the fully loaded magazine
This is my answer to the question you raise on your cover (Is God Harmful to Human Beings? Jan 8): If one were to go by all the wars driven by religious motivations and the number of people killed in these wars, which far outnumber all other wars put together, then God certainly seems to have been harmful to human beings.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
“Is God harmful to human beings”? To answer in the affirmative publicly would still be considered impolite, indeed blasphemous. But, history would tell you of the endless amount of violence and terror that has been unleashed in the name of the creator. While many articles in this issue try to defend the ‘essence’ of God, the deficit of a critical approach on God and religion is felt.
P A Jacob, Muscat
There is a part of man’s being that is exhorting him to struggle for peace. He is at peace when he sees the sunset, observes a flowing river, a canopy of stars or a beautiful flower, or when he stands on the peak of a mountain, in a vast desert or on the shore of an ocean. I do not know why, despite having these experiences, man is running after gods and religion. In ancient times, prophets of all hues had glimpses of this peace. But their followers misunderstood them, manufactured innumerable gods and through them religions, in order to wield temporal power and ultimately to sate their unending greed. They failed to comprehend the true intentions of these great souls. All power seekers will plunder nature, and to this end they will enlist the support of any god, religion or ism. And the common man for his part will endorse these as he seeks to satisfy his own greed.
K. Aravindakshan, Thrissur
Your year-end issue could not have been more pertinent. We are in times where fundamentalism threatens to break down the positive ideals we aspire for. But after all, it is the existence of an almighty force that prevents the world from plunging into chaos. A belief in some supreme power raises questions of morality and righteousness, awakening conscience and providing us with the basic tenets of humanity.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
Your New Year gift to readers is of some value. It made me remember a seminar organised by the philosophy department during my college days in which the prevailing argument suggested that God and religion were a society’s means of disciplining people for ensuring peace and harmony. For God’s sake, do not blame God. Let God remain good. We must correct ourselves and give a sincere ear to the god-fearing.
M.A. Ahad, Bhubaneswar
This here is a rare issue. Not often is theology discussed so publicly in our times, alas. The mind that relentlessly pursues matter will dwell in a vacuum without God. This is perhaps the reason why Voltaire said: “If God didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him”. It is telling that the world’s largest democracy and biggest capitalist economy, the US, has “In God we trust” as its official motto.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, On E-Mail
For what purpose or whose purpose was God created? People came up with the idea as a way to escape life’s problems. But such belief does not solve anything in reality. The real question is not whether God is harmful, but whether people are trying to approach these difficulties in a rational and constructive way.
G.L. Karkal, Pune
While Devdutt Pattnaik’s analysis on the theme shines for its audaciously original approach, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s words inspire hope. M. J. Warsi excels in clearing common cobwebs which entertain men like Mill and Tocqueville as offering the gospel of liberalism. I must make mention of Shiv Visvanathan’s engagement with the contemporary as a very significant analysis. No doubt, world leaders must make a push for their peoples to wake up from a stupor of indifference.
Lalit Mohan Sharma, Dharamshala
The question whether God is harmful has been addressed by most pundits and religious figures in Outlook’s year-end special issue. Most have reckoned with it according to their faith and learning. Truth is, religions and their gods are the well-meaning work of prophets and their early followers, who prescribed sets of rules and codes of conduct for people to follow. The question of God’s existence has fascinated mankind since ancient times. Preachers and saints have pored over this question for long; in the process some have been turned into gods themselves. So it goes.
Indu S. Dube, Varanasi
If atheism is a religion, as it is being seen these days, not playing cricket is a sport.
Mick Scheinin, On E-Mail
The first article in the package by the Dalai Lama (Inner Peace Vital, Jan 8) set the tone for the rest. I must agree that any violence in the name of God is certainly against the wish of God. Truly, humans cannot represent God properly; it always leads to factionalism. In India, home to so many spiritual icons, none can stem the tide of religious and communal hatred. All the powerful citadels of popular godmen have started reeking of arrogance. The disappointing thing is to see these living gods living in luxury at the expense of their blind devotees. Why? They should come out of their cocoon, like the Buddha, and see how people actually live.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
While Upinder Singh’s article on the role of violence and religion in ancient India was a good read for neophytes (The Warlike Bodhisattvas, Jan 8), I didn’t like the lecturing tone of the piece. Everyone knows that not every Hindu, Buddhist or Jain in the last thousand years was a pacifist saint. But when you look at the overall record of Indian culture, it is quite good on the matter of inter-faith relations and acceptance of diverse doctrines.
Varun Shekhar, Toronto
Refer to Man’s Ego is a Horse Without Reins. The answer to that age-old question, ‘What is God?’, has been given by Mata Amritanandamayi: “God is not an individual, a personality or a particular form that sits on a golden throne beyond the sky and passes judgment. God is pure consciousness.” Common believers are god-fearing, contented and satisfied with their own gods. For the poor, God is an invisible but omnipresent force which controls the universe and would provide them succour. It instils confidence in them and consoles them in grief. Those committing mindless murders in His name are not believers but betrayers of God and religion.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to your editorial comment The Good God (Jan 8). People’s ignorance is their God; the greater the ignorance, the larger God looms on their canvas. Those who believe the universe is orchestrated by a power beyond their comprehension see God as a mysteriously omnipotent and omnipresent force, but keep it a secret as their affair with God is private and sacred. The public manifestation of God through several religions is only for grooming the dominated sections of society and for making the oppressed sections accept their exploitation under a cover of holiness and spirituality. No wonder most people are gullible and remain mesmerised enough to happily suffer all the injustice heaped on them by the grossly unjust social order. Power-crazy politicians encourage supremacy competitions among different gods and their followers, divided into several religions and castes, pitting them against each other. May God save us from this opium of the masses!
