Why it is so funny that Mother Teresa becomes a Saint today – 4 Sep 16

Today is a day that will be marked in history books as the day when Mother Teresa became a saint! Yes, today the Catholic Church will declare the nun a saint who had dedicated her life to helping the poor in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Why exactly am I writing about this? For once, as I have always found it funny how the Catholic Church creates saints and on top of that because there are quite a few people who believe that Mother Teresa does not actually deserve this honour!

First of all, I have written already about the laughable process of becoming an official Catholic saint. A Christian life, a reputation of being holy and, finally, two acknowledged miracles! While you can try to be Christian and convince others that you are holy, it may be more difficult to persuade them that you have performed miracles! And you need a whole two of them! After one you get beatified, the second one opens the doors for you to become a real saint, to be canonized.

If you followed this rule around India, you would find thousands of applicants for becoming saints – because religious people here love believing in miracles and admiring the holiness of normal people. They just need to know how to impress the public! Oh, I forgot: you also have to have been dead for five years!

For Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II started the process already two years after her death. Her first acknowledged miracle is the cure of an abdominal tumor of an Indian woman. The second one, recently recognized, is the cure of a brain tumor of a Brazilian man whose life was thus saved.

Oh well, you can imagine, if I oppose the ‘miracles’ that godmen in India use to fool the public, I obviously don’t think that any Catholic nun, priest or other person could really perform such a thing! The best part is that in those miracles, it is the DEAD saint, means its spirit, which actually healed the people… Wow!

Thousands, if not millions of people are expected to celebrate the fact that Mother Teresa will now officially be a saint. What else does this result in than popularity for the Catholic Church? Donations for their institutions, projects and so on!

On top of everything, there have been several voices telling that Mother Teresa had a hardline course of Catholicism, taking money from dictators and appreciating suffering as a part on your way to Jesus – all points which make people doubt the correctness of pronouncing her a saint.

The main thing for me is the wonder that this can still happen in a world like ours where you would think that science prevails. Scientific thinking however has no place where religion is concerned and that’s how we will keep on hearing about such ‘miracles’ in future, too!

When Religion limits Freedom of Choice, Opinion and Expression – 16 Sep 15

After having written about Islam yesterday, explaining why I am definitely no Islamophobe, I had a few more thoughts about what I like and dislike about religion. One very big point is that I don’t want to tell anybody what they should think as well as I don’t like being told what I should think. I believe in freedom of expression, freedom of opinion – and religion often thinks very differently about this!

You all know that I am an atheist. I have been very much in religion and now have come fully out of it, so much that I don’t even believe in god anymore. But you know what? I have absolutely no problem with you practicing your religion! Pray to whomever you want, don’t speak, eat or work one, two or three days a week, sit or lie down for your prayer ten times or a hundred times – I really don’t mind or care. Religion anyway says it is just for you, so you could just keep your religious practice within your four walls! Just don’t try to make me believe what you believe in! And one more thing: don’t try to stop me from saying my opinion!

I live in a democratic country, I believe in democracy and, as mentioned, I believe we all should be free to say whatever we want to say. It doesn’t matter if we disagree, we don’t even have to argue about it! I have a lot of friends all over the world of all kinds of religions and I get along very well with each of them although many of them know that I have a very different opinion than them on the topic of their belief!

We could very well live like this with the freedom of choice, opinion and expression for everyone, as long as we don’t harm or bother others – but unfortunately religion does not usually agree with this or act this way!

Just look at all those missionary actions several religions do in different countries of the world! Of course, Christians were the biggest missionaries at one time, converting people all over the earth and if they didn’t change faith and get baptized willingly, they forced them to. Don’t believe that this has stopped though!

Here in India, it is still happening, where Christian, Hindu and Muslim missionaries compete with each other! People in need are lured with the promise of food, shelter and work but with one condition: they have to convert. There are a lot of people who have changed their faith several times in their lives already – because they had to! They wanted to survive and were offered a way. Religion was not important enough for them to die for it!

