I, like most others, did not have a choice when I first chose a religion to follow. I was….er….born into one. After spending quite a while seeing it being practiced, practicing some of it myself, defending subtle nuances in quasi-intellectual arguments with friends, thinking about it for quite a while, I gave up on conventional religion. This decision was driven by conscious rational thought and emotionally charged events.
From the outside, this gave me a chance to look at religion as a concept. I respect conventional religion for its ability to give solace to helpless minds. There have been times when I wished I could enjoy religious comfort. I am amazed at how religious thoughts have united various peoples across time. One’s belief in religion constitues a big amount of one’s identity.
Of course, the importance of religion could be accepted if religion were to be defined by its followers as “code of conduct in ALL aspects of life.” I am sure most religions define codes of conduct for most aspects of life. Rules and consequences of (not) following them are written down with great clarity. “Popularly understood religions” have unambiguous rules and even more unambiguous consequences. This is what makes them popular I suppose.
However, to understand the “whys”, the “how exactlys”, the “what ifs”, and other questions, deeper thought and more importantly, deeper study into religion is required. This, unfortunately, takes a lifetime. The irony of the situation is that religion tells us how to live, and its takes a lifetime to understand one religion. So, what is the way out?
It is evident that we have been leading lives. Without much problem, that too. Codes of conduct have been easy to follow. We do not break legal rules in most situations. People, mostly, are fair to others. So, why this fuss about religion?
This is because people mostly lead double lives. The life of day to day actions, intuitively selfish decision making, profit maximizing, etc. The other life of love, fear, insecurity, emotional traumas, indecisions, ego, inner-conflicts, peace-seeking, theorizing, etc. Of course, these two lives are closely intertwined, and with some people, are not separable at all. Religion, at some level, helps the latter life, and brings the two together.
Out of all the knowledge I had acquired over the years I have been thinking, and the built-up emotional reserve that had some thoughts of its own, I had come to the conclusion that I could formulate my own religion. Of course, an informally specified religion will have its own pitfalls during testing times, and mine was no different. Formally specifying religious tenets proved to be extremely hard. Achieving completeness seems intractable, if not undecidable.
So, currently, I am thinking about respecting centuries of distilled wisdom. The best approximation seems to be Hinduism, as it seems more liberal than other choices. Approaching a religion with absolutely no pre-conceived thoughts seems to be impossible. But I am giving it a try, and lets see where it leads me.
On an aside, I think that human thought has not been able to generate really significant movements for the last so many centuries because I do not see any new religion that has been developed. Have we really advanced in terms of thought and its corresponding conviction? Einstein supposedly believed that God is a “natural order of things.” He could have made a religion out of it. Formulated a set of principles, etc. But I guess he didn’t fully get it to make it into a full fledged religion.