In an earlier post I had written about certain misunderstandings I had as a teenager and a young woman and how I now stand corrected. One such misunderstanding was that people who did not believe in the existence of an all powerful God were bad. They were people without morals. Somehow they didn’t fit into my list of good people. God fearing people were the good ones. Of course I was wrong. We have a long list of so called god men involved in scandals and rackets proving that they too have their weaknesses like any of us and need to be forgiven for their shortcomings. That reminds me that with age, I too have become a lot more relenting and issues that would have upset me twenty years back do not even surprise me.
The need to look up to a supreme power for sustenance is not felt by many. They do not blame an unknown entity for life’s misfortunes. They would rather look for solutions from available resources. Life is all the harder for them because some tragic events that they experience cannot be explained or attributed to past misdeeds and/or the will of god. To my mind however, it helps to have an explanation when things go wrong and this is where religion helps. I must add that it requires a lot of confidence supplemented by a logical, analytical approach to say ‘No’ to religious perceptions. And they are certainly not bad or wicked.
N….. was blessed with two sons. They were always encouraged to think for themselves so when the older of them decided to follow the Christian faith, N had no problem. The other son was an atheist. His wife was initially upset with both boys.
“Why are you upset?” asked N. “They are not doing anything illegal or immoral. How does it matter whether they believe in Christ or Krishna or neither of them?”
“What will people say?” she asked.
“Would you worry about people’s reaction or about our sons’ progress? Would they cease to be our sons on account of their religious preference? I would rather watch them reach for the skies than worry about such non issues. They are a promising children and let us watch them progress in life”.
Unfortunately he did not live to see the day. The older boy had not turned 24 when his father died. It was only then that people came to know of his conversion. He could not bring himself to follow the Hindu rituals connected to the last rites that had to be performed. Hypocrisy was not acceptable to him and he was sure that his father would have not wanted him to do something that his heart did not permit. Uncles and male cousins who had come for the funeral were upset. It was a son’s duty to perform the last rites according to the faith practiced by his father. How could he simply refuse? It was then that support came from his grand aunt – an elderly lady in her early eighties.
She said, “His father’s soul would be pained if his son is rebuked in this manner. How does it matter whether he follows one or the other faith? As long as he is a good and kind hearted human being, the God he believes in or the religion he practices should not matter. We can get someone else to perform the rites. Why should we think that he loves his father less due to his religious preference? Don’t you think that his mother who is already upset would be shattered to see her son bearing the brunt of your criticism over an issue that was of no importance to her husband”?
The men finally relented. There was truth in what the elderly woman said. Later, this very woman would have no problem reading portions of the Bible when the grand nephew asked her to. She felt that there was no reason for her to refuse to read and understand good things mentioned in the Bible. More than other things, it would make him happy and she would not be less a Hindu for that. I am all admiration for this woman who has not stepped inside a class room but is wiser than those that claim to be the defenders of culture and tradition.
If religion helps one to deal with life, fine. That is the sole purpose it serves. But if it serves to compartmentalize society, I would vote for agnostics and atheists any day.