Interview given to a student of religious studies – Koenraad Elst

Koenraad ElstThis is an interview given to a student of Religious Studies collecting material for her dissertation – Dr Koenraad Elst

Q : You have written that a Hindu simply is an Indian pagan. This raises the question: What is a pagan, exactly? Or what is paganism?

A : Strictly a “rustic”, “peasant” or “village bumpkin”, as opposed to the Christians in the Roman Empire, who were at first mostly city-dwellers. The textbook definition since the 4th century is “a non-Christian”. After Islam became more familiar in Europe, it often came to mean a non-Abrahamist, or better, anyone who does not subscribe to prophetic monotheism. The category “Pagan” strictly includes both atheists and polytheists, but mostly it is only used for a type of religious people, excluding non-religious atheists and agnostics.

When the Muslim invaders brought the Persian geographical term “Hindu” (“Indian”) into India, it came to mean “Indian by birth and by religion”, excluding those who were non-Indian or who were Indian but followed a non-Indian religion. In those days, people remained conscious of their original nationality for very long. When in the wake of the British, some Indian Zoroastrians settled in South Africa, they called themselves “Persians” though their families had lived in India for a thousand years. By the same token, the Syrian Christians counted as Syrians; but even if they counted as Indians, they would still not be Hindus, for they followed a non-Indian religion.

By contrast, all Indians without foreign links are Hindus: Brahmins, upper castes, middle castes, downtrodden, tribals, Buddhists (“clean-shaven Brahmins” according to the 8th-century Muslim chronicle Chach Nama), Jains. By implication even sects that did not exist yet, were Hindu upon birth: Lingayats, Sikhs, Arya Samaj, RK Mission, ISKCON. Today, “Hindu” is a dirty word, so they all try to weasel out of it and declare themselves non-Hindu, also to enjoy the legal benefits of being a minority. (Indeed, under the prevailing anti-secular Constitution, non-Hindus are privileged above Hindus.) They see Hinduism as a sinking ship, and being rats, they leave it. But I am not impressed by this. People should simply grow up and face facts: they satisfy the definition of “Hindu”, so they are Hindus, Indian Pagans. I don’t care what elephants think of being called elephants; since they satisfy the definition of “elephant”, they are elephants, period.

Since roughly 1980, the RSS family of Hindu nationalist organizations have tried to water this clear historical definition down by saying that “Hindu” simply means “Indian”. That would have been the pre-invasion usage, when Persian and Arabic were not tainted by Islam yet. But when the word was brought into India, it immediately differed from “Indian” by its religious dimension. Muslims and Christians are by definition not Hindu. But because the contemporary Hindutva leaders are not clear-headed (or not brave) enough to face difference, they try to spirit the difference between Hinduism and Islam away by calling the Indian Muslims “Mohammedi Hindus”. And likewise, “Christi Hindus”. I think that is the summum of cowardice.

Look, I don’t claim to be brave. I just sit behind my computer screen. Writing articles that displease some people doesn’t require more courage than posting cheerful holiday messages on Facebook; it’s just words. It is nothing compared to a soldier on the battlefield running into enemy fire. Here in Flanders fields, we are presently commemorating every event that punctuated WWI, a hundred years ago. When you read about those events, you come across unspeakable acts of bravery. So, compared to that, scholarship is nothing, even when a bit controversial. But conversely, when even words can intimidate you, when even a purely logical application of the definition of “Hindu” is too much, when even a word of disapproval by the secularists is too much, that is really intolerable cowardice. To be sure, even the secularists approve of a difference between “Hindu” and “Indian”, but the so-called Hindutva people now try to out-secularize the secularists by even denying that there is a separate religious category “Hindu”, different from the secular-geographical term “Indian”. They have come a long way: from flattering themselves as being the “vanguard of Hindu society” to denying that there is even such a thing as a “Hindu Indian” different from a “non-Hindu Indian”.

Q : You have criticized both Christianity and Islam for being basically a set of superstitious beliefs. Yet many would claim to the contrary that there is a lot more superstition in Hinduism. For instance, while Christianity and Islam at least have a historical basis to many of their most important stories, this is less the case for the Hindu stories about various gods and goddesses, which are more akin to the stories about Greek or Egyptian gods. Furthermore, the practice of image- or idol-worship could itself be considered superstitious, since it leads the worshipper to fetishize the idol as a source of magical powers, or as a divine being in itself. What is your response to this?

A : The core beliefs of Christianity and Islam are superstitious. Or without bringing in any psychologizing jargon like “superstitious”, they are, more simply, untrue. It is not true that Mohammed had a direct telephone line with God, and that the Quran is simply a collection of divine messages. It is simply not true that Jesus rose from the dead; just like all deceased people, he is not part of this world anymore. Much less is it true that he thereby freed mankind from sin (and thereby also of mortality, the punishment that befell Adam and Eve after their fall into sinfulness); levels of sinfulness or of human mortality have not appreciably changed in 33 AD. Yes, it is claimed by believers as a historical that Jesus resurrected or that Mohammed received revelations, but apart from the fact that the date given is realistic, the event is definitely not. And I don’t even go into the theories that Jesus or Mohammed never existed. Believing something that is flatly untrue, and moreover as the basis of your worldview, that is simply not the case with Hinduism.

As it happens, Hinduism is not one definite worldview. It is not based on one untrue statement, like Christianity or Islam. It is not necessarily based on a true statement either. Within the Hindu big tent, there are many traditions with their own doctrines. They have an awe for the sacred in common, but what counts as sacred is conceived in many ways. As the Rig Veda says: the wise ones call the one reality by many names. Among these traditions, the Upanishadic ones converge on an insight that is not historical but true, just as the Law of Gravity is not historical (its date and place of discovery happen to be known but are immaterial, as it is valid everywhere and forever). It is the Atmavad or doctrine of the Self, summed up in Great Sayings like Aham Brahmasmi, I am Brahma. That is the monist or Vedanta view, in parallel you have the dualist or Sankhya view, still within the Hindu big tent, the basis of Patañjali’s yoga. It is both rational and spiritual; Christianity and Islam cannot boast of anything parallel. But I agree that this is only the spiritual backbone of Hinduism, and that many of the beliefs and practices around it are not so rational. However, these don’t have the status that the core beliefs of Christianity [and] Islam have. You can safely discard them and still be a Hindu.

Q : You have questioned the conventional view that Siddhartha Gautama broke away from Hinduism and founded a new religion. Yet did he not deny the authority of the Vedas? And did he not reject the caste system, saying (variously quoted): “By birth one is not an outcaste, by birth one is not a Brahmin; by deeds alone one is an outcaste, by deeds alone one is a Brahmin”?

A : He did not go out of his way to deny the Vedas, and if he did, it only followed the latter part of the Veda itself. The Jnanakanda part (knowledge), the Upanishads, is explicit in declaring the Karmakanda part (ritualism), the Brahmanas, as outdated. Shankara lambasts the Sankhya-Yoga school for never quoting the Veda. It was part (not the whole, but part) of Hinduism to ignore the Veda.

He did not bother about the caste system, which Buddhists in Lanka and Tibet also practised. Buddhism never changed the social system in China, Japan or Thailand, because it had a spiritual agenda incompatible with a social reform agenda. If pursuing your own desires is already incompatible with pursuing Enlightenment, this counts even more for the immense job of structurally changing society. Either you do that, or you become a monk practising the spiritual path, but you cannot do both.

