Brief History of Religion

Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war is: Do not march on Moscow. Napoleon did. Hitler did. Both perished. But Napoleon’s march and failure gave us Tolstoy’s ‘War & Peace’ at least. I wrote this because its winter and nothing else.

You know, we – homo sapiens – have a long history. Longer than the holy books of all the religions revealed to us. You may not believe in evolution – or devolution – but you cannot ignore other facts. Yet, you ignore.

Similarly, we have a long history of religions. Now for a second, forget what you have been told and let me give you a glimpse of religion from Yuval Noah Harari’sSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” along-with some extra information and my own insights. “Religion can thus be defined as a system of human norms and values that is founded on a belief in a superhuman order.

Imagine the sapiens evolving – gaining cognitive revolution – and there is no religion. Then, with miseries and queries, comes animism; the earliest form of religion. The earliest of the religions were based on plants, deities and rocks.

Gradually, animism evolved into polytheism, where there were gods and other powerful entities. “Animists thought that humans were just one of many creatures inhabiting the world. Polytheists, on the other hand, increasingly saw the world as a reflection of the relationship between gods and humans.

Then came religions of monotheism, which we call Abrahamic religions as well. From Judaism to Christianity to Islam. But before that, remember there was a godless religion too: Buddhism. With time, this religion has evolved too, but Siddhartha didn’t focus on God. His focus was humans and their miseries and how to achieve nirvana. It is another story that 99% of Buddhists never attain nirvana.

Anyway, back to monotheism. Monotheist religions derived from one another. Yet, these three are rarely in bloodless agreement. With the power in the hands of monotheists for the last many centuries, polytheism has an image of an outdated and ignorant concept. However, as Harari has said, the central idea of polytheism is pretty much the same as monotheism with the concept of The One.

One of the differences in the history of the two – monotheism and polytheism – is that polytheist empires in the past didn’t force people to convert and monotheist empires had bloodbaths on conversions.

As Harari further elaborates that Rome was polytheist with different gods for different purposes; and then came Emperor Constantine. “In the 300 years from the crucifixion of Christ to the conversion of Emperor Constantine”. And with that, and a brief history ahead, we had Vatican inside Rome.

Apart from polytheism and monotheism, there is dualism. Good vs bad. Almost all the monotheist religions are based on dualism with the concept of God vs Satan as constant. This one is a little amusing because God is always in need of humans – and mass crowds – to have a victory against Satan under this concept. Yes, there can be so many interpretations but let’s stay macro here.

Countless Christians, Muslims and Jews have gone so far as to imagine that the good God even needs our help in its struggle against the Devil, which inspired among other things the call for jihads and crusades.

Another amusing concept in dualism is of “order” as Harari has explained. If evil throws a bomb on good – or vice versa – the rules don’t change. The law of gravity, the law of nature, the law of fission, and all other related laws of chemistry and physics don’t change. They remain the same. God doesn’t change the rules and neither do the followers expect Him to. But they do pray, obviously.

May lightning strike everyone except me. Right? Right.

Zoroastrianism, another religion, is specifically based on dualism. It’s hard to digest for believers of monotheist religions, but most of the concepts followed in the three major monotheist religions were pretty much introduced by Zoroastrianism. Daily prayers to fasting to other rituals.

Now if you look closely, every new religious concept has some mingling of the previous one. Let me quote Harari again exactly:

In fact, monotheism, as it has played out in history, is a kaleidoscope of monotheist, dualist, polytheist and animist legacies, jumbling together under a single divine umbrella. The average Christian believes in the monotheist God, but also in the dualist Devil, in polytheist saints, and in animist ghosts. Scholars of religion have a name for this simultaneous avowal of different and even contradictory ideas and the combination of rituals and practices taken from different sources. It’s called syncretism. Syncretism might, in fact, be the single great world religion.

You can further sense the sensibilities by comparing football to religions as Harari has compared. Defined rules. Defined time. Good vs bad. You vs them. Everyone running after the ball. From fun to serious business to depression. You can relate to the same with cricket.

That’s pretty much the history of religion. His Highness will tell you what he believes, but first, a historical story:

A Man once had a vision and He wanted to change the world. He had a Book which He wrote over the years. He had to leave His city and He lived in poverty but He never gave up on people and His ideas of equality for every human being. Gradually, people adopted his ideas and a mass population stood after Him. From one city to another to the entire country and then the whole region, His ideas spread. He was no more to see the vastness of His ideas or His empire but His book lived and remained as one of the holiest books in history. His followers took His ideas to new heights and the whole world was under it once, but gradually, it lost momentum and fell into pieces.

This is the story of Socialism. “He” was Karl Marx. The book is “Das Kapital”. You didn’t get it right, yes.

Aren’t these religions too? Socialism. Capitalism. Communism. Liberalism. Medicine. Physics. Commerce. Aren’t these followed more than the other mainstream religions? Too broad. Seems like everything is religion. Money too.

I had my own journey. From extreme right views to extreme left and I’ve hated both equally at times. Disgusted by the existence of my own ideas. But what is the purpose? Millions came and millions died and everyone is at the losing end. The rich, rulers, kings, emperors, presidents, CEOs, and  overall, the elite remained elite.

That was deviation.

Every day I wake up as a man of religion and every night I sleep as an agnostic; and next day is the same day. The day starts with certain prayers, while at night, the exact opposite ideas numb my mind. Sometimes, comparing the both, I shudder when the later part of the day looks more sensible. Still, I offer Namaz at random times in random places but I don’t follow them ritually. I don’t leave Jumma or Roza, but then I leave everything. I consult Quran and Hadith time to time and other times, I don’t.

I used to cry in duas and then I stopped. Now I don’t ask anymore. And it works better. I do things better when I rely on myself. In sports. At work. In getting things done. In red-tapism. And in delivering perfectly lined yorkers.

