By Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
R eligion is a term which is apparently known to all people and each of them belongs to one religion or another. But in spite of its familiarity it has become the most controversial epithet in the present age. The purpose of religion, as the term implies, it to “hold together”. Religion is supposed to reveal unity, which is latent in diversity, that marks creation in general and human species in particular. Yet at present it can be seen that religion has been creating a wall of division between human beings. Love is the main theme of every religion and our religious scriptures have emphasized love for all. But in reality we see venomous hatred in the sphere of religion. Briefly speaking, religion upholds justice, but we see that followers of diverse religions are involved in all sorts of injustice—and they are busy legitimatizing injustice. Unspeakable cruelties are perpetrated in the name of religion and the offenders get away without being punished for their heinous crimes. According to the Oxford dictionary “Religion is recognition on the part of man of some higher unseen power as having control of his destiny, and as being entitled to obedience, reverence and worship”.
Every religion owes its existence to some sublime fermentation of the spirit, a feeling of eternity in the continuity of time and conception of some higher rules. In course of time this awakening of the spirit gets organized into religion.
The religion by itself is a force to purify mind and uplift the human spirit to a higher level. But then the priestly class emerged to corrupt the purity of religion by taking over the scriptures, the rituals and the dogmas of that religion. In the process they transformed religion into a divisive force to serve their own ulterior interests. This kind of organized religions contradict the spiritual forces to which they owe their origin.
The religious elite interpret the scriptures selectively to serve their own interests. Blind devotion takes the place of virtue. Faith is necessary for any religion, but faith is not supposed to disparage religion, rather faith should complement religion. A faith which contradicts reason is not faith in the true sense of the term. When reason gets confused, faith is supposed to help it in realizing its goal. But some unscrupulous people prefer to dilute reason in order to manipulate the masses for some ulterior motive. They encourage the propagation of blind faith, which is not really faith at all. Faith in religion is analogous to intuition in creativity. The function of faith is to complement reason in order to make it intelligible to human understanding. If a person depends on faith, it is his responsibility to provide rational explanation in its justification.
Religion cannot possibly approve blind devotion, which does not have the support of faith and reason, as both are essential for religious explanation. Blind faith is the most vulnerable sensationalism, which paves the way for the emergence of God men, who steal the thunder from the priestly class. These fake gods change religion into a matter of sensationalism with the sleight of hand. By duping common people with a sub-rational explanation of religion, they derive immense benefit from them.
Blind faith without reason makes the gullible people too much dependent on the god men, who seem to possess magical powers which are mistaken for the supernatural power of God. The personal charisma of the individual is very important to keep the people in a hypnotic trance. Hence the god men with their blatant magical power become more important to the common people than the keepers of religious establishments, or the authorized scriptures. Hence the god men do all they can to keep up their mass appeal. At any cost they want their followers to increase in number, so that they can keep their popularity intact. After all, their worldly gains depend on the number of their followers.
To keep up their mass appeal, it is essential for the god men to take recourse to the element of the miraculous. They perform their miracles in full public view, and get explosive advertisements, which proclaim their supernatural power. With their magical power they also conjure up a sub-rational climate of opinion that excludes critical activities, and consequently the rational faculty of the people become dormant. The moral philosophers have time and again warned people against depending on the miraculous, which corrupts true faith and hinders moral development. As such devotees become robots in the hands of these unscrupulous god men and they are used as tools for their self-promotion.
The purpose of religion is to help in full development of human faculties—but the god-men with their pseudo spiritualistic posture create an aura of drugged ambience and people lose their common sense as well as rational power. In the drugged atmosphere, conjured by the god-man, they swallow everything the god-men say, hook, line and sinker. It should be noted that too much dependence on miracles implies weakness of faith and proper faith is essential for religion. Faith also helps reason in attaining its goal. But blind faith hinders the rational development of human beings.
The god-men, unlike prophets, are not interested in improving the mental attitude of the individual or society, as it is only in a sick society that they flourish. Under the impact of the god-men reason recedes to the background and the god-men exploit the situation to the full for their own benefit. Hence they never want people to apply their rational faculties, since by considering rationally the people will understand that the activities of the god-men are questionable.
Diverse god-men acquire a large number of fans. Some of them have a good number of film stars, sports personalities, political and non-political influential persons amongst their fans. Prominent criminals are also their ardent devotees. They make those god-men more famous—and hence they love those important people, under whose mantle they bask.
The god-men are not interested in reforming any individual—they are not interested in imparting any moral teaching to the followers. The reason for their immense popularity and material success in accumulating wealth is that they make no moral demands on those who go to them. They offer quick-fix solutions to the seekers of their blessings, but do not talk about any moral discipline or spiritual activity. For their magical powers donations pour into their coffers. Even those who would not offer a dime to the poor and the deserving, do not hesitate to offer huge amounts as donation to the god-men. The basic principles of spiritual guidance is to reform and regenerate individuals and society. That is what prophets and saints do. Therefore prophets and god-men are polar opposites. The god-men turn religion into a magic show and a farce.
Most of these god-men do perform some charitable works, and people get impressed by their magnanimity. It may be that the god-men do that for publicity and to keep their followers intact, who are essential to keep up their image. They might also be afraid that people may resent their obscene opulent life style in a poverty—stricken country. Hence they make a show of charity to dilute their excessive wealth. Some of these god-men are worth several crores. The practice of charity camouflage the god-men’s total indifference to social evils and injustice. The planned charitable works make people blind to the motives and aspirations of the god-men.
Some of these god-men are engaged in all sorts of nefarious activities. Religion, like politics, is a domain of power. Saints may talk about justice and truth. But during the present era the world is in the iron grip of those, who do not listen to their voice of conscience. The god-men strike saintly postures for public show and people remain unaware of what goes behind the scene.
Since the god-men have many political leaders amongst their devotees, they have many advantages. These leaders throng the god-men’s mansions for getting blessings, advice and some magic for political rise in their career. These men with their cloak of spirituality oblige the leaders with medallions, “bibhuti” (ash) or whatever they can manipulate with their magical power. If by chance their predictions come true, naturally they rise to the top in their profession, besides getting political protection in case of any emergency.
Actually no god-man can survive for long without political patronage. In return for the protection extended by the politicians, the god-men favour them with assurances of windfalls in their political career, enhancement of their mass appeal with the electoral gains. The god-men cast their spells on politicians by holding out hopes of fantastic political bonanza, and the politicians fall for them like a ton of bricks. They dream about their future meteoric rise in their political career with the help of the god-men. The god-men’s popular indulgence in the miraculous to the neglect of the moral aspect and mystification of religion confuse the common people to a great extent. Hence they are in a way forced to fall in line with whatever is said by the “omnipotent” and “omniscient” god-men.
Since the devotees are interested only in what they can get from the god-men, they remain blind to the fact that these unscrupulous persons, masquerading as god-men, have nothing worthwhile to say except the clichés, which have been repeatedly said by those who came before them. All god-men talk about ‘love’ and nobody bothers to ask how spiritual the understanding of ‘love’ is. But sooner or later these god-men reveal themselves as the fake deities of “materialism”. Actually they are not the least interested in spiritualism. They are only interested in earning huge amount of money and lead a wealthy life.
We are in need of urgent spiritual revival to make us better human beings. The god-men merely corrupt the purity of religion, which is dangerous for humanity. It is our duty to look beyond our narrow communal barriers and think for the world of humanity. Religion is a matter of spiritualism, and it must not be commercialized. No religion supports materialism and we must practise spiritualism in order to attain peace and perfect happiness.