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        periyar 403    Religion is a matter fit to be analysed and researched. Mankind used to live separately in forests as animals; When it changed and humanity began to progress and began to live in huts, it required some regulations to live together. If people who live separately, have to do some thing for the common good, they have to form an association and this association must necessarily have rules and regulations. Similarly people who begin to lead a communal life require principles governing such social living. They have to decide upon common doctrines to be followed. Such practices are now referred to as religion. In order that such principles are not violated, some conditions were imposed: when it was not possible to punish people who violated such principles, or when it was thought that it was not necessary to punish such people, or for the sake of selfish interests of some, or to live by cheating others, or thinking that people could be cheated only by connecting these principles to the concept of God, it was begun to be said that ‘God’ created them or God would punish if they are violated. (This is where man committed his ‘original’ mistake.)

            But if we look at how these principles were determined, on what basis or authority, we can say it depended upon the conditions of the time, climate, the intellectual or intelligence level of the people—that is the ignorance of common people, cunningness of some—that is the time, place and conditions (circumstances) that was generally prevaling. If a particular doctrine (or principle or concept) becomes unsuitable or inappropriate for later time and circumstances, when a wise person or a cunning man wants to change it, the ignorant masses due to their obstinate nature refuse for transformation, would leave the society and establish separate society for themselves, form new principles by changing or modifying some of the previous ones, or adding some new ones, such acts lead to founding of a new religion. As a result ignorant masses—blind and obstinate people—resort to quarrels on the basis of religion stating ‘my religion is great’ or ‘your religion is inferior’ (that their respective religions were better than others).

            Some respectable, wise, elderly people would wonder whether without quarrels things could be modified, tried to satisfy everyone by giving new explanations to old principles and thus avoiding changes. But as a result of such efforts, at the end dissents became sub-sects and associated faiths, and the first principles could never be corrected at all. This is how religions have had a long history of changes, twists and multiplications. This led to a situation when the true purport of religious principles could not be comprehended and there was no need to understand that either. In the end religion became a cluster of rituals. If today you ask any person, ”What is your religion? What are its principles?” he would merely state some rituals and symbols and not the true tenets—that is, will not be able to explain the original purpose of founding the religion: nor would he have known about that. Not only that: in direct contravention of the original principles, ignorance and moral lapses had also intruded and religion had become the instrument of some people for their selfish purposes. Particularly, all the religions which are considered as major now, are indulging in the practice of cheating the ignorant masses; they are pathways just to enrich the priestly class, government and the wealthy and the general mass of people do not get any benefit out of it. Then, if we look at the evils perpetrated by religion, the foremost impact is that religion totally destroys man’s intelligence. People of one religion believe in God according to their religions tenets and also think that their religion was created by God. But the same idea is had by people belonging to other religion as well. Nobody thinks why should God create one religion for one set of people and another one for a different set of people. Or people do not think whether God would have created another religion whose followers do not accept the first one and also pass adverse comments on its practices. Everyone is not thinking about these contradictions. And everyone includes religious preceptors and lovers of that particular religion.

            This single reason illustrates to what extent religion has damaged the intelligence of people. Secondly, instead of promoting unity among people, it has created divisions. Thirdly, religion makes men satisfied with outward appearances and formalities and not genuine building up of character. Fourthly, there is no scope for rational thinking in any religion. Whatever the religion be, howsoever good its tenets, first it tells that we must blindly accept certain things that are beyond our five senses and our intelligence. That makes the unenviable position of accepting one set of norms apparently without any reason to reject another set of norms. Fifth, religion creates intermediaries between God and people and stresses that the words and actions of these agents—despite their inappropriateness-are better than our personal intelligence and experience. Besides, religion also states that the amount of money one spends could bring exoneration of one’s sins and would bring propitiation and heaven; and that all atrocities done by man could be absolved by offering worship and getting absolved from all sins. These lead men to commit atrocities and accumulate money by committing such atrocities. Religion gives plenty of opportunities to a lazy livelihood.

            Religion makes people a bunch of cowards. Even though so much injustice is caused by religions, people are prevented from learning the truth about the causation of these events of the world by the compulsions of religion. Above all, it encourages one man to live at the expense of other’s labour. A true saivitie states that despite his manifest rascality, if a particle of sacred ash is smeared on him, says, that he is absolved of all sins and could straight away reach Mount Kailas (abode of Siva). A lawyer and a professional giving discourses on false epics and puranas, think that they are true saivities just because they habitually apply sacred ash on their forehead. They also think that others also should so respect them. Does any further proof is required for dishonesty and absurdity. Similarly a true vaishnavite says all sins would be wiped out at once by uttering the word ‘Rama’. He says that there is no God on earth other than Rama. A true christian says that “when one surrenders to and reaches Jesus, all sins are wiped out. There is no salvation

except through acceptance of and surrender to Christ.” Also a Muslim states that “whatever is stated in Quoran is God’s word; it is applicable to all countries and climes; If one syllable is changed in that, the edifice of Islam would suffer. Like this, each religion states its greatness and claims that it alone is a true religion, its God is the true one, or true child of God, its prophet, true God’s messenger, etc.

Translated by Prof.T.Marx

(‘Republic’ ( kudiarasu) Essay – 23.4.1949)

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