Long, long time ago….
Men sat huddled around a dying fire – its flames flaring up as it gave way to the cold. It had been a long day – catch was limited, and they had worked too hard. One of these men, tired as he was, lay down on the ground, and gazed up. He looked intently at the night sky – the stars, the moon, and the darkness – all the while wondering who he was, and who had made them all. He raised the question to other men; “do you not wonder who made us all? The forest is so big, and there are so many of us – who is responsible for all this?”
The next few moments were those of silence. Finally, someone spoke, “Must be very strong, whoever he is – for I can set fire to only a leaf when I strike two stones – but he burns entire forests with just one stroke of the skies!” men introspected, and were filled with awe. They had just started dealing with the concept of God.
It was dawn, but darkness lingered. The skies boomed, and animals paced across distraught – knowing all too well that disaster was on its way. One man said, “Have we made Him angry?” A woman, his mate, asked, “Made whom angry?” “You weren’t there last night, when we discussed how someone very powerful must be behind us all! He’s going to strike the skies again!” said the man. The woman was grief stricken, knowing that only death followed the spark from the skies. She shrieked, “What must we do?!” The man said, “He’s like a tiger roaring that loud! Maybe he wants prey. Let us give him our best lamb!”
“The Tiger is so kind. He didn’t devour us this time. We must keep making these sacrifices every day to keep Him appeased!”
The commune had by then joined them. They shouted, “Let’s! Let’s slay and offer the lamb!” And so it happened, a sacrifice – futile slaughter of an innocent lamb, which was fed to flames, surrounded by primitives yelling their apologies. Within hours, the weather simmered down, and the primitives rejoiced, yelling praises of their Lord.
“The Tiger is so kind. He didn’t devour us this time. We must keep making these sacrifices every day to keep Him appeased!” shrieked a woman. Everyone joined in singing praises of the Tiger. Hundreds of miles away, in the icy uplands, men clad in bear-skin prayed to the Wolf, for His howl was what they heard in the storm, and they had nothing to attribute to the thunder’s deafening roar!
Both these tribes prospered and spread out. One day, a scout of the Tiger’s sons reported a small village up north. A raiding party slipped in slowly in the night, and struck the village in its sleep. It was a massacre.
The barbarians were quick to notice a Wolf drawn in what seemed to be their sacred place, and proclaimed superiority over the being they had discovered only recently. “The Tiger has slain the Wolf. All hail!” was the call. Whoever was alive was taken captive. Superiority was a strategy, but it was attributed to the strength that their Tiger lord had given them. It was the Tiger’s victory – not of those men, who had battled the cold and the dark, and had borne the guilt of slaughter. It was the victory of an ideology, not of an idea. It was said, “They didn’t worship the Tiger, and hence they lost!” Tribesmen up north were belittled and thought to follow a backward religion – they were called pagans. Fundamentally there was no difference – both had attributed nature’s might to beings they thought were representative. Their circumstances were different, but their intentions the same – to have someone to guide them, to have someone to fall back to in hours of discomfort, and to feel as if their fates were in control – to have more order in their lives. Hence they chose the Tiger and the Wolf, for they were the beings that captured their awe – beings perfect to attribute supernatural powers to and worship as guardians of nature.
But, as is human nature, we value superiority, and found a competition in what religion one follows. We neglect the fact that every religion is just a guideline, a relief, a route to catharsis in difficult times – and take prejudice against what is plainly diversity and different kind of evolution.
The Lion and the Wolf are merely constructs. Over the ages, a plenitude of religions have risen, forced dominance, and faded away. Invariably, religions have become stringent – more customs to follow to the book. Where did these customs spring from? Did someone descend from the heavens and lay down the rules? No, we humans did! Mark Twain has famously said, “Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool.” Not to be very extreme – but it is highly logical that religion was a framework designed to control the masses – something that would be readily acceptable to them – something that could be used to impose order. Maybe that is the reason, invariably; people of significance in religion tend to be control freaks.
Why do I write all this? Because despite all our advances, and all our accumulated glory, we have this one big flaw – that of blindly following a set of tenets so vigorously so as to not even question and improve them. I see billions worldwide sold to religion (or any other communal set of beliefs) – ready to strike for it if need be. Riots have happened in Myanmar recently – targeted at Muslims. A few madmen will create havoc – and their whole “community” will face the repercussion. What happens to these few madmen? They probably get killed, but so do thousands others – for no mistake of their own.
This is not one isolated incident. The initial subject of this article was actually the situation in Gujarat in 2002 (Gujarat riots). I had planned on writing about Narendra Modi’s appropriateness as our next Prime Minister, but I ended up reading about so much communal disharmony while doing research for this article that I found a political question a tad bit trivial as compared to the seriousness of the overall issue of religion leading to fanaticism. There have been the Crusades, there has been historic prejudice, and time and again,there has been spite – there has been a whole big set of satanic acts for what people think is a sacred cause. What a waste.
No longer shall we be judgmental, and no longer shall we be vain
My purpose in this article is to make people realise the truth – plead people to be more liberal, develop the spirit of questioning and be rational in making decisions about religion! We are in a modern age – and it is time we took down the barriers in our mind and know that at the end it is nature, with all its bounty and beauty. This beauty and bounty is God – and appreciating God is what every religion on this planet intends to teach its followers. For too long now have the masses mindlessly followed stringent tenets – and allowed themselves to be exploited as vote banks, mobs and rioters. No longer shall we be judgmental, and no longer shall we be vain.
Let us take down the borders and the walls existing in our heads – and make way to wide and beautiful avenues of rational choices.