A Religious Conundrum – Is ‘World Peace’ a Utopian Fantasy?
“..Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too..”
Writer – Yamuna Matheswaran
During his New Year’s Eve performance at Times Square, popular American musician Cee Lo Green changed the lyrics of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, causing it to read – “Nothing to kill or die for, and all religions true” instead. Understandably, it generated widespread controversy. But Cee Lo defended his actions immediately after the incident, tweeting – “Yo I meant no disrespect by changing the lyric guys! I was trying to say a world were [sic] u could believe what u wanted that’s all.”
The controversy aside, is it possible to imagine a world where all religions coexist peacefully? Or is that more implausible than a world with no religion at all?
Recently, while reading a chapter entitled ‘Religion Kills’ from Christopher Hitchens’ book ‘God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything’, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. As someone who is aware of the many wars fought, crimes committed and genocides made possible for the sake of religion, I did not find Hitchens’ writings to be particularly offensive. But I am wary of extremist views, of long-winded cynical polemics. My immediate reaction was – “Mr. Hitchens, please tell me something I don’t know”. After all, even if the world acknowledges the brutal acts brought forth in the name of religious justice, what are we to do about it? Banishing all the religions of the world is hardly a feasible solution. Besides, who are we to tell a God-fearing man, who in all possibility could be leading a conscientious life, to discard his beliefs?
Having said that, I will admit that Hitchens did get me thinking, and I suppose that is the true goal of any polemicist. And now I will proceed to write one of my own. Why is it that religion tends to dub our most natural tendencies – sex, homosexuality – as sinful? Why is divorce, and the consumption of certain foods, an issue with some religious groups? Why does religion serve to play such a restrictive role in the lives of human beings? Or has the true essence of any religion simply been contorted over time by irrational traditions and rituals?
It can be said that death and destruction are also caused by reasons other than religion, reasons such as political aspirations, power politics, personal vendettas, unreasonable prejudices, historical conditioning etc. Why must religion be made the scapegoat? All of this reasoning eventually leads me to one question: do human beings have an innate desire and tendency to form groups at every level – individual, community, national, and transnational? Are we incapable of existing outside of these groups? And do we gain solace from practicing exclusionism? After all, where there are groups, there is bound to be conflict. If this is true, then is “world peace” merely a utopian fantasy?