It simply accepted the social structures it found. Check the Buddha’s own life. Once his friend Prasenajit discovered that his queen was not a true Kshatriya, only on her father’s side, so he repudiated her and their common son. The Buddha persuaded him to take them back, pleading for the older conception of the caste system, which was purely in the paternal line (same caste as father, mother’s caste can be any). Now, if he had been a caste revolutionary, as all Indian schoolkids are taught nowadays, this incident would have been the occasion par excellence to lambast and ridicule the caste system. But he does no such thing, he upholds one version (the older one, for far from being a revolutionary, he was a conservative) of the caste system.

Or consider the distribution of his ashes after his cremation. They are divided in eight and given to eight cities for keeping them as a relic in a stupa. The ruling elites of those cities had staked their claim exclusively and purely in casteist terms, though this was a Buddhist context par excellence. After 45 yeas of Buddhism, they say: “He was a Kshatriya, we are Kshatriyas, so we are entitled to his ashes.” If Buddhism had been anti-casteist, then as bad pupils they still might have thought in casteist terms, but they would have used a non-casteist wording. Instead, they have no compunction at all in using casteist terms.

I have more examples, but to sum up: the Buddha was an elite figure par excellence, he mainly recruited his novices among the elite, and all the later Buddhist thinkers were Brahmins, as would be the Maitreya, the next Buddha. He was not an egalitarian at all, witness his initial refusal to ordain women, and when he relented on this, he ordered that even the seniormost nun would be subservient to the juniormost monk. So, the secularist-cum-Ambedkarite attempt to appropriate the Buddha for modern socialist causes is totally false. It is bad history par excellence.

Q : Regarding Islam, it seems that one of your foremost critiques of this religion is the Qur’an itself, which you view as (if I understand your position correctly) irredeemably fanatical and intolerant. Yet as you are surely aware, the Qur’an is a complex work which takes on different qualities depending on how the verses are interpreted, which verses are emphasized, whether a verse is considered as universal or contextual, and so on. Thus there are many Islamic scholars who claim, for instance, that armed jihad is only permitted in self-defense, seeing that militant verses are often accompanied by verses preaching restraint and forgiveness. So does the Qur’an really have to be problematic in itself? Is it not rather certain traditions (mostly Salafi) of interpreting the Qur’an which are a problem?

A : Let me clarify first that my fairly elaborate answers to your questions on Islam do not mean that I am especially interested in Islam. The Salman Rushie and the Ayodhya affairs forced me to study it more closely, but since the 1990s, I have only returned to it when current affairs dragged me back to it. As a subject, it has lost my interest because it is quite straightforward and all the important answers have already been given. The only meaningful debate that remains, is on which policy vis-à-vis Islam will deliver both Muslims and non-Muslims from it, as painlessly as possible.

Now, your very common position that “source text good, tradition bad”, or “founder good, followers bad”, or “prophet full of good intentions, followers misunderstood him”. (It is equally used in the case of Christianity: “freeing Christ from Churchianity”, and all that.) Only by not reading the Qur’an, and especially the life events of the Prophet, can you say that. The magic wand of “interpretation” does not impress me. What interpretation do you know of that turns qatala, “slaughter”, into “restraint and forgiveness”? Moreover, Muslims and their sympathizers have had decades to “reinterpret” their scriptures, and what is the result? The prophet’s biography (Sirat Rasul Allah), of which the authoritative translation by Alfred Guillaume is very literal and has been published in Karachi under Islamic supervision, is used by Muslims worldwide (their Quranic Arabic is usually not that fluent either), unaltered. Thomas Cleary’s Islamophile “translation” of the Qur’an does not meaningfully “reinterpret” the Qur’an, but simply leaves out the embarrassing parts; similarly a Dutch selective translation of the Sira that was recently published. The most-used English translations of the Qur’an are by Muslims, yet they faithfully translate that “war will reign between us until ye believe in Allah alone”. There, we are fortunate that their great respect for the prophet’s every word prevents them from imposing their own false interpretations instead of it.

Jihad only permitted in self-defence? Pray, why did Mohammed order a (failed) invasion of the Byzantine Empire? Why did he attack the Meccan caravans, who went about their business peacefully? When the Muslim army was defeated in central France by Charles the Hammer in 731, what was it doing there, thousands of miles from Arabia? Defending itself? These are just silly sop-stories. As an intellectual spectacle, it is amusing to see the acrobatics of “enlightened” Islamophiles in exculpation of Islam.

The solution is simply to grow up. It is not so hard to outgrow childhood beliefs, though it does take an intellectual and social transition, especially in the intermediate period when you have to co-exist with relatives who still shy away from taking this step. But then, I am asking no one to make changes in his life and outlook that I haven’t been through myself. I had the exceptional good fortune of being in the middle of a nation-wide (largely Europe-wide, in fact) religious conversion. I was born in Catholic Flanders, a frontline of the Roman Church against Anglican England, Calvinist Holland, Lutheran Germany and secular-Masonic France. In the 1950s, society was still deeply penetrated by the Church’s all-seeing eyes. Everyone in my primary school went to church on Sundays, was baptized, had a Catholic saint’s name, etc. In the 1960s, this edifice started crumbling, with Vatican II as both cause and consequence. By the 1980s, this became the dominant narrative, and the conformists who had earlier gone to church because everyone did, now stayed away because everyone did. Today, practising Catholics are a small minority. The ex-Catholics are now the dominant group, until the next generation takes over, because they are not even “ex”, they simply have no memory of Catholicism. And all this without bloodshed, without destruction of the admittedly wonderful artistic heritage of the Church. (I still sing Gregorian plainchant under the shower.)

So, that is what I wish for my Muslim friends too. Make Islam un-cool. Outgrow it. And take it from me: there is life after apostasy.

Q : I would also like to ask the same question regarding Muhammad ibn Abdullah, the prophet of Islam. There are many hadiths attributed to Muhammad which certainly seem to us to set a bad example, but there are also many hadiths to the contrary. Is it not again simply a matter of emphasis and interpretation? For instance, consider this opinion by the scholar Hamza Yusuf, who was traditionally educated in the Maliki madhhab. Do you consider his understanding of what Muhammad stood for as somehow Islamically illegitimate? (Pardon the flawed subtitles!)

A : I have toughed it out to listen through the Shaykh’s special pleading, but I really knew enough after the first sentence, where he names Karen Armstrong as his main inspiration. Hers is a rare extreme of special pleading, distorting everything of Islamic history to fit modern values. The rest of his narrative is the usual idealization of the person Mohammed, as in his very special courtship with the widow Khadija (but with the false allegation that women before Islam had no inheritance rights, just when Khadija’s case proves the opposite). It is the basic conjurer’s trick: directing the audience’s focus to a few nice episodes in Mohammed’s life and keeping the rest out of view. That is why Muslims are more properly called “Mohammedans”: they are far more punctual followers of Mohammed than Christians are of Christ.

To be sure, Mohammed may well have had some positive traits. He was known as very reliable, and I have no quarrel with that. Whether Khadija chose him because of those traits, as amply argued here, is another matter: he was a good young toyboy for this mature lady, and like his poverty (he worked as a shepherd in the service of the Meccan townspeople), his age made him her inferior and thus less likely to claim lordship over the wealth she had inherited or augmented by her entrepreneurial skills. But even if it was a marriage made in heaven, with all manner of perfections accruing to the bridegroom, that doesn’t make him God’s spokesman. Shaykh may pontificate as much as he wants about Mohammed’s claimed virtues, that still does not make him more than the next man. He was neither the Son of God (as Muslims rightly hold against the Christians) nor a prophet with a private telephone line with God (as Muslims believe; it is the heart of their religion).

