22. Hindu Objections
22. Hindu objections
�������� A Hindu policy of ideological confrontation with hostile religions is necessary for the survival of India as an essentially Hindu country.� After having flattered Christianity and Islam for several centuries, Hindus inside and outside the Sangh may come up with many objections against such a policy.� As a BJP man once told me: "When we attack Christianity, it is not the Christians who leave us -- they are not with us anyway --, it is the Hindus who won't vote for us."� This much is certainly true, that the rotten sentimentalism of "equal truth of all religions" has gone fairly deep into the Hindu psyche.� Before explaining anything to Christians and Muslims, the true story must be explained to Hindus, whose obstinate self-deception is the greatest obstacle to Hindu liberation.� While Muslims consider it only logical that non-Muslims disbelieve Islam's defining dogmas, Hindus can get quite indignant when someone dares to say that the Islamic creed is wrong (more than when he scolds and ridicules Hinduism).����
�������� One argument reluctant Hindus will come up with, is that it is pretentious to tell other people that they are wrong, as if any of us has a monopoly on the truth.� This is a case of Hindus getting angry at the sliver in their own eye but ignoring the beam in the enemy's eye.� It is not Hinduism but Islam and Christianity which have started the game of telling others that they are wrong.� If Hindus must enter this confrontation, it is because the confrontation is already taking place, though with only one side actually fighting.
�������� The meaning of: "There is no God except Allah", is precisely that all Hindus and all other non-Muslims are wrong when they worship Shiva or Amon-Ra or Wodan.� Actually, it goes much farther than that: its full doctrinal implication is that those who worship any other God (or no God at all) are doomed: doomed to servility and rightlessness in this world and eternal hellfire in the next.� By contrast, critics of Islam merely assert that believers in Islam are mistaken, without any further ado.� The ancient believers in a flat earth were mistaken too, yet they are not suffering in hell for that.� Erring is human, the fact of being proven wrong does not give your critics the right to take your property, to enslave you, to deny you full citizenship or public display of your religion.� Muslims should not be punished for being deluded about Mohammed's megalomaniacal claims (the way their religion wants to punish us with jihad and hellfire for not sharing this delusion), they should on the contrary be helped to make a new start.
�������� Hindus are mistaken when they assume that proving someone wrong implies a claim to final truth.� Look at it with the eyes of science.� It is a fact that responsible scientists will hesitate to declare a theory to be absolutely true.� Thus, Newton's mechanics seemed to be fully proven, and it was, but only for objects moving at moderate speed.� Once objects moving at extremely high speeds were taken into account, the theory broke down and a more sophisticated theory was required, viz. Einstein's relativity theory.� This way, with every broadening of our horizon, even the most well-proven theory may ultimately be shown to be deficient.� Instead of achieving truth, we merely create milestones of better theories on the way to an ever-distant goal of absolute scientific truth, possibly an unreachable goal which we can only approximate asymptotically.� The exotic world of quantum physics has even discovered phenomena which cannot be adequately described by one theory, but need two seemingly contradictory theories to describe their behaviour (as wave or as particle).� Granted, the notion of objective truth has become more complex and more elusive than optimistic but na�ve Enlightenment philosophers thought.�
�������� And yet, no matter how cautious and even relativistic philosophers of science have become vis-�-vis the truth claims of science, they still take for granted that we can prove a theory wrong, definitively wrong.� The theory that dewdrops are tears fallen from the moon cannot withstand empirical tests.� To assert that water when heated becomes ice, would be wrong; it would not just be "different" or "differently valid", but downright wrong, definitively disproven.� In mathematics, certain equations can be formulated for which there is no solution, or several solutions at the same time, but all the same, the equation "2 + 2 = 3" is and remains unambiguously wrong.� Eventhough the search for the truth will go on for a long time to come, any truth claims proven wrong can now already be discarded.� Rightness may be elusive, but wrongness is quite straightforward.� I may hesitate to pronounce an opinion on whether Vedanta is right, but I can now already say that the defining truth claims of Christian and Islamic doctrine stand disproven.
