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 Blooming Stars

Status of the World –2

            3.Religious Factor:The word religion comes from the Latin re-ligo meaning to tie again, to reconnect. This might imply that there was a connection that was lost that needs to be restored. In any case, this need for connectedness of the human to a higher source that the nature cannot comprehend seems to arise out of the unlimited human capacity for fulfillment that can only be satisfied by some Power beyond humans or Supernatural Power. It is also said that if God does not exist, humans will invent one. Faith is the only medium for the unequal relationship between God and man delineated in religions. Of the four major religions out of the many in the world, two - Christianity and Islam - are revealed through prophets, and the other two, Hinduism and Buddhism, are wisdom religions in that they evolved from human wisdom that may be divinely inspired.

            Religions in the world are conducting themselves better on the whole than they have been in the past. Religious conflicts and persecutions are fewer. Discrimination on the basis of religious belief is less. No one is burned at the stake for religious views that differ from the “official” line or the main stream religion. Severe mental patients are not any more hunted and burned as witches or possessed by demons. While the right to belong to a religion or change one’s religion or freely express one’s views on religion is on the books as a basic and fundamental right, persons in many countries are deadly afraid to exercise this right for fear of serious harm to their life, limbs, or property. The whole humanity suffers when one’s God-given freedom is curtailed or compromised anywhere in the world. God-given freedom includes even rejection of God.

            Recently a friend of mine told me that when he was working in Saudi Arabia his employer asked him why an intelligent person like him is not a Muslim. I am told that Bibles are not allowed there. Nor an infidel can be buried there. In the United States I was asked by some fundamentalist Christians if I were a ‘born-again’ Christian even though the persons knew I was a Catholic priest. According to them I was not a ‘saved’ person according to their reckoning. When I was working as a chaplain in a Catholic hospital in the U S, I was really surprised to see a hospitalized Baptist minister awaiting surgery, whom I was called to minister, with a booklet having the picture of a rosary on its cover with the words Roman Catholics go to hell. Sick as he was I decided to leave him to his own belief. What about the governance of the Catholic Church, the greatest and the most powerful religious organization in the world, where a tightly-controlled medieval-style hierarchical structure modeled on monarchy? Muslim countries historically tend to have autocratic or theocratic rule, and like to be guided by sharia (the sacred law of Islam). Hinduism whose tolerance and hospitality were taken advantage of in its homeland is weary of the past and learning to be more and more aggressive and less tolerant of other religions. Most of the nations of the world are composed of pluralistic communities; these nations have a secular culture,and are not in their governance affected by religious beliefs

            Religions in general have infantilized human beings. They have not prepared humans to become mature adults to take their rightful place in the universe. Many religious authorities tend to arrogate the right to interpret and discern God’s will for others instead of training them in discernment skills themselves. The stark reality is that absolutely no human being has any special channel of communication or hotline with God. No infallibility in whatever situation either. Everyone with no exception has to work out his/her salvation “…with fear and trembling”. The present world of insecurity, uncertainty, distrust, fear, tentativeness, relativity, and rising expectations, that is marked by rampant corruption, injustice, and greed for material wealth, seems to provide fertile soil for religious fundamentalism and fanaticism and even terrorism

            Religions are not addressing the deadly cancers that are eating up the marrow of humanity. They are like Emperor Nero of old playing the fiddle while Rome is burning. A world whose success is primarily measured in terms of material wealth, physical beauty or accomplishments, and what that wealth can bring is spiritually bankrupt. Religions in my view have failed in that they have not brought human beings closer to God or to one another, they have not made human beings holier, more spiritual or conscientious, and they have not served as a corrective moral and ethical force putting things in clear perspective. In spite of the very bleak picture of religions in the world I have drawn I am optimistic for the future. In the past we did not know how bad the world was because we were ignorant, in a lull, dormant, or semi-comatose state. In the present we are at least in a semi-awakened state, and realize how bad the world was, and how much better than the past it presently is.

            In the past we did not know we had rights. Now we are more enlightened and know we have as many rights (as well as obligations) as anyone else in the entire world. The world will change for the better because we are awakened. The religious factor, toxic as it is, need not bother us. Let religions do their ‘thing’. We can bypass them as they have currently become irrelevant and lost in meaningless rituals and practices, and, above all, squabbles about doctrinal matters that are beyond human understanding, and that lend themselves at best only to sheer speculation. With our higher consciousness we can move beyond religions to spirituality – the golden thread that ties all of us into the unity of humanity where each inhabitant of this earth truly and really is a brother’s and sister’s keeper.


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