Hinduism is the hope of the world – Jay Jina

Surya DevaPeople of India

Jay Jina“The monotheisms are not going to volunteer to give way for a level playing field. So, apart from Hindus reclaiming their identity and working by example to practically show that there are alternatives for people to tread their own paths to truth and peaceful coexistence, the self-professed liberals, particularly outside India will have to get off the pot and put some skin in the game. … A good start would be for the economic development of India to continue unimpeded. Yes, those inimical to progress will do all in their power to prevent this, but those who claim to be real liberals and progressives have to open their eyes and realise that economic progress and prosperity are the most effective road to peace and a potent antidote to fundamentalism.” – Jay Jina

Obama also has a Christian agenda for South AsiaIntolerance has been in the news these past several months, from a pontificating president who bowed to religious despots in their backyard the very day after lecturing the democratic unwashed untermensche of India about how to treat minorities,[1] the sustained tirade of the scandalous “award wapsi” brigade over the Bihar polls, and more recently by the framed up interrogation of a BJP spokesman by a reactionary Islamist with a record of misogyny, homophobia, and outright discrimination, using his position in the media to impose his preconceived notions, which, at their core, profess that some people are less human than others because of their religion.[2]

To see how all of these, together with endless one-eyed editorials and op-ed pieces in the western bastions of liberalism at the BBC, Guardian, and the NYT, not to mention the long going saga over “caste legislation”[3] fuelled by the increasingly insignificant Church of England in collusion with their rather unexpected friends at the Secular Society in the UK, it would appear to Spielberg’s E.T., fresh off his spaceship, that some new and poisonous evil had surfaced on a previously peaceful planet. And that this evil incarnate was distinctly polytheistic, pagan Hindu. Vamsee Juluri neatly sums up this seemingly viral effect that Hindus and India seem to have had in 2015 in “Year of Living Intolerably”.[4]

Let’s momentarily ignore the loss of millions of lives as a result of violent regime change and displacement of despotic though previously stable rule in Iraq and Libya which had held together disparate groups of people at relative peace with each other within established national borders.

Let’s also dismiss the plight of the Yazidis, Kurds, and assorted minorities who suffer rape, beheadings and worse under the cosh of fundamentalists in the Middle East, or the atrocities in Paris, about which some intellectually challenged liberals navel gazed on BBC Newsnight, a flagship current affairs program, and surmised the attacks as drug wars between gangs or being caused by the racist nature of the French capital.[5]

Sigmund FreudLet’s Pretend

Let’s instead pretend that the various social problems of the planet faces can be cured by a mode of multiculturalism that trumps hard-fought liberties and civic mores which have taken centuries to evolve and in their stead, run with a “free for all” where some of those who at one time may have campaigned for workers rights, stood for gender equality, and advocated an end to LGBT and racial discrimination, there now seems to be a situation where some now openly support homophobic, misogynist segregationists, all in the interests of what they call diversity and inclusion.

In effect, there is the endorsement of a form of multiculturalism which, in seeking to protect certain cultures, privileges only some versions of it: usually from the most vocal and regressive elements, and which hinders adjustment to the changing environment with the resultant outcome being the opposite of that which was desired in the first instance.[6]

Instead of expanding the shared space between cultures, the result is the promulgation of the worst aspects of difference between peoples living within isolated cultural silos with ever sharper fissures between the “me” and “mine” on the one hand, and the alien “other” on the other.

Amidst all this, Jonathan Kirsch’s book, God against the Gods,[7] is an apposite account of the threats that monotheisms in all their religio-politico-ideological forms, still continue to pose to human evolution towards a safer, fairer, more just global society.

Kirsch cogently argues that far from being the upholder of ethics and morality which it considers its USP and sole preserve, Monotheism in its various hues has always found it difficult to put into practice the kind, gentle words encapsulating “respect for the stranger” and “love thy neighbour”. In fact, he starts the book with an epigraph from Sigmund Freud who said “Religious intolerance was inevitably born with the belief in one god”.

Kirsch traces the advent of monotheism from Pharaoh Akhenaton to the various prophets and kings of Judaism and their millennium long struggle for supremacy over the more refined and diverse pagan Greco-Roman classical culture of the Mediterranean and near east.

In a show of monotheist totalitarianism and in order to destroy the power of the priests, Pharaoh Akhenaton (reign 1353–1336 BCE) decreed the elimination of worship of all gods in favour of only one, Aten, and with the Pharaoh himself as the sole interceder on earth. This proved unsuccessful as the people returned to their old polytheistic ways soon after Akhenaton’s death.

Yahweh / JehovahThe Only True God

The challenge was next taken up by the Jews, the challenges of whose prophets and kings over several centuries to impose monotheism and the primacy of the Only True God (OTG) on the chosen people is well documented in the Old Testament. This clash is played out between OTG and Polytheism within the civilizational milieu of a rich Greco-Roman tapestry and also as an intra-Judaic struggle between the rigorists and the assimilationists.

After centuries of struggle, with various forays into zealotic orthodoxy led by personages like Moses, Joshua, and Ezekiel which included strict punitive sanctions including death for those of the flock who disobeyed the laws of the OTG, all the way to the Masada partisans, infamous for their martyrdom to the last man, woman and child, the rigorists were defeated by the military might of the Roman legions in Judea thus forcing the Jewish people to reach an accommodation with the greatest empire in the known world of the time.

Thereafter, an assimilated Judaism flourished in the farthest reaches of the pagan realm of Imperial Rome, not unlike the way in which Judaism has assimilated into all corners of the modern world.

All was well until an upstart off-shoot cult of Judaism rose on the scene in the early centuries of the common era, and a long, bloody clash ensued between this cult and the reigning pagan power of Pax Romana—a breach of the peace that had hitherto existed between the myriad peoples of the Roman Empire.

This new cult, which, after an internecine war over self-identity, defeated the Judaists within its ranks and shed its connections to Judaism by rejecting circumcision and Jewish dietary laws (both of which made it easier to win adherents, being less painful and tastier on the palate), came to be known as the “soldiers of Christ” and Christians.

In their zeal to be “different”, these early Christians displayed what looks similar to various minority, victimhood tendencies on show prevalent even to this day. They explicitly refused to respect the polytheist norm “that all modes of worship are to be respected” and challenged the role of paganism with its diverse deities as a unifying characteristic upon which citizenship and Pax Romana were founded.

Visible means by which they did this was to display outright hostility towards the religious and civic emblems of Rome, even attacking and destroying pagan shrines; refusing to participate in the Pax Deorum—Peace of the Gods, praying for the prosperity of the Empire, lest such behaviour pinch the sensibilities of their cuckolded, jealous OTG.

In this regard these early Christians considered civic duty an act of apostasy and were little different from the rigorists and zealots of the Old Testament—just like Joshua hundreds of years before, this new breed of worshippers of OTG would not countenance any form of compromise and instead became “holy warriors” to preserve the purity and exclusivity of their new faith.

How different are they from those today who would not pay respects to an anthem or flag or who consider that emblems and insignia of their ancient or even new homelands should be modified to suit the sensitivities of one or other of the hues of OTG?

What distinction can one possibly draw between these shrine destroyers and the barbaric acts of Ghazni at Somnath, Ghor across the Indian plains, or the Bahmani sultans’ blood lust at Vijayanagar? Anyone see the close parallels with the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas or Palmyra?

Constantine the Great: : He is the father of Christian Europe and one of history's most murderous men.Christian Propaganda Value

The early Christians learnt and exploited the impact of terror on a civic populace as also the propaganda value of victimhood and martyrdom to the fullest, much of which still continues to be recycled under totalitarian monotheisms of various hues even today be they religious or political in nature.

The response of the generally tolerant pagan establishment of the Empire to this was to persecute what was a visible minority. The punishments included various forms of torture, being fed to wild animals as well as crucifixions.

