A Common Minimum Program for religions?

It is amazing how important religion has become in our times. Yet it is even more amazing, that hardly anyone bothers to define religion, except declaring that Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism are the main religions. And while it is generally assumed that religion is a good thing, there are also many voices that claim the very opposite.

I wondered whether there could be a definition for religion that applies to all three main religions in India – Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, and which is positive and not divisive. Here is what came to my mind:

“Religion makes life more meaningful and death less fearsome by declaring with authority that there is an eternal, all-knowing, invisible power that is the cause for us and the universe. Religion asks us to worship and surrender to this great power and live in tune with its laws.”

This is a kind of Common Minimum Program that is beneficial and not harmful for humanity. And it makes sense, provided that there is indeed an eternal, invisible power responsible for us and the universe. This question needs to be answered first: How did the religions come to the conclusion that there is such an eternal power? And if it is indeed there, one more question is essential: What is the nature of this power?

It can be safely assumed that the Indian rishis were the first and original thinkers who enquired deeply into the basic truth of the universe. They made a detailed analysis of nature, introspected, had debates, meditated and shared their profound insights. It is not possible to cover in an article their varied, solid arguments from different angles, yet their conclusion is worthwhile to note:

Consciousness is the essence of everything. It is everywhere. They called it Brahman (big, expanding) or Paramatma (transcendent self). And they declared: Brahman is not what the eyes can see but that by which the eyes can see; it is not what the mind can think, but that by which the mind can think. Fire cannot burn it and a sword cannot cut it. In essence, we all are that. We are one with the ocean and not a separate wave. In the words of the rishis: “Ayam Atman Brahman” (this awareness that the individual experiences, is the same awareness that upholds the whole universe and beyond).

This knowledge makes life meaningful, takes the fear of death to a great extent, and even shows how to make life fulfilling. And contrary to the general perception that science and religion are miles apart, modern science meanwhile vindicated several of those insights by the rishis.

The situation is different in regard to Christianity and Islam. The founders of these two religions were familiar with the God of the Old Testament (Jehovah). So they did not enquire into the absolute truth, but modified the God of the Jews to some extent. His main traits remained the same – he is considered to be the creator, but is separate from his creation. He has personal traits, is jealous of other gods and fierce with his enemies. He knows what human beings are doing and will either reward them with heaven or punish them with hellfire on Judgment Day.

In both Abrahamic religions, an evil force, Satan, is postulated as an antagonist. Satan tempts the human being to go against the wishes of God or Allah. If Satan wins, then the person goes to hell forever. Postulating Satan as an independent entity poses however a philosophical problem: it means that there are two power centres and God is not all-powerful.

Yet so far, in spite of philosophically untenable claims about the nature of the cause of this universe, there is no harm to believe that our creator wants us to be good and Satan tempts us to be evil, and we should be on our guard against temptation. There is also no harm as such that both religions have woven a story around God and Allah, and maintain that he has spoken to such and such person at such and such a time and wants everyone to follow what he has said.

But from here onwards, Christianity and Islam went badly off track and included harmful claims to their belief system which turned their religions into one of the greatest causes for violence and war on earth.

What are these harmful claims? In short: Christianity claims that God wants everyone to become a Christian, and Islam claims that Allah wants everyone to become a Muslim.

These unverifiable claims also can make life meaningful, and take the fear of death to a great extent for the believers, but they are harmful for humanity as a whole, as continuous strife from those two groups to gain world dominion is the natural consequence.

It is no surprise that science does not support these versions of so called truth. Yet this fact does not deter Christianity and Islam to fiercely defend their own version as the ‘only true religion’. And because they lack good arguments, some even tried to outlaw any criticism of religions, especially Islam. They have of course no proof for their incredible claims, but by declaring that the word of God or Allah is recorded in their “holy books”, they effectively shut up most potential critics. They will demand proof from the critics that it is not the word of God and that unbelievers will not burn eternally in hell. Further, there is tremendous self-righteousness among the believers and it is not advisable to bring their wrath upon oneself by casting doubts on their belief, which promises them a better afterlife.

Christianity and Islam have not yet given up the “divinely ordained” goal that all humans have to accept their respective religion. It suits them as it is a convenient strategy for world dominion. Presently, Christianity is on the back foot, as it has lost its power to punish dissent due to secularism in western countries where religion can’t dictate the laws anymore, as it did earlier, when even attendance of Sunday mass was obligatory by state law. Now, Christianity tries to get poor converts with financial allurement and deception in developing countries, especially in India, which is seen as a huge market for ‘saving souls’. In the bargain, the poor get some material benefits, but lose their cultural roots and over generations probably will lose faith in a higher power altogether, as the Christian God is difficult to believe in.

