Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dosa and Morality - How religion fails to preach morality

Courtesy: Wikimedia 

No one likes to have dosa which is not straight out of the tava and so, no one minds to wait in queue when it is severed hot. The queue is generally a tad long for it as the entire office rushes to the cafeteria at exactly nine and they have to be served one at a time. People here are generally lazy and enjoy the conversations while in queue. However, few individuals would rather like to pass their time standing outside the queue and are at times in hurry to bypass it.

On such a Friday morning, two devoutly religious colleagues joined me at the end of such a queue.
One of them was a follower of ISKON, drenched till the soul in love of Krishna, adorned with a tulsi mala and a counter which he used to count how many times he chanted the name of lord. Can't say for sure why lord was called upon with such a high frequency, may be it was for world peace, may be it was for war against the worms that inhabited his intestines causing the embarrassing anal itch. I remember him buying a computer and an mp3 player for the sole purpose of watching the podcast of ISKON discourses and listening to the heavenly preaching while surrounded by the mortal humans in the bus. For the sake of protecting his identity, lets call him Mr. X.

The other deeply religious colleague was a follower of Islam. His support for Islamic fundamentalism, not to be confused with violence, was palpable. I have heard him talking how great and confident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was who did not bow down to United States' arm twisting, even felt a certain respect in him towards Osama Bin Laden when he addressed him as "unke" rather than "uske." He had venerated Zakir Naik, explaining him to be a man of knowledge, one who explains the questions of science and conflicts of daily life in terms of Islam, with an enchanting finesse. Mr. Y stresses on the harmony of religion and science, how the teachings the Quran and Hadith have scientific reasoning, how the science and religion were the single entity in the golden bygone era. Though it was little difficult to know his religious views with certainty as he talked much less and with much deception, but one can understand that he was indeed a man of books, who leads a life by the rules defined in the religion. Let he be known as Mr. Y.

So, here I was with Mr. X at the end of the queue waiting for the masala dosa. With customary smile and cheerful mood, which the ISKON devotees are advised to keep handy, Mr. X indulged in some back bitching about the work place. This was his usual topic of discussion, however, his eyes were in search of something else, flickering along the queue. And here he was, another colleague who was rather close to Mr. X standing at the other end of the monstrous queue. As their eyes met, Mr. X was quick to make a few hand gestures indicating to get additional dosa for himself. To make it clear, he said "get 2 extra dosas for Mr. Y. He's busy with some work and will be coming shortly." It was as if Mr. X was more than willing to wait for his turn but wanted to help Mr. Y out. By now, Mr. Y had arrived at the scene and joined us in the wait. He was informed of the arrangements made. I asked them rather bluntly whether it was haraam to get food in this manner bypassing the queue. The question was laughed at, "why it would be haraam to eat dosa?" In a while, the next batch of dosas arrived and the close friend collected 3 of them. Mr. Y left the queue immediately and headed straight towards the table where the dosas were waiting. Mr. X said he'll make a call and come. Soon he was at the table relishing the dosa. It was me, the foolhardy atheist, who had to wait for the next 15 minutes for my turn. It was not the "special butter dosa in afterlife" that inspired me take the moral route. I was not scared of the fire of hell either, nor lured by the promise of seven virgins in the paradise. It was mere respect for the right of fellow human beings, understanding that their existence is of no less value than self.

No doubt this was an event of insignificance. However, the question it raises is what is the relation between morality and religion. Why these deeply religious people find it perfectly okay to divulge in immoral acts of petty nature. A man with a common sense can confer the right of people ahead in the queue. One does not need higher values of religion to understand these basic rules of social conducts. Yet, time and again, we find these religiously inclined people to be unscrupulous when it comes to pushing their own interest.

One may argue that there will inadvertently be some element of dirt in even the purest of pure water. No organization has members all of whom clean to their toes and religion too has its minority share of impure souls. To establish this argument that only a tiny fraction of religious people are immoral, one would have to find out per capita immoral acts for religious lot around the world and compare that with the numbers for non-religious lot. However, to discard this argument, one just has to consider the fact that almost the entire human population is religious and given the sheer number and spread of crimes throughout the earth, it is highly unlikely that only the nonconformists are responsible for those. On an average, a faithful is as immoral as a heretic if not more. And if one has to quote the slaughter, incest, bigotry from the books of god, religion may seem to have a module or two promoting immorality in its course.

No, it is not to say that religion teaches immorality. Rather, religion fails to teach morality, a claim that has been asserted to be the main aim of religion, to impart morality. Religion or spirituality cannot claim to be the godfather of the human culture and values that we cherish. On the contrary, this blind and nauseating organization of faith itself is an undesirable byproduct of human culture. It is the humanistic values that draw the thin line between right and wrong. Morality is born from earthly common sense, not from the belief in fairytales. To preach religion claiming it to impart values of humanity is sacrilegious from a humanistic point of view. We need no fictitious characters to maintain harmony and peace.

Related Readings: Mean Gods Make Good People: Different Views of God Predict Cheating Behavior
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  1. How foolish! You just want to connect everything with religion?

    what Mr X did is not right? What does religion has to do with that? I would say he has not learnt what the religion preaches!

    So does the politicians in Tamil Nadu who claim to be aethiests pure in everything? What taught them the corruption? Or why did aetheism fail in preaching them that corruption is wrong?

    Very unfortunate that you cannot differentiate between the preaching of a religion and indiscipline act of an individual!


  2. @Trails of a Traveler:

    You miss the point completely. The author uses the example of two very devout men, because devout people are supposed to have learned the most of their religion. If morality were in their religion, they would have learned it.

    Furthermore, you ask why atheism "failed in preaching that corruption is wrong." Atheism doesn't preach anything at all. Atheism is simply, having no belief in god. Atheism has no preaching, just like unemployment does not have a salary.

    Nor did he say that religion taught Mr. X and Mr. Y to be immoral. He didn't say that either!

    You accuse the author of connecting everything with religion. Actually, he is SEPARATING morality from religion, not connecting them! He's not connecting immorality with religion either. All he is saying is, religion does not teach morality.

    Please understand what people say before you run around calling them foolish. If you don't know what they are saying, you have nothing valuable to say in return.

  3. @Anonymous - Thanks a lot for putting the concept in such a clarity. It would have been better had you not been anonymous, its always so good to know people with such clarity in views.

    I don't blame anybody for perceiving my thoughts in a wrong way because its their RIGHT WAY. I'm right at my standpoint and they at their. Everybody is free to express their thoughts, criticize, or even abuse :) I love this freedom of internet.

  4. ur freedom of internet has become too much nowadays...there is tremendous change in ur personality after u hav started writing blogs.
    Pls explain how the pic of this blog is related to this blog .Wht does the girl and horse symbolise.

  5. Dear Anonymous,

    Please click on the photo. It would take you to wikimedia where you get the name of the painting. Read about the painting and see what it symbolizes.


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