Rapes will come down if people shun meat, alcohol: Swami Agnivesh #WTFnews


PTI | Apr 27, 2013,

NEW DELHI: Rape cases will come down if people shun non-vegetarian food and alcohol, activist Swami Agnivesh said on Saturday.

“We cannot stop a crime like rape by policing only…. I think rapes will come down significanlty if people stop eating non-vegetarian. There has been lot of research on this…. Rapes will come down significantly if alcohol consumption is not there,” he told reporters here.

He said a lot of crimes and accidents take place due to consumption of alcohol.

Arguing on the benefits of a vegetarianism, he said Japanese scientists conducted a study on the oldest man on earth recently and they found that he was a vegeterian.

“Every research conducted in this world points to one fact that red meat is the reason behind all diseases,” he said.

Agnivesh said that all the six accused in the gruesome rape of a young girl in a moving bus on December 16 last year were drunk as well as the accused in the recent incident of sexual assault on a five-year-old girl.

“In both the incidents, the accused consumed alcohol. This explains clearly that alcohol drove them to commit the crime. Alcohol shuts down the moral thinking of a person,” he said.

“Government is not ending alcohol-production in the country as it fetches revenue. All the states have now started competing to outnumber each other in alcohol production. This has become the norm,” he said.

Expressing concern over the fact that everyday one billion animals are slaughtered, he said that “its consequesnce will be severe.”

Regretting the loss of values in human beings, Agnivesh said, “There are no moral and spiritual values left in people. Schools today do not teach children about the evil-consequences of drinking. We cannot blame an individual for a crime. The society, as a whole, is responsible.”

Asked about whether death penalty will stop rape, Swami said, “Death penalty will not do anything. I do not support it. Death sentence should not given to anybody including those who attack Parliament. Even Kasab should not have been given death sentence,” he said.

No Humans In Narendra Modi’s “Development”


 Narandra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat Story: Propaganda vs Fact #mustread

By Mukul Dube

27 March, 2013
Countercurrents.org

Narendra Modi of the RSS is an ambitious man who seems to want to become the prime minister of the country. His propaganda machine never speaks of the violence in 2002 in the state he ruled and rules, but it constantly plugs his hand in its development. I do not propose here to question the claims of development that he makes or which are made for him. Better qualified people have done that and have shown that these claims are based on sleight of hand or on outright lies. I shall only look at the meaning of this development business in Modi’s lexicon.

Modi’s own web site, at http://www.narendramodi.in/media-detail/?gid=11636 declares, “Development alone is the solutions [sic] to all problems: Shri Modi delivers inspiring address at SRCC!” Apparently the man said, “We are not pitching our tent on a single pillar. Our development model is based on 3 aspects — development of agriculture, industry and services sector. We want all 3 sectors to grow where each supports the other so that state economy is never in trouble.” This is typical of his populist demagoguery. A seemingly rational enumeration slips magically sideways and becomes a conclusion.

Here is a better one: “In 2001-02 when I became CM, 23 lakh bales of cotton was produced, today it stands at 1 crore 23 lakh bales. Our next step should be value addition. So we are working on that. We got a new Textile Policy. We have a 5F formula — from Farm to Fibre to Fabric to Fashion to Foreign. Till we do not take integrated approach then nothing will happen.” The reasoning is as devious as the grammar is slippery. The man jumps about like a grasshopper, dispensing wisdom probably obtained from his advertising consultants and speech writers: “We have to adopt ‘Zero Defect Mantra’ and other is packaging. We need to study consumer psyche and then work on manufacturing sector.” Such specimens as Modi cannot be pinned down. It is an established tactic of the Hindutva Brigade to change tack constantly, particularly when in trouble.

In http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/28/india-fantasy-gujarat-modi-hindus Dibyesh Anand writes that “development is not an abstract practice immune from identity. Economic reforms are being used in parts of India to depoliticise development and crack down on the marginalised. For instance, tribal peoples and those from lower castes are the biggest victims of forced eviction by the state for its development projects. Impressive economic figures from Gujarat belie the fact that on the human development index the state remains far behind.”