Islam still can and does severely punish dissent, because it wields state power in over 50 countries and tries aggressively and violently to expand its reach in many countries. The world does not take much notice of terrible atrocities that are committed in the name of Islam in our times. For inexplicable reasons, most world leaders prefer an ostrich-like attitude by claiming that those atrocities have nothing to do with Islam, as is seen in the case of the obviously Islamic “IS”.

The question is: Should the world community allow brainwashing into baseless beliefs that create discord and even atrocities under the cover of religion? Should it not instead take a fresh look at the truth and genuinely enquire into it – a debate that is based on reason, introspection, experience, tradition and discoveries of modern science? Could there be modern day rishis who are deeply concerned with the truth, live a pure life and have scientific temper?

Religions would need to be divested of their harmful dogmas and focus on the Common Minimum Program, which can be enlarged in a positive manner, like Hindus and Buddhists did. They have broadened the basic philosophy with a variety of beneficial ways of how to effectively connect with the one truth.

By all means acknowledge the great power/ intelligence that manifested this magnificent universe in whatever way you want, whether you are a Hindu, Muslim or Christian. Have great faith that it looks after you. Teach your children about its greatness. Let there be prayers, rituals, austerities. Keep worshipping your different saints, go to temples, mosques or churches, celebrate festivals, sing traditional songs. But PLEASE, don’t demean or even kill anyone because he worships the Highest under another name.

After all, there is only one highest power and we all are its offspring.

By Maria Wirth

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43 comments

  1. Dear Maria:

    This is another beautifully thought-provoking article from you. Love reading your articles.

    But Maria, since you write about Hinduism with so much passion, I want to ask you something. I have been concerned about the way souls are being harvested through deception and by using money.

    Have you started any initiative to counter this? I feel if people like you take steps to counter deceptive conversions, it surely will bear fruit. I wish to mention that I do have any issues when someone converts to Christianity or Islam because one strongly believes in it. But I am against the conversions that are happening currently.

    1. if you have any ideas how to go about it, please share. i am not an organiser, but hope that these thoughts make things clearer and reach people. if Hindus, Buddhist, atheists, etc would take a stand agianst this brainwashing….

  2. R.Venkatanarayanan · · Reply

    Why synthesize at all? Apples and oranges need not be made in to one fruit but can be enjoyed individually as they are. The major religions can also co-exist in some cordiality towards each other. Individuals and communities can be left to question, dissent, argue and accept or reject one or the other religion that allows them to live in comfort and as wholesome participants in the feast of life. No coercion, no intimidation, no deceit, no inducement, no violence. But there is a prerequisite to this idlyic possibility. Islam and Christianity must abandon their perch of “I am superior” or their penchant for “conquering”. Matters of the spirit can not be treated as a war or a war zone. This is the point Maria is making.
    RVN

    1. Maria Lozano · · Reply

      I fully agree with you. You could not have summarized it in a better way.
      Why synthesize? The “new age” discourse, that it is more dangerous than even what their followers see. Synthesize to dilute difference. Dilute difference for making everything alike. And lose the richness of the traditions on the way of the invention of a shallow “new” paradigm, another for of universalism, in which everything goes but we don´t go anywhere with it. The point is to respect differences, not to make them disappear.

  3. Religion is a software implanted in us AFTER BiRTH. Read how it works: http://dilipbam.com/facts/301-religion-windows-or-linux.html

    1. If you are under the perpetual influence of your Mind (Nervous System, to be more elaborate) then you are programmed. If the consciousness is awakened, you discover the program.! You can move beyond the program also.

      You are absolutely right. But incomplete.

  4. Maria Lozano · · Reply

    Great article Maria. Thank you for helping us reflect with your thoughts.

  5. I am all for it – religious beliefs should never be fostered upon anyone. There can be no compulsion or coercion, it has to be an individual’s choice. The very moment someone else defines what his or her belief system should be, we immediately take away the intrinsic worth of the individual in that he has a right to choose for himself what he thinks is reasonable and sensible to him. I was born to Christian parents but was never a Christian till the age of 36 – that is when I made my choice to believe what I thought was reasonable, after having examined all the major world religions. No one forced my belief on me. If anything, I knew it in my heart that I would not subscribe to a belief system because of any compulsion!

    It is a very noble to think that all religions are the same, but such a thinking betrays a very shallow understanding of religious beliefs. Every belief system is fundamentally different – they could at best be superficially the same. For instance in Islam, it is purely Allah’s will whether one gets to heaven or not – if the good deeds exceed the bad in the final account. In Hinduism, one is caught up in the Karmic cycle where every birth is a payment for the deeds of the previous birth till such time that you have paid all your debts and are able to get out of the karmic cycle…you are paying, rebirth after rebirth, not knowing when this will end. In the Christian faith, salvation is a gift of God and there is no way one can earn his way – In every other belief system, it is ones works that determine if he is accepted by God. If we go from the surface thinking into a bit of the depths, we realize that all of the belief systems cannot be right – all of them could be wrong, but two opposing propositions cannot be right at the same time, unless you qualify them.