�������� Christianity and Islam are wrong in their central truth claims and can immediately be discarded.� Humanity has lived without these pretentious doctrines for long, and it is a matter of mathematical certainty that it will resume doing so.� The question is only how much damage they will be allowed to add to their record before expiring.
�������� Gandhi used to compare Hinduism and Islam with an older and a younger brother, respectively.� His effective interpretation of this simile was that the older brother should passively suffer any whim of the younger brother, which is neither realistic nor educationally advisable.� The simile is alright, but its realistic implication is that the older brother should help the younger brother to outgrow his childish ways.� If he has wisdom and fellow-feeling, he will take into consideration the difficulties attending all transition processes.� This leads to a somewhat nobler kind of objection which I expect some Hindus to raise: think of the complete revolution which de-islamization or de-christianization will mean for the people concerned!� With their commendable conservatism, Hindus are wary of the damage which revolutions tend to cause.
�������� Jesus and Mohammed and their front soldiers never cared much about the upheaval and destruction they wrought; but we need not stoop to their level.� As much as possible, the emancipation of Muslims and Christians from their belief systems should be an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary process.� First of all, most customs and rituals and other externals need not be tampered with, for they are not what makes these religions objectionable.� Ex-Catholics can continue to venerate the Madonna, who is but a christianized version of Isis with babe Horus (and similar mother-goddesses) anyway.� Ex-Muslims can continue to pray five times a day, to watch their handpalms while praying, to go on pilgrimage to Mecca (a pre-islamic institution), to fast for a month per year (preferably fixed in early spring), and to wear goat-beards.� These customs are as good as any other.� It should be made clear to them that Hinduism has room for these customs and rituals, that its objection is only to God's Only-Begotten Son and Allah's Final Prophet.� All they have to do is get rid of Jesus and Mohammed, and the communal problem will disappear.
�������� Many people have argued that Muslims cannot convert to Hinduism because no one will want to marry their children: for Muslims, they are apostates, and for Hindus, the fact that they have declared themselves converts to Hinduism does not make them members of the appropriate caste.� Christian missionaries used to have this problem in reverse when they tried to lure individual Hindus into Christianity.� Their solution was to convert entire communities within a short time, so that people could go on intermarrying within their own community after conversion.� To the extent that caste endogamy persists, this is indeed the most practical solution; both the Arya Samaj and the VHP claim to have achieved several communal conversions of this type.�
�������� With the modern media and modern education, it should not be difficult to reach the Muslims and Christians by the millions.� Once the exodus has started, every emigrant from the faith will persuade his friends and relatives, and it will become a mass movement, bringing across whole communities.� In fact, now already there is a high number of nominal Muslims who have become skeptical of the claims of Islam, but who think it wiser in the circumstances to keep quiet about their convictions.� Ultimately it is they themselves who have to break free, but Hindus can certainly help in creating the proper climate.
�������� In spite of all the sensitivity which you can bring to this, a certain amount of shock will remain unavoidable when Muslims or Christians come to realize that they have believed in fairy-tales for all these years.� Imagine you are a mullah, highly specialized in Sharia jurisprudence, and suddenly you realize that this whole Sharia is based on the "model behaviour" of an unimportant individual who lived in a distant country long ago, and whose knowledge was far too limited to guide us in the problems which we are facing today, even apart from the mental problem which further distorted his already limited vision.� Your status suddenly crumbles, you feel like you have wasted the best years of your life, you come down to earth and you have to start from scratch.� It is like the situation of professors of Marxism-Leninism in the former Soviet Bloc, who in 1989 found that their knowledge had become totally useless overnight.
�������� Dr. Herman Somers, the Flemish ex-Jesuit who made a psychopathological analysis of both Jesus and Mohammed, relates how he discovered through his pioneering Bible studies that "Christianity was a mistake".� It was a painful process to realize that he had wasted so much time on Christian theology, a purely imaginary science, and that he had sacrificed so much to his commitments as a Jesuit.� At the same time, it was a liberation, which had come "better late than never".� Millions of people in Europe can testify that outgrowing Christian beliefs has been a liberation.
