While one may wonder what the Pope and the Prime Minister may have in common, I would like to elaborate why. Both are desperate to cling on to their following and hence the commonality! This has reference to two of their statements made recently – one of the Pope Francis who says that the Big Bang theory may be right and that god is no magician with a wand sitting out there in the sky while the other of the Prime minister of the largest democracy on the earth who claims that the first cases of head transplant, in vitro fertilization occurred in India long ago!
As for Pope Francis, he is desperate to keep together his flock undergoing questioning from all sides. The Abrahamic religions with their concept of a patriarchal god sitting up in the sky with his long beard and a baritone voice watching over the affairs of the world hurling thunderbolts at will, sending down plagues and pestilences at the drop of hat when annoyed and with conflicts among their own are now wondering how to explain for science and its view of the world. While the Roman Catholic church or any other religious institution for that matter is quite comfortable using the fruits of progress of science, they would like to use them to degrade the very fundamentals of the same – that is reasoning and logical thinking. Well, while Francis is welcome to issue his statement that God is not a magician with wand and that big bang could be true, one would be interested to know as to what he would do with the assumptions that go with it. Like the seven day week, the last day of which this person with the magic wand who has been ordered out of existence was supposed to have taken rest after creating the rest in the other six!
The Roman Catholic church has a long history of oppression. Science has progressed sometimes with it, many times without it and mostly in spite of it! In the days preceding renaissance the church was the enemy of reason and demanded unquestioning faith. Though this changed and a space was accorded to it, the limits were always there which would be changed depending on the whims and fancies of the person at the top – the Pope. Now, these limits have been further extended by saying that Galileo could have been right, Darwin’s explanation for the origin of life could be possible and now the big bang! But, there is a lot of explaining still pending as to how an individual could be born of parthenogenesis by a process called as immaculate conception, how the same person died and then miraculously came back to life and then ascended bodily to heaven. While these may be explained as allegorical, the interference of the Roman catholic church in the matters of reproductive rights of the flock, denial of these who are supposedly carrying the word of god to them and many such. One could always ask as to how the church which is supposed to cater to the spiritual needs of the congregation be run like a business and so on.
If so much were to be said about the head of the state of one of the smallest nations in the world – the Vatican, much more has to be said about the Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world, no less a person than our own Narendra Modi. While inaugurating a conference of medical specialists he announced the path breaking discoveries made in medicine in ancient India- transplantation of an elephant’s head to a human body and growing babies in vitro! Yes, it was the Prime Minister of the nation whose Constitution in Article 51 A(h) states that it is the duty of every citizen to develop scientific temper, spirit of enquiry and humanism. It was not in the allegorical context that this statement was made but as one of fact. Of course one has to put up with such things – like one of the Prime Ministers of this great nation who once ascribed his good health to auto urine therapy-going on to add that he drinks a glass of his urine every morning! Well such things could be taken as off the cuff remarks but that of Sri Narendra Modi was a drafted speech. Of course if he had spoken about the work of Charaka, Sushruta it would have been welcome but taking examples from mythology as evidences of scientific progress would be a little too much even for a Prime minister who has taken over the position by the blessing of the Sangh Parivar. Of course one can expect him to speak about Pushpaka Viman if he goes to an Air Force function or Ram sethu if he declares open any bridge and so on. But, of course one cannot expect him to take this Vimana on his next trip abroad or take the Ram sethu to go to Sri Lanka on his next visit because we can always claim that these though existed got destroyed without leaving a trace and quote mythology as irrefutable evidence! Of course this would cater well to the pride of a nation who have been always claiming to be the most advanced, cleverest, strongest, broad minded, intelligent beings on this planet.
While we have been debating over these points of an academic nature there have been more regressive, oppressive events happening in the name of another religion – Islam. Particularly the formation of a caliphate under the banner of ISIS a most dangerous, primitive barbarian group which carries out beheadings, enslavery of women, tortures and various inhuman acts under the name of Islam. Their acts remind one of the primitive days of Christianity when inquisitions, tortures, public hangings and burning of women branding them as witches was prevalent. The Islamic state seems to take us back to those days.
Are religious forces taking over the world? Are all future conflicts – wars between religions or between religions and secular forces? Only time can tell. With conflicts between Islamic state and others, with a Pakistan making warlike noises with India, are we in for more conflicts? Only the future can tell. But, one thing is for certain is that attempts are being made to make religion relevant in a world where the progress of science is posing a serious threat to religious beliefs. Looks like it you cannot beat them join them – that is why you have a Pope retracting on the church’s interpretation of the universe, a Prime Minister mixing up mythology with science and a primitive Islamic state coming up with a ruler calling himself as the Caliph. All of them have one thing in common – use science to spread superstition – only the degree and methodology differs!