It was not an accident that economists, the very people who measured development in arid figures, began in the 1980s to look at human beings not as statistics but as the central concern of development. “Human development” has been so described by two of the people responsible for the new approach:

“People often value achievements that do not show up at all, or not immediately, in income or growth figures: greater access to knowledge, better nutrition and health services, more secure livelihoods, security against crime and physical violence, satisfying leisure hours, political and cultural freedoms and sense of participation in community activities. The objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives.” Mahbub ul Haq, quoted in http://hdr.undp.org/en/humandev/.

“Human development, as an approach, is concerned with what I take to be the basic development idea: namely, advancing the richness of human life, rather than the richness of the economy in which human beings live, which is only a part of it.” Amartya Sen, same source.

Unlike the old idea of development, from which only the capitalists and the affluent benefit, human development explicitly is concerned with what all social classes get, including the poor and those who are customarily forgotten, the religious minorities and the tribals. On the other hand Modi, the glorious Hercules of Development, starves the Muslims of Gujarat and denies them housing, health care and education. Hardly surprising, because he belongs to the tribe which wants free and secular India to become the monarchical Hindu Rashtra which they believe to have existed in an earlier age.

Mukul Dube is a writer, photographer and editor who lives in Delhi. He can be reached at uthappam@gmail.com

 

‘Revenge porn’ is about degrading women sexually and professionally #Vaw


What does it say about society that websites where angry men shame their ex-lovers are thriving?

 

Stalking

Ex-lovers can now torment women online by posting naked photos of them and other personal information. Photograph: Robin Beckham/Alamy

In the centuries-old tradition of human beings looking at images of other human beings naked, the internet is perhaps the biggest game-changer since the film camera.

Porn sites are some of the most-visited places on the web, and just about anything you could imagine (and lots of things you probably couldn’t have come up with on your own) is a mere Google search away. While that’s great news for folks who have, say, an unrequited zombie fetish or a deep desire to see old men swaddled in mohair diapers, the almost entirely unregulated buffet of internet pornography also has a whole host of downsides – one of the most odious being the popular genre of “revenge porn“.

On revenge porn sites, users upload x-rated photos of women (often ex girlfriends or lovers) without the women’s permission. Send a naughty photo to your boyfriend and when it turns out he’s a pig, your image is all over the internet, often with your name, location and links to your social media accounts. The purpose of revenge porn isn’t to allow regular guys the opportunity to see some naked girls-next-door; it’s explicitly purposed to shame, humiliate and destroy the lives and reputations of young women.

Luckily, some of those women are refusing to be shamed into silence.More than two dozen of them have filed a lawsuit against one of the websites, Texxxan.com, as well as its host, GoDaddy.com. Some of the women have lost their jobs; all of them have been exposed and exploited, first by men they trusted and then by entities simply looking to make a buck off of misogyny.

Gender cyber harassment is nothing new (pdf), and revenge porn sites are part of a widespread, deeply sexist online culture everywhere from blog comment sections to YouTube videos to message boards. Anonymous sexualized harassment of women online has been around since AOL chatrooms, and it seems to be getting more mainstreamed, more organized and more efficient. The internet is not a nice place to be a woman – something I found out first-hand, and not just through the ongoing threats, harassment and stalking I’ve received as a feminist blogger.

When I was a law student at NYU, I found myself the subject of hundreds of threads and comments on a website called AutoAdmit. Reading post after anonymous post about how your classmates and future professional peers want to rape you is not a particularly pleasant experience; seeing those posts right next to details of what outfit you wore to school yesterday, how tall you are or what kinds of comments you made in class feels awfully threatening.

It’s hard to explain the psychological impact these kind of anonymous posts have, when these people know your name, face and exactly where you are during the day. You can’t walk down the hall at school without wondering if that guy who just made eye contact with you is going to go home and write something disgusting about you on the internet, or if anything you say in class is going to be quoted on a message board as evidence that you are a stupid cow, or if any one of these anonymous commenters is going to take their sexually violent urges offline and onto your body.

My reaction was to shut down. I felt like I was in a fishbowl, so I just refused to look outside of the glass. I’m a very social person, but in three years of law school I made only two friends. I skipped a lot of my classes; when I did go, I kept my head down.

