Religious practices are getting detached from our lives

  • Savyasachi Hebbar
  • Updated: Aug 14, 2014 02:20 IST

According to Emile Durkheim, the 'Father of Sociology', religion is the phenomenon that separates a 'profane' human being from the 'sacred'. According to Durkheim, human beings are homo duplex, meaning that every human being has two states of mind. The first level known as 'profane' is a state wherein every human is only concerned about filling the basic necessities of everyday life like hunger, shelter etc. In this state, the person places self before anything else.

The second level is called the 'sacred' level. This level is what separates human beings from every other living species. In this state of being, one experiences an altered state of consciousness and the very lines that separates self, starts blurring. This is the state in which many human beings exhibit group behaviour and place the group before self while working towards a common cause. Such behaviour is widely believed to unite a culture, a society or a country. Hence, essentially any single purpose that can bring people together to achieve a collective purpose other than self becomes a religion. This implies that the definition of religion is not restricted to a set of sacred beliefs but binding factors like sport or philosophy also come under its brackets.

Now, why is this information overload important? Before having any take on religion, we should know the sociological reasoning of what the term constitutes. Over time, the concept of religion became restricted to a single definition, a set of sacred beliefs, and mostly related to a supernatural power called god. Imagine a time when there was limited communication between different cultures and societies which limited information. The world in such a time would naturally be divided into different societies practising various forms of religion, some prevalent among larger sections of societies while some others practised by only a handful of people.

The basic premise of this fact is that during such a time, it was important to practise some phenomenon that kept the fabric of a society intact due to a common belief. While those beliefs were passed on across generations and while the societies were changing either due to forceful occupation of countries or due to disintegration of states, the beliefs that were still getting passed on became meaningless and hence remain as a mere tokenism of practising the religion today.

While the boundaries that separate geographies, race, languages and religions are blurring, the new generation does not need a manifestation of a set of rules to be enforced upon us by our ancestors to form a higher purpose of our lives. Today's generation which has information at its disposal also asks more questions. In such a situation, following token practises, usually the religious ones, which essentially explain nothing, often seems absurd. Most "rituals" that are practised today, are practised thanks to the capitalistic market. Raksha Bandhan is popular because chocolatiers and gift shops are keen on season sales.

Likewise, Diwali gifting is a social obligation induced by ulterior motives of sweet stalls and firecracker companies. Due to such rampant consumerism, religious practises are losing more significance than ever and are hence getting detached from people's lives. One fine day, all of a sudden we'll find ourselves in the middle of a desert trying to look for something. We'll not find any connection to the past and cannot see anything in the future but we'll be performing some activity that has no meaning in the present, and that situation is weird. To avoid such a situation, youth of today's generation has to reset their actions by shedding such meaningless rituals and try connecting their actions with purpose and logic rather than sentiment and tokenism.

(Savyasachi Hebbar is a Bangalore based advertising professional)

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