That’s how many people in areas of crisis may feel about the IS as well, although Islam gets much more extreme here: they have an agenda that everyone of different faith has to be converted or killed! It is not easy to be of the exact same faith as an extreme fundamentalist. You have very high chances of falling into the category of those who have to be killed.

And that’s where religion is not tolerant for others, brutally murders people and forces others to change what they believe in.

No, thank you, I prefer atheism and democracy instead!

I love sex – and I feel good about it! – 6 Aug 14

Yesterday I described how many Indian men who tell the women in their family to behave well and cover up actually enjoy looking at half-naked women online. They love it but right away feel guilty about their enjoyment as well. Feeling guilty about your own sexuality – that cannot be the right way!

I believe I have already written sometime about the extreme way of expressing such guilt: when people only have sex for reproduction. Yes, this truly exists, there are extreme Hindu groups and sects that are eagerly trying to follow this rule. They only enjoy loving each other physically when they want to make a baby. Otherwise husband and wife are supposed to live together without touching each other intimately. Why? Because Hinduism tells them it is wrong to have sex for fun, it is wrong to enjoy sexual pleasure!

When you have sex with your partner, you normally enjoy it – it is difficult to avoid that. Enjoying it however is a sin, so you avoid having sex at all. And when you have to have sex, because it is the only way to get a child, you only have it in fertile times, as quickly as possible and with as little fun or enjoyment as you can have, to keep the sin as little as possible. A little bit of satisfaction – even the relieve you feel at an orgasm which is essential to the purpose of reproduction – is already enough to make you feel guilty. On top of it, someone said your semen is the most precious good you will ever possess and you just spilled quite a lot of it as a sacrifice for having a baby!

Congratulations, you have let religion trap you in their net of treats, sin, guilt and shame!

By the way, that is nothing particularly about Hinduism! Islam anyway has a distorted view on sex and physical pleasure. Even for Christianity however I have heard similar stories. Elderly women and grandmothers giving young girls valuable life lessons: women who touch themselves, who enjoy being in their husband’s bed and maybe even dare having an orgasm herself are like prostitutes. Having sex is something dirty and shameful – especially for girls and women!

I believe there should be no shame and no guilty feelings for any of both genders! In that way, you can enjoy life to its fullest! Who doesn’t like sex? But with the influence of religion, you love it and then feel bad about it.

I love sex – and I feel good about it!

And I hope you do, too!

My Friend who teaches Religion but doesn’t believe in it – 17 Jul 14

I have a friend in Germany whom I meet each time when we are here and who is a religion teacher. In Germany, religion is a subject at school with the option to take either catholic or protestant Christian education or the non-religious subject ‘ethics’ instead, if you don’t want your child to learn either. As I knew that my friend was not really a religious person, I asked him this time: ‘Do you only teach religion or do you also believe in it?’

His answer: ‘Oh, I only teach, I don’t believe!’

I found his explanation of this fact quite interesting and thought you might do so as well. The main point was, he said, that he didn’t see the bible as a holy book but as a collection of old, religious texts. According to him it is not, as some people believe, literal notes of the words of god but rather a compilation of stories, written down by different people, even at different times with the intention of conveying a message by examples and symbols.

That’s what you have to realize when you look at the bible. It is all full of symbols and metaphors, as people in older times needed that to understand and really get the message. You cannot take this literal, you have to find out what they wanted to say. And you have to discover whether that message fits into today’s time or not.

The interesting thing, according to him, however is more scientific: in today’s culture and life, you can see the influence of religion, of those texts and the values that they conveyed already thousands of years ago. They are historic documents that show us the development of our societies! The values, behavior, language and lifestyle of Europeans is influenced by Christianity!

There are other religion teachers, even at my friend’s school, he told, who really do take the bible literal! They believe in and teach those old texts word by word! It is obviously ridiculous and students know that, too – but there are all kinds of people and that is why, in my opinion, you should not have something like religion class: the chance that a crazy Christian sect leader tries to lure in your children is just too big! This field is just too full of claims you cannot prove and possibilities of fanaticism that only a pure scientific approach makes sense to me.

