As I write this editorial, the world is still reeling from the shock and disbelief of the shooting in Orlando, Florida where a fanatic opened fire on a gay bar and killing at least fifty people and seriously injuring as many. In another incident in France last night, a couple, both working for the police was killed by an assailant in front of their two children. Both criminals claimed their allegiance to ISIS. Whether these heinous crimes were actually mandated by the ISIS is not the point. The point is that each man claimed to be a believer, a faithful, an integral part of a holy war, for justifying their inhuman acts. They believed that they were cleansing the world, people with so called deviant sexual preferences in Orlando, the law enforcers who crack down on extremist factions in France. In the past one year, we have witnessed numerous acts of terrorism committed in the name religion or political doctrine. As the world becomes increasingly disillusioned with political ideology, religion has taken over as the prime mover of diverse acts of violence all over the world. The reign of terror of political groups that murdered the masses - the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Hutus in Rwanda, the fighting factions of the Great African War, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua – is now over. Political ideologies no longer move men to genocides. We should be thankful for that. And I am. Except that there is a big difference between ideology and faith, between ideology and belief. We shall come to the question of worship later.

It is probably worth our while to quickly define the concepts of faith and belief. Most of us think of ‘faith’ in supernatural terms, as in ‘faith in God.’ Faith probably reflects the innate drive of man to search for meaning, purpose and significance in the chaotic world he lives in. Faith may or may not be religious – we can have ‘faith’ in a value system, a political doctrine, a school of thought, in the super or the preternatural. Faith involves a stance toward some claim ‘that is not, at least presently, demonstrable by reason, and hence is a kind of attitude of trust or assent’. As such, it is ordinarily understood to involve an act of will or a commitment. ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase’ said Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark’ said the great poet Ranbindra Nath Tagore. ‘Faith is an oasis in the heart which will never be reached by the caravan of thinking’ said the poet Kahlil Gibran. Through these poetic expressions, it seems that faith represents the innate human longing for meaning, purpose, and significance. We search for and find our own faiths – whatever its forms & expressions.

According to modern theologians, Belief represents the truth claims humans make as a result of their spiritual journeys. When, as a result of man’s spiritual striving, he decides that ‘this is true’ and ‘this is not’, he articulates his ‘beliefs’. So when we believe in something, it is because we are convinced of its veracity. Belief, again, is not necessarily related to scientific proof. ‘I had (therefore) to remove knowledge, in order to make room for belief’ said Emmanuel Kant, implying that we can actually believe anything that our experience validates. It has nothing to do with things that can actually be proved by scientific experimentation. Before the Renaissance and Galileo, the whole world ‘believed’ in a certain representation of Earth and the Solar system that had nothing to do with observation or scientific experimentation. Today large parts of the world population ‘believe’ in certain things – capitalism, globalization, alter globalization, sustainable development….

Let us come to the concept of worship, which may or may not be related to faith and belief, but is very often linked to religion. Scholars tend to think that religion may, in fact, ‘be a byproduct of the way our brains work, growing from cognitive tendencies to seek order from chaos, to anthropomorphize our environment and to believe the world around us was created for our use’. Religion has survived, they surmise, ‘because it helped us form increasingly larger social groups, held together by common beliefs’. Any and every religion proclaims some form of worship – idols, symbols (like the Christian Cross), books (like the Torah). The temples and the churches and the synagogues and other well defined institutions gather the religious in special places, at special times, every day and on special days. Rites and rituals create a sense of bonding, of sharing – they draw people together from across the social classes and boundaries’. ‘Religion, in a sense, outsources social monitoring to a supernatural agent’ says Norenzayan. ‘If you believe in a monitoring God, even if no one is watching you, you still have to be pro-social because God is watching you.’ Graham and Haidt argue that, through stories and rituals, religions have built on five basic moral foundations: Do no harm, play fairly, be loyal to your group, respect authority and live purely. So should we wonder why, with the decaying and increasingly impotent social & political orders, religions have become the prime movers all over the world?

I think that faith, belief and worship are different stages in our evolution. A child has only faith – faith in her parents, in the sanctity of the home and hearth, in everyday wonders of the nature. Till a certain age, she believes in Santa, in tooth fairies, in leprechauns, in the invincible powers of good and evil incarnated by different real and fictitious entities. As she grows up, the knowledge and understanding of the world makes her keep some and discard some. Her own spiritual and intellectual journey tempers her system of faith and belief and finally leads her to worship. Worship that may or may not be religious.

Except that, no religion has ever taught people to hate. To take life, to harm, to maim. They ordain followers to live a pure life. At the same time, they give the faithful the right to preach, to convince, to purify, to purge. The ultimate aim is laudable, in a sense – make the earth and the society pure, devoid of sins and conform to the laws laid down by the Gods. Except that throughout history the purge has been carried out by the sword, and now by the Kalashnikov or the AK 47 or by suicide bombers who probably believe that they are executing the will of their Gods. Because they are the faithful, the believers, the worshippers.

Isn’t it time to look at our personal faiths, beliefs and worships? 

Aparajita Sen

[Editor: Songsoptok]


1 comment:

  1. Real matter of concern for humanity😂You have presented the facts in a nice sequence😂


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