The proliferation of religion in the preceding centuries and the vigorous contentions among its proponents is excruciatingly detrimental to humanity’s uplifment; it may perhaps also be a warning call for the dusk of the human civilization.
After the extinction of dinosaurs, nearly 2.5 million years ago, the Paleolithic era began. As suggested by historians, the Neanderthals were one of the first people to start burying their dead, marking the beginnings of culture. That was nearly 50,000 years ago.
Modern religions happened within a minute. The evidence of Hinduism, with the oldest scripture of Rig-Veda, date to about 4,700 years ago, almost two millennia after the early Harappan culture began. Upanishads, Gita, Mahabharata and Ramayana were composed much later. Christianity, traces its roots to the twelve apostles, beginning as a Jewish sect in the mid first-century. The teachings of Islam were conferred by the last prophet, Muhammad, about 1,400 years ago.
Conceptually speaking, in the age of the dinosaurs and early humans, there was no God. No omnipotent, omnipresent, shapeless or tangible entity. God started evolving after 10,000 BC as the Neolithic revolution began, and theocratic states started being formed. Finally, about a minute ago in the clock of evolution, God as a concept started dividing and proliferating itself into several different sects and ideologies, in accordance with the religious proponents of different human societies.
The religion construct started as a food for human being’s sentient mind. But as the timeline progressed, the tenets of old religions became a means to start another, and eventually a tool for theocratic and imperial oppression. The most glaring evidence of it, and almost hilarious, can be found in the Roman versions of the Ancient (Roman) Gods which were adapted from the Ancient Greek Gods of the Greek Civilization.
When the Romans overpowered Greeks, they copied the whole pantheon of Greek Gods while tweaking their names: Zeus became Jupiter, Aphrodite became Venus, Hermes became Mercury, Poseidon became Neptune, and so forth. How easily did the imperial Romans create the ancient Roman religion!
Contemporarily, there are also evidences of religion being a means for social upgradation, as the old religions became more and more anti-society and imperialist in their practices, if not in theories. Dharmic religions such as Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, etc were adapted from the old religions while inculcating changes in them according to the contemporary social need.
A large percentage of people residing in India identify themselves as Hindu by birth. But, the etymology, however sentimentally incorrect it may sound, does not trace its roots in religion. The term ‘Hindu’ was coined by the Persians, as they weren’t able to pronounce ‘Sindhu’ properly. ‘Sindhu’ came from the race and culture of the ‘Sindhu Ghati Sabhyata’ or the ‘Indus Valley Civilization’. The term ‘Indus’ was used by Romans and it came from the Greek word ‘Indos’ which was adapted as ‘Hindus’ in Persian. Later, Europeans metamorphosed it into ‘India’ and ‘Indians’ to refer to the land and people of the Indus Valley civilization.
Hinduism is a word which was coined much later by British to identify the majority “religion” (contentions are on the usage of this term for Sanatan Dharma and the way of life) of the sub-continent. In retrospect, every single individual from the land of Indus was a Hindu.
But, all history and etymology aside, this idea of being a ‘Hindu’ is not based on someone’s choice, neither the religion nor the race. Same goes for the Muslims, Christians or Sikhs who were born in India. Being born is a biological phenomenon and it is not dependent upon geography or religion. A human starts getting identified with those stamps after coming into the world, not by any will of their own, neither through any biological process. One may also conclude that if this stigma of difference wasn’t inculcated in our minds because of the belief systems, enforced throughout generations, there would have been no reason to fight amongst ourselves at all.
If one removes the religious identities of people in India, we are utterly the same race, with the same mannerisms, same body structure, same languages, same social skills and culture. We also have the same inhibitions; a point reiterated so much, it seems belittled in repetitions. Extending the same idea a little further, it also applies to races and nationalistic identities.
As long as there are ideologies stamped upon humans which are not the consequence of their own will, and as long as they don’t question them but rather identify with them, they will remain a tool to differentiate, divide, oppress and fight amongst each other. Although, this also alludes to a simple inference that humans are weak beings, incapable of harmony as long as they conform and identify with ideologies (more specifically, religion), repeated and proliferated through centuries.
Perhaps, a cleaner way to look at it would be that humans would be the most social and compassionate beings, if their minds were not impressed upon with rigid belief systems such as religion, race, caste, gender, etc. We would be more compassionate if we had a clean slate, or a slate which questions and rejects such belief systems.
I seriously believe that the more humans give in to such tags and become rigid flag-bearers of their beliefs, the more we will create reasons to fight, and the more we will advance towards the decline of the human civilization.
But, to think of such a utopian society where there is an absolute absence of belief systems is a pipe dream. Religion does not look like it’s going away any time soon. So, we have another choice. Our choice is to free ourselves – question our own ideas, try to understand others’, live with an independent mindset, not force our beliefs down our children’s throats, and live life “our own way” as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the welfare of humanity.