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God doesn’t need bribing and he doesn’t need sucking up to

November 27, 2006

A large chunk of our population (57%) feel that being ‘religious’ is more important than being a good person (TOI/TNS survey). I always suspected this but it’s sad that the percentage is so large.

Is Religious=Ritualistic?
When people call themselves ‘religious’ they mean they conduct poojas regularly and visit temples. How does this make them ‘religious’? Surely there is a difference between being religious and being ritualistic? I do not think the more rituals you conduct to ‘please’ God, the more religious you become. In fact I always averse to the idea that ritualistic = religious.
Rituals are so obviously conducted to give oneself peace of mind and/or also to create an impression upon others. Or do people really think that poojas please God? Is God so egoistic that he needs sucking up to? Why, God can see right into your mind. If you are selfish, evil or a plain liar and a thief, He can see. He will not like you at all and no amount of praying will make him bestow on you the favours you seek. The rituals land up pleasing no one but yourself, your family and society. And I can’t believe that at some level, the person who conducts the ritual doesn’t know this. It is nothing but hypocrisy to pretend that you are religious when in your heart you are not a moral person.
On the other hand a person who is kind, helpful and honest is far more likely to please God, whether he does his daily pooja or not. This is ofcourse assuming that everyone has the same concept of God as I have. That God=Good.

Does God answer the prayers of the wicked?
I cannot imagine God answering the prayers of the wicked. Wicked people ask for wicked things. For example there is one woman I know whose husband is a builder. They have a lot of black money and she makes sure that God (Tirupati) gets a lakh or two of commission every year, what she prefers to call ‘dakhshina’. ‘It keeps us safe,’ this silly woman tells me. She actually believes that God can be bribed! What’s keeping them safe from the law is her husband’s cunning, not God’s ashirwad (blessings).

Plain hypocrisy
Coming back to the survey. There were a lot of people in the survey (56 %) who felt that God was energy. But did these people conduct poojas as well? If you truly believe that God is energy, will you to pray to Ma Durga, Lord Ganpati, or Jesus Christ? If these people who believed God to be energy, conducted poojas, what were their reasons to indulge in the rituals? To please others?

How can a wicked person think of himself as a ‘believer’?
Most of the people surveyed felt that God bestowed favours on people irrespective of whether they were believers and non-believers. But what is a non-believer? A person who does not visit a temple? A person who is does not conduct rituals? Is a person who thinks of God as energy a non-believer? And do the wicked fall into the category of believers because they conduct rituals?

It’s a sad situation
All I can say is that if this survey is true, and a large section of our nation believes that being ‘religious’ is more important than being moral, then we need to feel ashamed of it.

An extraordinary poem by James Leigh Hunt illustrates my point of view very well. I have changed it slightly to suit our countrymen.

Ram bhai Singh

Ram bhai Singh (may his tribe increase!)
awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
and saw, within the moonlight of his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
Brahma himself, writing in a book of gold.
Exceeding peace had made Ram bhai bold,
and to the Presence in the room he said:
“What writest thou?” Lord Brahma raised his head,
And, with a look made of all sweet accord,
answered, “The names of those who love the Gods.”
“And is mine one?” said Ram, “Nay, not so,”
replied the Creator. Ram spoke more low,
but cheerily still, and said, “I pray thee, then,
write me as one who loves his fellow men.”
The Creator wrote, and vanished. The next night
He came again, with a great awakening light,
and showed the names whom love of God had blest,
and lo! Ram Bhai’s name led all the rest.

Related Reading: Godmen and Gurus are the buzzword today
A book which busts some myths about Hinduism

 

24 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2006 11:45 am

    First of all there’s no evidence that there is god. What else would u expect from people who beleive in something that doesnt exist?

  2. November 28, 2006 12:29 pm

    came here via desipundit …
    i have always had this doubt. Do we go to hell just because we don’t believe in God. If god gets angry because we don’t believe in him, doest it make god too pretentious. and pretentiousnesses surely not a “godly” character.

  3. November 28, 2006 1:08 pm

    Absolutely agree with you Shankar. It is quite impossible to ‘suffer’ just because you don’t believe in God, because God (even if you look just at the concept of God) is not egoistic, like human beings can be. If He is like that, if he showers his blessings only on those who believe in him, it means he is not God.
    And Murugan, I think most people want something to believe in. Some choose God. But apparently a large percentage of them (according to the survey) simply have no idea what God is or or what the concept of God is. They have no idea that the concept of God in entwined with morality, not rituals. Rituals may be a way to reach out to Him, but if there is no morality, the rituals are useless and will not please Him.

  4. November 28, 2006 6:43 pm

    Every religion in the world follows a set of rituals, so cant do much about that…

    Even Ravana was the biggest worshipper of Lord Shiva, which made him invincible in some respects…There have been enough cases of Asuras wowing Gods with their penance. So why blame the black moneyed ?

    A reading of Hindu scriptures would indicate that God is energy. But we all need manifestations of energy so that we can imagine and believe. In fact other religions like Christainity do not have this concept if you will..

