During the renaissance period people were waking up from their slumber. There came the age of reason. Reason for sunlight, reason for day and night and reason for god. Common man started asking questions. The problem or conflict came when church couldn’t answer those questions.
Let’s go back to the society of those years. A picture forms in my mind. A picture of a city of Rome with all its wonderful architecture and wealth wherein reside a people who were god fearing, rule abiding and essentially non thinkers. I imagine a boy asking his mother the reason of their getting dressed up and going to church. The mother answers, “To worship god”. The boy asks, “Why?” The boy is called Montesquieu. Maybe nothing like this ever happened but Montesquieu was one of the first reformers in France or not to give him such a profound adjective a thinker. A thinker in our colloquial language is someone who thinks. These people were also people who thought but the difference was no one else did. They had a different idea of the world and how things are rather than accepting everything for the face value of it. They had a perception. An idea that changed the way they way they saw the world.
The condition of France under Louis XV was very bad. People were subjected to inequalities and social ills. Pope was the most powerful man. He was considered as chief advisor of the king or rather he chose the advisory clergy for the king. At each step and each decision pope counseled the kings. For a normal thinking being the unnecessary practices of church were irrelevant and regressive. But the church’s hold on the people was so firm that there couldn’t be any freedom from it.
In the age of reason Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau propounded the anti church and anti monarchy ideas. They essentially wanted reason to pave the way for progress. However, one of the main reasons for the church’s unwavering stand on its philosophies was the fact that god as an idea was not changing. An idea gives rise to a process of change and that change drives the society to progress. If the idea is nipped in the bud then no further action will be taken over it. Or so the church thought. An idea once incepted keeps on growing in the head and becomes the reality of the person. How much ever isolated he be kept, he will transfer this idea to his future generations by any way. And sooner or later it will become an initiator for the reaction called change.
A person or institute in power would never want to let its authority wither. By hook or crook it would want to retain its position. Church was no different. Their whole idea was based on god as the creator, destroyer and preserver of the world. Earth was the center of the whole universe. We were the supreme beings and church was the sole way to attain god or get close to him. Pope was the only messenger of god. Anyone who didn’t believe in the bible was bound to go to hell. Any other form of religion was savage and barbarious. The cross- bearers took it upon themselves to cleanse the world of these minions of devil.
At that time, as is now, man aspired for power but some way or the other didn’t want the responsibility. Probably that is why the concept of god and pope and messengers gained more popularity. That way destiny and god’s will could be blamed for the ill deeds and misfortunes.
I am not an atheist but a glance back does tell us very clearly that God came after man. Or at least, let’s agree to this, god as we worship it today was man- made. As far as my religion is concerned, with the 300 million “gods” were carefully thought of to deal with any and every problem the people that time could possibly have. The number of limbs has been imagined by us to increase or decrease the ferocity. The physical appearance defined to suit the need. The attractiveness adjusted according to the crowd it is meant for.
The free thinkers of that time did nothing but question certain aspects of life. Answers are but the destination, it’s the questions that are important for they show us the right path.
Indian renaissance came a little later and similar problems were faced by our free thinkers. Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar all pioneers in their fields were always questioned. Education is supposed to be a liberator. In their case education was supposed to have corrupted them. Such was the hold of religion. A simple logical thing that god, who gives life, would not be happy with them sacrificing one at their altars wasn’t understood by the people. When they tried to explain the futility of sati or animal sacrifice or widow re- marriage, these very pundits and messengers of gods put them down. The hold of god on man has always been strong. Man has always put his confidence in the wrong. God was never meant to help people. Again, god here is the man made omnipotent and omnipresent phenomena.
I don’t want to get into the realm of paranormal and superstitions but we have to agree religion has corrupted our lives more than enhanced it. Created more divides than brought people together. Given rise to a lot of evil. My god is superior than yours approach has taken away a lot of lives that were supposed to be considered that very god’s gift.
God and man were meant to be together but were separated when religion came in the way. We should be able to free ourselves from the prejudices propagated by the doctrines and the so called religious zealots. Like those thinkers, we should question everything we know.