Let’s cut short all the circumlocutions, let us cut out all the modern propaganda, and look at what the primary sources say. We can summarize Mohammed’s life story in a single sentence: he destroyed an existing pluralistic society—Polytheists, Sabians, Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews and Hanifs—and replaced it with a monolithic Islamic dictatorship. That is what the Islamic source texts themselves say. It is the height of ridiculousness that the multiculturalists in Europe, like their “secularist” counterparts in India, hobnob with Mohammed’s followers.

A lot also becomes clear when we know that most Arabs shook off Islam after Mohammed’s death and defeated the Muslim army. Unfortunately, they demobilized after that, the Muslim army came back and this time they securely imposed Islam. But the Arabs were the first victims of Islam. Mohammed practised robbery, extortion, abduction for ransom, rape, enslavement, slave-trade, and the murder of his critics and of a resistant Jewish tribe. All those data are in the primary sources of Islam. There is no way that an Islamic court can declare them un-Islamic—short of saying that “Mohammed was a bad Muslim”.

It follows that I am skeptical of Muslims who call themselves “moderate”. First of all, the distinction between moderate and extremist Muslims is an invention by non-Muslim soft-brains, unknown in Islam, and firmly rejected both by ex-Muslims and by leading Muslims such as Turkish president Erdoğan. He calls it insulting to Islam to make such a distinction. At any rate, I will accept Shaykh’s interpretation as moderate the day I hear him say: “Mohammed was wrong. Don’t follow Mohammed.” If, by contrast, he still recommends following Mohammed, as every Muslim is expected to do, he is in fact telling us: do practise abduction, robbery, rape, slave-taking, beheading, stoning, for those are all things he actually did, not just displaying his charms to win Khadija in marriage, as you might think after hearing Shaykh’s narrative. Until he takes this distance from Mohammed’s precedent behaviour, he is just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Q : Finally, I haven been impressed by many of your writings, which always allow the reader to follow transparently your train of thought—more than can be said about much academic literature in my opinion—and which offer some thought-provoking conclusions on diverse subjects. I am not always in agreement with your viewpoints (and sometimes I simply don’t know), but all the same your method strikes me as a very refreshing example of how the history of religions can actually be studied. This is all the more interesting since you are, if I understand correctly, unaffiliated with any university and basically carrying out your research on your own. So my final question is: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue the same path? What type of literature would you recommend; how does one work with the primary sources; how many languages does one need to master? How many languages do you know yourself?

A : To start at the end: I have studied mother tongue Dutch, other Belgian national languages French and German, and English; these I read and speak fluently. Afrikaans is really simplified Dutch, so I can also follow it effortlessly. Because of my studies, I can get around in Mandarin and Hindi, but claim no fluency. Persian I have largely forgotten. I also know a smattering of Spanish, and in my young days, I also browsed through the Teach Yourself books of the Celtic, Scandinavian, the main Uralic languages (Finnish, Hungarian), Serbo-Croatian and Turkish. I totally forgot about those, though I can still decipher written Scandinavian because of the closeness to my mother tongue, Dutch. But knowing something of the structure of the languages has proved useful in comparative linguistics and studies of the Indo-European language family. Among classical languages, my Latin was always good, my study of Wenyan (classical Chinese) and Sanskrit was thorough but I claim no fluency, alas no time to go deeply into them lately. I also studied Greek for two years, some Biblical Hebrew, and a smattering of Quranic Arabic, Sumerian and Sangam Tamil. The net result is that I know plenty of political and philosophical terminology and can place the concepts in their proper contexts, but I rarely use those languages as language. Thus, when I need to look something up in the Vedas or the Mahabharata, I scroll through the English text, and only when I come to the passage I was looking for, I switch to reading the original. Life is short, and languages only interest me as entry to a world of thought. I am a historian and more and more a philosopher; philology has been a good basis but only as an instrument.

For born Indians, it ought to be a feasible minimum to familiarize yourself with Sanskrit. For doing Indian history or philosophy, it is simply necessary. For medieval history, you need to know Persian, and Arabic is a plus. In the US, they did a test: of two equally gifted groups of pupils, one took 8 hours of English, and one 4 hours of English and 4 hours of Latin. After a few years, the second group not only knew Latin, unlike the other group, but also had a better knowledge of English. Similarly, your knowledge of your Indian mother tongue will increase if you take out time to study the supposedly useless Sanskrit. It also promotes national unity, the convergence between the vernaculars, and also the phasing out of English, which you and me may find practical, but which to Indians is an anti-democratic imposition by the Nehruvian elite.

Whenever possible, you should go back to the primary sources. Thus, I am presently working on the history of early Buddhism, and I was initially surprised by the world of difference between the usual narrative peddled nowadays in schoolbooks and popular introductions, and the narrative revealed by the primary sources. Apart from the many errors that have crept into the modern narrative (mostly showing a strong anti-Hindu bias; see for example what I told you above about caste), the over-all conceptual mistake is the cardinal sin in history: the projection of modern concerns onto ancient developments. History is all about difference, the fact that “the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”.

My being outside academe was not a matter of choice, but of being boycotted. Thus, my very first Indological conference was the International Ramayana Conference 1990 at my own university, Leuven, and I defended the existence of a Hindu temple forcibly replaced by Babar’s mosque. One-third of the professors there were privately in support but publicly silent; one-third were furious at my daring to violate their safe space of rationality with such a silly and politically tainted claim; and the last one-third just didn’t have an opinion but were embarrassed at the commotion. The following years, I was boycotted and bad-mouthed throughout academe. But the fact is: I was right all along, as recent excavations and a court verdict have confirmed, and all those big-time professors were wrong.

The good thing about being on my own is that I don’t feel pressured to conform to the received wisdom. Thus, on Buddhism, practically all academics concerned swear by the paradigm “Hinduism bad, Buddhism good”. If I had been part of their circuit, I would probably have conformed to some extent to their view, at least to accept the narrative of “Hinduism and Buddhism”, as if these were two distinct entities on the same footing. Today I can just ignore their fairy-tale and state: the Buddha was 100% a Hindu.

I don’t advise anyone to take the path I stumbled upon. But if somehow it happens, at least you should enjoy its good side. Meanwhile, I keep hoping against hope that the present supposedly Hindu government will come to its senses and invest in scholarship, rather than parroting the narratives that several generations of secularist control over culture and education have established. In that endeavour, they will not only have to deconstruct all the harm done by the Nehruvians, but also the hare-brained alternatives presented by traditionalist Hindu “history rewriters”, who think history means quoting from the Puranas. The last half-century, a gap in Hindu scholarship has grown that will require energetic initiatives to fill. – Koenraad Elst Blog, 15 August 2016

How religion can lead to violence – Gary Gutting

Saint Etienne Church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, France

Prof Gary GuttingThe path of modern tolerance has proved more difficult for Islam than for Christianity, and many Muslims still do not accept the ethical constraints that require religious tolerance, and a significant minority see violence against unbelievers as a divinely ordained duty. – Prof Gary Gutting

The latest victim is a French priest, murdered in his church by killers shouting “Allahu akbar! ”Following such attacks, Muslim leaders assure us that, as Tariq Ramadan said after the Paris massacre, the murders are “a pure betrayal of our religion.” After the shootings in Brussels, the leading Sunni university, Al-Azhar, issued a statement saying,

“These heinous crimes violate the tolerant teachings of Islam.” Similar responses followed recent attacks in Orlando and Nice. We are told that the fanatical fringe groups who do these terrible things are at odds with the essential Muslim commitment to peace and love. I understand the reasons for such responses, but they oversimplify the relation of religion to intolerance and the violence it can lead to.

