Sunday, April 26, 2009

The revelations of an Agnostic

Why is it offending to accept prasad from left hand ? Why are menstruating women not allowed to enter temples ? why is onion not included in the diet in some ‘traditional’ hindu households ? These were some of the early questions which used to bother me a lot . Answers ranged from ‘bas nahi hota’ to ‘dont argue’. No one ever gave me a logical or even a convincing answer .

Then with History as a subject in my senior secondary education, i got the answer for the menstruating question . It had its origin in a patriarchal society. It was an attempt to control women. Religion was afterall a human invention. I tried to resist the stereotype of left-handedness. I would deliberately put forth my left hand to accept prasad. I was always scolded. Gradually i started moving away from this institution. I wanted to break free . We had partition and post-partition riots in our curriculum. The partition of India and the genocide that followed it had a strong base of communalism. Both Hindus and Muslims wanted to emerge supreme. Basically this was the elite’s aim but it was the common people who suffered the repercussions. This event claimed thousands of lives. Those who survived it, carried a permanent wound in their hearts. This wound became hereditary. The effect of this wound is now reflected in the attitude of the fundamentalists. This topic triggered a massive change in me . I read stories of these ‘holy’ attacks. I could imagine people chanting ‘Ram Ram’(or ‘he Allah’) before using the sword. My heart used to cry out. I read stories of survival where help was given by a member of the ‘rival’ community. I realised that humanity is bigger than any religion . This was the second step in the process of my adopting agnosticism.

The third and the final step was my entrance in the discipline of history at graduation level. The formation and sustenance of a religion has an economic and social base . Religion is modulated to suit the contemporary social and economic situation. I studied the beginning of ‘Hinduism’ , my family religion. Hinduism , like any other religion has evolved with time . The rites and rituals of each era was a reflection of the demand in the social , political and economic sphere. I was able to discover the origins of many famous stereotypes. I got the real answers to my questions. I was at the end of receiving major shocks. I understood the purpose and the intention of the religion. The access to this information lead to the ultimate decision – that of my renouncing religion . For me every religion serves the same purpose . It acknowledges the supreme power . It tries to guide people in distinguishing good and bad. It creates a sense of trust . It is trust which sustains this world. But one cannot deny the fact that religion was a human invention . It is the way humans interpreted the world around them . They imagined God as the supreme MAN . They developed customs which served their motives. They had a lot of biases . I was no longer prepared to follow these biases . Why should i follow someone else’s rules when i can make my own ?

For me Agnosticism is this. Agnostics believe in god but they cannot define it. I know there is a supreme power . Someone/Something has set this world. I imagine God as a supreme force. We can worship this force by having complete faith in it . This is how i explain miracles. I also pray to this supreme force and thankfully , it has always helped me . My prayers were answered as i have complete faith in this power. I have also developed definitions for good and bad. Good is when one does not harm oneself or others’ in any way. I believe that our actions determine our fate . But there are things which are predetermined. Whatever deed one does , one is repaid in this life itself. I cannot explain anything about ‘life after death’. I have no idea as to what happens to the soul after death. For me God is FAITH. I also believe that an element of this god is present in every human being. If one has faith in oneself , then one is worshipping the supreme force. God is everywhere . God sees us.