Parents of two daughters narrating as why it was so imperative to raise their children with no religious beliefs is a tale that lights a new perspective of secularity and dharma.
In today’s time where national politics has boiled down to religion. It became important for me to ask my parents why they raised me and my sister with no religious faith. And here is there answer in my parents’ words
‘People often mistake our choice of upbringing our children as our unawareness about our religion, other religions and spirituality in general. However, it was only truly understanding teachings of holy books, the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Quran, the Bible and others that we came to this conclusion that our children will follow no particular religion.
If someone actually takes the time to understand these texts, he/she will realize that the end goal or the preaching of each book is the same. It states very evidently that all of us are a small part of larger conscious and each says that the only path of living is to be dutiful and responsible. If all paths have same ideals and all end goals are same, then why should we pre-impose certain set of rules on our kids and rob them of the choice of finding the path that convinces their individuality. It is the same as saying that our child would be a doctor.
In 2001, our first child was born, at that point admiring our daughter both of us decided we will never rob her of her originality as a human. All we will do is give her exposure to all rights and all wrongs associated with each philosophy and religion, then she can make an informed decision of what she believes for herself.
The other thing we strongly believed was, once we start belonging to a particular religion or follow a certain thought process, we lose the capability of imbibing the great of other religions and questioning the flaws of ours. When we wanted our daughters to meet people, we wanted them to judge them on their opinions and thoughts, not where they come from and what they follow.
The greatness of our nation lies in the fact, that all people from various ideologies can co-exist and celebrate all types of festivals with each other and we wanted our kids to enjoy all spheres of the society.
A huge problem we faced was if we had subjected our kids to one particular thought, we would have the risk of them being victims of false propaganda and pseudo-spirituality which is preached often by bearers of these particular religions and our children lacking the exposure would have taken them as the gospel truth.
We wanted our children to understand that to respect your community, you need to respects others first because all have the same purpose and teachings, to make sensitive human beings. Our choice also allowed us to interpret their teachings in the way we understood, instead of how they are manifested in society.’
My father added, ‘The biggest motivation of teaching no religious ideology to our daughters came when I studied Bhagwat Geeta, a sentence said ‘ek aadmi ka dharma kya hai’, when I analyzed this I got stuck on the word ‘dharma’, I realized this word is used in the context of duty. As in, if you translate this word to the English text, it means duty and not religion. In fact, Hindu sub-texts don’t have a word for religion. In our Sankskriti, religion is nowhere mentioned, only duty is. Duty towards your parents, towards your environment and fellow people. And this definition of dharma is same for every religious ideology. It is not that Hinduism teaches you to take care of your parents, but Sikhism doesn’t. So, religion is just a set of rules to fulfil that dharma. So, if I make my kids dutiful, they won’t need religion. Religion only became an unnecessary word to separate us into smaller groups and propagate politics and is nowhere involved in the personal growth of human beings.’
‘People often say you will find Moksha and Nirvana through religion and that’s not true at all. They believe that our Geeta says that the following religion rigidly finds you happiness, a saying in Geeta has been translated to ‘tu kam kare ja fal ki chinta mat kar’ means you work and god will give you your prize in next life or when you reach heaven. It actually means that when you do a good deed, you instantly feel happiness. and when you hurt someone, you feel guilty.
It also paves the way to think that humans in their intrinsic fabric have a moral compass, then you don’t need religion or set of rules to fulfil your dharma.
Religion has no role in personal development, otherwise people wouldn’t kill each other for religion. It is a means of highlighting festivals to move economy or have a system for society.
We wanted our children to be rationalists, for them to always have the capability of asking questions. Both of us come from scientific backgrounds and we knew the importance of scientific temperament. It gives you the power of innovation and yet a check on reality. Science is fact-based that gives you concrete knowledge you can build upon, but history has been the witness of so many religious texts becoming irrelevant due to scientific advancements. When Galileo Galilei proved there are moons orbiting Jupiter, it forced the Bible to accept that earth is not the centre of solar system and the universe. These holy texts were written as per the need of the society then. However, they should adapt to the needs of society today. And being part of one religion would’ve halted their personal evolution.
In conclusion, I believe all we wanted was that our children to be kind, dutiful and secular. When we mean secular, we mean they can do whatever they want until they hurt someone else. We don’t mean pro-Hindu or pro-Muslim, just inclusive, pro-choice, pro-people and constitutional citizens. Hence, philosophy and scientific narrative proved to be better tools of upbringing than religion ever did.’
Listening to their answer, it made me wonder, is religion the root cause of the bias that we share as a society and does liberal children, hope to solve pressing problems of today. Whatever the answer to those questions be, it is imperative that we have children and youth, free from every bias so they can pave way for a more inclusive, sensitive and better society.
Feature Image Credits: Sacred Games (Netflix)