I tried to ignore the online postings, hoping they would go away. When they didn’t, and I finally screwed up the courage to write about them, I received a barrage of harassing and threatening emails. One man, a graduate of Georgetown Law Center, claims to have gone to NYU and met with one of my professors to discuss what a “dumb cunt” (his words) I am. Even after I was out of law school and practicing, that same man sent more than a dozen emails to every single partner and attorney at my law firm in an effort to get me fired.

I graduated law school in 2008. Five years later, the process of writing about this still makes me tense up, triggering the same old anxiety, anger and fear. I still avoid going to large professional gatherings, and when I do go, my heart starts to beat a little faster if I catch someone looking at my name tag for what seems like a few seconds too long.

I’m a feminist writer who even before law school was used to receiving my share of online abuse. I get called all sorts of names on a daily basis and usually just roll through it. Yet I was still devastated by those postings.

And I was lucky. I wasn’t naked. My job opportunities were surely limited, but I didn’t get fired. But there are serious long-term consequences to internet harassment, both professional and personal. It’s undoubtedly much worse when the harassment involves naked pictures, your face on a porn site and the permanent stigma of being a “slut”.

It’s easy to say, “Well if you don’t want naked pictures on the internet, don’t send men naked pictures” – or in my case, I suppose, just don’t be female on the internet. But that simplistic view overlooks the way intimate relationships operate today, and, in fact, how they’ve always operated.

Within romantic relationships, people have always exchanged tangible things that would be highly embarrassing if publicly revealed, whether that’s a sexy note, a suggestive article of clothing or raunchy photo. You’re already engaging in an act that involves nudity, exchange of body fluids, the potential for reproduction, two human bodies intertwined skin-to-skin and, one hopes, some level of mutual trust. Once you’ve been face-to-genitals with someone, sending them a nude picture doesn’t seem like it should be such a big deal.

Society sees it differently – at least when the nude photo is of a woman. There aren’t popular revenge porn sites with pictures of naked men, because as a society we don’t think it’s inherently degrading or humiliating for men to have sex. Despite the fact that large numbers of women watch porn, there are apparently not large numbers of women who find sexual gratification in publicly shaming and demeaning men they’ve slept with.

And that is, fundamentally, what these revenge porn sites are about. They aren’t about naked girls; there are plenty of those who are on the internet consensually. It’s about hating women, taking enjoyment in seeing them violated, and harming them.

The owners to Texxxan.com practically said as much when, in defending their website, they posted a message saying, “Maybe [sic] the site provided an outlet for anger that prevented physical violence (this statement will be very controversial but is at least worth thinking about).” In other words, these are men who hate women to the degree that they’d be hitting them if they didn’t have revenge porn as an outlet for their rage. They’re angry because women have the nerve to exist in the universe as sexual beings.

Unfortunately, the law hasn’t quite caught up with the internet. I hope these women win their lawsuit. But as Emily Bazelon details at Slate, they’re fighting an uphill battle. Our current laws were written with an old media system in mind, and they need to be updated to protect free speech while also defending against defamation and gross invasions of personal privacy.

In the meantime, we can all do small things to marginalize the appeal of revenge porn. Not looking at the sites is an obvious first step; finding a host other than GoDaddy for your own site is another. Refusing to participate in the sexual shaming of women is also key – these sites would never survive without the pervasive view that sexually active women are dirty. Support the women who have the nerve to stand up to these privacy violations. Read, promote and raise up women’s voices generally, online and off. And push legislators to modernize our laws.

Right now, the law and our culture are both on the side of those who shame and humiliate women for sport, instead of those of us who just want to go about our normal lives, whether that’s going to law school or having sex with our boyfriends, without putting our careers, our reputations, our psychological well-being and our basic ability to trust the people we’re closest with on the line. Here’s hoping we win the long game.

# India-Mental illness, choice and rights


October 20, 2012

Harsh Mander, The Hindu

  • Until recently, the law treated persons with mental illness not as persons who deserve treatment and care, but as people who are vaguely dangerous. File Photo: S. James
    Until recently, the law treated persons with mental illness not as persons who deserve treatment and care, but as people who are vaguely dangerous. File Photo: S. James
  • Members of Disabled Rights Group (DRG) and National Alliance on Access to Justice for People Living with Mental Illeness (NAAJMI) staging a protest outside Health Ministry against the Mental Health Care Bill. File Photo: V. Sudershan
    The Hindu Members of Disabled Rights Group (DRG) and National Alliance on Access to Justice for People Living with Mental Illeness (NAAJMI) staging a protest outside Health Ministry against the Mental Health Care Bill. File Photo: V. Sudershan

The new Bill should pitch for free care to mental health patients in public hospitals.