�������� I am afraid I sound like a Christian missionary when I say that we should help Muslims and Christians out of their religions because we love them.� The expression sounds patronizing, but there is nothing I can do about it: the insight in the wrongness of the Christian and Islamic dogmas just happens to be a more advanced stage of knowledge than the belief in their rightness.� Therefore, we help Christians and Muslims on the way forwards when we make them questions the dogmas of their religion.� The unbelievers are the elder brother, the believers the younger brother.� And it does show concern and love for our fellow-men when we help them to outgrow their delusions.�
�������� What, then, is the difference with Francis Xavier who came to free the Indian Pagans from Hinduism "because he loved them so much" (as Catholic story-books claim)?� If we make abstraction from the violent methods which Francis Xavier used and which I reckon Hindus will never resort to, we may concede that subjectively, it is the same thing: he thought he was doing something good for the Hindus when he converted them to Christianity.� But objectively, the crucial difference remains that he converted them into a delusion, while Dr. Somers (through his demythologizing books) has converted people out of a delusion.
�������� Here again, we find that the question of truth cannot be avoided.� It makes little sense to discuss relations with Christianity and Islam without evaluating their truth claims.� When their propagandists brandish the values with which superficial Hindus have identified them (charity and egalitarian brotherhood, respectively), we can readily concede the desirability of these values, but we must point out that these values do not add up to being a Christian or a Muslim; for that, assent to the dogmas is necessary.� Charity and brotherhood have been in existence for a long time, and we need not fear for their disappearance when the last believers free themselves from the religions which falsely claim these virtues as their very own contribution.� No matter how laudable charity is, that does not make Jesus Christ the Messiah.� No matter how badly Hindus need an increased sense of brotherhood, that does not make the Quran a divine revelation. �������� Another objection could be that religion, any religion, is bound up with ethics, and that people will lose their ethics once they lose their religion.� In my lifetime I've heard this argument used any number of times in defence of Christianity, yet the ex-Christians who make up the majority of my generation in my country are generally not worse people than their Christian grandparents were.� Yet, to support this argument, people in India as well as in Muslim countries are sure to point to the West as a resounding illustration of the kind of decadence which inevitably follows the loss of religion.� It is true that many people have been freed from their Christian inhibitions only to dive deeply into hedonism and consumerism, and that some lost souls in the cities have abandoned their civic sense, their respect for life and property, and their sexual morality along with their Christian beliefs.� If anyone should be blamed for this, we should not forget the responsibility of Christian clerics who have propagated the notion that Christianity and morality are equivalent (the identification of their new Christian belief with age-old values being a trick to give Christianity more respectability among prospective converts), and that fear of punishment in the hereafter is the only way to keep people on the right path.
�������� The challenge before responsible people in regions where people lose the faith in large numbers, is to guide the masses in rediscovering their natural religiosity and their natural sense of ethics, to rebuild what Christianity has destroyed but was unable to replace in the long run.� To quite an extent, this is already happening, and it goes without saying that Asian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism) are providing the main though not the only guiding light.� The loss of belief in Christ or Mohammed does not mean the loss of the religious feeling, on the contrary.� Indeed, the often rationalist argumentation of the Arya Samaj's shuddhi activists was never meant to free Muslims and Christians from religion altogether, but to make them more accessible for the Vedic message.� Yes, there is life after Christianity and Islam, even an ethical and religious life.� In the West right now, there is a tremendous religious seeking, people groping in the dark but usually ending up with the great traditions from Asia in a suitably adapted form.�
�������� In the case of Indian Muslims and Christians, such a development would be entirely logical, though I can imagine that many Muslims who see themselves as the progeny of Central-Asian conquerors would opt for alternatives to mainstream Hinduism, such as Buddhism or Zoroastrianism (both of which are going through a remarkable revival in the Altaic-speaking and Iranian-speaking parts of the former Soviet Union).� That is quite alright, for what is needed is a struggle for religious freedom against dogmatic belief systems; not trying to pull them into your own shop but encouraging them to find out for themselves.�
�������� A very optimistic objection could be that Hindu society need not bother about Christianity and Islam, because the thrust of their historical aggression against Hinduism is weakening and will weaken further in the future.� It has happened before: while Communists were plotting the death of Hinduism and the dismemberment of India, the Hindutva movement did very little to counter Communism, yet Communism collapsed under its own failures in its very stronghold.� Christianity has suffered major losses in America and staggering losses in Europe, and even Islam which now seems such a formidable steamroller may be undermined by emerging freethinkers from among its own ranks.� One day, Hindus may wake up and find that the missionaries have left, the petrodollars gone, the mosques turned into goshalas, who knows?�
�������� Unfortunately, luck does not usually come to those who count on luck to save them.� The circumstances in South Asia, barring a Hindu awakening, are quite encouraging for anti-Hindu predators.� As the late Girilal Jain once told me, "nothing ever dies in India", and I could well imagine a situation of Islam and Christianity dying out in their homelands while thriving in India (cfr. Communism which is more alive in Calcutta and JNU than in Beijing let alone Moscow).� Of course, the ultimate disappearance of untenable belief systems is a mathematical certainty, but before they go, they can still do tremendous damage to the continuity of Hindu tradition.� Look at Nepal, till recently entirely Hindu-Buddhist, and how Islamic infiltrators and Christian missionaries are fast changing the religious landscape there.�
�������� In Hindutva publications, I read triumphal reports about Hindu reconversions in tribal areas, but to me they sound like the blustering triumphalism of the Marathas before the battle of Panipat.� Indeed, other people working in tribal areas tell me that the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram and like-minded initiatives, in spite of their sincere and commendable efforts, just can't compete with the well-organized and heavily financed Christian missions.� The Organiser itself recently carried a headline: "Conversion assumes alarming proportions".� Whatever their problems in the West, the missionaries can still do tremendous damage to the continuity of Hindu tradition and to the fabric of the Indian state.
�������� Some people object that what we need is not the conversion of Muslims and Christians to a native religion, but simply the dilution of their fanaticism.� They point to a few Christian theologians who follow the vogue in certain Western theological faculties, which is to assert that all religions are part of God's salvation plan.� In practice: let's leave them to their deluded faith in imaginary divine revelations and only-begotten sons, as long as they stop attacking us.�
�������� First of all, I have my doubts about the acceptance of these deluded faiths, even if they are not immediately harmful to third parties.� Though the Bahai sect is not persecuting people, the belief in the Mohammed-like pretensions of its founders (along with the continued belief in Jesus' and Mohammed's prophethood) remains a profoundly sad mistake, one in which I cannot want my fellow-men to remain entrapped.� In the Vedic phrase, "let us ennoble the world", let us not leave areas of darkness shielded off against the light.�
�������� Secondly, I do not see much of this softening in the Indian chapters of Christianity and Islam.� Apologists like Rafiq Zakaria and Asghar Ali Engineer like to present a human face of Islam, but they do so simply by lying and by concealing and denying the hard facts of Islamic Scripture and history; they never make any concession or show any sympthy for other religions and for the plight of the persecuted Hindus in Islamic states and provinces.� Even those few Muslims who are sincerely trying to redefine Islam as a tolerant faith carry no conviction: their tolerant version of Islam can never be more than an unstable transitory phase, either out of Islam altogether or back towards the genuine intolerant Islam.�
�������� Among Christians, the trend towards genuine religious pluralism does exist, but in India it concerns only a microscopic minority.� I have heard Swayamsevaks assert that the Christians in South India have become much less hostile, "for they are now giving Hindu first names to their children".� But with my inside contacts and my close watch on Christian media and scholarship, I know for fact that this change in fashion does not represent a change of heart.� For a first test, how many Christians who have named their children Rama or Sita have supported the Ayodhya temple movement?� The historical fact that their ancestors enjoyed the hospitality of the Hindus (as against the persecution by rival Christian sects in the Roman Empire and by the Mazdean state religion in Iran) only makes their animosity against Hindus more bitter; people tend to hate those to whom they owe a debt.� Moreover, even if we assume that dilution of Christianity and Islam down to a non-offensive level of commitment is the desirable goal, history testifies that this goal has been reached in Europe through a frontal attack on Christianity itself.� It is no coincidence that Christianity has mellowed in the last two centuries just when it was put to scrutiny by scholars and driven from its political and educational power positions by secularists (in the genuine sense).� ����������
�������� If you flatter Islam, saying that it is a religion of peace and brotherhood, this will not cure the believers of their self-righteousness; rather, it will make them ask why you aren't becoming a Muslim yourself.� But if you expose Islam, saying that it is a deluded belief and intrinsically fanatical, it will make apologists search the Quran for verses dimly alluding to tolerance, it will make them write textbooks mendaciously proclaiming that Islam has always been tolerant and for all their dishonesty, they will thereby implicitly be extolling the virtue of tolerance.� This is indeed what we do see happening with apologists like Wahiduddin Khan, Rafiq Zakaria or Asghar Ali Engineer: even a small amount of writing about Islamic fanaticism by Western scholars and journalists (while in those circles too, flattery of Islam is the fashion) has sent them looking for proof that Islam is tolerant.� If you are satisfied with mellowing Islam down, you have every reason to join the project of a fundamental and uncompromising criticism of Islamic doctrine and history.
