Co-Written by Dr. Rahul Kumar & Anshu Kumar

The world has witnessed another pandemic covid-19 and triggered the churning of a plethora of ideas concerning the rescue plan. The curve of Corona affected people is ever rising followed by the deaths in thousands. In India the spread of Coronavirus and subsequently constant lockdown has put the people under tremendous stress with rare hope for safer exit. In the last two months since the first case broke out in India we have gone over a number of problems. Doctors did not have enough PPE and other protective gears for supportive staff, migrant laborers were stranded in the cities clueless about how to go home, there has been lack of cash transfer for poor who had no work in this crisis, dearth of testing kits so the insufficient testing of cases and so on.

There have been epidemiologists who claimed that in the lack of vaccine nothing can help fight Coronavirus, instead we should move in a calculated manner towards herd immunity with due precautionary measures. After two months have passed, no doubt government has done in parts and pieces to fight back corona, though, under public criticism yet the losses and hardships met by the common people and daily laborers are unmatched. More particularly the economy has received a severe blow; if the lockdown is not lifted near in future it may have damages which may take years in reparation. Any pandemic can be swiftly dealt with if the concerted efforts are made by the government in cooperation with people at large. If the doctors and common people have self confidence any pandemic can be systematically eradicated. Though, such confidence can be boosted by material, psychological and particularly by religious conditioning we are thrown in and worsen by unfavorable conditioning. Here, I would like to focus on the religious conditioning of the people which hinders our cooperative efforts to eliminate Corona pandemic.

After briefly mentioning the situation we have led to, I would like to see how religion is contributing to the worst situation. Without really dedicating much space for philosophically delineating gripping any religion I would like to focus on certain aspects of religion, particularly the practiced religion, which makes a pandemic like situation worst to be controlled. Since pandemic is a worldwide phenomenon it requires cooperation from all the people across the globe. But the world lives in divided identities, though all are contingent, here the religion plays a massive role. Forget about the world even in India we are living in plural religious identities. Each religious group harbours a feeling of superiority within and tries to brow beat other religions. The feeling of being a superior religion among its followers is insinuated by powerful institutions like the media as much as it falls out from the religion itself. Such a religious attitude becomes detrimental to social fabric as it takes credit for everything good that happens and blames other religions for everything bad. As in every other pandemic we can see such happening even in the time of the Corona crisis. The good example is Markaz incident case where the dominant media jumped to this issue and started branding it as if Corona has been spread by Jamati/Moslem and it is readily accepted by some section of the Hindus. It becomes possible for two reasons only, first there is something problematic with each religion for it has an implicit tone of superiority and the other reason is that the same is bolstered by the propagandist media.

Religion surely leads to fatalism. There has been philosophical contestation about the possible reconciliation between God and human freedom. I don’t wish here to discuss the subtle arguments. However, it is arguably acceptable that by accepting all powerful God we seriously compromise our freedom. Such an attitude of submissiveness to God could be seen among the populace, majority of the common people. They believe whatever is happening must have been willed by God, that’s our destiny. On the outbreak of Coronavirus we all heard the resembling voice of fatalism among the populace. They simply believe that God must help them to survive this pandemic. Such an attitude among the populace is available in abundance and goes on without any check. Moreover, such an attitude is emboldened by the religious leader overtly whereas by political leaders covertly. Two incidents need special mention here, when our prime minister announced to play taali, thali and ghanti in the first round and lighting the candle or diya in the second round there was indirect force to invoke a sense of religious prayer through ghanti and diya as they have religious affinity in Hindu religion. Remember the mention of ghanti and diya is not inadvertently done; it has been intelligently crafted to invoke a sense of religious act in the fight against Corona. Something that was implicitly conveyed by the message was explicitly reconfirmed by the stooges through reference to astrology. Now the question may occur: what purpose does it serve? Yes, there are two purposes that it clearly serves, first it conveys a fitting message to the people that Corona is the fate ordained by God and it can be placated or eliminated only by appealing to God. Second, it develops a religious blindfold so that people cannot see the dillydallying and inadequate efforts to fight against Corona.

Religious blindness can also translate into foolishness since it forecloses all the sense of responsibility. Use of reason is out of question. We have witnessed how people came on the street in crowds playing taali, thaali and ghanti, hence destroying the purpose of fighting against Corona with social distancing (I would prefer to call it physical distancing rather).

When religion gets wider than we human being, it takes collective hold of us, it commands us yet we do not realize the constriction looming large on our reason since we don’t use it. The religious and political leaders use it as their tool to keep us drowned in religion so that we can never see things beyond the script of religion, the script which powerful people invent including the script of religion itself. The recent replay of Ramayan and Mahabharat by the government is nothing but the excessive dose of religion in order to sustain its mismanagement and callous attitude towards Corona pandemic and subsequent emergent situation.

Every time when religion seems to collapse in front of our naked eyes, it is reinvented into infinite ways by those who have surrendered to religion, by being true to religious spirit. It is reasonable to doubt whether actually there is any God in such a time of distress, why such evil is dancing despite God? Why are churches, temples and mosques closed, where is God? People would reinvent their God by responding that God is working in Hospitals in the form of doctors to save our lives. This also serves one more purpose when you escalate doctors or ordinary human beings at the level of God you manage an easy escape from your humanly responsibility towards your fellow human beings. Doctors may not be getting necessary PPE and other tools but showering of flowers from the helicopters can magically immortalize them as God. Such religiosity is irrational, dangerous and non-liberating.

A society which is deeply religious cannot progress, it cannot liberate itself. Religious fatalism is deadly for rational scrutiny and critical mind for it forecloses all the possibility to have hindsight analysis which may lead to corrective measures. It is against scientific temperament. This is what has become a great impediment in our smooth and conclusive fight against the current deadly pandemic. Hence, we need to ask a question whether we can have a religion which is rational and hindering or we need to jettison the idea of religion at all.

Dr. Rahul Kumar, Assistant Professor, BHU

Anshu Kumar, Research Scholar, JNU


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