THE NEED FOR REFORM IN RELIGION
An essay by Madhukar Gogate on the need for reform in organized religion, in
particular and the need for religions to teach non-violence:
This essay was copied from M.N. Gogate's web site at his request. Mr. Gogate
lives in Pune (Poona), India.
- Religion unites and guides its followers. It teaches noble thoughts
and establishes a code of conduct. Religion helped to transform tribes
into civic societies.
- Religion has some good features, but it is also associated with
superstitions, strange rituals and many injustices, particularly to
women. A religion may prescribe watching of a planet by a clergy for
declaring a holiday and festival. Scientific calculations on position of
planet are rejected. Clouds may hide the planet. Holiday may be declared
at different places on different days, disturbing work schedules.
Ironically, the clergyman uses scientific gadgets like loud speakers to
announce his observation.
- Religion is based on founder’s knowledge many centuries ago. A
religion may dictate eating of only fresh food. Refrigerators nullify
that dictum. So-called holy books were formed when printing press was
unknown. Copies were handwritten, possibly with many errors. Meanings of
some words have changed over many centuries. Science questions
religions. Some inventions (like cloning of humans) give big shocks to
religions. It is difficult to reform religions, just as it is difficult
to reform illogical English spellings already in use by millions of
people for centuries. Some religions prescribe visits by unwieldy crowds
to so-called holy spots causing severe problems of pollution, hygiene,
security etc. Several intellectuals dislike such customs, but keep
silent looking to mob frenzy, and votes in elections. Moreover, vested
interests, such as shopkeepers near the holy spots, may resist any
reforms. Even so, some reforms have taken place in many religions, after
- A religion may prohibit review of scriptures. That entraps its
followers, and might endanger non-followers. For example, a disgruntled
man, who cannot find a suitable bride (due to polygyny permitted by
religion) may abduct women from other religions. Rapid expansion of
population of a particular religion, due to lack of family planning, and
forced conversions might lead to huge protests from persons in other
religions. Religion may dictate certain dress code that might attract
suspicion of others. Religion is an extremely sensitive subject. Many
riots and wars have taken place in the name of religion.
- Science has opened gates to prosperity. Scientific outlook should
guide mankind. However, general masses would not accept it easily.
Moreover, gentle behaviour and values of life etc are not in purview of
science. God may not be provable, but belief in God may help in curbing
vices and for mental relief. Idol worship can turn into a moneymaking
business. On the other hand, it has promoted excellent arts of sculpture
and music (initially for prayers). A sportsman may not be sporting
enough to applaud nice play of opponents. Similarly a scientist may not
be scientific in usual life, and may cling to many superstitions.
- Religious preaching and practices may be at variance. A holy book
may state that the social division is merely profession-wise, but in
practice people may be classified according to birth in the so-called
high and low families. A religion may forbid idol worship, but in course
of time, the followers may worship some symbols or statues of original
founders. A scripture may preach non-violence, but its followers may
inflict violence on outsiders, and there may be fights among various
sects within a religion.
- Critical irritants (such as injustice to women, derogatory words,
so-called duty to kill non-followers) should be publicly rejected with
debates and legislation, for social harmony.
- M.N. Gogate, "Glimpses of Philosophical Issues: Religious Problems," at:
Copyright © 2003 and 2004 by the author
Version updated on: 2004-APR-5
Initially copied: 2003-OCT-13
Author: Madhukar Gogate