Touria Prayag's Blog

l’Express Weekly 10 September,2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on September 14, 2010

Editorial    Click here to read l’Express Weekly

The God Dividend

The words were clear and must have been spoken with such innocence we nearly missed them. Yet, they are pearls to keep in our annals to transmit to our children and grandchildren. At that same meeting Mr. Choonee perhaps wishes he had never set foot in, the following words allegedly fl owed out of his mouth effortlessly and hit an audience which was expecting to hear nothing less, “Listen, do you know of many governments in the world who would pay you to pray to God? Your God. Our God. If we have to pray, government gives us subsidies to do so. So we can pray.” And there I was, stupid me, thinking that religion was about fi nding comfort in the grace and guidance of a loving God; about private, personal and intimate prayer which is supposed to lift you up as a person; about the divine sort of love which results in the giving of oneself even if it draws taunts rather than applause. Or perhaps about the recognition that you have a relationship with God that needs to be continuously nurtured by giving Him a share in your life not only through prayer but also through good deeds. Stupid indeed! Religion is about the government paying you to perform a set of rituals which you may or may not understand yourself and to walk around pretending you are so self-righteous that you can afford to dictate the social policies of the whole country. And this type of ritual practice is exalted as something positive while any belief in a set of values which truly improve society is saddled with everything negative. This is a totally selfserving way of approaching Religion. While in other countries religious men have to rattle their buckets in the streets to raise funds for their organizations and still live on a shoestring budget, in our paradise, we pride ourselves on disbursing a staggering Rs. 74m every year on religious subsidies to (how right you are Mr. Choonee!) pay people to pray to a God they supposedly vehemently believe in! And we have become so resigned to the inevitability of this money coming out of our pockets to subsidize the lucky minority praying for us in the same way as we resign ourselves to all the other things we cannot do anything about. Of course, nobody is denying any citizen the right to practice the religion they choose if they choose. And churches as well as religious organizations can continue to have their belief systems and pray to their hearts’ content. What they should not have is taxpayers’ money –that money we’ve worked so hard for; that money which is being squandered by a few lucky ones who, in the name of religion, get on the public payroll to practise these overpriced rituals which are carried out to supposedly save our souls. There comes a point when society should take stock of what all the hand-outs it dishes out at every budget bring back in return. If we are honest with ourselves, we will fi nd that religious subsidies bring very little other than pushing religion from the private to the public realm where it was never intended to be. But it seems that this whole issue has gone into overdrive and that religious lobbies have gained an impenetrable cloak against criticism. I doubt that God would approve of this lucrative aspect of religion but Mr. Choonee should be thanked for expressing so beautifully and candidly what others fi nd all sorts of metaphors to hide. And, for the record, they come from ALL religions!


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