    In all this, I am sure we can find a space to dialogue without defacing one another and present our views in a congenial way, and by doing that allow each individual the freedom to choose what he or she wants to believe in.

    1. Saji, your understanding of Hinduism is incorrect. Karmic cycle stops the moment you realize the Eternal/Indestructible/Blissful part of you. After that, you can still be reborn and still undergo “difficulties” in life, but from Your perspective it is all a play, a drama. Because You don’t associate YourSelf completely with your body and mind anymore. Not that, you ignore your body or mind. It is just that from your perspective, your body and mind are a small part of the infinity that you experience yourself to be.

      Right now, most humans identify themselves as their body/mind. When you strongly experience yourself beyond these 2 identities even while doing any worldly activity, you are Self-Realized. It is a state that cannot be explained or taught or intellectually learned. It happens by intense seeking and by Grace.

      And you don’t have to be a Hindu to experience it. In below link are a few people narrating their experiences (you don’t have to believe them, at the same time you don’t have to disbelieve them). You can listen to them with an open mind. If it makes sense to you, you can absorb whatever you get and pursue further. If it does not make sense to you, you just drop it and move on. You are fine either way.

      Interestingly the first person – Scott – who describes his experience [highlighted in blue in the below webpage] was “zapped” in a Church (meaning he had his experience in a Church), he has no idea about Hinduism or never “converted”.
      https://altaican.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/enlightenment-experience-of-non-duality-advaita/

      Hinduism has nothing to do with believing or disbelieving. There is no eternal heaven, hell. There is no right, wrong. Hinduism is about seeking and experiencing. You just choose the path that suits your personality and your environment, and strive. Unfortunately Hinduism has mostly become a believing system because of 2 reasons:
      1. Ruled by Abrahamic religions for the last 1200 years
      2. Bhakti movement during the medieval period

      A lot more emphasis on experiencing God in everyone and everything rather than just having a blind belief:

      Karma is not just about your paying debts. Karma is a phenomenally deep subject. It is not just a linear credit+debit math. You can be born in the past as well. It cannot be explained in such a simplistic manner. Try reading the book “Many Lives Many Masters” by Dr. Brian Weiss (the book is NOT about Hinduism, he didn’t “convert” to Hinduism, he does not even speak about Hinduism or any other religion, the Doctor just narrates his experiences). You can also read the book “Secret Journey to the Enlightened Mind” by Dr. James Weldon (a great book – if you can ignore a lot of basic typos and grammar mistakes in the publication).

      You can also watch this sequence of videos (please watch all 11 parts – total time is about 1 hour video):

      1. Deary

        I do not intend to start a debate inhere. But one thing I want to say. The feeling that one need not to be Hindu to realize GOD is correct… But actually, this feeling is the only reason, that this already discovered science is going to the dogs.!!

        No body is reading the books you mentioned.!! On contrary, Millions are Hindu..

        If Hinduism is professed: problem stands solved.

        Otherwise debate continues, some get enlightened (Brian or Scot) (Sufi Islam) and some not.

        This same reason has led to emergence of other Dharmic Religious sects from the Hinduism only.. Which have added almost nothing into already established spirituality by my Religion. They have just rearranged the words and sentences.

        My Religion is Science. Science is my Religion.

        Thank You

      2. You seems to be book savvy. May be you have’t yet read “Being Different” by Rajiv Malhotra.

        It may give another perspective to you. And motivate you to siege more credit for Hinduism.

      3. Varun,
        I totally agree with you. I don’t see any debate in what you are saying. Please read what I said in another comment (to which Maria replied) that Hinduism is the outcome of an R&D study of nature of mind and consciousness. It is, in this respect, totally different from Abrahamic religions (which require blind faith to a scripture). Saji already professed in his comment that Christianity appealed to him more than any other religion. I was just correcting his understanding of Karma in Hinduism.
        I am not at all apologetic about being Hindu. To me, being a Hindu is a mindset (an open-minded mindset).
        Thanks

      4. Hi Altaican. I would not get into a long protracted response here. What you have shared is so esoteric that leaves the average man like me confused. I have heard different interpretations of Hinduism from different people I have interacted with, and all of them think they are right.

        I will just take one statement from your response. “There is no eternal heaven, hell. There is no right, wrong.” If that be the case why do we have a justice system. If there is no good or evil, why should we even bother when someone gets murdered or violated… Why was there such a massive outpouring of angry protests over the incident that happened in Delhi in 2012 when a young girl was so horribly abused and killed, or when some people blew up the twin towers in New York in 2001. Do you honestly think they didn’t do something bad or evil?

