The Myth of Religious Neutrality

By Ranjit K. Sahu

The concept of religious neutrality  is a misnomer when its real meaning is emphasized. It suffices to say that more often than not it has been coined by people who understand very little of religion, both theirs as well as others. How else do you explain the word “neutrality” in the context of religion.

Have the people who raise their voice for it, gone critically through all the religious texts that exist on the planet? If so what do they think has been scribbled in pages after pages in the religious texts? It is always intolerance which establishes one religion as superior to another and forms the very basis for the existence and propagation of the religion. The basic assumption being that there is something awfully wrong in the other religion, for which the first religion is superior. If all religions are equal as being prophesied by some people who want to maintain a so called neutral view, then how is that the people following different religions have to follow rules and subscribe to beliefs as distant in compatibility as oil and water? Take an example of the first and basic concept of the foundation of any religion.  The existence of God  and the Creation of creatures including man.  Here itself begins the very divergence of views, in God being a male (As believed by the Middle eastern religions)  or a female (as believed in many Animistic religions  and those of some native American tribes who subscribe to the Mother Goddess). Add to that the complexities of the creation having an animal origin like the native Americans believing in the Hare with all powers. If feminists cannot tolerate male dominance and vice versa how does one expect that two schools of thought with opposite concepts lead to the same conclusions. This itself negates the idea that all religions lead to God. How can people who believe God to be a male meet him if in reality it turned out that God was a female and vice versa? Strangely no Religion has made God gender neutral!

 The second spin off of such beliefs is the idea of the origin of the man. Did mankind originate from one couple as  mentioned in the bible and other texts or were several human races or their progenitors created simultaneously as described in the Hindu religion?   While the former belief forces one to assume that future generations of mankind are the product of an unintended incest, the later creates the problem of why so many different types of humans were created when most other species exist in fewer forms.

It is naïve to assume that people who follow one kind of a religion would intentionally or otherwise subscribe to the other school of thought that too when the concepts are wired into their thoughts and everyday life so much so that every action of theirs in some way is a manifestation of  their basic concept of God, religion and life.

To proceed further to the diversification of various religions, it is  again a surprise that each religion has sub divisions. Be it so called monotheistic Hinduism, Christianity or Islam or atheistic Buddhism.  It is obvious from such branching of the religions, that whatever basic text that was foundation of  the religion has been interpreted, over interpreted or misinterpreted by humans during different era to suit to their convenience and needs. Of course here again comes the catch point. What is the original and True Religion or sub religion in each case and why did the variation happen? It is obvious that people with more power or position have dictated their versions and tried to thrust it down as the rule.  Also it is possible that  the people who were deprived of the privileges described in the religion made a new religion that would  help them overcome it. This deprivation could be anything as solid and important as power in the social set up or as vague and imaginable as a seat in heaven.

Religious indoctrination  bestows upon its followers to adhere to a previously  defined set of rules and beliefs without which the identity of  the person as the religionist is not established. So how can anyone following any religion be neutral to another religion? In reality they never will and see the others as inferior, partly owing to the human tendency to project oneself as the superior. It is a primitive instinct  omnipresent in all animals. While most animals show off morphological or physical superiority to establish their supremacy, the humans are forced to look upon concepts of religion or social orders to attain and justify their supremacy .

Just like animals subscribe to the principle that no two of them are same in their hierarchy  and will not tolerate their inferiors to be positioned as equals, humans will not accept the other religionists as equals. Religion was perhaps invented by people who had no other means to dictate terms as there would have  been no other definition of power as today like possession of arms or weapons. This also explains why many religions in order to establish themselves have undertaken wars. It is  the primal instinct to establish superiority that has made humans adhere to religion and when this purpose is being met, the idea of religious equality or tolerance is null and void. To extend this to the last frontier of the debate , that of explaining the view point of the atheists. The atheists are not religion neutral either. They are anti-religionists and they believe that not believing in any religions makes them superior among their species.

About The Author: Ranjit Sahu, was born in India and is a doctorate in biotechnology. He has published two books in poetry ( 2005: A Year of Love and Drunk )and his poems have appeared in the website of Presently, he is working on several volumes of poems with different themes.


One Comment

  1. Good thoughtful article. To this I would add my own thoughts, given my association with a great saint of modern India, who shaped my spiritual thoughts and beliefs.
    My deepest feeling is… the dispute over religions is a classic case of “Lost in Translation”. Not the actual words written in scriptures/holy books but in how the great Prophets/Gods/Holy beings, expressed their experiences. Jesus Christ, Mohammad the Prophet, Buddha, Zoroaster, Sri Krishna, Sri Ram…they were all right in saying that their path took them to Godhead or that they were Gods/son of God/one with God etc. This statement, identifying oneself with God, is the supreme culmination of a truly spiritual life. It’s not religion specific but is a soul experience. But what the common man/follower of a religion grossly misunderstands is the fact that all these statements by all of them were given from the same state of spiritual attainment (though arrived at by different means and paths given the socio-cultural differences in different parts of the world). And right there begins the painful disconnect, between what the Teacher/Prophet/God is saying and what his/her follower is hearing. And form there is sown the seeds of discord.
    To use an analogy… a thirsty man in Iran, on being given a cool glass of water will express his satiety in a language and manner different from the language and manner of expression of a thirsty person in Japan, India or Kenya. They are all different and will express their joy in different manner and describe how they got that water differently. But in reality all their situation was the same and it was the same cool water that quenched their thirst. So do we fight over what is the best way to get a cool glass of water and what is the most appropriate way to express that joy of achievement, that’s just plain silly. And that is exactly what is happening with the World religions now…