*Recently, a question was posed: Have religions failed or have the followers? *
This statement defies an either/or answer. My reply is neither — both are healthy — and victims of the evils of tyranny,oppression and exploitation. But first, what is the perspective in which this question is asked?
This is the corollary that comes to mind: It would be grossly unjust to ask a victim of bullying or abuse “Is it caused by who you are, or is it caused by something that you do?” At times, religion has been bullied and abused to fulfil the needs of tyrants and oppressors; while at other times, religion has provided the empathy and healing to cure the ills and problems that could not have been cured otherwise.
100+ years ago, we only had the history of tyrants using religion as an execuse. Since Nietzsche declared God dead and Marx (who contributed a lot to humanity otherwise) labelled religion ‘the opium of the masses’, we have had ample opportunity to have a sample of history of non-religion abetting tyranny. The Third Reich, Fascism, the Soviet Gulag system and the Chinese Cultural Revolution have produced some of the worst opression and tyranny of the last century. The legacy and opposing forces to these phenomena produced the World Wars. The modern crisis facing the world can be directly traced to the end of World War II and the Cold War. When God is declared dead, men become Gods, and when these men-Gods abolish religion, they institute whatever fancies them as de facto religions.
As Iqbal aptly said, ‘juda ho deen siasat se to reh jaati hai Changaizi’ — when a belief-system departs politics, what is left is tyranny.
From the Salvation Army to the Edhi Trust, religion-inspired people and movements do help the most vulnerable in society and have continued to do so. As any sociologist or psychiatrist will tell you In addition, a valuable psychological and social role is played by religion in every society. Ever-increasing masses in the world continue to be attached to the ‘opium’ of religion.
Illogical argument in the light of inductive reasoning
Religion is practiced by approximately 70-80% of the world’s population. Whether as religions or as followers, it would be illogical to believe that either 80% of the world’s belief-systems are failures, or 80% of the followers are failures. The simple numbers involved do not allow the world ‘failure’ to be applied in this case.
Some examples of abuse that are wrongly attributed to Religions
Is Bush inspired by the Christian-Zionist movement, or does he merely keep his constituency while pursuing the imperial agenda? Is bin Laden’s goal attacking Christianity, or removing oppression just as he was working against the USSR — who had no religion. Was Saddam religious? — Iraq has about as many Christians as America does Muslims, yet there was a Christian in Saddam’s cabinet. Is the struggle of the Palestinians a desire to convert their Jewish oppressors, or a last-ditch attempt at survival. Do they all invoke religion in their rhetoric? Yes. Is religion or the followers at fault? No. Are there a substantial number of Jews who think Zionists have hijacked their religion? Yes.
There have been, and still are, religious fanatical movement bent on oppressing and exploiting others. But at this time, in my opinion, the only religiously oppressive movement at this time in the world are the Zionists — and in a classic textbook PR campaign, they have adopted offence as their best defence — “Keep the world occupied talking about Muslim fanaticism, while an entire ancient people are systematically uprooted and destroyed”