I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently. Ambitious, pragmatic and well-read, this friend told me that she preferred to be an atheist and wanted to stay away from practicing any religion. According to her, religions have an underlying ideology that the male species are supreme and hence the female populace is only a close second, at best.
For most of us, religion is an integral part of our DNA, ingrained in us from a very young age. We identify with our faith and culture, revel in our traditional practices and internalize it as a part of who we are. During challenging times our faith helps us stay afloat and acts as a supportive crutch that take us through such phases.
But, my friend has a point. Religion is dictated by men.
Similar, yet different
When we cut across cultures, we find that, as women, there are fundamentalist viewpoints in all religions that we are not able to relate to – like when women are stopped from entering places of worship. The more we look back in history the more we witness evidences of religion laying down dogmatic rules for women or treating them unfavorably. Actually, we don’t need to look at history –
it’s happening even today.
Sacrosanct – no more
Isn’t it time to re-look at the scriptures that form the corner stone of these religious beliefs? While keeping in mind the sacredness of religious manuals, it is pertinent to note the perils of treating the manuals as absolute and sacrosanct in a constantly evolving world. A religion cannot hand us down a text akin to a car manual that lays down trouble shooting guidelines and will give instant answers.
Religion is, after all, an assimilation of experiences of the existing generation and hence should be dynamic and vibrant. All faiths have the same basic message to preach and that is of universal love and acceptance of diversity. When a people are unable to tolerate another human being practicing a different faith, they do a disservice to their own religion.
The need for a religion to evolve
The point is, that religion, like everything else needs to evolve – the time when scriptures were written could not have been more different than today. Recently, there was a teenaged girl in the US who was at the receiving end of racial slurs in a group chat, where her choice to wear a head cover was heavily criticized. After a lot had been said, her father decided to step in. He did not just put an end to the intolerance but also infused the much-needed feminist view in this controversial topic. He told her that it was nobody’s decision but hers alone to wear her faith the way she wanted and none, including her father, can force that decision on her.
The strength of any religion is to empower the men and women alike, and provide a solid platform so that they can make the world a more tolerant place. It’s not for religion to put one over the other.
If women are stopped from entering places of worship – is that not the height of misogyny?
Deep down we all want to be treated with the love and respect we deserve. And we should not let any element religious or otherwise tell us something different. I understand where my friend was coming from when she said that she preferred to stay away from religion. But, what I would like to add is that if more men, like the one mentioned above, came out in support of women and put misogynists in their place, maybe religion can be practiced without women feeling it treats them unfairly.
By Bharti Sridhar