What is religion good for? – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth“Neither Christianity nor Islam has a solid philosophical basis. They consider as absolutely true what simply cannot be absolutely true: a story about the Highest does not qualify as That which always is, as it depends on thoughts. Further, the claim that the Highest, by whatever name it is called, is a separate entity apart from creation is scientifically not tenable.” – Maria Wirth

Yuri GagarinIn many parts of Europe, religion has become an important topic only in the last few decades. In the 1970s, religion or rather Christianity, which used to mean religion then, seemed obsolete. It was considered something for children and old people. Ever since Christians got the freedom to leave the Church not so long ago (in the 19th century in northern Germany), many did so. And after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin came back from space and declared that he had not come across God, the Church lost out further.

Just an example: when I was a child in the 1950s, in our small town mass was held every day at 6.30 a.m., at 7 a.m. and 3 times a week at 8 a.m. Since long now, there is no daily mass. Only the three services at 8 a.m. have survived. When I was a child, three hours of fasting were mandatory before taking Holy Communion. Now it has been scaled down to half an hour. Earlier, missing Sunday mass was a grave sin that would be punished with hell fire. Now one can attend it on Saturday instead of Sunday.

Religion seemed on its way out, yet suddenly it is back and very prominent in the public discourse. The main reason is the increasing visibility of Islam in Europe. When the first Turks came to Germany as “guest workers“, it was considered great that our boringly uniform society turned “multicultural”, with more interesting looking people on the streets. Meanwhile this enthusiasm has dimmed considerably. Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that the multicultural experiment has completely failed.

It is for the first time, after Christianity had crushed the Pagan faith in Europe, that the locals are confronted in their midst with a substantial population of followers of a different religion, which, as aggressively as Christianity, proclaims that it alone is the true religion, and whoever does not join it, is damned to hell forever. Moreover, many of those followers seem to take their religion really seriously.

This jolted Germans who did not identify foremost with being Christian anymore. Yet apparently, now they feel the need to counter Islam with Christianity. Angela Merkel exhorted Germans to go back to Christian values. In 2011, she invited the Pope to address the Parliament. While strolling through Munich city on a Sunday morning last winter, I saw many, including, fashionable youngsters, streaming into a big old church. Later I came to know that the priest of this church was very popular. Yet even in the small town where my mother lives, I saw many young parents take their kids to church for the children’s service. It would have been an unusual sight in the 1970s, when those same parents would have opted for a picnic instead.

What draws people to religion? What is it good for?

The most important point is in all likelihood an intuition in human beings that there is a higher, unfathomable power that is the cause for this vast universe and is also the cause for our own existence. Further, there is an intuition that this power somehow knows us and even guides us in life by this small voice of our conscience. There is an inner communion possible, be it through prayer or a feeling of awe.

Jesus of NazarethThis intuition makes sense. It is natural and does not require the label of “religion” and for many thousands of years it never had this label. The logical consequence of this intuition was to search for that power in oneself and outside. It prompted people to become mystics and scientists who pondered on what is true. We know that this went on for ages in the Indian subcontinent as many invaluable ancient texts are preserved.

However, in the last 2000 years of the long human history, this intuition that there is a higher power was exploited to promote ideologies that claim supremacy and strive for world dominion. An elaborate story was invented about this higher power. It was called “God, the Father”, and it was claimed he had one son and had sent this son down to earth, etc. To make matters worse, it was declared that this story is the only truth, and everyone has to believe it. As soon as Christianity became state religion of the Roman Empire, its followers rolled over mystically inclined locals and forced their belief on the people of vast areas in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

Muhammad of MadinaA few hundred years later, another story was woven around this higher power. It was claimed that this power has spoken again through a prophet, and this was for the very last time that it has made its Will known. No more direct message from the highest power in future. Unfortunately, here too, this story was declared as the only truth and everyone has to believe in it.

It did not take long and the followers of those two different stories were at each other’s throat with each one claiming that the highest power wants everyone to believe their story and not that of their rival. Obviously, the highest power was misused as a front for gaining world dominion. The second story got in many areas soon the upper hand “with fire and sword”, as we can unfortunately vividly imagine. And of course, it did not bypass the wealthiest land on earth at that time – India.

Both these stories were called “religions”. In fact, Christianity and Islam are the main religions that come immediately to one’s mind when one hears “religion”. Hinduism is often not even mentioned when religions are listed, and this should be taken as a compliment.

In the Indian tradition, the intuition that there is a higher power was not exploited to enforce belief in one story as the absolute truth and to rule the world. Here, not one story, but innumerable stories developed. These stories exist peacefully side by side. Devotees of Ram, Krishna, Shiva, Ganapathi, Devi, etc., are reminded that they must never be narrow-minded as Ram himself worshipped Shiva.

