Why my Religion is None

“Religion?” was the next question on the hospital admission form. I had come in for an angioplasty on the advice of my good friend and physician, Dr. Georoge Ommen. My family hadn’t been told, for I did not want to alarm them.

I wrote : None.

The hospital clerk, who was watching me filling out the form with all the interest that a hospital clerk could possibly muster, looked alarmed. She stretched her bangled hand and stopped my bare one right  at the end of the word, not allowing me to proceed writing something even more preposterous in the next blank.

“You have to write the name of your religion,” she said.

“But I have none,” I persisted.

None was a religion she hadn’t heard of. Rather alarmed, she called the admission supervisor.

The suited-and-booted young supervisor lent his ears to the girl, who whispered to him. It was evident that the guy enjoyed the proximity of the whispering lips to his ears despite the alarming situation. Who ever heard of a patient with none for his religion?.

“Sir,” he turned to me. “There are reasons why we ask for the religion of a patient being admitted for an invasive procedure. Particularly when you are not accompanied by a close relative”

“I know”, I said. “You would want to know what to do with my body if I kick the bucket. Whether to bury or to burn”.

Now the girl was truly and surely shocked. The man wore an embarrassed smile.

“”I am not putting it that way,” he said.

A prime need for  religion is the fear of loss, failure, catastrophe. Death is a concoction made of all that. Whether to bury or burn  the dead is important because, if one’s religion consoles the dying that soon he or she would be resurrected to be forgiven by God simply because a man called Jesus had paid for his sins even before he had committed them, there is the other that says that  the dying body is a mere garment to be discarded, that one would  get back one’s life in some other form, hopefully a better, handsomer and richer form provided the right praises had been showered on God and his Wife before dying. If you are facing death, you need a religion. Here I was, facing the very thing, and yet being frivolous.

I knew I simply had to have those painfully thumping blocks in my heart opened out, but I wasn’t prepared to let the girl and the supervisor know that even a patient with none for religion is not in a hurry to die. So I wrote out a note for them to keep:

1. I am aware that although the doctors and the medical staff involved  would do their best, there is a possibility that I might die during the procedure. They shall not be held responsible if such an event happens.

2. If I become serious or die, I want so-and-so and so-and-so to be informed by telephone numbers such-and-such.

3. If I die, my organs may be donated to any poor and needy patient; if there is nothing that can be usefully recovered, I shall have no objection to the body being donated for educational purposes.

3. The remains of the body will be cremated in an electrical or gas-fired crematorium. Please don’t cut a tree or a piece of sandalwood. I might have broken a twig or cut a flower, but have done no major damage to trees while living. Don’t change that my one good habit.

4. Nobody – not even my wife –  will be allowed to read to me or my body a religious book while I am lying in the process of dying or awaiting the funeral. If a book has to be read to my corpse, one may read a Dostoevsky, Oscar Wilde or Changampuzha Krishna Pillai.

5. Never let a priest of any religion or caste near my body. Gita, Bible or Quran are absolutely forbidden, Please,  I have read them all while alive. KNOW ALL MEN HERE PRESENT THAT I HAVE NO RELIGION.

6. Do not allow anyone to noise-pollute the air around my body by chants of any kind. I include Gayatri in the forbidden list.  If my loved ones want to shed a few tears, let them make it short, even if poignant. Thank you for being good to me while I was around and possibly  irritating .

7. Please add no animal products to my body to speed up my travel to heaven or hell. I include milk and cow dung or cow urine  in the banned list.

By the time I finished writing, a small crowd had gathered around the table. Some chuckled, others looked less amused. A sensible  intern brought a form, meant for eye donation to another hospital, for me to sign. I obliged him.

My dentist friend who stood in for my family until I allowed him to inform them later told me sarcastically : “You could have written ‘Atheist’  instead of a senseless ‘None’ “.

“No,” I said, “atheism is a religion like any other. Both depend on faith or belief rather than evidence. What is the difference between “Jesus is my God the Lord” , or “Allah will burn you in fire, pour boiling water into your parched throat and make you drink festered pus” and “I believe there is no God?”.

That said, my angioplasty ended in disaster.The surgeon concluded that I was among the statistical five percent whose stenting procedure tended to fail. My wife decided that those five percent must be the ones who had no religion.

A couple of months later, I was admitted to a heart institute.  A deft and deservingly reputed  surgeon re-wired my arterial grid, educating me in the process that even men have mammary arteries and that I could usefully employ my left hand after donating  a major part of its artery to my heart.

At admission in that hospital, I had again written that my religion was None. When I recovered, the kindly anaesthetist congratulated me on what he called my ‘will’.

It has been many years since. I still carry a copy of it in my wallet.

