Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fighting over Faith

I've been thinking quite a lot about faith these days. (Maybe because am doing a module called Introduction to World Religions?) I am once again amazed at how faith has, rather ironically, become such a divisive factor in our society today. The recent incidents of the Qu'ran burning plan at a church in Florida and the Australian lawyer who "smoked the scriptures"(to put it in my lecturer's words) are probably just reminders as to how intolerant and insensitive our world has grown to be.

Just yesterday I heard that the island of Bahrain had revoked the Bahraini citizenship of a top Shiite cleric. The media guesses that there have been subtle traces of unrest between the Shiites and the Sunnis in the region. Having lived in Bahrain for three years, it came as a surprise to me at first. The island is predominantly Shiite but the ruling family belongs to the Sunni sect. The country has always been open to religious freedom and I remember visiting quite a number of temples on Bahraini soil. Funnily, I understood more about my Hindu faith in an Islamic nation, thanks to the spiritual classes I attended every Friday (which wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for religious tolerance). Thus learning about strife between two faiths in a country whose main charm used to be interfaith harmony was rather disturbing.

Not that Bahrain has now become a center of unrest- I had to remind myself that we have seen it everywhere. Vaishnavites against the Saivites. The Catholics against the Protestants. The Sunnis against the Shiites. (It was interesting to learn that this rift has been in existence for the last 14 centuries). These are just examples of divisions within one religion. At a macro level, we have also seen battles among faiths- The crusades. The fight against "kafirs" which many misunderstand to be "jihad". Demolishing a mosque because it happened to be built on the birth place of one of Hinduism's most popular gods.

Such examples of fighting over faith make me question the very essence of it. Isn't faith supposed to strengthen humanity as a whole? Surely the purpose of faith was not to divide society right? Maybe in such a world being an atheist is less troublesome? As an atheist would say, "I'm an atheist. Thank God."

But looking at the scene from a rosier window, I am convinced that all's not lost. Right now, I'm reading a book titled, "A South Indian Journey" written by the English journalist Michael Wood. The book covers details of Wood's visits to numerous temples in Tamil Nadu. Writing about his trip to the shrine of the Lord Murugan at Palani, Wood describes his meeting with Selwyn, a Protestant Christian at the shrine. He writes, "Selwyn, in fact, goes happily between the Catholic shrine at Velankanni, Murugan of Palani and Muslim Nagore". If only we all had the foresight to accept that all faiths are the same! After all, the essence of each religion is the same. I for one am sure that God doesn't mind what name we call Him by. And it's just plain silly to fight over which name or form is the best. May we have the wisdom to realize that.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Krishnasruthi,
    I chanced upon this blog of yours and am delighted that your views on religion are so clearcut. I endorse your viewpoint.
    I have read Michael wood's book... In fact I have written about it here:
    http://verboseviju.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/09/on-a-pilgrimage-with-an-englishman.htm

    This book has also been serialised for BBC... I also happen to own a DVD of Michael Wood's discovery of India ( BBC Series) It is a very just and unprejudiced account of India's glorious past. You should get hold of it. I think it is avavilable in Chennai's big Books and CD shops.

    You have a delightful way of writing... I would love to read you on a regular basis. As for myself, I am going through the worst patch of writer's block ever in my life...

    ReplyDelete

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fighting over Faith

I've been thinking quite a lot about faith these days. (Maybe because am doing a module called Introduction to World Religions?) I am once again amazed at how faith has, rather ironically, become such a divisive factor in our society today. The recent incidents of the Qu'ran burning plan at a church in Florida and the Australian lawyer who "smoked the scriptures"(to put it in my lecturer's words) are probably just reminders as to how intolerant and insensitive our world has grown to be.

Just yesterday I heard that the island of Bahrain had revoked the Bahraini citizenship of a top Shiite cleric. The media guesses that there have been subtle traces of unrest between the Shiites and the Sunnis in the region. Having lived in Bahrain for three years, it came as a surprise to me at first. The island is predominantly Shiite but the ruling family belongs to the Sunni sect. The country has always been open to religious freedom and I remember visiting quite a number of temples on Bahraini soil. Funnily, I understood more about my Hindu faith in an Islamic nation, thanks to the spiritual classes I attended every Friday (which wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for religious tolerance). Thus learning about strife between two faiths in a country whose main charm used to be interfaith harmony was rather disturbing.

Not that Bahrain has now become a center of unrest- I had to remind myself that we have seen it everywhere. Vaishnavites against the Saivites. The Catholics against the Protestants. The Sunnis against the Shiites. (It was interesting to learn that this rift has been in existence for the last 14 centuries). These are just examples of divisions within one religion. At a macro level, we have also seen battles among faiths- The crusades. The fight against "kafirs" which many misunderstand to be "jihad". Demolishing a mosque because it happened to be built on the birth place of one of Hinduism's most popular gods.

Such examples of fighting over faith make me question the very essence of it. Isn't faith supposed to strengthen humanity as a whole? Surely the purpose of faith was not to divide society right? Maybe in such a world being an atheist is less troublesome? As an atheist would say, "I'm an atheist. Thank God."

But looking at the scene from a rosier window, I am convinced that all's not lost. Right now, I'm reading a book titled, "A South Indian Journey" written by the English journalist Michael Wood. The book covers details of Wood's visits to numerous temples in Tamil Nadu. Writing about his trip to the shrine of the Lord Murugan at Palani, Wood describes his meeting with Selwyn, a Protestant Christian at the shrine. He writes, "Selwyn, in fact, goes happily between the Catholic shrine at Velankanni, Murugan of Palani and Muslim Nagore". If only we all had the foresight to accept that all faiths are the same! After all, the essence of each religion is the same. I for one am sure that God doesn't mind what name we call Him by. And it's just plain silly to fight over which name or form is the best. May we have the wisdom to realize that.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Krishnasruthi,
    I chanced upon this blog of yours and am delighted that your views on religion are so clearcut. I endorse your viewpoint.
    I have read Michael wood's book... In fact I have written about it here:
    http://verboseviju.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/09/on-a-pilgrimage-with-an-englishman.htm

    This book has also been serialised for BBC... I also happen to own a DVD of Michael Wood's discovery of India ( BBC Series) It is a very just and unprejudiced account of India's glorious past. You should get hold of it. I think it is avavilable in Chennai's big Books and CD shops.

    You have a delightful way of writing... I would love to read you on a regular basis. As for myself, I am going through the worst patch of writer's block ever in my life...

    ReplyDelete