In India the natural, mystical path was pursued. The Rishis pondered deeply and came up with profound insights. They defined absolute truth as That which is always – in past, present, future, and which shines out of itself. Is there anything that fits this definition, as the whole universe obviously does not qualify as being absolutely true? Yes, there is, the Rishis declare: Pure, thought-free consciousness is absolutely true. But to really know this as true, everyone needs to find out in himself.

Neither Christianity nor Islam has a solid philosophical basis. They consider as absolutely true what simply cannot be absolutely true: a story about the Highest does not qualify as That which always is, as it depends on thoughts. Further, the claim that the Highest, by whatever name it is called, is a separate entity apart from creation is scientifically not tenable.

Only the Hindu tradition is solidly grounded and does not have to fear scientific discoveries. In fact, it is supported by and can lead to further scientific discoveries, as western scientists found out and took advantage of, for example in nuclear physics.

Not surprisingly, those religions, which don’t have a solid philosophical basis, rely on force and on catching young, impressionable minds. They expanded their reach by violence and kept their flock in check by brainwashing children and by threatening the adults with severe punishment if they dared to disagree with the story/ dogma that had to be accepted blindly as truth.

Ever since Christianity lost its power to enforce blasphemy laws and punish heretics, it lost followers. Nobody knows how many Muslims would leave Islam, if heretics were not punished and there were no blasphemy laws in place.

In contrast, the Hindu tradition has no blasphemy laws and does not need any. Its philosophical basis is solid. Even in the face of danger to one’s life under Muslim rule and of being exposed to ridicule under British rule, most Hindus held on to their tradition.

However in independent India, an insidious teaching that “all religions are the same and deserve respect” did a lot of harm and enticed many to convert for some benefits. “Respecting other religions” was said to be in tune with Hindu values, not realizing that it meant respecting those whose explicit goal is to wipe out Hindus.

VoltaireClearly, something is wrong with religions that need to threaten their followers with grave consequences, whether in this life or in the afterlife, if they dare to question the story they have been told to believe as the only truth. Further something is clearly wrong with the claim that the Highest is partial towards one group and will be exceedingly cruel to all others in his creation – letting them burn in hellfire for ever and ever.

Some Christians realized this and also dared to say it. Voltaire suffered in prison for his outspokenness. One of his comments is still highly relevant. He said, “Those who can make you Mark Twainbelieve absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Mark Twain also called the bluff of the organized, dogmatic religion. He said, “Religion was born, when the first conman met the first fool.”

However, dogmatic religions are still going strong. Too few people question. Too few dare to look closely. Too few object to the outrageous claims that are made. Is it not outrageous to claim that Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, will burn in hell if they don’t convert? If a cricketer is not allowed to say this on the field, why are preachers allowed to spread this “absurdity” all over? Does it not encourage those who believe it to commit atrocities?

Those who had the good fortune to grow up in the Indian traditions, which allow freedom of thought and a genuine enquiry into truth, need to be alert and guard this freedom. If this freedom is lost, humanity will be truly miserable.

Sadly, it is lost already in many places on this earth. Saddest of all, it is lost in what is today Pakistan and where thousands of years ago human civilization had reached great heights. – Maria Wirth Blog, 14 September 2014

» Maria Wirth is German and came to India for a holiday after finishing her psychology studies at Hamburg University. She decided to stay and has been here 33 years.

Rawalpindi Temple Demolition: Pakistani Hindus seek redress – Sandeep Datta

Valmik Mandir, Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif is overshadowed by the army.“Hindus already face insecurity, kidnapping for ransom and forced conversions of their daughters in Pakistan. If they were relocated, their woes would compound since non-Hindus were already the least tolerant towards them.” – Sandeep Datta

As Pakistani authorities are all set to raze a 79-year-old temple in Rawalpindi, anger and disappointment prevail among the country’s Hindu minority that is seeking protection and freedom to practise their religion in an Islamic state.

Hindus have been living in Rawalpindi for over a century and the 1935-built Maharishi Valmik Swamiji Mandir in the Gracy Lines area of the Chaklala cantonment holds major significance as it enables them to worship and conduct religious festivities. Its entrance is decorated with Pakistani flags, a sign of the Hindu minorities’ patriotism and love for the country where they were born and grew up.

When notice to demolish such an old temple was issued July 18, a sense of anger, fear, and panic gripped not just the over 20,000 Hindus of Rawalpindi and neighbouring Islamabad but also the two million Hindus – a dwindling community – living across Pakistan, a nation of 180 million people.

The temple is to be razed to make way for an educational and housing complex. Officials have assured the Hindus they would build a new temple wherever the residents were relocated, “even if it costs Rs. 2 million, a Dawn report said recently.

