The International Poetry Journal in Bengali and English

Issue 24/25
April-Sept '04

    Bilingual Poetry
    Sample Poetry in Bengali
    Goeorge Wallace's Article on Azad Attack

    Dr. Azad in Translation
    To the Editor
    Humayun Azad's Essay
    The Spirit of Azad's Poetry

The Fable of Religious Sentiments

Humayun Azad

The concept of 'religious sentiment' today is being heard more loudly than ever. 'Religious sentiment' is never discussed alone, but it is constantly tied to the idea of 'injury' and 'blow'. Today a peculiar emotion of humans is continually being injured and blown. Humans are delicate sensitive beings who posses innumerable feelings like the countless petals of a flower; humans fallen from paradise are inhabiting in a world more pitiless than hell, where cruelty and impurity are boundless; it is not a surprise, therefore, that the delicate feelings of humans are repeatedly made bloody. A day will come, when human beings will return to paradise, they will find pure peace in a untainted world; none of their feelings will be injured, not even a flower tap on those holy feelings! Human beings will keep savoring eternal peace. But as this earth is an impure quarter, the feelings of human beings are bloody with injuries and attacks--it is indeed very unfortunate; the particular feeling that is being injured the most is directly rooted in and linked to mythology: 'religious feeling' or 'religious sentiment'. Human beings sense the world with five senses, they give us sight, sound, smell, touch and taste; but since humans are the only gifted creative creature of the universe, their senses are not limited to those five, but its boundaries lay beyond the constraints of those five senses. One of human's senses could be called the sense of beauty, which humans use to sense beauty; another could be labeled as sense of art, which humans use to appreciate art; likewise, the humans have many other incalculable senses, amongst which the senses for religion, which humans use to feel religion has become sharp, predominant, and violent; the senses for religion creates the space where the 'religious sentiment' unfolds, and then in the non-religious world that sensitive religious feeling gets injured, attacked from morning to morning. This particular sense has defeated the other senses to become the chief one; 'religious sentiment' stays up all night with sleepless eyes to guard itself, often it screams and feels enormous excitement. It is not weak like the senses to feel art that it will bear the pain of being injured in solitude. The 'religious sentiment' if attacked turns furious. The world today is shaking with the excitement and rage of 'religious sentiment'.

It is not a pleasant experience to be injured or hurt; physical pain makes us scream. The more subtle senses when get hurt are also supposed to scream, but those screams remain unheard. Innumerable feelings of mine are wounded everyday; artless lowly language of poetry in magazines and newspapers haunt my poetic instinct, popularity of cheap and shallow literature wounds my literary instinct; dishonestly of the political leaders attack my political sentiments; likewise many more feelings of mine are injured and made blood-spattered each day, I do not know how to cure them, I do not know of any quarter of the woods or city streets where I can go and yell about those injuries. The state has not taken any measures to protect those feelings, it never did cross the mind of the state. Is it not the state's responsibility to protect such priceless emotions of mine through constitutional law? Many may say, it is not possible at all for the state, since this type of process would involve opening up of a hideous 'emotion ministry' that will be responsible for cataloguing the billion different sentiments that circulate in the minds of billion different people, trace the roots of their injuries and attacks, and take steps to protect them from those attacks. It is not the state's duty to guard my literary, poetic, aesthetic, or political sentiments, but now the state has taken up a strange enough responsibility of protecting 'religious sentiments'; the state is attempting to mark out where 'religious sentiment' is being hurt. Why is the state not formulating laws to protect my artistic, sexual, political, and poetic sentiments? This is because the state does not believe in artistic or aesthetic sentiments, these are matters of ridicule to the state, the state has no role of play even is such emotions are attacked, injured and, eventually killed. But 'religious sentiment' is no such matter of ridicule, it is very important; the state believes in it, and that is why the state is so keen on protecting it.

