“If I believe in reincarnation, I feel I have been born a woman for the first time. I feel like Sally from 3rd rock from the sun” – Tanya, on the threshold of leaving a marriage and learning to love, to be a mother again.
It is warm
blood between her thighs
the smell, comforting like a mother’s womb
it is that time
when Nature reminds her
of womanhood, motherhood
And as she rushes to change
her blood stained skirt
she passes the mirror, catches her eyes
staring back accusingly
a decision had to be made, again
to be a mother, or not
It was made once before, a long time ago
by a man who spoke of love
and a surgeon with a knife.
Bali is not paradise in the classical sense. However, it is an island that nurtures, sustains and perpetuates an enchanted existence disconnected from a reality that many have to live with in other parts of Indonesia.
As the years roll by, development continues to race towards incomprehension. It is slowly leveling the vibrant ethos and in some areas replacing verdant surroundings with concrete monstrosities that are flaccid in nature. These contorted aberrations on the Balinese landscape are desecrating the island of the gods and one wonders whether the day of reckoning will come when Goddess Bali awakes from her slumber to return her home to a pristine land.
The surreptitious inroads into sacred areas is alarming and deeply saddening.
A beautiful people being corrupted by insidious consumerism with the all pervasive motto – In God we trust, rest cash – being the recurring theme.
Ancient Balinese architectural concepts like Asta Kosala Kosali have been swept away by those that seek to transform the isle into the ultimate paradise for the rich and famous, while education standards, minimum wage is wanting and the lives of ordinary folk being increasingly intruded upon and disrupted by groups of carpetbaggers who seek Avalon in the east.
Village folk still cling precariously to their language, Balinese, to float on the surface of cross fertilization of cultures that is flooding homes with street jargon from all over the world including other parts of Indonesia. Children who once spoke their mother tongue fluently are now being enticed into the ever growing circle of hip youngsters. A circle that is pretentious in word, dress, music and morals, all this borrowed from visitors.
And as the dilution of a beautiful ethos continues, the deteriorating state of the environment is best reflected in reports emanating from Udayana University – statistics that are revealing, disheartening and prophetic.
So how long can this enchanting isle sustain the juggernaut of avaricious progress? Some assume that this will carry on ad infinitum. Others believe that the boiling point or breaking point is a few years away.
But who is listening?
Who will draw the line and prevent further maiming of the sensual evocative senses of Bali and its gracious people?
In this fourth and concluding part one shall celebrate all the wonderful, beautiful and meaningful aspects of organized religion.
Note: The author comes from mixed parentage (father Indian/Irish, mother Spanish/English). He is a Hindu and Catholic with relations scattered across the globe. They include Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. He studied English Literature at a well known Jesuit college and worked with Mother Theresa (in the 70s), Hindu, Muslim and Jewish Charities.
Organized religion may be accused of heinous crimes by self appointed guardians of rationality who question the very essence of its origin, ridicule its dogma and mock its followers. Anyone has the right to voice their opinion or even cast aspersions for this is, apparently, a free world. But is organized religion so insidious and evil as it is made out to be, or, has selective memory been the cause of rancid rumination and recrimination? It is without doubt the later.
One cannot dispute the fact that violence and propaganda continue to be used, sometimes destructively, to upset the tranquility of religiosity. But this is not originating from organized religion per se but from usurpers that have adorned the mask of the faithful to preach hatred for narrow political ends. These warped aficionados of the absurd prance in front of the media extolling the virtues of their own self importance…announcing the dispatching of death squads to senselessly killed unarmed innocent people. And this is just one example of how one organized religion is being misused by people with morals that are elastic.
History is strewn with instances of murderous religious activity which is the result of hunger for power – to subjugate people and fool them into believing that the fight is about Faith. During these upheavals there have been many followers from organized religion that have contributed their time, money and lives to help the defenseless and disenfranchised even though the later may be of another faith. So who remembers these devoted emissaries of peace and love?
The Middle East gave the world three great religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And yet we face the insurmountable task of bringing peace to the region. Mohammad and Ashkenazi, my friends from the region believe that they are brothers in alms, begging for peaceful coexistence without the stench of putrefying political ambitions of ‘religious gendarmes’ who claim they represent the faith, an untruth and an embarrassment to organized religion.
Art, poetry, music, education, health care, agriculture, infrastructure and business are some areas that have benefited from organized religion’s involvement in a country. The poor marginalized people continue to be provided succor through development programs that seek to uplift their wretched lives to an acceptable standard of living – clean drinking water, wholesome food and hygienic living conditions. All this is best reflected in areas where natural calamities have occurred. The presence of committed workers of organized religion providing aid in often dangerous situations is now a common daily occurrence. Some are killed, others kidnapped but still more volunteers continue to come forward because their ‘faith’ is stronger then the frightening reality awaiting them in some war ravaged zone.
India, home to a bouquet of organized religions, has thousands of charities run by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and others : Free health camps (family planning, eye operations, immunization, pre and post natal care, creches for migrant workers etc.), midday meals, human and animal shelters, clothing, adoption centers and even micro interest free finance to assist women in setting up small businesses.