Valmiki with Kusa and LavaFearing that they might lose the temple as well as their homes, the area’s Hindus filed a petition with the civil court and were granted a stay order till Aug 21. But the order provides them temporary relief as they can live in the area only until Sep 13.

“The mandir is considered to be the home of the lord. Every human has an emotional attachment to his religious places. Valuing such feelings, it shouldn’t be demolished,” a Hindu college student in Rawalpindi, who did not wish to be identified for fear of retaliation, told IANS in an e-mail communication.

A Lahore-based Hindu intellectual, requesting similar anonymity, contended the Valmik temple is the Hindus’ sacred place and used for religious practices. “The temple should be respected like any other religious community’s sacred place is. Everyone should be free to perform their religious practices in their sacred places.”

As many Hindus expressed inability to speak to the media for security concerns, some Muslim intellectuals spoke up on their behalf.

Lahore-based journalist Raza Wazir felt the demolition of the temple symbolizes “a trend in Pakistan where the space for religious plurality and tolerance of different beliefs is fast shrinking”.

It is indicative of a change in the attitude of the authorities as well as the active members of society who “no longer consider it their duty to care for faiths other than Islam”, Wazir told IANS in an email, adding: “This is surely a bad sign for the progress of Pakistan’s democratic culture.”

“Unless and until Pakistan treats its minorities at par with its Muslim citizens it cannot hope to be at peace with itself and its neighbours,” Wazir said.

Maharishi Valmik Swamiji Mandir in the Gracy Lines area of the Chaklala Cantonment in RawalpindiAt the time of partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, many of Rawalpindi’s Hindus had opted to put up at their roots due to emotional bonding instead of migrating to India.

“They are today concerned as, despite their loyalty shown to the country, they are not being accepted like other citizens. Hindus are worried about the existing state of affairs as they feel unsafe despite being granted citizens’ rights under the Pakistani constitution like others,” Muhammad Akbar Notezai, a Pakistan-based journalist, told IANS in an e-mail interview.

The temple has been providing a shelter to homeless Hindus and is a “symbol of unity” of Hindus living there. Demolishing it means “bringing an end to their unity as well and compounding the woes of the already persecuted homeless Hindus,” Notezai said.

He said the Hindus already face insecurity, kidnapping for ransom and forced conversions of their daughters in Pakistan. If they were relocated, their woes would compound since non-Hindus were already the least tolerant towards them.

“We must not forget the temple in Rawalpindi has been providing a shelter to homeless Hindus and has been a sign of unity for Hindus living here … demolishing it means ending their unity as well and compounding the woes of the already persecuted homeless Hindus.”

Article 25 (1) of the Pakistani constitution says all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law. “Like Muslims, Hindus are also equal citizens of Pakistan, and their lives, sacred places and property must also be protected,” Notezai added. – Business Standard, 5 September 2014

» Sandeep Datta can be contacted at sandeep.d@ians.in

Ashok Chand and his children in RawalpindiAshok Chand is the father of three children with learning difficulties. He says: “We are being mentally tortured by certain officers. To put pressure on us, sometimes they cut off our water, or threaten to cut off electricity. We don’t want to get in the way of the army, because the army has protected us for so many years.” – BBC

Why I love India – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth“I realized that in India an intensive, dedicated and essential inner search for what is truly true has been made since time immemorial. The findings of this search are startling and comforting to all of humanity.” — Maria Wirth

India has undoubtedly a lot of problems. She has a huge population and comparatively little space for it. Many many people live in extremely difficult and poor circumstances, their only concern being how to earn enough money to feed their families. There are people who massively exploit the country for their selfish benefit. There are also people who have nothing good to say about India though they live in relatively comfortable circumstances. They give the impression as if they rather would be somewhere else, like in London or America. I have lived in Europe for 30 years. I also have travelled in almost 40 countries in the Americas, North Africa and Asia before coming to India. And yet, of all the countries I visited, I clearly love India the most. I once even dreamt that in front of me there was a thick, three-dimensional map of India. Looking at it my heart expanded and I felt great love. Still dreaming I was surprised that one can love a country so much.

It was, however, not love at first sight. After my first visit during my studies, I supposedly even said, “Never again India”, my mother claimed. I had come back to Germany weak from a stomach upset. Only on my second visit – intended as a short stopover that lasts meanwhile 33 years – India showed me what amazing treasure she hides under her noisy and often challenging surface.

I realized that in India an intensive, dedicated and essential inner search for what is truly true has been made since time immemorial. The findings of this search are startling and comforting to all of humanity and corroborated by modern nuclear physics:

‘Beneath’ every appearance in this universe, including our own person, there is the same ‘Real Presence’ (or whatever one wants to call the formless nameable) – living, loving, indestructible, mighty, infinite. To uncover it is the purpose of life and its fulfillment.

