On religion and Gods

The other day my cousin emailed me and a few others this article from a blog entry at the Times of India. The entry itself takes off on the event of Shri Janardhan Reddy donating a diamond studded crown worth (estimated) Rs 42 crores, to Lord Venkateshwara. Per Shri Reddy it was his way of giving thanks.

The author of the entry is one Shri Anand Soondas who, in my opinion, like a true Liberal revels in fantastic flippancy and deleterious fantasies. Here is another example that illustrates my first impressions about his quality of thought.

Coming back to the matter of the email I received; a common ground one sees being agreed upon was to inherently accept that the person of Shri Reddy or Shri Soondas is not the issue. Nor is the issue solely their politics, though it could become one as the ongoing debate that I will post, progresses. The issue to our minds was the act of religious devotion as they manifest and to God. Does such devotion have its merits? Is it morally correct to donate to Temples and Gods when people go hungry? What should be instead done by devotees? Should devotees be? Or not be? What do Temples do with such ‘cash flows’? Is what they do helpful? To our poor? Is it constructive? Is it necessary that Temples be recipients of such large heartedness? Does God need such attention? And on such lines and more will this debate progress.

I have posted what has already been said and I will continue to post here the ongoing discussion. If readers are interested in sharing their views, please email me on palahalli.s@gmail.com and I will post your views on the website.

– Namaste

–Varta–

Pala S responds to the linked article –The person of Shri Reddy and brothers – Mining kings in the Bellary area. There are some/many charges of irregularities against his business. Interestingly, he is backed by two different governments of two different parties. Karnataka (BJP) and Andhra Pradesh (Congress). It looks like he has no particular party commitment other than his presence as minister in the current BJP govt.

Prithvi S replies to my response –Reddy donated a gold crown worth 42 crores. Now it is probably his money, that he has earned through his business or it is public money that he has earned as a politician through unfair means (I am making an assumption here and I may be wrong). Assuming that he earned this money through his business it is still not fair to the miners working in his mines. Yes, he is providing employment but at the same time most of these miners work their asses off for meagre pay. He is taking advantage of their situation, their helplessness and need for work. He maybe the brains behind the business but he is still making money because of the people who work for him. If he could afford to make a donation of 42 crores he must be making a shit load of money as profits which to be fair to the miners he could distribute a part of it to them (Again he may be doing this but I feel it is highly unlikely). Now this is not just specific to Reddy and his brothers. This is a problem which exists in a lot of the world. But I am just trying to point out that it is a problem which needs to be addressed and I am not sure how. For social equality, it needs to be addressed.

Pala S responds to Prithvi’s response –We are speaking of many things here. (1.) An individual’s sole will to do with his earning what he thinks best (2.) An individual keeping in mind social responsibility whilst committing an act which again is his sole will (3.) An individual or in this case an employer sharing profits with his workers ahead of employing his sole will toward his act or wish.
 
My view is that none can question point 1. So long as we are not a Communist dictatorship, this individual is free to act on his will if it does not harm society or it’s people. As to point 2, we do not know if Reddy or any other such individual does not do much for his workers or community. But my question is this. Is he free to donate IF he fulfills a set of expectations deigned valid and/or responsible? This will answer to point 3 also.
 
Please note that I am not calling any such donation or gift “extravagant”.
I would call a 22 crore wedding celebration by this same individual, extravagant and criminal but I will not call his donation of a 42 crore rupee crown to lord Venkateshwara, extravagant.

Pala S responds to the linked article – The act of donating to God or a Temple Trust – I earn, I donate to God or Man. In this particular case TTD is administered by the State Govt as are many many if not all, Hindu Temples.
  
Good link for info – TTD Administration 
 
Prithvi S replies to my response – With regards to donating to God, I don’t think God, if there is one, needs money or donations from “mere mortals.” This is a topic in itself about the existence of God. I will start of here with this, think about it (you probably have already thought about these things but still here it is) and let me know. Who is God? In my mind god is a concept that primitive man came up with to understand the forces of nature. Ignorance and fear of the unknown caused him to concoct this image of a god who caused these storms/fires/earthquakes,etc because this god was unhappy with man. The next logical question in the mind of the primitive man then would be, how do you keep this god happy? Give him offerings, prayers, donations (in other words bribe him) and in turn he will keep you happy and from harm.

