Amidst all the controversies surrounding the portrayal of religion and religious beliefs in the Indian cinema, I witnessed a moment of epiphany. I realized I don’t really know how to distinctly define the term “religion”. My concept of religion has (almost) got nothing to do with the teachings I received in my childhood. All religions are based on belief (not necessarily on faith. And both are two different things). We are not born into a religion. We are made to adopt a certain set of beliefs which our parents were handed down from the older generations. The problem occurs when you start considering yourself the custodian of those beliefs.
I have been frequently asked if I am “pious”. I asked someone what he exactly meant and how would I really come to know if I’m at all pious. His answer was pretty amusing: “if you offer all your prayers and recite the Holy Book and wear naqab, you are a pious lady”. If that’s THE definition then maybe I’m not pious. But if you tell me that striving to be upright, generous, righteous, God- fearing makes one pious then I can claim to be “pious”. For religion, according to me, teaches us a way of life that keeps the society in harmony. The saints and prophets of all religion teach us how to lead the life of an ideal human. Unfortunately, we embrace only those teachings which benefit us (and which can be moulded to suit our needs), while we are willingly oblivious to those that can aid to control the unleashed demons within us.
People belonging to the very same community may have different opinions about God. In fact, there are so many sects in one community itself. How do you know which sect is righteous? How do you know your God prefers your sect over the others? How do you know your practices are correct and that you are doing them right? How do you even know that you’re worshipping the correct God? One may grasp to any religious handle to leverage himself into a better way of life because ultimately all religions teach you the basic principles of humanity. “Living life right is being religious”. As George Carlin rightly says, “Religion is like a pair of shoes…..Find one that fits for you, but don’t make me wear your shoes.”
Religion has become our identity. We can take lives or even give it up for our religion. For me, being a moral person with or without faith in God is better than those “religious” people performing evil practices in the name of God (who, apparently, came down and personally told them to do so). It’s your religion. You are not answerable to anyone. Maybe we should all try to live and let live. The world would become so much of a better place to live in than to just survive.
Of all of the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny of religion is the worst ~ Thomas Paine