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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Organized Religion or Private Spirituality?

Dear Asha, Ajay, Ravi and Ariana,

You know by now that I am not an admirer of organized religions. Please note that I said “Organized Religion”, not personal religion or spirituality. Humanity needs religion, if religion follows its original intent as shown by the root word ligos ( to bind, to tie) or the Sanskrit word Yoga (to unite) both of which stand for the concept of bringing together the individual (self, atman, pinda, wave) with the universal (spirit,Brahman, Brahmanda, Ocean). Although organized religions have served this function, they have failed miserably in bringing people from different faiths, and even within the same faith, come together.

There are many rational aspects of religion that have contributed to the development and welfare of humanity. We need them. However, once a religion gets organized, several problems creep in.

First, any organization requires an “organizational structure”. That means the appointment or selection or election of someone at the helm. We all know the extent human beings will go to be at the helm of any organization. We also know how several religious leaders have behaved irresponsibly in the course of history. Power corrupts.

Second, money is needed to run an organization. Thus enters the second corrupting influence. It is also evident that the person with true power in any organization is the one who controls the money!

Third, a set of rules are needed for members to follow in any organization. Once there are rules and regulations, there arises a need for a “police” to make sure they are followed. We know how this can be and has been misused by organized religions.

These are bad as they are. When these corrupting forces enter the arena of religion, the meaning of religion is lost. The sacredness is lost.

There is one more thing I have seen with organized religions which makes me less enthusiastic about all of them. They preach universal values such as “do not kill, do not steal, speak the truth” etc. But, these moral rules are written in such a way that they need not be applied to one portion of humanity. In other words, these rules can be and are interpreted by some of the followers as a license to condemn and harm those in the “excluded” group. Invariably this “excluded” group consists of women and “non-believers”.

Then, there are the irrational aspects of religions such as superstitions, blind faith and introduction of concepts and entities that defy laws of nature.

We need ethics; we need moral values; we need "individual" religion; we need spirituality. I prefer obtaining them on my own, outside of “organized religions”.

Thatha