In a circular way, the Christian zeal was a necessary prerequisite for Christian martyrdom and the martyrs fuelled the next waves of zeal and martyrdom, though Edward Gibbon, for example, characterised the worst atrocities as “extravagant and indecent fictions” invented to inspire the faithful.[8]

As Kirsch himself notes, it is a truism that (even imagined) oppression is an ideal breeding ground for “true belief” to flourish whereas the seductive influences of peace, freedom and prosperity are far more dangerous to the survival of fundamentalism.[9]

This went on till the early part of 4th century CE, during which time, the Christian cult came close to being totally eliminated. However, by a fate of coincidence, a Roman pagan general who history knows as Constantine the Great entered the scene, and by a convoluted sequence of events more to do with prevailing realpolitik than with articles of faith, rose to the become Emperor and ended the persecution of the Christian cult and so began their rise in status and influence in the Empire.

Julian the ApostateChristianity Destroys Classical Civilizations

During this period, further internecine feuds ensued within the monotheistic Christian fold over which the emperor sought to broker peace among the believers at the famous Council of Nicaea but fundamental doctrinal controversies (which pagans would have found rather inane) still festered for decades after Constantine’s death and are still some of the reasons for schisms between various Christian sects.

This swing towards what became an exclusivist monotheist creed and the official religion of the Roman Empire culminated in Theodosius (347-395 CE), effectively becoming the head of the world’s first totalitarian empire underpinned by the dogmas of orthodox Christianity and the criminalization of paganism as well as all other forms of religious practice and belief.

However, this was not before Julian, “the Apostate” (331-363 CE), nephew of Constantine and the last Pagan emperor of the Roman Empire nearly won the day for polytheism and diversity.

Though brought up as a Christian, he had the good fortune to learn about the diverse, classical, ancient, syncretism-filled cultural heritage of the centuries old Roman Empire, and grew up to prove himself an excellent military commander, where, despite being outnumbered, he achieved crushing victories in Gaul over the Alamanni in 357 CE at the Battle of Argentoratum. In 360 CE Julian was declared Augustus by his troops at Lutetia, Gaul (modern-day Paris).

Constantine’s inspirations from the symbol of the cross of his adopted religion led him to brutality towards pagans and rivals alike; by contrast, Julian’s exposure to the diversity and “mix-n-match” of polytheism marked a peaceful ascent to Emperor, from where, in his brief tenure, he once again reaffirmed the ancient beliefs of the Empire, restored religious freedoms and challenged the monopoly of Christianity in the civic space of the Empire. Unfortunately, Julian lost his life in battle in 363 CE in an ambitious campaign against the Sassanid Empire of Persia.

The Roman Empire went through much turbulence led by several weak and vain leaders, on the inexorable road to terminal decline. Fuelled by an explosive cocktail of Church, State and Mob acting as instruments of terror, Rome disintegrated ending the glory of Classical Civilization and the Roman Empire and the advent of a thousand years of cultural darkness across Europe.

Just two examples serve to illustrate the destructive effect of monotheistic zeal: the murder of the philosopher Hypatia and the destruction of the library at Alexandria. It is ironic that the same zeal for OTG led to the murders of scores of unnamed philosophers and the razing to dust of the Academy at Nalanda in Bihar.

And yet, the cabal of “eminent” historians, without the guts of an Edward Gibbon, have been peddling lies in the name of their own monotheism of sham Nehruvian secularism?

Julian and polytheism lost: Constantine and monotheism won. What a cruel mirror these two Romans hold only to reflect India’s Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb? What might India have become and how might monotheisms have reached an accommodation with pagans and polytheists, had Dara Shikoh prevailed?[10] What trouble and strife of the past 300 years might have been avoided by humanity? If only.

History of IndiaEminent Historians

Have any of their “eminences” polluting the corridors of History faculties an iota of grey matter to ponder on these questions and build an objective, positive narrative that could unleash the potential of a truly syncretic India as opposed to the “chicken tikka” version[11] where the underlying culture is disparaged while despotic, murdering monotheists like Aurangzeb are feted?

Where the collective pagan, pantheistic, polytheistic, atheistic but above all, Dharmic fabric that constitutes the major core of Indian society can fully contribute in “defining India”? Where, the negative narratives of Caste, Cow and Idolatry which the colonist western, racist, proselytizing monotheists have imposed on the Indian narrative whilst at the same time appropriating Indic ideas like Ayurveda, Yoga, and Meditation practices as if they were their own, are repaired with contrition and respect?

The polytheistic pagans of Rome readily adopted the OTG as part of their pantheon and accepted the worshippers of OTG as equals. How similar is this to modern-day Indians—Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs—who crowd the narrow streets to pay homage and offer prayers at the Sufi shrines around India?

How is it possible that no one bats an eyelid, that Ajmer’s Adhai Din Ka Jonpda at the site of the shrine to Moinuddin Chisti, looks so like a temple that it must have been one, but that it’s acceptable for people of all faiths to gather and offer prayers in their own way? How else can one explain that Sufi music—ostensibly founded on Indic raga and meter and not something imported into India by the monotheistic invaders—still holds an emotional connection with the soil and people of India?

In contrast, the custodians of the OTG at the Vatican, after centuries of destruction and pillaging, today, in a show of blood curdling triumph, brazenly prostitute the sacred statuary and holy objects of the vanquished infidels within its unholy walls (one has to pay to enter).

Nobel Peace Prize potential candidates Pope Francis and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon talk during a meeting at the United Nations in New YorkWill the Pope Assure the Safety of Non-Christians?

By a rather ironic twist, in its naked show of victory over the polytheists, the Vatican “celebrates” the classical pagan culture which it was instrumental in destroying. Among the relics—nowadays granted pride of place in the holiest bastion of this OTG, stand beautiful works of art and antiquity—row upon row of any number of Greek, Roman and Egyptian deities.

The most telling is the disgustingly triumphal display of Cybele, the Great Mother of the Gods whose earliest worship was in Phrygia and Lydia, which had spread to Greece by the 5th century BCE and later to Rome where she also came to be known as Artemis and Diana. It’s as if the papal hierarchy is mocking the infidels with its superiority in a morbid gallery of false gods and abominations.

Would the Pope or his church, assure all Pagan peoples of the world that their sacred artefacts are safe in their own shrines, that they will never sanction their destruction or relocation as “works of antiquity and primitive art” in the house of loot and plunder in Rome?

Let’s make it simple: When will the Vatican stop obfuscating and sign the UN Convention on Human Rights?[12] Or is one to take it that some members of the human race are lesser human than others, and that, in fact, yet some others are non-persons, without any rights, fit for purging of their abominations and idolatry?

Would the Church of England admit to and end the prejudices that their church holds within its own doctrines and assure Hindus that, as a religious body, it fully respects the right to religion for all peoples and stop the assault on Dharma under the guise of “caste”?

Indeed, would the leader of any church or any other group of monotheist followers of OTG anywhere, assure not just the last pagans and humanists of the world but also adherents of competing versions of OTG, that their cultures, traditions, way of worship, sacred places, spaces, art, and imagery are safe? That they are part of the common human legacy that should be respected and given the space to live and the air to breathe? Is there a world politician with the courage to give their citizens this promise?

As a reviewer of Kirsch’s book on Beliefnet notes,[13] Kirsch himself acknowledges “that traditional monotheists generally dismiss his writing out of hand as uninformed and anti-faith. Yet he insists that he is a ‘Jewish monotheist.’”

Kirsch further fully acknowledges “that polytheists—including pre-Christian Romans—can be as brutish as fervent monotheists (his preferred term for fanatical fundamentalists). The only difference between violent polytheists and violent monotheists is that the former kill to gain political control and the latter Jonathan Kirschkill to assert theological dominance. However, the difference is subtle but important: Polytheists sought control over the public sphere alone; monotheists sought control over private thoughts as well.”

What the Monotheists Think about Pagans

Kirsch may well be right about the rationale of traditional monotheists dismissing his arguments. The question though arises: isn’t this something that secularists also have persistently chosen to do? It is instructive to compare the world views of monotheists and pagans/polytheist vis-a-vis each other (much of it derived from Kirsch’s book):

What monotheists thought/think of and how they react to pagans and polytheists:

  • Believe in the superiority of OTG; all others are false gods or disparagingly still “false idols”, a parade of the horrible, those who worship any other than the OTG are at best “lost” and need to guided on the one right path, and at worst, are an abomination, dark, demonic idolaters, morally deficient guilty of harlotry, sorcery, black magic;
  • Regard pagans and polytheists with fear, loathing and contempt: peaceful coexistence is a one way street—if you are not one of us….
  • It is not sufficient to have belief in OTG, but there are rules on the accepted mode of worship which are to be followed;
  • OTG demands absolute obedience: he is jealous, wrathful and vengeful, he doesn’t abide competition; when bad things happen (especially to the non-believers, it is divine retribution);
  • Clear delineation between who is “one of us” and who is “the other.”