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18 thoughts on “Why my Religion is None

  1. very complicated topic! I have read this somewhere – “possibly unbelievers are psychologically adult, needing no invisible parent figure, able to face the reality of human life and death without fear”

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    1. Aswathy, I am hoping to reach that adulthood. Who has ever reached his final destination before death? As for that imaginary parent figure – you just gave me a topic to write about. So has that ‘Sanatana’ friend who has concluded that to have no religion one has to be an atheist.

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    2. Aswathy, one of my blogs is on the subject of Faith and Quinine. I can’t quite recollect the correct title. It is one of my 2013 blogs. Please read it when you have time; it totally establishes your theory. I miss your comments these days. On the other hand, I do not advise any of the young people close to my heart to comment on my provocative statements on the social media.You can guess why.

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  2. Its not me Vishumenon.

    Its a term used these days call Atheist and is used by people who don’t follow Religion and don’t believe god.

    So I’ve Concluded nothing but just said the fact. Unlike you making things complicated for no reason !!

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  3. Dear Sanatanaakki, I don’t just believe in God, I know there has to be one, or as some Hindu Puranas say, 30,000 or even 30 million of Him/Her/It/Them. The problem is that, like you’d never reach the end of infinity no matter how long and how fast you travel, you might never learn to understand the phenomena well. If it’s a nature’s secret, science might, I hope, get pretty close to understanding It some day.. Religions won’t, because they say they already know the answer, that God looks like man (obviously then he has his genitals, input-out fittings and all that man has), loves gold, is jealous like man, is crazy for praises, loves war like man,is bound by gravity (otherwise why would He sit on a throne ?), carries arms and punishes sinners with death and so on. May the same God forgive the crusading Pope, the fatwah-throwing Ayatollah, the trident-wielding Shankaracharya and all their ilk not forgetting Saints, Prophets, Peers, Babas, Bapus,Naiks and LDSs.

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    1. @ Vishumenon
      “The problem is that, like you’d never reach the end of infinity no matter how long and how fast you travel, you might never learn to understand the phenomena well.”

      That means you will quit due to your negative attitude !!

      “that God looks like man (obviously then he has his genitals, input-out fittings and all that man has), loves gold, is jealous like man, is crazy for praises, loves war like man,is bound by gravity (otherwise why would He sit on a throne ?), ”

      Are you talking about Hinduism or Islam & Christianity ?
      You can’t consider everything same…

      Most of the questions you are asking will only be answered if you dedicate your life to GOD by reading Vedas under some Highly educated GURU for eg follow Agniveer.com for leaning Hinduism or Follow satyagni.com for Comparison of religions and you can also listen to Rajiv Malhotra about his latest Comparative Studies between Hinduism and Christianity even pope are not able to defend Christianity in front of him !!

      Please come out of your ignorance and follow the bliss of Hinduism!

      OM TAT SAT !!

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      1. All right, to say that, like you’d never reach infinity you might never reach God (note that I said might, not will) is negative, fine. I would rather be negative than be lying.

        Let us take the case of Hindu God or the 36 million gods described variously in different counts at different times by the Vedas, Brahmanas,Upanishads,Puranas and the folklore. The Vedas tell us that Soma-drinking, weapons-wielding Indra, the warrior-hero is thec supreme god to pray to for the destruction of your enemies (a comumon goal of all religions and the communist-athiest Kodiyeri Balakrishnan). Then you have the twin-Aswins, the horse riders, who re-appeared in Mahabaharata to ’embrace’ Pandu’s second wife and thereby give her two illegitimate children. Agni, Vayu, Varun etc. are other gods worthy of prayers. Vishnu and Rudra get passing mention. Indra definitely was made like a human being, he loved to wear gold ornaments, swigged Soma like nobody could, basked in praises by the Aryan Tribe, and was so sex-crazy that a rishi gifted him a thousand genitals for violating the latter’s wife. Vishnu and Rudra (whom the all-knowing babas would conveniently interpret as Shiva who came in later) find just passing mention in the Vedas. Of the 1028 hymns, Indra gets the best and the most.

