Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fwd: Should one be defending one's own faith?

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Xavier William <>
Date: Sun, Nov 28, 2010 at 5:44 PM
Subject: Should one be defending one's own faith?

Interesting article From today's Hindu:

Should one be defending one's faith at all?

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Almost everyday one comes across news of members of a particular religious community resorting to strident action because they feel that their faith is under threat and requires defence. Some express their outrage over what they perceive as blasphemous utterances or action by others. Some believe that a place authentically belonging to their faith has been usurped by another, and must be reclaimed. Some say another faith's practices are an assault on the purity of their own beliefs and, therefore, must be suppressed. Some even label members of other religious communities as an inferior category of "unbelievers." Often, this compulsion to defend one's faith breaks out of the bonds of compassion and social order, expressing itself violently through riots or terrorism.

But what exactly are these people defending? Do they seek to defend god? Swami Vivekananda writes in his autobiography of travelling in Kashmir and feeling intense anguish on seeing the desecration of innumerable temples by invaders. He fell at the feet of the Divine Mother in a Kali temple and asked, "How could you let this happen, Mother? Why did you permit this desecration?" In response, the Divine Mother appeared in his heart and admonished him "What is it to you, Vivekananda, if the invader breaks my images? Do you protect me, or do I protect you?"

This incident clearly demonstrates that god exists at a level that is beyond the need for human defence. If a human does claim to defend god, then that speaks of either a lack of belief in the omnipotence of god or a misplaced sense of ego in relation to the will of god.

It may be fellow humans who are being defended rather than god. It is the sentiments of ordinary people at stake: people who are hurt if their god is blasphemed; people who wish to worship in those places they feel are the holier and feel that they are not able to do so; people who feel disturbed in their own worship by the contradictory practices of others. But the security of one's faith should really be a direct function of the total belief in the power of the god one worships.

If I truly believe in god and His omnipotence, then I should also recognise that whatever happens on earth is as per His will. If I fear that my faith is in danger, I am expressing a doubt in the god I worship; thinking that He is either willingly allowing His community of believers to be placed in danger, or is incapable of protecting them from harm. Perhaps trying times occur as a test of the solidity of my own faith in god. And when I respond by immediately passing normative judgment and blame to others, I am failing to acknowledge the cracks in the faith within my own heart: an internal insecurity that has nothing to do with the actions and practices of other faiths.

The era we live in has a fundamental difference from earlier times in human history when politics operated on the principle of "might is right." Empires were feudally governed, they and waxed and waned on the basis of their military campaigns and conquests. Royalty often sought to legitimise its power by claiming that it was divinely ordained to rule; which required co-opting the support of religious authority. Often, religious institutions formed the foundation of geo-political stability. Organised religion was thoroughly intertwined with politics. But we now live in times where our political beliefs are founded on ethical precepts such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law. People no longer need to turn to organised religion in order to organise or stabilise society.

In this age, religion has to stand on its own; which will happen only if the faith in the hearts of its believers is true, solid and complete. The struggle is private and internal, and a need to publicly defend a faith is an implicit admission either a lack of belief in the power of god or of insecurity in the faith of His believers. A strident call for public action to defend a faith may over time serve to undermine the very cause that it claims to plead.

People no longer need to turn to organised religion in order to organise or stabilise society.

Xavier William |

Palash Biswas
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