I thus understood it when my friend said ‘I am a scientist, not a cleric. We both studied theology but that is a fully different way!’

Liberate yourself from Religion and be happy instead of waiting for Liberation after your Death! – 16 Jul 14

Do you know people who always seem to be negative and miserable about their lives? I recently remembered a religious reason that at least Hindu people have. A justification for being miserable: according to Hinduism, you start your life in sin.

The Hindu religion believes, as you probably know, in reincarnation. According to the philosophy of their scriptures, they also believe however that whenever a human is born, it is the fall of a soul.

When a good person dies, Hindus believe that he has good Karma left. Due to this, he is allowed to go to a temporary heaven. When he has ‘used up’ his good Karma there, he has to go back to earth because he has unfinished business there. He is not liberated yet, otherwise he would not have come to heaven in the first place – his soul would just have been free and united with the big creating soul. The whole religious effort of a Hindu is thus to achieve liberation and not come back to life anymore! He doesn’t want to be reborn, doesn’t want to be reincarnated anymore!

The concept is thus that your reincarnation is something bad. You always have a wish: if you were not reborn, if you were not in this universe anymore, if you were just liberated! Practically you are saying: if I was just not born! So now you do every effort you can imagine to get rid of this curse of reincarnation. You pray every day several times, you do pooja, worship of deities, you go to the Ganges to take a dip in the holy waters and you make pilgrimages every year.

You are a sinner from the beginning of your life. How could you ever expect to be happy?

I have heard the same theory exists in Christianity, too! I don’t know it very much in detail but they believe that we all are only on this world and not in paradise because Eve, the mother of all humans, didn’t obey God’s rules and ate an apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For your whole life you now have to try and be a good person, love God and pray to Jesus so that Jesus – who died for the sins of all men – will save you.

Religion wants to keep you in a feeling of guilt! Guilt for a kind of sin that you don’t even know about, that you have not committed yourself! You were born because of this sin and cannot change this fact!

So you should live your life in this feeling, do everything for receiving grace from an imaginary god. How would you ever be happy in your life if this is what you believe in?

Religion tells you how you can be liberated after your death – but if you really want to be happy, you have to liberate yourself during lifetime!

Indian Woman dies in Irish Hospital – because it ‘is a Catholic Country’ – 16 Nov 12

The media, at least here in India, currently highlights a case which I wanted to write to you about. An Indian woman died of blood poisoning in a hospital in Ireland because doctors refused to abort her unborn baby although she was in extreme pain. The doctors’ reason: ‘This is a Catholic country.’ Let me explain the deathly combination of medicine and religion in this case.

The woman, Savita Halappanavar, was 17 weeks pregnant when she went to the hospital complaining of back pain. After an examination she got to know that she was having a miscarriage and that it would take just some hours. She still had horrible pain, though, and she and her husband thus asked the doctors to speed up the process by aborting the baby and thus relieving the woman of her pain.

This is now where the fatal problems started. The fetus still had a heartbeat and doctors told Savita and her husband that the law prevented them from carrying out an abortion, adding ‘This is a Catholic country’. Once the baby’s heartbeat stopped, they did it but it was already too late to save the mother’s life. She died in the hospital in which she had spent the last three days of her life in terrible pain.

Purnendu was the first to tell me about this case and my reaction was ‘No, that cannot be. You either misunderstood something or they are giving wrong information!’ I thought it was impossible that any country’s law could ignore the threat to the mother’s life in such a situation. The baby would not be able to survive without the mother, so why would they not try to save the mother’s life instead, regardless their religious belief? It was only after I had read four or five articles about this tragic event that I could really believe it.

There are of course still investigations going on as to what exactly happened and whose mistake it was but one can already read that there are issues with the law that is very strict in prohibiting abortions. There is actually the rule that allows an abortion in exactly that case that the mother’s life is in danger. The guidelines to that are however not clear and so doctors are either afraid of taking that decision because of fearing the law or they refuse to kill a fetus because of their rigid religious views that tell them this is a sin.

