By Tajender Singh Luthra
May 21, 2019
The debate about the relevance of religion is an ongoing one in the modern secular world. One view that is current today is that religion is not required. However, if used with a sense of balance and proportion, religion could be beneficial in many ways for everyone, including agnostics and atheists.
Let’s first examine the wisdom and knowledge generated by the modern secular world. We get knowledge from our teachers, various books, movies, journals and newspapers. But however much we like a book or an article, after some time, we often forget its lesson. Sometimes, we even forget the title of the book. We surf the internet, talk to our friends, or search our bookshelves to reconnect with the book or the article to refresh our memory of its lesson. The same happens even with our favourite movies. With the passage of time, we forget the story, the protagonist, characters and the fine nuances of the plot. The modern secular world struggles with ways and means of retaining its knowledge and wisdom perhaps because we are so distracted by multitasking and our focus gets dissipated.
Religion has ingenious ways and means to help seekers retain its knowledge and wisdom. It offers and emphasises regular repetition that engenders retention, comprehension and propagation of knowledge and wisdom acquired from religious teachings. Most ancient religious teachings are universal and timeless; hence it is important to appreciate this priceless heritage and conserve it for present and future generations.
Religion per se is more than a dispenser of wisdom and knowledge; it brings people together and inspires them to work together for peace and harmony – and for the common good. In many cases, it provides solace to the suffering, hope to the hopeless and stimulates the intellect of those who seek answers to profound existential questions.
The sense of togetherness is evident when we visit a place of worship and when we feel at ease with complete strangers. It’s the ambience created by prayerful individuals who come with faith in their hearts and a prayer on their lips. There is no negativity to upset the feeling of oneness.
On the other hand, technology of the modern secular world can connect us, give us information, news, lots of material goodies but it cannot by itself create a sense of belonging and affiliation among its followers. We neither feel assured nor have a sense of belonging when we meet a stranger who is on the same social media network. Thus, though, technology connects us at one level, it does not create a sense of belonging and affiliation.
We get connected through technology yet we don’t feel confident of forging lasting, meaningful friendships. Those who are members of a religious satsang, for example, would perhaps experience a deeper sense of understanding and empathy with their group members, as they try to practice the hallowed teachings of their guru or faith.
In the modern secular world, it is one’s absolute choice to be an atheist or a believer, but an open-minded approach towards religion and its best practices may help us enhance our emotional well-being. This would contribute to a more stable and positive approach to life.
Tajender Singh Luthrar, an officer of the Indian Police Service, is a practitioner of positive psychology