Saurav Mohapatra - comic book writer

author, artist and bona fide geek

Month: July 2009

Mumbai Confidential 3 Page preview

I just posted a 3 page preview of the awesome art Vivek Shinde has drawn for Mumbai Confidential (a creator owned crime noir graphic novel by yours truly and Vivek).

Click here for the post on MumbaiConfidential.com

Why I hate religion – confessions of a non practising atheist

I come from a family that has a varied range where beliefs are concerned. My wife is an atheist, my mother and sister are devout / religious and my father is semi-religious (in that he goes to the temple whenever my mom goes and does not forget to do an obsequious pranam every time we pass a temple). That leaves me and our family dog, Snowy. I can not vouch for Snowy, but he has this ritualistic fervor with which he urinates daily on the sacred tulsi plant that my mother has planted in our courtyard. So I shall put him down as religious and ritualistic too.

As for me, I like to think that I am spiritual without being religious. In fact I shall take it a step further and say that I hate religion. Do not get me wrong, I am open to possibilities as far as the existence of God and strongly believe that there is some thing to this cosmos beyond the tangible. But what I hate is the arcane series of rituals built on top of that simple belief in a higher being that seems to exclude any other school of thought. I hate exclusive telecast rights on the God Thingie and all derivative rights thereafter.

I believe that there is order in the universe and there is a force behind all of this. But I stop at putting a face on it and kowtowing in public every other Saturday at 7:30 pm at a designated place of worship.

I go to a temple when my mother needs someone to drop her there. I go in and stand with her as she purchases a diya for Rs. 2 and lights it in front of an idol of a deity who is competing with about 330 million others for market share. In the beginning she used to ask me to do the “maatha teko” thing in front of the deity and after three or four flat refusals, she mercifully stopped asking. I do not for a second believe that whatever we call “God” exists within a piece of stone enclosed in a temple.

I hate religion because it tries to put a face on something that is by definition amorphous and infinite. On one hand we harp on the omniscience and omnipotence of God and on the other we expect salvation only if we do puja on certain times on certain days at certain places. I do not buy that for a second. But I keep my mouth shut unless someone pointedly asks me as to the reason why I do not like religion or rituals. I do not expect others to have the same viewpoint as me and I have always tried to encourage a healthy discussion.

That is another point why I dislike the institution of a religion built on the simple idea of believing in a higher being. Religion drives believers to try and “convert” the non believers. Forcing someone else to have a viewpoint same as yours is a sure recipe for disaster. Just pick up a map and throw a random dart at any continent. (Last I heard the penguins were fighting in Antarctica over religious beliefs pertaining to whether they are white on black or black on white). Spiritualism is an intensely personal concept, where as religion is a social extension of that which brings in socio-political dynamics which then veer away radically from the concept of the one to a “one size fits many” kind of school of thought.

Religion means organization and any organization is an organism. It fights to survive. By their very nature ideas are transient. They evolve and finally give way to better ones. So does the concept awareness of the cosmos and the way it works. But when the idea grows into an organization, it becomes rigid and sometimes functions by rote only. It tries not to yield to the natural order of death and rebirth. It opposes new ideas when it should welcome them. The status quo becomes the end point of development and all religion does is preserve the status quo.

Now let us look at the central concept in all the religions. All religions basically teach us that the Cosmos is balanced and that every action has a reaction. Call it what you may, this sounds suspiciously like Law of Conservation of Matter/Energy and Newton’s Third Law to me. May be God is an equation after all, one that balances out the whole universe. That being said, I am succumbing the same trap as the one I am trying to oppose. I am trying to put a face on something that does not have a face.

In essence, in the matters of God and Spirituality, we are like the mythical blind men who met an elephant and formed their various interpretations based on which ever body part happened to be nearest to them. May be limited by the five senses and our perception of three dimensions (+ one if we count time) we each have formed our own view of God and religion simply perpetuates one of those “snapshots”.

I do not have anything against those that are religious or atheist. To me spirituality is something that is an awareness of the insignificance of self. For others it might mean different things. Each of us blind men is welcome to grope and probe the “Elephant” that is a higher being and form our own opinion. What I really really hate about religion is it tries to take away this basic option of finding something out for yourself. In stead of trying to think about such things or presenting the arguments, we simply hide behind the mask of “Religion” “tradition” and not encourage such debates.

I admire the texts of “Ramayana” , “Mahabharata”, “The Bible”, because I take them as allegories not factual accounts. Imagine if a million years later, once humans are gone and a race of super intelligent squid-baboons is the dominant form, how silly it would be if they based their religious structure with the posit that the “Star Wars” movies were actual factual incidents. On a literary level, the basic storyline of the religious texts is not much different from any Speculative Fiction epic.

Whatever your point of view is on this topic, I would like to start a discussion via this blog entry and the comments section. Feel free to post your comments and please keep the language civil as this is a public forum.

The Human Promise

Around six or seven centuries ago there lived in Italy a man by the name of Leonardo Da Vinci. He was many things – an artist, mechanical engineer, philosopher, scientists, sculptor, architect, accomplished writer .. the list goes on and on. He is one of the historical personalities I adore the most.

For Leonardo represents in the fullest what the Human Promise is. It is something that has been million years in the making. It started with perhaps an ape who realized he could get inside hard to reach anthills by inserting a long twig into it and has made the journey from discovery of fire to the wheel to agriculture to cities to rocket ships and computers. The Human Promise is the story of a journey where the destination does not matter.

In each of us there are capabilities the first and foremost of which is reason. We also have passion, the rawest of emotions. Both are equal contributors to the journey and its eventual unfolding.

We are always faced with choices not necessarily of our making as to what or who we shall be and the choices mold us into the persons we become. Choices like the crossroads litter the path and we zig and zag at each juncture not knowing what lies ahead.

One day we wake up and find we have become the exact duplicate of what we deplored earlier in the road. Perhaps that is the way of the world. Perhaps that is just us giving up our dreams in the name of compromise, who knows. The only certain thing about the journey is the road one has walked.

The future is forever achanging and the road twists and turns into the hazy mists that lie ahead. It is the real test of being human as to how we choose to tread into the unknown. Do we forever compromise based on tradition and the footsteps of those who have walked before us or do we boldly charge down the paths less travelled.

Each approach has its positives and negatives. Whatever the choice we make does not lessen the promise each of us carry as the culmination of a billion years of evolution.

We are the pinnacle of a process that is as old as the universe itself.. Next time you are faced with a choice in your life.. ask yourself one thing…

“the path you are about to take… does it bring you closer to what you really are.. or does it lead to further “compromises” …”

but once you have taken the step.. always remember..

“think before you step… but once you have trodden a path.. have no regrets..”

for the road of life is a one way street… it only goes forward…

so learn from your mistakes and make the “right” choice next time