It doesn’t really matter what the investigations will show in the end, the reality is that religion has killed this woman. ‘This is a Catholic country’ was the argument. What a tragedy! Yes, this happened because of religion. Due to religion, a life is gone and that cannot be reversed.

Link to CNN newspaper article

Converted Native American Saint refuses helping Non-Catholics – 8 Nov 12

Some weeks ago I heard that the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church has announced the canonization of seven new saints. In that time I did not actually pay much attention on the news but then Ramona told me about one of these brand new saints who was special: she was the fourth saint of Native American origin. Yes, she was a Christian Canadian aboriginal woman who has been worshipped by many people for ages and is now finally a saint. Sounds funny but that is one of the strange ways religion can go.

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was a girl born in 1665 to a Mohawk chief and a Roman Catholic Algonquin who had herself been baptized by French missionaries. It was however not her Christian mother due to whom Kateri became Christian. After her parents died of smallpox, an illness gave her scars in the face and damaged her eyesight, she was brought up by her uncle in the traditional Mohawk ways. When the French attacked the Mohawk and defeated them however, the Mohawks were forced to accept a peace treaty that allowed Jesuit missionaries in their villages. So that is how Christian missionaries forced their way into Native American tribes and spread their own message.

This girl was one of them who was interested in the Christian stories of Jesus, heaven and so on. Her uncle and her tribe were opposing her conversion – which seems rather understandable – and she fled to a mission where she died at the age of 24.

Now why is this young woman, who is also called Lilly of the Mohawks, now a saint and people are allowed to worship her as one? She was, for one, very religious: she vowed that she would remain a virgin until her death, she encouraged others in her faith and she even practiced mortification. This was something she and some of her friends did even though discouraged from the clergymen around them. They wanted to go the path of religious and thought they were not allowed by the Jesuits to do it all! So she slept on a bed with thorns, flogged herself and even burned herself with hot coals.

After her death however, the miracles started. Her face had been covered with scars of smallpox but the people present at her death claimed it all vanished once she died. Three people, her mentor, her friend and her priest told of apparitions, that they had seen or heard her even after her death. And then of course there are those people who, since only a few years after her death, have attributed healing powers to her relics. The latest one was finally the one that convinced the Catholic Church that she should be canonized.

I wrote about the ridiculous and superstitious process of canonization last year already and there is not much to add to my general opinion but in this case I need to address a few more points.

It is striking that this was a Native American woman who was converted to Christianity. Many people would say that Native Americans have seen too much blood in their history to be really happy about this. It seems ironic – at first you kill thousands of us and force many of us to give up their traditional beliefs, thinking we are barbarians and uncivilized, and then you make one of our women a saint to worship? Of course many Catholics of Native American origin will be happy about this symbolic action but I just find it absurd, especially with the Pope’s words: ‘May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are’ – did Christians really help people not denying who they were?

If you read about the missionaries in Canada in that time you can read that those women were not always following the advice of the priests who were supposed to guide them. They wanted more and form convents on their own but were not allowed to. They were told about sins and Kateri herself started overdoing it – just as you hear about Martin Luther when he was a young monk. They were very obviously embracing the idea of Jesus, the person of love, but were confused and could not cope with the whole religious idea of sin and punishment around it. That is the work of religion, and in this case Christianity, when they go out to convert people of other belief.

What I really had to wonder about though was the description of one of those miracles that were attributed to her: a Protestant boy who had caught smallpox was treated by the Jesuits. They told him that they would use her relics to help him recover if he became a Roman Catholic. When he agreed, they allegedly healed him with a piece of her coffin! So what does this say about this new saint? She, herself a converted woman, only helps those of the correct faith? What a nice message to give to others, especially Native Americans who would consider praying to this woman, simply because of her origins and alleged healing abilities. But the Catholic Church does not want to give this healing benefit to people of other faith! They want to get as many followers themselves, so if you are sick, you will only be healed by a Catholic Saint if you are Catholic!

People sometimes think Christianity is much more modern than Hinduism simply because they have refused the Roman and Greek multitude of Gods. This kinds of stories show again however that it is all the same nonsense – and now the Catholic Church has a Native American Saint to show off with!