Persons with mental illness have long been subjected to cruelty, neglect, ridicule and stigma. In the last half-century, medical science has made significant strides in finding some cures and palliatives for afflictions of the mind – of emotion, mood, thinking and behaviour. Parallel to this is the evolution in our ethical frameworks: of human rights, and acknowledgment of the equal dignity of all human beings. But changes in the law, social attitudes, and the work of healthcare institutions and psychiatric professionals, have not kept pace with these scientific and normative advances.

The Mental Health Care Bill, 2012, recently released by the government, is an exceptional State-led attempt to correct many of the historical wrongs to which persons with mental illness have long been subject. The draft emerged after a long and engaged process of consultation with persons with mental illness, their care-givers, their organisations, and professionals.

The Bill met immediately with fierce opposition from some radical disability and mental health organisations. Many of their concerns and fears are legitimate. But I believe that this is on balance a humane and progressive Bill, bravely and compassionately navigating difficult ethical and professional terrains.

Until quite recently, it was routine to lock away people with mental illness in jails or jail-like mental hospitals, kept naked or in prison-like uniforms, bound in chains, abandoned and often forgotten for lifetimes. The number of beds in mental hospitals were, however, minuscule, and the large majority of patients were denied any kind of care, except those offered by faith healers and untrained practitioners.

The new Bill contains many protections to persons with mental illness. It bars prolonged hospitalisation, chaining, compulsory tonsuring, forced sterilisation, and electro-convulsive therapy without anaesthesia, and defends rights of patients to privacy, personal clothes and protection from abuse. It also prescribes that all persons with mental illness have the right to dignity, and to live in, be part of, and not segregated from society.

The Bill also mandates that mental health services shall be integrated into general health services at all levels – primary, secondary and tertiary, and that these services shall be available in the neighbourhood. If enforced, this will draw a curtain on the long tragic history of injustices and abuses which characterised large, segregated mental hospitals.

The opening sections of the Bill are forthright in admitting that persons with mental illness suffer discrimination, and that the current law has failed to protect their rights and promote their access to health care. It goes on to assure all persons the right to ‘affordable’ good quality public health care.

I believe this guarantee does not go far enough. In these columns last fortnight, I recounted the story of Rajesh, a young man suffering from hallucinations from full-blown psychosis, badly injured, who was repeatedly refused admission by many major public hospitals in the capital. The story underlines the general experience of growing abdication by professionals and public institutions to take care of impoverished and difficult patients. I believe that the Bill must guarantee nothing less than free care in all public hospitals for all patients who seek or need care, and prescribe deterrent punishments for hospitals and professionals who refuse to provide care.

Against their will

Despite its many progressive and humane features, the Bill is still attacked by some radical associations of persons with mental illness, mainly because it retains provisions in rare cases to admit patients for care, even against their will. This debate has an important history.

Until as recently as 1987, the colonial Indian Lunacy Act, 1912, prevailed, in which persons with mental illness (described as ‘lunatics’ and ‘idiots’), were admitted into mental hospitals through the order of Magistrates. The law treated persons with mental illness not as persons who deserve treatment and care, like any other person who falls ill, but as people who are vaguely dangerous, and therefore it in effect primarily aimed to protect other people from persons with mental illness.

The Mental Health Act of 1987 partially corrected this, by allowing for voluntary admissions, but Magistrates still retained a central role for patients who were admitted to mental hospitals against their will. Mental health activists rightly campaigned against this provision, as it was undignified and stigmatising; and it was on occasion misused to abandon and ‘tame’ assertive and non-conforming women and men.

Radical mental health activists are dismayed because the new Bill still allows involuntary admissions of patients against their will. They are uncompromising that the will of the patient should be absolute regarding whether or not she wishes to accept treatment and care.