        Christianity is very simple and straightforward. It deals directly with the condition of the human heart – mine and yours. There was this story of a young girl who was fined for over speeding and the judge pronounced that she had to pay a certain amount as a penalty, to which she said that she just didn’t have that kind of money. The Judge who gave the judgement stepped down, took off his coat and made the payment on her behalf. The judge was her father. I know that I do not measure up to my own standards – forget about that of others or the perfect standards of a holy God. And that i do not have the means in me to pay for all the wrong and evil that I have done. But God’s love for me is so amazing and incomprehensible that He steps down, and takes the penalty of my sins upon himself, clothes me in His righteousness and frees me from the bondage of sin.

        When I shared this with a Hindu friend of mine, his response was – IS IT SO SIMPLE? Does it mean that I do not have to fast for “x” number of days, meditate and chant for “y” number of hours and go on a pilgrimigage to “A”, “B” and “C” places to earn my salvation? My response was – At home, when I mess up, I do not have to go through a series of rituals and practices to earn my father’s forgiveness. My father does not tell me to do a headstand for 12 hours or go hungry for 2 days before he will give me an audience. I just have to reach out to him with an honest heart and ask him to forgive me, because I know that he loves me, longs for a relationship with me and wants the best for me.

      5. Saji, Hinduism is not 1 religion like Abrahamic religions. There is no single founder. In fact, the word Hindu itself was coined by outsiders. Hinduism is more of a mindset. The mindset allows each individual to approach spirituality the way he/she deems fit. If Christianity appeals to you, then follow it by all means. None of your “headstand for 12 hours”,”2-day-rituals”, etc. are valid for my version of Hinduism. It could be valid for someone else’s version. But not for mine. So I can’t comment on that. A simplistic explanation of my version of Hinduism is given in these 2 images:

      6. Understand the difference between prophet based religions and Hinduism. Prophet based religions are Windows software and Hinduism is Linux. Understand the difference at http://dilipbam.com/facts/301-religion-windows-or-linux.html

    2. Dear Saji

      I feel your understanding of Hinduism is Perfect.!!
      Concentrate on Karma.
      Witness the Life.
      Flow with the Flow.

  6. Maria Wirth,
    As always, you have expressed deeply and passionately your concerns. But pardon me for saying this, your take on the whole thing sometimes borders on the effects and instigation of deeply personal experiences. While being absolutely true, the application is not universal, it is more personal. There is nothing called ‘Hinduism’ as a religion for there is no one religion here as you have been able to see by now. It is a term coined by the Western people (and I use the term very generally and geographically). The concept of a huge Mass of People NOT having ONE spiritual leader, guiding the people into ONE set of rules and ONE code of conduct and ONE GOD described by someone is totally beyond the grasp of minds that have been LEAD right from the time that they started getting civilized. The utter universal and cosmic length and breadth of the freedom and choice that has to be exercised by a tiny human brain of roughly two kilos to understand an individuals spirituality is too daunting a task for people used to being lead. Even here in the sub-continent it is not for everyone to exercise this kind of freedom of being truly alone in the universe is frightening to say the least. People choose the easier and more reassuring way of being lead. Not that it is bad but it does not lead to ‘GOD’ (for want of a better word) it only leads to a moral life with good deeds and a satisfying physical life. That’s good enough. The system of leading a group of frightened people to a passable ‘good’ life and extracting money for those services just like a Doctor does to keep one healthy physically is the profession called “RELIGION” . Don’t mistake it as anything else. If you keep this in mind always then you will see that your distaste and rancor for these professional services will disappear and your spiritual path will become more pleasant and clear. The first thing you will realize is that the frightening lonesomeness of the individual in the vast Universe is not actually real for we are not individuals (or stand alone units if you would prefer). Until this realization is FELT then we have not even made a beginning to a realization. Like in the Upanishads “It is not possible to put in words what has existed even before sound did”

  7. You said: “Religion asks us to worship and surrender to this great power and live in tune with its laws or commandments.”
    I don’t think this is completely correct w.r.t. Hinduism. This approach of fear is in dualistic religions (mainstream Abrahamic religions, and even Vaishnavism etc.) where God is regarded as a super-powerful, butt-kicking Entity totally separate from existence. In Hinduism, Bhakti-Yoga – when it is not pure – suffers from the same pitfall.
    Hinduism is more like a collection of research findings of seers/human beings who dived deep into themselves. Since each human being is unique, their journey, their paths can were unique.

    It is not just a belief system although it became one after India was occupied and Bhakti movement took over. Media and other “intellectuals” treat it as just another religion.

    1. i fully agree with you. Hinduism is completely different, is not in the same basket. But as it is world over considered as a religion, i tried to find a common denominator as it were.
      yet from there onwards, it’s clear into which direction mankind should NOT go, but almost half of world population went, originally mostly under pressure and now due to brainwashing of their kids.

      ultimately, Indian trraditions and Abrah traditions need to be clearly separated. Yet today, still, the Abrahmic religions get good media coverage and are “respected” of all places in India….

      here i tried also to bring out clearly the differences:
      https://mariawirthblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/is-hinduism-a-religion/

  8. Excellent article, thanks Maria!

  9. ராமச்சந்திரசேகரன் · · Reply

    Religion has to fill the inner void ie satisfaction.It has no place in a society When ordinarily educated but intelligent folks were able to satisfy their basic physical wants leading a contented life.It looks to me it could’ve been invented/schemed by half lettered crooks exploiting some natural physical calamity that befell the humanity when mankind’s basic needs were jeopardised/in shortage severely.

