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An essay by Madhukar Gogate on the need for reform in organized religion, in particular and the need for religions to teach non-violence:

This essay was copied from M.N. Gogate's web site at his request. Mr. Gogate lives in Pune (Poona), India.

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Religious Problems

  1. Religion unites and guides its followers. It teaches noble thoughts and establishes a code of conduct. Religion helped to transform tribes into civic societies.
  2. Religion has some good features, but it is also associated with superstitions, strange rituals and many injustices, particularly to women. A religion may prescribe watching of a planet by a clergy for declaring a holiday and festival. Scientific calculations on position of planet are rejected. Clouds may hide the planet. Holiday may be declared at different places on different days, disturbing work schedules. Ironically, the clergyman uses scientific gadgets like loud speakers to announce his observation.
  3. Religion is based on founderís knowledge many centuries ago. A religion may dictate eating of only fresh food. Refrigerators nullify that dictum. So-called holy books were formed when printing press was unknown. Copies were handwritten, possibly with many errors. Meanings of some words have changed over many centuries. Science questions religions. Some inventions (like cloning of humans) give big shocks to religions. It is difficult to reform religions, just as it is difficult to reform illogical English spellings already in use by millions of people for centuries. Some religions prescribe visits by unwieldy crowds to so-called holy spots causing severe problems of pollution, hygiene, security etc. Several intellectuals dislike such customs, but keep silent looking to mob frenzy, and votes in elections. Moreover, vested interests, such as shopkeepers near the holy spots, may resist any reforms. Even so, some reforms have taken place in many religions, after long struggles.
  4. A religion may prohibit review of scriptures. That entraps its followers, and might endanger non-followers. For example, a disgruntled man, who cannot find a suitable bride (due to polygyny permitted by religion) may abduct women from other religions. Rapid expansion of population of a particular religion, due to lack of family planning, and forced conversions might lead to huge protests from persons in other religions. Religion may dictate certain dress code that might attract suspicion of others. Religion is an extremely sensitive subject. Many riots and wars have taken place in the name of religion.
  5. Science has opened gates to prosperity. Scientific outlook should guide mankind. However, general masses would not accept it easily. Moreover, gentle behaviour and values of life etc are not in purview of science. God may not be provable, but belief in God may help in curbing vices and for mental relief. Idol worship can turn into a moneymaking business. On the other hand, it has promoted excellent arts of sculpture and music (initially for prayers). A sportsman may not be sporting enough to applaud nice play of opponents. Similarly a scientist may not be scientific in usual life, and may cling to many superstitions.
  6. Religious preaching and practices may be at variance. A holy book may state that the social division is merely profession-wise, but in practice people may be classified according to birth in the so-called high and low families. A religion may forbid idol worship, but in course of time, the followers may worship some symbols or statues of original founders. A scripture may preach non-violence, but its followers may inflict violence on outsiders, and there may be fights among various sects within a religion.
  7. Critical irritants (such as injustice to women, derogatory words, so-called duty to kill non-followers) should be publicly rejected with debates and legislation, for social harmony.

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  1. M.N. Gogate, "Glimpses of Philosophical Issues: Religious Problems," at:

Copyright © 2003 and 2004 by the author
Version updated on: 2004-APR-5
Initially copied: 2003-OCT-13
Author: Madhukar Gogate

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