Both Islam and Christianity claim to be revealed religions, holding that their teachings are truths that God himself has conveyed to us and wants everyone to accept. They were, from the start, missionary religions. A religion charged with bringing God’s truth to the world faces the question of how to deal with people who refuse to accept it. To what extent should it tolerate religious error? At certain points in their histories, both Christianity and Islam have been intolerant of other religions, often of each other, even to the point of violence.

Yahweh / JehovahThis was not inevitable, but neither was it an accident. The potential for intolerance lies in the logic of religions like Christianity and Islam that say their teaching derive from a divine revelation. For them, the truth that God has revealed is the most important truth there is; therefore, denying or doubting this truth is extremely dangerous, both for nonbelievers, who lack this essential truth, and for believers, who may well be misled by the denials and doubts of nonbelievers. Given these assumptions, it’s easy to conclude that even extreme steps are warranted to eliminate non-belief.

You may object that moral considerations should limit our opposition to non-belief. Don’t people have a human right to follow their conscience and worship as they think they should? Here we reach a crux for those who adhere to a revealed religion. They can either accept ordinary human standards of morality as a limit on how they interpret divine teachings, or they can insist on total fidelity to what they see as God’s revelation, even when it contradicts ordinary human standards. Those who follow the second view insist that divine truth utterly exceeds human understanding, which is in no position to judge it. God reveals things to us precisely because they are truths we would never arrive at by our natural lights. When the omniscient God has spoken, we can only obey.

For those holding this view, no secular considerations, not even appeals to conventional morality or to practical common sense, can overturn a religious conviction that false beliefs are intolerable. Christianity itself has a long history of such intolerance, including persecution of Jews, crusades against Muslims, and the Thirty Years’ War, in which religious and nationalist rivalries combined to devastate Central Europe. This devastation initiated a move toward tolerance among nations that came to see the folly of trying to impose their religions on foreigners. But intolerance of internal dissidents — Catholics, Jews, rival Protestant sects — continued even into the 19th century. (It’s worth noting that in this period the Muslim Ottoman Empire was in many ways more tolerant than most Christian countries.) But Christians eventually embraced tolerance through a long and complex historical process.

VoltaireCritiques of Christian revelation by Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire, Rousseau and Hume raised serious questions that made non-Christian religions—and eventually even rejections of religion—intellectually respectable. Social and economic changes—including capitalist economies, technological innovations, and democratic political movements—undermined the social structures that had sustained traditional religion.

The eventual result was a widespread attitude of religious toleration in Europe and the United States. This attitude represented ethical progress, but it implied that religious truth was not so important that its denial was intolerable. Religious beliefs and practices came to be regarded as only expressions of personal convictions, not to be endorsed or enforced by state authority. This in effect subordinated the value of religious faith to the value of peace in a secular society. Today, almost all Christians are reconciled to this revision, and many would even claim that it better reflects the true meaning of their religion.

The same is not true of Muslims. A minority of Muslim nations have a high level of religious toleration; for example Albania, Kosovo, Senegal and Sierra Leone. But a majority—including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Malaysia—maintain strong restrictions on non-Muslim (and in some cases certain “heretical” Muslim) beliefs and practices. Although many Muslims think God’s will requires tolerance of false religious views, many do not.

A Pew Research Center poll in 2013 found that in Iraq, Malaysia, Pakistan and other nations in which Islam is officially favored, a large majority of Muslims think some form of Islamic law should be the law of the land. The poll also found that 76 percent of such Muslims in South Asia and 56 percent in the Middle East and North Africa favored executing Muslims who gave up their religion, and that in 10 Muslim counties at least 40 percent favored applying Islamic law to non-Muslims. This shows that, for many Muslims, the revealed truths of Islam are not only a matter of personal conviction but must also have a central place in the public sphere of a well-ordered society.

Ibn Sina / AvicennaThere is no central religious authority or overwhelming consensus that excludes such Muslims from Islam. Intolerance need not lead to violence against nonbelievers; but, as we have seen, the logic of revelation readily moves in that direction unless interpretations of sacred texts are subject to nonreligious constraints. Islamic thinkers like Ibn Sina accepted such constraints, and during the Middle Ages Muslims were often far more tolerant than Christians. But the path of modern tolerance has proved more difficult for Islam than for Christianity, and many Muslims still do not accept the ethical constraints that require religious tolerance, and a significant minority see violence against unbelievers as a divinely ordained duty. We may find it hard to believe that religious beliefs could motivate murders and insist that extreme violence is always due to mental instability or political fanaticism. But the logic (and the history) of religions tells against this view.

Does this mean that Islam is evil? No, but it does mean that it has not yet tamed, to the extent that Christianity has, the danger implicit in any religion that claims to be God’s own truth. To put it bluntly, Islam as a whole has not made the concessions to secular values that Christianity has. As President Obama recently said, “Some currents of Islam have not gone through a reformation that would help people adapt their religious doctrines to modernity.” This adaptation will be long and difficult and require many intellectual and socio-economic changes, some produced by outside forces, others arising from the increasing power of Islamic teachings on tolerance and love. But until such a transformation is achieved, it will be misleading to say that intolerance and violence are “a pure betrayal” of Islam. – The New York Times, 1 August 2016

What Hinduism is lacking – Maria Wirth

Maria WirthIt struck me one morning that the respect for dogmatic religions is based on irrationality and how easily it could be corrected if Hindus would choose to be as irrational and if they would back up—this is an important ingredient—their irrationality with blasphemy laws. Hindus could take part in the one-upmanship of “only we are right” and threaten those who dare to dissent with death. – Maria Wirth

There seems to be some “defect” in Hinduism, because worldwide, it is clearly not as respected as Christianity and Islam. Hindus struggle to get a fair representation for Hinduism in the media or in textbooks whether abroad or even at home.

This is hard to understand, because Hinduism has the best philosophical basis of all and is in tune with modern nuclear science. It acknowledges that the essence in all is consciousness (spirit) and shows practical ways how to realize this one spirit as true. It is therefore even in tune with the ever growing tribe in the West who say “I am spiritual, not religious”.

When India was ruled by Christians and Muslims, it was understandable that those in power promoted their religion as the best and denigrated the “primitive native religion”. But today, when there is an open market of ideas, why is Hinduism still getting a rough and very unfair deal when it actually deserved the highest respect, and how can this be changed?

One fine morning I realized what Hinduism is “lacking” and how this could be rectified. Hinduism would finally be on the same footing as Christianity and Islam.

HellIt is simple.

The ancient rishis had left out only one important sentence after passing on their insights. This one sentence obviously makes all the difference whether a religion is respected, powerful and keeps gaining followers or whether it is demeaned, ridiculed and loses followers.

This sentence is:

If you don’t believe what we tell you, the supreme Divinity will throw you for all eternity into hell-fire.

Let’s imagine Maharishi Vyasa, after compiling the Vedas, had added this sentence: “Whoever does not believe in the Vedas as the only truth, will be thrown for all eternity into hell-fire by Bhagawan himself.”

Or after writing the Mahabharata, if he had added “Whosoever does not believe that Sri Krishna is the only true mediator between man and Ishwara, will burn eternally in hell”.

Or if Valmiki, after writing down the teaching of Yoga Vashishta to Prince Rama, had added that Vashishta alone is the true guru and whoever does not believe it will end up in hell.

