What is religion? Religion can be labelled as a luxury which society has developed to make it feel comfortable. Throughout the ages man has always sought something to believe in, a power greater than his own. Religion has tried to explain what science has not been able to, by giving frameworks in which the universe could have been created. Whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist, people are constantly searching for answers in their lives, wondering about their existence here on earth, what happens when they finally die, and the rest of life's questions. Religion provides the answers to these musings, and explanations as to why we are here. Religion is comforting. This makes people want to believe in religion.
Fear of death distresses many people. I had a good friend whose belief was that at death, things just ended. As he got older, he confided in me that this really bothered him. Religion can give great comfort and help prevent the fear of death. The feeling that God will always take care of us gives us great comfort, and we do not fear death.
In the Bhagavad Gita, there is a passage where Arjun asks Krishna, "What happens if I live a good life, and do what is right, and then die. Is this a waste? Is it not better to be partying and drinking and making merry?"
Krishna says, "The good you do in this life is never lost. You will reincarnate into a better life, always."
Religion has always been used to manipulate people, be it Islam, Hinduism, Christianity. The above dialogue between Arjun and Krishna is an example where religion has been used in a good way to manipulate people to the right path. Many people think that the image of an all-seeing god with accompanying heaven and hell were invented by tyrannical leaders to control their subjects. Napoleon once said ‘Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.’ Religion maintains control over believers by carefully and powerfully manipulating their most powerful and sincere emotions. Those emotions are, love of family and desire to belong.
The draw for young people to join a terrorist group has never been as strong as it is today. The current militant jihadi actors – namely al Qaeda and now ISIS have also become extremely adept at using ideology to motivate individuals to join their cause. They claim that every Muslim has a duty to make ‘Hejira/hijra’ – that is moving to the place of jihad and fighting jihad. Their reward is 72 virgins in paradise. I once read a cartoon which depicts 9/11 in the form of a plane flying into the World Trade Centre with the caption, ‘Science flies you to the moon, religion into skyscrapers.’
Thus religion is used by power hungry men to manipulate young and gullible men and women who are willing to give up their lives to attain the so called rewards. But what is the proof that such a paradise exists? Nobody can be sure. Still people believe and this is genius on the part of religion. . ‘Religion has given people hope in a world torn apart by religion’ as Jon Stewart once said.
In fact renowned scientist like Stephen Hawking believes that God does not exist. Hawking’s argument against God can be summarized by saying that God is simply unnecessary and that the idea of a Creator has historically been substituted for true knowledge about reality. Hawking writes, “Ignorance of nature’s ways led people in ancient times to invent gods to lord it over every aspect of human life.” He added: "Religion believes in miracles, but these aren't compatible with science." Edgar Allen Poe said, ‘All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry.’
But I agree with John Lennon who said, ‘I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It's just that the translations have gone wrong.’
So as Guru Nanak says, before becoming a Hindu, Muslim,Sikh or a Christian let us become a human first