Thursday, December 28, 2006

Oh, God!

A colleague and his wife were involved in a fire accident, but after many days of hospitalization, skin grafting, etc recovered slowly and returned to their normal routine.

I called him up the day he reported back for work and asked how he was. He replied, “By God’s grace, I managed to pull through”.

What amazed me about that reply- and I told him so- was that he was thanking God profusely for saving his life, when he would have been within reason to hold the same God responsible for the nasty accident that almost killed him.

Faith can move mountains, faith is what will sustain you in life, faith in a higher Being will pull you out of a crisis – such beliefs are hardwired into many of our brains. Some others would view such blind faith as misplaced. “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence” felt Richard Dawkins.

But the point is this. This colleague had as much right to subscribe to his belief as I had in questioning it, so long as each showed genuine tolerance and respected the fact that the other person was entitled to his viewpoint.

I was reflecting on this incident, when I heard about the controversy surrounding the installation of a statue of E.V.Ramaswamy Naicker, a sworn atheist, near the Srirangam temple. While the choice of venue was clearly made by the Dravida Kazhagam (DK) with the idea of provoking the believers, the latter fell for the bait and reacted predictably, in anger. The whole atmosphere became charged because of this mutual intolerance. What the believers should have done was to ignore the statue completely and instead score a point by turning out in large numbers on the same day, to offer prayers at the temple.

True rationalists like Richard Dawkins shun the word “atheist”, because it has a negative spin and pre-supposes that the positive or the default setting was to be a believer or theist. Self-styled atheists such as the DK, on the other hand, will not have any stand-alone purpose for their existence, without the framework of temples and believers to pick on.

I was intrigued by a recent news item that reported on a function organized by the DK to mark the 33rd death anniversary of EVR. The speakers thanked the DMK Govt for the order that allows members of any caste to officiate as priests in temples, but demanded that the rule must be further extended to permit women to become priests as well. I am all for equal opportunity and such noble ideas, but what I found amusing was that a party which has campaigned violently for demolition of temples and which has consistently denounced believers as barbarians, should exhibit so much concern for the caste and gender of the priests indulging in ‘barbaric acts of performing puja’ inside temples that, in its considered opinion, had no right to exist in the first place. It seems to me that the party has as much locus standi to comment on who should act as priests inside temples, as the devotees of the Lord have in expressing an opinion on who should be the General Secretary of the DK party.


Anonymous said...

Nice post.


Anonymous said...

I agree. Our growing (?) tolerance seems to emanate from other religions - as Sanatana Dharma harps on "live and let live" philosophy. God probing post. Lets hope we all become more tolerant and more willing to listen to the other point of view .


Srik said...

This post reflects superbly the twin faces of self styled secularists, atheists and believers. Very much neutral in tone and very much diplomatic in style. Great post, Raj :-)

Raj said...

Prabhu, thanks

Ravish ,I am not sure I can agree. There are enough skeletons in our cupboard as well.

Srik, thanks. I did try to be neutral and diplomatic and am glad that someone noticed.