I don’t believe in religion. There! I said it!

I was in ninth grade. There was a moral science class going on. Our regular teacher was absent hence our vice- principal Sr M was conducting the class. It was a combined class with three sections squeezed together. Imagine eighty+ fifteen year old girls packed together like sardines and you will have a fair idea of the scenario.

And now, let me describe Sr M.

She was a short, rather stout individual. I am certain she was a very devout nun, but towards students she was a tad rough. Her temper was never glued to her too securely. She was always losing it carelessly hither and thither. In addition to all this, she had the weight of the world on her capable shoulders. And she never forgot it. Talk about zealousness! Grim business.

This woman of God was the one chosen to draw the moral Lakshman Rekha for eighty+ fifteen year old girls that fateful day. She was trying to knock it into our irreverent heads how important that line was and how it was up to us- the women- to uphold morality. She minced no words and told us with astounding forthrightness how men would just let morality take a walk at the drop of a hat. She explained painstakingly what an unending, thankless struggle was before us. I think I fell asleep at that point. Or it may have been a trance. I’m not very sure.

When I came to, it was because my neighbor had dug a cruel elbow into my side. Sr M. was standing two feet away, glaring at me with undisguised loathing. For the life of me, I don’t know what brought it on. I mean, I was asleep for chrissakes!

“I’m sorry Sister?” I muttered with all the pep of a fish out of water.

“Oh! You are sorry! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”

It seemed a frank, reasonable question to me. Having conscientiously absorbed the lessons my mother had instilled into me at her knee, I had never learned the art of subterfuge. A frank question, therefore, deserved an equally frank answer. I was cheered up. This was familiar territory I thought.

With womanly candor I looked Sr M in the eye and said, “No Sister.”

To this day, I have no idea why she went berserk. Her temper came unglued and she let it rip through me like a glittering steel rapier. In seconds, I was in shreds, mouth hanging open. Eye witnesses told me later that I have looked more like a beached fish than they ever thought possible.

Her annoyance mounted when she saw my blank expression. In retrospect and to be fair, I don’t blame her. It pisses one off when one is tearing another person to shreds and all that person does is to looked stupid. It is discouraging; it is insulting. I mean, what am I? A bloody vaudeville show in a shocking pink mini skirt tottering on six inch stilettos!?!

Clearly realizing that she needed to re-strategize if she was to get anything worthwhile to sink her teeth into, she switched channels midway through the juiciest part of her monologue. She fell silent.

I gulped and closed my mouth. I hoped I had stopped looking like a speared goldfish. I hoped in vain but I had no time to think of that. Armageddon had arrived sans warning.

“Do you believe in God, you hopeless child?” she bellowed, fit to blow away the roof.

Even if I had been capable of it- which I have never been- I couldn’t have lied. With all the solemnity of my mature, grown- up worldliness, I replied, “No Sister, I do not.”

It took me over three decades to know that my answer was wrong. It was wrong because I had misunderstood my own beliefs. It was an honest mistake. I should have said, “I believe in God Sister, but I don’t believe in religion.” That would have been tantamount to saying that I believe in committed love but not in marriage. And that would have been very accurate.

I doubt if it would have made a difference to her though.

Picture Mine
Picture Mine

43 thoughts on “Religion”

  1. Wow! That episode was hilarious and hilariously told 🙂 And, yes, I too have that same issue of believing in God but not in religion or in the various attributes religions prescribe for God. The inherent contradiction gets to me. Religions say, “The ways of God are mysterious and unknowable to Man” and then proceed to attempt a complete demystification.

    1. My grouse with religion is also that it tries to tell me God is mysterious and unknowable. Thus it tries to teach me fear instead of love.

      If I were to believe religion’s version of God, I have to conclude that God is this absolute nincompoop who gets impressed with pointless rituals. They rest of the time He sits planning ways to wreck my happiness since He is an insecure, vindictive deity.

      I honestly cannot love an entity- no matter how omniscient- who is as shallow as this.

      Since God is not like this, obviously religion is wrong. 🙂

      Glad to find resonance Suresh… but I guess it was inevitable. 🙂

  2. what an enjoyable way to deliver such a serious statement. God has different forms for different individuals.for some only rituals are God,for others its the sacred books,idols.Religion too can be something entirely different from the prescribed forms of Hinduism,Christianity etc…say.helping others,sharing others pains,being sincere to one’s duties can be one’s dharmas.

    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head Namita. We are so embroiled in the trappings of religion, in the rituals and processes, that we have no attention to spare for following our dharma.

      Thank you for coming by… 🙂

  3. I loved this post. Being an Agnostic myself, I can completely relate to your thoughts. I believe religion is the worst thing created by mankind.

  4. I would have loved to have watched this ‘show’ live. You at a loss for words, must be truly a sight! 😉 It’s fairly obvious to me that religion is man made – to keep us in ‘line’. Too bad we’re so good at skipping the queue!

    1. Come on Corrinne! I was 15!When one is 15… and is sure one is the gawkiest thing God ever breathed life into, one hardly ever opens one’s mouth. The beached fish expression becomes more or less a permanent state. 😀

      Who has ever pinned a cloud? No sooner is a line drawn than we must skip over it. It’s almost an invitation. 😀

  5. All religions without fail are full of pure unadulterated crap. People are afraid of what will happen to them when they die. For f**k sake(Please pardon my French,lol) worry what is happening to you in the life. Oh just because you can get entry is some hypothetical 5 star resort you should be an ass to all the people in real world?
    The worst part is that children are subject to the horrendous ways of religions which is shoved down their throat by either their parents or in some cases by teachers. As much I would like to believe in existence of a generic consciousness which all living being have, I refuse to accept any institutionalization of this phenomenon. To all fairness all these priest and religious assholes have made it a point to turn this thing into profiteering for themselves and in Indian context for their later generations as it is but fair to promote nepotism instead of any merits whatsoever.
    I also studied in a convent and we used to have these stupid moral science classes, which were utter non sense about these rules which god has made and what not. If assume that God is this omnipresent being, why does he give a f**k if you wearing whatever kind of clothes or whatever the hell you are eating? Doesn’t he have bigger business to deal with? Like I donno causing a massive earthquake or creation of supernova or extinction of dinosaurs? No, but I have seen people praying so that their code would compile successfully. how selfish and demeaning to entire idea.
    And morality? what all morality do we learn, it is all religious morality. Do reach and mighty ever had any morals? No!!! because morals are for weak and unprivileged.
    kids should never be exposed to such filth like religion. Entire idea of saving a soul or eternal redemption is pure unadulterated bullshit.
    Anyway, sorry for the long profane rant, but I thought I should be free to express my views atleast your blog.
    kisses and hugs

    1. Your French made my head spin.

      If I edit out the French and vague suggestion of ‘rebellion for the sake of rebellion’, I would agree with all you’ve written here.

      God is bigger than He is made out to be by religion.

      I have always felt that people don’t believe in God, they fear God. They do for fear of His retribution things they ought to do for His love. I have never understood that equation.

      I don’t fear God. Not because I don’t make mistakes, but because I know that He will not hold my errors against me. I know He isn’t judging me ever. If I make mistakes, I will pay for them myself soon enough. To him nothing is good or evil. Things are just as they are- without judgment.

      Religion might have been an attempt to teach these attributes of God to humans. But it has become so corrupted that it is now working contrary to its original purpose.

      I follow no ritual. I am not religious. I believe in my God and in His non- judgmental, unconditional love.

        1. Hmmm… well, sooner you than me. Enjoy your french usage. And yes, my blog is as much your space as mine. Use at will- french and all. 😀

  6. Wonderful. Religion is more of a work of a naughty mind. As soon as it mixes into any part of society,it turns poison. loved the post.

  7. It is so great to start the day with such insightful and real writing. Even a tad humorous, though the humor was at the expense of a painful thrashing that you took years ago!
    But, I must also question you here – why do people say they don’t believe in Religion if they believe in God? Isn’t the fundamental premise of any Religion that there is a God? If you agree with that fundamental premise, you believe in Religion.
    Of course, you may not be on board with all the silly paraphernalia that comes with Religion.

    1. My dear friend, of all the public ‘thrashings’ I’ve taken in my life, this was the mildest. Don’t let it bother you. It doesn’t bother me in the least. But I am touched that you looked beyond the words and saw an unformed 15 year old who was penalized for her immaturity. You are a kind, empathetic man. Thank you for your concern. I am grateful.

      Religion was supposed to teach you Godliness. It was supposed to be a guide on how to live life well. For that, an elaborate system of rituals, rites and customs evolved. Religion itself became the rites and rituals- instead of remaining its tools. I do not, therefore, believe in religion.