Or even today, if Mata Amritanandamayi for example, who has several miracles to her credit and an unparalleled outflow of love, would claim that she is the only indigenous daughter of Bhagawan and who does not believe it, will be thrown into hell-fire forever….

If this had happened, Hinduism would not be the underdog. It would be on the same level with the respected religions. In fact, the newcomer religions probably had little chance to come up, because Hinduism was there ages before them and it could have easily declared those newcomers as inexcusable heretics that need to be put to death.

In fact, not all is lost. Since the Bible and the Quran were written down after Jesus and Mohammed had died and several earlier versions were discarded, maybe Hindus still could amend their sacred texts?

In case it is not clear, of course I am not serious.

But it struck me one morning that the respect for dogmatic religions is based on irrationality and how easily it could be corrected if Hindus would choose to be as irrational and if they would back up—this is an important ingredient—their irrationality with blasphemy laws. Hindus could take part in the one-upmanship of “only we are right” and threaten those who dare to dissent with death.

Actually, it is not so much irrationality but cunningness, because those who made those claims of eternal hell for outsiders in all likelihood did not believe it themselves. It could not possibly have come from RishiDivine inspiration but is driven by worldly power.

The rishis in contrast were truthful. They were not cunning or irrational, and Indians—all Indians—can be proud of them.

But pride is not enough. Present day Indians need to take care that this irrationality does not eat into their society because it will lead to its downfall. It is not difficult to find examples for such societies.

Dharma finds expression through people who stand up for it and if necessary fight for it. Adharmic forces need to be called out and challenged.

It seems, on this world stage, a Mahabharata war is always on, in all ages. Yet ultimately, at a higher level beyond the dichotomy of good and evil, all are absorbed in the one eternal Brahman from which all has originated.

There won’t be a huge cauldron of fire where billions of human beings will burn for all eternity. This claim by both Christianity and Islam does not deserve respect.

It deserves ridicule. – Maria Wirth Blog, 30 June 2016

» Maria Wirth is an author and psychologist who has lived many decades in Uttarakhand.

Hell

 

NGOs are getting foreign funds to promote religious conversion, stoke communal tension – Zee News

Religious conversion is the cause of religious conflict.

Kiren RijijuAccording to a Home Ministry report, Rs 12,980 crore reached NGOs from the foreign donors in 2013-14, out of which some part was meant for religious conversion.

Several foreign-funded Non Governmental Organisation (NGOs) are involved in religious conversion in India.

According to Intelligence agencies, while some NGOs are working in the country to promote religious conversion, many are also involved in flaring up communal tension.

Around 18 foreign donors have been identified who have been constantly funding these NGOs. As per the details available, two each donors have been identified from the US, South Korea and Europe.

The NGOs believed to be involved in conversion are active in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha.

According to a Home Ministry report, Rs 12,980 crore reached NGOs from the foreign donors in 2013-14, out of which some part was meant for religious conversion.

Last year, a total of 69 NGOs were blacklisted by the government from receiving foreign funds.

Informing the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju had said among those NGOs which were prohibited from receiving the foreign funds include 14 from Andhra Pradesh, 12 from Tamil Nadu, five each from Gujarat and Odisha, four each from Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala and three from Delhi.- Zee News, 8 June 2016

Baptising a new convert in Andhra Pradesh.

Anandiben PatelIn Gujarat, 1,838 people applied for conversion in the past 5 years; 1,735 were Hindus! – Deeptiman Tiwary

In Gujarat, 1,838 people from different parts of the state had applied for conversion in the past five years. Out of these 1838, 1,735 were Hindus!

This data was furnished by Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in the state assembly on Tuesday.

Anandiben Patel, who also handles the state Home department, informed the House that total 1,838 people from different parts of the state had applied for conversion in last five years.

Consent given to 878

“Out of these, the Home Department gave its consent to 878 applicants of different religions during that period,” the CM added.

The Chief Minister was replying to a Congress MLA Tejashree Patel’s written query seeking details of applications received by the state Home Department from citizens, who wish to embrace another religion, in the last five years (till October 2015).

Data: Breakup

Out of total 1,838 applicants, the highest number of applications—1,735—came from Hindus, followed by Muslims (57), Christians (42) and Parsis (4). No one from Sikh and Buddhist community applied for conversion during that period, Patel said in her written reply.

Highest number of applications from Hindus were received from Surat district (515), followed by Rajkot (388) and Porbandar (325).

Reason

Talking to reporters after the session, the Congress MLA told reporters that government should form a committee to find out the reasons behind such a high number of Hindu applicants.

“The state government should take this matter seriously and conduct a survey through a committee to find out why Hindus want to change their religion,” Tejashree said.

Newly-elected state BJP chief Vijay Rupani demanded that the state government should act tough against conversion activities in the state.

“BJP firmly believes that religious conversion (of Hindus) must be stopped in the state. I request the government to take strict action against those who are involved in conversion activities,” said Rupani, who is also the Road Transport Minister in Gujarat Government. – Zee News,  16 March 2016

» Deeptiman Tiwary is a journalist in New Delhi.

A shameless pope targeting innocents!

World Vision employs surrogate advertising to get Hindus to donate funds towards their conversion activities in Indian villages.

See also

God as the original terrorist – Valerie Tarico

Yahweh / Jehovah

Three (Un)Holy Books

Dr Valerie TaricoBy one count, the Quran has only 532 cruel or violent passages, while the Bible has 1,321. Christians respond that the Bible is longer, so the cruel, violent passages make up a smaller percent of the whole. – Valerie Tarico

Last fall, Dutch pranksters put a cover from a Quran over a Bible and then asked passersby to read aloud homophobic, violent or sexist passages that violate modern moral sensibilities. The texts shocked people who had never immersed themselves in the Iron Age world of the Bible writers, a world in which daughters can be sold as sexual slaves and most of us deserve the death penalty: you included.

By one count, the Quran has only 532 cruel or violent passages, while the Bible has 1,321. Christians respond that the Bible is longer, so the cruel, violent passages make up a smaller percent of the whole.

ISIS terrorists claim that their scripts for jihad, executions, sexual slavery and theocracy come straight from the Quran, and they cite chapter and verse to back up their claim. But Christians who find ISIS horrifying might be even more horrified to learn that similar scripts can be found in their own Good Book, including endorsements of terrorism that rival the most vile atrocities committed in the name of Allah.

Terrorism is notoriously difficult to define. Some limit terrorist acts to those committed illegally by groups seeking social power. Others argue that the state itself may systematically terrorize a civilian population. James Poland, author of Understanding Terrorism, defines terrorism as a means (intimidation) to an end (social control over someone other than the victim):

Terrorism is the premeditated, deliberate, systematic murder, mayhem, and threatening of the innocent to create fear and intimidation in order to gain a political or tactical advantage, usually to influence an audience.

Our Iron Age ancestors who wrote the Bible lacked explosive devices and the ability to spread gruesome images via mass media. They lacked jetliners and drones and napalm and nerve gas. But they definitely understood mass intimidation as a tool of social control, and they sanctified their own terrorist tendencies by projecting the same tendencies onto God himself.

Here are some acts of terrorism from the Bible.

1. In the Bible God controls humans by raining down death, destruction and terror on those who defy or anger him.

I kill … I wound … I will make mine arrows drunk with blood and my sword shall devour flesh. So says Yahweh in Deuteronomy 32:39-42, and this is no idle threat. You’ve heard the story of Noah’s flood, and about the fire God rains down on Sodom and Gomorrah, and about the 12 plagues of Egypt, but did you know that in the Bible God kills 158 times? The full list can be found in the Steve Wells book, Drunk With Blood.

