It has been a long-standing complaint that people, especially men of religion, don’t practise what they preach, and adopt a do-as-l-say-don’t-do-as-l-do attitude. But have we ever thought what would happen if they started preaching what they practised? lt is generally thought that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. But God would not part with the Word. It would seem that man has embarked upon a never-ending pursuit of attaining God in order to appropriate the Word from Him. And to reach God, man has invented thousands of paths, also known as religions, which he follows, or pretends to.
Creation, on the other hand, has been a mutual affair. First, God created man to His image, and then man created God to his image. Yes, my dear Billy. “Man who cannot make a worm,” as 16th century French writer Montaigne said: “Made gods by the dozen.” With the march of time, and progress, man is today making gods by the hundreds if not more. Each to his own image. If triangles invented a god, they would make him three-sided!
I don’t know if God has always existed, but man has never ceased inventing Him. Some people say there’s a God; others say there’s no God. The truth perhaps lies somewhere in between. This reminds me of one of the jokes of my schooldays, my dear Billy. Two atheists were travelling by bus and talking about the inexistence of God. Suddenly, they passed in front of a church and one of them made the sign of the cross. His friend asked him why he was doing this and rebuked him to which he replied: “Well, just in case.”
Men today will wrangle for religion; write for it; fight for it; they will do anything but live for it. We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.
You will be surprised to learn, my dear Billy, that Hinduism in Mauritius is one religion separated by many languages. One of the advantages l have found to being a Hindu is that l can be openly against Hindus. If a non-Hindu were to speak against Hindus, he would be torn to pieces. Or almost. Verbally at least, if not physically.
I recently read a parody of what the ancient Chinese said about giving a man a fish. It said, “give a man a fish,” it said, “and you’ll feed him for a day. Give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish.”
The religious fervour that is now assailing the country, and the anti-God acts committed by those same people who show off their religious fervour, have taught me a mighty lesson. Some people go regularly to church and attend religious ceremonies, prayer sessions, etc. But you can no more become religious by going to church, my dear Billy, than you can become an automobile by sleeping in your garage.
Then there are people who feel repentant on a Sunday for what they did on Saturday and are going to do it again on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. The word ‘religion’, my dear Billy, is derived from a Latin word that means to bring together, to bind. But what religion has been doing throughout the ages is to divide rather than to unite. And where it has bound, it has created a spirit of fanaticism and bigotry.
That’s perhaps what has led to the saying that the world would be a better place to live in if all religions were removed from it. Karl Marx was of opinion that “The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.”
But maybe religion per se is not to blame. It’s rather the people who practise it, but who in fact deviate from it, who are responsible for all the harm that is caused. People have been known to have caused untold miseries and persecutions in the name of religion. Men of religion themselves have put up behaviours that cannot be emulated and set examples that cannot be followed.
Religious history has left a legacy of intolerance, prejudice and bloodshed. But this is the work of misguided men who have deviated and left the true path. The so-called men of religion are themselves, to a large extent, responsible for the mess and confusion in which the universe is plunged. Along with them, teachers, political, social, and other leaders have miserably failed in providing the right sort of leadership.
But all is not lost yet. All religions urgently need to unite in order to check the downward slide in values, so that a new and better world may emerge. Man badly requires a common target, a common agenda for a better world. The communalized society, which is torn by religious differences, must change its direction through the transformation of individuals and the inculcation of true values that will usher a just social order, honest governance and value-based life.
True spirituality is of the soul and it has no labels, clichés, creeds or religions. It consists of righteousness, peace and love. These values help one to rise above narrow religious and communal distinctions and can empower human beings to build a world where peace, justice and liberty will prevail.
As for me l’ll say, my dear Billy: Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee, and l’ll forgive Thy great, big joke on me.
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