Saturday, October 24, 2009


I want to know from anyone who reads my blog- how does one choose one religion for oneself, if one wants to?

On what basis do you evaluate a particular religion? Does it even make sense to 'evaluate' a religion, i.e. examine it using logic and reason, when belonging to a religion is completely dependent on not logic, but faith?

If you insist on examining it critically with logic, in an absolutely unbiased fashion, then you do not have faith. And if you do indeed have unequivocal faith, truly objective criticism is impossible. Consider a devout Catholic attempting an objective evaluation of Catholicism; it simply will not work. Equally applicable to all religions.

Here is the circular trap as I see it -

I've read over fifty accounts of islamic apostates, i.e. people who left Islam, and at least as many of people who've left Christianity, and most accounts of why they left their respective religions are logic-based. I'm finding it difficult to understand how a logical criticism of a religious text can be a valid criticism when religions simply ask you to have faith.

If you are sceptical of it in any way, (one way being attempting a critical evaluation of it) then how exactly do you have faith? And even if you go on to prove successfully, that the primary religious text of a particular religion is logically inconsistent (say it is full of anachronisms and self-contradictions), what exactly have you proved? Your criticism will not make any difference to the devout, for they have faith, and faith is not critical. Your criticism can only make a difference to the skeptics, which makes no difference, because by virtue of being skeptical, they do not have faith to begin with.

So when you have no faith, and yet you cannot criticise, how do you choose a religion?

Or do I have it on backwards, and does the religion choose you?

Regular commenters, please oblige, and lurkers, please make an exception and delurk, pretty please. :) I want as many opinions as I can get. Atheists, agnostics, everyone please come forward.

Thank you.


(No disrespect is meant by the title; the title stays as it is because it seems to sum up my problem perfectly.)


ramsub said...

I lost faith in god, became skeptical of hinduism, lost my religion and now I am coming back to hinduism, mainly because I am surrounded by it and I know the most about it.

I have values which I have developed wholly seperate from religion and now I try and look to religion for support for these values, and I fnd them in Hinduism and therefore I am coming back to Hinduism (the parts I like), but can I judge it? - No. Can I evaluate it - No. Its too big and beyond me. All I can aim for is partial understanding.

How do I judge a religion? I don't. I can't, because I don't know enough about the religions I haven't read the holy books myself and depend for my random opinions on the views of others (just like you do, blogs and anecdotes).

All I'm trying to do is read up as much as a I can about different religions in secular texts (so that my very personal sense of what is right is appeased) and gathering as much informtaion, comfort, values, criticism as I can. but again no judging the religion. maybe judging the people who practice it.

that said, I am fascinated by religion and the gods as they are described in Louis MCmaster BUjolds stories, I read them, thought about the religion in them, loved the idea behind them and realized that If i read about stories about real religions my reaction would be the same. thats when I relaized its about knowing the religion for me and not judging it.

indiegurl said...

you lost faith in god and then became skeptical of hinduism? am i understanding that correctly? in other words, you first lost faith in the concept of religion and consequently - inevitably - rejected hinduism? that sequence seems to make sense.

How do I judge a religion? I don't. I can't, because I don't know enough about the religions I haven't read the holy books myself and depend for my random opinions on the views of others (just like you do, blogs and anecdotes).

All that is true, there is too much to learn, but the point i'm trying to make here is, even operating on the assumption that you know everything there is to know on a particular religion, as soon as you begin critically evaluating it and basing your pursuant following/not-following of the religion on this critical evaluation, you are not doing it out of faith. My point is simply that scepticism is inconsistent with faith. Religions demand your faith not your approval ; i hope I'm not being obtuse here.