Like ISIS, God sometimes acts as an executioner with a laser focus, as when he kills a baby to punish King David’s sexual infidelity (2 Samuel 12), or strikes dead a couple who falsely claim to have given their money to the church (Acts 5: 1-10). But also, like ISIS, he often wreaks death and destruction on those who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or who were born into the wrong culture. For example, when the same King David conducts a forbidden census, God gives him a choice of punishments: Three years of famine, three months of attacks by neighboring tribes, or three days of plague. David chooses the plague, which kills 70,000 Israelites who had done nothing but let themselves be counted (1 Chronicles 21:1-17).

2. The Bible both opens and closes with graphic descriptions of torment and fear inflicted by God and designed to keep the faithful in line. 

In the Torah, God’s reign of terror is described in a series of graphic histories. In the book of Revelation, it is described in a series of graphic prophecies. In the books between, threats of torture and death hang over every interaction between God and humankind. God himself leans into his role as terrorist-in-chief.

I will send my fear before thee, God promises the marauding Israelites (Exodus 23:27). This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee (Deuteronomy 2:25). The terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, reports a narrator in Genesis (35:5).

The book of Proverbs advised Hebrew readers that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10 KJV). Centuries later, in New Testament times, the “fear of the LORD” is alive and well—and still useful. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men, says the writer of 2 Corinthians (5:11).

3. In addition to inflicting terror directly, God does so via human and nonhuman agents. 

He sends a bear to tear apart 40 boys who are teasing a prophet, presumably as a warning to others. In the story of Job, God gives Satan permission to destroy a house in which Job’s sons and daughters have come together for a celebration, killing them all—this time as part of a divine wager that will become a morality tale. He later gives superhuman strength to Samson (the Bible’s version of Hercules) so that Samson can complete an Iron Age suicide mission. He pulls down the pillars of a pagan temple so that it collapses, killing 3,000 civilians. Samson himself dies in a blaze of glory (Judges 16:27-30).

When Moses as leader of the Israelites catches some of them worshiping a golden calf, he orders those who have remained loyal to Yahweh to take up swords and slaughter their family members and neighbors (Exodus 32:21-24). They do so by the thousands. In the Exodus story, an angel of death passes from house to house, killing the firstborn son in each Egyptian family whether the parents are poor slaves or royalty and whether their child is an infant or youth (Exodus 7-12).

Of all the Bible writers who sought to terrify pagans and other sinners, none exceeds the writer of Revelation, who fantasized supernatural monsters, each with some special capacity for inflicting torture or death. In one passage, a cloud of giant insects with human faces and the teeth of lions descends on those who lack a special mark from God.

“And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them” (Revelation 9:4-6).

4. During armed conflict, God and his messengers command the Israelites to slaughter civilians and destroy their homes and means of food production including livestock and orchards.

During World War II, the American military engaged in “terror bombing” of civilian centers including Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo, as the Nazis terror-bombed London. If the Old Testament stories are to be believed, the ancient Israelites similarly targeted and terrorized ordinary villagers during their military campaigns, only they did so at God’s command and with his blessing.

Bible believers sometimes defend the slaughters depicted in the Old Testament by arguing that they serve a practical purpose. Ethnic cleansing is the only way to rid the Promised Land of evil idolaters, which is why God frequently orders the death of even children and slaves in conquered towns. But the stories themselves include graphic tortures and humiliations that would be of little value if the only goal were ethnic cleansing. A close reading suggests that many of the killings are simply God-sponsored terrorism: mass murder as a display of power and means of social control.

In one account, God commands human assassins to wreak havoc on civilians literally hundreds of years after an offense. Just when you think He has forgiven or forgotten…. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass (1 Samuel 15:2-3).

5. As in ISIS, sexual enslavement of conquered women is one means of humiliating enemy combatants.

In the book of Numbers, God’s messenger commands the Chosen People to kill every Midianite man, woman or child, except for virgin girls who are to be turned into sex slaves according to very explicit instructions. Many Americans were horrified at the story of an ISIS fighter who bound and gagged a captive girl, praying and quoting the Quran to her before commencing rape. The Bible’s instructions for claiming a captive virgin suggest shaving her head rather than applying duct tape to her wrists and mouth (Numbers 31).

Why might this be considered terrorism? In the Bible, as in the Quran, women and children are literally possessions of men, which is why a man can sell his daughter into slavery or a rapist can be forced to buy his victim. In the Iron Age honor cultures of the Ancient Near East, female consent mattered little, but a man’s honor could be destroyed by the sexual violation of a female. Enslaving and impregnating the women of a conquered tribe or religion sends a graphic message to other men about who is on top.

6. In the New Testament gospels, even Jesus threatens violence and torment against those who don’t fall in line.

In one parable, he likens God to the Master of a great estate who says, “These enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence (Luke 19:26-27). In a sermon, he says that those who fail to repent in time will be cast into outer darkness where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:22-30).

Jesus even uses words that invoke the slaughter commanded by Moses at Mt. Sinai, “Do not think that I have come to send peace on earth. I did not come to send peace, but a sword. I am sent to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Matthew 10:34-35).

From Genesis to Revelation, God terrorizes those who fail to fall at his feet and worship in the way he demands. His followers inflict divinely sanctioned torture and death, knowing that if they don’t they may end up on the receiving end—or at least with less real estate and booty.

The Chosen People see the horrors God rains down on evildoers, meaning anyone who worships another god, and despite having dedicated themselves to the cult of Yahweh, they walk on eggshells, following an intricate set of rules and rituals and offering up burnt offerings in order to avoid his wrath. In the New Testament narrative, even these burnt offerings and rituals fall short, and the only way God can be appeased is with the sacrifice of Jesus, “the lamb without blemish.”

The Bible is filled with histories of God-blessed slaughter and threats of supernatural torture for a reason: To create fear and intimidation. To gain political or tactical advantage. To influence an audience. Specifically, to keep the faithful and to justify their recurrent bouts of conquest and mass murder.  And that is exactly what Bible texts have done for as far back as we can trace the history of Abrahamic religion.

Fortunately, most modern believers are both wiser and kinder than the writers of their sacred texts, who could not even imagine the varied, intricate world of landscapes and cultures. Many Christians claim what is spiritually nourishing from Bible (like passages opposing terrorism) and discard the rest.

But the rot remains. Christian fundamentalists who see themselves on a crusade against godless infidels, and right-wing politicians who pander to those fundamentalists, find biblical sanction for bigotry and atrocity when they seek it. This fact is not lost on Islamists, who assert that they are fighting defensive jihad while simultaneously inflicting their own Quranic version of bigotry and atrocity on anyone within reach.

As long as Christians continue to bind together the words of our Iron Age ancestors and call them Good and Holy and “God breathed,” they will have little argument against terrorists who cite other sacred texts to justify destruction and death in the name of God. – Salon, 13 January 2016

Bible & Koran

Calling unacceptable what is unacceptable – Maria Wirth

Maria WirthIf an individual demeans another individual because of his religion, he is booked under some laws. Yet until now, the far greater abuse of half of the world population by the doctrines of Christianity and Islam themselves has not been called out as unacceptable. Freedom of religion can never include the right to demean those who worship in another way. – Maria Wirth

During the Ujjain Simhasth Kumbh 2016, a Vichar Maha Kumbh, an International Convention, was organized from May 12-14, and a universal declaration was released in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

I felt grateful that I had been invited and had sent in a proposal. Dr. Yvette Rosser who had been given the opportunity to speak, felt that my proposal was more important than what she had intended to talk Dr Yvette Rosserabout and presented the major points at a plenary session at the International Convention near Ujjain.

