May 9, 2016
While I contend that man can be ethical and righteous
without being religious, I am in no way suggesting, that one should abandon
practicing religion. Morality, essentially, is a virtue that is personal and
the human beings follow it out of social and personal obligations or volition.
Let us put it like this, that even in heathen and
secular societies, the people, at the same time, tell lies and speak truth.
Truth is a component of virtue that one believes not because of religious
compulsions or motivation but because it is a positive social value that is
appreciated while it’s opposite falsehood is disliked.
When we are speaking truthfully, we seldom think we are
doing so because the religion ordained so, but because it is right and
commendable to do so. Same mindset applies to other innumerable virtues and
ethical values that we practice in our daily lives.
To be law abiding, to care for others, to be
compassionate and considerate, to be kind and humane, to treat aged and
children with kindness, not to steal, to murder, or rape and so on, are invariably are virtues that are cherished
and commended equally in the irreligious
and the rigidly religious societies.
The religious commandments or injunctions if vigorously
and earnestly applied during our social dealings, then of course, we may not
err or indulge in immoral and unethical pursuits either by word of mouth or by
our actions and deeds. Yet in our daily life and in social interactions, we
make a mess of the moral codes ordained by our religions.
Irrespective whether we believe in Judaism, Christianity,
or Islam or any other religion, countless times we lie, swindle, weigh less,
adulterate the foods, and charge more. We do not keep our promises. We molest,
kidnap, speak rough even use abusive jargon, enter into fratricidal disputes, tamper
with out utility services, power meters, evade or do not pay our tax in full.
We solicit jobs through bribery or influential
contacts; prefer our relations and friends for jobs or contracts via nude and
unabashed nepotism and so on. We seldom think that all these vices and foul
activities are forbidden by religions and despised by the society.
Therefore, whether we are religious or not, we
demonstrate outward social behavior without keeping in mind all the time that
these are do’s or don’ts contained in the religious codes. If we still persist
in good behavior as well as bad behavior then certainly we are simultaneously
complying and breaching the tenets of the religion.
The claim or argument that religion fosters
absolute morality would look convincing if we can divide the human race into
two clear sections, one being wholly moral because of being religious and the
other being entirely immoral because of being irreligious. We know we cannot
draw out such clear-cut distinction.
If morality were entirely exclusive to religions then the
human generations existing before the advent of religious eras would have been
immoral. In the prehistoric ages when there was no ownership of land or
property, the communities would be knit into bonds of fraternity, work together,
equitably divide their food and resources, and share each other pains and
pleasures. Those generations believed in spirits, deities, demons and souls.
But certainly they were not the adherents of traditional religions that sprang
Even the wicked Pharaoh admonishes Prophet Abraham for
falsifying his real relationship with Sara, who was his wife but he faked her
as his sister. In this episode, the conduct of the heathen Pharaoh looks more
moral as compared to the religious apostle Abraham. If we accept the plea or
ruse of Abraham as the need of the hour, then we are tainting or bending the
inviolable religious canons with regard to the virtue of truth.
The core aim and underlying purpose of any religion is
absolute morality and piety. In addition, it connects the creation that is
human being with the creator that is almighty God. In religion, there cannot be
any compromise or modifications on the belief in a super human power or God.
Nevertheless, when the faith pertains to the affairs of the societies or mutual
interactions, the laws and traditions of the religion mingle with the mundane
laws of the society and thus the people follow both of these.
The Christian Orthodox Church is succumbing to the
pressures and imperatives of the modern societies to the extent that it now
permits marriages for nuns and priest. Of late, it has conceded the use of
condoms and even gay and same sex marriages. Beyond the cardinal belief in God,
the religions flourish and remain vibrant on the strength of their customs and
rituals, which are vigorously practiced. The faithful relish, cherish, and draw
bliss and spiritual elevation by observing these countless religious chores
that become an integral part of our social milieu.
They feel that their bond of obedience with God is
strengthened and the reverence for the messengers is reinforced. The examples
are Hindus converging on the river Ganges every year and celebrating various
festivals like Holli and Krishna Janamashtami etc. The Muslims celebrate
religious days, pray, fast and perform pilgrimage. The Jews go to Jerusalem and
Roman Catholics go to Rome.
Every religion has a pantheon of deities, an array of
rituals and an assortment of customs and innumerable taboos and shibboleths. In
Christianity, there is a vast plethora of symbols that are dutifully performed
during the service. Some of these are use of candles and rosaries, images of
saints, chants ,incantations prayer
books, incense, holy water, long robes, everlasting light before the alters,
serving of bread, the special architecture of the church buildings and so on.
As stated above, In Hinduism, there are countless deities as symbols of various
powers, the river Ganges as purifier of sins, the temples, and the sacred
books: Vedas, Brahmanas and Upanishads and Puranas.