�������� A more or less valid objection is that challenging the truth claims of Islam and Christianity will provoke polemical attacks on Hinduism and (even worse) genuine doubts among Hindus about their own religion.� However, the anti-Hindu polemic is already there, Christian missionaries have been very active at it ever since their arrival, and secularists and Muslims have started their own variety since a few decades; on that count, Hindus already have nothing to lose.� But I do admit that a critical look at other religions may feel uncomfortable for Hindus who are not used to critical thought.� If Mohammed who heard a voice from heaven was just hallucinating, what shall we say about some of the bhakti saints who dressed up like women to be united with the divine lover Krishna, or who would hang in trees monkey-like to impersonate Hanuman? ��������
�������� Hindu tradition is based on the experience of sages, sane men and women who observed the world and explored consciousness.� As the Hindu Renaissance spokesmen were fond of asserting, its basis is scientific.� This does not mean that it is related to the latest scientific theories in physics, many of which are bound to be superseded by new theories, nor that the Vedas contain descriptions of modern machines, as imaginative writers have tried to prove.� It means that its approach is scientific: the Vedic truths are verifiable, universal and repeatable, not dependent on the views of privileged individuals ("prophets") but apaurusheya, "impersonal".
�������� Hindus should get serious about the Constitutional injunction to "develop the scientific temper", one of the few truly Hindu elements in the secular Constitution.� If that means that some of the superstitious deadwood which Hinduism has accumulated over the centuries is doomed to fall by the wayside, so much the better.� The scientific outlook is deadly to the core beliefs of Islam and Christianity, but Hindus should welcome it as a somewhat neglected pillar of their own tradition whose time has come once more.� It is not impossible that mentally afflicted individuals have been attracted to the religious role, particularly in the exaltation-prone Bhakti movement, and that the talented ones among them have acquired some fame as poets, but this does not affect the mainstream of Sanatana Dharma, which is not dependent on any one individual authority.�
�������� Very imperfect individuals can find a meaningful place for themselves in this tradition, but to assess the value of this tradition it must be considered in its entirety, not just the viewpoints of individual poets or gurus.� This ought to be an occasion to address one of the most serious problems afflicting contemporary Hinduism: sectarianism.� One of the additional reasons why many Hindus including these travelling salesmen of enlightenment whom we get to see in the West do not call themselves Hindu, is that their knowledge horizon does not go beyond the teachings of their own guru.� It is high time that the teaching of Hinduism is reoriented to a comprehensive view of the tradition.�
�������� Some BJP men argue that it is not the task of a political party to wage an ideological struggle.� I wonder what the Communists would say about that.� At any rate, the Sangh is a family, a house with many mansions, and it certainly has an appropriate department for this kind of work.� Indeed, the VHP now already claims to do just this kind of work, viz. to reconvert Muslim communities which have not lost touch with their Hindu heritage entirely.� Some people even within the Sangh are privately expressing doubts about these conversions, doubts which are aggravated by the lack of reliable record-keeping; for all its omnipresence, the Sangh and its affiliates are totally unable to provide facts and figures about conversions into and out of Hinduism.