  10. Any belief system should be able to answer 4 fundamental questions, and the answers should cohere. The question of origin, meaning, morality and destiny. Where do I come from? Who am i, Why am I here and what is my purpose in life? How do I define what is right and wrong? Where do I go from here?

  11. A very powerful and relevant talk on the meaning and purpose of life.

    1. Saji, how can a christian priest, who misunderstands almost the entire Bible, truthfully and insightfully comment on Veda and Vedic science. As childish as the Christians interpret their Bible, he understands and explains Sanatan Dharm. It is useless. He is a clown.

      1. Hi Shaas – I am hoping that you could help me understand the Bible – truthfully, insightfully… Incidentally, this ignorant, useless clown gets invited to address Heads of States, Parliaments, United Nations, top universities like Harvard, Pricneton, Yale… again and again. I guess they all must be useless clowns too!! Apparently he comes from the highest class of Hindu priesthood. His forefathers were Namboodiris from Kerala, and his father was a highly place official in the Indian Government. He went from being on a bed of suicide at the age of 17, because he found no meaning to life, to being a person who impacts so many lives across the world. Because while he was on that hospital bed, somebody handed him a Bible. His brother-in-law, Sunder Krishnan, is a President’s Gold Medalist from IIT – Delhi, went on to MIT, Boston and then joined Atomic Energy, Canada, and now leads as a pastor in a church in Canada. Here is what I would urge you to do. Don’t listen to a man, don’t believe him, for every man has his own shortcomings and would speak from his limited knowledge and limited understanding! Pick up a Bible and read the book of John, with an unbiased mind, and ask the true living God, whoever that might be, to reveal himself to you. My life has been a checkered journey, from being in awe and wonder about the myriad of gods and festivals in Hinduism, to being an atheist, to finding meaning and purpose for my life in Christ 14 years back at a late age of 36.

      2. Yes, you are right, Saji, they are all completely useless clowns. No wonder they are constantly inviting another useless clown. …same feather flock together. In their quest of bringing back the “dark ages” when the Church with the help of Inquisition ruled mercilessly the masses, they feel the need to put India and its culture down.

        “Myriads of gods” – what an ignorance. They are Devas, forces of Nature, administrators of the Universe. It is the cristian churchmen who disguised as Indologists have ruined the wisdom of Veda by putting it on the level of a mere religion.

        But Vedic wisdom is more than just following some commandments, It is a scientific way of Self-realisation. Realization of the real Self, Atma, the silence within, brings life in contact with the universal Bliss, health, wisdom, and freedom – four things that Church was always against.

        The worst and unimaginable attrocities have been perpetrated in the history of the world by those would “pick up a bible and read the book of John” as you put it. READING IS NOT THE BASIS OF LIFE! Being is the basis of life! Be! Be free of everything that you are not – and you will enjoy the infinite Bliss. Be yourself, alone. On that pure basis you will be able the meet your God – free from bias and short-comings.
        Very soon you will find out that the infinity experienced within you, is the same infinity around you. And you will see how childish are conversions, and destructions, and all dogmas, esp. the christian… of the eternal hell for non-believers.
        ENJOY

      3. Reading is not the basis of living. Yes indeed, but it definitely is one way to inquire, learn, know, discover… So in that sense when I say, read the Bible or Gita or Manusmriti or Quran, I don’t mean that you run through it as a suspense thriller, but to study it. I never heard anyone gaining understanding on a subject by meditating or chanting, by emptying his mind. By reading and studying, I get to understand different world views and am able to evaluate them using my God given intellect. You do not judge a world view by the actions of a group of people, but by the life and teachings of the person who is the center point of the world view. You get a glimpse of that when you read the gospels. Having studied the Bible, I cannot understand how a Christian can even imagine, forget about perpetrating such unimaginable atrocities. For instance Jesus talking to his disciples in Mathew 5 says “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust..” I have not heard of any other world view or faith talking of loving your enemies!!! It is that love which enables people like Graham Staines to work in the tribal areas of Orissa and take care of lepers for 34 years when some fanatics burnt him and his 2 young children alive while they were sleeping in their van. How did his wife Glady Staines respond to this horrible tragedy – “I forgive them and hold nothing against them”. It is that love which enables christian medical missionaries to go into the midst of the Ebola virus outbreak to bring about relief and healing putting their own lives at great risk. It is that love which challenged Nate Saint, Jim Elliot and 3 other missionaries to take out a mission to establish a peaceful contact with Waodani tribe – one of the most violent tribes in world to save them from extinction, and were killed the moment they landed in their territory. Having suffered this grave tragedy, his aunt and Jim Elliot’s wife reach out and establish a peaceful contact with this tribe. It is that love which enables Mother Teresa to take in the destitute from the streets of Calcutta and care for them… I do not think you would be able to understand the concept of love, love that transforms everything, love that is unconditional, love that liberates and sets you free. Because one can do that only when he experiences the unconditional love of God!

