Out of curiosity, Lesley Hazleton started reading the Koran in its Arabic form. She found beauty, a few misinterpreted parts and a few ambiguous ones. Her short and entertaining TED talk is here.
Her points are fair and they had to be made by someone. Her talk and this tiresome feud between a blogger named Sandeep and Nilanjana Roy, made me realize that religious texts are not where the debate over religion ought to be.
Here’s where I’m coming from on the topic of religion: The good parts of most religions offer some universal values that ought to be common sensical, spiritual values that lead to different—not higher, mind you—states of mind (perhaps analogous to taking recreational drugs) and a warm feeling of comfort and hope. Everything else falls under not good.
Those who are coming from religious backgrounds, see some value in religion and believe it ought to last, I wish they took up the job of cleaning up the widely misinterpreted parts of their respective religions. They don’t have to, but they can’t be surprised if their religion dies a slow natural death—or as is more likely to happen, a slow, fighting one.
Religion needs to be split into two parts: first, religious texts and what they intended and second, how it is practiced. If a plurality of a religion believes in getting virgins in heaven, who gives a flying fuck what was intended by the creator? (Fun fact: This previous line is blasphemous and can get one sued.) Even those who claim the original words are ambiguous and hence misinterpreted, can’t say for certain if the original writers did not mean to say virgins.
Likewise, the most prevalent story of Ramayana shows Rama in very poor light if you look at him from the prism of modern thought. People derive inspiration from the prevalent version. Who cares what was written—and who knows what was intended—in the original Ramayana, if such a thing exists.
Rama comes across as misogynistic in the common version of Ramayana. I’m okay with that—that’s how progress is made. Those were crazy times, and not very pleasant if you were not a male from a high caste. Just think about it: everyone from that time was likely to know someone who had killed another human being in war or combat. If social values of people from those times sound reasonable today, we haven’t progressed very far as humans. The same applies going further: who knows, humans from a few centuries from now might look back at us and find it downright silly how we lived our entire lives as men or women depending on one fact of chance—gender—that we had no control over.
For every possibility that original creators of religions were noble and meant no ill thought, there is a possibility that they were the exact opposite. As such, criticism or defense of religious texts is pointless. Let’s criticize and defend common and prevalent interpretation of religions instead. To those who want to quibble over what was intended in religious texts or what was truly said, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.