Every country has good and bad people. But India has also wise and enlightened people, far more than any other place, and they make India special – a country of light (Bharat) in spite of the apparent darkness. May the Light illumine the intellect of all…. – Maria Wirth Blog, 23 January 2013

» Maria Wirth is German and came to India for a holiday after finishing her psychology studies at Hamburg University. She decided to stay and has been here 33 years.

Nepal flooding presents Gospel opportunities – Katy Hearth

Nepalese Children

This article is written by a Christian missionary, Katy Hearth of the Christian Aid Mission, one of the largest US-based Christian NGOs operating in India and Nepal. She shamelessly invites her fellow missionaries to exploit the critical flood situation in Nepal for evangelical work and conversion of Hindus and Buddhists to Christianity. She even finds an opportunity to falsely accuse Indian Prime Minister Modi of persecuting Nepalese Christians (when he has just given a billion dollar development loan to Nepal plus half a million dollars in flood aid). No doubt Modi will have to deal with these soul-scavenging Christian missionary NGOs soon, and how he does it—when he does it—will be interesting to see. — Editor

Christian Aid MissionNepal (Christian Aid Mission) — Nearly 300 people have died and more than 100 are missing due to severe Nepal flooding. Heavy rain, which began August 13, has affected 25 of Nepal’s 75 districts, overflowing riverbanks and causing landslides. More than 22,000 people have been displaced.

“Most of the believers from two of our churches lost their shelters, household items, cattle, and food grains,” says a ministry leader supported by Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, in Bardia. Bardia is one of the four districts most-affected by Nepal’s flooding.

The leader reports that he has “never, in the past 52 years,” seen this kind of flooding in Bardia. “All of the sudden, the Orai River changed its course, and within a few minutes entire villages were washed away without any time for the people to react.”

Before the rains began, the majority of the flood victims lived in extreme poverty. They now have nothing.

Many homeless families are living at the school run by this ministry–a school that recently received negative attention from a news channel in Nepal after it became known that several children converted to Christianity there. Converting someone to a religion other than Hinduism was illegal in Nepal until 2008, when it Narendra Modi with his Nepalese godson Jeet Bahadurchanged from the world’s only Hindu Kingdom to a secular state.

India’s newly-elected Prime Minister, a Hindu Nationalist, is fueling Christian persecution in Nepal. The Nepal flooding is presenting local Christians with an opportunity to share the love of Christ with their persecutors.

International aid agencies are trying to help the victims but aren’t able to communicate with and reach many regions that remain without electricity and are inaccessible to outsiders.

The Nepalese government is ill-equipped to respond to such a disaster. According to one ministry leader assisted by Christian Aid Mission, the government is calling upon “each able individual to contribute 100 rupees [$1] for the people in the affected regions.”

Indigenous ministries inside Nepal are in a unique position to reach out to their hurting neighbors in Jesus’ name immediately, with help wired directly from Christian Aid Mission.

Among the most-needed items are food, blankets, and tents. Your gift will enable native missionaries to provide these basic necessities to those who have lost everything. – Mission Network News, 27 August 2014

Nepalese army rescue a cow in flooded Bardia
Nepalese women search for higher ground in flooded Bardia
Nepal Map

See also

Love jihad is a chilling reality – Rakesh Sinha

Prof Rakesh SinhaSecularism in India suffers due to three reasons. First, there is no uniform civil code. This renders the gender issue a religious and communal one. Second, organised conversion campaigns increasingly destablises socio-religious equilibrium. Third, the fundamental right of freedom of religion is shattered by unabated conversion. – Prof Rakesh Sinha

This is what happens to stupid Hindu girls who run after Muslim boys with money!The raging debate on love jihad has expectedly created a ruckus both in the media and the wider society. Accusations have been flying from expected quarters—the flag-bearers of disruptive secularism—that it is an “RSS conspiracy to drive a wedge between Hindus and Muslims” on the one hand and “deter intercommunity marriage”. The “RSS-versus-minorities” refrain is part of the secularists’ worn out subterfuge in suppressing serious debate on any sociological and cultural issue.

Ideally, love is one of the most sublime forms of human expression. Two people yielding to this benign emotion must be given moral, legal and social support. Love is exalted to spirituality in Indian tradition. Inter-community marriages are welcomed, if based on mutual consent. There are umpteen examples of public figures with spouses from another community, many of them from BJP. However, when a marriage is based on ulterior motives, premeditated actions or falsehood, it engenders problems violating the couple’s privacy. If an inter-community marriage forces a girl to forsake her religious identity and freedom, it sows suspicion and calls for increased sociological attention. Hindu or Christian girls getting married to Muslim boys had hardly been an issue till cases of abandonment and forced conversion came to light. The issue of “love jihad” first appeared in the British Parliament. The subject index of an “untraceable” file of the National Archives of India unravels that the daughter of Motilal Nehru eloped with a Muslim, Syed Ansari. Both were later traced and separated.