On the other hand, many persons with mental illness, and their care-givers, recognise that there are occasions when it is in the paramount interest of some patients to be given care forcefully, even when they refuse it, if the person is in imminent danger of causing harm to herself or to other people. The Bill limits involuntary admissions to only such cases, with many checks and balances. Forced admission is only for 30 days at a time. The Magistrate is removed from the picture completely, and is replaced by mandatory reviews of all such cases by mental health panels, which comprise judges but also administrators and persons with mental illness and their care-givers.

There are moments I have observed – among loved ones, friends and the young people from the streets who are now in our care – when a person is suicidal or hallucinatory, abandons home or is suspicious of loved ones, is compulsively manic, spending or gambling life savings, violent and dangerous to himself or to neighbours. In the name of human rights, no hospital or professional offers them care. But there are deeper human rights in these moments, which cumulatively may temporarily override the right of free choice. These are the rights to empathy, protection, dignity and care. I believe that the Bill is right in the delicate balance it has found, retaining the provisions for involuntary admissions, but limiting these severely with many cautions and checks.

These debates are important, and we need to listen to each other more. But while we discuss, we must welcome a draft law which promises to reverse the cruelty, ignorance and abdication, which still characterises ways the State and professionals still treat people battling demons in their minds and souls, while guaranteeing them empathy, respect, protection and care.

 

Open letter to CM by Sanjiv Bhatt- The full text


Dear Narendra Modi,

You must have been apprised about the punishment meted out to your loyal lieutenants Dr. Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, as well as the misguided foot-soldiers of misconceived Hindutva, who have now been condemned to spend a life in prison. Was it perchance that you smartly distanced yourself from all these unfortunate people at an opportune moment? Have you spared a thought for the innocent family members of the accused who have been sentenced to a lifetime behind bars? It is believed that you were once a married man. At some point in your life, like all normal humans, you might have been touched by the magic of love, even thought of having children starting a family, perhaps! Have you even once thought about the plight of the wives and children of your onetime adulators who have been condemned for life?

Mr. Modi, have you ever looked at your actual image, stripped of the designer dresses that you are so enamored with? Have you ever looked at the reflection of the real face behind the mask? Have you ever introspected about your true-self concealed behind the meticulous imagery created by your media managers? Have you even once thought whether it is really worth it to sustain power, even if it requires sacrificing fellow human beings at the altar of expediency? Have you ever considered, even once, whether it is alright to facilitate or connive in the killing of another human being just because he does not conform to your beliefs? Is it really worthwhile to deceive your own self…. or, is it only a small price to pay for your political ambitions?

I hope and pray to God that you get the time, wisdom and opportunity to find honest and truthful answers to some of these questions during this lifetime.

God bless!

Sanjiv Bhatt

Unravelling Religious Supremacism


By Robert Nolly

The diversity of religions, each claiming to represent the Ultimate Truth, never ceases to amaze me. But, I have to say, this diversity also confuses me—often, to the point of terrific distress. Surely, if there is one Ultimate Truth (or what believers in a personal deity call God), ‘true’ religion can only be one. Supposing that indeed is the case, there are two logical possibilities with regard to the question of ‘true’ religion: Firstly, that of all the many religions that exist in the world, one alone is absolutely true, and the rest are completely, or at least partially, false. Or, secondly, that none of the religions are true in the ultimate sense, all of them being limited in some way or the other.

In this article, I wish to explore the claims of religions that are premised on the notion of a god and that claim to represent the ‘only true’ way to this god. Such religions are adhered to by hundreds of millions of followers, and, taken together, might account for the majority of humankind. Typically, such religions are based on the notion that human beings were created by God, and that they come into this world just once, after which, upon death or on the ‘Day of Judgment’, they will be transported to everlasting bliss in heaven or dispatched to eternal torment in hell—it all depends on whether or not they truly believed in and followed the ‘one true’ religion while on earth.

Religious traditions that are framed on these lines are intrinsically supremacist and intolerant. They instill in their followers the belief that their faith alone is correct and in accordance with the divine will, and that those who do not accept their religion will be doomed to painful torment in hell, which will last forever. This leads to an irrepressible urge to convert ‘unbelievers’ to their fold through missionary activism or else to combat them, through persuasion or force, if necessary. A great deal of bloodshed throughout human history since these religions came into being is a direct result of this supremacism that these religious traditions encourage. It is difficult, if not impossible, for many adherents of these religions to accept people of other faiths as equals and to genuinely love them as they are, for they are trained to view them as ‘followers of falsehood’, ‘disbelievers’, ‘infidels’, ‘enemies of God’, ‘people of lesser worth’, ‘impure’, ‘evil’, and so on.

