The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The religion of state and state without religion

Is it mathematically possible for the whole world to become Christian and also Muslim when there is only one world?

Why do countries have a state religion? That is now a ‘faith line’ article in the Express recently opened, why, indeed! In India that is blessed Bharat the man-in-the-street is generally a Hindu, and the Hindu-in-the-street is generally religious. So he goes about his religion without bothering about whether or not, or why or why not, his religion is a matter of state. But for Americans finding out is a passion, and making a survey for finding out is a bigger passion. So two Harvard dons did it and came out with a paper titled “Which countries have state religions?” What they found out was that out of 188 countries 72 had no state religion, 58 had it, and 58 were sort of in between.

And why do those countries that have a state religion have a state religion? According to the Harvard duo, this decision is based on a “political calculus that involves interactions between the government and the religion sector”. Translated into English this means a state religion is a matter of the state’s political policy. So what’s new? Should it not be so? Wasn’t it so—in Semitic history?

According to the Dead Sea Scrolls Judaism was a rigid religion opposed to the political power of the Roman Empire. They also say Christianity began as a fundamentalist faction feuding with the Romans, and the latest footnote in the fable named Jesus is that after the fraud of crucifixion he was allowed to escape with his life when he told the Jews to pay taxes. And as for Islam, Anwar Shaikh wrote a whole book titled Islam: The Arab Imperialism. So did it really require American expertise to find out what everybody knew all along? Oh well, journalist Satiricus knows that the essence of column-writing is either to say nothing in so many (learned) words, or to repeat old things in (brand) new words. Still he was not a little taken aback when the columnist concluded with the warning that “we need to reject the very institution of religion—its very conception is flawed”, because : “How can any book, any prophet, any idea be so overwhelmingly powerful, so universally applicable or acceptable to each and every one of the earth’s 6,000,000,000 citizens that its evangelisation becomes an industry that the state wants to get its grubby fingers in?” He was taken aback because, the curious cuss that he is, he cannot help asking quite a few questions about this particular question of the learned columnist.

In the first place what is this nonsense about an idea to be universally acceptable to be fit for global evangelisation? Secondly, is there already not a multi-national industry in place with a worldwide workforce of vendors of Christianty? Thirdly, is there any state that can take away this thriving business from the all-powerful Agent General of Christ in the corporate HQ in the Vatican? And finally, don’t we need to extend the meaning of evangelisation, which is currently confined to conversion to Christianity alone? What about Christianity’s successor religion Islam? What about the global mission to convert. Dar-ul-Harab to Dar-ul-Islam?

And finally, is it mathematically possible for the whole world to become Christian and also Muslim when there is only one world? Oh well, this Hindu ignoramus is too dense to decipher the distinction between evangelisation and conversion. Still he is not so stupid as not to see the sting in the tail in the columnist’s concluding claim—“Believers should thank their gods that India does not have a state religion.”

Well, now, is that so? Satiricus actually thought it was very much otherwise. For when India was Partitioned on the basis of religion he thought it was logical to suppose that the two pieces of the country went to two religions—Pakistan for Islam, Baqistan for secularism. Actually the religious history of the Congress shows that their prophet had founded the religion of secularism long before that, but it became the de facto state religion when the state came into being, and the de jure state religion when the prophet’s (sur)-namesake added the adjective ‘secular’ in the Constitution. So then, is the gentleman not guilty of anti-constitutional behaviour when he says India has no state religion?

India not only has a state religion but it also has a thought police that a fundamentalist state religion cannot do without. But Satiricus must stop this communal calumny. Otherwise, there would be a fatwa on his Hindu head, issued by the Chief of Thought Police himself—Arjun Singh.

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