Sensible Religion!

     Seven decades of my living has prompted me to write about this particular thought. It is an expression of my experience of watching my fellow humans and the influence of religions on their behavior. It is the product of my understanding of the good and the bad authority of faith that molds some of our actions, individually and collectively. The design is to be seen mostly as a reflection of my observation rather than an account of judgment or verdict based on any authority.
  During my long career as a physician and my intimate communications with patients and people connected to patients from various faiths, I have been exposed to and have experienced the power of the belief in the Ultimate Glory that comforts the ones in agony. It does not take a genius to figure out that the same supreme power cannot be any different than the one that is behind the cosmic balance and the enormity of existence of all that is around us and within us. It may be the whole reality or perhaps just a perception that influences our thought process and makes it appear to give us an impression that it is all for real.
     Religions are undeniably the strongest establishments in the world. They command more respect, profess more unity, and access more power than any political philosophy; they enjoy emotional camaraderie and economic authority than any imaginable entity. They have withstood the test of time, transcended the geographic boundaries of landmasses, and surpassed the emotional restrictions of cultures and languages. They have more than upheld the purpose for which they 264 were created and profusely added substance and momentum than their founders conceivably have ever imagined.
  Conversely and sadly, religions have generously subscribed to controversy and conflicts between factions and nations. As much as they have helped the progress of societies and cultures in promoting fields from arts to philanthropy, they have harmfully exercised their might in separating human groups.
  Origins of religions are often obscure, but their purpose and objectives have presumably been to promote noble intentions. Followers of all religions unquestionably believe that the beginning of their respective faiths is heralded by divine destiny, ordered by God. Available records of historical and mythological accounts establish the founders of religions as divine personalities, souls with supreme spiritual capabilities. Having been established, such institutions have gradually evolved and transformed, based on the visions of the leadership and the demands of the followers. An analysis of such progression leading to the effective utilization of their original purpose should make interesting yet sensitive topics of discussion.
     I was born into a Hindu family and was brought up with the values of its traditions. I grew up fascinated by its voluminous mythological stories and was guided to follow its abundant philosophic fundamentals. I was exposed to and was enchanted by the many rituals and festivals of Hindu customs. Perhaps of that opportunity and because of the freedom that it allowed and preached to accept the entire humanity as one family, I got increasingly curious about the role of religions in shaping human character and behavior. As I admired the tenets of the great saints and philosophers guiding their followers to be nobler human beings, I also felt disturbed by the observation that often, such celebrated information offered by their magnificent teachings were misconstrued, leading to conflicts and separation of the human family.

I noticed the painful irony that in the process of applying god’s profound principles and reflective instructions into practice, there was often animosity and hatred generated between people of different identities. If one truly believes in the concept of an ultimate power that is God, it should be logical to assume that such a power would be all-encompassing, enormously indomitable and beyond the trivial limitations of human definitions and dictated guidelines. Such a power would be further from easy human comprehension and free from the shackles of organized religious restrictions and manipulations. But it is disturbing to observe that instead of such celestial convictions promoting the concept of the accord, the resultant collective actions of many groups often go against the divine indoctrination and the universal harmony it can generate.
     I have come to some convictions that such negative outcome may be due to ignorance or lack of interest to understand a different philosophy, perhaps even some trepidation from fear of the unknown. Such limitation may be further aggravated by restrictive influences promoted by vested interests. I am also convinced, optimistic and confident that human nature is basically that of compassion and tolerance if there is a concerted, organized attempt to evoke the glory of creation and its profound purpose, it should be possible to recapture that intent. There should be enough goodness in the ultimate nature of the human mind that such an outcome should be attainable if it is undertaken with total sincerity and dedication. An ideal scenario would be to dream of a human family adapted, comfortable and contented to accept and respect the various pathways and modalities designed to attain the ultimate reality that is defined as the god principle.

     I propose also to reflect on the brilliant observations and inferences of the genius scientific minds as they have educated us through recorded history. As I feel immensely mesmerized by their wisdom, I sincerely wish that many of them could attempt to make a humble, even a ‘devotional’ submission to an inconceivable authority, at junctures beyond the reach of human comprehension. It will be desirable if science could graciously accommodate an intellect beyond their grasp if such a privilege could facilitate an amicable acceptance and even synchronization between ‘science’ and ‘religion’. At the other end of the spectrum, 266 some uncompromising convictions dictated by religions without allowance of rational use of common sense and scientific knowledge, act detrimental to their own progress, even existence. Somewhere in between the above two groups, the dictations of atheists, shamefully uncomfortable to act even with remote accommodation of a god-concept, seem to attract the attention of a significant number of intellectuals, who find solace in overlooking any supernatural involvement. They turn to science and modern proofs to discredit the power of any mystical elements without exact evidence.
     If human life or perhaps its soul is the ultimate entity in the ever-evolving process of creation and or evolution, it behooves us to imagine that there may be a vested purpose, a designated destiny, an imaginative intent, established, structured and manipulated by an Ultimate Reality which will ever remain inconceivable to the minuscule ability and grasp of human comprehension.
    This narrative is an unpretentious attempt to analyze the implication of religions on human life, past and present, their enriching contribution and their injurious influence. Instead of dwelling on the differences and unhealthy waste of the wealth of such knowledge, civilization could have gained enormously if it concentrated on the possibilities of the cohesive effect of such profound information. It is the writer’s wish to guide the readers to explore and utilize the many profound teachings of the great religions of the world and apply the rewards towards the benefit of humans as a single-family. The readers are invited to be imaginative in opening up avenues with an ecumenical approach to the divinity that can accommodate larger groups of humans than alienating them. If the wealth of knowledge amassed by the scholarly minds behind all the religions can accommodate and take advantage of the scientific information accumulated during the past millennia of human socio-cultural enhancement, this global human family of ours stands to benefit immensely.
     This is neither a scholarly treatise nor a claim to be any dazzling dissertation on the nebulous concept of the purpose of life or its spiritual connotations. It is neither intended to be for arguments nor for establishing the dominance of any philosophy or value system over any other. It is my conviction that an inclusive understanding of various religions and a realization that they all intended to enrich the human mind, the process will promote better mutual respect and enhanced human relationship.
     If the reader accepts my notions objectively with an open mind and an unprejudiced concept of one human family, then my humble aspiration would stand fulfilled.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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