For some faith comes naturally, unquestioning of the rituals, the observances and the many do’s and the don’ts.
When pressed they may say, “it’s what we do” or perhaps “it’s something I learnt as a child” or “it gives me a sense of security & belonging”
For others it is a constant inner struggle, questioning the beliefs, the rituals- trying to make sense of why we need to do certain things in the name of God, who makes the rules, who ensures we follow.
In the current climate, both social & political, religion has had a bad rap. The violence and persecution in the name of religion, attitudes towards those we judge as unlike us, the fear mongering right across the globe can often be very hard to comprehend.
Often it is easy to blame religion for many of the issues that plague the world. The fighting that goes on amongst people belonging to different belief systems, to many rational individuals it seems inconceivable that blood is shed in the name of a benevolent God.
While the political, economic and broader social impact of religion is something that is whole macro discussion, my interest is much more micro.
Conversations with young people over the last couple of years, it has struck me how they process their beliefs and practices. I see some young people, who are truly taken by religion, spirituality and faith. No one pushes or forces them, they find solace and identity in attending religious instruction like a Sunday school or Chinmaya. Often they start young, make friends in these groups and are happy to keep going back.
There are others, who go thru the motions, not particularly attending classes, but quite amenable to going to the temple/church with parents, saying a few verses that they have learnt and participating in a rudimentary fashion in functions and poojas at home- enjoying the dressing up and attention.
There are still others who cannot bring themselves to participate in anyway, without convincing themselves about what &why they are doing- they question the whole premise of religion.
And increasingly many younger people, find themselves in this group.
And more often than not, the parents & family find it hard to come to terms with this behaviour, especially if they themselves are somewhat devout and observant.
One of the questions that gets repeatedly asked is why? Why believe something you cannot prove, what you cannot see?
The other key question is why prostrate to something that is the cause of so much grief, violence, bias and discrimination?
Both are very hard questions to answer, the 2nd one especially so!
Faced with an itemised list of death and destruction inflicted in the name of religion just in the last 100 years, let alone longer it is very hard to make a case for belief- you retreat to the position of saying- It is not religion that makes you kill, but the some misguided people- many misguided people!
When we here stories of how not one but all major faiths have had bloody & violent episodes and continue to do so, it is indeed hard to explain adherence.
Maybe my dad is right, he says religion was instituted so that people could live in harmony and people could find a higher power to assign things, events and actions to, so that society could function in relative discipline. In the name of a higher unseen power, one could afford to take chances, make decisions, impose will. It was a glue of sorts.
Spirituality came later, when thinking became of a higher order and people began to decode the tenets of religion- many found a sense of peace in just giving oneself to the higher power and a divesting of responsibility from your everyday life- it is acceptable to do that, you cannot just walk off, but if you go in the search of God or become spiritual so divesting is sanctioned!
Faith, I think is for people like me, who believe in a higher power, find peace & solace in simple things like chanting or celebrating festivals, but are not keen on following the ritualistic tenets of religion, infact find them very terrifying!
While it is easy to say I believe, it is tremendously hard to explain why!
I hope some of you can assist in decoding this!