As a tribute to tradition, I will start my first real blog by invoking the name of God.
God or Gods? Recall the Oxymoron pronounced by Neil Armstrong from the moon : One step for man, a giant leap for mankind. Argument goes that man and mankind mean the same thing – Armstrong should have said a man. Man made remarkable progress over the centuries mean that mankind made that progress, not a man.
If you are a Jew, Christian or Muslim, saying Godkind is a terrible blasphemy. When I was a student in the Union Christian College, Alwaye, Kerala, I was one of the non-Christian students attending the catechism classes of Professor Baby, a kindly young man in a Protestant Brother’s robes. The only contribution of Jewish Civilization, said Brother Baby, is Monotheism. The Jews, he said, proved that there was only one God.
Jews only believed, I countered, not proved that there is only one God.. Brother Baby’s babyish charm and brotherly air vanished. I was thrown out of his class. Questioning the single status of God, I realized, was a terrible sin. Even Hindus who swear by “all the Gods” are rather embarrassed when they are called polytheists. “We are speaking of the many manifestations of one God,” they tell you.
Jews really did not believe that there was only one God – they actually thought that theirs was the best, and hence the supreme God. The initial chapters of the Holy Bible mention God of the Jews. This God was pretty cruel (“The Lord is a man of war” – Exodus, 15.3) and insisted that all those tribes whom the Jews attacked should be killed – women and children are specifically mentioned – and their assets looted. The first-born of every animal and man should be sacrificed to Him. Man (that is, the Jew of those days) received a special favour – he could redeem his first-born by killing a cattle. What about the first-born of a donkey, whose flesh (whether “peace offering” or “burnt offering” –meaning cut-up or roasted) God didn’t relish?, The newborn ass could be spared its life – you simply had to break its legs. God was pretty materialistic, too, He instructed Moses how to build a temple (‘Tabernacle”), what its dimensions should be, and how much gold (a tremendous quantiy, I assure you) to use and so on (Exodus 25).
Christians have still not settled the argument whether Jesus was God himself or God’s son. Whether he was this or that, he completely agreed with the kind of sacrifice style that Moses was tutored by the God of the Jews. When he healed his first recorded patient, a leper, he ordered : Go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses Commanded”. (Matthew, 8.4). Hollywood films depict Jesus as a quiet, peaceful man who sermonized gently. The Holy Bible doesn’t agree, He was angry at a poor tree that had no furits and cursed it, he promised his disciples that those “whoever will not receive you nor hear you, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony – they will face punishment more intolerable than was given to Sodom and Gomorrah on the judgement day” (Mark, 6.11). Jesus was constantly rebuking his disciples for not appreciating his miracles and not being faithful enough to work miracles on their own. I once asked an income tax officer why he continued to be a Christian when Jesus and the Bible equated tax collectors with the gravest of sinners. He smiled, but didn’t sanction my refund.
I can’t understand why Christians jeer at the Sharia Law and the cruelty of punishment meted out in some Muslim countries. Most of these punishments are spelt out in Exodus, 22-24. The Holy Quran recognizes the “people of the Book” meaning Jews and Christians as a special tribe deserving of certain concessions. Moses and Abraham (Ibrahim) and the divine orders to them are held sacred, even more sacred than the Jews and Christians have held them. Islam also recognizes Jesus as a Prophet of God, but one whose ideas went slightly astray. For example, He had no right to change the sacred “Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” instruction of God to Moses. The Judgment Day, which has been ‘very near’ for the last couple of millennia, has to be a part of the faith. God suffers no partners and those who attribute partners to him are the worst sinners who will burn in hell eternally. It is OK if you rape a woman whom “your right hand possesses” meaning whom you had captured in a holy war or is your servant. This is one law that the Arab sheikhs practice faithfully. All three religions approve of slavery (because God couldn’t see ahead of his times?) and had strict instructions as how to treat and mistreat slaves and their women. How do you treat misbehaving wives? First, rebuke them. Then refuse to sleep with them. (At least this Holy Scripture recognizes that women have their carnal desires) and, if that too fails, thrash them with a rod that is no thicker than your finger. The last remedy is to divorce them.
Modern followers of the faith, being in a hurry, go straight to the last remedy. My young and kindly friend Abdul (because that is what I would like to call him for now) believes that every scientist in the world who has ever discovered a scientific law or invented something secretly carried a Quran in his pocket because all the scientific truths have been revealed 1400 years ago in the Holy Book.
Did Newton, Edison, Einstein and CV Raman carry the Holy book? Yes, believes Abdul, that is what the mullah in the mosque said in his sermon. “Quran had stated 1400 years ago that the sun does not move in the sky, but stands stationery”, quotes Abdul from the sermon. I look for that passage through the Holy scripture. and find Sura 13.2 where it says that the Sun and the Moon move as thery are ordained and, lo! the Heaven (the sky) stands over the earth without a single pillar to support it. God didn’t know that the blue dome we call sky is a mere optical illusion. Illusions don’t need pillars to support them.
The “Book”, to which all religions subscribed, said that God made man first in his own form. If that is true, what was God doing with and why did He have his reproductive organs (at least the external ones?) which made him a male and not a female? Or was God devoid of them – a transsexual as some Hindu deities are? If he was a man (because he made Adam, a man, in his own form), he did not use his masculine endowments even for impregnating poor innocent Mary.
Does Hinduism have a scripture to match the Holy books of others? The most accepted, and the most widely read Holy book is the Gita. This has to be a scripture – for it quotes from the mouth of Lord Krishna himself, who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu who is perennially enjoying a siesta atop a coiled-up snake in the middle of some milky ocean.
The enlightened quote extensively some passages from Gita : Do your duty and do not crave for the result; God takes his incarnation every time something goes wrong on this earth (and, like India’s judiciary and Hindi movies, lives in human form through decades of tortuous years before punishing the villain) and so on. But the true gist of Gita is this : Soul never dies; death is like your throwing away old worn clothes and putting on new ones. So go ahead and capture the land (never mind that you have no legal right over it) by killing your uncles, teachers, cousins and ancestors. The Pundits may tell you that you have got the wrong message, that that’s not what is meant, there are transcendental messages in Gita that you ordinary folks won’t understand.
That is what all the interpreters of the scriptures will tell you – you won’t understand. Let me explain things to you. Don’t take verses out of context. If you let us invent the context and the meanings, you will understand.
In a way, Gandhiji was right. All religions lead to the same path. Look around you. You can see the truth in that lofty statement.
Does all this mean that I am an atheist? No. Atheism is jut another religion. Like all other religions, one of faith .