Tara Shahdeo: Not Ranjit Singh Kohli but Raqibul Hasan!Tara Shahdeo, a shooter in Jharkhand, is a more recent and serious instance. In the Kerala Assembly, Congress CM Oommen Chandy, certainly no votary of Hindutva, admitted in 2012 that 2,667 girls were converted to Islam. Numbers are much higher than reported. Such things may not enjoy wide Muslim support, but forces pushing such marriages are definitely not guided by any secular ethos. Can one dodge the very real issue of whether traditional Islamic society can accept an idol-worshipping woman as part of an Islamic family, culture and society? Hindu women are the biggest victims, whether the marriage is based on affection or design. Conversion is mandatory for any woman marrying a Muslim. Even Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who married Ruttie, a Parsi, in 1920, first converted her to Islam.

Mahatma Gandhi too faced conversion’s sordid symphony when his eldest son Harilal embraced Islam. He said on May 29, 1936, in Mumbai: “I have the gravest doubt about this acceptance being from the heart or free of selfless considerations. Everyone who knows my son Harilal knows that he has been for years addicted to the drink evil and has been in the habit of visiting houses of ill fame. For some years, he has been living on the charity of friends who have helped him unstintingly. He is indebted to some Pathans from whom he had borrowed at heavy interest. Up to only recently he was in dread of his life from his Pathan creditors in Bombay. Now he is the hero of the hour in the city.”

Hiralal GandhiGandhi wrote in the Harijan on June 6, 1936: “Harilal’s apostasy is no loss to Hinduism and his admission to Islam is a source of weakness to it if, as I apprehend, he remains the same wreck he was before.”

Secularism in India suffers due to three reasons. First, there is no uniform civil code. This renders the gender issue a religious and communal one. Second, organised conversion campaigns increasingly destablises socio-religious equilibrium. Third, the fundamental right of freedom of religion is shattered by unabated conversion. The colonial legacy continued under secularist regimes, as a result of which Hindus are perhaps the world’s only majority community but with minority psychology who need anti-conversion laws for protection from demographic deficit. – The New Indian Express, 6 September 2014

» Prof Rakesh Sinha is Hony. Director of India Policy Foundation. Contact him at Rakeshsinha46@gmail.com

 

Hinduism & Paganism – Koenraad Elst

Dr. Koenraad Elst“It happened to my European ancestors long ago, and I see it happening today in India. The Christian plan is to make the same destruction of Paganism happen all over India as well as the rest of the world. However, the rediscovery of the indigenous Pagan heritage among the natives of Latin America as well as those of Europe threatens to jeopardize their project, though as yet only marginally. They have a more acute fear of Islam, in spite of—or, on the contrary, proven by—their numerous gestures of reconciliation with Islam, such as the Pope’s apology for the Crusades, contrasting with their lack of apologies to the heirs of the far more unjustly treated Pagans [and Hindus].” – Dr Koenraad Elst

Yazidi Peacock God at Lalish TempleThe Christian challenge

Numerous British and more largely Western neo-Pagans seek contact with Hinduism.They recognize a similarity, both positively and negatively, both in their own religion’s characteristics and in the misfortunes that have befallen it. The extermination in summer 2014 of all the Yazidis (Kurdish Pagans) on whom the Islamic State could lay its hands has reminded many Pagans as well as many Hindus of what their own ancestors have had to suffer. We will start with a major negative experience of western Pagans of Hindus, viz. the challenge of Christianity, before addressing the similarities in contents.

Extermination of Paganism

European Paganism was exterminated by Christianity. The result was more thorough than in the case of the partial Islamization of South Asia, but far less violent. Initially, the Christians were a small and vulnerable community in the mighty Roman Empire. They had no real option but to adapt to the prevailing religious pluralism and to the law of the land. They have no separate systems of laws like Islam and ancient Judaism. So they didn’t have a law system to impose and could leave a society intact all while subverting its religion.

Rather than overthrowing a polity, they chose to work through its established authorities. All conversions were welcome, but the most promising ones were those of the king and his confidants. In Rome, the conversion of emperor Constantine changed history, turning a minority religion into the official and ultimately the only permitted religion. In the case of England, for instance, Pope Gregory the Great decided on a mass conversion after he saw some handsome young British slaves at the slave market in Christian Rome. (Slaves in Christian Rome? A modern line of apologetics is that Christianity was disliked by the elites because it wanted to abolish slavery. Not true at all, though it limited slave-taking to the remaining Pagan populations. The nearest were the Balkanic Slavs, hence the very word “slave”.) So he sent missionaries to work among the British elites and the royal court. Once enough of them were converted, or were at least turned favourable to the missionary effort, they in turn loaded the dice in favour of Christianity. Part of the deal in many countries concerned was that the Church would support the king against unsubmissive nobles, thus encouraging the centralization of power, or champion the ambitions of whichever nobles were most amenable to accepting the Christian message.

