For a lot of us who grew up in the 90s, religion was a big part of our lives. This was the time of Amar Chitra Katha’s graphic novels, and televised versions of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Over the years however, I’ve stayed away from writing about religion, and the quagmire of politics that goes with it, for obvious reasons. But William Dalrymple’s Nine Lives is a case study on how to write without the fear of criticism and controversy. Continue reading
I always thought of myself as agnostic – someone who was indifferent to the concept of God. It was only later that I learned that agnosticism stood for the belief that man did not possess the faculties to prove or disprove the existence of that higher power. In any case, my disdain and skepticism for the idea of God extended to religion as well. I began to view the two as one and the same and grew increasingly intolerant of those who believed. My grouse would almost always start with the argument that some of the biggest wars in the history of the world were fought over religion and God. And that God was nothing but a figment of man’s imagination, and religion a regressive and sexist device born out of man’s desire to dominate.
While the genesis of these views can be traced to my hormone-fueled teenage years – a time when it was considered “cool” to be a rebel and have a contrarian view of things – I have over time mellowed down. I have come to understand that the two are not the same and that a distinction needs to be made. That the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and trade required a semblance of order. That the moral, ethical and social code of conduct that religion provided was necessary for societies to exist. That religion actually provided the framework within which the constitutions of many modern day democracies were conceived. Continue reading