Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Is there really tolerant religion?

There are so many religions in this world, I don't know the official count but I am sure there are many. There is also fierce competition among them to recruit as many subjects as possible, this helps them to increase their popularity and in turn their income and influence on people's lives (which is very very important for them). All these religions claim to teach kindness and tolerance, in spite of this claim if we look at the history of each and every major organized religion we can find many bloody conflicts in the name of God or defending their God (either within that religion or with other religions). So the question which comes to my mind very often, is there any religion which really teaches tolerance? If it's the case, then why people following that religion (so called devotees) don't practice it? Are all these claims about tolerance and love hollow? Do they say this just for marketing and to fool people? It seems they are tolerant and kind as long as you listen to them and follow their rituals without asking any questions, once you do anything against their wish or put them in dock by asking some uncomfortable questions, then you face their wrath and anger.

Islam and Christianity are very aggressive in their marketing, and because of that very successful also, they believe a lot in individual or mass conversions, this is one of major reason for their popularity and rapid spread all over the world in such a short time (compared with other major religions). I think once they feel the need to covert somebody that means they are not tolerant to their original faith or beliefs, they feel those beliefs are wrong, otherwise what's the need to convert people? These and many other religions don't have very kind attitude towards each others values and traditions, what is called sacred in one religion can be considered as totally blasphemous in other (for example idol worship). They also claim to teach basically same thing just because they all believe in presence of some super powerful God, this is the only common factor (belief in some super powerful entity) but rest everything is radically different. Some of these things are so different that these differences have potential to create communal riots which result in brutal mass killings, again all this in name of God and religion which they claim teaches tolerance and love. I think these bloody conflicts started since second religion (a competitor) originated and are still going on (in some form or other) with no end in sight.

Hinduism claims to be very tolerant and inclusive religion, this is true only to some extent. It doesn't believe in any conversions, atheism was also part of this system, almost each and everything is considered as God (river, mountains, sun, trees, etc.). One can list many good points about Hinduism like many other major religions but it has big question mark of casteism. Particular class of society was exploited in the name of caste or social hierarchy for thousands of years. Surprisingly some people still try to defend and justify this system, they refuse to accept that the system itself had an inbuilt flaw and allowed exploitation of one class by another class of individuals. Buddhism and Jainism give lot of importance to ahimsa (non violence) but then they are not willing to consider that some people can have different dietary preferences (for so many reasons apart from personal choice).

Discrimination against women and defining their role in family (or society) is common in history of all religions. They all try their best to confine women only to particular role and put very strict rules for their code of conduct, the effect of these teachings are so strong that still we don't see any women occupying any top positions in almost all institutions managed by major organized religions or cult movements (these movements are no different than any religions out there).

So, the point here is, I don't see any truly tolerant religion around me (including my own in which I was born), tolerant to all genders (with equal rights and status), all races, people with different sexual orientation, etc. Every major religion practiced in world today definitely have a potential to become inclusive but only if they are willing to get rid of their rigid mindset and sectarian views, but this sounds like a impossible task looking at the way they function now. In their present form most of them have some very rigid rules (which are dictatorial in nature) these rules are only useful to exclude, criticize or ban certain type of people which either don't fit their definition of normal or don't follow their dictate. Many of them have some dark spots in their history which they even refuse to accept, forget about apologizing for it.

There is no doubt that religion provides nice support system and peace of mind for many even today. Many people need it for normal functioning of their lives, they feel so hollow without it. It acts as a lubricant for many, gives them answers for currently unanswerable questions (right or wrong doesn't matter), reduces their fear of death, and does many other things. But in its current form it does that job only for people who choose to believe in it blindly, without questioning anything, almost like slaves. Many times for others it (or I should say its so called true or dedicated followers, devotees, etc.) create problems and difficulties. There is no place for non believers, skeptics or people who don't follow all their rules or don't fit into their description of normal or good (like same sex couples, working women, atheists, etc). One quick glance on the history of any religion should be enough to understand what I mean. Some how all these religions which claim to teach tolerance and patience are not so patient or tolerant towards criticism directed to them, or their Gods.

So my wait for really tolerant religion which will include everyone, with equal rights for everyone (truly inclusive) continues, my hope is that may be one day some one will invent it...:) and we all will be happy..:) Some constitutions of democratic countries are very close to this (very inclusive) but unfortunately no religion in its present form even comes close to them as far as tolerance is concerned, many of these constitutions provide better rights and protection to everyone and are very tolerant to different views and opinions, I hope most major religions will some day take some clue from them and change their attitude, if not then I don't know even if their God can save them.
Thanks for reading and please share your views.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)


  1. Many say the etymology of religion lies with the Latin word religare, which means “to tie, to bind.” Maybe that is the reason we say “That guy/girl does that thing religiously”

    I was trying to find the dictionary meaning of the word “religion” and in most of the places it is combined with “God or super-being”. In a few places where it is not, it says “the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices”, “something a person believes in and follows devotedly”. Then I checked for the dictionary meaning of word belief and it says “conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence”. Please note “Based on examination of evidence”.

    So Religion or Dharma according to me is more of a “way of life” (like we say “This is Raj Dharma” meaning this is what we expect a King to be like) that evolved in different parts of the world. Some academics and many practitioners refer to Hinduism, using a native definition, as “Sanatana Dharma”, a Sanskrit phrase meaning "the eternal law" or the "eternal way".

    I think the complication arises by the frequent use of the term "faith" as a synonym for "religion". Belief may or may not imply certitude in the believer . Faith almost always implies certitude even where there is no evidence or proof.

    1. Lovely comment Avi, specially I loved last para where you explain difference between faith and belief, you have explained it so nicely. I wish everyone tries to look at these things this way and be more tolerable towards each other, our world will become more beautiful than already it is. Thanks a lot for sharing and caring.