        Being born in the west or into a christian family does not make me a christian. I became a christian the day I made a decision to follow Christ, not because of my Christian parents. Every Christian is a Christian by virtue of conversion, the conversion and transformation of the heart when he or she gets to understand the love of God and how valuable and precious he or she is. My children are Christians not because I forced them into it. I gave them the freedom to explore and decide for themselves, because I know that my compulsion can bring about external compliance, but a change of heart is something no man can force upon another.

        I fr one am not one to pull down another’s belief, for all of us hold them as precious and valuable. My journey was to explore and evaluate, and know the truth that sets you free. Over the years I have learnt the when you throw mud at others, you not only dirty your hands, you also lose a lot of ground.

        I am still waiting for you to help me get the insightful, truthful understanding of the Bible.

        On the side, I would suggest you look up the experiences and life stories of a few people such as Pandit Dharam Prakash Sharma, Pandita Ramabai, Sadhu Sundar Singh, Rajkumar Ramachandran….

      4. Saji, would you agree that the Church could do away with some dogmas and it would make it easier for those who truly feel love for Christ to be “Christians”? It is still official that one needs to be baptised to be ‘saved’ and go to heaven.
        do you really believe that truth depends on water being poured over one’s head? Or is it necessary to “profess” the dogmas of the Church in mass? Dogmas which you never can never verify and which are very unlikely to be true?

        those dogmas don’t add to a spiritual life. they are only helpful for increasing numbers and world dominion.

      5. Maria – It is the dogmas of the church that drove me away from it. I still remember the day before my wedding. I had gone to the airport to receive my friend, and the bishop who was to conduct my wedding was also arriving by the same flight. The church folks introduced me as the groom to be, and I, out of natural courtesy extended my hand to greet him with a handshake. The Bishop declined and the folks were scandalized – it was almost like blasphemy! How could I dare to shake the Bishop’s hand? But when I took up the Bible to know the person of Jesus, I realized that the church had brought in its own stipulations, hierarchies and rituals which found no basis in the Bible. The person of Christ was so much in contrast with what I saw in church which was fraught with rituals, dogmas, dos and donts. On the other hand, I encountered a Christ who reached out to the worst in the society – the lepers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, folks who were completely messed up and despised by the self righteous. He toppled the religious system and had strong, scathing words for the religious lot of the day – the Pharisees, calling them a brood of vipers in one instance! The worst in the society found themselves accepted in the company of Christ, and the religious lot fumed at the things Jesus did! I found him saying – come to me just as you are. You don’t have to climb mount Kilimanjaro, cleanse yourself with a dip in the holy lake there at 3:30 am, do a headstand, bury yourself in the sand and fast for 28 days to qualify for an audience with me. The most righteous man and the worst of the sinner had the same opportunity for an encounter with Christ. That is what set me on the journey to discover the Christ.

        On studying the “Sermon on the mount” (Mathew 5 and 6) and John chapter 17 prompted Mahatma Gandhi to say “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ. If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.” The church may have prescribed dogmas, and rituals…which do not have any validity. I do not see any reference in the Bible where Jesus says that you have to have water poured over you to be saved. I look at the life of Christ, and what does he have to say in His word, and go by that. It is very simple. In Revelation 3: 20 he say “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me”. It is as simple as that – I just need to heed His call and turn to Him. John chapter 1 says – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

        I did get baptized – more than a year after I accepted Christ, not as a legal requirement, but as a mark of obedience. I gave up drinking, smoking, swearing, using foul language, back biting,… Not as a legal requirement, but because His love compelled me. I realized that if you truly love someone, you would not enjoy doing something that grieves and breaks his heart. That he would not stand on the rooftop proudly proclaiming that – here is my son, he can polish off a bottle of Old Monk in one sitting! Rather it would break his heart when he sees me destroying myself. I go to Church every Sunday, not because I would be disqualified if I miss out the 80% attendance mark, but because I love to celebrate His love for me! It is as simple as that. His love for you is so amazing that he says – “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.” (Isaiah 49: 15-16).

        So when I go about sharing Christ with others, it is not to increase the numbers or for dominion, but that I may share the treasure that I have found, that my joy may be theirs too. If I like a movie I saw, I do go about telling my friends about it. To watch it or not is their personal choice. I cannot force them to it. How much more should I do when my life has been transformed by the love of God. As the slave trader John newton wrote: “Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind but now I see.” Ironically, he wrote this hymn after he lost his eye sight!

