Organized Religion - An Oxymoron?

About twenty five years ago, the term 'benevolent dictatorship' was the oxymoron ruling the roost in Indian polity. Egged on by a sycophant crowd, the leader started believing in it. The unwanted emergency days that followed and eventual ignominious exit of the leader are part of history now. I am afraid we are in for another such scenario in terms of organizing a religion these days. In their enthusiasm to organize the 'unorganisable' the protagonists might end up weakening one of the most freedom loving, knowledge based, progressive and robust religions that mankind has ever enjoyed.

Religious Thoughts

In some of the world languages, the word religion means just a shade of opinion. And the more we think of it the more convinced we are that all religions are indeed different shades of opinions about the same unknown God. But then certain religions also go on to prescribe ways & means to realize the ultimate truth, some in great details and some in general terms. The catch lies in here. If we are talking about an unknown entity (like an unknown place), how can anyone prescribe a way to reach it. Isn't it better if we are told about the characteristics of the Supreme Being, leaving the way for each one to find out ?

It is said that God can never be understood by educating oneself from books and teachers. All that we can gain from education and learning is to get ready for the eventual enlightenment and that too in rarest of rare cases. Not all humans would be 'lucky' enough like Lord Buddha who got enlightened while sitting under a pipal tree. It is like lightning that happens when the conditions are ripe for a discharge of electrons. Prince Siddhartha had prepared so much and was ready for the discharge of knowledge and truth from the Supreme Lord himself while he sat under that pipal tree.

It was in keeping with the need of the times that Lord Buddha went on to establish a different way of thinking and a separate religion. And the initial response was tremendous too. But what followed is a good example for all those who are trying to organize religions. The main disciples of Lord Buddha went on to establish a hierarchy of monks and started spreading the religion with a missionary zeal. The inherent contradiction in organizing something which can never be organized soon overtook them and the new religion died a natural death within a span of just over 1000 years.

Defects of Organizations

Any organization will have a purpose and an objective. And to achieve these objectives, there is need of procedures and resources. The resources would include money, men and machinery. In the case of religions, the men & machinery combine in the form of missionaries. When we have too many men for the same purpose, a hierarchy sets in and when we have a hierarchy there would naturally be division of work and responsibilities. So as Men of God empower themselves with power and money all the problems associated with an organization also finds their way into the system.

Most organizations are effective and depending upon the will and morale of the people involved, it will deliver the results. If we bother to look around we find the best organizations are those with most effective people on top. What is to be noted here is that effectiveness & efficiency have nothing much to do with being virtuous. In fact we find this true most of the time i.e.. the virtuous ones are never the most effective ones. It is this simple fact that makes it dangerous for us to shroud religion with any organizational clothing.

Religion as a process has more to do with human mind than body. Though human beings can be highly deceptive at times in suppressing their thoughts, it is essentially the way one thinks that comes out as action. Religions and true religious leaders have always motivated us to indulge only in noble thoughts and virtuous actions. It is then highly imperative that such religious processes are always led by virtuous leaders and not efficient & effective ones. The inevitability of any organizational approach is exactly the opposite of this essential criterion. The moment we combine religion with organization, the latter aspect starts dominating and 'unwanted' elements will always come to the top. All the shameful news (pedophilia etc) we hear about organized religions these days are basically reflections of this unholy alliance.

Religions are 'unorganisable'

Human mind is freedom loving and best expression of this can be seen in his imagination about the unknown God. Some imagine Him to be full of virtues to be revered, some others consider Him friendly and some others fear for Him. It is from (or through) this very imagination of some fertile minds that various religious texts, rituals and ideas have sprouted. The moment we put bridles on human mind aversion sets in and the natural tendency is to revolt. This is exactly what happens when an organizational structure is imposed on a natural phenomenon like religion.

All said and done, it is also essential to note that security is the key word in the current age of terrorism. Unless suitable and secure environment is made available, no religion and no living being can survive these days. To that limited extent it is advisable to think of volunteer organizational forces to protect the physical existence of those who love freedom. But utmost care should be taken that the 'lakshman rekha' is never crossed. It should be clear to everyone that such organizations are meant only for protection of the followers but never for the promotion of the religion.

Lastly, it may be worthwhile to analyze why and how an unorganized religion like Hinduism could survive all these thousands of years. The simple answer is because it was never organized. If religion is for realization of God, then organized religion is definitely an oxymoron which can never succeed in practice. Leave it unorganized and Hinduism shall always remain a Sanatana Dharma with no beginning and no end. All that is required is physical protection for the followers but never the faith as such.  


More by :  J. Ajithkumar

Top | Opinion

Views: 3407      Comments: 1

Comment The definition of "organizied" is fundamental here. If we agree that organized means arranged in a systematic way, then we must accept that even just one person can have their own organized religion. Expanding on that notion, then any number of people that get together and agree on a systematized religious philosophy and maintain it have formed an organized religion. The shape of the organization is a separate matter in this regard.

Stephen Childress
20-Feb-2023 07:20 AM

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