When I think of a religion committed to nonviolence I naturally think of Hinduism. Ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence that is at the heart of Hinduism, and which provided Gandhi with the moral high ground in his decades-long struggle with the South African and British governments. How sad, then, to have to finally admit that even this great religion has fallen to the madness of theo-fascism.
Yet it is so. I knew it was coming, but I had hoped they would avoid it. I was wrong to place any hope in religion. The headline in this morning’s THE TENNESSEAN said it all, Hindus in India tell Christians: Convert or die.
Of course the headline drips with hyperbole. There are hundreds of millions of Hindus in India and to imagine that they speak with a single voice on anything to anyone is ludicrous. But the facts remain: rioting by Hindus in the eastern state of Orissa have left 38 Christians dead and 30,000 homeless. And this is just one part of one state, and by no means the only one in which Christians must fear for their lives and livelihoods at the hands of Hindus.
But not all Hindus. Just as there were “righteous Gentiles,” Christians who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis, so there are “righteous Hindus” who are opening their homes to frightened Christians.
Analysts urge us to see the violence as political in nature. The Hindu nationalist party, Dajrang Dal, is stirring up anti-Christian sentiment to gain power and followers. But the mere fact that this works suggests that Hinduism is losing its soul. The fact that throughout history political movements have used religion to stir the people to injustice and evil does not excuse religion, but indicts it.
I have been in love with India and Hinduism (the Advaita Vendanta school specifically) since I was a teenager. The watchword of the Hinduism I loved came from the Rig Veda, perhaps the world’s oldest holy book: “Truth is one. Different people call it by different names.” This was a religion beyond tolerance, one rooted in a deep respect for the sanctity of life and the richness of human religiosity. I still admire the Vedanta school, and study with some of its swamis. But I can no longer abide by religion.
What madness to murder one another over “different names.” What insanity to excuse evil and injustice, theo-fascism and terror in the name of god.
As I write this theo-fascist Jews in Israel are terrorizing Palestinian farmers trying to hard their olive crop, while the government of Israel stands idly by; Wahhabi theo-fascists in Islam continue to degrade women, foment Jew-hatred, and deny freedom and democracy to millions; theo-fascist Christians in my own country continue to battle science, foment McCarthy-era fear and distrust, and preach hate from pulpits and political podiums around the nation.
Religion may not be the greatest evil in the world, but it is too often in league with it. We need a new spiritual movement in this country and around the world; a spiritual movement rooted in universal values of nonviolence, justice, compassion, and theological humility; a spiritual movement unfettered to nation-states, tribal loyalties, race, ethnicity, and god-sanctioned jingoism and xenophobia. We need a movement that will stand up to the god-inflamed madness that takes over the hearts and minds of millions, and hold up the idea of human dignity and the worth and sanctity of every human being. Not an interfaith movement that pretends religion is at its heart liberal and welcoming, but a spiritual movement that decries the insanity of organized religion and the evil it so often instigates and supports.
If Hindus can threaten Christians with death, the world is lost. They were my last best hope for religious sanity. They have failed. Religion has lost its last vestige of humility. It is time to abandon the madness.