Faith in Kasi II


In my previous post on faith, the post that had originated from my response to a Christian friend’s religious chauvinism, I had dealt with the objectionable parts of the post that had the instances of chauvinism. In this post I intend to cover the same thing a bit more theoretically. There’s a method in this madness that parades in full view, posing as something logical and civilized. The method needs as many exposures as possible, so that it can’t enroll unsuspecting new recruits. Religious Chauvinism assumes certain basic things. If its assumptions are put as statements they will read like:

A1: “I have my faith and you have yours. My faith is superior to that of yours, not merely hypothetically, but actually. It’s a self evident truth.”

A2: “I have my book and you have yours. My book is superior to that of yours, not merely hypothetically, but actually. For my book is the words of God revealed, while yours had some sort of transmission problem during its revelation. Ergo, my book is The Book and yours is trash. It’s a self evident truth too.”

There is arrogance in it and a very high degree of disrespect for those holding faith other than one’s own variety, and for all the other faiths too. More than that, there’s an uncultured  and unsophisticated naivete in the assumptions that make them interestingly anachronistic and atavistic. Despite being ridiculous, these assumptions hold power over millions of human minds, thus they can’t be simply laughed or wished away.

There’s a delusion, self-delusion of the absolute kind, in the assumptions above, where self is constituted of one’s individual and collective identities. Surprisingly, even in this post-postmodern age of ours there are still many dinosaurs roaming around. How did they survive the Enlightenment? Why? Who knows?

The race theory posits that the mechanism of racial chauvinism involves fact added to certain assumptions, the whole potpourri then presented as some sort of pseudo-scientific theory.

The fact: the people of the world are of different skin colours, i.e. races. That’s all about the factual part.

Todorov has very ably pointed out how then is race equated with certain characteristics in an absolute manner and then, how one set of characters, ergo one race with that set of characters, is shown naturally superior to another. Moreover, he had also included in his five points the hard determinism of one’s collective identity belonging to a race, determining the person’s individual identity, homogenizing him in the process.

Similarly (I’m sorry Mr. Todorov, I do it without your permission) Religious Chauvinism too depends on a mixing of fact and assumptions and the parading of the mixture as the popular form of faith.

The fact: the people of the world belong to different religions.

People of one religious belief are superior to those of all the other beliefs because “it’s in their Book”. No further play with the assumptions required.

Q. E. D.

I end this post with a Hindu friend’s religious chauvinism. I’ve been witness to a very gentle Sanskrit teacher calling the White people mlecchas i.e. the untouchables. That gentleman had come to the seven days long Sanskrit learning workshop because he loved the language and the culture. What he had never thought he would receive there was the hateful epithet that he got there. Although it appears to be racial discrimination prima facie, but in this case it was not at all caste or racial discrimination. That person was untouchable because it was inferred from what’s written in the books, i.e. a case of religious chauvinism. Moreover, it was not a stray incident of the first or last time type. Richard Lannoy writes of having received the similar treatment in a Hindu religious gathering in one of his celebrated books on Varanasi.

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