All I'm trying to do is read up as much as a I can about different religions in secular texts (so that my very personal sense of what is right is appeased)

This is what we all seem to do. We arrive, through contemplation and experience, at some values that we hold to be important, and then we look for a religion that is consistent with these values. In other words we seem to be adopting religions out of approval for their priorities, because their priorities are the same as ours. Similarly we reject them when we discover that they endorse values that we do not. This works fine for us, but this is not what was intended, you see? Religion asks for faith not logic, not reason. Religion attempts to establish its values in your life; it does not look to be undermined by your own values, and constantly be evaluated by them. If you indeed have such core values, why then do you need religion? For support?

ramsub said...

you got the sequence right! I lost faith in god at the age of ten when I realized that scientists could bring dead fish back to life. this meant no afterlife (what happens? the fishes soul which is now eithe in heaven or in say a humans body... gets recalled? don't be ridiculous) which meant no god to me. so I lost faith in god. I just stopped beleiveing in it. I used to have nightmares about the world, why? dying? it was scary to realize that there was no afterlife.
so yeah
I lost faith in god, and the skepticism of hinduism came in gradual stages as I grew up and started thinking.

ramsub said...

most conclusions I reach come from really asinine places as seen above.

the faith thing, and reading and beleiving comes from the book curse of chalion. I read it and loved the concept of gods/saints/faith in it. I loved it, because I accepted it as "gospel" truth for that fictional world and i found myself thinking about this book, its concepts and agreeing. then I thought maybe if real religions have stories etc, and I read them I might end up enjoying them and agreeing with them.... oh... wait... they do. so now I am on a trip reading up as much of the mahabharata as I possibly can, in as many forms. and plan to move onto other religions.

can I judge them? nope. too big and tooo above me for that. Me is a simple person, who lives and learns from kids fantasy books.

ramsub said...

and your point about faith and skepticism is flawed, I've come across enough people who have managed to combine faith and skepticism beautifully, and many saints are saints because of that combination. I'm not able to put this point across properly, but most religions allow for skepticism. and don't ask for unconditional faith.

ramsub said...

last paragraph is what I thought religion was during my skeptic phase. and there is nothing i can do that will disabuse you of this notion, and I don't want to. you have to come to your own conclusions the way I have come to mine (or not, yet.)

like the 4 apostles paul, john, richard and george said, "let it be". I don't think you should ask for comments, they're not going to help you.

indiegurl said...

see now you go back to the 'religion is too big and too above me for me to fully understand and therefore evaluate' proposition ; wholly accepted by me. I've only assumed for the sake of argument that you are indeed in a position to make a valid evaluation. A hypothetical situation, if you will.

What then?

Gautama Buddha went through a crisis of faith and then received Enlightenment. I've always wondered what the nature of such Enlightenment is... it looks like it would answer both our questions. :)

As for saints combining faith with skepticism, i personally have never read anything anywhere to support that. But i'm sure you will clarify when in a position to do so.

another brick in the wall said...

religion is good business. period.

indiegurl said...

@suk - organised religion is good business.

another brick in the wall said...

sheesh! but of course. to make good business out of anything, you need to have good promotional and marketing skills. c'mon, that's a given.

indiegurl said...

@suk - sure, but i'm not looking into organised religion at all, just the adoption of a religiously-ordained set of principles as rules for individual conduct. so profitability etc is not on topic here.

another brick in the wall said...

arghh!!! i get that. i'm an illiterate person to argue on the moral rights and wrongs really, cause i've read no books. we set our own rights and wrongs every day, every moment maybe; also we keep on contradicting ourselves everyday by making right, our yesterday's wrongs. i find it ridiculous to universally define a certain act as right and certain act as wrong, as world keeps on turning and everything around us keeps on changing. our beliefs change accordingly, our attitude and perception is affected by more than one thing and hence, my wrong maybe your right and vice-versa. i understand and accept, to an extent, that without religions, this world could've been a much more chaotic place, it probably might not even have survived, as religion gives one, a sense of direction, perhaps. but finally, everything is a belief and all that we chase is just a notion, which can easily falter the next moment, given the moment presents itself with a totally different circumstance. religion is important as it puts some fear into you, it stops you from becoming a savage, but then all along these years, it's only the religion that has caused all these wars and killings. ok, let me correct that, it's interpretation of religion that have caused wars. so there again, how much of this religious beliefs have actually helped humanity? and if you are taking the individual point of view, i think we all have been given a sense of judgement which let's us decide and judge our own actions/inactions. i don't believe in rights and wrongs. everything is just an act finally, everything is just a story that begins in a moment and ends in another.

indiegurl said...

