Few days back an alien gatecrashed into our wanton lives, issued us countless sermons about everything wrong with our interpretation of God and our lives thereof, and setting the cat among the religion bound pigeons returned to his distant home. Now that he is gone I wonder if we could have done without his ‘all preachy goodie goodie pep talk’ jaunt just the way we have managed it so far.
As if we didn’t have our hands full with over the top zealots wearing religion on their sleeves on terra firma that we must now get the dressing down from someone from the clan of extraterrestrial species lost in the quagmire of our planet seeking desperately for his ‘ghar wapasi’.
Though there was nothing wrong with the observations made by the alien and his rather too simplistic solutions, he being an alien after all having little idea about the complexities of earthly problems and so can be given the benefit of (un)doubt, the problem lies in the subject matter he chose to make observations on: ‘religion’. No one can take religion for a ride here without running a risk, even at the claim of making all the right noises.
Religion is the preserve of the vigilantes whose decree is the unspoken law of the land. Where one must be careful enough not to get hands burnt by bringing religion up the alien is accused of double whammy. While he began with daring the ‘hydra headed religion’ for an Armageddon, a blasphemy by itself, in the end he seemed to feel complacent by looking into the eye of just one head, going far too easy on the remaining heads for no obvious reason.
This laxity, purposeful or otherwise, on the part of the alien took it to another level. For, if you risk it with religion you must have the conviction and courage to go all the way. Half measures with religion, as we have come to know, are far more damaging. The irony with trying to show mirror to religion is that you must make sure to present its complete profile and not just the side profile howsoever alluring it may appear to be.
Now that the alien has boarded his flight back to his homeland, and quite successfully so (a new club of 300 crore coming into existence) we must try to get to the core of the issue by delving into the sensibilities of the person who brought alien to our doorsteps at first place, i.e. the creator of the alien. Since he was born and brought up in a particular faith we have every reason to believe that while trying to construct his vision about the misgivings of faith and putting it forth through the medium of his alien he would have drawn mostly from his own religion about which he was bound to be far more comfortable and could boast of firsthand experience.
We may deduce that the observations the alien made could have been his creator’s attempt at self deprecation. In a way the creator could arguably be conscious of the risks involved in maneuvering in religious space and so wanted to play safe by keeping the razor edge of the jokes upon himself (his own faith).
But in a charged society high on religion self deprecatory jokes may turn out to be self defeating as the creator of the alien would have by now come to realise. Self deprecation can be arm twisted by the supposed aggrieved party (vigilantes) to seem like a badge of disrepute and lack of masculinity in comparison to ‘others’ thus making it a conflict of self esteem.
The ‘others’ in the argument here are portrayed as steadfast adherents who don’t get into the trap of self deprecation and go on to ridicule their faith. Such an argument catapults the supposed goodness of set of beliefs to be its weakness that as per the vigilantes make their religion seem vulnerable. While such an argument may sound fallacious at the onset it cannot be ruled out altogether if a party with vested interest or opportunists would want to take advantage of this liberal attribute to tweak the impressionable minds of the followers of that set of beliefs according to their desirability. Large scale conversions from Hinduism to other religions in last few centuries stand as testimony to this.
Paradoxically the onus falls upon the so called ‘liberals’ of Hindu religion who in spite of having greater perspective must refrain themselves from just pointing at the anomalies of their own religion and should strive to form a larger opinion taking in its ambit the entire religious space that would criticize one and all in the same spirit. Such an opinion would at least make sure that the vigilantes won’t raise baton in the name of favouritism. We wish the creator of alien would have been valiant enough to not seem prejudiced and have had a balanced portrayal of the shortcomings of religions in totality.
In an easily hurt nation like ours religion can flare up the emotions with the snap of a finger and so must be treated with sophistry that makes an exhaustive viewpoint. In such an environment I am even tempted to say that it would rather be safe to be irreligious. And if not so then in the vast pool of religion we all are the same and we all will sink, float or come out of it as swimmers together.
So, if someone is taking a mock drill of ‘sinking feeling’ in the pool he must convince each and everyone that we all are sinking in unison and at the same time, no one before the other.
By: Atul Kapoor