Religion is the opium of society – Karl Marx
November 18, 1978 Jonestown, Guyana. Ruletta Paul walked up to the table picked-up a syringe full of a liquid and squirted it into her one-year old infant child in her arms. She then squirted one syringe full of the liquid into her own mouth. The liquid was laced with cyanide. Both were dead in a few minutes. It was then followed by few others. Some panicked and tried to escape who were shot dead by guards. A total of 900 US citizens died that day including US senator Leo Ryan.
Jonestown was the informal name of Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, set up by an American religious leader Jim Jones. Attracting membership a washed on religious sentiments, Jim Jones built a clan who objectives were religious to the followers, but were actually political by the founders. Jonestown, the followers realised was a one-way street, you can never leave. The place was dictatorial and anything but religious. It was an experiment in “apostolic socialism”.
What is the relevance of this story? The objective was to break the narrative. After the aftermath of Paris attack, the anti-Islam, read anti-Muslim stories exploded thanks to social media. What happened in Paris (it happened in other places also, mind you) was bad and was perpetuated by Muslims. Let’s not conclude in haste. Jonestown story is a proof that other religions are also equally guilty of crimes of purgation and hatred. More Muslims have killed Muslims than of other religions. Similar is the case with all other religions. And the objective of the so called leaders may not be religious. Every religion, is guilty of crimes against mankind.
Which brings us to the question, what is the role of religion in our life? To the believer it is a reminder that there are forces that are beyond our knowledge and control which we need to acknowledge and respect. Easy. Now the difficult part – religious texts. Every religion has one or two sacred texts which set the discourse on the way you practice that religion. These texts are purportedly words of God, written down and worse, interpreted by man.
Times have changed but not Gods. They still want sacrifice (human and animal), donations, fasts, rituals etc as articulated in the texts. Except accepting online donations, modernism has been a no-go area for Gods. Read the texts of any religion closely, you can find verses that are enough to set you on a path of destruction of self and worse others. More religious you are, more intolerant you are. That begets the question, what’s at the core of religious terror – religion or religious texts?
Few Hindus can understand a verse of Gita, many Muslims have confessed not to have understood verses of Koran as it is Arabic and Bible written in English needs a translation into English! Which opens a dangerous territory – interpretation. Few religious men with their purported power to interpret the word of God, hold millions of others in their sway, who like Jim Jones above can lead the members on a self-destructive path.
I believe that much of the religious strife in the world today is not due to religion but due to religious texts. ISIS justifies its acts based on (wrong) interpretation of Koran just as Hindus justify caste system (which has done more harm than ISIS) using one shloka in Bhagawad Gita. Godless world is not a great idea for many as God still remains the last hope. What then is the solution? To discard both God (religion) and religious texts is like throwing the baby out along with the bath water. The solution I suggest is this – a God without the books.
To my understanding the message of God is peace and love. For this do we need such heavy tomes with such abstruse language which ends up negating the very message of God?
Today, what we need more than God is Godliness. An book-less God will do!
PS: We can always make difference, however small. Refuse to forward any poisonous religious messages. Let’s start the fight back.