My Religion

While filing a form when joining my first workplace, I found a field named "Religion". There were multiple options. I just had to tick on the correct one. But no matter how much I looked for, I couldn't find the option. I asked the manager about how I should fill it, as "the option I'm looking for isn't there". She, looking a bit tensed and confused, took the form from my hand and glancing through it asked, "what's your religion?". Obviously, I answered "none". After some conversations, we agreed that I should tick on the religion my parents belong to. I wasn't 100% satisfied with the conclusion, but it didn't matter to me, as my primary concern was to get on-boarded, learn as much I could, and do my best to perform and contribute.

When I was a child, I used to visit a nearby Hindu temple with my mother. The bells were fun to ring. On Christmas, I used to visit nearby churches with my friends. Once during my childhood, I got a weird habit of getting scared at random things - dogs, bugs, spiders, and even my own imaginations, and often I'd start screaming loud, suddenly. When the nearby doctors failed to figure out what it was, I was taken to a Masjid. Someone there in a white kurta blew air into my ears and gave me some lockets to wear. After that, my father gifted me my first bicycle. It worked. I don't know if it was the Masjid treatment or the new bicycle. But I remember wearing the lockets for a long time, even though I didn't believe in the existence of supernatural beings.

I wish this was the only side of religion - a concept based on faith. But, unfortunately, there's another side, a very dark one. It's very easy to exploit faith, more so if it's blind. And some people do exploit that faith to influence followers. Extreme examples include violent conflicts, genocides, and even terrorism. I refuse to be influenced in such a way. I also don't like the concept of praying. I believe we were already given everything we need, to achieve things we're supposed to achieve, if any, so whatever we need, we should actively work towards getting that, instead of praying and hoping for miracles. I also don't like the concept of washing away sins by visiting "holy" places and worshiping some supernatural being. I like to believe that sins can never be washed, but can be overshadowed by good deeds.

In a recent incident, I remember tagging along with my friends to a temple. While leaving the temple, we saw someone screaming at the opposite side of the road. His mouth was covered in some blood-like red substance, and his clothes were torn and dirty. At first, we thought it was some new, creative tactic of begging, as we often see outside many temples. But after we realized the situation, we rushed to help him. He had an illness called Epilepsy, which causes one to suddenly freeze and shake rapidly. It's a fatal disease and can be deadly. He was having an episode and fell down the rocky stairs. While helping him, we tried asking for help from the passing cars (I believe they came to wash away their sins as well). As I expected, most of them pretended not to see anything, some slowed down, but no one stopped. I convinced myself that I would rather live with sins than believing it can be washed away so easily.

For many, religion gives a sense of identity. It's understandable why some would prefer to die than losing that identity. But I think it's a fragile identity. For instance, any activity that is considered taboo in a religion (e.g. consumption of beef in Hinduism, alcohol in Islam etc.), if performed, even unintentionally, one could suffer from loss of identity. After learning about identity and the purpose of life, with my current knowledge, I tend to identify myself as me, a unique mixture of everything that matters to the universe and beyond. It may not seem very convincing or may seem rather vague, but I think it's much more robust as an identity than any religion.

So, to conclude, I do not identify myself as part of any religion. Which means, if there's another form that I have to fill without the "none of the above" option, next time, I guess I just have to add that option myself.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

Arijit Basu

Software Engineer at