For a few moments, consider this. You are living in 1050 BC. You rule an empire that stretches over 500 km and harbor hopes of expanding your kingdom to new unknown lands, some ruled by petty tribes, others ruled by major dynasties. To successfully do this, you obviously need to be a great warrior yourself, but you also need a huge army to follow you, that shakes the lands when it marches forward.This is where the trouble begins. There are no news channels, newspapers or any sort of medium for you to communicate with your “subjects” and inspire them to leave their families and peaceful lands behind, to die in war so you can achieve a very personal, selfish and modest goal. To rule the entire world!!
Chances are, you haven’t even traveled your existing empire and for most people living in your lordship, you are nothing more than an idea that probably exists in some far away castle. Hardly convincing for a commoner to get himself killed for your ambitions. You could obviously try to bribe them, give them hopes of great treasures you wish to share with them when you achieve victory. But I somehow doubt a man with a spear in his hand will charge at a war crazed elephant, or stand his ground in the face of a thousand horses galloping towards him, purely for him to earn a few silver coins.
Here lies the million dollar question. What do you do. How do you raise this huge army to achieve greatness and go down in history as a famous king, as opposed fading away without any legacy.
Here is an idea. What if you played on the most basic fear of mankind. The fear of the unknown, the unexplained. What if you create some guidelines for the commoners to live their inconsequential lives with a certain purpose of greatness, promises of a better life after death. Promises of great riches, comforts and luxury only if people model their lives a certain way and worship the unknown.
What if you convince people into thinking that anyone who does not share these beliefs is unholy and deserves to die. You would then become the natural beacon of light, placed on this earth to guide people to heaven and greatness. Your followers would then have a “just cause” to rally behind you. And it wouldn’t be something as petty and irrelevant as cash. But the promise of eternal happiness and peace. Your armies then, wouldn’t be following a mortal. They would be following an idea.An idea that is pure, holy and incorruptible. You would then have an army willing to fight to the last breath. You would have your empire, you have your place in history.
This idea has worked for many dynasties in the past. I do not claim ownership to this concept. The Mughals, when they raided India, initiated jihad (holy war against the non believers) and did so in style. They ruled the country for over 500 years, right from the glorious times of Timur lang, through Babur and Akbar right up to Bahadur Shah Zafar. Europe had its own series of kings propagating Christianity.
For hundreds of years, kings came and went, but the Vatican remained all-powerful in that part of the world. Almost all empires in history worth a mention, right from the Egyptian to the Romans, had very deeply rooted religious sentiments.
You might ask, why this elaborate role play. Whats the point behind all this. Most of it is like stating the obvious.
I woke up a couple of months ago wanting to learn more about different religions in the world. At least the most prevalent ones. While my research is at the very preliminary stages, and is only academic in nature, I couldn’t help but notice one common element in almost all religious practices. The element of fear.
While, on the one hand, we are made to believe that god is all-powerful, forever willing to forgive and move on, most of the religions are practiced with the fear of non compliance. Very contradicting in nature if you come to think of it. It is at this juncture that the above thoughts came to mind. The thought of using religion as a tool for power.
Even today, this continues. If you look around, you will see that loyalty towards your own religion sometimes overpowers your loyalty towards your own country, friends or even family!! In the name of religion, you can get people to do almost anything. Moreover, if you are a self-appointed representative of a certain religion, you can possibly get away with any act, no matter how atrocious, illegal or inhumane.
If this was indeed the idea that corrupted all religions over time, then it seems futile to read about any of them, especially if you are looking for “nirvana”. Chances are, if I do find myself bending towards certain religious beliefs, I will only be signing up to become a soldier in one of the existing power houses in the country/world today.
So what do I do. Well, my search continues anyway. Like I said, not so much for “eternal peace” but more for academic purposes. These books may or may not sign me up as a soldier, but they do make for an interesting read.
Note: My endeavor is not so much to prove the existence/non-existence of god. It is merely to understand different paths suggested to attain eternal peace.