What is this religious sentiment in order to keep which undamaged the state is so concerned? Science has come a long way during the past few centuries, we know about the nature of the universe if a scientific manner, where there is no room for unworldly mythology, but still the world today is enveloped in mythological culture. Mentally we are living in the mythological world, the same world, which can be found in the mythological books of Plato, Aristotle, and Ptolemy. The mythological nature of the world was changed by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Einstein. The world these people created does not match with the world depicted in the mythological books. However, this world of reason does not effect our imaginary world, which is still occupied with the mythological ideas, even though those ideas have been proved non rational and unscientific. There is an ongoing contradiction between the real world and the imaginary one we live in; human beings are living in that very contradiction between mythology and science. Religion derived from the astonishment, fear, and greed of human beings in ancient time, they imagined many gods and goddesses, they covered the entire sky with a constellation of the divine. Human beings considered those gods and goddesses to be constant, those who did not accept the authority of those gods were tormented. Since then men have been inventing new divine forces, canceling the older ones as invalid, even though those were the worshipped forces previously. Belief in a particular God and worshipping him is a major thing; however, what is even more significant is the creation of the social structure employing those beliefs and rituals of worship. No specific religious is everlasting; in the last five thousand years a few thousands religions have been proposed on this earth, many religions have perished after being practiced for centuries due to the emergence of new religions. Is religion compatible with reason and science? Theologists themselves admit that religion does not go by reason, religion goes by reasonless blind faith, religion will not ask any new questions, seek no new answers; all the answers have already been given in the old holy books, all the truth lie in those books. Nevertheless, people from one religion do not believe in the books held sacred by other religious groups, usually they oppose each other, people from one religion considers others lacking the true religion; overall, people from all religions agree that religion is a matter of faith, where reason is obsolete. Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics everything goes by reason, knowledge is impossible without reason, no truth can be revealed without reason. Blind faith cannot produce paddy, run cars, build even a small bamboo bridge over a canal; faith can do but one amazing thing, send us to a world of limitless happiness after we die. Men have only one are where reason does not function; the nature of this area is quite different, all truth can be attained here with unreasonable thoughts and blind faith. This very blind faith is called 'religious sentiment'.

