In the US, religious affiliation is at the lowest now since it began to be tracked in 1930s. And an atheist church in London that expected only 20 people to turn up when it opened early this year was overwhelmed when 200 turned up on the first day, followed by 300 on the second day.
A recent Gallup survey indicates that religion is strongest among the poor, the troubled, and the less educated countries.
For example, whereas 9 out of 10 people are religious in Ghana, Nigeria, Armenia and Fiji, and just 1% in Iraq and Afghanistan being atheists, 5% of population in Saudi Arabia described themselves as non-believers even though not believing in God is a crime in that country.
The map below shows the percentage of atheists in different countries (taken from the Daily Mail; click the image to view the image source):
With that in perspective, let me switch over to yesterday’s article by Khushwant Singh in The Telegraph. I reproduce the main article below which Khushwant received from Narinder K. Sabharwal of Gurgaon.
We all believe that there is a divine power, which controls the existence and movements of all the planets in our solar system and has also created life on our planet, earth. This phenomenon has been unexplainable for millions of years.
But human beings remain awestruck at the mystery behind the creation of life. Out of reverence emanating from intense fear — experiencing the ferocity of the vagaries of nature like earthquakes, lightning, cyclones and tsunami — humans christened the ‘invisible divine power’ as god.
Different communities worldwide have had different ‘saints’ since time immemorial; they have been credited with ‘miracles’ as a result of their followers’ superstitious beliefs. Then, with the passage of time, the followers started worshipping them as ‘gods’.
Finally, there were hundreds of contenders to the single coveted throne of ‘the god’. Since there were as many communities worldwide as were contenders, each saint was accommodated as god within their own communities, leaving again the question of the existence of the abstract divine power unanswered for posterity.
Now, notably among the Hindu community, to which I also happen to belong, some have started drifting away from their acclaimed gods, like Ram, Krishna, Shiv, Hanumanji and others, and have started finding solace in worshipping Sai Baba of Shirdi, Sai Baba who had the honeycomb hairdo, Sheranwali Mata of Vaishnu Devi, right down to even the living babas and matas, who have sprung overnight like mushrooms, catering to the growing popular demand.
Somehow, it has now become a fashion, among the new rich and famous, especially the film fraternity, to proudly declare being a follower of some kind of a new religious sect and thereby to be able to prove having joined the league of like-minded, misguided, directionless and highly superstitious followers, devoid of any sane thinking.
It is very shocking to see even the educated flocking to such meaningless religious congregations, arranged by these self-styled ‘gods’. They do not believe in any reasoning and when confronted, the only thing they point to is their ‘aastha’ (blind faith) which, in a way, is just a ‘vyavastha’of getting away with being apathetic.
As for my personal faith, I firmly believe in god — the invisible divine power. At the same time, though having great respect for all religions, I do not believe in any religion and strictly adhere to the philosophy of the karma.
I am also of the belief that the gods who are worshipped are not gods; they were just saints. But we should give them all the respect they deserve and look up to them for wisdom and guidance. They were not gods because anybody in flesh and blood, with shortcomings and weaknesses, can never be god.
Religion comes to human beings not by choice but by default. A person’s religion depends on he or she being born in a particular community. And since no religion professes hatred for other communities, why do we swear by our gods before attacking people of other communities with different religious faiths?
In the present world order, we should give our religions a break in order to check the growing intolerance towards other religions, resulting in the menace of terrorism worldwide.