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
The answer to your cover question in bold is yes. Bomb attacks, mass murders, wars or even individuals trying to drive cars into crowds, all are being done in the name of a loving, caring, merciful, father, mother, son or formless god”. This concept of God in the “collective ego” of tribes, nations, and religions always contains a strong element of paranoia: “us against the evil others “ This extreme collective paranoia is the main cause of much human suffering: the Spanish Inquisition, burning of heretics and witches , gau rakshaks’ killings of innocents in present times, fundamentalist killings in the Middle East. All these have come out of the ‘my God is better than your God’ logic. Nietzche said, “God is dead”. Not quite. There are frenzied attempts at killing gods everywhere. But the atma in me promises that the good God will survive.
Col (Retd.) C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
Kudos to your ‘God‘ edition. As a Hindu married to a Christian, I couldn’t agree more with the editorial. My husband and I do not subscribe to the idea of conversion under any circumstance. Religion should be a personal matter, and no authority should be allowed to interfere with it. I look forward to more such cover stories.
Anu Bangara D’Souza, On E-Mail
Isn’t the very notion believers hold—that their God/religion is better than another’s, the reason they follow that particular religion? Think about it, if you force everyone to say that every religion is as good as theirs, the religions are themselves bound to lose their value.
Jean Rogers, On E-Mail
“Well, all I know is that the poorer one is and the more unpredictable one’s life is, the more real God becomes and greater the need of a God, any God,” reads a line in your Comment. In case you haven’t checked, it so happens that most of the temples, mosques, churches and synagogues run not because of the prayers of the poor but because of the contributions from the rich.
Akash Verma, Chennai
I reckon that the writer of your story on caste riots in Tamil Nadu (Sectarian Fire Burns, Jan 8) is most likely a Brahmin with an RSS bent of mind. Why else would he try to portray fights among different sects of Hindus as well as those among Hindus, on one side, and Muslims or Christians, on the other, as authentic, but the ones instigated by Brahmins as frivolous. He also claims an RSS office was bombed by Muslims, even though the Supreme Court released all the accused in that case for lack of evidence. Repeating a lie until it becomes the truth is, after all, the RSS method of truth-telling.
Nasar Ahmed, On E-Mail
The writer says, “ That even the Jain sources do not speak about the event or that the Jains were thriving long after the supposed mass impalements do not seem to deter them.” Well, Jain monks, just as Buddhist monks, are not allowed to point fingers, or go to court. That’s the reason why they remain silent.
Ratana Sifu, On E-Mail
Rakshanda Jalil’s piece (‘Oh, But You Don’t Look Like a Muslim!’, Jan 8) explains many misgivings, stereotyping and idiocies that plague perceptions about Muslims in India since Partition. That historic event seems to have kept alive the stark division of our society into two communities, and recent events have exacerbated these perceptions. I grew up in Lucknow, hence I celebrate our Ganga-Jamuna culture in the cocktail that was India. I hope the sectarian poison that seems to have been mixed into it by political and fundamentalist forces will lose its potency as the more powerful elements of mutual love and recognition dominate once more.
Veena Talwar, Oldenburg (Germany)
Rakshanda Jalil’s experiences are raw and heartfelt. I was brought up in a remote Bengal village where the majority were Muslims; some of them looked after our farmland. There were Maulvis also. Life was full of compassion and understanding. Ever since the communal politicisation of the land, such fellow feeling has disappeared. We need a civil society movement to fight this evil before it destroys the country.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (retd), Calcutta
This is in reference to Man’s Ego is a Horse Without Reins, your interview with Mata Amritanandamayi. Meeting Amma and keeping in touch with her has been the most wonderful experience of my life. I have been with her for 17 years, and yet I am filled with surprise every time I see her. It is amazing that she can constantly interact with so many people without tiring. Showering love and compassion, she greets the last person with as much zeal and enthusiasm as she showed the first, without sparing a thought for her own hunger or need to rest, and never losing her patience. She is my guru and my God. If you were not with me, Amma, I would not have survived and travelled so far. You have given meaning to my life and I have no words with which to thank you. I know, I am merely one among a million children of Amma who have had such an experience.
Akanksha Jain, On E-Mail
Your interview emphasised the importance of spiritual culture in contemporary times. I appreciated both the inquisitive questions and the thoughtful answers that can be actualised in our daily lives. It’s inspiring and encouraging to have teachers such as Amma around us.
Nathan Garnett, On E-Mail
Your question-answer session with Amritanandamayi was so philosophical that it’s impossible to believe it could come from an uneducated person, howsoever a genius she might be. As it is, you have not given the name of the interviewer, though credit is given to the photographs. I wonder if the Amma would be able to answer the questions if she were examined in a class room-like environment.
N. Kunju, Delhi
Amma tells us “the path to God is only meant for people with tremendous mental strength”. Not quite right! I would be the first to argue that reason is vital to faith. But I would never make a statement like the above. Some aren’t smart enough to know, and therefore belong to, God? I don’t think so. God’s love is agape (which is Greek), which is love based on reason. God doesn’t disapprove of other forms of love, but the important aspect of his love, which we should try and imitate, is reason.
OUTLOOK TOPICS :
or just type initial letters