Archive for May, 2016

Inherited beliefs and freethinking

May 28, 2016

Nasir Khan, May 28, 2016

All human children are born in the same way, according to the physiological and biological reproductive system of human beings. Right from their infancy, they learn about the customs and rituals of their societies through their parents and other close relatives. Of course, they follow the religion of their parents as part of their upbringing and schooling. They had no choice but to follow the religions of their parents.

As grownups, they become convinced of the truth of their own religion. They believe their religion to be the ‘only true one’ while discounting any such truth to other religions! This is more so in conservative and traditional societies world-over.

Only a limited number of people manage to break loose from this mode of thinking and rigid religious indoctrination. Luckily, in western societies that have become multicultural, multi-ethnic and multireligious, there is a marked trend, at least amongst the  people of European descent, to move away from the traditional religious beliefs, while extending  respect to the followers of  all different religions.

This change has come about because of the humanist values and freedom to think and choose in secularised societies.  The people who are most devoted to their religions and deities happen to be the migrants and their descendants of Asian and African origin.

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Translation of the Urdu text in the photo:

‘”What a coincidence that people born in a certain religion regard their religion as being the only righteous one!”

Sam Khan's photo.

On Humans and Gods

May 20, 2016

Nasir Khan, May 20, 2016

Humans created god by attributing many of their own qualities unto an imaginary ‘being’. But they also gave him a bit more than what they themselves were: they made him all-powerful and all-knowing! So are the fictional places that human beings created in their grand fantasies called Paradise, Hell and the Kingdom of God! But they did not create one god; they created hundreds and thousands of gods and goddesses in many old cultures and societies.

But in the early history of humankind, the forces of nature, like thunder, storms, rain, etc., overawed humans. They were not able to explain these powerful and frightening forces of nature that affected them. As a result, they started to do whatever they could to placate them by making occasional sacrifices to them and entreating them for mercy and kindness.

The idea of deities came much later when they developed anthropomorphic ideas relating to deities they came to believe in that were distinct from the earlier worship of the forces of nature.


Since then, the story of gods in various forms and shapes had become a dominant factor in their lives. The movement from the plurality of deities to smaller numbers was gradual. In some cultures, there was further reduction in such numbers, coming down to three, two or only one. They are all part of the history of the evolution of the notions of powerful supernatural or divine beings.

Zionists and the Palestinians

May 12, 2016

Nasir Khan, May 12, 2016

It is commendable that the newly-elected Mayor of London Sadiq Khan stands for the rights of the Jews in case of any violations of their rights. Like many social and political activists, I also stand firmly for the rights of Jews and non-Jews, everywhere. But Mr Khan has not said anything about the rights of the Palestinians that have been violated by Israel since 1948!

Zionists had taken historic Palestine by using violence and terror and driven the Palestinians out of their land and forced many of them to take refuge in the neighbouring countries.

They are the long-suffering Palestinians still under Israeli occupation who need the political support of politicians and common people for an end to the brutal Israeli occupation and the restitution of their human rights as enshrined in the U.N. Charter. To do so is to stand for truth and justice; it won’t be against any community or group.

 

Modernity shows the way forward

May 6, 2016

Nasir Khan, May 6, 2016

“The point of modernity is to live a life without illusions while not becoming disillusioned.”

― Italian thinker and politician Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937)

Modernity means many things to different people. But in learned discourse, it refers to the collective body of particular socio-cultural norms and attitudes that emerged when the medieval period in European history gave way to new thinking. Prior to modernity, scholasticism of the middle ages covered all aspects of socio-political life. Religion was the pivotal force that controlled the social and political thinking of the people as well as moulded political structures and power relations.

The Church hierarchy interpreted and enforced socio-cultural norms. Even monarchs, barons and landed aristocrats had to accept the directives of the Church in matters that seemed to have little or nothing to do with religion. In simple words, the Church was at the apex of the societal pyramid.

Then the scene started to change. At grave risks, some thinkers and public-spirited people started to question matters relating to the principles of absolutism, divine rights of kings, power of the Church, even the old sacrosanct doctrines and dogmas that were once only under the domain of the clerics. Now people began to question the rationale of age-old norms and customs. This was something strictly forbidden in the middle ages.

We should keep in mind that the process of change was gradual but it had pointed to a new direction in social and political thinking and practice. The powers of an omnipotent deity  were questioned;  some thinkers rejected all notions of any supernatural beings altogether. Such ideas have made meaningful inroads in Europe. More people are rejecting old traditional modes of thought and dogmas. The roles of many philosophers from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries onwards have been instrumental in exploring new ideas to meet the needs of the times.

Coming back to Gramsci’s quotation, Gramsci was using the notion of ‘illusions’ in people’s lives that gives them some encouragement and hope, here in this world and in the Hereafter. Those who may not reap the rewards here and now can always wait for the Hereafter when they will be have everything in plenty in the Kingdom of Heaven! However, if the common people come to realise that there is nothing like that ‘up there’ then that can be disappointing to them.

The point is to dispel the falsity of such illusions and face reality. By facing and accepting reality, we save ourselves all false hopes and disillusionments. However, to gain such consciousness is not easy because as long people have ready-made formulas and dogmas, they feel ‘safe’ and they accept all other-worldliness without questioning.