What pagans and polytheists (the religions of the high culture of classical Greco-Roman civilization and of Hinduism) thought/think of and how they react to monotheists:

  • Religious plurality, a spongy mass of tolerance and tradition;
  • Not only tolerance, but acceptance of multiple deities and respect for multiple paths to the truth;
  • Acknowledging the “Unknown Gods” as evidenced in abundant archaeological finds of shrines from the Roman Empire and also in Hinduism, for example the Narasimha pillar at Chennakesava Temple, Halebid;
  • With or without assistance of priests/priestesses and no interceding prophets;
  • Co-existence of gods and goddesses in one place, no concept of divine retribution for non-pagans;
  • Accepting of the OTG and their worshippers as equals, not sense of the “other”;
  • Seeing the world as holistic including all life forms—pray for the health, happiness, safety, security, justice, mercy, and a decent life for all.

Throughout its history, the Roman Empire had attracted all faiths from all corners of the known world—the Greco-Roman deities co-existed with the worship of the gods and goddesses of Egypt, Persia, Sumeria, Phrygia and Lydia. They even accommodated the “strangest of all”, the monotheist Jews and later, the sect of Judaism that morphed into orthodox Christianity.

It is perfectly evident that the war between monotheism (or should it more correctly be monotheisms?) and polytheism is still raging.

Even if India, the last bastion of polytheism and paganism, as Krishen Kak explains in his piece,[14] was to be converted, the war will still rage between the competing and conflicting claims of the multiple factions claiming to speak for OTG.

Therefore, if the pagan Roman Empire could accommodate the followers of two groups of OTG, why is it not possible that the contemporary world can also accommodate the ways of life and multiplicities of belief including OTG, polytheist, and none? One can’t simply “un-invent” god, so let’s be practical. After all, is this not what the pseudo-liberals claim to crave?

But for this to be possible, it is logical to conclude that accommodation can only be reached by an admission of contrition and developing mutual respect that extends not only among followers of the various shades of OTG, but transcends to include those who may be pagan, Hindu, atheist, non-theist, pantheist, Buddhist, or whatever.

Mother IndiaIndian Culture is Hindu Culture

The doomsayers who have been parroting about India’s intolerance need to wake up and realise that India has lived with and survived assaults from multiple monotheisms and yet retains much of its “pagan” culture. Let’s call it what it is: Hindu culture, accepting of diversity and easy on the senses which, sets India apart from its neighbours. These neighbours, who in the space of three generations have literally cleansed their domains of the abomination, the heathen and the idolater, and yet failed to find a sense of identity with which they can be at ease.

It is definitely not the “chicken tikka” statist diktat version of Nehruvian secularism which sets India apart and offers hope for humankind—for far from showing how to deal with the ongoing war of God against the Gods, this hollow version of how society ought to function has aggressively sought to deny the ambient pagan culture an iota of legitimacy in the civic space whilst granting special privileges to monotheisms.[15]

The monotheisms are not going to volunteer to give way for a level playing field. So, apart from Hindus reclaiming their identity and working by example to practically show that there are alternatives for people to tread their own paths to truth and peaceful coexistence,[16] the self-professed liberals, particularly outside India will have to get off the pot and put some skin in the game.

To adapt what Rod Liddle mockingly referred to as “these silly mares” of liberalism and turn it into a positive, they will need to snap out from “… navigate(ing) their way through life on such slender mental resources, …” refrain from being so “… stupid because they do not see the world as it really is, but only as they would wish it to be,” and get a “handle on reality,” coming out their slumberous “… state of denial.”

Some of these “mares” are for sure beyond redemption, but one can live and work in hope and expectation, targeting those that have the capacity to turn on their dormant intellects for the greater good. For, the alternatives are not appealing; the stakes are too high to let the lunatics run the asylum.

Make In IndiaA good start would be for the economic development of India to continue unimpeded. Yes, those inimical to progress will do all in their power to prevent this, but those who claim to be real liberals and progressives have to open their eyes and realise that economic progress and prosperity are the most effective road to peace and a potent antidote to fundamentalism.

Indians, comprising a sixth of humanity, with a millennium old experience of the battle of God against the Gods offer the best hope for resolving this vexing question. The battle isn’t over yet, in fact it’s only just begun. On India’s success depends the world’s capacity to overcome this conundrum. Those who impede India’s economic and social development do so at a greater peril.

As the Roman philosopher, Symmachus said, “What does it matter by which wisdom each of us arrives at the truth?”[17] and observe how it rings in total consonance with the Rig Veda phrase, “ekaṁ sad viprā bahudhā vadanti” translating to “There is one (ekam) Reality (sat), about which wise persons (viprā) in various ways (bahudhā) speak (vadanti).[18] — IndiaFacts, 5 January 2015

» Jay Jina is a UK-based third generation NRI. Besides pursuing a professional career as a European IT director with a multinational and a part time university academic, Jay’s interests span history, current affairs, the Indian Diaspora and the history and politcs of science.

References

  1. Obama smacks down India for religious intolerance, says Gandhi would have been shocked, Times of India, 5 February 2015, “Obama smacks down India for intolerance….” at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Obama-smacks-down-India-for-religious-intolerance-says-Gandhi-would-have-been-shocked/articleshow/46141742.cms
  2. Vamsee Juluri, “Why I think Ram Madhav’s Al Jazeera interview was framed” at http://www.dailyo.in/politics/modi-ram-madhav-akhand-bharat-pakistan-al-jazeera-interview-rss/story/1/8163.html
  3. Jakob De Roover and Sarah Claerhout, The Caste Connection on the Sacred Foundations of Social Hierarchy, University of Ghent, Belgium, at https://www.academia.edu/19752142/The_Caste_Connection_On_the_Sacred_Foundations_of_Social_Hierarchy
  4. Vamsee Juluri, “The Year of Living Intolerably”, at http://swarajyamag.com/magazine/the-year-of-living-intolerantly/
  5. Rod Liddle, “The political wisdom of people who don’t even know what a circle is” in The Spectator, at http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/01/the-political-wisdom-of-people-who-dont-even-know-what-a-circle-is/
  6. Wikipedia article on “Multiculturalism”. See in particular the section on opposition to multiculturalism at  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiculturalism#Opposition
  7. Jonathan Kirsch, God against the Gods: The History of the War between Monotheism and Polytheism, Penguin Books, 2004
  8. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1, Chapter 16, at  http://www.ccel.org/g/gibbon/decline/volume1/chap16.htm#chri
  9. Jonathan Kirsch, quote from page 74 of God against the Gods: The History of the War between Monotheism and Polytheism, Penguin Books, 2004
  10. Abraham Eraly, The Mughal Throne: The Saga of India’s Great Emperors, London, Phoenix. Quote from p. 336: “India was at a crossroads in the mid-seventeenth century; it had the potential of moving forward with Dara Shukoh, or of turning back to medievalism with Aurangzeb.”
  11. I used the term “chicken tikka masala” to describe the so-called “ethical Foreign Policy” cooked up the chicken tikka masala that is the multi-culti flavour of Britain today: Just like the nondescript dish that goes by that name in the UK, naa yahaan ka, naa wahaan ka, or to put it bluntly, neither fish nor fowl. The term applies for the secularist idea of syncretism too. See http://indiafacts.co.in/pseudo-secularism-uk-style-lessons-india/
  12. Concordat Watch, “How the Vatican evades human rights obligations through Canon Law, diplomatic immunity and other dodges” at http://www.concordatwatch.eu/topic-47307.834
  13. Book review of “God against the Gods” (author unidentified) on Beliefnet at http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Books/2004/05/One-God-To-Bind-Them-All.aspx?p=3
  14. Krishen Kak, “Hindus are the Last of the Pagans” at http://indiafacts.org/hindus-are-the-last-of-the-pagans/
  15. There are various examples of dispensation of privilege for religious minority, for example the Haj subsidy, the independence of places of worship and perhaps, most openly invidious of all, the status of “missionary” as a visa category for entry into India. In each of these cases, the comparative position for the “majority” belief system is overtly discriminatory: Hindus do not even get adequate protection for the Amarnath Yatra, Hindu temples are under state control often with antipathetic administrators imposed against the wishes of the temple stakeholders, and even small attempts at reversion of poor sections back to Hinduism get blown out as workings of Hindu “fascism”.
  16. Vamsee Juluri, “Rearming Hinduism”, Westland, 2015. This little volume to my mind reads as a succinct and balanced manifesto protecting and projecting all that is of value about Hindu Dharma. It deserves to be widely read and merits being made required reading for all undergraduates in India and those outside India with an interest in India.
  17. Charles Freeman, The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason, Pimlico, London, 2003. The line is a quote from the 4th century philosopher,
  18. Graham Schweig, Translation of Rig Veda 1.164.46. on the Dharma Civilization Foundation website at http://www.dcfusa.org/many-truths-of-the-one-reality/