  5. November 28, 2006 8:06 pm

    That is a good point you have made Jayesh. About even an Asura wowing Gods with his penance. That is exactly what some people think they can do. However the concept is not one I like. The legend may say that it can be done, but I do not believe that it can be. Not in real life. That is the root of people’s thinking though. They think they can be evil and still be religious because of our legends.
    I have nothing against rituals per se. What is not good is the sanctimonious attitude of those who are ritualistic. They can be asuras, but they think they are believers and are blessed by God. I firmly believe that they are not blessed.
    People should look at the root of Hinduism, and not take these things literally. They take it literally because it’s convinient. They use rituals as a mask.

  6. Misha permalink
    November 29, 2006 3:39 am

    The point with Hindu scriptures and epics, one that is often missed because of a western outlook of good and bad, is that they potray all beings with shades of grey. Things are never an absolute right or wrong and depend heavily on context. It is ok for krishna to cheat and get the sun to set early to prevent the pandavas from losing that day’s battle. It is ok for Rama to shoot at Vali from the back and it is ok for Draupadi to decline marrying Karna even though he won the challenge. Hinduism relies heavily on the big picture philosophy and justifies small wrongs in the context of a bigger right.
    An arguement on similar grounds also justifies Ravana wowing the Gods. They have an equal opportunity policy . As an asura maybe he will need harder penance to first wipe his slate clean of all the bad karma and then build on it till it reaches wowable mark but given that he has made the effort, his efforts are rewarded!

    My two-bit on the main post.The concept of God, in my opinion, has to have stemmed from a very rational mind as a way to explain the many things in nature that we are not able to explain. This rationale is interpreted as energy by some, as idols by others and as a set of rituals by some others. Each group has its believers who follow the path because they see the rationality behind it and it has some followers who don’t know why they are doing what they are doing. It is probably easier to spot the follower kind in groups 2 and 3 but that does not necessarily mean all people who believe god is energy or for that matter agnostics and atheists know what they are talking about.

    Came here through desipundit and I am only sorry I didint visit earlier🙂

  7. Schizo Phrenic permalink
    November 29, 2006 9:59 am

    Good post

    Humans have this unique skill of living in paradoxes. This dichotomy of principle from practice and reason from principle is what ails all religions today. as the famous slogan puts it “Muh me ram bagal me churi”.

    Indian religious philosophies allow for a lot of relativism, moral, social and cultural, so it does not seem strange that the professional thug also has a personal deity who he appeases by beating up people.

    Its plain unreasonable to many of us, but that’s religion fro you.

    ciao

    schizo

  8. November 30, 2006 2:03 am

    Good Post Nita. Came here through Desipundit.

    I have put my thoughts in a blog and I am linking it here, as it is a little long.

    http://thehindu.wordpress.com/2006/11/30/ritual-and-religion/

    Please post your responses here. Nita’s post deserves the credit.

  9. December 4, 2006 12:56 pm


    Is God so egoistic that he needs sucking up to?

    our minds should suck when we are deprived of magnificient and nice things like bunglow and car and occasional partying …..


    Why, God can see right into your mind.

    Is there a god that pokes into your mind. Though that god would be magnificient, atleast it would leave us alone.No mind would be required to do sucking upto the god ! Real confusion here.


    If you are selfish, evil or a plain liar and a thief, He can see. He will not like you at all and no amount of praying will make him bestow on you the favours you seek.

    That atleast makes some space for humans… to pardon when god doesn’t. Such an act would make humans godly ….

  10. January 11, 2007 3:42 am

    “Is Religious=Ritualistic?”
    Religion has rituals, but if those rituals become your religion then you become lost. The alter, the bowls, the smoke, the incense, the incantations, the robes, dropping to your knees in servitude, all these are rituals. When these rituals become forced, when they become more important than the G/god you serve, that’s when you become lost.

    “Does God answer the prayers of the wicked?”
    Yes. It’s a bit of a cliche but sometimes God’s answer is no. God’s domain is over the wicked as well as the righteous. If someone believes in a god that can be corrupted so easily as to be swayed by a few coins in a bowl, then how can they expect that god to have any power over their salvation?

    “How can a wicked person think of himself as a ‘believer’?”
    The wicked only have belief in themselves. They believe they can hide from God because they believe they are above God’s judgements. There are good people who do wicked things, but these people have generally lost the hope needed to continue.

    This is a link to someone who is asking similar questions: http://www.queenminx.com/

  11. Nite Rules permalink
    January 14, 2007 6:54 am

    this is complicated to explain. you have to undersrand there exists only one God, but there are several demi-Gods (devas).

  12. Nite Rules permalink
    January 14, 2007 7:02 am

    sorry. continuing on the previous post. most poeple aren’t likely to believe this, but this has been asserted over and over again in the scriptures. you CAN pray to the demigods and attain your wishes, even if you ar evil. demigods are obligated to favor you if you perform appropriate penance. But God, Vishnu, won’t. you can’t find any instance where Vishnu gives boons to asuras.
    if you don’t believe in God these are moot points, of course. see, God isn’t going to curse you because you don’t believe in Him, but it is a simple matter of logic that you won’t reach His abode if you don’t believe it exists. you have to born again, and again, until you believe and surrender, where upon you will be relieved of this maya and attain moksha.