"good", "bad" are all relative terms, but so is "helping humanity". Religion helps people deal with death, so it helps on an individual basis. Interpretation of religion has also caused wars, but who is to say that this has not 'helped humanity'? Mary the First persecuted non-catholics and brought the murderous spanish inquisition to england and had them burn thousands of english people at the stake, purely out of the goodness of her catholic heart; she firmly believed that this was for the 'good' of her people, that she was 'helping her children'. Perhaps she did, perhaps there is a heaven. Who's to know?

There is no point evaluating religion on how 'helpful' it has been to humanity. That is not a uniform consideration.

also, the whole "why religion" thing is not the debate here... it's an important question, but not the one i've asked here. i'm just asking if faith and skepticism can coexist. :)

Mudra said...

Here's how I see it. People leave a certain religion only when there is something in it which they can't deal with. And that something is usually a tangible thing, as opposed to philosophical/spiritual querying. Maybe you see excess ritualism, maybe your religion has failed to help you in any way, maybe you just suddenly think that it makes no difference in the lives of so many people you know, or worse, it hinders their growth. (They mayn't necessarily think so, but that's irrelevant.)

Bottomline being, you would have a problem with specific things that your religion seems to force on you. And for many people, the extraneous forced matter comes to define religion - which means that when you walk out of what bothers you, you feel you're walking out of the religion itself. Again not necessarily true, because I'm sure that even those people do picture God as the God they've left, at least in the adjustment period.

And what I'm trying to say but not saying precisely enough is that questioning parts of your religion doesn't necessarily mean lack of faith. Maybe you have faith in the basic concept, and just don't have faith in the holy books, or the gurus, or the thousands of add-on beliefs that surround the core of your religion. Yes?

indiegurl said...

@mudra - right, so your saying you could be sceptical of the cultural add-one that come with religion. That sounds fine.. that's more from the perspective of leaving a religion though, no? what if when you're trying to find one? are you likely to be put off by the annoying add-ons or evaluate the theory and judge only by what SHOULD be?

Divya said...

First of all, it's pretty odd that those who go and research and adopt a religion late in life know much much more about it then those who have followed it blindly all their lives. Odd in a good sense. Do not nitpick.

Religion exists because people want to worship a higher power so that they are absolved of some form of responsibility. More power to them, I'm not belittling it or I don't mean to, but to me it just seems a tad escapist. The religion which has the most convenient (or inconvenient, people can be odd and masochistic) set of regulations are adopted by those apostates.

Divya said...

And i love the title :D

Also, I was a nice little hindu because I was brought up to be one. Honestly though I was just disinterested to begin with. Soon enough I began to believe in science over god. Then i was just confused. Still am. Don't really care though but don;t really think there is a god. atheist? agnostic? I don't know even.

Religion is the root cause of most problems and I myself am totally against it. Faith is all very well and good and excellent if it helps people. It's just all the nicely contradicting and different religions that are annoying.

another brick in the wall said...

hail manson divi! :D

and desigurl: as per our earlier conversation it's been clearly established that faith and scepticism cannot coexist according to our beliefs :P

oRange* said...

I give a fuck to religion. i dont bother judging a religion because there's no point. they're stagnant and baseless. and they make no sense to me. as said above, they are the root cause for so many problems today!

i have faith in god and i hate it when people say that god and religion are connected. they just arent.

indiegurl said...

@divi - true that.. most us cannot even be classified as atheist or agnostic. We're just confused.

@suk - arre suk bhai we both toh have discussed this threadbare :D

@orange - exactly, one's own personal, custom-made religion seems to be the only solution. but i was just wondering about existing organised religion, you know... if one wanted to join one, one would have to be impressed by it. But if one is impressed by it, then one has evaluated it. If one has evaluated it, then one is not getting into it with faith, one is remaining skeptical. It's simply a logical conundrum. :)

Mudra said...

