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Religious Freedom Vs Freedom from Religion

I am wondering at the human bondage to religion, not so much to God. The religion the people follow is the real problem, not the God they worship. I allowed my thoughts to soar in the region of metaphysics yesterday morning as I was reading the editorial in the Deccan Herald titled “Religious freedom: Govt. must introspect.”

The editorial deals with the annual “Report on International Religious Freedom” for 2022 released by the US State Department this week. As could be expected, it is critical of  India for suppression of religious freedom. Bracketed with India for criticism are Russia, China and Saudi Arabia among nearly 200 countries where a survey of religious freedom was conducted.

America may be a Secular country but is a strong Christian nation. Did we not see the white racial supremacists rule the roost during the Presidency of Donald Trump and did we not see the present President of America Joe Biden attending a mass in a Church before going for his oath-taking? In the same way, India may be Secular under the Constitution (or even otherwise) but India is a Hindu nation. Once this premise is accepted, then the basis for the Report can be inferred.

The Report has highlighted how religious conversion is banned by Legislation in many States in India. Also, how religious minorities are attacked in the country. As examples, it mentions cow vigilantism and hijab controversy in Karnataka. Bulldozing of houses of minorities (as in UP) is also mentioned. Bulldozing of houses of the majority community is, however, ignored. Surprised? Shut up you stupid!!

Now the question is: Should India be bothered about a Report which appears motivated (apparently for reasons of law against conversion)? Yes, say some political pundits because of the timing of the Report’s release. Soon, next month, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making his first State visit to the US. Did you get me Steve?

Anyway, be that as it may, I am reminded of the challenge the world is faced with today about the question of freedom in relation to religion itself. The challenge is between Religious Freedom and Freedom from Religion. Please contemplate about this question. If there is a religion today, it is obvious it exits because there is Religious Freedom. But what about Freedom from Religion? After all, one may believe in God without believing in any religion. Such a person’s freedom too should be guaranteed.

Yes, in America, there is one organisation known as “Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).” It is an American non-profit organisation. It supports atheists, agnostics and non-theists. A modern avatar of Hindu Charvaka, an ancient school of materialism. Like Greek Epicureanism. Founded in 1976, it is opposed to faith-based programmes by the State, Government. In India, this faith-based programmes are meant to pamper the vote-bank religious minorities or groups. FFRF supports those who want freedom from the bondage of religion that may include rationalists, enlightened priests and those in service of religious organisations.

It encourages people to be Free Thinkers and form opinions on the basis of reason, independent of religious authority or tradition; those who daringly differ from the established belief. I am reminded of the famous verse from the Bible which says: “And you shall know the truth, and truth shall                   make you free.”

Truth is such a powerful courage booster, one will achieve freedom from fear — Mahatma Gandhi is a good example. Which is why one should be a seeker of truth both in the material world with the help of science and in the metaphysical world with the help of spiritualism. Not with the help of God or religion.

FFRF is considered anti-Christian, anti-clerical movement whose purpose is to make the individual politically and spiritually FREE to decide for himself on religious matters. Remember, free thought is NOT anarchism. FREE thought is liberty to pursue reason, decide and then accept or reject. No wonder, they have named their auditorium as ‘Freethought Hall.’

Let us remember, it is only a child who had the courage to say that ‘the emperor has no clothes’ in that fairly tale. Interestingly, FFRF has instituted an award known as “The Emperor Has No Clothes Award” in recognition of what it called “plain speaking” on the shortcomings of religion by public figures. Some of the famous public figures so far awarded include Ted Turner, the Founder of CNN, who famously told the obstructionists ‘you either follow or lead or get out of my way,’ George Carlin, Richard Dawkins, Ron Reagan, Salman Rushdie and Ann Druyan.

Religious freedom demands right to follow a religion while freedom from religion demands right to abjure religion. As science and technology with AI are developed, we may find more people opting for freedom from religion. And about belief in God? GoK!

e-mail: voice@starofmysore.com

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