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The virus of belief vs unbelief

18 Feb 2020 / 19:36 H.

ONE big lesson the coronavirus is teaching us is simply this: all life on earth is deeply interconnected. It’s a lesson many religious leaders ignore, choosing to deny that we are fundamentally interconnected in surprising ways.

Every wildlife virus – not just the novel Covid-19 virus – can spread worldwide regardless of source, jumping from animal to animal, then animal to human, and finally human to human. It can leap because all species including humans are connected by chains of affinities.

But it isn’t just physical connection; we are also part of a mental web embracing the entire world. Scientists have found that we can influence quantum particle behaviour by mere observation.

In a dangerous trend that began two years ago, some influential politicians and preachers are telling their followers to vote for believers and not unbelievers should there be a choice between two candidates of different religions. It is better to have a corrupt believer as your elected representative than a no-nonsense unbeliever.

When any religious community decides to carve the world into believers versus unbelievers, other religious communities will do the same. This is the mental web influence that works its way from quantum level up to our minds. Soon everyone may carry two novel identities like the novel virus: believer from the viewpoint of one religion, unbeliever from the viewpoint of other religions. To your own crowd, you are a believer; but facing a strange crowd, they see you as an unbeliever.

Are we going to form a democratic government of the believers, for the believers, and by the believers? South Asia has long drifted in this direction, with Hindustan coming into birth to finally complement Pakistan. Will that in turn prompt the arrival of Buddhistan on a southern island?

This classification of people into believers versus unbelievers, so much used in religion, is pathogenic and fuels the politics of communal partitioning. Do you believe in the atom? Many thinkers already believed in it before the actual discovery. Were they correct in their belief? No. They believed that the atom was the final solid piece of tiniest matter. It shocked the believers when science produced evidence that the atom is empty space with miniscule subatomic particles that also lack solidity.

This is the lesson of the atom: constantly review your beliefs and upgrade them as scientific knowledge grows. If a belief gets frozen in your mind and stays unchanged, you will never find the deeper truth. Your fear of being cast as an unbeliever prevents you from making necessary improvements in your religious thinking.

The virus of belief versus unbelief has throughout history killed more people in religious warfare than the total death toll of all coronaviruses. Craftily, some religious leaders have co-opted the coronavirus as a weapon for partitioning. The virus, in their teaching, is sent by God as punishment for the misconduct of an unbelieving community.

Just like the solid atom, this belief in God as the almighty lord who chooses whom to punish is childish and divisive. If God were to punish misbehaving humans, all 7.7 billion people should be dead for causing unprecedented levels of harm to animal life.

However, we dismiss species extermination as having no consequence because animals are without soul unlike humans. This is a very harmful belief. Life on earth resembles a tall million-rung ladder with humans as the top rung at cloud level. Animal species are the rungs below. As they vanish, the rungs fall away and one day we become the lone rung in a disappearing ladder. At cloud level, the human species won’t survive this fall to the ground.

In several dozen countries, religionists and politicians have teamed up to spread a provocative belief: your religion is under threat from minorities, or is being persecuted by the majority (depending on whether your religion is in the majority or one of the minorities in a country). Played both ways, this belief has pushed five religions into confrontational mode around the world.

If the belief is groundless, we are diabolically stoking communal fear. But if it is true, we are getting disconnected from one another in a fundamental way that may cause the web of humanity to break apart.

The writer champions interfaith harmony. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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