What is religious tolerance and why is it important to talk about religious tolerance in the 21st century? Well, if we are to live peacefully and with joy in a world where there are umpteen religions and beliefs, we need to understand what religious tolerance means and why it is important.
The importance of religious tolerance
Religion is the opium of the masses, so they say. For a country like India, we need a huge quantity of opium and we have it. We have so many gods and goddesses in the country that we can change one every single day and we will have enough Gods to worship for an entire lifetime.
It is great as long as people worship their own religion and find their own personal ways of connecting with the almighty power. Clearly, most people believe, there is an almighty power which runs our lives and they find solace in worshiping and connecting with that power. There is, therefore, nothing wrong with the idea of worship.
When does religion become a problem rather than a source of peace?
However, when we start considering our religion as more superior in comparison to that of others, that’s where the problems arise. Why do we need to prove that our religion is superior to that of someone else? Is that important? Why can’t we follow our faith and let others follow their own faith peacefully? When religion becomes fundamentalist, it becomes dangerous.
We are the only country in the world which comprises of people belonging to many different faiths, many different religions. That ought to be our pride. There is no reason for homogenizing the Indian society. Our diversity in race, colors, customs, rituals, ways of worship, our festivals-are rooted in religion. There is a religious story or legend associated to Holi, Diwali, Eid, Raksha Bandhan, Christmas etc.
I have purposely said all of these festivals in the same breath because I like to celebrate these festivals with my friends (if they invite me) irrespective of my personal religious faith. I don’t want to say, ‘No, I am a Sikh or a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian and so, I will not celebrate festivals which are not mine.’ Why should anyone say that? Where is the pride in that question, and if there is pride, what kind of pride is that?
People over religion
I am an Indian. and take pride in the fact that I have friends and acquaintances from all spheres of the society. I don’t make friends because of their religion, or because of their race, caste, culture, creed etc. Rather, I make friends because I like people for who they are as human beings. I take pride in their identity as wonderful human beings.
We don’t choose our religion. Our religion chooses us. We are born into a family where our parents follow a religion because they were born into it, unless they had chosen to convert at some point in their lives. I am scared of using the word ‘conversion’ because it has become such a nonsensical and absurd issue in our country, which defies comprehension to a rational mind.
Why, then, anybody is superior to someone just by the virtue of birth? I know I am raising more questions that I am answering because the answer to these questions is just as absurd as these questions themselves. It is a sad state of affairs that we have to even raise these questions in the 21st century.
All religions lead to the same God
No religion is superior to any other religion. Each religion is only a means to connect with the almighty. If there is an almighty, he has no religion. The only religion that ought to bind us with each other as human beings is love. Love for each other, irrespective of where we come from, which caste, race, color, and faith we were born into.
Unfortunately, this is not the world I want to belong to. This is not the world I still belong to. My world is people who share my thinking and desire for rationality. My world is people who are educated and not just literate. I know, I am fortunate and I know, not everybody is.
I wish to live in a world someday where no one will kill anyone in the name of religion. No one will try to forcibly convert people from one religion to another, a world where people will respect each other, irrespective of the religion, a world where religions will not be the basis of classification of the society, a world where people will not be divided on the basis of which God they worship, a world where the only religion is love.
In Conclusion- Religious Tolerance is a basic foundation for a happy society
As I conclude, I am reminded of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’
Imagine there are no countries…
It isn’t hard to do
nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may not have realized, but I did not disclose my religion anywhere in this article. You know why, because the only religion I know is that of love, of compassion, of humanity.
Thank you for reading.
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