Incidentally, Prime Minister Modi in his speech pointed out that expansionism and the “holier than thou” attitude of “tere raste se mera rasta zyada sahi hai” are the causes for conflict in the world.

To realize this is an important step. Yet even more important is to find ways to prevent this holier than thou attitude from taking root in a large portion of humanity and to expose those ideologies which claim that it is the command of the Divine that their particular way of worshipping the Highest has to be accepted by all human beings.

Here is the proposal on the topic “Religion for human welfare.”

Being at the Simhasth Kumbh is a privilege, as well as a responsibility. Since ancient times the Kumbh Mela was an occasion where spiritual personalities guided lay people on the dharmic way of life, and fearlessly and honestly conducted debates about truth.

Today, the world is interconnected. It means that the debates on truth need also to take note of the truths that are propagated elsewhere. Sincere questions must be asked and satisfying answers sought also of Christians and Muslims.

Indian philosophy is solid. It makes not only sense but is validated by modern science. Indian wisdom is slowly spreading over the world. But this is not enough.

Intellectual sincerity demands that swamis not only share their tradition with Indians and the world, but also point out dangerous aspects of other traditions, if they are there. There is no doubt that in the name of Christianity and Islam great misery was brought over mankind, killing millions over the centuries. It is absolutely necessary to find out how this could happen.

Unfortunately, Hindus shy away from this task. Maybe the reason is that they don’t know Christianity and Islam well enough as they are no insiders of those religions. They are told only the good points which are also there.

Another reason may be that Hindus don’t want to say anything negative about other religions, even if it is true, as it may be seen as an insult. This is however a weakness. The search for truth must overrule such consideration, and ideally those, who are criticized, would be happy to discover their flaws. And anyway, others have no such hesitation towards Hinduism which they freely criticize and blatantly condemn as falsehood.

Today, every second child in the world is either Christian or Muslim and is indoctrinated into a fixed doctrine that must not be questioned. The followers of Christianity and Islam account now for more than half of the world population, and if those, who can clearly see the dangerous aspects in those doctrines, keep quiet, soon there may be no more chance to speak, and we would have failed humanity in a big way.

What contains this fixed doctrine?

HellI for example “knew” already as a child that I am very lucky that I was born in a Catholic family, because Catholics alone have the true belief and God loves us, because we love his son Jesus who died for our sins, etc.

A Muslim child is probably told something similar—that she is very lucky that she was born in a Muslim family because Islam is the only true belief and Allah loves those who follow Prophet Mohammed’s instructions.

Each of those two religions makes also a terrible, but untrue claim: all those who don’t belong to their own religion, will suffer for all eternity in hell-fire.

Anybody who is not indoctrinated can see immediately that there is something very dangerous and discriminative in these claims.

Let’s analyze them:

First: It is not possible that there are several absolute Divine Powers. Now if there is only One, is it possible that this inconceivably powerful, conscious Being which is the cause for the billions of galaxies insists on one specific way of worship and on one specific name?

Second: Is this great Power really separate from creation, as those religions claim or is it the essence and awareness in all human beings, never mind whether they call the Divine by the name of God, Allah, Bhagawan, Shiva, Pure Mind, Brahman, etc.?

Third: the claim that those who don’t convert will burn in hell for all eternity needs to be dismissed outright. It is ridiculous, but unfortunately still widely believed by those who were indoctrinated into their fixed doctrines.

The issue is serious. Today’s most pressing problem, Islamic terrorism, has its roots in the claim that infidels are rejected by Allah. ISIS and others don’t see them even as human beings, but rather as sub-human, and therefore it is easy to kill them. Their foot soldiers consider it a sacred duty to rid the earth of such sub-humans to please their god. Obviously they are convinced that what they were taught is true and they will get paradise for their acts.

Christians, too, see it as their duty to ‘save’ Hindus and in the process uproot them from their tradition and make them look down on it and on their Hindu fellow citizens. Even if they lose faith in Christianity later, it will be almost impossible for them to value again their ancestors and they are likely to become atheists. (Europe is an example).

Hindus are called “idol worshipper”. Idol worship is the worst sin for both Christianity and Islam. This label has done great harm. Hindus who are killed seem to matter far less compared to Christians or Muslims. We need only watch the news to know that it’s true or go back into history.

The term “religion” is only about 1000 years old and was used first for the Church and later for Islam. It means “to bind”. If religion is for the welfare of people, it must bind oneself to the Divine and not to one book or doctrine.

Narendra ModiIf religion is for the welfare of people, it must also mean that terror against “others” has absolutely no place in religion. In fact, there should be no “others” as Hindu Dharma demonstrates). From this follows that discrimination of persons, who worship the Divine in another way, cannot be part of a religion. If it is contained in the doctrine of religions, it needs to be put on the table, discussed threadbare and scrapped. When it is discussed openly there is a chance that doubt creeps into the mind of “believers” (this has happened to many Christians in the West). And once doubt about the doctrine has risen, it is not possible anymore to “believe”. One still can pretend (if blasphemy laws are in place), but fanaticism has gone.

If an individual demeans another individual because of his religion, he is quickly booked under some laws. Yet until now, the far greater abuse of half of the world population by the doctrines of Christianity and Islam themselves has not been called out as unacceptable. Freedom of religion can never include the right to demean those who worship in another way.

The Kumbh Sangams have a tradition of fearlessly enquiring into the truth. I would earnestly request Hindu representatives at the International Convention to include in the “Universal Declaration on the welfare of humanity” a request to the UN to take up the issue of religious discrimination by the Christian and Islamic doctrines and to direct those religions to stop telling their followers and especially their children that those who worship the Supreme in different ways, are less human and will suffer eternally in hell unless they convert.

It might be even more effective, if the Indian government would coordinate with countries where the majority is neither Christian nor Muslim, like Japan, China, Thailand, etc. and lobby with the UN for this undoubtedly reasonable request. This is not a religious issue. It is about safeguarding their citizens from being unfairly defamed and from hate-crimes which are the natural outcome from such unacceptable discrimination.

It is urgent, because indoctrination into disdain and even hatred especially for Hindus is daily happening and efforts are on by Islamic countries to ban any criticism of Islam. Unofficially, many have already imposed a ban on themselves due to political correctness.

We need to act before it is too late. – Maria Wirth Blog, 29 May 2016

» Maria Wirth is a German psychologist and author who has lived in North India for decades.

Ujjain: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the valedictory funtion of three-day International Vichar Maha Kumbh during Simhastha Maha Kumbh Mela, in Ujjain on Saturday. Also seen is President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena. PTI Photo(PTI5_14_2016_000074B)

Ujjain Kumbh Mela 2016

Truth and political correctness – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth“The rishis enquired into truth. ‘Religion’ in the sense of imposing a fixed doctrine was inconceivable for them. Debates on what is true were held in which women, too, participated. The question revolved around how to make life meaningful and fulfilled. The answer they found was: the purpose of life is to discover the truth about ourselves.” – Maria Wirth

Some years ago, on a visit to Germany, I met with a few friends from primary school times. Two of them I hadn’t seen for over 50 years, but we were quickly familiar again after we got used to our new (elderly) look. The conversation veered to the Turks in town, around 600 of the overall 6000 inhabitants. “Most of them are not integrating into our society and some buy up houses right in the centre of the town”, a former classmate said.