 

Trishul

Of course Hindus won’t go to hell! – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth“People need to become aware that prophesizing eternal hell was a strategy to frighten their own followers into submission and to justify using force to either convert or wipe out those who ‘insult the Supreme Power and don’t accept the only truth.’ This claim of ‘hell for unbelievers’ is about power and influence and has nothing to do with eternal truth or morality.” – Maria Wirth

Dalits for Equal Rights in ChurchesSome time ago, a news item caught my attention: Dalit Christians had filed a complaint with the United Nations against the Vatican because of caste-based discrimination of the Catholic Church in India. The complaint was filed with the UN Information Centre at New Delhi.

It made me feel that a suggestion I had made in an earlier article was maybe not so outlandish and actually worthwhile. I had suggested that Hindus, Buddhists and others could file a complaint with the UN against Christianity and Islam, because Christianity considers non-Christians as heathen and Islam non-Muslims as infidels, and both these religions claim that heathen and infidels are unworthy of the grace of the Supreme Power and will be thrown into hellfire where they will suffer excruciating pain for all eternity. “Idol-worshippers”—Hindus are labeled as such—are the worst of the lot in the eyes of those religions.

In the Bible, Mathew (13: 49-50) states:

“This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous  and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The Quran (22:19-22) gives a more detailed description of the torture that awaits infidels:

“But as for those who disbelieve, garments of fire will be cut out for them, boiling fluid will be poured down their heads. Whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted; And for them are hooked rods of iron. Whenever, in their anguish, they would go forth from thence they are driven back therein and (it is said unto them): Taste the doom of burning.”

Hindus generally have no malice towards other faiths and don’t expect others to have malice towards their own faith. They readily pay respect to Bible and Christianity or to Quran and Islam without knowing what they contain. Usually they don’t even notice that their respect is not reciprocated.

Jihadi with a Koran and AK 47 However, there are also those who know the content, but prefer to ignore unacceptable passages. One reason may be that they of course don’t take them seriously and can’t imagine that anybody takes them seriously. Unfortunately, they underestimate the power of indoctrination, especially in childhood. It is not only the ISIS types who believe—and act on it. I know from own experience that children believe what they are told and many don’t question this belief even as adults.

Another reason may be that they don’t want to draw attention to those divisive, discriminating passages in books that are considered holy by the majority of the world’s population. They fear they could remind “believers” of their duty to fight the “unbelievers” or rather the “wrong believers” as Hindus are great believers in the Supreme and certainly not unbelievers.

However, this attitude won’t work today, as the content of Quran, Bible and other scriptures is readily available on the net. It is easy to access any verse of the Bible or Quran. ISIS spread their views on the internet. The radicalization among Muslim youth often happens via the net. A cleric in a German mosque who had banned radicalized youth and declared ISIS as un-Islamic was described as an “old, confused man”, by a German Turk, who “knew” that ISIS is following the Quran. How did he know? “I and my friends have read the Quran”, he declared. His friends are fighting for ISIS.

I didn’t make the suggestion to complain to the UN because I expect much action from the UN. I made the suggestion mainly, because in this way the issue would hopefully come into mainstream discourse. People, including Christians and Muslims, need to realize how absurd and divisive this claim of “eternal hell for unbelievers” is.

The gravity of the situation needs to sink in: every second child in the world is taught that Hindus (and others) are not equal in the eyes of the Supreme God, and the child is likely to believe it. In fact, the child is taught that the Supreme hates those others so much that they will burn for all eternity in hellfire if they don’t mend their ways and join the believers on the right path. Sri Krishna, Sri Rama, Sita, the Rishis, Swami Vivekananda, Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar, Mata Amritanandamayi, Narendra Modi, Aishwarya Rai, Sachin Tendulkar … just name them, each and every Hindu who ever lived—none will find mercy with the Highest. They all are thrown into the “blazing furnace”.

HellPeople need to become aware that prophesizing eternal hell was a strategy to frighten their own followers into submission and to justify using force to either convert or wipe out those who “insult the Supreme Power and don’t accept the only truth”.  This claim of “hell for unbelievers” is about power and influence and has nothing to do with eternal truth or morality.

If a small, crazy sect would claim that all others will burn in hell, one would understand if nobody takes note of such nonsense. But it is not a small sect that makes this claim. This claim is contained in the doctrines of the two most powerful religious institutions on earth with almost four billion followers. Mercifully, many Christians especially in Europe don’t believe it anymore, but it is part of the Christian dogma.

Is one allowed to call this claim nonsense – in the age of quantum physics where it is known that ultimately all is connected and nothing is separate?

Strangely, Hindus keep quiet. They may hope it goes away. It won’t go away without those who are demeaned in this unacceptable manner putting their foot down. Why should those who benefit from this claim give it up as long as nobody objects?

The Church had once to give in to protests: it lost the power to punish heretics and even had to allow Christians to leave the Church. Ever since, the Church lost many of its flock and the west came out of the Dark Age, but the damage was done nevertheless: arrogance and a feeling of superiority was already ingrained in the people and nature had been divested of its sacredness and still is treated as a slave to be exploited.

The dogmatic religions uprooted people from their pagan societies and made them slowly but surely arrogant, self-righteous and convinced that they are meant to rule the world in the name of their god. Would colonialism in its brutal form have been possible without the mindset that Christians are superior to the native heathen? Would Muslim invasions have been so cruel without the mindset that Allah wants them to smite the necks of infidels till all worship is only for Allah?

Today’s most pressing problem, Islamic terrorism, has its roots in the claim that infidels are rejected by Allah. ISIS, Boko Haram and others consider it their sacred duty to rid the earth of such scum.

Christianity stopped killing heathen but still does great harm in so-called “unreached areas” for example in India, where it deceives, threatens and lures people away from their tolerant, inclusive tradition into an arrogant, divisive mindset.

Some followers of Islam still kill. They are called Islamists instead of Muslims. But as long as the Quran contains verses that seem to be exhortations to kill infidels, and no official correction is made that these verses refer only to history, there is insincerity in the claim that they are not Muslims. On one hand we condemn those youth in the strongest terms and on the other, we revere the scripture which they claim to follow.

Donald TrumpWhen Donald Trump declares that he won’t allow Muslims into the USA if he becomes President, he may cater to a populist sentiment among Americans but this is no solution. A better strategy would be to make Muslims disown certain passages in the Quran. At the same time, Christians must be made to disown certain passages in the Bible. Blind belief that the Supreme has revealed the truth only to Jesus or only to Mohammed must be allowed to be questioned without putting one’s life in danger.

The Pope said recently in Africa “Christians and Muslims are brothers”. It sounded more like “Let’s live and let live”. Yet when the Pope was in India, he didn’t make such conciliatory statement. He said “we will plant the cross in Asia”. Why? Did he think the “mild” Hindus won’t object to their own demise? Or did he behave like a bully to put Hindus on the defensive?

