By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
Faith is essential for our very survival on this good earth of ours. Without faith life itself will become dull and drab and full of despair. It is faith that brings a ray of hope—a silver lining to the dark clouds hovering over human life. Faith also complements religion, without which religious life would be impossible. But there should be some limit; unbridled faith does more harm than good, yet if judiciously applied faith becomes extremely beneficial.
Whenever someone falls into despair, or whenever he or she is overwhelmed by some crisis, the immediate solution seems to be a visit to the palmist, or a fortune-teller or an astrologer. They take full advantage of the misfortune of the customers and suggest remedies, which are gratefully accepted by the unfortute seekers of advice, as a drowning man catches a straw to save himself from drowning. At such times of adversity reason rarely counts and faith takes the upper hand.
There is a gradation of these destiny makers. Some can be seen on the pavements waiting hopefully for the customers—mainly by the river side or near the court building. They sit with various parapherlia, which proclaim their profession. They are approached mainly by the people, belonging to the economically backward section. These unfortute victims swallow everything that the fortune-teller recommends—hook, line and sinker. The payment charged by these road side palmists is not heavy and the fortune seekers give whatever is demanded from their meagre earnings. For them it is the only way to get rid of the evil forces.
But some of the astrologers demand a staggering amount for their fortune-reading. The solutions they offer may cost a queen’s ransom. They recommend various kinds of stone, which cost thousands and of course the stones are available in their own establishments. If even one of their predictions comes true, people forget about others, which did not come true, without realizing that it involves the logical fallacy of “non-sequiter”. Even enlightened people fall into the error of believing these predictions to the sky. Their faith without reason very often leads to disastrous effects on the victims. To buy the costly stones, they go to any length and when the desired result does not materialize they fall into flat despair.
The emergence of god-men has also played havoc in the field of religion. The word religion means “to hold together”. It is intended to reveal unity which is latent in diversity, that marks creation in general and the human species in particular. But religion has been perverted to meet the selfish needs of man. It has become a theatre of violent self-contradictions. At present religion has been made to spread venomous hatred and murderous attacks. It is no longer a balm for our wounded existence—but wounds are multiplied and extreme cruelties are perpetrated in the me of religion.
Every religion owes its existence to the sublime feeling of some great and noble person. It gives a feeling of eternity in this temporal world and brings up the elixir of values to human life. This kind of spiritual enlightenment is the root of any religion. All the religious leaders preach love, tolerance and selfless deeds. No religion ever supports hatred and violence. But due to ignorance, greed and selfishness, the followers of various religions have turned this good earth in to a battle field, where man kills man without a qualm. The priestly class have used religion for their own benefit and have misinterpreted the scriptures, rituals and dogmas of that religion to mislead the people and consequently religion has become superfluous. The religious elite misguide the people to serve their own interest.
That is why Karl Marx declared that religion is the opium of the masses. He stated that it was a ruse used by the rich people to cheat the poor. They dangled the carrot of religion before the bemused eyes of the gullible people, who were advised to bear all the injustice meted out to them by the privileged and priestly class, for which they were supposed to be rewarded by God, if not in the existing life, then in the next life. Hence for Marx religion was nothing but a fiction. But actually it is not true. Religion cannot be blamed for the fault of its leaders. Religion is indispensable for humanity and it makes human life meaningful.
Faith is essential for any religion but it is not meant for usurping religion. Faith must be combined with reason to understand the meaning of religion in the field of human experience. Faith complements religion and only faith can take man to spiritual level. If it goes against reason, then it is not true faith.
But those people who want to manipulate the masses for their own advantage, prefer to encourage irratiol faith, which brings untold misery to the people at large. A faith to be beneficial, must have some ratiol explation. Blind faith and devotion lead to the exclusion of reason and the people have become robots, in the hands of the religious elite. Faith without reason is a dangerous process and it leads to the emergence of god-men on the one hand and fortune tellers on the other. These god-men turn religion in to a kind of sensatiolism and people get swayed by their sleight of hand. This kind of display of dexterity impresses people to such an extent that they lose their ability to distinguish between faith and reason and due to ignorance these people practising magical powers are regarded as gods on earth. Their simple wish is regarded as the command of god and people become totally dependent on them. The persol charisma of these god men are far more irresistible than the religious dictums to the common man. The god men make every effort to keep their mass appeal. The money and wealth some of them collect from the hapless devotees is enormous. They live like millioires and some of them live in palatial buildings, move around inexpensive imported cars and have all the comfort that money can buy.
The god-man have many tricks in their bags to dupe the innocent. The most important and attractive device to attract the people, they use, is the element of the miraculous. By performing miracles in the full glare of public view, they mage to obtain explosive advertisement, which brings thousands of people to their fold. With their miraculous power, they create such an atmosphere, where people lose their ratiol judgment and the critical power to distinguish between right and wrong. It is a kind drugged state, which destroys the development of human faculties, which the god-men want to destroy. Therefore the god-men are not true followers of religion.
There is a huge difference between the god-men and the saints, the truly religious people. The saints are interested in improving the physical and mental health of the society. They are compassiote towards not only human beings, but to lower animals as well. But the god-men do not do that actually only in a sick society they flourish. Most of them do not impart any spiritual teaching to the devotees.
They have popular appeal and the resultant material success. They never try to reform the people who go to them. They only offer quick-fix solutions and magical advantages. They appeal to the emotion of the people and not to their ratiol power. Actually they should try to improve the mental health of the society and should impart spiritual training to the devotees, who should be made aware that they are not gods on earth.
It is true that some of them are doing charitable work by establishing schools, hospitals etc. But their opulent and obscure life style is repugnt to any ratiol person. They live like royalty in this poverty stricken land, where people do not get two square meals a day. Their followers are hypnotized by their smooth talks in such a way that they believe that these god-men have the power to give whatever they wish. Because of their blind faith, many of them give the super-men all the wealth they have. Consequently some of the god-men are worth thousands of crores. They do talk of ‘love’ in their sermons, but the word seems to be hollow without much substance. They do not seem to be much bothered about the spiritual significance of human existence. Spiritualism is opposed to materialism, but these mini gods on earth seem to be more interested in amassing wealth out of which only a small portion is doled out in the me of charity, possibly to impress the people with their supposed generosity. Actually at such a time, when the world is enveloped by the dark clouds of terrorism, corruption and hatred, we stand in need of urgent spiritual revival to combat the evil forces.
Spiritualism does need faith but it should be combined with ratiolism. Faith without reason is nothing but superstition and insensibility. The masses should be given spiritual education, so that they are not lured by unscrupulous fortune-tellers or the pseudo gods, who only serve their own interest. Only then the people would be able to raise their voices against the emotiol blackmail by the religious quacks. They should know that God lives in the heart of every human being and he does not need any material benefit. We have to cultivate faith, combined with reason, to understand the significance of God and his creation, this beautiful universe. Faith should be judiciously employed and it does help people to overcome many a heart aches. It is faith that keeps us going in a world, full of suffering. Faith brings some kind of hope to us, without which life would be unbearable. Hence faith, combined with reason, should be treated as elixir of life.