Question: Now what happens to those who cannot afford to give him these offerings? Will they be treated less favourably?
Answer: It is some humans that cause other humans to be miserable, and these humans use words such as god, karma, soul, rebirth and so on to justify to themselves and the other miserable ones that “it is meant to be this way” and hence it is this way. God has nothing to do with this.

Pala S responds to Prithvi’s response – Well, I think let’s not get into a debate on the existence of God or Gods and Goddesses. I may not be able to summon my God or Goddess for anybody to verify and validate; nor can anybody prove to me that he/she does not exist. Suffice to say that human knowledge is in it’s infancy and probably cocky with it’s so called advances over the last couple of hundred years. This, my statement must not be construed as “running away” but an avoidance of a debate that human beings as yet are ill equipped to deal with, in my opinion. But if a debate on the subject is nevertheless sought, then I will engage.
 
But it is natural to be happy or unhappy with someone or something one has owned. It is also natural to please or displease. There are traditions amongst our hill tribes where they displease their Gods with abuses and vulgar gestures. Traditions to please Gods and Goddesses are obviously there. No one can assume the right or authority to de-legitimize such traditions based on an incomplete grasp of play in our society. It is a bit harsh to call such offerings “bribe”. I do not “bribe” my host when I present him or her with a gift or fruits. I am not accepting a “bribe” when I accept such gifts from my guests. And really, such acts of natural humanity is not limited to guests but anybody who shares a good relationship. Plus, my God or Goddess is special to me. I want to treat him or her with respect and make sure he/she is comfortable in my presence.
 
How can I afford such splendor? For me, driving to Tirupati is unaffordable, what of gifting Him an expensive crown. So, in the event I make the trip, I will gift him what I can afford. He has not asked for gifts based on certain specs.
 
You are right. God has nothing to do with misery humans cause or cause themselves. We will reap what we sow. God can only inspire us to do good contextually. We can of course ignore Him and do bad. We will suffer our Karma. Frankly, I do not think it’s only the rich that believe in God. I think the poor believe in Him more.
 
This entire concept of “religion being the opium of the masses” was a left handed acknowledgement of fact by Marx. Atheists might want to answer why after long years against and without God; masses under Godless rule pined and craved for their religions and their Gods?

Pala S responds to the linked article – On the article of Shri Soondas itself – What is this man trying to say in essence? That “to donate or not” be monitored by an agency? If not, then it falls in the willingness of each prospective donator. Like I said earlier, I earn, I donate. Btw, do we have a line of sight to lifestyles of NGO bigwigs? The crores they “earn”? I know someone from “Cry” who “earns” a couple of lakhs every month. I say it’s great that the Lord is collecting monies from these moneyed folks and storing them as jewellery. It will help uplift Hindu Temples across the land when the time comes. Through Temples society will prosper. 
 
Prithvi S replies to my response –I have to point out here that I made the mistake of calling this an article. It is more a blog than an article and since it is a blog I am assuming the author is just speaking his mind.
 You say, “It will help uplift Hindu Temples across the land when the time comes.”  When will this time come, if at all it comes? Why should we wait for this time? Why not do something now while we can? Why not put the money to good use right now and make the lives of those millions of less fortunate people better? I know it is easier said than done but it can be done. If there is an uprising from the poor (and I hope there will be one) it can happen. Personally I am more concerned about uplifting the poor than uplifting temples. Society can prosper without temples too! Why the need for a temple? What is the motive behind a temple necessitating the prosperity of society?
 
Pala S responds to Prithvi’s response – I’m not opposing any move to use the monies stored. However, Hindus do not own these monies. The secular Govt owns it. It administers Hindu temples and manages their assets. Is it not strange that a Godless secularism does not think about putting such treasure to good use and help those who are in need?
 
