somewhere some political party leader will not be able to poop in the morning & if he does not poop then the world will collapse... so I have to mention it!!