Opinion Op Ed 18 Apr 2016 God, save us from mi ...
Swami Agnivesh is founder convenor of Parliament of Religions (Sarva Dharma Sansad). Email: agnivesh70@gmail.com

God, save us from miracle-mongers

Published Apr 18, 2016, 1:09 am IST
Updated Apr 18, 2016, 7:10 am IST
The craving for miracles is driven by the desire for shortcuts.
Representational image
 Representational image

It makes me angry; though I know I should not be. The spiritual discipline common to all religious traditions demands that we master our emotions and become tolerant unto dust. But there is, still, a margin for indignation; though it must be directed at obscurantism, not at obscurantists. I am urged, almost provoked, by an article carried by The Asian Age on April 14, 2016, The miracle of faith, in the name of Fr. Dominic Emmanuel on the resurrection of Jesus. I hold Jesus of Nazareth in very high esteem. I do that primarily for two reasons. First, to Jesus “man” is not made for religion, but religion is made for man. It is a dictum I fully endorse. That is why I feel spiritually bound to oppose everything that divides human beings in the name of God.

Those who seek to divide human beings have only one goal: to fool them. It is “divide and fool” when it comes to religion. So, when religion is used as a divisive tool, I cannot but condemn this atrocity. Second, Jesus was passionately committed, as Maharshi Dayanand was, to social justice and to human dignity. I consider this to be the essence of true religion.

 

But the business agenda of the sort of organised religiosity that Fr. Emmanuel represents — the hypermarket of the multi-national obscurantism — is to obscure this light. The purpose, after all, of obscurantism is to obscure: to confuse what is obvious, to muddy the clear waters, to turn light into darkness. And when it is done in the name of a profound spiritual luminary like Jesus, all of us must protest.

Strangely, the salesmen of Christianity do not know (or, they pretend that they do not know) that Jesus was embarrassed about miracles. He knew miracle-mongering was a stumbling block. On occasions, if my memory serves me, he reprimanded the seekers of miracles. He asked them to be sensible and rational. He asked them to have faith, instead!

 

Now, this is important. People’s capacity for faith is inversely proportionate to their craving for miracles. Miracles are the alternative to faith. This disease, this miracle-mongering, is not unique to Christianity. Every dishonest godman claims such special powers. It is the only publicity stunt they know. And it succeeds because people are gullible. The real harm is this, and it must be taken note of. The craving for miracles is driven by the desire for shortcuts. Shortcuts are attractive to us because they do not require us to change. The longest cut — the most difficult thing — for human beings is to change their ways. Spirituality is all about urging and enabling us to change. This change is the seed of our freedom and fruitfulness. We cannot stay barren and produce fruits at the same time. We cannot live in immorality and enjoy the peace that comes only from a sane and humane way of life. When we do not want to give up our wicked and stupid ways, and still want to be safe from bad consequences, we are left with only one refuge: miracles.

 

It is this human weakness that the merchants of popular piety exploit to their mega advantage. This is immoral; for it takes advantage of human weakness. The role of religion is just the opposite: it is, as Swami Vivekananda said. It is to make the weak stronger. The strong do not need crutches. The salesmen of mendacious religiosity peddle crutches. To do that, and to pretend that to be a service to humanity, they have to ensure that no one develops strong legs, so to speak. As regards Hinduism, it is obvious that whenever the focus was put on the miraculous element, the philosophical profundity of this great faith got sidelined. The history of Hinduism is the history of the struggle between eternal truths and debasing obscurantism.

 

Whether Jesus rose from the dead or not is immaterial to me. What matters most to me is what he did before his death, not after his death. His life before death was a miracle! Nothing he did thereafter compares to it. Christians like Fr. Emmanuel cannot emulate the miracle of life before death. So they waste their time on the so-called life after death. This has been the greatest disservice and the most dishonest trick played on our species. It is this that Karl Marx rightly called the opium of the people. The best symbol for irrationality is opium. The merchants of obscurantism must be treated on par with the peddlers of opium. Perhaps, the harm they do is even greater.

 

The truth is in what Fr. Emmanuel, whom I cherish as a personal friend — and that will not change — does not state. Did Jesus use miracles when he was being crucified, or when he was dying on the Cross? That was the most appropriate and legitimate context for unleashing miracles. After all, he was killed for no fault of his, except that of denouncing the corruption and venality of the parasites of religion. On the Cross, miracle could have vindicated justice. Jesus does not resort to miracles!

That is the real miracle: this stupendous human capacity to face the harshest of realities without yielding to the temptation to dodge or to compromise. That is the miracle I endorse and respect. I would urge all my sisters and brothers in every faith to refuse to be fooled by those who care neither for God nor for them. It is an insult to your creator that you do not use the reason and common sense Paramatma has given you.

 

 

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