A very powerful factor was the monopoly on education which the first monasteries came to enjoy. This must ring a bell among present-day Hindus, considering the role of Jesuit and other Christian schools among the Indian elite. Another was the prestige of the Roman Empire as more civilized and more advanced than what the Pagans could muster. Before and during the conquest of the Roman Empire by the Goths, they embraced Christianity thinking this was an integral part in their advancement. That the Romans, for instance, built in stone rather than wood counted as an impressive innovation, but had nothing to do with Christianity. A similar thing is seen today: numerous Chinese and Koreans who migrate to the United States become Protestant overnight because they assume that this is a central element in becoming a real American. Among some Indian tribals, modern medicine passes as “Jesus medicine”, meaning “medicine coming from the same West as the missionaries”, though Jesus himself was an old-fashioned faith-healer who never used medicine. So, Christianity profited and still profits maximally from “merit by association”.

Catholic AshramsChristian subversion

One has to give it to the Christians that they were clever. They outwitted their opponents just as they are outwitting Hindus today. Thus, in the conversion of the masses, they made it a point not to destroy existing shrines: they replaced the central God-statue with a crucifix, but otherwise they allowed the masses to keep on visiting their old shrine, so that they would gradually attach to Jesus the aura of sacredness that they used to associate with their own gods. Many cathedrals were built on Pagan temples or open-air sacred places, but fairly rarely have Christians destroyed temples; only the “idols” in them. They adopted holidays and celebrations but gave them a new Christian meaning. They turned old Gods into Christian saints. They Christianized the procession, originally the triumphal march of a Pagan God, now a display in the streets of the sacred wafer representing Jesus. They accommodated the idea of pilgrimage, mostly to a purported relic of Jesus or a saint, even though the Christian view made nonsense of the idea that you can go on pilgrimage to the Omnipresent One. Like today in India, they used inculturation as a mission strategy.

And it worked. At the elite level, Pagan religion disappeared. It is common nowadays to bewail the injustice to the Jews because they were forced to live in ghettos; but the Jews were at least tolerated as a standing witness to the “truth of the Old Testament”. By contrast, there were not even ghettos for worshippers of Zeus, Venus or Thor.

As the Dutch poet Lucebert wrote: “Everything of value is vulnerable.” When a body dies, one of the first thing to degenerate and disappear is the brain, while the bones can last for centuries. The fabled secret traditions of the Druids were killed off by Christianity and remain forever unknown, but many popular practices and indeed also superstitions have survived till recently. The Middle Ages, though Christian at the elite level, saw the survival of numerous Pagan institutions and practices especially among the rural folk (both Latinate Pagan and Germanic Heathen mean “rural, rustic”). The Reformation in the 16th century delivered a body blow to the remaining Paganism, as Protestants started weeding out everything that was not Biblical, while the Catholics saw themselves forced to purify Catholicism and eliminate a number of practices that had come about as compromises with Paganism. A final blow was the Industrial Revolution, which saw the rise of an anti-religious mentality: it hurt European Christianity badly but it also flushed out the remaining Pagan practices among the common people.

So, Christianization was mostly effected through subversion and mass psychology. Instances of the threat of violence included the forced baptism of the Frankish king Clovis’ soldiers (“head off or head under [the baptismal water]”), or the threats by the king of Norway which convinced the Icelanders to adopt Christianity. Instances of effective violence include the lynching of the Neoplatonist scholar Hypatia or the slaughter of thousands of Saxon nobles by Charlemagne. These were smaller affairs than the wars between Catholics and Christian “heretics”, such as that in the 5th-6th century between the Byzantine Catholics and the Gothic votaries of Arian Christianity, and in the 17th century the Thirty Years’ War between Catholics and Protestants. One serious case of a Christian holy war against Pagans was the subjection of the Baltic area by the Teutonic Order in the 13th-14th century; but that was after Christians had developed the concept of Crusade mirroring the older Islamic concept of Jihad.