But it isn’t just the frightful consequences of such supremacism that these religions almost inevitably promote that worries me. What is equally troubling is the terrifying concept of God that they operate with, which has nothing in common with the notion of a just and loving omnipotent being that God is often made out to be—including, and ironically, by many of these ‘believers’ themselves.

I’ve often asked believers in these religions how, if at all, they reconcile their notion of a just, loving, omnipotent deity with their fervent belief that those who do not follow their supposed ‘one true’ religion would inevitably be thrown into hell by such a god. I have yet to receive any satisfactory reply to this paradox—and I guess I never will.

It doesn’t require much theological expertise to understand what this insoluble dilemma is all about. Suppose a religion named X is considered by its adherents to be the only true religion. Faithful followers of religion X alone, its followers believe, qualify to go to heaven, while all others will be consigned to everlasting doom in hell. No matter how good and kind a person who follows a religion other than religion X may be, it is believed that she will merit everlasting punishment in hell simply because she did not accept and believe in religion X while on earth. God, so it is argued, will never accept such a person, no matter how loving and kind or how devoted he or she was to his or her own understanding of the divine simply because it did not correspond exactly with the teachings of religion X.

The utter injustice of this belief is obvious. Believers in religion X will argue that God is the creator of all of humankind and that He decides in which family a person will be born. Now, this obviously means that if I am born into a family that does not follow religion X, it is because God willed it to be so. It was no fault of my own that I was born into such a ‘disbelieving’ family, the decision being entirely God’s. This basic argument, which believers in religion X will have no problem with, poses major questions for the concept of a truly loving and just God.

The vast majority of people follow the religion they were born into. From an early age onwards, they are reared into believing it to be true by their parents, and many of them faithfully follow it, honestly thinking that in this way they can win the favour of God. Surely, then, you will agree, they can hardly be ‘blamed’ for adhering to the religion of their birth. To think that God will punish them—to the extent of torturing them in hell forever—simply because they followed a religion other than X makes this God out to be an unjust tyrant, who punishes innocent people for His own ‘fault’. After all, it was God’s ‘fault’ for making such people be born into a family that followed a religion other than X, because of which they grew up to believe that their parent’s religion, and not religion X, was the true one! What this absurd belief means is that God first makes the ‘mistake’ of making someone be born and, therefore, reared into a ‘wrong’ religion and into fervently believing it and then compels that innocent person to suffer for eternity for this ‘mistake’ which God made! This is what the supremacist claim of religion X really boils down to. Does this not mean that such a God, at least as religion X imagines him to be, is utterly unjust, cruel, brutal and unloving?

There is another aspect of this God, as adherents of religion X imagine him, that goes completely against the claim that he is just and fair. If He is truly fair, he should have given an equal chance to everyone to believe in and have access to religion X, the supposed one true religion. But He does nothing of the sort at all. Instead, he forces the whole of humankind into a grossly unfair race that is heavily loaded, from their very birth itself, against all who are born into families that do not follow religion X. He causes—for which adherents of religion X have no satisfactory explanation—some people to be born into families that adhere to religion X and many others to be born into families that don’t accept religion X or may not have even heard of it at all! Given that, as noted above, almost all people are socialized into believing that the religion of their parents is true, the former have an infinitely better chance of being ‘saved’ and transported into heaven than the latter—not because they are better or more ‘pious’ human beings but simply because of their birth into families that follow the supposedly ‘only true’ religion. In contrast, the latter have an infinitely remoter chance of entering heaven and, conversely, a much greater chance of going to hell, only because God willed them to be born into a family that follows a ‘wrong’ religion. Is this at all just or fair? Does this not make God, as religion X conceives Him, to be utterly unfair, whimsical, cruel, arbitrary and partial?