@Divya - Yep, it's from the perspective of leaving a religion. When you're finding one, I do think that the add-ons cease to matter. It's just psychological. Fact is, the religion you find, is probably not going to force the add-ons onto you anyway, right? Because converts are generally regarded as outsiders everywhere. Sad in a way, but good for the convert because it lets him choose that part of his new religion that is consistent with is own ideology. So once, in your mind, the pressure is off, you might just make a more logical decision. I also wonder if converts can really have faith of the kind that people born into a religion have. Nevertheless, if it makes you a better/happier person, who's to stop you? :)

JD said...

was gonna say something to the effect of "one's own custom made religion" which you already mentioned.

maybe a sidey related question is - why one wants to join / choose a religion? maybe the answer to this will dictate how s/he can choose (or be chosen by) a religion.

so why would anyone want to choose a religion? maybe one wants a set of beliefs to guide his actions, and to answer the question of "what should i do with my life?" Which, then means one's religion can be anything that answers that and guides actions. which means it needn't be an organized religion. it could be any belief-set. (from atheism to palhaniuk-ism) so you familiarize yourself with as many belief sets as possible, and then put your faith in the (possibly fluid) mixed set of beliefs that feel right to you, and then what you become, is your religion.

mainly, i think you're right about faith and 'evaluation' technically being mutually exclusive. but i also want to agree to ramsub's point on having known people who have 'managed to combine faith and skepticism' beautifully. as of now, the way it should go seems to me to be - have faith coz your parents ingrained it in you; then lose faith coz it doesn't make logical sense; then question a lot, and explore a lot; and then finally come to peace with some customized idea to put your faith in.

Anonymous said...

P said...

ever heard of the quote by karl marx saying tht religion is opiate of man? it's of man and not for- why? you dont choose a religion, you accept the values in it. the whole point of choosing a religion, judging it, terming it as a business is in simplest terms overlooking the very notion of religion. 100s of hindus sit in the so called 'pravachan' have u ever been to one? if u have or would, u'd know tht ppl go there not to listen to some idiot is saying on the stage, but wht he is saying. christians go to church every sunday, they gather and discuss, possibly everything...every friday muslims go to mosques...greet each other...hear each other and try to discuss the philosophy of their holy text.

it's a dumbfounded question that how a person chooses his religion? not because it can't be answered or something, it's because the answer is right in front of u.

'One's faith is one's own' ...nd as far as faith shud giv ur soul matter wht it teaches after all people do follow Scientology as religion...but later on ppl forget tht...they get obsessed ...carried away or whtver( i leave tht to ur imagination or see a drug addict) and they question their religion and not themselves!

and if u think u r smart enough to CHOOSE a religion then become an atheist.

All thinking men are atheists- Ernest Hemingway

indiegurl said...

@mudra - converts fascinate me too.. the line between culture convert and religious convert, eh? :D

@JD - that seems to be the inevitable cycle... i was just wondering if there is a logical , a sort of algorithmic alternative to bumping around in the dark until you find The One, so to speak :) I suppose not.

@Anon - i thought you were a spambot! But you are actually a Link Genie (you solve my problems with linkies)! and what's more, you are a genius Link Genie.

@P - the most on-topic comment I have! So you think my search for a suitable religion loses meaning as soon as I assume the authority to choose one. I've been trying to get around that conclusion myself, but there seems to be no escaping it. For now.

narendra shenoy said...

I'm not much of a lad for deep thought but I think you've hit the nail on the head when you say that religions function entirely on faith and hence are quite immune to logical critiques. Infact, the clearest reasoning I've read so far.

A number of thinkers, my favorite being Bertrand Russell, have pointed out that the very fact that faith is required in order to validate them renders religions a collection of untruthful assertions. Which is a mouthful of words I can't believe I wrote myself. Maybe there IS a god after all?

Pankaj said...

arre simple!!

the test of the pudding is in the eating re! if a religion is indeed the highest religion (like mine is) it will work, and your devoutness will be rewarded, with all the heavenly rewards promised in the manifesto.

but hey, what if you don't get those rewards? well, your faith was not genuine enough.....

what if the beliefs are too absurd, and doubts start creeping in? its demons trying to wean you from the true path....

hehehehehehehe..there's no escaping...heheheheheheh