IntroductionReligion is a common ideology of a group of people which sets certain norms and values to the human beings and for the betterment of the society. It speaks about God or the 'Guiding force' of this universe, in whatever form mankind may think. As such it cannot be banned by law, the reason being the religious feeling in the sense of the desire to be one with god can no means be erased from people's minds. The manner in which religion as a social institution operates in practice makes a difference here.
An overviewReligion is nothing but representation of Nature and Mankind together. We may not control or comprehend certain things which are represented by the religion but they contribute to unite us all. An enlightened society takes note of both the favorable and unfavorable influences that are at work. No religion encourages violence or enmity among various groups. The favorable influence of religion is basically two:
First, fear of god prevents a man to do an evil thing and makes him to think twice before doing so. Secondly, at times, it leads the human being to sacrifice or the desire to do good things even at the cost of some hardship to oneself. It is an important uniting factor. And of course religion teaches and enhances morality. It condemns all unethical and immoral acts and teaches people to do their duty, shun evil and serve the society.
The discrimination between the coreligionists and other followers, on the undesirable side, is somewhat an unwarranted practice in every religion. It is not considered as great as a sin if the person you harm is a follower of different faith. It is one thing to favour a relative or a person of your community in private life; it is quite another to deal less than fairly in public matters with a person not belonging to your community. Religion makes no systematic effort to segregate one's private life from one's public life. From religion one just learns to discriminate against non-coreligionists in general which is against the concepts of quality and brotherhood which are basic to democracy.
Some communal rights are witnessed the participation of both religious and irreligious people and also the reckless action of militants or terrorists in some states. The militants and others who indulge in terrorism or other form of violence have no respect to the religion. Actually they defy the teachings of the religion and saints and Gurus of various faiths and betray their religion. The aftermath of various communal riots also show that misguided people killed the rival group community members and burnt down houses on mere rumors. This is all standing disgrace to the Nation.
It encourages people to act ethically. However, there is good reason to believe that people's behavior (ethically) is independent of religious belief. Accepting the reality of religious diversity in a society is merely the acknowledgement that a multitude of choices exists.
Influence of Religion on societyIn an ideal spiritually-diverse society, we won't find prejudice, exclusion, marginalization, narrow mindedness and violence as these are generally come out due to intolerance or ignorance. Historians, archaeologists and scholars tell us that every faith is a vivid combination of scripture, tradition, ritual and personal encounter with some aspect of divinity.
The ideas of a Buddha, a Mohammed, or a Christ in scriptures, churches, mosques, temples, rituals and laws are vivid and clear. We can't try to rationalise these things and try to minimize the authenticity of their validity. Living with religious diversity, its institutions and uncertainties, promotes compassion, patience and the humility of an open heart.
Following religion is a convenient system for establishing morality, and thus, social order. It triggers a sense of unity in its periphery, and therefore perhaps there is more friendliness among the followers. By referring to the religious books, they also provide convenient answers to great questions, therefore quelling fears and providing reassurance for the living.
The plight of victims of natural disasters and epidemics would stand as symbol for the social conscience of the society and their religious path. The moral responsibility and exploration of spiritual values influence the growth of the social standards of the society. In a cyclic process it would determine the grading of the progress of civilization, when social growth for society is supported by both religious and secular laws.
Religious concepts of equality and social harmony can bind a community into a cohesive force that benefits its members. A developed society demands that these concepts be incorporated into its governing system to mirror man's rights and expectations. Society thus endorses spiritual and legal boundaries within which individuals may live securely and comfortably.
Wrap UpThere should be no room for prejudice or a sense of superiority to colour its attitudes, if religion serves as an instrument for the social growth of the society. The supremacy and special identity of certain class of people or category divide communities which may lead to conflict and the breakdown of social cohesion. It is the duty of the religious leaders to promote a sense of tolerance and fair-mindedness among their followers and to lead by example which would help in the betterment of the society.
Jagdish Patro is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to ISC and other websites. Fond of reading books, novels and spends his leisure time by listening to music. He did his B.Sc in Applied Chemistry and his M.Sc in Resource Development Technology. He edited and published an in-house monthly journal by name ‘Srujana’ during 2009-2011 which was totally a private circulation.
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Ever since making was born, the religion aspect is bothering him too much and it is taking center stage in every aspect. As far as politics and power is concerned religion still playing major role. The main reason for Telangana agitation that this region was not ruled by the downtrodden and the power always given to the higher class caste people who never cared for the aspirations and expectations of the locals. That is why the new Telangana is going to have the first CM from the Dalit community and that will set aside the demand for equality of religion and caste in the politics.