The 'religious sentiments' of men are not alike, since there are many religions; innumerable religious faiths divide up the world. People from each religion posses a particular kind of 'religious sentiments', on top of that there are subdivisions within each religion, each possessing their unique type of 'religious sentiment' . In the case of most religion the practitioners are not well versed about the main ideas of their religion, they amend new beliefs into it, which are not at all related to the main religion. Many issues layer up in the human mind to give birth to the unreasonable feeling of 'religious sentiment'. This is the 'religious sentiment' that gets injured and attacked. There is no way to measure or detect the fact that 'religious sentiment' has been attacked or injured. Unreasonable feelings cannot be measured with reason. The way most states run today that attacks and injures 'religious sentiments' quite frequently. For example, the 'religious sentiment' of a devout Muslim could be injured just by looking at a temple, because in the world of his faith there can exist no temple, similarly a Hindu person can be offended to look at a mosque, since to him the mosque is unwanted. If a devout Muslim decides that his 'religious sentiment' is being wounded because of the sight of a temple, and demands the temple to be abolished, what will the state do in that case? If a devout Hindu demands that the sight of a mosque is attacking his 'religious sentiments', then what measures will the state take? Pure/devout/genuine religionist's tender 'religious sentiment' can be wounded each second; television, cinema, women at the universities, women at the parliament can injure the 'religious sentiment' of a devout practitioner, who can in turn demand that such things are abolished. Earth and the other planets go around with the sun in the center, universe was created from a 'big bang', it was not created radically, it was created approximately one to two hundred billion twenty years ago, and the universe is expanding since then, the sun and the planets the solar system were formulated four hundred million half hundred billion years ago, humans have not come to earth being locked out of paradise, rather, they have evolved on earth approximately two to four million years before, the mountains are not screwed to the earth, all of these facts are taught at the universities--these ideas could seriously damage the 'religious sentiments' of certain individuals, and they can raise voice to have such knowledge to be banned. What will the state do then? Will the state ban science? 'Religious sentiment' is completely unreasonable, and therefore it is impossible to measure how much it is injured. Unreason cannot be measured with reasonability.
Is it the state's duty to harbor, nurture, and protect 'religious sentiments'? If the state will impose any ideal or philosophy over the inhabitants that that would be ideological despotism. Any type of religiously motivated ideology is suspicious and harmful, and it is not only harmful, but it leaves men blind, restricts their creativity from unfolding. The evolvement of knowledge during the last few hundred decades have not been an easy phenomenon, religious ideology made the path of knowledge more difficult and restrictive; many knowledgeable men have been persecuted and killed. Later it was revealed that the knowledgeable men were set on the right path, while the blind religious ideology was wrong, but forceful and brutal. Even though religious ideology does not play any real role in human life, but it still remains powerful by the careful protection of state machinery. The state is validating blind faith over reasonable knowledge. Even in this age of science mythological beliefs are being intensified, men are being intoxicated with such beliefs; and the irony is the gifts of modern science and technology are being used to transmit such ideas rooted in blind faith. It is legitimate to preach any false ideas on behalf of the religious ideology, and it is being done on a regular basis, but the ultimate truth cannot be spoken, because it goes against the grain of mythological beliefs. What we see being sermonized through books, magazines, radio, television is mythological beliefs, which has no reasonable premise, most of which is hilarious meaningless talks; but not one word could be uttered against mythological beliefs in radio or television. The whole point of the evolvement of knowledge is that it will challenge the mythological beliefs, attack them, and invalidate them; but the state is taking advantage of knowledge, but rejecting the consciousness that comes from knowledge, and is continuing to harbor and nurture mythological faith. Men are not born with any particular religious or 'religious sentiment'; but as soon as he/she is born the religion and 'religious sentiment' of the family starts operating on the human being and makes him/her a part of the family clan of religious faith. Parents, relatives, neighborhood, religious rituals, from school to university, text books, magazines, newspapers, state machinery keeps placing religion and 'religious sentiment' into the human beings head, which polish the person at every moment, cripple his/her creativity and develops unreasonableness in his/her head. If the person belongs to a religious group that is the dominant one of the state then the 'religious sentiment' taken more and more furious shape increasingly. One question is often asked, and that is, why are those that are educated, those who have gained success in different fields of knowledge nurture something unreasonable as blind faith of religion? The fact that they posses religious faith, stands alone as the proof of the appropriateness of religion. But this is no proof. These so called educated and knowledgeable persons are born into families that inject fear and greed into their minds, which they can never escape; they spend their life in a dilemma between reason and unreason. Most of them remain unaware of the dilemma, since humans are such strange animals that they can hold contradictory consciousness. Religion does not only promise eternal happy after life, it facilitates advantages in the material world as well. It is easy to go with the societal rules, going against them is much harder. Men, therefore, give into the material gain in this world and promises of gifts in the after life. This is why the religiousness of educated knowledgeable persons cannot stand as the proof of the correctness of religions. Since religion is understood as something positive and good, we can expect religious people to be honest; but do we not always see the miserable dishonesty of such people? Bangladesh is now a very religious state, the television in the midst of indecent singing and dancing is keeping busy in preaching religion, the religious leaders are performing pilgrimage after pilgrimage, the supernatural excitement of religion is spreading in all directions; therefore, Bangladesh should be overflowing with honesty and goodness. But in reality we can see massive dishonesty, unparalleled corruption, limitless rape. Religion and honestly were supposed to be commensurate with each other; but in reality, religion parallels corruption, dishonesty, and rape. Then is 'religious sentiment' guarding only a bunch of unreasonable belied, greed, and worldly clashes?
'Religious sentiment' is not innocent, it is quiet violent; the people who are falling preys to it are not dishonest corrupted ones, but those that are honest and knowledgeable; knowledge is the biggest prey of 'religious sentiment.' Knowledge has been in conflict with religion for centuries, even after being tormented, knowledge is surviving and changing the world; but still the false mythological beliefs are ruling today, torturing our knowledge. No reason or attribute is required for the decree of 'religious sentiment', rituals and the old holy books supply the energy, and using that energy 'religious sentiment' asserts its uncontestable power. The spread of violent blind 'religious sentiment' is heightened by poverty, illiteracy, corruption, and politics for power. The poor do not have the chances for higher education, all regions of knowledge is unknown to the poor; it is the most effective place for the spread of unreason and blind/bad faith; the uneducated and poor man finds peace and power in that religious faith. Since he does not posses material wealth or power, he holds a magical supernatural power, which does not provide him with anything in reality, but like a drug keeps him lively. Corruption works for religion; deceitful men in order to cover up their corruption and exploitation evoke religious extremism. This is why the more corruption there is in the society, the more religious it becomes. Politicians use religion; they realize that the easiest way to win power is through creating religious exhilaration; they would not have to benefit the citizens, develop society--these are tough jobs; the easiest is to use religion as a tool to gain and sustain power. This results in the successive downfall of the society, like what is happening in Bangladesh today. State must be free of mythological emotion or sentiments, because mythological sentiments for the last thousands of years have not benefited mankind, but damaged it continually.

Translated from Bengali by Rubaiyat Hossain

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    Shabdaguchha, A Journal of Bengali and English Poetry, Published in New York, Edited by Hassanal Abdullah.