If Christianity really had the better truth, it would be okay. But this is not the case. The supremacy that the Church claims has no basis except in blind belief. In the same way, the supremacy that Islam claims has also no basis except in blind belief. Both faiths can’t challenge each other. A debate between Christianity and Islam would go like this:

Christianity: “We alone have the full truth”

Islam: “We alone have the full truth.”

Christianity: “God has revealed the full truth through his son Jesus”

Islam: “Allah has revealed the final truth through Prophet Mohammed.”

Christianity: “All have to worship God, the father, via his son.”

Islam: “All have to worship Allah.”

However, in one point both agree: “Heathen and infidels need to disappear from the earth.”

In contrast, ‘Hinduism seeks to propagate the collective wisdom and inspiration of centuries and has room for all forms of beliefs’ (according to the Supreme Court). It offers a profound philosophy. It can bring to the table the wisdom of the ancient Rishis that has never been disproven. This wisdom points to the absolute truth, which dogmatic religions are ignorant of: Truth is not a belief based on thoughts. It is what we all truly are—thought free, blissful awareness.

BlasphemyOne would expect that humanity in the 21st century has outgrown blasphemy laws. This is not the case. Not only is there no pressure on countries that have blasphemy laws to abandon them, but—unbelievable, but true—there are attempts by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to bring the whole world under a blasphemy law.

Several nations, like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, have petitioned the UN to make defamation of Islam a crime. And even President Obama and Hillary Clinton supported a resolution (Istanbul Process 16/18) to curb “Islamophobia“. Efforts to go further and ban criticism of Islam are surely still on.

Nations that have a majority Hindu, Buddhist or Atheist population like India, China, Japan, Thailand, etc. could join and not only throw a spammer into these efforts but actively weaken their case by demanding a stop to unacceptable claims. Though “idol-worshipping Hindus” are seen as most despicable, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Atheists also don’t pass muster in the eyes of Christianity and Islam.

ISIS child about to behead Teddy!It is high that time Hindus woke up. Filing a petition with the UN might make even Christians and Muslims aware that these claims are truly unacceptable and that Hindus are not the scum of this earth and have a right to exist.

UNICEF also should be petitioned that brainwashing of children into hatred for others is made a crime. The video of a child in ISIS land cutting the throat of his teddy bear as practice is horrendous. A lot of noise needs to be made about those petitions. Christianity and Islam must not get away with discrediting Hindu Dharma. Let there be a public discourse on which worldview is closer to the truth, and which religion has a better philosophical basis.

Actually it is so obvious even at a first glance: the choice is between brotherhood of all without any preconditions and fighting each other till all become uniform ‘believers’.

Let’s choose brotherhood of all. And please also include animals…. – Maria Wirth Blog, 22 December 2015

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

UN Blasphemy Law

“Hindus have been facing an unprecedented threat from conversions,” says Dr Subramanian Swamy

Virat Hindustan Sangam“People should vote for a Hindu-friendly party in future, if the world’s most ancient (Hindu) civilization are to withstand the onslaught of external forces. People should vote for a Hindu-friendly party in future, if the world’s most ancient (Hindu) civilization were to withstand the onslaught of external forces.” – Dr Subramanian Swamy

Cross Crossed-OutTerming that “induced religious conversions” as a threat to national integrity, senior BJP leader and Virat Hindustan Sangam (VHS) national president Subramanian Swamy said it was high time that an all-India law banning religious conversions was enacted, but with an exception that “reconversions were not banned”.

Participating in the national convention of the VHS here on Sunday, he said: “People should vote for a Hindu-friendly party in future, if the world’s most ancient (Hindu) civilization is to withstand the onslaught of external forces.”

The majority community (Hindus) must destroy the caste system and revive Sanskrit language to successfully thwart the expansionist agenda of other religions, he observed. On the occasion, Mr. Swamy recalled that the Hindu civilization was among the 46 ancient civilizations listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Kashmir: The forgotten conflict.“The Hindus have never discriminated against other religions, but it has of late been facing an unprecedented threat from conversions which are highly detrimental to democracy. The whole world raises a hue and cry when something happens to Muslims and Christians, but there is no one to espouse the cause of over five lakh Kashmiri Pandits who are living in exile in their own country,” he said.

Members of the Hindu community in Malappuram district of Kerala have complained that they could not hold a public meeting for 20 years. Such was the persecution of Hindus in India. This is not acceptable, he said.

“We should ensure that the Hindu population does not fall below the 80 per cent mark but that does not mean they should produce more children,” he observed, warning that “a danger was lurking in the form of the new caliphate named as the Islamic State.” – The Hindu, 7 December 2015

M. K. Gandhi

♦ Aggressive evangelism makes ‘ghar wapsi’ pale in comparison

“The Christian percentage of the Indian populace has grown by a staggering 150 per cent. In other words, India now has more Christians than any First World country aside from the United States and Russia according to Pew Research’s Religion & Public Life Project.” – Pawan Deshpande  

Christian evangelical groups are like start-ups with targets and incentives – T.V. Mohandas Pai

T.V. Mohandas Pai“The new phenomenon over the last 5 years has been the huge increase in evangelical conversions in Chennai and Tamil Nadu, clearly visible via the vehement advertising on particular channels on TV. Andhra Pradesh, particularly the interiors, Hyderabad and the coastal regions, has been specifically targeted due to the red carpet laid by a now deceased chief minister whose son-in-law is a pastor with his own outfit. The visible impact across this region … shows clearly that a huge amount of money has come in and that there is targeted conversion going on. Some evangelical groups have claimed that 9-12% of undivided AP has been converted, and have sought special benefits from the State” – T.V. Mohandas Pai

India Tricolour & Parliament HouseThe Rajya Sabha has been paralysed by the Opposition on the Ghar Vapasi program of a few organisations from the right. However, if you follow the debate, it is clear that this is a political battle by the left and the left of centre parties to embarrass and discredit the right of centre party in power. Maybe even with the intent to show up the government as incapable of bringing in reforms and development. The so-called conversion debate was an excuse to paralyse the Rajya Sabha, and a great opportunity was missed to debate the issue of large-scale surreptitious conversions across India (which is the real problem).

There is no doubt that large-scale conversions have been taking place across India, accelerating over the last 5 years led by evangelical groups from the West. The North East has been converted with Arunachal and Tripura being now targeted. Tribal belts across Odisha, Jharkhand, Gujarat and MP have seen large-scale conversions for several years now.

Anil Kumar with father-in-law YSR Reddy, mother-in-law Vijayalakshmi and wife Sharmila at a Christian meeting.The new phenomenon over the last 5 years has been the huge increase in evangelical conversions in Chennai and Tamil Nadu, clearly visible via the vehement advertising on particular channels on TV. Andhra Pradesh, particularly the interiors, Hyderabad and the coastal regions, has been specifically targeted due to the red carpet laid by a now deceased chief minister whose son-in-law is a pastor with his own outfit. The visible impact across this region to any observer shows clearly that a huge amount of money has come in and that there is targeted conversion going on. Some evangelical groups have claimed that 9-12% of undivided AP has been converted, and have sought special benefits from the State (which has been reported in the media).

There is a very sophisticated operation in place by the evangelical groups, with a clear target for souls, marketing campaigns, mass prayer and fraudulent healing meetings. Evidence is available in plenty on videos on YouTube, social media, press reports, and on the ground. Pastors have been openly tweeting about souls converted, and saving people from idol worshippers. Some pastors have tweeted with glee about converts reaching 60 million, declaring a target of 100 million, and have also requested for financial support for this openly. Violence in some areas due to this has vitiated the atmosphere. The traditional institutions of both denominations are losing out to the new age evangelicals with their sophisticated marketing, money and legion of supporters from the West. One can almost classify these groups as hyper-growth startups – with a cost per acquisition, a roadmap for acquiring followers, a fund-raising machine, and a gamified approach (with rewards and incentives) to “conquering” new markets.

Evangelist targeting childrenOur Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion, which includes the right of the individual to choose her religion. This is not in question, and is a very important concept for a nation like ours. But this right is terribly constrained by religions, which severely punish apostasy. Our laws prohibit conversion due to inducement, allurement, undue influence, coercion, or use of supernatural threats. Every debate on TV misses this point—people argue on grounds of constitutional rights and abuse right wings groups who protest such conversion forgetting that these new age evangelicals are clearly breaking the law! They go to the desperate, and prey on their insecurities by offering education for their children, medical services for the sick, and abuse existing religious practices and traditions.

