Revisit Religion, Do Not Reject It
By Dr Basheer Ahmed Khan
Garden Grove, CA
On the morning of November 28, 2015, I saw an anchor of Fox News conducting an interview with a student of seventh grade. Her teacher had failed her in a test because she was not willing to believe that God was a myth, and she did not comply with her teacher’s instruction to base her answer on intellect, and not on scriptures. This girl who believed in God and loved Him with all her heart, soul and spirit is not considered a Muslim in ethnic or legal sense. Thanks to the attitude of the religious establishment which values tradition of the church and mosque more than the letter and spirit of scripture. In the GMA program of ABC News, dated December 17, 2015, there was a ticker which said: A professor in a Chicago College was removed from her job because she taught her students that the God of Christians and Muslims was the same.
The argument against religion is on the rise these days because of the abuse of religious symbols and slogans by those involved in wars going on around the world. A knife is meant for cutting vegetables and fruits. If someone uses it to kill a person then the blame should not rest on the knife but on the individual who has abused it. Religion is exempt from this rule and is blamed for all the heinous acts committed in its name even by those who have no remote relation with it. The pity is that the influential anti-Religion lobby wants to eliminate religion and the reality of God from the public square and some satanic forces furnish them a pretext for this. This assault on religion is a greater loss to the Public Square than to religion. Despite the chaos which governments are creating in the world by their corruption and deliberate negligence no one wants to shun the governments except the few who want to take over its role to continue with their loot, unhinged, but everyone is ready to pounce on the religion and push it out of the public square on every pretext.
The main aim of religion was to evoke in people God-consciousness which is essential to guard the actions of individuals that trample upon the rights of fellow beings and disrupt peace in the public square. Laws and law enforcement machinery alone are not enough to make men law-abiding. By making religion a private affair we may create some law-abiding, church-going citizens, but they are not enough to bring peace to the world when the rest of the people are working to destroy it with their wanton behavior. We need honest and sincere people in parliament and in law enforcement to make just laws and enforce them impartially to keep the public square inclusive and safe. Political maneuvering and laws based on popular sentiments engineered by mass media to serve interest groups may solve our problem temporarily only to emerge with a vengeance in the immediate future. We need a deep sense of responsibility in polity to solve the problems of our public square and this can be achieved more easily and successfully by developing God-consciousness than through expensive and cumbersome legal process. Fear of law and law enforcement machinery is not enough for those who make laws and enforce them. Religion is needed as much for the clerks in the office as it is needed for the choir in the church not to dish out favor to co- religionists but to uphold the spirit of fairness in the public square.
As we are not imbued with the true spirit of God-consciousness and pay only lip service to religion, the laws which we make help us to punish the weak for their misdemeanor, but they are weak to catch and punish those who are strong and plunder society by being part of the system. This is what Jesus (PBUH) meant when he said: You swallow the camels while avoiding the flies. Jesus (PBUH) further said: I have not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Matthew Ch5 V17). What he implied by this is that I want to awaken in you God-consciousness and accountability before Him so that you make just laws and apply them uniformly on Jews and Gentile alike. Those who stand to benefit by bad laws, bad governance and bad religion and whose interest lies in expanding the scope and operation of law enforcement to enforce unjust laws do not like this God-consciousness. All governments have leaders with such traits but these days they are dominating the establishment. That is why this girl in 7th grade, and many other such men and women, are suffering around the world as Jesus had to suffer at the hands of Pharisees in Jerusalem while mankind is waiting for the second coming of Jesus (PBUH).
Those who doubt the existence of God with a capacity to monitor individuals more effectively than the law-enforcement machinery may read my article “Science and Technology Opens Window to God Consciousness” (Pakistan Link dated June 4, 2010), and those who doubt the Day of Judgment when we will be taken into account for our deeds without any mercy by the merciful God may read my article “Belief in Resurrection is The Way to Salvation” (Pakistan Link dated January 24, 2014).
Ignoring this one important function of developing God-consciousness we have used religion to advance all other impossible and less important objectives in its name to harm ourselves and the religion. Most have used it to decide the matter which God has kept to Himself, like who He is going to put in hell and who He will send to heaven. This is not an exercise to understand and correct our behavior to go to heaven and avoid the hell, but a ploy to gather crowd of coreligionists around on the promise of heaven and to demonize the opponents to justify revenge against them as subjects of Hell. Some have used religion to understand the creation of man and the universe while some others have used it as a mean to purify the soul and merge it with the Super Soul. Some have abused religion to make laws so that they could use the divine sanction which the religion enjoys to run their writ in its name. Indeed religion has all these functions but we have always overdone by going from one extreme to another on these matters and ignored its original and natural role of developing God-consciousness. This has damaged religion and disrupted the normal functioning of our society and governments.
One may read my article “Religion and Science Can Come Together to Reconcile Creation with Evolution” (Pakistan Link April 30, 2010) to understand the reality of Creation and Evolution which is dividing the so-called “scientific” community from the “religious” to create their sphere of influence among the masses by punishing that girl in 7th grade. One may read my article about “Fikr e Iqbal” published in three parts in Pakistan Link of Sept 11, Sept 18 and Oct 2, 2015 to understand the difference between True Religion and the Neoplatonic thought which has degraded the actual position of man by making him feign god or by making him deny his existence itself as an illusion.