  12. Ezra Raichel · · Reply

    Maria Wirth is suffering from (DCCS) Disenchanted Caucasian Catholic Syndrome

    Symptoms: 1) Patient suffers from severe hatred and apathy for Catholicism, owing mainly to improper teaching at school and faulty upbringing, thereby not discovering true essence of faith, and discovering faith only at superficial level.

    2) Patient continues to harp on one or at most two tenets of Catholic faith (ex. exclusivism) to constantly attack and malign Catholics, mainly because of (i) and not having any other tools to attack it with.

    3) Patient suffers from an irrational and blind (and dangerous) love and affection for Dharmic faiths, particularly Hinduism, to fill a void in his/her life. To such patients, EVERYTHING is right about Dharma, and NOTHING is right with Abrahamic faiths.

    4) Patient tries to use Indian English and the vocabulary of Hindu fundamentalists in day-to-day speech, to “fit in” and become more “Indian”. (ex, words such as “Xtian” and “Congi”).

    5) Patient refuses to accept that LONG BEFORE the coming of British, Casteism and Untouchability was rampant in Hindu India. Will attribute the same to being born, therefore must suffer like that. Will use the right-wing explanation that British INVENTED the caste system.

    6) Patient has a deep hatred for public figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, BR Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, again, displaying a characteristic right-wing infection. Particularly, because BR Ambedkar organized mass conversions of Hindu Dalits to Buddhists and also said of Hinduism

    “In the Hindu religion, one cannot have freedom of speech. A Hindu must surrender his freedom of speech. He must act according to the Vedas. If the Vedas do not support the actions, instructions must be sought from the Smritis, and if the Smritis fail to provide any such instructions, he must follow in the footsteps of the great men.
    He is not supposed to reason. Hence, so long as you are in the Hindu religion, you cannot expect to have freedom of thought”

    7) Patient intentionally supports right-wing activity, even if it means death and destruction of minorities.

    8) Patient looks up to such divisive elements such as Godse and Savarkar, and more recently, Rajiv Malhotra. The patient considers such divisive forces as heroes to be emulated.

    9) Patient whole-heartedly supports such atrocities such as Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat riots, because they were done for the greater good of Hinduism.

    10) Patient does not realize that despite all claims of being Hindu and wearing rudraksh, will still not be allowed into certain places such as Kamakhya temple, Assam. Also, will not be allowed to climb the Ratha during Ratha Yatra in Puri, Odisha. Still, patient froths and fumes and desperately tries, only to be beaten up and sent packing by Hindu priests, who want no truck with “impostors”. But patient does not give up, despite being hospitalised multiple times.

    Famous DCCS patients: Koenraad Elst, Francois Gautier, Ambarish Das, Maria Wirth.

    1. Sheila Jose · · Reply

      Ezra, please do not denounce Maria in this way. Remember that she too is seeking an audience with the Universal Consciousness, she too wishes to reach out to that eternal Godhead which is all-permeating. If she has chosen Dharma to do it, then why must you fault her? True, Dharma and Abrahamic faiths are not one and the same, but ultimately, they lead to the same destination, even though their paths may be radically different, and parallel rather than concurrent. You may have chosen the Abrahamic path (from your name, I assume that you are Jewish) because you believe in the greatness of Yahweh and also that following and adoring Yahweh will be the path to your salvation. But everyone is not compelled to do so. Everyone has a right to seek out the Divine in their own way. Nobody can (and should) dictate how you reach the final destination. It is an entirely personal and intimate matter. If Maria has found solace and rapture in Dharma, then so be it. As long as you unlock the door, why does it matter which key you wish to use?

      1. Ezra Raichel · ·

        What a pathetic attempt to act as a cheerleader for the 2nd coming of the Kristellnacht. It’s no wonder that you poor, pathetic Indian Catholics get massacred left, right and centre. You just don’t have the spine to stand up for yourselves. Some right-wing fanatic comes along and burns up your church, and all you do is pull out a box of tissues and weep. PATHETIC! Learn from the Jews! If such a thing ever happened to a Jewish synagogue……never mind, the perpetrators would probably never live to tell the tale.

    2. @ Ezra, i appreciate that you spend a lot of time and thought to diagnose my supposed illness. however, i do not feel sick, and am glad that i got out of the straight jacket of blind belief in dogmas

    3. Dear Ezra, you seem to suffer under Blindness due to the DJCCOS – Disenchanted Jew Converted to Catholicism Oversensibility Syndrom.

      Maria critisizes Christianity with balance and coolness. Realistically, the whole church should be dismantled and its representatives should be jailed. Sex scandals, abuse of children by the priests, financial dealings, ruthlessness, many tens of millions victims through out the last 5 centuries – there are endless facts which would lead a “normal” organization to be banned and dismantled.

