Truth be said, all religions depict/teach the same thing. I believe that the original teachings of all religions are literally the same. We just don’t have the time to read about the teachings of other religions.
Jainism (Mahavir Jain), Hinduism (Shankaracharya, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Vivekananda and many others), Christians (Jesus), Islam (Prophet Muhammad), Sufism (Bulleh Shah, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai), Sikhism (Guru Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, Guru Ravidas) – all of them were teaching the same things. These people were not gods, nor were they the messengers of gods. They were the great philosophers – the revolutionary ones in their own time. They gave revolutionary ideas from their own understanding of the society. And for me, a revolutionary is someone who change the course of people’s lives and that of society.
They were all rational in their own way, during the time they lived. All of them desired progress and taught and spread the revolutionary ideas of their time. In my opinion, they can even be called social scientists who tried to teach a ‘scientific’ theory, to bring a ‘scientific’ temperament into society. These philosophers never rejected the idea of God -probably because science was not as advanced in those times as it is, now. Humans were not able to control nature back then. So I find it very likely that most of them believed in the existence of God.
Then came the onslaught of religion and its long-lasting effects. And bang, things started to change. The relief provided by the true teachings of these philosophers gradually started to diminish, resulting in more miseries than ever before. People started fighting and killing each other in the name of religion.
In my opinion, the concept of religion was brought forth by some powerful or power-hungry people and authorities to divide and rule over the people and the countries. This is a kind of politics rulers have been playing from the very beginning, and it is still used in order to rule.
Similar arguments can also be given for the rise of the concepts of caste and race.
I don’t think that the religions were ever progressive, but the philosophers were. However, they were only ‘made to look’ progressive by adopting the revolutionary ideas of the philosophers and the social scientists. Religions were constructed on the basis of those philosophers – philosophers, not gods.
Be that what it may, but power-hungry people did two things:
1. They formed religions out of philosophies.
2. Then, they made the people fight in the name of different religions.
In that context, I agree with what one of my friends said: “Religion is nothing but a political manifestation of philosophy.”
Religious reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy fought for progressive reforms in Hinduism. He fought hard to abolish practices like sati and child marriage. He struggled a lot to do so, because orthodox Brahmins firmly opposed his ideas. He convinced the British to ban these practices and to formulate a law on it, though the British government never wanted to indulge themselves in ‘local practices’. Given the influence Raja Ram Mohan had, his ideas were gradually accepted by the religious authorities. If they hadn’t done so, people would probably have rebelled against the priests and the authority figures – or may be, they would have simply stopped following it.
As Megginson inferred from Darwin’s theory, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.” In a way, I believe that religions continued to reform themselves in order to survive and to rule.
Today, if you say that one religion is progressive while the other is not, it is only because of reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Time has always demanded the presence of revolutionary people and their revolutionary ideas. But, the supply is much lesser than the demand.
Powerful people do not want the masses to know the truth. Rulers do not want people to be critical thinkers. However, as long as the masses are not awake, we will not be able to progress. Proper education is the only way to give rise to critical thinking, to make the supply chain better and more efficient. But the authority figures are absolutely not willing to provide you this leeway. They don’t want you to become a rebel.
At the end of the day though, the choice is always ours.