People view religion diversely, on one hand it is viewed as the path to eternal bliss while on the other it is said to be a survival of the primitive. Sociologically, religion can be defined as a unified system of beliefs and practices related to sacred things that unites all those who adhere to those beliefs and practices into a single moral community. Religion is most commonly seen as a system of beliefs, practices, rituals, symbols, sacredness, emotionalism, that somehow relate to a community’s orientation to the supernatural or life beyond.
One way of looking at religion is this. While every human fears death and goes through rough patches in their life, religion gives a sense of faith that eventually everything will fall into place. There is some supernatural power that controls your life. Social life is full of contradictions that threaten the meanings people place on life. Religion then, in a way, ‘makes sense’ of all experiences, no matter how meaningless or contradictory they appear. For instance, the theory of Karma asserts that whenever something goes wrong with the person, s/he blames his past sins for it. Religion is that force that tends to bring meaning to all the unexplainable things in the world. Religion may lead to segregation but eventually it helps enforce upon everybody to be a good person.
Magic, sects, God men, myths, cults are some concepts that are closely related to religion, albeit as a negative manisfestation. Even though the importance of magic has declined with the development of science, some tribal communities still practice magic. A sect is an exclusive, highly cohesive group of believers who adopt several unconventional beliefs and forms of worship. Membership in a sect is voluntary and usually through conversion.
For example, the church of Jesus Christ of latter day of saints is a sect of Christianity. On the other hand, a cult is an amorphous type of religious organisation which is often inspired by a charismatic leader and lasts mostly as long as their leader. Cults often evoke negative sentiments in the popular mind. Al Quaida is an extreme cult generally referred to a terrorist organisation.
Many a times, people blindly depend on religion and religious practices. For instance, a couple unable to conceive goes to a ‘Baba’ (or God men), thinking that the religious practices s/he will conduct will help them conceive. Whether dependence on religion is good or bad is debatable. Often religion gives you hope- even in the worst of situations faith in God enables us to not lose hope. At the same time, taken to the extreme, this becomes harmful because then people start believing in fraud monks, priests, superstitions and become blind towards the realities of life. While dependence makes a person weak, it also makes a person strong in other situations.
With the recent ban of religious ads in trains is at least a step towards exposing the twisted ways in which religion is being mended to make money and build on blind faith, however even today these ads still appear on shady streets , bus stops , public toilets and gleaming lampposts aiming at darkening somebody’s life at the behest of religion. It is some sort of marketing whereby the uneducated and poorer lot of the society which is more vulnerable to sufferings are targeted. People with problems are desperate to try out any possible method hence falling in to the trap of such false people. Over-dependence on religion and blind faith thus gives rise to such fraud ads and tantriks, babas who either rape, loot or hypnotise people.
In a traditional society like India, we are bound to depend on religion because of the life long years of dependence by our ancestors. It is ironic that these days the preachers of religion only promote sins by committing them. People facing problems must try to sort them out by meeting a psychologist and not indulge into such luring ads with no scientific relevance. Such modes are often directed at misleading or wasting one’s time and money by suggesting weird methods while the solution lies right in practicality.
Often science proves to fail religion and vice versa. Underneath the layers of blind faith, the politicians and powerful take advantage of religion and gain votes by luring people on the basis of religious rallies. The demolition of Babri Masjid is infamous for the political divide between Hindu-Muslims, wherein parties like BJP, Congress made use of the situation tactfully by playing the communal card for vote bank politics. Thus, religion being based on faith, often unites people but also gives a large scope of divide and rule. Religion becomes useful when there is a sense of hope needed. It becomes effective in providing people with a sense of solitude, guidance to live life. At the same time it becomes extremely unethical when people start believing in it blindly ignoring all the realities of life. At some level everybody is dependent on religion. However, blind faith towards religion can make you lose your sanity.
Picture Credits: Islamicity.com