Some organized religions like Jainism have built hospitals with donations from people of many religious denominations to treat injured animals, tame and wild, without any charge; these also include board and lodging for our feathered friends with broken wings etc. This is ‘Insaanyat’ (humanity) and most followers of a faith practice this. It is when some renegades discard the concept of humanity, of having humanity for the defenseless/under privileged, that desecration of others beliefs begin. And, at this flash point power hungry politicians jump on the bandwagon to squeeze the most out of a horrid situation disregarding the blood that is spilled.
Amidst the mayhem of a modern world organized religion is like an anchor for the faithful. It soothes the soul, maintains a balance between the sublime and the ridicule.
The image of mother and child that appears in many organized religions is reflective of the sanctity with which woman is held. A respect for the mother. A genuflection that transcends the trivial words of those that seek to denigrate a belief that is beautiful and soul sustaining.
“A woman’s experience of giving birth, lactation and menstruation are alien to man and therefore this prompts man to view the woman as a lesser of the two sexes, basically unequal” – Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex.
So does God feel the same?
Apparently organized religion has unequivocally projected God or the Creator as a male. Why? Why is God not female, unisex or even asexual? For instance, it is Our Father in Heaven and not Our Mother in Heaven.
Why do we use the terms Mother Nature, Mother Earth and not Father Nature and Father Earth?
Could it be that the subjugation of woman originates from organized religion that has projected God or the Creator as a male entity: The Holy Trinity, Yahweh, Brahma/Vishnu/Shiva, Allah etc.
Some examples of organized religion’s exercise in misogyny.
Bible – The woman’s role is evident in the Adam and Eve saga. The man was seduced by a woman to eat the apple from the forbidden tree.
Qu’ran – Men are to rub dirt on their hands if there is no water to purify them following casual contact with a woman (such as shaking hands).
Hinduism – The pathetic end to Draupadi (Mahabharata) and Sita (Ramayana).
There are numerous examples in organized religion that paint a lurid image of woman while at the same time honoring mothers. Is this a puerile paradox that confirms the findings of Simone de Beauvoir?
Organized religion has an apparent obsession with virgins. The Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ was a virgin and based on this premise the Catholic Church has propagated this concept/belief. Virginity is a recurring theme in the Bible.
In Islam it is believed that a man who enters paradise will be received by 72 virgins.
Judaism – There is much discussion about virgins in temples. In the Jewish scriptures virginity appears for the first time in Genesis.
Hinduism – an excerpt from the Puranas – “The sun-god said: O beautiful Prtha, your meeting with the demigods cannot be fruitless. Therefore, let me place my seed in your womb so that you may bear a son. I shall arrange to keep your virginity intact, since you are still an unmarried girl”
So basically the man can have sexual relations and still be “clean” while the woman must be a virgin to keep her purity till of course a God has intercourse with her or she gets married. One wonders about the fate of a woman who does otherwise?
Does it really matter if Our Blessed Mother Mary was a virgin? And that the Lord Jesus Christ was the immaculate conception? Mother Mary was the mother of Jesus and this should be enough to honor her.
Obviously Man has played the primary role in organizing religion to suit his needs, social, sexual and political to subjugate Woman.
Could it be that organized religion has downgraded the woman of her divine right by emphasizing her sexual fallibility, while promoting the myth of man’s infallibility by distorting the truth in the Scriptures?
Part One in this series centered around the question of whether organized religion is a necessary evil or a business.This writer has received many emails extolling the virtues of organized religion and berating him for being a fashionable atheist. Unfortunately, the later is incorrect and the former, debatable.
Organized religion has continued to be part of a criminal world. It subjugates women (whipping, burning, deforming their genitals, stoning and more); threatens wayward followers with Hell; propagates the concept of bad Karma like returning as a dog in another life or whatever; uses social ostracization as a weapon and more; promoting mindless acts of killing innocent unarmed people with the reward of being welcomed and serviced by virgins in the Afterlife.
Leading organized religions of the world have been responsible for wars, genocide, mass murder, annihilation of civilizations, torture, and more. And this continues unabated -pedophilia, rape, sodomy, pillage, abuse of human rights.
So why is it that organized religion generates so much violence, hate and other criminal activity when it is supposed to be promoting, peace, love and salvation of the soul?
It is said that history, as we know it, is written by victors and rewritten by those who fiddle with Holy Books to suit individual megalomaniac agendas.
The Lord Jesus Christ was Jewish not Christian, Lord Buddha was Hindu not Buddhist, and Prophet Muhammad (?). None of these “Holy Men or Prophets” started a business. Yet their teachings have been distorted by self appointed men of the cloth who have engineered splinter groups that now number in the thousands – each preaching a ‘niche’ brand of theology, each garnering a slice of the profits in cash and kind.
On the sidelines stand the Jews, who claim to be the chosen people of God. They rightly remind the world of the genocide they suffered in the last century but periodically commit acts of inhumanity against Palestinians.
And, have we forgotten the Spanish Conquistadors who destroyed a civilization and welcomed conversion, often with the sword? And what about the Crusades against the Muslims? And what did the Muslims do after this in the name of Allah?
