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  Opinion   Columnists  28 Nov 2021  Kulbir Kaur | From menu of faith, reason best chosen

Kulbir Kaur | From menu of faith, reason best chosen

Kulbir Kaur teaches sociology at Shyama Prasad Mukherji College, Delhi University
Published : Nov 28, 2021, 12:31 am IST
Updated : Nov 28, 2021, 12:31 am IST

It seems that only those who know how to exploit religion get to draw the winning ticket in the lottery of life


Dear God,

I have a curious relationship with you. I have shared every moment of my life with you, and all my emotions, be they those rare helpings of pleasure or the large portions of pain and sorrow. Not a single day has gone by when I did not think about you. God, you have been my one and true confidante! But, believe me, God, despite my best attempts to lock away my mind in a safe almirah, a strange object called reason keeps visiting from nowhere and confronting me with uncomfortable vistas. Please don’t mind, but that is when you appear to me as a hypocrite, having double, nay, multiple standards of behaviour.

Godji, you say poverty is dear to you and the highway to salvation or moksha is through garibi only. Yet when I see your plush housing — the gold-studded temples, the tall gurdwaras and the grand offerings to you — the word, irony, in my vocabulary simply melts away with shame. When I see the luxury cars, lavish lifestyles and the foreign travel tickets of your representatives — the pujaris, priests and granthis — it is difficult to swallow the chewing gum of the homilies — “the poor are supposed to be rich in faith” and “learn to have a servant’s heart and live in humility and gratefulness”.

You have communicated to us the lesson, “First enquire if your neighbour is not hungry”. But we are accustomed to first making sure the religion, caste and race of the person is the “right” one. Your bandas and servitors are out to bully those who don’t tread the path stipulated by them. Even in our Big Brother’s house, kids are being given critical race theory-based homework assignments that ask of them the question, “What is your race, family make-up and school community group?”

Well, I can anticipate your explanation of this contrariness. You will claim that these misdeeds are not your handiwork but that of your creations.

Everything done in your name can’t be attributed to you. Granted! You have every right to clear your own name. But answer me this, God, being so powerful and omniscient, how are you unable to reform these wrongdoers? Well? What do I hear you say? Aha! Now, your plea becomes this — we are suffering the consequences of karma. Wah!

It seems that only those who know how to exploit religion get to draw the winning ticket in the lottery of life; having just a faith in God is like having a Jan Dhan khata with a zero balance. And when it comes to the definition of religion, well, things get way uglier. I never imagined that teaching sociology would be so difficult, especially during these last few years. The dictionary meaning of the word, religion, “that which holds together”, confuses the students. There is always a stifling silence in class when I announce this definition. “Unite people! Are you serious?” I hear my students think. You can’t blame the students. All they see around them is hatred and indifference in the name of religion. All terminology for them comes off loaded with prejudice, skewed beyond redemption. Terminology itself is a T-word. But all T-words today are reserved for members of one particular religious community that is referred to as “them”, “traitors”, “terrorists” and so on.

We live in a society wherein every other day someone or some group of people suddenly arises from deep slumber like an uncoiled kundalini and, instead of being enlightened, gets ready to consume all unity and peace, thanks to the support of one particular force. The ex-White supremacist, Kerry Noble, in his work, Tabernacle of Hate: Why They Bombed Oklahoma City (1998), explains how believers are susceptible to the practice of fanaticism and feelings of chauvinism. He argues that having a perceived enemy and a leader who seeks to control how his people think, in combination with blind belief, is a surefire cocktail of hate. No wonder then that religion in the hands of politicians is like a 40-plus capsule used to divide people.

Now, for how long can I keep my logic locked up the way you and our netas keep the doors firmly closed to the appeals for mercy from the people? How long do we remain deliriously high on the opium of religion and continue in bad faith or mauvaise foi ignoring the fair warnings of Jean-Paul Sartre? Your followers, they are called the faithful, but are they really not mere adherents of prabhuvaad or the master’s cult, whosoever the master may be — the politician, the imperialist, the office boss, you or ‘society’?

But, really, Mr Godji, for all your highfalutin sermons and teachings, you seem to have turned into a puppet, a katputli, in the hands of the “dharmik” and the rajneetik who are out to crush unity by imposing uniformity. When will you free yourself? Do you need to be rescued by us, the humble, great unwashed? No doubt we can when we get organised against the misuse of ideas, ideology and identity. But do you really want to be rescued? And if you don’t, can we have reason for religion instead? Now, won’t that put all our netas out of business?

— Kulbir Kaur

Tags: religion, jan dhan khata, god, kerry noble