Revisit Your Religious Beliefs

A human is a member of a species of bipedal primates in the family Hominidae. Humans have a highly developed brain, capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection and problem solving. This mental capability has allowed humans to make far greater use of tools than any other species. Humans are distributed worldwide, with significant populations inhabiting most land areas of Earth. Today, the human population on Earth is greater than 6.7 billion.

We, the humans are social by nature and particularly adept at utilizing systems of communication—primarily spoken, gestured and written language—for self-expression, the exchange of ideas and organization. In course of time, we have created complex social structures composed of many cooperating and competing groups, from families to nations. Social interactions between us have established an extremely wide variety of traditions, rituals, ethics, values, social norms and laws, which together form the basis of human society. We are distinctive as a species on the Earth by having a perception of beauty and aesthetics at least to a point which results in a material culture. This, when combined with the desire for self- expression and a proportionally large brain-size, has led to innovations such as art, written language, music and science.

We seek to understand and influence the environment around us by trying to explain and manipulate natural phenomena through philosophy, art, science and mythology. This natural curiosity has led to the development of advanced tools and skills. Although we are not the only species to use tools, we are unique in building fires, cooking our food and clothing ourselves; as well as using other advanced technologies. We pass down our skills and knowledge to the next generations and so are regarded as dependent upon culture.

To lead the life in a structured society, we have created code of living, named as religion. In other words, we can say that a religion is an organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural or transcendent quality, that give meaning to the practitioner’s experiences of life through reference to a higher power, God or gods, or ultimate truth. It may be expressed through prayer, ritual, meditation, dance, music and art, among other things. It may focus on specific supernatural, metaphysical, and moral claims about reality (the cosmos and human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws, ethics, and a particular lifestyle. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience.

The term “religion” refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction. Religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system, but it is more socially defined than personal convictions, and it entails specific behaviors, respectively. The development of religion has taken many forms in various cultures. It considers psychological and social roots, along with origins and historical development. And today, different communities have codified their religions differently and sometime, their different sets of beliefs have created inter-section clashes or difference of opinion so greatly that they go to violence to prevail their own school of thinking on the other community.

Prima facie, religions present a common quality, the “hallmark of patriarchal religious thought”: the division of the world in two comprehensive domains, one sacred, the other profane. Religion is often described as a communal system for the coherence of belief focusing on a system of thought, unseen being, person, or object, that is considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine, or of the highest truth. Moral codes, practices, values, institutions, tradition, rituals, and scriptures are often traditionally associated with the core belief, and these may have some overlap with concepts in secular philosophy. Religion is also often described as a way of life or a life stance.

Religion and happiness have been studied by a number of researchers. For example, the Handbook of Religion and Health describes a survey by Feigelman (1992) who examined happiness in Americans who have given up religion, in which it was found that there was little relationship between religious disaffiliation and unhappiness. A survey by Kosmin & Lachman (1993), also cited in this handbook, indicates that people with no religious affiliation appear to be at greater risk for depressive symptoms than those affiliated with a religion. The Legatum Prosperity Index reflects the repeated finding of research on the science of happiness that there is a positive link between religious engagement and wellbeing: people who report that God is very important in their lives are on average more satisfied with their lives, after accounting for their income, age and other individual characteristics.

However, the staunch believer of some religions have created fundamentalism to that extent that they do not afford to bear any different view other than what they hold. Moreover, they do not wish to review even if their views have become obsolete in course of time or not. Fundamentalism refers to a belief in, and strict adherence to a set of basic principles. When such beliefs became a major concern for inter-community peace, an innovative idea was moved by Sarvadharma Sansad – parliament of religions – under the leadership of Swami Agnivesh to start a mini social revolution of sorts by charting a programme to deal with seven sins complied in the Vatican. The Sarvadharma Sansad members, borrowing the idea of coalition governments from politics, decided to found a group of various religious leaders who would work for social transformation in society.

The rationale behind the initiative is: If political parties from completely different ideologies can come together to remain in power supposedly to serve the nation, why can’t religious leaders of different faiths come together to initiate people from across the spectrum to cooperate and work towards removing some of the basic evils in society? The group believes that rather than trying to understand one another’s religion by learning dogmas or scriptures of different faiths, the best form of inter-religious dialogue effect of such dialogue through effect of such dialogue through concrete action.

After a Vatican official listed the present-day social sins, a long-planned convention of Sarvadharma Sansad was held with the purpose of creating public awareness to spread the movement. Participants pledged to work towards the betterment of society by observing the seven virtues or by abstaining from the seven sins – first in their own lives, and later by influencing others to do the same.
The seven issues of the common minimum programme agreed upon by the Sansad are quite simple. They can be practised as well as propagated by most people. They are:

1) Create a casteless society by promoting inter-caste marriages;
2) Work towards gender equality by vehemently opposing female foeticide and the dowry system;
3) Work towards communal harmony by granting equal opportunities, respecting of all religions and having common celebration of major religious festivals;
4) Work against the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs by opposing government policies that encourage their consumption to earn revenues;
5) Work towards encouraging scientific temper and oppose widespread superstitious beliefs;
6) Work towards eradicating corruption in public and private places;
7) Work towards freeing society by opposing child labour, exploitation of the poor and other forms of injustice.

During the convention, some religious leaders prone to social activism argued for adding some more issues such as the protection and conservation of environment and opposition to any kind of military spending, which each country wastes each year on arms. For it is by discouraging violence that one can bring about real peace. On our part too, we can adopt all or some of the principles mentioned above and make this world happier by revisiting our religious beliefs held so far.

Be Happy – Revisit Your Religious Beliefs.