But we are weak. We humans have no answer from where we came and where we will end up. I know you know the answers from your interpretations; I know that too. Not talking about that. And what about the others? The majority?

In the end, you need religion, be it anyone. It gives you hope and strength, nonetheless. It gives you patience to sustain. It gives you complete imaginary peace of meeting your loved dead ones. It gives you a lot.

But what does it take in return?

Read between the lines.


Random Numbness (Dec 2021)

You are stupid.

Have you ever realized this? Things around you – society, norms, values and interpretation of the religion – are here to make and keep you stupid. And you hardly ever disappoint.

This government came in power with the promise that the foreigners and expats will come back for jobs. The other day, Fawad Chaudhary was proudly tweeting the number of people who went abroad in the last 3 years. He is expecting more drain (yes, I didn’t use “brain”) in the next couple of years.

He’s happy. Because he’s in power. You are happy. Because you are stupid.

Similarly, while everyone is pious and guarding the religion, which is always in danger, sins are on the rise. Sins are systematic. Systemic. For example, last week two BS-17 employees were suspended by KMC because they asked for Rs.1 lac in bribery from a woman to not demolish her home. When she could only pay Rs.25,000, they made her an offer. Sexual favors in return for her home. They thought they are Godfather and made her an offer she won’t refuse.

Where on earth do you get such flexibilities? You pay in cash. Or you pay in bed. The erectipious (erect and pious) society, ready to kill and be killed in the name of religion, has all the flexibilities to offer.

This level of piety is from the top echelons of government machineries right to the bottom of Gujjar Nullah.

Everything is fine. The machinery is working. It’s constantly being greased.

You were told that the PM-in-making will make a corruption-free state. He comes with a tasbeeh and a team of ex-corrupts who have been fighting for the last 3 years against ex-corrupts and you are cheerful. Because you are stupid.

You were told that the PM is on a drive against corruption. Then the corruption of Generals is revealed in the form of Pizzas and business empires and real estates and Covid-19. The PM rejects the AGP report. His drive against corruption is itself corrupt. Like Chairman NAB. But your views remain intact; just like your stupidity.

You are told that the government is going against all land mafias. Nullah homes and middle-class residences are demolished while the PM’s home is regularized cheaply and Bahria and DHA continue to  stand. Erected. But you are content. Not because you are biased. Not saying that. But because you are plain stupid.

You are told that your religion is the best and it’s the religion of peace but the guardians of the faith kill and you get confused. Is there need of blood? You get confused. Then the PM comes and tells you that liberals are “khooni” and you get your answer without questioning how the liberals are khooni when the blood is on the hands and tongues of the guardians themselves. But you have no further question and no curiosity to search on your own, and hence, you stay stupid.

You are told that there is only one punishment of blasphemy: blood. People are killed. Then, MAYBE a few of you question what the actual punishment is. Then you realize there is no punishment. Because there is no blasphemy. What is blasphemy? Sweet blasphemy? All the big ideas which have shaped the modern world; were blasphemous ones to begin with. The crowd doesn’t matter. The mind does. But, for you, blasphemy matters. Humans don’t. Because, you are blasphemously stupid and you have no other skill than theological interpretation and re-interpretation. An interpretation which is not even your own.

What is interpretation? Sects. Sub-sects. Until there is another religion altogether. Religion into religion into religion. Like dreams of inception. You pick and choose. Then everyone picks and chooses. And then all are against all. Everyone becomes blasphemous to the other. A violent mob is nurtured in this environment and then humans are killed and burned and charcoaled in the name of Islam and in the name of the Prophet.

Sialkot is just one recent episode. You have seen and done mob lynching before. You have shuddered before condemning it. You have been afraid. Deep inside, you fear for yourself and your family. You have no way of knowing who a closet fanatic is. These extremists; these people who kill; these people who lynch without thought, without verification; outwardly, they look like you and me.  

Who knows what your kids are going to be like? Maybe your kids will suffer. Maybe they will be brave enough to voice out their anger and then unfortunate enough to be killed. Dead bodies with broken fingers and broken ribs and broken dreams. But you don’t think that far because you are too stupid and too cowardly to be that farsighted.

Satan was born in the house of Allah.

Musa was born in the house of the Pharaoh.

Expect a mind being born in your home and your stupid-self shouldering his/her dead body. This is where we are going.

You think merging in the crowd will guarantee your safety. You think stupidity and denial is the only solution to a long and peaceful personal life. You think chanting the slogans of the crowd will keep your life afloat. You think the stink won’t stink if you yourself live in trash. What rubbish!

As Fahd Husain wrote “Then, just like that, it’s over. And done. And dus­t­­ed. Because, you see, no one is really responsible. Or everyone is. And when everyone is, no one really is.” Hallelujah!

This is the last century of religion to be honest. Humanity has survived long before there was any religion and it is going to survive that way with advancements in science, medicine and technology. The questions which once needed some explanations to satisfy one’s self are evaporating. We know the reasons behind lunar eclipse, earthquakes, tsunamis, deaths, famine, etc. We know more than our ancestors in these areas at least. They relied on myths and religion to have answers; we don’t need to.

Religion and faith should be a personal matter. But, hate mongering and division in the name of religion and killing in the name of religion needs to be stopped on a national level. The Government needs to take responsibility to curb religious extremism and for a tolerant and diverse counter-narrative to emerge. And individuals need to take responsibility to search for answers; to question; to stop blindly following.

Basically, you need to stop being stupid.

His Highness knows the counter-arguments. It is a long debate and it has certain merits and demerits. But my thesis is… hush! No! Your mind is too fragile to read that.

So, another time. Maybe.

His Highness, is after all, Zarathustra.