People also point to the approximate 2.3% share of this minority in the last 3 censuses to deny such conversions. Of course, the 2011 census figures on religion has strangely not been released and we need this data. However, the reason why in the conversion numbers do not show up in the census is that conversions are happening in communities entitled to reservation benefits. It appears that they are clearly told not to reveal their conversion in the census or officially to prevent loss of benefits. Most conversions happen amongst the tribals and rural and urban poor, who are soft targets to inducements.

I have a personal experience of evangelical groups trying to convert members of my family. Two house maids who converted said that the school where their children went raised fees and due to their inability to pay, they were told they would waive it if they converted (which they were forced to do). Of course, the school was rabid in their evangelism with these children. I use a taxi company for travel over the last ten years. I have noticed over 30% of drivers have converted over the last 5 years.

Chennai evangelist Jayakumar baptising a new convert.When asked, inevitably they spoke about evangelicals groups that gave them free education for children and paid their medical bills, provided they converted.

It is obvious that large-scale conversion by illegal means is happening in many places and the impact is clearly visible to anybody who would choose to see openly. Some apologists ask – where are the complaints about inducement or coercion? The law needs enforcement by the police independent of complaints, as is happening when rightist groups proudly announce conversions. These rightist groups lack sophistication, but they have squarely focused attention on this large-scale conversion activity. Law enforcers need to act before this becomes a bigger flash point. – Economic Times, 27 December 2014

» T.V. Mohandas Pai is an award-winning chartered account and former Infosys director. He is now chairman of Manipal Global Education in Bengaluru.

World Vision

Bible vs Quran: Test your knowledge of who deserves death in which religion – Valerie Tarico

Three Holy Books

Dr Valerie Tarico“Is the Quran more violent than the Bible as most Americans believe? The question is hard to answer. A tally at the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible counts 842 violent or cruel passages in the Bible as compared to 333 in the Quran. That said, the Bible is a much thicker tome, and even though the New Testament endorses and adds to the violence in the Old, when percentages are compared, the Quran comes out ahead.” – Dr Valerie Tarico

Abrahamic ReligionsThe world has watched in horror while members of ISIS justify the next mass murder or icy execution with words from the Quran, followed by shouts of Allahu Akbar—God is the greatest! If beliefs have any power whatsoever to drive behaviour—and as a psychologist I think they do—there can be little doubt that the Quran’s many endorsements of violence play a role in how exactly ISIS has chosen to pursue religious and political dominion.

At the same time, it should be equally clear a sacred text filled with violence is insufficient to trigger mass brutality unless other conditions are present as well. Culture, empathy, education and empowerment—and other factors that scholars understand only in part—appear to have a protective influence, safeguarding even most fundamentalists against the worst teachings of their own tradition. We know this in part because the Bible contains commandments and stories that are as horrific as those being used to justify butchery in Iraq and Syria.

The following 30 violent exhortations are a mix, drawn from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures. The generic word God is used for all deity names, and names of places or people have been replaced with generic terms. How well do you know your Torah, Bible, or Quran and Hadith? Can you tell which is which?

[The source of the quotation has been added after the quote, as Hindu readers will not be knowing “their” Torah, Bible, Quran or Hadith very well. – Ed]

  1. Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the [holy man] who represents God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)
  2. I decided to order a man to lead the prayer and then take a flame to burn all those, who had not left their houses for the prayer, burning them alive inside their homes. (Bukhari 11:626)
  3. All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)
  4. Fight them until there is no more [disbelief or worshipping of other gods] and worship is for God alone. (Quran 2:193)
  5. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. (Matthew 10:34-35)
  6. Whoso fighteth in the way of God, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward. (Quran 4:74)
  7. Make ready to slaughter [the infidel’s] sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants. (Isaiah 14:21 NAB)
  8. [God’s messenger] … was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The [holy man] replied, “They [women and children] are from them [unbelievers].” (Bukhari 52:256)
  9. Then I heard God say to the other men, “Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all—old and young, girls and women and little children.” (Ezekiel 9:5 NLT)
  10. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them. (Quran 8:12)
  11. Keep [my holiday], for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die. (Exodus 31:12-15 NLT)
  12. The punishment of those who wage war against God and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement. (Quran 5:33)
  13. If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)
  14. It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he had made a great slaughter in the land…. (Quran 8:67)
  15. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. (Numbers 31: 17-18 KJV)
  16. I shall terrorize the [heathens]. So wound their bodies and incapacitate them, because they oppose God and his apostle. (Quran 8:12)
  17. A [holy man’s] daughter who loses her honour by committing fornication and thereby dishonours her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)
  18. So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them. (Quran 9:5)
  19. Everyone who would not seek God was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)
  20. And when We wish to destroy a town, We send Our commandment to the people of it who lead easy lives, but they transgress therein; thus the word proves true against it, so We destroy it with utter destruction. (Quran 17:16)
  21. But if [a girl wasn’t a virgin on her wedding night] and evidence of the girls virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsman shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against God’s people by her unchasteness in her father’s house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21 NAB)
  22. The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say.”O [believer]! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.” (Bukhari 52:177)
  23. If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the rest of the people shall join in with you. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB)
  24. God’s Apostle said, “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but God.’” (Bukhari 8:387)
  25. Cursed be he who does God’s work remissly, cursed he who holds back his sword from blood (Jeremiah 48:10 NAB).
  26. God said, “A prophet must slaughter before collecting captives. A slaughtered enemy is driven from the land. [Prophet], you craved the desires of this world, its goods and the ransom captives would bring. But God desires killing them to manifest the religion.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 484)
  27. Anyone who blasphemes God’s name must be stoned to death by the whole community of [believers]. (Leviticus 24:16 NLT)
  28. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) [your religion]; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them.… If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them [a tax]. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek God’s help and fight them. (Muslim 19:4294)
  29. Anyone else who goes too near the [Holy Place] will be executed. (Numbers 1: 51 NLT)
  30. Killing unbelievers is a small matter to us. (Tabari 9:69)

Is the Quran more violent than the Bible as most Americans believe? The question is hard to answer. A tally at the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible counts 842 violent or cruel passages in the Bible as compared to 333 in the Quran. That said, the Bible is a much thicker tome, and even though the New Testament endorses and adds to the violence in the Old, when percentages are compared, the Quran comes out ahead. In addition, the kinds of cruelty and violence vary as do the perpetrator and victim and the extent to which any verse can be interpreted as divine sanction for the behaviour in question. Either way, endorsements of violence abound in both.

Bible and Quran believers who recognize verses in this list will no doubt protest that they have been taken out of context, as indeed they have. I think the appropriate response to such a complaint is a question: What context, exactly, would make these verses uplifting, inspiring or worthy of praise? In what context are passages like these some of the most important and holy guidance that the creator of the universe might think to impart to humankind? In what context is a book that contains these passages and many, many more like them the apogee of divine goodness and timeless wisdom?

Members of each Abrahamic tradition are quick to point out the rational and moral flaws in the others. I wonder sometimes, what this world might be like if they were as quick to examine the flaws in their own. –  ValerieTarico.com, 1 June 2013

» Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel. 

Bible & Koran

Has terror a connection to religion? – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth“It is important to find out, whether there is something in the doctrine of Christianity and Islam, which is missing in Hinduism and Buddhism, and which allows or even fosters terror against outsiders. How was it possible for a Timur or Babur or Aurangzeb to have hundreds of thousands of civilian Hindu men slaughtered and their women and children taken as slaves only because they were Hindus? What mindset does it require to be able to do this?” – Maria Wirth

For Allah!“Terror has no religion” is often repeated by politicians and media. At the same time, the most dangerous terrorists of our times like the Islamic State and Boko Haram shout triumphantly “Allah ho Akbar” after brutally killing those whom they consider infidels or opponents of the caliphate. Common sense would suggest that at least these groups inflict terror in the name of Islam.