Your concerns are well and proper. But we are discussing the prospect of using Temple monies. My question is why a secular Govt finds it difficult to do the right thing? Mind you it is not a Hindu govt.
 
In order to understand the place of a Temple in our society, we must know that a Temple does not stand alone itself. It acts as social common ground. Our people interact with one another, learn and play on Temple grounds. A Temple supported the needs of society. People would donate to their Temple and the Temple would invest as per need.
 
There is a ready reason why our people will not donate to secular causes but will donate to their Temples. They innately believe that the Temple will take care of necessary investments including in utilities and care. They trust the Temple because it also houses their Gods. And since modern man cannot be readily trusted modern policing methods of audits and accounting help to keep folks honest. But still the Temple is real.

Pala S responds to the linked article – There are two trends one sees in the article/comments that I notice elsewhere too. The tendency to be aloof from our reality. Indians this and Indians that. This rarely if at all includes the writer of the article or commenter. Shri Soondas does not himself say what “he” does with his money. We don’t know.
 
Prithvi S replies to my response – I agree. 
 
Pala S responds to the linked article –The other is the – “Hindus and their religion is like this only” trend – This debate is useless. As I said earlier, the Trust is run the by the Govt. Hinduism’s interests does not guide it. About 13 years ago I met Shri Subbirami Reddy at my workplace. He was, I believe the longest serving chief of the TTDand also a Congress MP with close ties to Sonia Gandhi. The AP govt is headed by Shri Rajashekhar Reddy( a Christian) and was preceded by Shri Chandrababu Naidu. (a non-Hindu). In fact, it’s administration has never been in the hands of any avowedly pro-Hindu political entity ever since post independence.
 
The TTD and it’s doings should reflect on Hinduism only when it’s managed by Hindu bodies independent of political interference.

Prithvi S replies to my response – I read the link you sent me. Thanks!  And I have no comments, actually I haven’t given this much thought. You will see why later, I have a problem with religion itself.
 
Pala S responds to Prithvi’s response – Whether or not someone believes in religion, I think a person against religion itself must answer why it is Hindu Temples and not Mosques or Churches that are under Govt control. Is there a rational reason for this? And what is the atheist’s response to this lack of balance?
 
Pala S responds to the linked article –There are some interesting comments on industrialists. I don’t see Shri Soondas having done any amount of research in this area. He has generalized frivolously.

In short, this article is not well researched and it’s motive suspect.

Prithvi S replies to my response – I agree. He may just be speaking his mind (aloud so everyone can hear) 
 
Pala S responds to Prithvi’s response – Sure. I think people will also trust him if he is fair and truthful in his observations. 
 
Pala S responds to the linked article – Two facts one might want to heed,
 
1. The Church in India is the biggest landowner after the Govt.
 
2. Haj subsidies run into hundreds of crores every year. 
 
Let’s ask Shri Soondas to write about these as a reflection of Christianity and Islam.

Prithvi S replies to my response – Now, you probably will not agree with me on what I am about to say here and this also relates to the topic of the existence of god above.

I blame religion in general for this. Religion is the bane of modern society. All religions! Religion is not necessary in the present day. It is all man made and just different schools of thought that don’t agree with each other. It is the number one cause for wars, deaths and strife in the world today.

Humanity need be the only religion in the whole world and out of this will come equality and with this peace!

Pala S responds to Prithvi’s response – I don’t know how you say religion is a bane to society. The world has been witness to experiments that abolished religion and God. Why have these experiments failed? If religion was indeed such a bane on society, why do people take to religion like fish takes to water? Why is “not believing’ not a natural thing for humans? Why should it take texts and propagation for humans to believe something as “natural” as being Godless? Is it not reasonable to think human beings naturally move away from something that causes them suffering? Would human beings naturally live in a Godless society? We know the Communist heaven would never have existed were it not for guns and watch towers. Why does it take force for human beings to accept that something as “harmful” as God is in fact non-existent?

You will notice another strange thing. You will see relatively more atheists in societies where people have the freedom to worship their Gods. Still these free societies have more believers in Gods and Goddesses.

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