With regard to many saints it is related that they licked clean the wounds of lepers because they were serving God manifested in the form of the lepers. In the Gita the worshiper of God has been ordered to engage in the service of all living beings.
Love and service are accorded considerable importance in the Christian religion. Christ served the poor, convalescing and sorrowing people throughout his life which culminate in his fructification in the interests of the public.
Islamic religion has encouraged the tendency of brotherhood. Buddhist religion has preached non-violence, compassion and sympathy. Similarly, even hi ancient tribal religions the people recognizing the same totem or God were well organized. Religion has always generated a sense of belongingness hi society.
2. Religion and Education:
Religion has served humanity through the spreading of education. In almost all places in the world, the spread of education has had an important place in all religious campaigns and the activities of religious institutions.
Priests hi Christian churches and their contemporaries in Islamic mosques, Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries, have long been engaged in the spreading of education
Religion also caused some encouragement to higher education. While Nalanda and Texilla were the centers of Buddhist religion, they were at the same time the bases of knowledge and consummate mastery. The different communities made serious efforts to spread education among the members of their community.
There has been a tradition of medical service in society in the name of religion. The fundamental reason for such a move is that the religious person treats the service of the helpless and ill as a part of his worship to God. In order to stock up virtue and donate a feeling for service it is a tradition among rich people to open hospitals, distribute medicines and necessary clothes, etc. An important aspect of the daily life of saints is service.
3. Religion and Alms-giving:
To religion is conjoined alms-giving. Christianity, Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu and all other religions have accepted the importance of alms-giving. In Hindu religion, a person who consumes without giving alms is thieving, given in Islam, it is a religious constitution to give as alms a part of one’s income.
The purpose of alms was the economic assistance to the poor members of society. It prevented inequality in society and maintained the balance. Even today one comes across people indulging in such activities as distributing clothes; some people go to the extent of giving everything in the name of religion.
4. Religions and Forbearance:
All religions have emphasized sacrifice and forbearance. Christ said that if a person begs you for your coat give him your cloak as well and if slapped on one cheek, present the other. This religious tolerance is in evidence from Christ to Martin Luther, Buddha to Asoka, and from ancient Indian saints to Gandhi.
5. Religion and Non-violence:
All the founders of religion the world over, Christ, Buddha, Mohammed and Hindu seers, and saints have preached love and non-violence. Jainas and Buddhists treated non-violence as the supreme duty.
Mohammed himself suffered many kinds of cruelty. Even when Christ was mounting the cross, he begged God to forgive those who were responsible for this gross misdeed. Although Gandhiji had been shot, he politely addressed the assailant and bowed.
Religion also augments the feeling of world brotherhood. As far as a religious person is concerned, everyone has been made by God and all worship Him in different forms and names. In this way religion generates a sense of the “world as a family.”
Christ, Gandhi, Buddha and Mohammed, not to mention other religious sages, have all preached world brotherhood. Religion teaches the lesson of sacrifice and service, removing selfishness and material tendencies.
Immoral Activities Under a Religious Pretext:
But all these good activities in the name of religion in society do not imply that immoral acts have not been done under a religious pretext. The society has also been harmed as it has been assisted by religion and consequently some people want to eradicate the name of religion from society. One can say the following things on the subject.
Religion has been the basis of dogmatism. Fearing God and the next world, religious people do not have the courage to break ancient traditions and customs. In this way religion has become the most serious obstacle to negation of child marriage, widow remarriage, the sati custom etc. Religion has handicapped social progress.
In this way, women have been mercilessly exploited in the name of religion, in human history. The religious scholars have stripped her of all rights and made her the slave of man. The principle of Karma prevented the poor and injured from revolting against exploitation.
Religion encouraged fatalism and people became addicted to laziness Even today, thousands of men in different religions live a parasitic life, a burden to society, on religious pretensions. In India thousands of people garbed as sages live a lazy life, becoming a burden to society.
4. Violence and war:
Bloody wars have been fought for centuries both in the east and west on the same pretext. The pages of human history are cluttered with accounts of the bloodsheds of the Crusades and the ‘Jihaads’.
In Europe alone, some four hundred men and women were burnt alive in the name of religion. In India, such religious fanatics as Aurangzeb wielded cruelty to other religious people, again in the name of religion.
5. Despise and hatred:
In this way religion was responsible for currents of hatred and despising which pulsate in society. If God had lent his ears to these religious people in their pleas for the destruction of others, man would not have soiled the face of this planet today.
In Hindu-Muslim communal riots hi India, naked women were taken out in procession and beaten with whips, unearned children thrown into the fire, the breasts of women severed and people turned out of their countries and compelled to beg and roam. Viewing these inhuman activities in the name of religion, one doubt whether religion makes man a saint or devil.
6. Religion and Religionism:
But even after seeing these defeats religion cannot be deported from society. Religion cannot be irrevocably condemned for their sake because similar deeds have been done in the name of politics, science, race, country and state. Whenever any ideals and thoughts are transformed into institutions in society their life energy becomes petrified as it gets entangled in external limitations and this culminates in the body being worshipped instead of the soul.
The truths of religion were destroyed as they had become involved, not inextricably, in scriptures, churches, methods of worships, priests and other fry of the congregation; separating the latter from true religion, Sri Aurobindo has christianed it religionism. All defects attributed to religion are the defects of religionism. Religionism is as false and harmful as racism, casteism, groupism and narrow nationalism.