Saturday, April 14, 2018

What would you do?

Imagine a school. A huge campus…a magnificent building with great facilities. You agree to its policies and like the sound of its ideologies (from the little you have read). You have even met a few members of the faculty, who look respectable and knowledgeable. You decide that it will be the right one to guide and educate your children through their formative years.

As the years go by, you realise that the teachers are incompetent and careless. They do not care about your child at all. They are un-inspiring, lazy and selfish. They blindly read from textbooks in class, without bothering to explain contexts or provide meaningful examples. In fact, they favour students based on the gifts they bring in, and penalise those that do not satisfy their greed.

You speak to the Principal, who assures you that it is all going as per plan (and there is nothing to worry). He even puts your child in a different class, with a more “popular” teacher. But you soon realise that it’s not much better, as the curriculum itself is theoretical and archaic.

To make matters worse, your child has witnessed bullying. Apparently, there are kids in the school who beat up and verbally abuse students from another school, at the bus stop. Occasionally, they even bully kids from their own school. On repeated complaints, they are neither punished nor expelled (as some of them are the children of senior faculty or board of directors).

Your child is clearly upset and does not look forward to going to school at all. You have given it sufficient number of years to know that things won’t change on their own. You have spoken to several frustrated parents, who feel the same way….but continue to send their children to this school because it is closer home and still has a reputation. “It’s all more or less the same…others, often worse”, they said.  

Surely, not all schools can be this bad. You personally know teachers from other schools who seem to genuinely enjoy teaching. You also know several students who have turned out just fine….fighting and surviving in the system, without being scarred. You yourself are a product of the very system, often facing similar problems when growing up. But your parents did nothing drastic (like changing schools or suburbs).

As an educated, independent, responsible parent, would you continue your/your child’s journey with this school (or any school where you have a similar experience)?
If your answer is "No"...

Replace the word "school" with "religion" in the earlier paragraphs (and teachers/faculty/principal with whatever you call your religious heads). Now answer that question again. Is your answer still No?

The concept of religion is not much different to the concept of a school you are affiliated with. If you are not getting much out of it, you have a choice. If you have lost faith in the system altogether, you don’t need a religion at all! For religion may be born out of the best intentions (just like the magnificent building of the school that impressed you on the first day), but if the popular “practice” of it is corrupt, illogical or un-inspiring, you cannot truly justify being a part of it.

Of course, the analogy is not meant to be taken literally. In modern society, we can live without religion…but it’s not as easy to do away with schools. Also, school as an institution is not synonymous with education. Just like faith/spirituality is not synonymous with religion. ­One can be educated without ever stepping into a school (and be essentially un-educated despite have degrees from prestigious schools/colleges). Similarly, one can have faith and even believe in a superpower of some sort, without being part of any religion.

The point is, has religion really given us a lot? Has it not, over the years, caused more pain/inequality/unrest than provided the peace and freedom it was supposed to offer? When I read about the atrocities in the name of religion, I become more convinced that I do not want to be affiliated to any. When I hear about the hatred and terror spread by the so-called custodians of religion, I feel like my child doesn’t need the tag of religion either. Sure, we enjoy the festivities, celebrations and even certain religious rituals. But we celebrate Christmas with as much zeal as Diwali and Eid. And these celebrations (to us) have very little to do with religion. They are all just opportunities to celebrate the joys of life, with our family and friends.

I am possibly not a true atheist just yet…but I choose joy over religion. I choose peace.
I found this interesting piece on the difference between God and religion:
In it, Reb Jeff says:
It is my belief that many people who call themselves atheists are really just anti-religion. Maybe that's true for you, too. I think there is a difference between faith and religion.

A true atheist would be someone who believes that our existence is a complete accident of chance, that our lives serve no purpose and have no meaning, apart from what human beings ascribe to their own existence. A true atheist would believe that there is nothing intrinsically good or bad about any human action wrong. I don't believe that and I don't think that there are many people who do if you really push them on it. To me, faith is just the gut feeling that our lives continue to matter even after we have died, and that the way we choose to live matters, too—not just because of our biologically programmed preferences, but because there really is such a thing as right and wrong.

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