Organized religion has insidiously divided society, countries and destroyed vibrant and flourishing cultures. The flock is conditioned like sheep to follow the shepherd who carries a stick, a warning to those that seek an egress from stifling rituals and costly ceremonies. Interestingly most people become defensive when this subject is broached. Examples of saints and their service to mankind, miracles etc. are quoted as if these are certificates of merit and good behavior. It is reasoned by followers that there is more good than bad in organized religion.
If this is so, then why is there a steep rise in murderous activity, the Us and Them factor, the exclusive ‘believer’ clubs and regional religious rhetoric according to race, color, language and caste? Surprisingly this is not restricted to the Middle East or Asia but is present and flourishing in North America, where ironically the term “family” reigns supreme; it implies admittance to a religious affiliation on a national scale permeating all stratas of society, a powerful influence on policy makers.
Organized religion also fosters a curious blend of racism and colonialism – civilizing nonbelievers in dress, language, rituals and peddling the dream of everlasting life by presenting exclusivity of Beliefs, the last word not the good word. And in many other cases circumnavigating the minefield of casteism to lure the gullible to the Brotherhood. The litany of phrases and euphemisms sandwiched between well packaged utterances and displays of sagacity sets the trap.
People continue to fall prey because they are like dogs, Pack animals. And it is the Pack that gives them an identity and a sense of security; the price includes succumbing to the surreptitious machinations of organized religion and its byproducts, crime and punishment.
In the words of Hannah, a Russian musician and a close friend, who lost her grandfather in the Gulag during Stalin’s era, “People need organized religion to protect them while they are busy surviving life”.
Could it be that organized religion with its debilitating side effect is singularly responsible for the ongoing dilution of Faith?
And/or have we confused organized religion with Faith?
Organized religion is a business. It is a transnational corporation that thrives and feeds off the insecurities and superstitions of humankind. It is managed by apparently well meaning self appointed guardians of morality that interpret the words of a “man of god” in an insidious manner, twisting truth to present a palatable and surprisingly believable product to seduce people into hoping for a better life in this world and the next.
Salvation is supposedly attained by renunciation of existing beliefs (whatever they may be) and embracing a well packaged brand that gives the consumer a sense of belonging to a tribe with the clothing, symbolism in the form of cheap trinkets hawked at outlets outside places of worship – branches of the corporation; and rituals that create an atmosphere of mindless religiosity, the music adding an emotive aspect to the experience.
Those at organized religion headquarters have been fine tuning the brand over the ages to adjust to changing social patterns and more importantly to stem any exodus of faithful consumers to another brand, new or old.
With the advent of mass electronic media it is now possible to market the product in real time. Images of pomp and pageantry, ceremonies and consumers in deep pray/obeisance present a convincing USP – unique selling point.
It has been said that organized religion is necessary to keep the consumers occupied with living a good life by faithfully following the specifications of the product. Thus, society becomes civilised and obedient?
Interestingly it is organized religion that has created schisms between consumers. It is organized religion that uses violent methods to promote, inculcate and convert consumers to another brand. Entire civilisations have been either wiped out or converted to another brand through political skullduggery by merchants of death representing organized religion.
So is organized religion a necessary evil and a profitable business?
Promoters of organized religion argue that the system works effectively by keeping consumers in a docile and deluded state of mind. It reaps rich dividends for those that control the brand. It is used successfully in the formation of social circles that offer exclusivity to those that seek to be seen to be a part of the club (a mile high club?).
It generates revenue but doesn’t have to pay taxes. All donations are not accounted for and these usually slip into a few pockets. It helps in real estate by investing in places for consumers to congregate and the ancillary industries that crop up around it….like the manufacture and peddling of religious paraphernalia etc. Some have their own banks while others prey on the faithful for propagating the illusion of the brand. All in all it is a win win situation.
Some established brands occasionally slip in the ratings but these are just hiccups because there is always a wily brand manager who reorients the disillusioned consumers by inventing non existent threats to the brand spiced by sudden miracles. Through the ages spurious brands namely cults have cropped up like abscesses on the established brands and have diverted some of the profits. Many have been dealt with severely without remorse or legality and the faithful consumers reminded of the penalties of digressing.
Others that constitute proprietary firms like gurus etc. are one off brands that have created a niche for themselves, a kind of top end brand meant only for those escaping organized religion and/or their society’s constricting lifestyle. In this instance cash has been the preferred medium for enlightenment.
The mission statement of each organized religion is unique only to its propagators/consumers. For those not in the flock every brand appears to be the same and hence, “new age fallacies” are proliferating at a swift rate much to the consternation of the promoters of leading brands.
Competition between brands continuously ignites wars, creates well meaning terrorism and, in numerous instances, perpetuates subjugation of women and children; the woman is perceived as a vessel for the male libido, production unit for future consumers and an evil influence on man by making him do things he wouldn’t do in the normal course of his insignificant existence.
Organized religion and its side kick, the unorganized sector/small scale industry of proprietary firms, are doing brisk business in reaping souls and rich dividends.
So what is the difference between an international brand of clothing, chocolate, soft drink or religion?