22 crazy and cruel Rules in the Bible – 11 Jun 12

I have mentioned many times that religious scriptures are only pieces of literature that have been noted down by people in the past and should not have any relevance or importance today. They should, most of all, not be seen as holy and followed by so many. They are old and outdated. Many people don’t realize how outdated they really are because they don’t know enough about them but if you actually read them word by word, you will get to know that there are a lot of crazy things and lots of cruelty in many religions’ scriptures.

One of my friends from New York, Deniz Tekiner, has recently compiled an impressive list of craziness in the holy Christian scripture, the Bible, warning people that they should not say they believe that to be the word of God – otherwise they would have to follow these rules:

Don’t have a variety of crops on the same field. (Leviticus 19:19)

Don’t wear clothes made of more than one fabric. (Leviticus 19:19)

Don’t cut your hair nor shave. (Leviticus 19:27)

Any person who curseth his mother or father, must be killed. (Leviticus 20:9)

If a man cheateth on his wife, or vise versa, both the man and the woman must die. (Leviticus 20:10)

If a man lieth with another man, both must be killed. (Leviticus 20:13)

If a man or woman has sex with an animal, both human and animal must be killed. (Leviticus 20:15-16)

If a man has sex with a woman on her period, they are both to be “cut off from their people.” (Leviticus 20:18)

Psychics, wizards, witches and so on are to be stoned to death. (Leviticus 20:27)

If a priest’s daughter is a whore, she is to be burnt at the stake. (Leviticus 21:9)

People who have flat noses, or are blind or lame, cannot go to an altar of God. (Leviticus 21:17-18)

Anyone who curses or blasphemes God, should be stoned to death by the community. (Leviticus 24:14-16)

From the book of Deuteronomy:

Anyone who dreameth or prophesieth anything that is against God, or anyone who tries to turn you from God, is to be put to death. (Deuteronomy 13:5)

If anyone, even your own family, suggests worshipping another God, kill them. (Deuteronomy 13:6-10)

If you find out a city worships a different god, destroy the city and kill all of its inhabitants, even the animals. (Deuteronomy 13:12-16)

Kill anyone with a different religion. (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)

Women are not allowed to wear the clothing of men and men are not allowed to wear the clothing of women (Deuteronomy 22:5)

From the New Testament:

Slaves must be submissive and obedient to their masters. (Ephesians 6:5)

Women must be submissive to their husbands. (1 Peter 3:1 and 3:5)

Women should not style or braid their hair or wear any adornments (jewelry) or fancy clothing. (I would also presume that wording to include the wearing of make-up and coloring of hair in that context. – 1 Peter 3:3, 1 Timothy 2:9)

Women should be generally submissive and should be quiet, never teach or hold any authority over men. They should just be silent. (1 Timothy 2:12)

Women must wear head coverings in any place of worship. (1 Corinthians 11:4-7)
 

The Bible is not the only scripture with crazy and cruel rules. In the next two blog entries I will give you examples of similar lines in Hinduism and Islam.

Abuse of Women, Creation of an untouchable Caste and more Crimes of Religions – 16 Feb 12

Everybody who knows me and those who read my blog regularly know that I am not religious and that I even say that I am against religion. On some occasions people then told me that being ‘against religion’ and saying that it is all bad would be ignoring the good things of religion. I don’t agree and I thought it would be worth explaining my attitude on my diary.

I actually never said that religion did not ever bring anything good to people. I believe however that religion has given a lot of space for bad things to happen. In an online discussion I asked my friends what organized religion had given to this world.

My answer to the question was that religion divided people and created hatred. It manipulated and still manipulates them and thus religious leaders can exploit those who search for help. Religion made people afraid of God's punishment and even taught that women are lower than men. The worst thing is that they fool people and then forbid them to ask questions – so that they blindly believe what is written in scriptures and taught by religious preachers. It has opened the doors to abusive people to get power over others and do as they like without having to justify themselves.

