Everywhere, the priestly classes behave as if they guide the people to lead a pious and religious life. In reality, they are just misleading the people. They not only make them superstitious but also behave irrationally by giving too much importance to prayers and rituals.
They preach as if the supernatural power will respond to the prayers and give them a good life as reward. In reality, supernatural power has never responded to prayers in any manner. History confirms that human progress has occurred only by human effort and productive activities.
Discussing this issue, American Rationalist R.G. Ingersoll (1833-1899) in his essay ‘How to reform mankind’ categorically asserts “Worship has not created wealth and prosperity. Everyone should know that supernatural power has not brought succour to the oppressed, clothed the naked, fed the hungry, shielded the innocent, stayed the pestilence or freed the slave”. History substantiates that his opinion is true.
Believing the dictates of the priestly classes, people all over the world spend substantial time and money on rituals and prayers. The time they spend in prayers depends upon the traditional social customs of the societies in which they live. It depends on their cultural, social and religious background as well. People having blind faith in God spend more time in prayers and rituals. At the same time, people with a rational outlook spend less time and energy on the same.
The priests also inculcate fear in the minds of the people that if they are not sincere in their practices they will incur God’s wrath and displeasure. This fear makes people ritual conscious. Greed strengthens this belief that God will grant them their wishes if they do certain things in a manner decreed by their priests. And, people also practise rituals because they find it easier than practising moral values.
The credulous people make rituals the objective of religion and these rituals vary from society to society. The practices of one society seem ridiculous to others and vice versa. The reason is that rituals have developed in different societies based on the knowledge of that period. At that time, these might have seemed relevant, but, in course of time, many rituals become irrelevant.
That is why, active societies put their faiths and beliefs under philosophical analysis and discard the outmoded faiths and beliefs. By logical and rational thinking, they discard meaningless rituals. The conservative societies don’t give importance to philosophical analysis and their findings. They continue to hold the same faiths and perform the same rituals blindly. This leads to backward thinking.
Let us take a look at idolatry, the oldest from of worship. In ancient period, it existed throughout the world. Some thinkers in Jewish society realized the demerits of idolatry. They noticed that the people were giving too much importance to idols and not to ideals. They also observed that idolatry served as a fertile ground for exploitation by the priestly class. Therefore, they decided to discontinue it.
Other societies followed. European societies gave up ‘idolatry’ from third century onwards with the spread of Christianity. Arabian societies dispelled the idolatry from seventh century onwards corresponding with the spread of Islam. But, in Indian society, even now idol worship is going on with much fanfare.
Idolatry does not prevail in any part of the world on the scale it is practised in India. It denotes that people in Indian society have not given sufficient thought to this issue.
The priestly class of Hindu religion is responsible for the widespread idol-worship in India. They do everything to make it popular since they are highly benefited out of it. The Brahmin priests pose as if they have made ‘idols’ powerful by reciting mantras. They preach as if by worshipping idols and performing some rituals prosperity will come to them and all their desires will be fulfilled. Many concocted stories are recited to brainwash the people thoroughly. Mass media is also used to spread this false belief.
The priestly class advocate idolatry in self-interest. The priestly class conducts numerous festivals ostentatiously to attract the people to the temples. They attribute all human qualities to God. They preach that God is bribable. That is why, devotees offer money to priests and temples. Their offerings to the temples and priests run to several crores of rupees. The result is that the priestly class live in luxury and wealth. The Hindu temples are filled with precious metals and other valuables, while the devotees are that much poorer.
The priestly classes, in general give importance to insignificant subjects and neglect important ideals. No religion is free from this evil. For instance, the religious leaders of Islam, instead of upholding lofty ideals such as equality, spirit and universal brotherhood, deny fundamental rights to women. They also insist that ladies should wear head-cloth and purdah even though wearing these is uncomfortable and injurious to health.
Secondly, they are not keen in replacing ignorance by knowledge. In as many as 27 African countries and a few in Asia, painful female circumcision or female genital mutilation (FGM) is being practised in the name of Islam. Female circumcision means removal of some of the external female genitalia. Even now,
lakhs of girls are being made to undergo this operation every year, either openly or secretly. The girls who underwent this operation suffer a lot. Though it has no religious approval, it is being practised in the name of Islam. Religious leaders are not keen to eradicate this evil practice.