However, so far, the “correct” view is that these groups don’t follow Islam, but “Islamism“. They are misguided and have distorted the good Islam into a bad Islamism. So they are not Muslims, but Islamists or extremists who follow an “extremist ideology”. Islam has nothing to do with it. Terror may have an ideology, like communism or Nazism, but it has no religion. Obviously this explanation is meant to keep Islam away from scrutiny and its image “sacred”.

Chief Rabbi of Israel & Pope John Paul IIIn the same way, Pope John Paul II tried to keep Christianity and the Church above board, when in the year 2000, he finally asked “forgiveness from God for sins committed against Jews, heretics, women, gypsies and native people“. He, too, did not blame the Church but “sons and daughters of the Church” who committed “mistakes”.

These sons and daughters of the Church surely would proclaim, if they were still around, that they only followed the instructions of the Church—whether it was the brutal Christianization of Latin America, where millions were killed, or the “Holy Inquisition” which consciously used horrific torture and murder to make people fall in line with the unintelligible dictates of the Church.

Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiThe Jihadis of ISIS, too, don’t agree with the view that they misinterpret Islam. They are sure that they follow the true Islam and can quote numerous ayats from the Quran to support their view, for example 8.39: “Oh believers, fight them until there is no more mischief and the Deen of Allah (way of life prescribed by Allah) is established completely.”

If ISIS indeed represents “true” Islam, it is a cause for great concern and needs to be investigated. Why do politicians and community leaders shy away from putting religious texts on the table and under scrutiny? Why the Quran or the Bible is never mentioned when religion is discussed? On 20th July 2015, David Cameron vowed to deal with the poison of extremism. He said: “What we are fighting, in Islamist extremism, is an ideology. It is an extreme doctrine.”

Yet he did not mention the Quran once in his long speech. Why?

It is important to find out, whether there is something in the doctrine of Christianity and Islam, which is missing in Hinduism and Buddhism, and which allows or even fosters terror against outsiders. How was it possible for a Timur or Babur or Aurangzeb to have hundreds of thousands of civilian Hindu men slaughtered and their women and children taken as slaves only because they were Hindus? What mindset does it require to be able to do this?

Yes, there is indeed something in the Christian and Islamic doctrine that condones and even fosters violence, and it is easy to find out: Apart from the true core in all religions, i.e. the acknowledgement and worship of a higher power, Christianity and Islam inject the virus of supremacy into their belief system and contempt for “others” who they claim will be thrown into hell-fire for all eternity. They both claim that the full truth was revealed by the highest authority of the universe only to them and everyone has to believe it. Those who don’t are highly offensive to their God and will suffer for all eternity in hell-fire.

Obviously these two religions—Christianity started the trend—were not content with people worshipping a higher power by whatever name they chose. They wanted to control people and attain world dominion. And what a disaster it turned out to be for humanity! This claim “we have the full truth; God / Allah has chosen us (Christians / Muslims) over them (all others)” is poison for humanity. There is not a shred of Cross & Crescent evidence that this claim is true. In fact, it is clear that it cannot be the absolute truth, yet because it is enshrined in their respective ‘holy book’, nobody questions it.

Reading the Quran it becomes quickly clear that Allah has hatred for unbelievers and also for hypocrites among the believers (which gives Jihadis the justification to kill also Muslims apart from kafirs). He keeps reminding the believers again and again, how they will enjoy paradise and the unbelievers will suffer in hell. He even details the torture in hell in horrific detail. All this is there in the Quran.

Similarly, the Bible also claims that there won’t be any mercy for those who did not accept Christ during their one and only lifetime (the Church forbade the belief in rebirth in 553 AD). The hell for non-Christians is as bad as the hell for non-Muslims. There will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”(Mathew 13.50)—and mind you, for all eternity….

Christianity and Islam never tried to sort out which one of the two is “only true”. They are content to claim “our belief system alone is true and only those, who adopt it, find favour with the Highest”. The reason may be that the top officials in the religious institutions don’t really believe what they tell their flock. If they would believe in eternal hell, several Popes would have lived their lives differently….

Injecting a feeling of supremacy into the faithful pampers to a human weakness—the weakness to feel superior to others, whether as an individual or a group. Belonging to a big group of like-minded people who confirm each other that they are favoured by God and superior, is for many reassuring. Especially in Islam, the brotherhood of the faithful plays a big role in making people stick to their religion.

The claim of both Christianity and Islam that God / Allah has made his will known at a certain point in time to a certain person and wants all to follow their respective religion, and if they don’t, they will be thrown into hell-fire is the poison that needs to be taken out from those ‘religions’.

Incidentally, the term ‘religion’ (Latin to bind or tie) was used from the 11th century on only for the Catholic Church and from the 16th century onwards also for Islam. People were tied into the belief-system, into which they were born, and not allowed to choose how they want to call or imagine the invisible, great Power—a freedom that India traditionally granted. So there is no need to bow one’s head and fold one’s hands in reverence, as soon as someone says ‘this is my religion’. Intelligent reasoning must not be forfeited.

HellNow what can be done? How can the poison be taken out?

This needs to be debated. However I consider one point important: the “others” (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Atheists, etc.) who are said to be thrown into hell-fire, would do well to protest the outrageous, untrue claim that they will suffer in hell for eternity. There is, however, a problem: how can they feel outrage at something, what they don’t believe in. In all likelihood, they consider this hell-claim ridiculous, not worthy of any repudiation. And of course they have a point.

But they overlook a crucial aspect that can become highly dangerous for them: they ignore the mindset which this claim produces in people who believe it. And they should not delude themselves that it is impossible to believe it. It is possible. I know from own experience.

True, nowadays in Europe, the Church (wisely) does not stress “hell” anymore, because many lost faith and even more would leave the Church, but in India it is stressed. The Christian converts, whom I asked, all believed in hell for Hindus, including an IIT professor who converted when he was working in the US. He even convinced his parents to convert. It is clearly a case of making otherwise intelligent persons stupid.

The Quran is full of quotes of hell for unbelievers. Further, Muslim youngsters hear five times daily the azan ending with the words:

“O Allah! Guide us to The Right Way. The Way of those whom You have favored, not of those who have earned Your wrath or of those who have lost The Way” (Quran 1.6,7).

Naturally, they may start to detest their Hindu brothers and sisters who have ‘earned the wrath’ of the Highest, because they don’t heed his words and convert to Islam.

If one day the call for Jihad were given, (Tarek Fatah mentioned in an article that even in Toronto mosques, imams pray for victory over the kafirs) their conscience would be already dysfunctional. They would see nothing wrong in ridding the earth of those who are arrogant enough not to heed the words of the one true God, which according to them are enshrined in the Quran or in the Bible.

Pakistani child terroristsHindus generally don’t realize the power and danger of a mindset, though they need only look to Pakistan. It is the best example of what can become of normal, well-meaning Indians when they are brainwashed into a hateful doctrine. How did Kasab I and II develop the mindset that it’s good to kill Hindus? Who or what is responsible? Or how is it possible for Christian missionaries to cheat simple Hindu folk to get them to sign up for baptism? Even the huge slave trade from Africa and the arrogance of western colonial powers towards the ‘natives’ probably had its root in the brainwashing of being superior and chosen. Rightly, ISIS in a video on the net talk about their brainwashed kids as their greatest asset.

Typically, Islam and Christianity try to avoid scrutiny of their religions for obvious reasons. They are interested to preserve their ‘true and holy’ image that they have enforced over centuries. Attempts are on not only to ban defamation, but even criticism of religions. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has already petitioned the United Nations and Saudi Arabia gave in July 2015 a call to the world to ban all criticism of religion.

Before this hopefully never succeeds, countries like India, China, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar and others should petition the United Nations to ban untrue claims about the afterlife of their non-Muslim and non-Christian citizens, as it breeds contempt and hatred for them.

When children read in their holy book in school how terrible ‘unbelievers’ are, some of them may later be ready to kill those whom they consider rejects by their God. ISIS is taking the Quran literally. They consider it their duty to establish a caliphate and sharia and bring the whole world under it. They are convinced they have made their life meaningful and scoff at those who criticize them as having an ‘extremist ideology’. They ‘know’ they follow the word of Allah.

