Religion and Racism
Religion and Racism
By Barry Nirmal
Racism is a dirty word today. If you call someone a racist, he will take it as an insult. But if someone is a religious fanatic, and you call him that, he will deny being a fanatic and proceed to try to defend himself by saying that he is not really a fanatic but a staunch Muslim or a Staunch Hindu or a staunch Christian. But the truth of the matter is that anyone who thinks that his religion is superior to another religion is guilty of prejudice just as a person who thinks that his race is superior.
In the U.S. and indeed in the West, many white people consider their race to be superior even though they may not say so in the public. They justify this erroneous thinking by rationalizing that the countries that are the most powerful and the richest are those that have a white majority. But fortunately, the popular media in the West does not propagate or condone this sort of thinking, and if someone, who is in a position of authority, says that his race is superior, he will be reprimanded and scolded by his colleagues as well as by the media.
But the same sort of situation does not exist when dealing with religion. Just like a man does not become superior just because he was born in a certain race, a man does not become superior just because he was born in a certain religion. Most people belong to a certain religion because they were born in a family that belonged to that religion. So, why feel proud to belong to a religion that you did not accept after careful investigation and research?
In fact the truth of the matter is that all religions stand on pretty shaky foundation. They are all based on the concept of God whose existence has not been proven. In fact God is a product of human imagination. Had it not been so, there would not have been so many different kinds of Gods. We have Allah, the God of the Muslims. Then we have the Christian God whose son is believed to be Jesus Christ. Hindus have many Gods though all are considered manifestations of one true God known as the Ultimate Reality or Brahman. The Jains and the Buddhists do not even believe in a God and still their claim to be religious is pretty valid. (2) The Jews believe in one God and they consider themselves as belonging to the chosen race.
Some religionists will claim that everything in this world has to have a creator and that this world of ours running so smoothly calls for the existence of a creator. This creator called God is assigned all the superlatives such as being omnipresent (present everywhere) omniscient (knowing everything) and so on. But if God created this universe, then he has done a very poor job. This earth of ours and man’s life is riddled with problems. Previously we had diseases such as cholera and small pox that killed millions. Now that man has found cures for these diseases we are ravaged by new ones like AIDS. Actually, it is man who has succeeded in unlocking the secrets of this universe and nature and has found cures for diseases and has invented machines to make life bearable and manageable.
Though man has created nuclear weapons and countries like USA and Russia have enough weapons to destroy this earth many times over, somehow we have learnt to manage these weapons and stop ourselves from destroying this Earth. If God existed, he would have stopped man from creating these weapons in the first place. But man is curious and aggressive by nature and the fact that he has created these weapons is because of this curiosity and the desire to master technologies and the desire of one nation to become more powerful than other nations. Sigmund Freud has studied this aggressive nature of man in depth.
Some people say that the fact that everything in this world has a purpose and that the fact that the planets and the stars revolve in perfect orbits points to the existence of a creator. But the truth lies elsewhere. When our earth needs rains we get it not only on populated areas but also in the seas and oceans that do not need them. If God was such a perfect designer he would have arranged things so that only areas that have vegetations or that really need rains get it.
Various prophets and saints who have founded religions or that have authored major scriptures have given their own theories in their books, and the faithful are required to believe in what is written in those scriptures, without question. Once you start questioning what is written in a holy book of your religion, you are no longer a faithful and are considered an outcast by those who believe. An apostate is one who has renounced his religion, and Islam and Judaism have the concept of death penalty for apostasy but only Islam enforces such a punishment. In many Islamic countries, even today the punishment for apostasy is death, which is ridiculous.
Apostasy is often punished though such a punishment goes against the principle of free will and freedom of religion which includes the freedom to not believe in any religion or God. Many religions and some theocratic states punish apostates. Apostates may be shunned by the members of their former religious group or subjected to formal or informal punishment. A Christian church may in certain circumstances excommunicate the apostate, while some Abrahamic scriptures like those of Judaism and Islam demand the death penalty for apostates. The death penalty is still applied by some Muslim states like Iran and Saudi Arabia, but not in Christianity or Judaism. (1)
To conclude, it is this author’s belief that those who consider their own religion to be superior to another religion, should be considered guilty of irrational thinking and society should treat such persons with the same ridicule as it treats racists.
Only the West can take the lead in creating an atmosphere all across the world where religious fanatics, extremists and fundamentalists are considered perverse, just as racists are treated. The reason for this is that the West has a long history of secularism where people of various religious beliefs are considered equal before the law. Western society also does not suppress religion like China does.
However the Western governments must treat religious extremists, fanatics and fundamentalists as enemies of society. The best way to defeat such enemies of society is to carry out public education by encouraging writers and public speakers to preach religious tolerance. Writers who speak the truth and explain clearly that God is merely a product of human imagination, and who encourage their readers to question the irrational and false statements written in the scriptures of various religions should be protected and rewarded. The battle against religious fanatics and fundamentalists must be fought in the battlefield of ideas, through essays, articles, books, videos, songs, lyrics, and movies. This is the best way to defeat these enemies of society.
(2) What is Religion by Barry Nirmal; http://myads.org/journal/bkn31.shtml
Peace on earth and in the universe!!!!!
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