God without books


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.

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Laughing matter


Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson decide to go on a camping trip. After dinner and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night, and go to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.

“Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.” Watson replied, “I see millions of stars.” “What does that tell you?” Watson pondered for a minute. Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.

“What does it tell you, Holmes?”

Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke: “Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent!”

Had a good laugh? You should have. The above joke has been voted as the best joke of all time. Laughter after all something we share as people and is a key part of our life. Along with motivational quotes, jokes are the prime content of social media. Of course not everyone finds the same thing funny but large majority do. What makes us laugh or why do we laugh?

According to anthropologists, laughter was the first sign of humans before invention of spoken and written language. Even today, we smile at an acquaintance or even a stranger to share our view that their presence is pleasant. Sometimes even as a courtesy, lest we are mistaken. Smile, the milder form of laughter, is an ice breaker.

Our life is largely patterned. Any act that breaks the pattern attracts attention with higher awareness, alertness (in case of danger) or laughter. Awareness and alertness are common to animals as well. Laughter is what sets us humans apart which means that it is a product of an evolved mind. “Humour is by far is the most significant activity of the human brain” observed the creativity and lateral thinking expert Edward de Bono. What is surprising is the fact that a joke resonates equally among the vast majority cutting across gender, age or place if the context (language or the custom) is common. Next time you are in a movie theatre, check out the people around you, while a funny scene is on the screen. Everyone shares a good laugh!

Like yawning laughing is contagious and funnily can lead to laughter epidemics. In 1962 in Tanzania, three girls started laughing uncontrollably in the school which in few months spread to other children and the school had to shut down. The contagion spread affecting thousands in Tanzania and neighbouring Uganda. No laughing matter it was!

Laughter is the best medicine is an old adage. Laughter clubs are a common in many cities whose members everyday laugh their hearts out, usually in public parks, much to the amusement of the onlookers. Curiously though scientists are yet to establish the medical benefits of laughter. Humans are gregarious creatures which necessitates that we live in harmony with others. What better glue than laughter to bind us to the world? Who needs a prescription to laugh?

Consider this funny fact – we’ve either heard a joke or read a joke. Then who writes the jokes? In Isaac Asimov’s famous short story ‘Jokester’ which is set a few thousand years in to the future, Noel Meyerhof is a ‘Grand Master’ with an amazing brain who is studying the same question with his powerful computer ‘Multivac’. After multiple trials, Multivac pops out the answer – humor is actually a psychological study tool imposed from without by extraterrestrials studying mankind. Hence, jokes are a product of aliens. Once the secret is out, aliens switch off and there is nothing funny anymore in the world. Humour is dead.

Not funny.

Keep laughing, aliens are yet to be discovered!



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