Of course religion wasn't meant for this but this happened and is still happening. There is proof for all of this. It starts in the scriptures where you can see ridiculous statements about the power of those who know the scriptures and also about the role of women in society. You can see how in many countries religion has had such a big impact that women are treated like inferior beings. Obviously you first think of Islam and the women there. But it happens in other cultures, religions and countries, too! Through religion men have got the power to abuse women, to order them how to live and how to dress not only in their places of worship but even in their homes. It is a work of religion that still today there are countries in which women are flogged and even stoned to death for having sex before their marriage, with another man than their husband or after their husband is dead. Religion is responsible for women not being allowed to the most sacred parts of some temples. It is according to religion that women here in India should not enter their own kitchen or eat with other members of their family when they are menstruating.

Another effect of religion is the caste system. It has its roots in the Hindu religion and its scriptures! Religion enabled those who wrote the scriptures to make themselves powerful and the highest in society while others are so low that nobody even wants to touch them. Through this, religion has created the ‘untouchable’ caste! Religion has created social structure, that is fine, but if this is the social structure that we got from religion, I think we would be better off without it!

In the same way, the most religious men of religion were empowered in a way that makes not only abuse of women but also of children possible! There have been uncountable stories of abuse by gurus. Hinduism is not the only religion in which this is happening, though! Look at the scandals of the Catholic Church! See how much abuse of children has happened in churches! It is religion that has given those men the power that made them God-like, so that others don’t doubt their actions anymore.

Religion has also been a tool for many to gain wealth. So many religious institutions are very rich and have enourmous amounts of gold and silver. I have been told that the Vatican is not much different. Tell me why so many of these Gurus and Swamis in India are extremely rich while it is difficult for many normal persons to get a full stomach? But you will find rituals and ceremonies described in scriptures during which you need to donate gold and money if you want to have a better life, go to heaven or want to realize God.

In my eyes religion has been used and is still being used for manipulating people. In all religions, it doesn't matter whether it is Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or any other religion, people go there with faith, for love, to find God and get peace in their lives but religious leaders and institutions have always found ways to fool, cheat and harm them. Scriptures were changed and written according to their own wishes and to their benefits and their control on people was and is big.

Surely religion wasn't meant for poisoning but it has had the effect of poison in history and at present too. People realize what I have written above and with more education and more awareness they turn away from gurus, leaders and institutions. Religion has lost its purpose. It has no future, the young generation is refusing it and I am happy to see it is slowly dying.

Reason for celebrating Christmas even without Belief in Religion – 23 Dec 11

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we are already looking forward to our celebration. You may ask yourself why we actually celebrate Christmas as I am definitely not Christian, nor is my family. You could think that we have nothing to do with the birth of Christ and I even say that I am not a Hindu and have nothing to do with any religion at all. So why do we celebrate the most important day of the year for Christians?

I may not be Christian and I may not be Hindu but I love the basic message that is behind the reason for such celebrations: come together and celebrate love. Enjoy being with those whom you love. Appreciate life, appreciate the world and what you have got. Give joy and love to another person as well. These all are things that I believe can be done at any time of the year but a celebration is another reason to remind yourself of all this. And I often say: we never skip a reason for a celebration! I am sure we will have a wonderful day full of love.

During the day some of my old school friends will arrive here with their families. For two years it has now been their routine to come on the 24th December to the Ashram to meet here. As some of them live quite a bit away from Vrindavan, we have not seen each other for a year and are looking forward to exchange news and of course talk about old times.

We will decorate the Ashram a little bit and of course we will have a Christmas tree! It may not be the typical tree that is used in other countries but we have always managed to place plants in pots in a way that they looked like a Christmas tree! With the right lighting and some soft Christmas music, we will get into a festive mood.

And then there are of course the Christmas presents. The children will be excited to see what everyone gets and of course to unwrap their own gift as well. It is so beautiful to see their shining eyes, their joy and their happiness.

We will have wonderful food prepared by my mother and the kitchen staff and altogether we will probably sit around the fire later – enjoying the warmth of the flames in front of us and of an Ayurvedic tea inside us.

We wish all of you, wherever you may be on this world, a wonderful festive time. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, think of it as a special day to celebrate love.