4 – Conflict of Religions: Making them see the Light – Virendra Parekh

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Virendra ParekhAccording to Abrahamic creeds there is only one Truth; there is only one way to it; God has given it to us, the chosen people, and us alone; it is contained in our Book; and in our Book alone. – Virendra Parekh

A vision of nature, a sight of beauty, an insight into reality is joy forever. The human mind is not content with enjoying it alone. It wants to express it, share it. All art, literature, philosophy may be traced to this desire of the human mind to make universal what it finds to be unique.

Sacred texts describing in great detail Vedic rituals are inspired by the noble desire to make available to all the knowledge to attain what is good and avoid what is evil. This is true of religious experience, too. The sages of the Upanishads describe the Brahman as beyond sight, speech, mind and intellect. Yet they never tire of pouring out their ecstatic experiences in varied ways. They share their experience with others. They describe ways to attain it.

A whole body of sacred literature grows around this quest for the eternal. Its motivation is a desire for self-expression and compassion for the fellow human beings. There is no self-promotion, no allurements and no threats in these texts. These texts are like gold mines, open to anyone who wishes to explore them. They are in the nature of guidebooks on the spiritual journey. It is entirely for the journeyman to use any or all or none of them. Their value consists in the fact that they comprise, in modern terminology, first-hand domain knowledge of experts.

There is, on the other hand, another way of making others see the light. We have described earlier the mindset governing it and it bears repetition here. According to Abrahamic creeds there is only one Truth; there is only one way to it; God has given it to us, the chosen people, and us alone; it is contained in our Book; and in our Book alone. Since the Book is authored by God himself, every word in it is true, excellent, immutable, and binding, not only on the believers, but also on the non-believers who out of ignorance or cussedness refuse to accept its authority.

Faith in the Book is the overriding duty, as is the duty of making others see the light. Since this is the absolute Truth, since it alone can lead to heaven or permanent bliss, mankind must be awakened to it for its own good, at any cost, in whatever way. No sacrifice is too great for holding on to it; no means are improper for converting others to it.

It is not enough for the believer to have strong faith in the belief system of his creed. He must exert himself, to the greatest extent permitted by his circumstances and the means at his disposal, to bring others into the fold. It is one of the most meritorious acts on his part in the service of Allah or God.

In pursuit of this ideal, the world has seen hordes of armed fanatics spreading over the lands far and near to expand the Dar ul Islam (the land of the believers) and indulging in unprovoked aggression of the most brutal kind, wanton destruction of places of worship of other peoples, killings, rapes, enslavement and forced conversions of non-believers to propagate the religion of Peace. All this violence was inflicted on unsuspecting people who had done the believers no harm. Acts of utmost cruelty are recorded with unconcealed glee by chroniclers gloating over the triumph of the religion of peace and brotherhood perfected by the Prophet, who was the best and the last of his kind. His conduct is idealised by the believers.

The world has also seen establishment of a giant worldwide missionary apparatus with the sole and express purpose of destruction of all other religions. Overt invasion, covert subversion, force, fraud, allurements, blatant falsehoods and malicious half-truths—everything has been deployed to spread the message of Love of God brought by his only begotten son and the sole saviour of mankind.

Islam and Christianity claim to spread peace and brotherhood, love and kindness. Those at the receiving end of their attention, however, have a very different opinion, and for good reason. It is no accident that the spread of “good tidings of great joy” in Europe was accompanied by debasement and demolition of the Pagan cultures of Rome and Greece and their monuments. We can see what happened to the pre-Islamic cultures of Arabia, Persia and central Asia. As regards India, great historian Will Durant said that the Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history.

This is not surprising. By their very nature, Abrahamic religions suffer from extreme self-righteousness. A deep suspicion of non-believers, especially Pagans, is hardwired in the mindset promoted by them. In this worldview, other religions and cultures exist only to be conquered and destroyed.

It may be noted in passing that the mindset of Abrahamic religions is shared by its secular offsprings like Communism, Nazism and Fascism. The threat to human freedom posed by them, especially Communism, is no less real. Like Abrahamic religions, Communism boasts of a prophet, a book, a God (the Theory), a heaven and a world conquering agenda. Marx dismissed religion as opium of the masses, but his own ideology has faithfully retained all the worst features of an organised religion—the utopian ideal, self-righteousness, desire for conquest of the world, exclusiveness, intolerance and use of all means including violence and falsehood to achieve it. Leftists talk glibly about social justice and equality, emancipation of the poor from poverty and exploitation, but their objective is power by any means.

Leftists of all hues claim to be armed with a theory which unlocks for them all the secrets of social evolution. But their claim is just that, a claim. Marx described his philosophy as scientific socialism. However, in the thousand plus pages of Das Kapital, there is not a single theory that can pass the test of logic or history. No wonder Communism failed the acid test of correctly predicting the future. The “revolution” took place not in industrial Britain or Germany, but in backward agrarian Russia, brought about not by the united working class but by Lenin and his group of professional revolutionaries. Even more tellingly, it was not the capitalist US but socialist USSR that collapsed under the weight of its internal contradictions.

Nazism was founded on arrogance of blood: we are the superior race, we are born to rule the world. Communism is founded on arrogance of knowledge: we know better than the people what is good for them. And Communists’ claim to superior knowledge is no more tenable than the Nazis’ claim to superior blood. They all believe in an absolute state, regard man as no more than a cog in a vast machine and distrust and hate any organisation (family, community, religion, guild) which can claim a man’s allegiance or form part of his identity. They want nothing to stand between an all-powerful state and a defenseless and faceless individual. That project of effacing or emasculating all other institutions is underway with the help of Woke culture.

Sadly and surprisingly, modern democracy has not been able to provide any worthwhile protection to pacifist Pagan cultures against the aggressive onslaught of these ideologies of power masquerading as religions. They have manipulated democratic ideals and institutions into their service. The right to freedom of religion is interpreted as a right of Abrahamic religions to convert others to their creed, whereas it must also include the right of all citizens to practice their religion without being targeted by the well-oiled machinery of proselytising predatory faiths. The right to freedom of speech is invoked to run down pacifist traditional religions, but speaking truth about Abrahamic faiths is regarded as hate speech. The examples can be multiplied.

What is needed is fairness, balance, even-handedness and recognition of ground realities. We must call out selective application of law as a form of lawlessness, selective rage as a proof of prejudice and selective conferment of rights as a form of oppression.

› Virendra Parekh is a senior journalist of 45 years’ standing. He writes in English and Gujarati on economics and politics as also on issues related to Indian civilisation, history and cultural nationalism. Currently, he is executive editor of Vyapar, a 72-year-old Mumbai-based Gujarati bi-weekly economy, business and investment.

Paul burning books at Ephesus

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