      Every human being has the right to create her own rituals and customs which teach her to live life in a way that brings her closer and closer to realization and knowledge of God. How I choose to realize God in my own life cannot be dictated by rituals which have lost their relevance and meaning.

      I detest compulsions of any kind. Including religion. I recognize no compulsions between me and my God. He knows me, and I will know Him better with time. That’s all there is to it.

      Silly paraphernalia just about sums it up for me. 😀

    2. I’ll answer for myself here, Rickie! Religion does not stop with saying there is a God – it decides that a. Godhood also has the bi-sexual nature of mankind b. How (S)he looks and what his/her names and, even, parents are c. What (S)he does and does not do; has and has not done d. What His/Her likes and dislikes are and how (S)he reacts when you do the things that are liked and disliked etc. etc. Thus, a belief in God may be the basis of religion but, to qualify as a religion, it sculpts a complete image of God – physically and metaphorically. To believe in God but disbelieve in Religion is to accept the essence but disagree with the image.

      Among the worst things the Religion does are to a. think of any alternative concept of God as blasphemous and, what is worse for me b. think of God as a super-touchy Being with no sense of humor. 🙂 That, probably, accounts for the popularity of Krishna – an accessible God with a sense of fun.

      1. No sense of humor… ABSOLUTELY Suresh. The God religion would have us believe in is uber boring, insecure and vindictive to boot!

  8. Like you I do not believe in religion but believe in a Supreme power. Simply because, I don’t think we have all the answers. It is easier to believe that someone does have. When I see the miracles of nature, I can’t think that it is all out of nothing. But yes, religion gets my goat. No I don’t want to do pooja or indulge in rituals to satisfy someone else’s beliefs. And I have faced flak for it. You know how women are. They will pointedly say mean things just because they cannot understand a different viewpoint. Now I am thick skinned and more confident in my skin. I don’t care what you think of me. I will practise only what I believe in. Lovely post, Dagny!

    1. I know what women are. They’d make you feel guilty for believing differently from them. The middle finger has been my savior when I’ve had it up to here. And now, the pious brigade have given up on me. 😀

      Loved your presence here… thank you for coming by. 😀

  9. My only humble submission is that if we all agree that, in their purest form, all religions started with the basic tenet that there is a supreme power (let’s call Him/Her God), and the truest way for us to be one with God is to strive to be good human beings and search for Him/Her within ourselves, then do we all not believe in religion?

    All that these religions have done is that they have managed to keep our focus on that supreme power, that really is their only contribution. Because, as we all know, human minds are fickle. We forget things – especially ones that are out of sight and out of mind.

    1. In the first place, religion is no longer a path leading you to God- realization. It has forgotten its purpose. Rituals, customs and rites were to be a part of religion… they were never to become more important than the path, which was religion. But this has happened. The tool has gained ascendency over the path. To me, that’s weird.

      Secondly, you say religion has kept our attention focused on God. Which God Rickie? The one who is sitting there, pen and paper in hand waiting for me to trip up so He can come down on me like a ton of bricks?

      Why- and when- did stories and evidence of God’s wrath become louder than that of His love and acceptance? How did His retribution become more powerful than His celebration of us? Who did it? What was used to make it happen? What lent itself to perpetrating such gross infamy?

      It was religion and her practitioners. And the whole point of this is that religion can no longer be separated from its trappings- from rituals, rites and customs. They define religion.

      1. Clearly, I have not been able to explain my point at all. IMHO, the SOLE purpose of a religion is to make you believe that there is a God. Forget ‘paths’, ‘rituals’ and ‘customs’ – those are distractions. They don’t define religion – your belief in God defines religion. How can we separate one from the other? It’s like saying – I believe in education but I don’t believe in books.

    2. Rickie, I get your point but perhaps have not been able to put mine across.

      You are talking of what religion should be- ideally. I agree with that. Rituals were not supposed to define religion… and should not. But they DO. That’s the ground reality. That’s my point.

      And er… education is not dependent on books. If that were so, men wouldn’t have learned anything when there weren’t any books. 😀

      But if you wish to, we’ll rest our respective cases.

      This exchange has delighted me also. It deepens one’s understanding when one debates with people of erudition, have strongly held beliefs and have the clarity of perception to express their opinions.

      Thank you 😀

  10. I think we should both rest our case here. This is obviously a topic one can carry on debating till the cows come home! 😀

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