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Religion by Choice?

Religion by Choice?

By Anjana George

Edited by Shambhavi Singh

Similar to all other Indian engagements, traditional Christian ceremonies too have now become a part of the ‘big fat celebrations’. Rituals are a part of religion and celebrations. The question is who decided that all rituals, religions and celebrations require a big fat wallet, taunting guests, and boastful pride? I was at a baptism ceremony of a cousin and witnessed surprises and drama like never before.

After spending a hefty amount on travel and paying a bigger price for below par tour services, I reached God’s own country with energy as live as the winds of the Pacific. What I witnessed thereafter was a great family get-together and heavy duty gifting, because according to new formed societal tradition the babies nearest relatives are entitled to give only gold as gift or else be snubbed by neighbors for being inconsiderate. What left me wondering was whether the 6 month old baby would ever remember to thank me for the same or rather even remember it?

Leaving aside all the show of money and the extravagant clothes, what happened at the actual ceremony was baffling. The child, who is 6 months old, is christened by reciting monotonous prayers and pouring water over its head, and all the while the baby is crying and howling without knowing that now he has become a member of the Christian fraternity.

The only thought resonating through my mind was that all rituals and religious beliefs are fine, but is it reasonable to inherit religion? Is it fair for a child to be inducted into a religion without its prior knowledge? What if we feel the need to follow another religion at a later stage in life? Will the same crowd that wholeheartedly inducted us into one religion, celebrate again when we imbibe another? Is religion meant to define one’s own beliefs or their parents or families?

“Let there be no compulsion in religion” says Quran (2:256). So should religion be followed by birth or by choice? Is it just to assign a faith to a child without its knowledge? According to estimates, around 4,200 religions exist all around the world-a wide range to choose from. But who gets a choice? A new born without any understanding of its being, is expected to follow the same religion, faith and practices that his family follows.

The only concern that can justify this mindset is that differences in religious philosophies can lead to conflicts. Finding one’s own faith which justifies his beliefs will lead one to define and evolve as a person in very subtle ways in their spirituality, mindset, beliefs and opinions and provides a higher stability and reason to one’s own existence

But we seem to forget that religion is a path, not the destination. Any path or any religion for that matter is neither completely right nor completely wrong. Is it possible to have views and logic completely opposite from the community you were born into? In my opinion, anyone who explores religion through his own understanding also perceives a better understanding of himself. Their conscience justifies their beliefs and faith and so does their spirituality.

“All religions lead to the same God, and all deserve the same respect. Anyone who chooses a religion is also choosing a collective way for worshipping and sharing the mysteries. Nevertheless, that person is the only one responsible for his or her actions along the way and has no right to shift responsibility for any personal decisions on to that religion.”

Paulo Coelho, Like the Flowing River

Religion provides stability and faith to the human mind. It is for the sake of human race and not the other way round. Hence, the voice of faith should probably be an exploration by one’s own discretion and not be ruled by societal customs. Calling oneself secular should not only be an attractive adjective, but also a revered practice. To each his own faith, and to each his own belief. God probably wouldn’t mind that, would he?

Anjana George is a second year student pursuing Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from Christ University, Bangalore. She believes in the power of words and their magic to entwine people in thought and understanding. Her subjects of interest include politics, spirituality, architecture and movies among others. She is an avid reader and takes keen interest in writing, storytelling and photography. She aspires to be able to know people, places and lives and share her knowledge of experience with others.

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