In Jewish faith, there are many symbols such as
tabernacle, Star of David, the holy books Torah and Talmud, Sabbath, festivals
and circumcision and so on. In Islam such symbols are the mosque, the minarets,
the curved sword, the green color, the holy house of God in Mecca the black
stone, the sacrifice, the two sacred
festivities: one after the fasting and another on the eve of pilgrimage. The
list is long.
I shall leave other smaller religions that are immersed in a sea
of customs and rituals.Arguably, while these customs and traditions are
fervently and zealously followed by all the religions, yet this does not stop
them from killing each other and occupying each other’s lands and enslaving
In history and even in present times, there have been horrendous ethnic
cleansing of the adherents of one religion by the followers of the other
religion such as between Jews and Christianity and Christianity and Islam,
Hindus and Muslims, Jews and Muslims etc.Simultaneously, the religious and secular, or irreligious
societies profess principles, precepts, and laws that are intrinsically
However, at the same time morality could be variously
interpreted and is relative in case of each society. In permissive yet
religious societies as in the West and the Far East, such pastimes as
nightlife, clubs, drinking and dancing are integral part of the social life. In
dogmatic Islamic countries, these social features are sins liable for harsh
Yet in these glamorous and socially open societies,
people abide by law, respect each other, give charities to the poor and
downtrodden, take maximum care of the toddlers and young children, and maintain
nursing homes for the old people. They behave politely and respectfully to each
other. Any discrimination based on color, ethnicity religion or gender is
Although, these and similar other values are preached by religions,
yet these are also manifestly practiced in religiously liberal societies. It
means it is the culture or the law that enforces these good traits. That
eliminates the difference between being religious and non-religious in order to
be socially moral.
The citizens of these religiously tolerant countries obey
the civic rules, seldom taint the food, or tamper with their meters. Their agitations
and protests rallies are orderly and peaceful. They maintain environmental
cleanliness and respect the rights of their neighbors. They are by and large
peaceful and allow religious freedom for all believers.
Such societies are havens of civic comforts and facilities.
These are moral and human manifestations of such societies, which accord scant
or customary regard to religion. Nevertheless, they believe and practice the
well-established principles of morality, ethics, and good conduct. These serve their
people well and manifest good governance for the welfare of their people.
Temperamentally humans when born, possess inbuilt good or
bad traits with varying degrees. These traits are not influenced by external
factors and remain as the unalterable part of one’s personality till the last
breath. These may be suppressed under peculiar conditions or circumstances but
can never be eroded or rooted out from the mind.
As such socially and temperamentally, some people tend to
be highly moral, less moral or conversely highly immoral or less immoral. A
miser and greedy man can never be generous, a brave person cannot turn coward
and a cruel person would be devoid of compassion, a timid would not be
outspoken and an introvert cannot become an extrovert, et al.
Humans tend to be hypocritical in posing as moral and
religious by exhorting others to be good while they would be wicked themselves.
The religious clerics, clergy and preachers though preach moral values, do not
offer practical examples by their own conduct. They ask others to be frugal and
simple, while they themselves wallow in wealth and lead lavish lives.
crusade against the moral evils and goad reverence for God. Yet they exploit
their adherents by using wrath and pleasure of God. Many of them work as touts
of the respective governments .They are known for hoarding money and even
caught in heinous rape of minors.
Such a sermonized morality looks to be sham and mere
humbug. As morality is ingrained and very personal to an individual, my accent
is on social and ingrained moralities and not political or for show off. In
politics, morality is nonexistent as the interests of state supersede the moral
contours set by religious movements and gospels as well as the traditional
social or individual morality. For this reason an absolute religious government
is hard to work for a longer period of time.
Secondly the religious doctrines and tenets are meant for
a specific period of human societies and become outdated and collide with the
emerging conditions in subsequent times. In simple words, the societies are
dynamic and evolutionary while the religions are static. Thirdly morality is a universal virtue and is
not exclusive to the religions. Fourth, we have seen that the religious
societies get infested with divisions, factionalism, power struggle and
disharmony because of irreconcilable sectarianism.
Only the religion of the
majority remains dominant. The religious bias takes its toll of suppressing smaller
religions by the adherents of the majority religion. That phenomenon deprives a society of the
moral fiber by way of intolerance, lack of coexistence among various
denominations and faiths.
These are inhuman and immoral manifestation that may be
scantly found in a secular societies or a nation state. Just to reiterate that
religions bind us to the faith in God and to practice rituals and moral
principles. Yet we have seen that even in religious societies people are not angles.
They commit crimes, are intolerant, tell lies, swindle, cheat, steal and pilfer,
usurp and indulge in immoral pursurits.