India Crossed-OutChristian strategic acumen

The practical impact of this assessment is that it won’t get you very far to remind your audience of the violent element in Christian history, such as the burning of maybe 50.000 witches in the 16th-17th century. That violence was certainly there, but not enough to explain Christianity’s conquest of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Even the Native Americans, who had so much to reproach the Christians for, turned Christian in large numbers. (Indians do well to remember that the fate of the American “Indians” was in fact meant for the people of the continent the Conquistadores had set out to reach, viz. “India”.) You will have to take into account other factors, such as:

(1) “merit by association”, viz. Christianity’s piggy-backing on a literate and materially more advanced culture, then in Europe like more recently in Asia; to which should now be added the propaganda linking Christianity with social causes and human rights;
(2) Christianity’s self-righteousness due to a belief in being the sole possessors of the truth, and the consequent contempt for non-Christians, a far more negative attitude than anything the Pagans could muster; or in other words, the unmatched power of hatred; as well as the consequent importance they attach to religious identity, which means the pressure to convert in a mixed marriage is usually on the Pagan partner;
(3) The Christian care to distinguish between Pagans and Paganism, which gave them a good conscience and strong motivation, because they believed they were loving the Pagans all while hating and demonizing Paganism, and that the effort to convert the Pagans was the supreme form of expressing their love for them;
(4) the Christian development of a sophisticated missionary strategy emanating from a goal-oriented strategic centre.

By contrast, Pagans have mostly been in retreat because:

(1) they have been on the defensive in material and “soft power” respects (though even where this applies less and less, such as in the Indian elite and in China, there are now numerous conversions to Christianity due to the other factors) and have successfully been demonized in matters of human rights;
(2) they don’t think of religion in terms of truth, so that Christianity might be a nuisance but not a “false” religion; believe in the good things claimed for Christianity; and don’t make sharp distinctions between the secondary aspects of the religion (which may be innocent or even laudable and are often borrowed from Paganism anyway) and its core truth claims, which are patently false; so that they consider conversion to Christianity as only a minor change which may often be justified;
(3) since they have comparatively little theological schooling and no catechism, they fail to distinguish between Christians and Christianity, and are easily duped by the existence of some fine Christians into thinking that the Christian truth claims must be innocent as well;
(4) the confused, unorganized, “me too”- imitative, uninformed and amateurish nature of their self-defence.

It happened to my European ancestors long ago, and I see it happening today in India. The Christian plan is to make the same destruction of Paganism happen all over India as well as the rest of the world. However, the rediscovery of the indigenous Pagan heritage among the natives of Latin America as well as those of Europe threatens to jeopardize their project, though as yet only marginally. They have a more acute fear of Islam, in spite of (or, on the contrary, proven by) their numerous gestures of reconciliation with Islam, such as the Pope’s apology for the Crusades, contrasting with their lack of apologies to the heirs of the far more unjustly treated Pagans [and Hindus].

Hindu activist raising the Bhagwa Dwaj over a CrossWhat to do after Christianity?

In Europe, at least, and to my knowledge also in Latin America, there is no direct or imminent threat of Christian violence. The battle can be won by consciousness-raising, which already happens automatically though it would benefit from a sharpening of its focus. Since the democratization of knowledge and of the scientific outlook, people have left the Churches in droves because they just cannot bring themselves to believing Christianity’s defining dogmas anymore. These ex-Christians (the majority of my own generation in the formerly very Catholic Flemish part of Belgium) are rarely tempted to turn back to the faith of their childhood, even on their deathbeds. Some Christian apologists find hope in demographics, asserting that the remaining Christian couples have more children (viz. just above the reproduction level) than the ex-Christian couples. True, but even of these born-again Christian couples, many children when growing up are just as susceptible to the temptation of scepticism as my generation was. After all, we have been there before: in the decades when Christianity decisively lost its majority, both the Christian birth-rate and the differential with the secularized minority were even bigger than now. I, for one, born in 1959, am the second of five siblings. Of my staunchly Catholic parents’ fourteen grandchildren, only six have been baptized – and that too is only a formality which doesn’t mean that they will be Catholics as adults. The last real hope of the Churches is the inflow of immigrants. In my country, the remaining Catholic churches are mostly filled with Polish or Congolese “new Belgians”. But there again, after a while many tend to conform to their ex-Christian environment. So, very much in contrast to India, where Christianity is making impressive gains, in Europe Christianity is largely a thing of the past.

That doesn’t mean these ex-Christians have lost the feeling for the higher things and immersed themselves in consumerism and sheer animality, as Christians tend to think. Nor are they without morality, which had unjustly been identified with being a Christian. But neither religiosity nor morals can be deduced from or made dependent on the defining dogmas of Christianity, which have been pin-pricked as delusional. Belief in Salvation through Jesus’ Resurrection cannot be revived, but that doesn’t mean the subtler dimensions have died. So now our job is to oversee the development of a new worldview and a different way of life, punctured by old-new rituals and celebrations. It is here that renascent Paganism in Europe seeks inspiration from Hinduism as the biggest and most developed surviving Pagan civilization.

