Almost finished reading Freedom At Midnight, about the carving up of India that led to Great Britain's backing out of the country they had ruled for centuries, the creation of Pakistan to give India's millions of Muslims their own homeland, and how all of this somehow resulted in Gandhi's assassination. Vivid, fascinating stuff. New stuff. To me, anyways, whose knowledge of Indian and Pakistani history and politics and religion remains, shall we say, inadequate.
But boy, is it an interesting tale. Full of bloodshed and grace. Horror and humanity. And through it all the albatross and enlightenment of religion. Hindus slaughtering Muslims. Muslims killing Hindus. The Sikhs somewhere in between. And Kashmir, a mostly Muslim land declared Indian territory, at the heart of the dispute. (Or one of the hearts, anyways.)
So frustrating and confusing this notion of religion is. So unsolvable, this dilemma. Here we have the human desire to reach out, reach up; here we have Gods without number worshipped, deified. And, in the names of these Gods, so much blood has been shed, so much prejudice has been enacted, so many castes have been formed. And all of it based upon our own, individual and collective notions regarding the supernatural.
I don't know what to make of it. Religion. Spirituality. The whole deal. I often yearn for a more spiritual west that is free from restrictive dogma -- but is spirituality even possible without some form of dogma? Buddhism seems the most accessible, least painful alternative, but even Buddhism has its problems, not the least of which is the notion of one paying in this life for the sins of one's past life. (Leading to a disregard for the poor and the wretched in places like Cambodia.)
I look at the map of the world, and I see so much division, and so much of it on ancient, religious lines. A Pakistan put in place for the Muslims, Iraq torn apart by lunatic fundamentalists, and on, and on, and on. I think it's fundamental within us, this need for gods. I think, in large part, it serves and satisfies a purpose. But when you see the division with the United States, often over religious lines, and the bloodshed in Iraq, and the ongoing, unending disputes in the Middle East, it makes me wonder.
Wouldn't it be better, and easier, to say: Okay, we know (or believe) that there's a God, but we're not gonna name it, and we're not gonna it classify it ; the God is there, so, by all means, worship. Worship your brains out. But don't fight the guy next to you because he thinks God is black and you think he's white. Don't demean his book of belief because it isn't your book of belief. Don't fight over which land is holy and which isn't. Dirt is dirt. Sod is sod. We can live whereever, and find divinity whereever. Don't deny someone a job or deny someone a life because you were born into a family that believes X is the truth and the whole truth, and therefore their belief, Y, is misguided, archaic bullshit. We know this will be hard. We know that a lot of religion is culture, and culture is religion. We know that history and family have formed the way you view the divine. But when we cloister ourselves into our own little sects, we separate ourselves. And anytime we separate ourselves, we drift further and further apart. So, believe, by all means. Just, you know, say a little prayer, look up, and believe. In a general way. Don't get into specifics. It will be hard not to, maybe impossible not to, but try. Specifics only leads to division. It's like: We can agree that THREE'S COMPANY was a cool show without getting into who was the better landlord, Roper or Furley. They were both good. They both had their qualities, if you will. You may think THE FALL GUY was not Lee Majors' finest hour, being partial to THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, but we can both agree that Majors was 'cool' personified. Let's agree on what we can agree on, okay? If He/She/They are up there, then He/She/ They're sure as hell hearing our good wishes and prayers. And then when you do that, you can call it a day. Maybe even ask the dude next door if he needs any help with his lawn.
Naive, implausible, unworkable. I know all that. To each his own; I know that, too. It's just, reading that book, the one about India and Pakistan, and learning about how many thousands of people were killed in the name of religious riteousness, makes all the old questions new again. So much of the earth is guided by their relation to the One up above. I guess sometimes I just wish that so many of us would stop looking upward and keep our eyes more firmly fixed on the ground beneath our feet, where others, neighbours, stand alongside us.