Two books were released recently exposing the skeletons in the closet. There are skeletons in closets of all religions but the timing of their exposure most of the time is not with the intention of cleansing them but to take political and economic advantage from them. When Elizabeth Palmer, a much respected journalist of CBS, tried to contact Vatican officials for their response on those books, they were silent but for a tweet implying work was in progress on the issue. But a person who is aware of the functioning of the Vatican said something very interesting and very relevant: The problem which Pope Francis faces is not the one of his making or by his predecessor, they inherited it as a backlog of 2000 years of church history and it takes time to solve it (CBS evening news dated Nov 4, 2015). This assertion should alert us to the urgency of revisiting religion, not just by the church but by the people of all religious denominations and by the people of all the historical civilizations to which we still vow our allegiance. While religious institutions should restore religion to its originality, it is imperative for our rulers with the mindset of historical civilizations that they ponder about the historical mistakes which they have committed to corrupt religion, societies and governments.
Religion came to give the principles of laws governing individual behavior, social ethos and rules for collective living. These were summarized in Ten Commandments. Prophet Muhammad SA was sent to restore the religion of previous prophets in its original form to his followers and not to set them on a new religion (Ch4 V26). Therefore Allah elaborated the principles of Ten Commandments for his followers in verse 151-153 of chapter 6, and verse 23-39 of chapter 7, and at several other places in the Qur’an.
These and such other universal principles enunciated in scriptures were common in all religions and were essential for a life of satisfaction for individuals and peace and progress of the society. In religion there was a provision for framing new rules to accommodate to the changing needs of society based upon these principles. But people overstepped this freedom and diluted and distorted the principles of divine law not to meet the needs of the society but to satisfy the unnecessary and unnatural demands of the masses and to satiate the appetite for pleasure and possession by the elite. As bad religion was good for the bad people to put the blame of their misdeeds on religion, the prince cultivated the priest and the clerk befriended the clergy from time immemorial to disgrace religion and disrupt governments.
As a result of this nexus, religion became responsible for keeping the masses stuck in the Stone Age. Majority of the religious scholars in the past, and many still, think in their naivety that our Aslaf (religious scholars from the distant past) had done their job of perfecting the religion and the law and there was no need for us to review it. No doubt that our Aslaf were the best people as far as their God-consciousness and sincerity to religion was concerned, but they were not aware of the needs of future times to make laws for them. Many prophets were sent amongst the children of Israel to reform the corruption introduced into religion by this nexus and to tune up laws to the need of time. Bible is a testimony to their efforts and the result of it. As Nabi SA was the last messenger many reformers (mujtahids) came to give the message of reform in every century but the established clergy paid only lip service to them and continued on the old ways (Tareekh e Daawath o Azeemath by Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi Vol 1-5). It was not just the respect of the Aslaf that was putting brakes on the movement of reforming religion and restore its vibrancy and dynamism, but it was a design to keep the masses mired in confusion and hardship under the yoke of distorted religion so that the prince and priest could have control over them. When the tradition of Aslaf trumped over the reformed interpretation of revelation then it was no more a religion to restrain the behavior of man but a license to permit wrong in its name.
We need to correct these errors which all religions have made over the last four millenniums and this can’t be done if we create a dichotomy between faith and fact. One may read my article “Intellect and Islam” published in Pakistan Link dated May 23, 2014 to understand the relationship between the two. One may read my article “Myth and Reality of Religion” in Pakistan Link dated May 14, 2010 to understand the need for good religion for good society, and my article “Allah, A Perfect Name to Personify His Glory” in Pakistan Link dated Dec 6, 2013 to understand how this can be achieved.
In fact the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, peace be upon all of them, is One and the same God to whom everything belongs, and to whom our total obeisance is due, and which is epitomized in one word “Al-Lahu” and “Ilaha” of the Arabic language. Followers of different religions have given Him different names and thus made One Unifying and Universal Entity into many names in order to etch out their constituency and get their share in the marketplace of religion. How pathetic that a Unifying Force is used for divisive purpose by those who claim to be His dedicated servants. Allah knows that the people who have lived their lives in accordance with their beliefs for long will find it difficult to abandon it. Allah therefore gives us time till the truth is clear to us (Ch42 V53). Till then Allah wants us to vie with each other in matters of goodness (Ch5 V48) and asks us to cooperate with each other in matter of piety and desist from cooperating in the matter of sin and injustice (Ch5 V6). For this we should create conscious and conscientious people of true religion who are willing to go against their interest and the interest of their clans (Ch5 V8, Ch4 V135) for the sake of truth, justice and peace. Only such people can bring order to the chaos which the world is facing and for this we should revisit religion and not reject it.
We may have succeeded in creating the skeleton of global world order through political maneuvers of the past one hundred years. We will not be able to make an edifice out of this skeleton just by political alliances, economic zones, ideological groups, organizations, conferences, and resolutions over the next hundred years as suggested by some “thinkers”. To manage it and fulfill the aspirations of the constituents who have contributed to its formation we need justice, morality and patience and this can’t be generated by politics of greed, inducements and threats. Promise of pleasures of the hedonistic culture of the empires propagated by mass media can’t be the basis for a civilized democratic world order. Nor a religion which has sacrificed its spirit at the altar of institutional tradition can be the basis of it; we need a reformed universal religion. Let us revisit religion, review it, revitalize it and universalize it, but let us not reject it.