Let’s face it. The world is in a mess and nothing seems to be working. The reason religion is becoming more and more unpopular and is being replaced by materialistic systems like atheism, secularism and capitalism, is because of religious followers. The ‘followers’ of the world’s major religions can broadly be categorised into two: those who forward a distorted version of their religion, and those who aren’t doing anything to counter the distorted version put forward. Both are just as bad. Religion has failed to tame its followers, atheism has provided a shield of arrogance to atheists, secularism has stripped the world of a moral foundation and capitalism has promoted greed.
Let me start with the failure of the religious. How can a Christian, Muslim or Hindu or any other religious follower, claim their religion is the correct one without understanding or studying the others? And when I say study, I don’t mean listening to your pastor, Imam or Guru, I mean study the religion yourself.
Muslims need to understand the time in which they are living, and realise that their religion is compatible with any time and age. Just because it was revealed over 1400 years ago in the desert of Arabia, this does not mean that the religion can’t move with the times. The teachings remain the same, but our understanding of the teachings have to conform with the era in which we live. Muslims need to become more diplomatic, while using rationalism and science to propound their message. Muslims are so concerned about what other people are doing they often neglect their own character and ego. In the pursuit of denouncing other Muslims – calling them names like ‘kafir’ (non-believers) – they often end up renouncing their own faith by labelling people with names they have no right to. My advice to Muslims would be to rectify your own faults before worrying about others.
Christianity, like Islam, is a proselytising religion that calls for the word of God to be spread. But when radical Christians claim Jesus is humanities only saviour, and without believeing Jesus died on the cross for our sins we will end up in Hell, people become profusely put off the faith. I have a Christian friend who once said ‘I can do what I want because the Bible says I’m going to Heaven anyway.’ It is this sort of hubris which is grossly off putting to those of other faiths. Christianity is a great religion which provides hope and exudes love. My advice would be to understand the true teachings of Jesus and understand the Bible in its true context.
The terms Judaism and Zionism have become synonymous, when, in fact, they are the antithesis of each other. The obvious difference between the two is that one is a great religion, which, at its core, has a set of moral principles, and the other, is an ideology bent on ethnic cleansing and the stealing of land. My advice would be for Jews to vehemently disassociate themselves from Zionism (if they are against it) so that the two terms are no longer conjoined.
The less proselytising religions like Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism don’t have the same problems. The only issue is that we hardly hear what these religions are actually about. People need to familiarise themselves with the beautiful teachings of many of the Hindu scriptures like the Bhagvad Gita and with Hinduism’s essential teachings of spirituality and harmony. Most Sikhs are genuine, harmless and devout people who just like to do bhangra and drink alcohol all the time (just joking). Sikhism, in fact, actually combines many of the best traits from the Islamic and Hindu faith and therefore is profoundly prudent. When one hears the word Buddhism, it naturally commands respect. True Buddhists live a life of sacrifice and peace with themselves and others, but interestingly, remain quiet on the issue of whether there is a God or an afterlife. Furthermore, their scriptures are a deep ocean of knowledge which, after a lifetime of study, will still elude the most erudite of scholars.
When I say religion has a problem, I don’t mean it in a literal sense. I mean the followers of the faith have problems; often quite profound and deeply psychological. The problem arises when the ‘followers’ use their religion as a tool to further their own selfish agendas. People often fight in the name of their religion when they don’t even understand the essence of their religion, and even worse, don’t understand the religion of those whom they are fighting. It’s oxymoronically stupid.
All religious believers need a more holistic and pluralistic understanding of their religion. We need to understand the essence of our own religions before trying to preach every intricate detail of our religion to others. Often, rationalists, skeptics, agnostic and atheist thinkers claim to be open minded but then assert their open mindedness gives them a natural superiority. The non- religious need to understand that religion is not based on ignorance but on the intellect and it is only the followers who use the former and not the latter.
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