There are a few people who sent me some links and articles on religious issues and they mentioned it is the biggest problem that India is facing these days. I know religion is one of the many problems that our country faces, particularly because India is a ‘spiritual‘ country (I believe it’s time that we call India as a ‘religious‘ country than a spiritual one). These fellow readers of my blog have been mostly worried about Christian conversion happening in India. So I thought I would write my views on religion, conversion and related issues here. Read full before you comment here.
I believe in God. My idea of God is Jesus Christ.
Why do I believe in God? There are various reasons. Aethists say it is primarily because man lost confidence in himself and relies on God for anything and everything. Perhaps it is true. I lack self-confidence in many cases and I leave it to God most of the times. I am afraid of doing things without God. I have never tried it. To this date everything in my life happened for good. Many things happened in the right time and in the most needed time. Some call it luck and some say luck is an act of God and I believe in that as of now.
Why do I believe in Jesus Christ?
Because Christianity is the religion I practiced from the childhood. What Christ taught me was to love one another and love even your enemies. I couldn’t do the latter though, I think it is something a person can do only when he/she reaches the highest level of spirituality. It is a state where one goes beyond the limitations of everything worldly, including religion. I am no where close to that spiritual level. But I found that the teachings of Christ is enough to live a good life and be a good man. I didn’t find a need to follow another religious faith.
Let me come to the conversion issue. As a Christian, I think the church should concentrate more on making the Christians live in the ‘Christian’ way than adding more numbers. The church is supposed to stand for the poor and it fails to do so at most of the times. Church is after those who have more money. The rich need not fear the Church. Church fears/obeys the rich most of the times. Church ‘rules‘ only the poor. The rich is excused. As a Christian who was very close to the church being in the Church choir, I have seen this. So it is this thing that the Church needs to work on. So I would say do that first. Save the souls that you thought you had saved, but actually lost. Come out of the obsession of power if you want to preach real Christianity. So as a Christian, I think the conversion is something to put in the least priority in a Christian life.
A friend of mine, who is a movie person, went to a remote tribal area in Tripura for shooting a tele-serial. The producer of this serial is a priest. My friend asked him if there are conversions happening and he answered yes. It was a quick and easy “Yes” as if he was asked “Did you brush your teeth today“. He gives Rs. 10 to each person in that tribal village who attends the Holy Mass every Sunday. My friend found out that the natives go to the church, gets their 10 bucks and comes back home and worship their own tribal gods. It is as simple as that. There is no cultural wipe-off. The father knows it, the natives know it. They just do it to have 10 bucks. They don’t have any problem with it. I would say, this in no way threatening Hinduism. This is actually making Christians fools of themselves. Selling Christianity for 10 bucks or so. Adding numbers like a political party. It is a shame on Christianity and Christians.
But if a Hindu believing in Christian miracles want to turn to Christianity, it is his/her personal choice. If a Christian believing in Hindu Godmen/Godwomen miracles (like of Sai Baba, Amrutanandamayi etc) want to shift to Hinduism, its their personal choice as well. Take thousands of western followers of Amritanandamayi, Sai Baba, ISCKON as an example. I know they are not converted as in the Christian conversion model (like dipping in a pond etc), but it is also conversion. But I do not understand when a Hindu being converted to Christianity is considered as a cultural threat, but a Christian turns to Hinduism is called enlightenment by the right-wing Hindutva brigade.
As a citizen of this country, I believe religion and conversion is a personal choice and no one has the right to block it, UNLESS it is a forced conversion. If a person want to convert to another religion, it is at his will and it is his right to do so.
Conversion and Hindutva Brigade
So who has a problem with conversion? The Hindutva right-wing brigade mainly consisting of high-caste people. Although there are mass conversions of Dalits to Buddhism happening every year in India, the Hindutva brigade tend not to see it because it shows the caste based atrocities in Hinduism. From the early days to the recent Khairlanji incident, there are many examples to show. So they mostly concentrate on the Christian conversion issues.
The interesting thing is most of the tribal people who gets converted or goes to church (like in the case I mentioned above) are not even ‘Hindus‘. They do not practice Hinduism. They have their own tribal Gods. They do not worship Hindu Gods. So this hue and cry over conversion is based on the power. Like Church converts people to have more power, the Hindutva brigade is also after power. That is why they are afraid of losing control over the low-caste Hindus. This shameful fight for power was seen sometimes ago when we saw Uma Bharathi walking out of the meeting hall of fundamentalist Hindutva party BJP, accusing the leaders being discriminative.
Most of the Hindus in India are afraid that conversion is going to wipe-off Hinduism from this country and might make this a Christian majority country. This fear was put into the ordinary Hindus by the Hindutva vaadis consisting mostly high-caste Hindus. My opinion is, if a religion could survive for thousands of years in this world and that too mainly in one country, it will still survive if it has anything good in it.
Evangelists and Conversion
It is of equal importance to stop right-wing Hindu fundamentalism as well as right-wing Christian fundamentalism. If the concern of Hindutva brigade is over losing their hold in the society or gaining social and political power by misusing religious sentiments, my concern is about the national security. A few days back I read an article in Tehelka that discusses about the Evangelical network in India being used by CIA to gather information and their network is widespread. This is really a shocking news. It needs to be addressed and taken care of properly.
At times, I was also fed up with these guys lining up in the streets, praying in loud voice or telling me “You haven’t known Jesus Christ” is really sick. I cannot tolerate if such people ask my Hindu friends who live a normal life and believing in Krishna or Rama or any other Hindu Gods, that they are sinners and they will not be saved. What I believe is as long as a person lives a normal life and doing good deeds, he/she is saved/blessed by God. No matter what name that person calls the God. And these evangelists just make a hell lot of money out of this religion business too. It has become a very profitable business.
Aethism and aethists
I do not like people who pretend to be aethists and have no love or respect to the humankind but only themselves. Aethism, for them, is a fashion and a way to exhibit their ‘liberal‘ view. I don’t find much difference between those people and religious fundamentalists. But I do like and have a great respect towards aethists who are great humanitarians, who cares about humanity and do great services to the humanity. Hardcore religious people might call this stupidity, but I believe these kind of aethists are doing God’s work without the support of religion or God.
PS: Creative criticism on the issues I mentioned above are welcomed.
Cross posted here