Friday 24 April 2009

Thought Picnic: A world without bad religion

Giving womenfolk their dues

I am coming to the conclusion that the absence of religion sometimes makes for a more egalitarian society.

This is one of my Thought Picnics where I wonder about the place of women in our societies and how more secularised settings have allowed for women to become considerable and worthy contributors to society.

I remember my grandmothers who were known by their trades and businesswomen in their own right – it is customary for women from my tribal background to have a trade and to get out and do something worthwhile.

Insert an interpretation of some religious import and suddenly they have to be housewives, they have to be chaperoned, their dignity is being diminished and their honour is being tarnished.

The role of women in my family

Society cannot gain the full benefit of womenfolk if they have to live under such strident settings – I do not see any of my grandmothers having lost the respect or adulation they had in society for striving to better themselves or the lot of their children, instead their status was enhanced.

My father in particular would say he owes the foundation of his education that has now made him an accountant of 40 years standing to his grandmother, she was the one who raised the money and means to see him through early school until he latched onto what eventually became his career pursuits.

Those seeming inconsequential acts of yore bred a whole culture of mentoring that my father embarked on encouraging many to see the benefits of academic pursuits for life improvement over other endeavours.

My paternal grandfather was Muslim, his wife was Christian, but they ran their home in a very pragmatic rather than dogmatic setup allowed for each other to rear children who went on to be self-sufficient and in many ways successful.

This, I must say was in spite of religion rather than because of it.

Where women have lead gloriously

If religious influences took root in many places we would not benefit from the qualities of women we have had in our history, Christianity, for instance does not allow for women to be priests or be in leadership but we have had queens, presidents, prime ministers and women in supposedly Christian countries in many roles of leadership and expertise where the influence of religion has been insignificant.

In other religiously inclined countries, we would never have had Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, the Bandranaikes in Sri Lanka, Golda Meir in Israel, and many more women in power in Muslim Indonesia and Bangladesh, in the Philipines or in South America today.

The chauvinist might say that the woman’s place is in the kitchen but that person is poorer for the greater benefits of womanhood and their abilities left untapped and unexploited because of narrow-minded views.

Women have more to give

It is unimaginable how much women can mean to the Middle-Eastern and near Asian countries if they are allowed to be the best they can in the pursuit of happiness and in their contributions to society.

A number of issues in the news recently has brought this into focus, there was a clip from a film where a lady in a singing competition decided to dance. A man suggested the dancing was unnecessary and another suggested she be killed for that.

Pray, where in our human psyche do we switch off the urge to dance and merry when singing?

Only an atrocious dogmatic schooling can create a reaction like that, I know of no cultural environment before the influence of bizarre interpretations of religion where dancing is so much of a sacrilegious activity that it should exact capital punishment.

Women have feelings to be respected

Even so, there was another instance where a man who had left his wife for some activity he called Jihad send a short message text to his wife divorcing her. When the wife took the matter to court, the religious clergy judges in the court upheld the divorce.

It begs the question where a religion portends to protect the honour of women but has no consideration for the feelings of the woman or the psychological effect of apathetic actions of men on their wives or womenfolk.

If the court was amenable to the feelings of the man who wanted a divorce, why could it not be more so to the feelings of the woman who had been divorced unceremoniously that the man should be have been censured?

There is no civility talk less of civilisation in that kind of thinking, it plays to the point that religion is serving no beneficial purpose to the preservation of our humanity and the promotion of compassion.

The same bizarre rules that allow the man to divorce his wife in the most insensitive way confers the most insurmountable hurdles on the wife, if she, for all sorts of reasons wanted a divorce.

It is possible that without religion, the woman would have greater respect, the partners in a marriage would understand the symbiosis of interdependency that nothing would be taken for granted by either party.

Woman should stand side-by-side

The woman would stand side-by-side with man rather than under or behind.

In fact, there is an unhealthy dynamic that confuses womenfolk for wife, whilst a woman might eventually be the wife of someone; it does not give every man the right of husband over every woman – married or unmarried.

Men should be protecting the honour and dignity of their wives no doubt, and definitely that of other women, but they have no business determining the life, lifestyle and status of women with whom they have no relationship – it makes men busybodies to assume they have a right to determine what women in general should do in society.

Religion and dishonourable men

Then, in Pakistan, for the quelling of revolt in one region the government offered the religious zealots carte blanche to introduce Sharia Law in exchange for the zealots giving up their weaponry and insurgency.

The zealots reneged on their part of the deal and they supposedly are followers of a religion that supposedly has very high moral values.

The situation to me is simple, for some, God is up there and we are down here, if we cannot be transparently trustworthy and honest with each other so as to honour deals we have made with each other down here, you cannot honestly suggest you are doing God’s bidding without reneging on many essential but difficult part of the deals made with God.

The Taliban which in effect means student or scholar do not seem to be scholarly in their understanding or interpretation of the books they profess to underpin their faith – each strand only seems to seek to find a darker side to humanity and suffering with supposed justice that seems to shock more and more. They have become inveterate sadists who take pleasure in beheadings, executions, amputations and floggings under the guise of some strict religious guidance and tutelage.

Shock and horror religion

Creating adherence through shock and fear is not religion; it is cultist, degenerative and rotten, it is even worse to suggest that this is done in the name of a higher being because I do not believe that our purpose on earth is to gain ascendancy through to destruction of others not like us or the ultimate domination of others we have imposed ourselves on.

Rather, our walk in life should be one of example and persuasion through our interaction with each other, any other means is just so inherently evil and usually is not subject to secular scrutiny that can commend or praise its results.

Interpretation might be the problem

Maybe what I what I really mean is the absence of the abuse and malpractice of religion through self-serving interpretation makes for a better society.

Because, once again, the purpose of religion should be in the service of humanity, bringing out the best of each of us to allow all of us to live together in harmony – anything short of that is NOT religion and those who profess views inimical to that purpose are not in any way religious.

They might have a creed but it is ungodly, they might have a goal but it is evil, they might have an agenda but not for humanity, they might have deals but they are dishonourable and they bring no succour to the lives of the people they portend to lead.

A new intolerance

We need to become intolerant of views and ideas predicated on religion that destroy our sense of humanity from laws, to suicide bombings through religious wars that impose untold suffering on innocent people – those things are patently not God’s purpose and we need to boldly challenge attributions to God which are clearly not serving humanity.

That should be the litmus test, if it serves humanity, confers dignity on all, frees people to become the best they can be and promotes an egalitarian sense of contribution and entitlement, it is probably of God, if those purposes fall short, they should be questioned, sanctioned and abrogated – forthwith.

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