        Switch to Puranas, Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva take the spot light. Brahma was born from a lotus that was erected from Vishnu’s Nabhi. Nabhi, in Sanskrit, means groin although your babas might tell you that it is the naval. So what is this lotus that erects out of the groin of a god and produces another god? Indra by now is a coward, who runs from pillar to post whenever a demon (not at all bad guys, but another clan of gods as per vedas)sneezes. Vishnu then takes birth as a fish to save the first human (our version of Adam), Manu, from the floods, then as a tortoise to save the vedas that paid him scant respect in its times. Finally, you have Krishna, born to kill his uncle, claiming that he is the Supreme Lord, that all the rest are minions whose blessings don’t count to much. (I am speaking of Gita, if you aren’t aware). Krishna’s theivery, womanizing and deceitful ways are what we worship. He cheated Duryodhan (actual name Suyodan) to his death; he goaded Arjun to kill his near relations to grab a kingdom that never belonged to him and his brothers by birth or by adoption, and lied to Arjun that all the relations he would kill would take rebirth the same way as one would change garments. In the end, the dead Kauravas didn’t change their garments, but went straight to heaven, if you had ever read Mahaprasthanika-parva. Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, all crave to be praised, just like your district collector, and to be rewarded with money, flowers and material goods like the collector’s minions and the policeman on the beat. They all wear crowns like our politicians wear Gandhi caps and Muslims wear chrochetted skull caps, and bracelets, arm bands, necklaces all made of gold. (You claim that we Indians don’t believe in materialism. Even our gods do!). Vishnu evidently suffers from some form of arthritis – he has to have a wife massaging his calf while he sleeps endlessly on top of a multi-headed snake. If there were no gravity at Vaikuntha, there would be no need for him to lie down. Shiva is most pleased by the worship of his genitals, always emerging out of a vagina-shaped contraption in stone. Yes, I am talking of a Hindu God, my friend, who is as human and probably a lot more flirtaious than the Christian, Islamic or judaic gods. Read the ancient Hindu literature, my friend, not some web sites which are as untruthful as the Peace Channel and the morning sermons by Tamilian preachers on the TV.

        I hold no truck for Christianity. But at least their prayers have some meaning – they ask for peace, daily bread, or whatever. Hindu prayers keep telling the gods what their thousand names are, how beautiful they look, how many ornaments they wear, how they are related to other gods and so on. They finally end it up with a “Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu” – May the whole world be happy, an empty prayer which the gods have merely scoffed at through the ages. The ascentic Shankaracharya has devoted at least six stanzas in Saundarya Lahari to describe Parvati’s pubic hair that stars from her cleavage to the place where Shiva finds his pleasure.

        You might interpret a stanza here and a verse there that God is everywhere, that you are God, that since God is in grass and stone, He is also in Sri Sri Ravishankar, that the relentless copulation between Krishna and a much older Radha signifies the relation between Atman and Paramatman and all such philosophic abrstacts. The god that my Hindu wife, like a billion or so of her co-religionis, worships is not a shapelss,all-prevalent, non-emotional Maya, but a God, locally situated in a stone or plastic moulding or even a ‘photo’ of a human-shaped God. People stream every year through the streets to have a darshan at a goddes, armed with spear, a mustachioed man wiggling in pain under her feet, skulls around her waist, and her tongue sticking out for effect.

        I spent six years learning Sanskrit so that I would not be misled by the interpretation of Hindu scriptures by translations written by Christian Chauvanists. The babas and Sadhus whose feet you touch would tell you that those who read the scriptures won’t get the ‘inner meanings’. That is precisely what the preachers of other religions tell you too.

        Thank you, nonetheless. Many who praise a blog simply pan the screen and tell me that it was good. You actually read it. That’s something.

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    2. That is your explanation and you wasted your life 6 years in learning sanskrit as you never understand the deep reality of Sanatana dharma the conciousness and tell me What does Bible and Quran Talk about ??

      I’ve read a little bit its How jesus and Mohammad lived their life !!

      And you dare to unfollow them you will burn in Eternal hell forever and those who don’t follow Jesus are doomed and Not Mohammand and Allah are doomed too !!

      On the other hand Hinduism never talk about history centralism when you read Gita its about how to live ur life with harmony of nature and with a story, I hope you understand the difference ??

      If I want to study somebody’s life I might like studying Steve jobs or Abdul Kalam anyday better then Jesus or Mohammad !!

      anyways if you’r so sure about ur research why don’t you come to http://www.agniveer.com and talk to vedic scholars over there about ur claims !!

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      1. Please read my previous blogs about Bible and Quran – and the Muhammadan claims. I couldn’t agree with you more on your admiration for Steve Jobs and Kalam.You should, indeed, read the “Wings of Fire” once again if you have read it already. APJ Abdul Kalam had said, “I have a working relationship with God”. He didn’t say with Allah. Nor did he, who quotes the Gita and Bible with ease, mention Krishna or Jesus. Kalam is a true secularist, his faith in God is not bound by dogma of any kind, which makes it possible for him to claim that he has a working relationship with God. I wonder why the Mullahs have not taken him on that statement – how could a Muslim have a direct relationship with God without the prophet being a middleman?

