Disclaimer: Though I was born a Hindu, I do not subscribe to Hinduism or any other religion. I respect all religions, castes, creeds, sexes, and sexual orientations. I am probably closest to being an atheist but I don’t recommend atheism to any one.
There are few things that I abhor more than peddlers of religion. They exist everywhere across all religions and regions. I also consider atheism to be a type of religion.
And then there exists two kind of peddlers – the aggressive and the moderate. Like all good salesmen, they know precisely how to catch your attention, entice you, and make you feel uncomfortable if you do not acquire their wares.
If you ever study or stay in Kerala, you are bound to meet someone who will befriend you, and then start talking about Jesus. Not Maddona’s toy boy, but the real son of the Lord.
They will smile at you, shake hands with you, then invite you to a meeting/gathering where they will convince you that your life is sinful, and why you should take the right path.
They use everything to attract your attention. Lovely lasses smile, meet, and greet you. I know an acquaintance who met a girl, who invited him to a meeting to learn more about Love. Thinking that he was about to get laid, the smart-ass went to keep the assignation, got lured by religion instead, almost becoming a priest before better senses prevailed.
Their modus operandi is well known. They engage you in friendly debate. Then very carefully, they point out to you just what’s missing in your life, and then take you to a gathering where everyone is selling Jesus to each other. Everyone is nice, and they all pray for you, your family, neighbors, and even the dogs on your street. You are overwhelmed, discover love, and possibly get conned.
Two decades back, while in college, there was a general impression that I was one of the biggest sinners around, a default candidate for a membership to Hell. Naturally, I had a few good friends (frankly, very nice men and women otherwise), who wanted to ensure that I got at least a backdoor entry to heaven. I ended up attending religious meetings, primarily, because I never knew how to say ‘No’ to friends. More so, if the friend happened to be of the fairer sex. These genuinely nice people who were otherwise harmless, kept convincing me about the great life I could lead if only I followed the words of the Lord, or read the Bible. Little did they know that the racy stuff in the Old Testament had already inspired me!
My own leftist leanings made me loathe anything connected with religion.
While I was at Engineering College, I had a chat on matters of the universe, with a senior student, and we discussed everything from the Big Bang Theory to Black Holes. It was an intellectually stimulating conversation; I was pleased as punch that I had found a veritable victim in the form of a willing listener to expound my theories.
At the end of the conversation, he invited me to a lecture where another senior was to be presenting a calculation to show the life of the earth. Since I thought this was something up my alley, I attended the lecture with a lot of enthusiasm. I meet a number of familiar faces, who even then were famous as confirmed believers and crusaders of conversion.
The lecture began. Using a particular theorem in electromagnetic theory, a senior electrical engineering student demonstrated that Earth was just about 6000 years old, or precisely formed in and around 4096 BC, which coincided with the date in the Bible. Since I took as much interest in engineering, as I did in religion, the entire presentation went above my head. At the end of the presentation, couple of senior professors congratulated the student, without even asking a single question. Praise the Lord!
Once the applause ended, my new found friend invited me to contest the findings. Suddenly, I was a Mary Magdalene among a hundred accusers (or challengers), with no Jesus to bail me out. I was a taken aback entirely unprepared for a confrontation. I confessed that my knowledge in the subject of Electro Magnetic Theory was very limited and I was starting with a major handicap. There was sudden laughter, and I began to feel humiliated. As a last minute attempt to save face, I asked him to explain carbon dating and fossils. There was silence all around. I gained confidence, and asked questions on scientific findings, Darwin’s theory, archeology and the like. There was no answer.
That’s when a student from a nearby college, who was practicing to be a priest stood up and said, “God made the Earth and the Universe, and the Earth is the centre of the Universe. Einstein’s theory of relativity proves that. Galileo was indeed wrong.” I was flabbergasted. There was a chorus of Amen. Close to a hundred believers were thrilled that the Bible was right, after all.
I decided to beat a silent but hasty retreat back to my rooms.
The word then spread among the followers that I was a tough nut to crack. They were determined, they kept in touch, they kept helping me. And since I am someone who is inherently lazy, the free assistance was always welcome. However, I was repelled by the fact that their only motive in being a friend was to make me a believer.
You have the new age messiahs and scholars like Dr. Zakir Naik; Hindu thinkers like Sri Sri Ravi Sankar or Baba Ramdev; a number of Christian thinkers from Benny Hinn to William Campbell also using science as a crutch to prove that their religion is right.
You have a bunch of morons who do calculations based on the Bible and decide that the world is going to end, and a bunch of followers who spend their life savings waiting to be saved.
You also have a bunch of PhD scholars running a conference called Galileo Was Wrong, Church was right. And then there are idiots who turn up at this conferences just to reinforce their belief. Why do you have to rely on science when you oppose anything scientific that goes against the Bible?
What I find most disturbing is the very perverted use of science and nature to pimp one religion or other. I feel it is downright vulgar. I have nothing against any religion specifically. I have taken more than a cursory glance at scriptures of all leading faiths, and I have not found anything offensive. In fact, every book speaks about doing good, and being better. I do not believe that you need religion to be a better person. Education might be a better option.
In the United States, in many states, they do not teach Darwin’s Theory, and prefer to teach Creationism. Even here, the pastors fall back on science to prove that the Bible is right.
But why? Why do we need to prove that we are right? Why do we have to sell our beliefs so aggressively, and use science as a tool? Why do we have to sell religion in the first place?
Except for some of the basic ideas, science is not accurate. It’s changing constantly. Change is the only constant in science and technology. It keeps becoming more accurate; new theories are being spun and old theories debunked. I would even go and say, that we cannot be sure of anything expect fundamental ideas in mathematics, physics, and biology. The rest is still potentially theory that can be proven wrong tomorrow.
But none of the scriptures are going to change. They have been written, and all one can do is keep interpreting and misinterpreting them.
One of my favourite quotes from a cute little movie is that science is dispassionate. Unfortunately religion is very passionate. Too passionate, and it’s better not to mix them.