The claims that adherents of religion X make about their religion being the only true one also fail to square with their claims of believing in a God who is omnipotent while also being fair and just, loving and kind. If He is truly omnipotent, surely, if he were also fair and just, loving and kind, He could have given every human being the same chance or possibility of accessing X, the supposedly ‘only true’ religion. This could only happen if all human beings were born into families that follow religion X, and an omnipotent God could easily have done that. In such a case, everyone would enjoy an equal and fair chance to be ‘tested’ by God for their sincerity, devotion, love, kindness and faith. They would have all started from the same starting point and only then the test would be said to be fair. But God does nothing of the sort. Instead, He causes only some people to be born into families that follow religion X and most others into ‘disbelieving’ ones. In this way, He makes it infinitely easier for the former, for no reason at all, to believe in the supposedly ‘one true’ religion than the latter, who have, for no ‘fault’ of their own, a very remote chance of believing in this religion. What this suggests is that God, at least as followers of X make him out to be, is either not omnipotent or that He is unfair and unjust. Either way, it casts great doubts about the notion of God as being omnipotent as well as fair and just that religion X claims to be premised on.

Let me clarify this important point with the help of an analogy. Suppose you and I are classmates at school and we are asked by our headmistress to run in a race. The intention of the race is, of course, to discern who is a faster runner, and the winner gets a fabulous trophy. If the headmistress is fair, she should have both you and I starting the race from the same line. Only then can she be said to be fair, just and impartial, and only then can we be tested to find out who of us is the faster runner. But, instead of doing that, suppose she makes you stand almost near the finishing line and me a long mile behind and then asks us to begin running. It doesn’t need much intelligence to know that she is being absolutely unfair and unreasonably partial to you and grossly unjust to me, because, inevitably, you will land up at the finishing line much before I will. And that would be not because you are a better runner than I am but simply because the headmistress has unduly favoured you. If you were to said to have won the race and I were told that I had miserably failed in my performance, you will agree that this would be absolutely unfair on her part. Such a race would certainly be no fair test of our respective running abilities. In such a case, if you win the trophy I would be amply justified in claiming that the race was rigged at the very outset itself and that the head-mistress was absolutely unjust.

Apply the same logic to the arguments of adherents of religion X. They claim that God has sent us into the world in order to test how faithfully we adhere to the supposedly ‘one true religion’. In the face of the fact that God causes only some people to be born into families that adhere to religion X and many others to be born into other families, it is obvious that the former have a much greater chance of believing in and following religion X than the latter simply because of the families into which they were born, which was decided by God. They have a much better chance of winning the ‘test’ of believing in the ‘one true religion’ not because they are better or more sincere and righteous people than the rest of humankind but simply because they were born into families that adhere to religion X. In such a case, those who are born into the ‘wrong’ religion can justifiably complain that the ‘test’ that they were made to appear for by God had been rigged and heavily loaded against from the very beginning, from birth itself, and if they have failed the ‘test’ it is God’s fault and not their own. Surely, they would argue, if God were truly just, he should have made everyone start the test of faith from the same line, causing them all to be born in families that follow the one supposedly true religion. They can justifiably complain that causing them to be born into the ‘wrong’ religion and others to be born into the supposedly one true religion, He is behaving just like the unfair headmistress described in the analogy above. They would not be wrong in contending that such a God is not the fair and just being that adherents of religion X claim him to be.

What does all this mean, then, for the notion of Ultimate Truth? At the very least, it indicates clearly that the idea of an omnipotent, loving and just God simply cannot gel with the belief of adherents of religion X that He consigns people into everlasting Hell simply because they do not follow the supposed ‘one true’ religion. Were God to do so, he would definitely be neither loving nor just. And that is a god I don’t think any sensible person can ever be tempted to accept.

The notion of God as consigning all non-adherents of the supposed ‘one true religion’ to punishment in hell simply because they do not believe in its doctrines indicates, as far as I am concerned, that the claims of adherents of this theory are both immoral as well as illogical. Supposing that God, in the form in which the divine is commonly imagined, does indeed exist, I would imagine that such claims about Him would be tantamount to nothing less than casting aspersions on Him, attributing to him a character wholly opposed to the notion of him as a loving and kind force or being. And that adequately convinces me that the supremacist claims of adherents of religious traditions such as X are wholly suspect and man-made and that their belief is fundamentally opposed to what the Ultimate Reality, or God, if you like, truly must be.

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