» Dr Koenraad Elst studied at the KU Leuven, obtaining MA degrees in Sinology, Indology and Philosophy. After a research stay at Benares Hindu University he did original fieldwork for a doctorate on Hindu nationalism. As an independent researcher he earned laurels and ostracism with his findings on hot items like Islam, multiculturalism and the secular state, the roots of Indo-European, the Ayodhya temple/mosque dispute and Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy. He blogs at http://koenraadelst.blogspot.in/

Jihad: A deadly old game – Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar Etteth“Politics abides no principles. To counter the Raj, Lenin mixed religion and ideology, dreaming of a Communist India. He chose pro-Islamic M. N. Roy, an intense Bengali Communist, to found an army to fight the British empire, much before Subhash  Chandra Bose’s INA was formed. In September 1920, Comintern boss Grigory Zinoviev urged 1,800 Muslim delegates from the Middle East and Central Asia to start a jihad against imperialism.” – Ravi Shankar

ISIS tank on parade in RaqqaSometime around the turn of the 19th century, an agitated young Indian gentleman named Abdurrahman Peshawari decided to sail for Turkey. The British were fighting the last caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, and Indian Muslims were sending men and money to help the sultan. Jihad had a certain je ne sais quoi for Peshawari. He decided to bunk classes in Aligarh University, hawk all his belongings and took the steamer from Bombay to Istanbul. Peshawari was probably the first outsourced educated Indian jihadi. The tribe is growing. Eighteen homegrown fighters—mostly educated youth from South India— have given up filter coffee and Chettinad chicken to wage bloody war in Syria. They are among the hundreds of global holy warriors who believe in faith decaf—this depraved world has to get its just deserts of Wahab’s Arabia. Indian intelligence confirms that Indians have been fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in hundreds. Middle East’s fractious politics now has infected the Indian psyche.

History shows that in spite of all the rabid romance of faith, jihad is about seizing power and creating new rules—in other words, politics by other means. Peshawari, after being wounded in Gallipoli, realised that the Ottoman cheque had bounced and became a politician and an acolyte of Kemal Ataturk, the Big Daddy of modern Turkey. Ataturk gave him much Turkish delight by appointing him ambassador to Afghanistan—the first Indian to represent a foreign power. Today, Ankara is playing politics in Syria, reportedly supplying arms to opposing factions. The result is that the jihadi story in Syria is not all ittar and virgins: there are over a hundred groups, killing one another for apostasy.

Napoleon  BonaparteBut then the politics of jihad is as old as the lust for power. Babur was a heavy-drinking and wenching, murdering bandit until he discovered the power of religion as a political weapon to motivate against Hindu armies. The spoils of war for his uneducated, bloodthirsty hordes were the usual—riches and women. Napoleon’s political move to appease Egyptian Muslims was to promise the great Imam of Cairo that he, along with the entire French army, was converting to Islam. It boomeranged, because his soldiers refused to be circumcised. In British India, the English, who were fighting the Sikhs supported Wahabi leader Syed Ahmad Barelvi who established a jihadi camp in Peshawar—now the capital of Taliban terror—recruiting fighters from Bengal, Bihar, Awadh and Agra against Maharaja Ranjit Singh. By the time the 1857 Mutiny happened, Raj politics had come full circle—historians like Sheshrao More claim that jihadis threatened to kill Nana Sahib if he didn’t lead the anti-British forces.

Politics abides no principles. To counter the Raj, Lenin mixed religion and ideology, dreaming of a Communist India. He chose pro-Islamic M. N. Roy, an intense Bengali Communist, to found an army to fight the British empire, much before Subhash  Chandra Bose’s INA was formed. In September 1920, Comintern boss Grigory Zinoviev urged 1,800 Muslim delegates from the Middle East and Central Asia to start a jihad against imperialism.

Jihad in the KoranThe principles of religion—whether it be the imams or the Church—have been exploited for centuries for political power. Invaders like Ghori, Ghazni and Aurangzeb conquered and ruled by fanatical faith. In Arabic, jihad means ‘struggle’—the believer’s spiritual effort to keep the faith to his best ability. Prophet Muhammed, after winning the war against his enemies, had said, “We are finished with the lesser jihad; now we are starting the greater jihad,” meaning the war against the enemy outside is less important than the spiritual struggle. It will take many decades and millions of lives lost for jihadis to realise the sublime truth behind the Prophet’s words. Meanwhile, the atavistic bestiality of belief is being baptised in blood daily, both of innocents and warriors fighting one another. – The New Indian Express, 3 August 2014

» Ravi Shankar Etteth or just Ravi Shankar is an Indian author, columnist and cartoonist. Contact him at ravi@newindianexpress.com

 

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