�������� Apart from the conversion business, facing and speaking the truth about hostile religions is most of all an urgent necessity within Hindu activist circles.� The BJP and every Sangh-affiliated organizations has ideological training sessions for its own cadres, and it is there, rather than in face-to-face talks with the minorities, that the servile flattery of Islam and Christianity has to be flushed out first.� It is inside the BJP office, with no Muslim or secularist listening, that I heard BJP "ideologues" repeat the worn-out Congress lies about the British being guilty of pitting Islam against Hinduism.� The present situation is not -- as secularist media routinely allege -- that Hindus among themselves are facing the truth about these predatory religions, only to flatter them in public out of tactical calculations.� The secularists suspect that the BJP's public virtue of professed secularism hides a private vice of communalism, I have noticed many times that this public flattery of Christianity and Islam is very much based on genuine convictions, on eager self-deception.� At this point, I am not asking the BJP to speak boldly to the Muslims and the secularists; for now, they will be doing their duty if they stop deceiving their own cadres and voters.�
�������� At the same time, the BJP need not postpone a bolder stand longer than necessary.� A look at the standard practice among non-Hindus shows that there is nothing insupportable about a politician publicly mocking a religion.� In Belgium, it is not uncommon that socialist or liberal politicians openly express their anti-Christian convictions, making jokes about Catholic superstitions, all while sitting in coalition governments with the Christian-Democrats.� The Muslims openly express their adherence to Islam, a doctrine which is intrinsically hostile to Hinduism.� They openly testify that "there is no God but Allah", meaning that Hindus are all profoundly wrong.� So what?
�������� At this point, the BJP spokesman will come out with his trump objection: "But criticizing Islam is dangerous!� People have been murdered for doing just that!"� This, I cannot deny.� One of these murders, that of Arya Samaj writer Pandit Lekh Ram, was the reason for British-imposed legal curbs on the freedom to criticize Islam; after that, some Arya Samaj writers have been prosecuted under these laws, others (most famously Swami Shraddhananda) have been murdered by Muslim militants in the 1920s and 30s, to the applause of the whole Muslim clergy.� Ever since, Arya Samaj polemic against Islam has become muted, which proves the efficiency of terrorism.� But then, even in today's atmosphere of Hindu sarva-dharma-samabhava and Islamic arrogance, Islam-friendly Hindu activists including BJP men are already being killed by Muslims, without any gain in return.� Swami Shraddhananda at least died for something, for the freedom of Hindus to liberate their estranged countrymen by informing them of the truth about Islam; if the BJP abandons that right, its martyrs have died in vain.
�������� Moreover, the general opinion climate can be changed.� Naguib Mahfouz has described how in his young days, more than fifty years ago, Islam was seen by the Egyptian middle-class as a relic from the past.� People could openly mock Islamic beliefs, there was no question of being punished for that.� Since then, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction (after a near-mortal attack on his person in 1994, Mahfouz himself had to go in hiding), but it will swing back.� Hindus including BJP men can contribute to this change of climate by defying the Emergency which Islam has clamped on India, and by publicly breaking the taboo on criticism of Islam.� It will be shocking to the first speaker to hear himself utter unspeakable things like: "I reject the belief in Quranic revelation", but with time and practice, it will become easier.
�������� It should be kept in mind that ideological confrontation is the best and ultimately the only way to prevent physical confrontation.� A few hotheads may initially try to "punish" the questioning of Islamic doctrine, but this is bound to remain a marginal problem.� The really frightening prospect is the huge riots and the civil war which history has in store for India if the predatory religions are allowed to grab even more of India's population and territory for themselves.� Therefore, they have to be exposed.
�������� Ultimately, the truth is unstoppable.� Heliocentrism and other breakthroughs to modern science had their martyrs, such as Giordano Bruno and, in a limited way, Galileo Galilei, but ultimately geocentrism could not hold out against the intrinsic superiority of heliocentrism.� Like snow before sunshine, like darkness before dawn, dogmatic beliefs are bound to give way once they are exposed to the light of reason -- and of the Vedic vision.