  13. Deepu permalink
    January 17, 2007 3:07 am

    Go thru this site. It will give you a good idea of who God is thru the eyes of the people who have ‘experienced’ him

    http://www.near-death.com

    Do Share your comments.

  14. Dilip Kapasi permalink
    April 15, 2007 11:28 am

    For Indians at large to believe in this aristocratic thinking that being godly is being good, is absolutely ok I suppose. It is much better than being indulged in the fast pace of daily life and never allow to set free themselves unless they do visit God’s place for an hour or two. Kaash, that is what India can really appreciate if one spends a little time by himself or herself in the divine place, be it goodly or Godly. God has perhaps seen this dimension of an Indian today and really done him or her a favor by propagating an idea that “hey guy, you come here and rest for a while, and things will be all right”. Guess how the lives of people be if there were no temples in India!! It would be more chaotic I think. Would appreciate your comment to my satiric comment, but really true, I suppose.

  15. April 15, 2007 6:23 pm

    Dilip, I do not agree at all that “being godly is being good” is aristrocratic thinking. I strongly believe that its down to earth thinking.

  16. December 11, 2007 5:23 pm

    Slogan Murugan wrote:
    >>First of all there’s no evidence that there is god. What else would u expect from people who beleive in something that doesnt exist?>>

    Even doctors and scientists know that there is no evidence to prove the existence of god but they too believe gods and souls and spend money for marriages and rituals. They think that natural sciences are different from social sciences. I don’t attend marriages and other rituals. I didn’t even perform religious rituals when my father died though I know that my relatives may scold me if I refuse to do so. I know that all these rituals are waste of money and they are for feeding brahmins who earn without hard work. But many people do not agree with my replies regarding rituals. They consider me as heretic but I don’t like to pretend to believe all these non-materialistic senses. I cannot waste my time by making arguments with those people who believe that natural sciences are different from social sciences. So, I talk more about social philosophy than nature and atheism. I do talk against religion some times and also read funny arguments made by believers for justifying religious beliefs.

  17. Sahil permalink
    December 28, 2007 12:25 am

    I don’t think younger people want to be religious anymore! Religion thrives on supposed virtues of abstinence from a lot of good things in life – in this mass-consumerist culture, very few of us would want to sacrifice on the pleasures life offers you when you can afford them! Not that we should allow India to repeat the mistake Western countries made – trading their spiritual existence (based on Christianity) into a material, self-hating one – we don’t want the same vacuum in the lives of our future generations, if at all the country becomes developed. Even if religion reinforces solidarity and a balance of mind for individuals, it’s presence is welcome in our daily lives.

    I think India should follow Japan’s model as far as absorption of religion into mainstream life is concerned. Unlike Western countries, Japan is a very stable society with none of the ill-effects that easy money brings upon a developed country. It basically follows a syncretic religion based on Shinto, Buddhist and Christian principles. India should also do something along similar lines; all the major religions in the world are represented in India -let children know enough about other religions so that they become more comfortable in dealing with “differences” when they become responsible adults.

    With this intention, I support a secular “morning prayer” in schools.

  18. January 23, 2008 7:27 am

    @Sahil: What about the atheists?

  19. February 29, 2008 10:02 pm

    Hi Nita, landed here from Laksh’s page, and enojyed the space you have going here…esp. liked this post where you have changed Hunt’s poem to resonate your thoughts.. I agree with you to the extend that God’s justice is served according to one’s karma, not bribes…why does it seem like God is taking bribes…again Karma. I am sure you know the story of Ajamala – you can follow the link for the story –

    http://www.geocities.com/profvk/VK2/SBAB8.html

    I believe that it was his good karmas that led him to name his son Narayana which eventually saved his soul…so even with the wicked there are ways of redemption..thanks much for such a thought provoking post.

  20. July 29, 2008 9:31 pm

    Nita, Religion and morality are western concepts, where religion dictates the good and bad of man as a function of the society, Hindu morality does not stem from religion but rather from spirituality. There is a big difference. While religion has its roots on mans fears, and rituals are a part of what makes it function, spirituality has more of a philosophical overtone to it. Our mythologies are a good example of this. We have asuras and wicked people do great penance, and gain boons of immortality or great power that harm the innocent. We have gods who are not perfectionists too. But even the very trinity gods, are not the end of the spiritual path. They themselves are portrayed as constantly meditating on the essence called Brahma. Our morality is governed by the spiritual path that is governed by Karma and Phalas. Heaven and hell are also considered only temporary worlds among the many worlds. Our morality dictates the direction of the soul. While religion provides immediate cure to an amoral society, by gripping it with fear. True morality should perhaps stem from within, which is the true Hindu goal.

  21. July 29, 2008 9:49 pm

    I have come to this post again after a long time and I thank all those who have come and left their thoughts in the intervening period.
    thoughtroom, thanks.Your response was rather deep for a person, an agnostic, to really understand fully. But yes I agree true morality should stem from within.

  22. July 30, 2008 1:07 am

    Nita, I have taken the liberty to link this post, that was the inspiration for a thought bubble, I expressed at my blog. Thanks in advance.

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