As we have moved towards a new decade, it is high time to introspect the spiritual thread binding the people with other worldly power. Is it just an overused concept for fear or is it any good?
A DEATH OF CHOICE*
What is a religion? The true definition of religion differs from people to people and therefore to define religion within a few words would be really difficult. However, Oxford Dictionary defines religion as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. There are 19 religions as per the data estimated in 2019 by Adherents.com with Christianity still being the most dominant religion in the world, followed by Islam at the second pedestal and Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist at the third pedestal.
There are estimated 1.2 billion people who come into the category of Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist and make up about 13.91% of the total world population. The idea of not being a practicing believer and to downright deny any existence of a superpower controlling the world is getting more and more popular as the world moves more and more into the advanced age. Atheistic values within people are on a constant rise, especially in the Generation Z as they get more and more into the science behind the existence of humanity as opposed to Generation X and Generation Y who rather took to Holy Books and believed whatever was written within it about the existence of humanity and the world.
Estonia has the world’s high population of agnostics and atheists, about 77%, and Estonia ranks first in a lot more things like unrestricted access to online services, availability of government/administrative services, family life, tech-savvy environment, etcetera. Estonia ranks 1st out of 68 countries when it comes to the best and worst countries to live a connected life, according to Digital Life Abroad Report. The country with the most atheists/agnostics living in is also the country which is most technologically advanced and also the country with the best family life.
The point of this article is to shed light on the necessity of religion in a person’s life, especially in a child’s life. Parental religiosity can be a mixed blessing that produces significant gains in social psychological development while potentially undermining academic performance. Religion, upon children, is associated as an obligation rather than love and personal dedication. A child is forced to go and derive meaning from a religious service even though the child itself is too young to even see a meaning in these services.
Unitarian Universalism is a faith with no conversion rituals and no exclusions by society if a member converts to a different faith. Religious education is not centered on scripture but discussion of ethics and community. Such a faith should be a model to every other religion to look up to. If parents want to raise children who meaningfully practice their religion, the children must accept the faith themselves. Faith and blind fellowship are not the same thing. Forcing a religion on a child not only makes the child hateful towards the parents but also towards the faith that is being forced upon. Nothing in history has ever worked through the means of force without having severe circumstances. A shift from saying, “You believe in this” towards “We believe in this; what do you believe in?” is a must requirement for every parent of this new generation.
The irony behind removing free will from a child after it is born is astonishing. To say they have free will but live in fear of their religion, their God, their holy book, their faith, their beliefs is hypocritical. Indoctrination into religion is done on the basis that a child doesn’t have the mental capacity to choose for themselves and so the choice must be made by the parents and that IF the child could choose, they would choose God is also downright bullshit. Such an indoctrination should be considered abuse and should be considered against the basic Human Rights.
A FORUM FOR GROWTH**
“Religion” is a double-edged sword. Since times immemorial, it has been used to make way for peace, as it has been used to reason immoral conducts. With ‘Atheism’ on rise, the word religion is being scrutinized and its relevance is being questioned. However, there are some aspects that one never really noticed, but sans religion, the absence of these things will have a significant impact.
Firstly, religiosity has been associated positively with behaviors that help or benefit others, such as volunteering or donating financially. Most religions stress the importance for concern for others and in a way, preach pro-social behavior. This can be countered by the fact that charitable and social nature can be practiced by non-religious people as well. However, there is no obligation in this case, it is completely out of their own will. Thus, when charity becomes an obligation, it affects those in need and instills a sense of morality in the person’s attitude, which is etched there for life, especially children.
All children develop a sense of wonder and curiosity while growing up which leads them to derive meanings from the world around them, including the natural environment. As these innate sensibilities develop, religion often comes in and influences the social and cultural practices of them. The mosque, church, temple or any other religious place often provides children the first point of contact with the community beyond their immediate touch and introduces them to wider social institutions. Here, they learn not only about the religion they are introduced to, but also the moral responsibilities, social behavior, and also their own value as a human being.
The reason why many parents believe that raising kids with some measure of religion is the best way to teach them how to behave ethically is because religion provides an incentive for them to treat each other well, and act morally – lest being punished by a superior power. However, there is a limitation to the thought that religion is the sole reason for moral growth in a person. These things come from their own, religion only gives it the necessary nudge required to frame the impressionable minds of children.
Nevertheless, religion can have a profound influence on the lifestyle of a person. Lower rates of depression; better sleep quality; greater rate of life satisfaction; lesser use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, are just some of the well documented benefits associated with personal religiousness. Children who are raised with religious or spiritual beliefs tend to have a better mental health into adulthood, said a new study from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public health found. Religion has given many absolutes which can be arguably good or bad, but it has also given a sense of connection. It cannot be denied that religion has a long history of endorsing cooperation among each other, it has significantly contributed to family relationships, and has also helped young adults/adolescents to successfully navigate life challenges and also bring about many positive health effects and well-being outcomes.
Lastly, it cannot be denied that, for long, religion has provided the framework for cultural experimentation, which has led to so many milestones that humankind has achieved. It has kept alive the global mosaic culture. Religion is the ground level boot camp, which instills virtues and morals that are only and only beneficial for one’s personality. However, with maturity comes manipulation according to one’s own whims and fancies and thereby we have the meaning of the word religion in today’s context.
Nuzhat Khan** & Yusuf Aziz*
Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia