Monday, January 08, 2007

Dalit Delete

Despite the fact that India’s constitution abolished the Dalit or Untouchable “caste “ (technically Dalit is not one of the four castes— Priests, Warriors, Merchants, and Laborers) in 1950, millions of Hindus still suffer the harsh indignities of Dalit membership. Within the Hinduism that supports the caste and out-caste system, the best a good Dalit can hope for is to merit rebirth as a member of a higher caste by submitting quietly to the horrors of Dalit life. This is a flawless system of social control.

While rebirth may provide hope for many Dalit, millions of other Untouchables have found a way of raising their status in this life: they are converting to Buddhism. Buddhism has no caste system, and by becoming a Buddhist a Dalit ceases to be a Dalit. Last October alone almost 200,000 Dalit Hindus became Buddhists thus saving themselves potentially countless lifetimes working their way up the Hindu ladder of success.

This got me thinking. If Hindus can by-pass the negative side of their religion by changing teams, why can’t the rest of us? If you are a Doubting Thomas Christian, for example, and just cannot be certain that your faith is strong enough to secure you a place in Heaven, why not become a Jew? As a Jew you can measure your success by tallying how many good deeds and religious obligations you do versus what a schmuck you are. A single good deed can tip an otherwise balanced scale and get you into heaven. Deeds, unlike faith, are something under your control; so make the switch.

Or if you a Jew who can’t shake the notion that Moses invented the whole commandment thing, why not become a Taoist and seek to live in harmony with nature? Or you may be a Muslim with a thirst for alcohol. No problem, become a Catholic and drink away. Or you could just skip the whole mess and become an atheist. If there is no God there is no need to placate him or follow his social mores.

All of this jumping ship suggests, however, that no religion or lack there of really matters. If we can change religions to avoid what we don’t like in one or prefer in another, we have to admit that it is we, and not God, who is deciding what is and is not true. Who would convert from the Truth and a seat in Heaven to swear allegiance to falsehood and get yourself damned to Hell? Yet people change religions all the time without ever really knowing which if any of them is true.

We choose to believe what we choose to believe because it makes sense to us to believe it, and not because we know for certain that it is in fact true. If this is so, and it is, you should take a close look at the religion you say you believe in and see if in fact you do believe in it. If you don’t, why not switch? But even if you do believe in the teachings of your religion, don’t take it too seriously: after all what do you know for certain anyway?

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