Similarly, the priestly class of Christianity instead of discussing the means for prosperity and progress, gives importance to prayers and rituals.
For instance, the Pentecost group advise their followers not to take any medicine during sickness; that they should merely pray ‘God’ for recovery from the diseases. Many suffer and even die because of this dangerous and meaningless practice of not taking any medicine.
The priestly class of the Hindus are priests not by aptitude but merely on account of birth in a Brahmin family. They are not expected to uphold any moral values or have any service spirit, unlike Christian priestly class. They continue to be priests just to earn money; it is a profitable vocation for them.
For their own benefit, they attach many elaborate rituals to all family functions. The ceremony may be a wedding or death anniversary or tonsuring of the head or ear-boring ceremony. For any domestic ceremony, the Brahmin priests recite some mantras in Sanskrit and collect heavy amount as fee for them.
They preach that non-adherence of rituals will cause much hardship to them, while interpreting the objective of Hindu religion according to their whims and fancies. In this manner, the Brahmin priests exploit the people to the core in the name of God, religion, scriptures and rituals. The Brahmin priests enjoy all worldly pleasures and material comforts without doing any work useful to the society.
While discussing the primary duties of human beings, philosophers say that human beings should basically be truth seekers. They ascertain that truth finding activities are fundamental to human progress. Accordingly, people have to doubt, investigate and reason any subject including religious faiths and realize the truth. But, the priests advise the followers not to question or investigate the religious faiths and values. Thereby, they curb curiosity and intellectual freedom of people.
Indirectly, priests arrest the truth finding activities. They do so to keep their power intact. Their selfishness indirectly acts as a hurdle for the development of the spirit of enquiry and ultimately to human progress.
To retain their superiority by birth, the Brahmin priests give religious approval to the caste system. To make the lower castes accept an inferior status, they cunningly say that caste based slave system is ‘God ordained’.
They approve all the caste based oppressions and inculcate a slavish mentality in the minds of the people. Further, they interpret astrology, numerology and many such superstitions as vedic sciences and immersing the masses deeper into ignorance and superstition.
The priestly classes are meant to inculcate spirit of love and universal brotherhood in human society. But in practice, their activities nurture a spirit of dominance and hatred. The priests of all religions preach that their religion is the true religion and that of others are inferior.
Secondly, every religious group wants to dominate others politically, socially and economically. In the struggle for dominance, they interfere with the rights of others. Such activities spread feelings of hatred in society. The religious leaders demean the values and social customs of others.
Such demeaning spread feelings of hatred in the minds of people. In addition, they raise false alarm that their religion is in danger. They charge the people with emotion, sensitise petty issues and make them act violently. These are the basic causes for religious wars in human society.
For instance, the priestly class of Christianity instigated many wars against the Islamic state to recover their holy land ‘Jerusalem’. In two centuries, between 1095 and 1270, Christians led seven major crusades and numerous minor ones against Muslims. Large number of Christians, Muslims and Jews died in those wars. Financial loss was heavy to all nations.
Europe witnessed several religious wars between the Catholic and Protestant sects during the 17th century, killing many. In Germany, the religious war lasted for 30 years from 1618 to 1648. The whole country was devastated. In the German states, about 25 per cent to 40 per cent of the population died. In a few states, the male population was reduced by almost half. The devastation was quite severe.
In India, priestly classes of Hinduism and Islam spread hatred between the two sects. During the partition period, in 1947, the religious leaders of both these religions fuelled hatred and violence. In the violence, about five lakhs of people died. In addition, about nine million people migrated from Pakistan to India and about 6 million people migrated from India to Pakistan, leaving behind all their properties and belongings. In this juncture, it is to be noted that more people died in religious wars than political.
Thus, the priestly classes act as a stumbling block to the progress of almost all nations. Their impact varies from nation to nation. So, every nation has to think and act based on the sheer common sense, thereby to avoid problems they face.
Courtesy: ‘ALIVE’ Magazine, Delhi press.