        If you understand the enormity of the Universe and the concept of God therein, little ‘gods’ who generally are praised for killing someone or another, trampling on a snake, or violating an innocent girl for producing a son so that he could hang from a cross to save the world from sins, or would make sinners drink hot water and putrid pus for worshipping other gods – or for that matter clumsily producing ash from his clenched fist – all of them would appear not just silly and childish, but outright stupid.

        Sanatana Dharma (the eternal religion) seems great to you because that’s the faith you were born into. Most of us are shackled by birth. Just this morning I heard Salman Rushdie say in a CNN-IBN interview: “I am tired of religion demanding special privileges”. So am I.

        Now that you mention Kalam, I invite you to read “My name is Kalam Khan”, an earlier blog of mine. In you I find at least one person who carefully reads my blogs and questions my replies. That’s a nice start.

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      2. I came across this one statement of yours once again: “when you read Gita its about how to live ur life with harmony of nature and with a story, I hope you understand the difference ??”

        Could you please tell me which stanzas in Gita tell you to
        (1) live in harmony with nature
        (ii) and what is the story that is already not in the work, Mahabharat(am), apart from the theory that the one who is killed never dies, his soul simply changes the old tattered body just as one sheds old clothes for nrew – and hence it is perfectly fine to kill one’s cousins, step-brother, uncles, venerated teacher, grand patriarch, their children and grand children and to destroy a whole Kuru race – mostly by treachery.

        Akshay, Perhpas you have an answer. Without exaggeration, your answers, though always laced with anger and impatience, do inspire me. Truly.

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    3. I gave you a site to follow and come out of ignorance !1

      And if you say ur Agnostic I will still respect you !!

      And stop giving me sarcasms in ur replies thats not healthy discussion.

      I never find my family or any one saying my religion is Special or any such thing that i might get angry if someone poses stupid question on me .. I hope you understand what secular means now !!

      And I never demand special privileges but when everyone ask for like There is Muslim country , Christian Country, Jews country, Buddhist Country how come there is no Hindu country ??

      And if I ask for that what will you consider that special privilege or MY RIGHT ?\

      Just coz you don’t care about something doesn’t means that people who care are stupid ..

      You can’t conclude on your own how world works and ignore what others think … This is nothing but Hypocrisy .

      You can’t conclude a equation with excluding all factors .

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      1. I can’t fathom which of my blogs you are commenting on, my friend Akshay. Why so angry? Anger, I am afraid, comes with blind religious faith. Show me a war, a battle, or even a terrorist attack where religion didn’t play a part.

        Many decades ago, my mother used to send me to a RSS Shakha >- not for picking up the ideology, of which she knew nothing, but for the physical exercise it provided. After the “Namaste, Sada Vatsale..” anthem and a few exercises with and without lathis, the leader would divde us into two teams and initiate a mock battle. One side would shout “Har har Mahadev..” and the other, “Allahu Akbar.” Expectedly, the Mahadev side won. The teams were so arranged.
        In a mosque three kilometres away, the preacher asked the pious to keep some weapon – cutlass, s-ckle, a sharpened axe whatever – always ready at hand.

        A Christian priest (a gentle, kind man when not preaching from the pulpit) on Sunday morning sermons described the gruesome appearance of Kali, the Hindu Goddess, to show that Hindus were devil worshippers. He forgot that what he worshipped – and loomed in the alter behind him – was a gruesome instrument of torture and murder – the cross.

        Those mock battles were symbols of real battles raging in every religious heart. As long as religious segmentation exists in this world, the battle would rage.

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  4. By the way, Akshay Malhotra, “Sanatana Dharma” is not the name of a religion you’d find in any of the Vedas or Puranas. It was an expression coined by Vivekananda in the 19th Century. “Hindu”, is a term first used by Arab traders to mean people living beyond the Sindhu river. The term intoned derision arising out of xenophobia..

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    1. I have always been fascinated by those two great works of fiction (based, no doubt, on legends and might also be some ancient events) – Mahabharat(am) believed to be written by Vyasa and Ramayan(am) by Valmiki. Perhaps you’re one of those who debate on the hugely interesting blog, “Duryodhana’s Advocate. Your suggestion inspires me to go beyond participating in the debate – do give me some time. In the meanwhile, can I request you to look up my blog on a Sarga (sub-chapter) of Valmiki Ramayanam? https://vishumenon.com/2014/02/15/who-got-pulped-wendy-doniger-or-sage-valmiike/

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  5. I wonder why the fact that some people do not find any religion appealing or do not blindly follow the dogmas angers others so much. Religion is a matter of personal choice. Bhagat Singh wrote a wonderful article on why the various religions of the world did not appeal to him. It is not an arrogant statement just a matter of opinion and choice. I enjoyed reading this. Wish you would write more esp on that text that fascinates us both so much: Mahabharat. Glad to have discovered your blog.

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