DEFINING RELIGION

1. All religions have two components:

* Beliefs/rituals/mythology: all religions differ from one another in this regard,
* Desirable behaviour or ethics of life: all religions display similar approach.

A COMMON MYTH–‘ONLY WE REPRESENT TRUE GOD! IT HELPS IN NUMBERS!’

2. The unrest, violence in human society over religious issues, stems from two factors:

*Each religion believes it is the sole franchisee of God’s religion and that God has conveyed His message directly through the messengers or directly in some cases, only to their religion.

*Religions are also managed like corporates these days. which implies: more number of followers more resources; this results in conflict of interest and resultant clashes.

IRRATIONAL BELIEFS

3. Each religion has its quota of irrational beliefs, which is faithfully accepted by its followers but taken with a pinch of salt, by followers of other religions. Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, let us tolerate irrationality in all religions, as long as it is not immoral and is not forced on others and let us not comment adversely on irrational beliefs of other religions.

ZERO TOLERANCE TO CRITICISM AND CARICATURES

4. All religions have zero tolerance over criticism on rituals, scriptures; some religions have less tolerance, some comparatively more. Caricatures, critical comments on God, His representatives or scriptures often invite harsh retaliations through ‘fatwa’ or social boycott. This view clashes with freedom of speech; but it is compromised and results in great risk to the lives of critics from extremists.

CHRISTIANITY

5. Ten Commandments are the best guidelines to live a noble life. All religions have similar guidelines, in this regard.

*We must admire Christianity for translating Bible into hundreds of local languages; a language, the followers can comprehend. Other religions will sure gain a lot, to emulate the idea.

*However, the belief that Christ has paid for the sins of all Christians 2000 years ago, when he was crucified for no fault of his, is seen as flawed, irrational by non-Christians. But this belief, need not be debated, better leave it and let Christians believe in it. Let us not insist on proving others wrong, if we are at variance. Let us concentrate on what is similar in our religions and use it to cement the bonds of humanity.

*The belief in day of judgement may not be rational and the ritual of burial after death in occidental religions could have been due to natural/geographical compulsions in the area, where desert land was in plenty and vegetation scarce. But to get into discussion that concept of rebirth is less irrational and cremation is a better option is not desirable and is counter-productive.

ISLAM

6. Islam propagates one God, who never takes birth as human-being.It asks its followers to apprise non-believers(Kafirs), of this truth. It is a belief, but as long as it is not forced on others, we must not bother about it. Unfortunately, fundamentalists insist on forcing others to accept it, although Koran says ‘apprise others of the truth, but do not enforce it on others’. This is a common corporate practice in all religions, where all missionaries, in good faith, insist on others to follow their religion’s path, as they believe it is better. We got to learn that there are multiple solutions for any problem, and all equally right.

*Islam forbids statue worship; a common feature in oriental religions. Let us look at it in another perspective; we remember our old relations, parents who have departed, with their photographs,which helps us to remember. Similarly, statues and photographs help us to comprehend better, a formless God. However to think that the lifeless stone sculptor as God is wrong; but that still does not allow anybody to ill treat the irrational believers.