      Church is a criminal organization that has mastered the Art of Lying as no one else did. Everyone should read the book “The Criminal History of Christianity” by Karl-Heinz Deschner. In ten volumes Deschner describes the whole inhumanity that permeates all activity and thinking of the Church upto today.

      1. Ezra Raichel · ·

        FYI I am a Baghdadi Jew, married to a Catholic whom I converted to Judaism (since our religion clearly and expressly forbids inter-caste marriage UNLESS the partner married converts to Judaism). My wife keeps telling me about all the nonsense that Catholics have suffered at the hands of the majority community, for NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN. If European/American missionaries have gone about denigrating Hinduism and vandalising temples, why must you take out your anger on innocent Indian Christians who have had no part of the violence perpetrated by White Europeans? My wife said that she grew up with Hindus, and loved and respected Hinduism and Hindu culture, but mischevious elements love to stir the pot and spoil their stay in India.

        Maria Wirth is one such mischevious element, who wants to keep minority communities down always, including us Jews. But let me tell you this: I would rather die than give up Judaism, even if Hindu fundamentalists threaten me with death. Period.

      2. Ezra Raichel · ·

        “Everyone should read the book “The Criminal History of Christianity” by Karl-Heinz Deschner”. And you should read “Why I am not a Hindu” by Kancha Illaiah.

  13. Sheila Jose · · Reply

    Mr Ezra, I am sorry but nobody is being weak. First of all, I am not a Catholic, but a Syrian Christian. Also, I have grown up in a predominantly conservative Hindu locality of Kerala. Assuming that you may not be familiar with the ethnic landscape of Kerala, Hindus and Christians (indeed Hindus and ALL minority communities) have co-habited peacefully for centuries.

    Please remember that Indian Christians are not entirely blameless in the violence that has happened. True, as a Christian myself, my heart bleeds everytime I read about anti-Christian violence, but there are times that I wish that radical evangelical pastors (both Foreign and Indian) would stop referring to Hindus as “idolators” and “heathens” among other pejoratives. Such words have no place in the 21st century. I am a devout Christian, but I read the Gita everyday. I even begin the day with an “Om” chant. I do all of this, and yet retain my Christian identity. Because, as Mr. Francis da Souza has said “Christian is my religion. but Hindu is my culture”.

    I am a proud Christian, but above all, a proud Indian. It is a given fact that Indian traditions and customs are rooted in Hinduism. There is no need to challenge or refute this. Accepting one’s Hindu roots does not automatically mean that one has to change one’s religion.

    1. anil gupta · · Reply

      Sheila ji,Thanks for putting things in proper perspective.I am a Hindu.My native place is Dehra Dun in Uttarakhand.There was one Ms.Herbert D’Souza who was a warden at a girls’ secondary school run by United Church of Northern India.Every Raksha Bandhan she used to vist us and tie a Rakhi at the hand of my grand father.My grandfather too gave away some gifts in return, as is the tradition.Almost three decade ago I read a book “O! Jerusalem” by Dominique Le Pierre and Larry Collins.The book contained vivid references of persecution of the Jews in several countries during almost 2000 years of exile period.I wrote a letter to the authors at their Paris address given in the book.After some months I got a reply from Larry Collins from London.I had pointed out in my letter that the book had no reference to the experience of Jews in Hindu India during their exile period.Larry Collins replied back that while doing research for the book they came across some Jewish Kibbutz in Jerusalem where the residents had come from India.They told them that they never suffered any persecution or discrimination during entire period of their exile in India.They returned to Israel due to their ardent devotion to the cause of Zionism.When Zoroastrians came to India after Islamic takeover of their homeland Persia they were given all facilities in India.And today they are the most prosperous community of India.Jews and Parsis never faced any hostile attitude from Hindus.There are incidents of Hindu-Christian or Hindu-Muslim conflicts sometimes.But this is due to anti Hindu agenda of these two communities’ leaders.Stop proselytization and their will be no Hindu Christian conflict.Stop Jehadi mentality and accept that Muslims of India are descendants of Hindu forefathers and respect them and there will be no Hindu Muslim conflicts.Remember that Sanatan Dharm is the most democratic of all the religions.No particular saviour no particular Holy book, no particular ritual, no particular way of worship.One is free to be even atheist.Treating all as equal and accepting the right of others’ too to follow their own way of worship is the essence of Sanatan Dharm.

  14. […] The article first appered here – https://mariawirthblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/a-common-minimum-program-for-religions/ […]

  15. I think there are flawed people and practices in all religions. Hinduism has them too and they should be condemned. The violence of extreme Hindu groups is unjustifiable. However, the religion captures a deep philosophy and is not just about Gods and deities. It is a way of life – Yoga, Ayurveda etc. which have a scientific basis which the Western world is discovering too.

    I do not think it is fair to call Maria names and accuse her of things which she has not said which some people have done in comments here. She seems quite rational rather than a religious bigot.

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