“Die Religion... ist das Opium des Volkes,” said Karl Marx. He considered it the ‘opium of the people.’ In Marx’s opinion, Religion is a distraction. It is a source of false hope. It is a tool to control the masses. Based on which, Marx rejected religion and urged the janata to take charge of their lives, instead of leaving it to God.
Ironically, when you consider what the leaders of the erstwhile Eastern Bloc put their believers through, one could well accuse Communism of being just like the Religion. So is Communism a religion?
Certainly not, you might say indignantly. Not all distractions, sources of false hope and tools to control people are a Religion, you might add. Really … why not? Does a religion require legal sanction for it to be considered a religion? Nope it doesn’t. At least, not in civilized societies.
What, then, is the definition of Religion? Can it be defined? Of course, it can be defined. Anything can be defined. But can something that is practiced by so many people in so many different ways be defined adequately and exhaustively? Now, there’s a question with no easy answers. Still, let’s try and come up with a few.
This is how the dictionary defines religion. Obviously, the dictionary meaning is highly constricted. Here’s why. In Henry Felding’s novel ‘Tom Jones,’ for instance, one of the characters has this to say about Religion: "By religion I mean Christianity, by Christianity I mean Protestantism, by Protestantism I mean the Church of England as established by law."
Surely there’s more to religion than Christianity. Or for that matter Hinduism. Or Sikhism. Or Islam. Or Chendoism. Or Mazdakism. Or Communism. And more. According to some estimates, there are over 4,200 religions in the world. Pray, what do all these religions have in common? Not much, apart from faith. No, not even God.
No God? Oh god, doesn’t a religion need a God for it to be classified as a Religion? No, it’s not a must. ‘Gautama Buddha explicitly denies that the universe had a start by the act of a creator deity, refuses to endorse any views on creation, and states that questions on the origin of the world are worthless.’ In which case, perhaps all a Religion needs as a raison d'être is the ability to make its followers to believe and lose themselves while immersed in it. What about Cricket, that great opiate of the Indian masses? Is it a Religion? No, it’s not. But Sachinism is.
Why isn’t Cricket a religion, while Sachinism is? Cricket is not because cricket lovers don’t have enough faith in it. Too many of its followers still think many aspects of the game are corrupt and venal. They certainly don’t feel the same way about their respective religions. Sachin Tendulkar, on the other hand, is untouchable; in and outside India. He is immaculate. He is revered. His followers’ faith in him is unshakable. Okay, maybe that has changed a touch in recent times. But this happens with all religions.
People grow out of it or drift away from it or are disillusioned with it when their prayers, sometimes, go answered. Some convert to ‘Kohli-ism’ (still a minor cult in the larger scheme of things). Others become directionless atheists. This has happened to Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and Sachinism as well. But, by and large, the majority of the people who believe in Sachinism, and other major religions, continue to do so. Put simply, form is temporary, religion is permanent.
All that apart, there is one other reason Sachinism must be a Religion. If you have trouble believing it is, try insulting ‘God’ Sachin. Then run for cover. For, to paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction, and Eizekiel 25:17 from the Bible, his followers will strike down with great vengeance and furious anger upon all those who would attempt to poison and destroy their deity. And thou will know his name is the Lord when they lay their vengeance upon thee.
Much in the manner the followers of the Prophet Mohammed have during the past couple of weeks. Only a religion can elicit such an irrational response.
The writer tweets @Armchairexpert. You can follow him if you’re into that sort of thing.
First Published On : Sep 26, 2012 16:14 IST