Can they be blamed? If not them, who or what is to be blamed for their mindset? As long as they don’t doubt certain ayats of the Quran, any de-radicalization program is bound to fail. They will consider clerics who tell them not to follow the Quran to the letter “confused old men”, as a German Turk explained in an interview.

Adi Shankara & MadanmishraOver thousand years ago, Adi Shankara challenged Mandana Mishra for a debate. There is need for a debate today on different aspects of truth, including on whether there is eternal hellfire on the basis of one life or whether there is rebirth on the level of this universe. At least people need to be made aware about this hell claim and how ridiculous it is.

The true core of all religions needs to be strengthened. This core is common to all and beneficial. It is the claim that there is a great invisible power behind this visible universe. This true core was known since ages and is explained in the Indian tradition in its purest form. It is not an invention by Christianity and Islam. In fact, these two religions can learn from Hindu Dharma how many different ways of expressing one’s faith can live peacefully side by side. Hindu Dharma doesn’t tie its followers into a rigid belief system, but helps them to become free by realizing the truth in oneself.

Harmful, untrue dogmas like “this invisible power is jealous and wants this or that …  and if you don’t do it, it will throw you into hellfire” need to be weeded out.

Only then humanity can be one family.

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

Zeus

Marriage in the Bible: Captive virgins, polygamy and sex slaves – Valerie Tarico

Dr Valerie Tarico“The God of the Bible explicitly endorses polygamy and sexual slavery and coerced marriage of young virgins along with monogamy. In fact, he endorses all three to the point of providing detailed regulations. Based on stories of sex and marriage that God rewards and appears to approve one might add incest to the mix of sexual contact that receives divine sanction. … Furthermore, none of the norms that are endorsed and regulated in the Old Testament law – polygamy, sexual slavery, coerced marriage of young girls—are revised, reversed, or condemned by Jesus.” – Dr Valerie Tarico

David & JonathanBible believers are beside themselves about the prospect that marriage norms and laws are changing, but let me tell you a secret about Bible believers that I know because I was one. Most don’t actually read their Bibles.

If they did, they would know that the biblical model of sex and marriage has little to do with the one they so loudly defend. Sex in the Bible includes rape, incest, master-slave sexual relations, captive virgins, and more. Of course, just because a story is told in the Bible doesn’t mean it is intended as a model for moral behaviour. Does God forbid or command the behaviour? Is it punished or rewarded? In the New Testament stories, does Jesus change the rules or leave them alone? By these criteria, the Bible not only describes many forms of sexual relationships (including sexually coercive relationships), it gives them the divine thumbs up.

Not one man, one woman

The God of the Bible explicitly endorses polygamy and sexual slavery and coerced marriage of young virgins along with monogamy. In fact, he endorses all three to the point of providing detailed regulations. Based on stories of sex and marriage that God rewards and appears to approve one might add incest to the mix of sexual contact that receives divine sanction.

Prophet and ConcubinesNew Testament endorses Old Testament

Nowhere does the Bible say, “Don’t have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you.” Consent, in the Bible, is not a thing. Furthermore, none of the norms that are endorsed and regulated in the Old Testament law—polygamy, sexual slavery, coerced marriage of young girls—are revised, reversed, or condemned by Jesus. In fact, the writer of Matthew puts these words in the mouth of Jesus:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law [the Old Testament] until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

The Law of which Jesus speaks is the Law of Moses, or the Torah, and anyone who claims the Bible as the perfect word of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God should have the decency to read the Torah carefully—and then keep going.

• Sex Slaves. Concubines are sex slaves, and the Bible gives instructions on acquisition of several types of sex slaves, although the line between biblical marriage and sexual slavery is blurry. A Hebrew man might, for example, sell his daughter to another Hebrew, who then has certain obligations to her once she is used. For example, he can’t then sell her to a foreigner. Alternately a man might see a virgin war captive that he wants for himself.

• Polygamy. Polygamy is a norm in the Old Testament and accepted in the New Testament. Biblicalpolygamy.com has pages dedicated to 40 biblical figures, each of whom had multiple wives. The list includes patriarchs like Abraham and Isaac. King David, the first king of Israel may have limited himself to eight wives, but his son Solomon, reputed to be the wisest man who ever lived had 700 wives and 300 concubines! (1 Kings 11)

• War Booty. In the book of Numbers (31:18) God’s servant commands the Israelites to kill all of the used Midianite women who have been captured in war, and all of the boy children, but to keep all of the virgin girls for themselves. The Law of Moses spells out a purification ritual to prepare a captive virgin for life as a concubine. It requires her Tamar &  Judahowner to shave her head and trim her nails and give her a month to mourn her parents before the first sex act (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). A Hebrew girl who is raped can be sold to her rapist for 50 shekels, or about $580 (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). He must then keep her as one of his wives for as long as she lives.

• Brother’s Wife. A man might acquire multiple wives whether he wanted them or not if his brother died. In fact, if a brother dies with no children, it becomes a duty to impregnate his wife. In the book of Genesis, Onan is struck dead by God because he fails to fulfill this duty—preferring to spill his seed on the ground rather than providing offspring for his brother (Genesis 38:8-10). A New Testament story shows that the tradition has survived. Jesus is a rabbi, and a group of scholars called Sadducees try to test his knowledge of Hebrew Law by asking him this question:

“Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (Matthew 22:24-28).

Jesus is too clever for them and points out that in Heaven, that place of perfect bliss, there is no marriage.

Having a brother act as a sperm donor isn’t the only biblical solution to lack of offspring. The patriarch Abraham is married to his half-sister Sarah, but the two are childless for the first 75 years or so of their marriage. Frustrated, Sarah finally says, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Her slave, Hagar, becomes pregnant, and then later Sarah does too and the story gets complicated (Genesis 16). But that doesn’t stop Abraham’s grandson Jacob from participating in a competition, in which his two wives repeatedly send in their slaves to get pregnant by him, each trying to get more sons than the other (Genesis 30:1-22).

Abraham, Sarah and HagarBible believers or simply change-averse?

These stories might be irrelevant to the question of biblical marriage were it not that Bible believers keep telling us that God punishes people when he dislikes their sexual behaviour. He disliked the behaviour of New Orleans gays so much, according to Pat Robertson, that he sent a hurricane to drown the whole city—kind of like Noah’s flood. And yet, according to the Bible story, both Abraham and Jacob were particularly beloved and blessed by God.

The point is that marriage has changed tremendously since the Iron Age when the Bible was written. For centuries, concubines and polygamy were debated by Christian leaders—accepted by some and rejected by others. The nuclear family model so prized by America’s fundamentalist Christians emerged from the interplay between Christianity and European cultures including the monogamous tradition of the Roman Empire. As humanity’s moral consciousness has evolved, coerced sex has become less acceptable even within marriage while intertribal and interracial marriage has grown in acceptance. Today even devout Bible believers oppose sexual slavery. Marriage, increasingly, is a commitment of love, freely given. Gay marriage is simply a part of this broader conversation, and opposition on the part of Bible believers has little to do with biblical monogamy.

Since many Christians haven’t read the whole Bible, most “Bible believers” are not, as they like to claim, actually Bible believers. Biblical literalists, even those who think themselves “nondenominational,” almost all follow some theological tradition that tells them which parts of the Bible to follow and how. Granted, sometimes even decent people do get sucked into a sort of text worship that I call bibliolatry, and Bible worship can make a person’s moral priorities as archaic and cruel as those of the Iron Age tribesmen who wrote the texts. (I once listened, horrified, while a sweet, elderly pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses rationalized the Old Testament slaughter of children with the same words Nazis used to justify the slaughter of Jewish babies.)

US Supreme Court 2015But many who call themselves Bible believers are simply, congenitally conservative—meaning change-resistant. What really concerns them is protecting the status quo, an ancient hierarchy with privileged majority-culture straight males at the top, which they justify by invoking ancient texts. Gay marriage will come, as will other reproductive rights, and these Bible believers will adapt to the change as they have others: reluctantly, slowly and with angry protests, but in the end accepting it, and perhaps even insisting that it was God’s will all along. – Raw Story, 29 June 2015

Westboro Baptist Church

Judgement Day Prediction

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