I mentioned that I have become very wary of pious Muslims ever since I read the Quran. Those who believe in earnest what is written there will never see non-Muslims as equals. They are simply not allowed to. They will have to strive to gain majority wherever they live and then bully us others into submission, if we are lucky not to be killed.

There was silence for a while. Then one friend, a confident, feisty woman, said: “Maria, I think like you do. But I wouldn’t have dared to say what you just said.”

Her comment brought home the power of mass media. For decades ‘political correctness’ has been drummed into us all over the world and many have internalized what they are supposed to say and what not. And maybe we did not even notice that we have voluntarily surrendered the right to free speech which is considered one of the greatest plus points of modern democracies.

It is even worse and more complicated. The right to free speech is there, but the right to speak the truth is under threat. The right to free speech even allows expressing offense and falsehood provided it is aimed at the ‘politically correct’ groups of people. In such cases, free speech is often amplified because mainstream media will gladly broadcast it all over the world.

An example was the false accusation that ‘Hindu extremists’ were behind the gang rape of a nun. Hindus were not given a hearing. They were shouted down in TV studios by Christian representatives and left-liberals. A bishop and Vatican Radio also went ahead blaming Hindus without any proof. When the Bangladeshi Muslim culprits were caught, the damage to the image of Hindus was done and it was not corrected. No case of hate speech was slapped on those Christian representatives. Not even an apology was made.

Who can be freely attacked and who not is one of the incomprehensible features of political correctness. In spite of the fact that Hindus were victims under Muslim and British rule for centuries with millions of them having been killed; in spite of the fact that Hindus never went on the offensive in the name of their gods, they and their tradition are today fair game for verbal attacks which could be termed as hate speech but is hardly ever prosecuted as such. The same seems to apply for Jews. Anti-Semitism is again on the rise in the West and not only among the Muslim population there. It is prominent in universities and hidden in mainstream media.

In contrast, Muslims and Islam are generally exempted from verbal attacks in spite of the fact that mainly Muslim boys become terrorists and in spite of the fact that over the past 1400 years, Muslims were more often aggressors, not victims. The reason is that the motto “Islam is a religion of peace” is the politically correct view and cases of ‘hate speech’ are slapped quickly on those who say otherwise. However there is no further debate on why or whether Islam is indeed a religion of peace except for general claims that Islam exhorts its followers to be good human beings.

In a balanced debate it would become clear that Hindu Dharma (the open-minded, tolerant Hinduism does not deserve an ‘–ism’ as postfix) is a better option for a harmonious, peaceful living together of people of diverse natures, because Islam and Christianity require first all to convert and profess belief in their fixed, yet unproven doctrines before homogenous ‘peace’ can be established. Diversity of opinion is not allowed.

Yet this balanced, unbiased debate never happens. It is studiously avoided. Instead, those who stand up for Hindu Dharma are vilified as ‘Hindu fundamentalists’ and those who stand up for Islam or Christianity are paraded all over the news channels as persons of the ‘correct’ insight. Do you hear in public discourse that “Hinduism is a religion of peace”? You may have never heard it. And if you say it privately, politically correct persons will immediately remind you of the ‘atrocious caste system’.

Many truthsHow have we reached such a state where we cannot have a meaningful debate on what is true any longer? Has truth been thrown out of the window? It almost seems like that. I realized only recently that the ‘correct’ line is now apparently that there is no truth as such. Rather, there are so many truths. Whatever somebody thinks is his truth.

A German friend said exactly this, when I mentioned that it is a sad state of affairs that nowadays it needs courage to speak the truth, especially when it comes to Islam. “There is no truth as such”, he replied. I was taken aback. If truth is not taken any longer as the guiding star, we can as well pack up and stop living.

I tried to make my friend see that though the absolute Truth—that what truly is—cannot be put into words, it nevertheless is present. On another, lower level, a lie is definitely not the truth, even if somebody believes in it. Steadfastly ignoring certain important facts to create a different perception of an issue is also dishonest and akin to a lie. “Satyam vada, dharam chara” is an ancient Indian advice—speak the truth, do what is right.

Is it so difficult to find out whether the politically correct view is truthful or not?

Let’s take for example the concern to empower women. It’s a worthy concern. But what has happened in the name of feminism and gender equality clearly went overboard and has become harmful.

“Why should I move to the place where my husband gets a job? Why should he not stay where I have my friends?” was a major issue in the early years of feminism in the West. So the discord started right after marriage because one of the two had finally to give in and if it was the wife, she would grudge it, now being aware of ‘gender inequality’.

Further, in the name of gender equality, unequal laws were enacted which favoured women and put men not only at a disadvantage, but in danger to land in jail because their side of the story simply does not count. It is apparently assumed that women are always angels and men always beasts, which is clearly not true. As a consequence, men and women are not anymore complementing each other but opposing each other, and in western societies the family system went bust. Many people there feel lonely and lost, yet the creed of feminism is still adhered to by the politically correct.

Should there not be a genuine debate on this issue? Yet it is not happening. Why is any criticism of feminism shouted down by the so-called opinion-makers in the media? Do they want a defunct society for whatever reason?

When I had finished school in the late 1960s, feminism just started in Germany. If I wanted to be ‘modern’ now, I was suddenly supposed to make a career and as compensation, I didn’t need to know how to cook and could decide whether I wanted children, as it was “my body”.

I remember that some feminists then were even fighting for girls to be included in the 18-months long military training that was obligatory for boys at the age of 18. Many women, including me, did not agree with those feminists, but we had no voice, whereas their voice was heard loudly almost daily in the media. Brainwashing is usually associated with fascist, communist or religious ideologies, but it seems, media, too, are willing henchmen to support it and how effective they are!

Let’s take another example: religion is seen as sacrosanct and freedom of religion is guaranteed in the UN Charter. Yet a clear definition of religion is lacking. Should we not have a closer look at religions regarding what is true about them and what cannot possibly be true? This debate also is not happening. Instead it is politically correct to project Islam as a religion of peace and Christianity as a religion of love, and Hinduism as a loose collection of cults which have many flaws that need to be corrected, preferably by western experts of “South Asia”.

This is turning truth on its head. But why is it done? Do the powerful, influential, wealthy religions of peace and love (both of them gained the huge number of followers through violence and indoctrination) sense that they will be losing out when there is a genuine debate? Hindus would have the upper hand because their tradition is based on philosophy (= love for wisdom) and not on coercion into blind belief.

The insights of the rishis keep being vindicated by modern science and are open to direct, personal experience in this life, provided one purifies one’s inner perception. The followers of the dogmatic religions, however, have to wait till they are dead until they know whether it was true or false what the priests or mullahs told them.

The rishis enquired into truth. “Religion” in the sense of imposing a fixed doctrine was inconceivable for them. Debates on what is true were held in which women, too, participated. The question revolved around how to make life meaningful and fulfilled. The answer they found was: the purpose of life is to discover the truth about ourselves.

Let’s bring truth into our lives and stand by it. Let’s not be swayed by political correctness or other types of indoctrination. Ultimately truth alone is victorious—and maybe it sounds strange, but I am convinced that truth is alive. If it is honoured, it will foster you.

Satyameva Jayate! – Maria Wirth Blog, 17 April 2016

» Maria Wirth is a psychologist and author who lives in Uttarakhand.

Yyagnavalkya & Maitreyi

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