In a previous post, “Where to be Born,” I had written “There’s something toxic about the Indian subcontinent. (Hint: it has something to do with a desert religion.)” Addressing that point, Vickram commented —
Hint: There are several countries of primarily desert religion that are much above India.
Question: Could it be that your own religion is the culprit?
Modified Hint: Your own religion preaches subhuman treatment to a very vast section of the population bringing down average quality of life for all.
Certainly there are several countries much above India in the list of preferred places to be born — including “desert religion” countries. By itself that does not imply anything about that religion because there are multiple causal factors that determine the fortunes of a country. My point was that everything else being equal, the presence of the desert religion in the mix does not improve matters but rather it makes it worse.
The empirical evidence is incontrovertible. Across space and time, wherever that desert religion has had its baleful influence, there’s been lack of prosperity. Places which were peaceful before, once the desert religion got its stranglehold, descended into barbarity and chaos. The reason for this can be summed up in one word: freedom. That desert religion imprisons people.
First it mandates the forcible conversion of people into it. The punishment for leaving the religion is death. Second, it divides all of humanity into believers and non-believers, and forces the two groups into eternal conflict. Third, it suppresses all dissent and makes people into automatons.
All this is not conducive to any kind of human or economic development. The Indian subcontinent is a study in the destruction that the ideology achieves. The people of the region are of course backward in general but the degree of backwardness of specific groups and sub-regions is positively correlated with the degree of influence of that ideology.
Practically all the on-going conflicts in the world involve adherents of that desert religion. That is not surprising: as mentioned before, the religion mandates its faithful to wage ceaseless war against others. Huntington had observed that that religion’s borders are bloody. He went further and said that its innards are also bloody. The two major sects of that religion slaughter each other with gusto as a distraction from the routine killing of non-believers.
People who were once peaceful turn murderously violent once that desert religion takes hold. Afghanistan used to be home to a peaceful people just a few centuries ago. Its tranquility and peace were shattered when it gave up its old religion and adopted the desert religion. Its people suffer immensely.
In modern times, Iran used to be a fairly good place. Then the great revolution happened and the ideology took over. Iranians suffer needlessly.
People in Western Europe are beginning to suffer. And more is on the way.
India was entirely free of that ideology. Then it arrived in the Indian subcontinent. Two of India’s present day neighbors are countries which have as their foundation that desert religion. Both are worse off than India. They wage war on India for no other reason than that a large segment of Indians are non-believers of their insane ideology.
That ideology defines the culture of the people who identify with it. Culture strongly determines peoples’ fortunes. The results of an interesting natural experiment are conclusive. People from the Indian subcontinent have migrated to different parts of the world. Those migrants of the native Indian culture do phenomenally well relative to those migrants with the desert religion culture. Look up the statistics. In the UK, just to cite one example, South Asians immigrants from that desert religion are at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, while those from cultures not from that desert religion are at the top.
In India, the followers of the desert religion are more backward relative to others. They are poorer, less educated, less socially cohesive, less at peace with their neighbors. Of course, it is possible that they are systematically discriminated against since they are a minority. But people in those to aforementioned neighboring countries are not a minority — what accounts for their obvious backwardness?
Followers of that desert religion take immense pride in pointing out that they ruled the Indian subcontinent for centuries. Well, if that speaks to the superiority of that ideology, then how would one explain that even after lording it over their supposed inferiors for centuries they end up at the bottom of the heap?
It may not be politically correct to point this out but it is time that we examined dispassionately the proposition that the desert ideology has something rotten in it that it impoverishes people. But then it is not a matter that will engage the attention of the leftists, the jholawalas and the mombatti-walas. All they are good at is making bald assertions about how wonderful that ideology is and that’s that.
One of the favorite deflectionary tactic of the jholawalas is to hide behind the tu quoque logical fallacy. Faced with undeniable evidence that that desert religion is destructive, they may respond, “But Christianity and Judaism are equally bad.” I have seen this gambit from quite a few Westerners. (Not all jholawalas are necessarily Indian.)
There are two objections to this kind of nonsense. First, those ideologies are cats of the same breed. All the three major monotheistic ideologies are bad. The late Gore Vidal put it best. “The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism.” Let Vidal speak —
The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved–Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal–God is the omnipotent father–hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not for just one tribe but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good.
Go read Vidal’s lecture “(The Great Unmentionable) Monotheism and its Discontents,” which he delivered in Harvard University in April 1992.
The second objection to the jholawalas nonsensical tu quoque argument is that while monotheism as an ideology is evil, not all followers of the evil three behave equally badly. The oldest has the fewest followers (a few million in total) and they are quite happy with their ideology and don’t believe that everyone has to believe in their theology. They don’t proselytize, unlike the other two.
The second monotheism in the triad has the largest number of followers in the world. The ideology states that those who don’t believe in the nonsense are condemned for eternity in hell. It prescribes to its followers that they should go and convert the non-believers, and many indeed do. But the followers of this monotheism have matured a bit in the recent past and they are not as murderous as they used to be.
Indeed the followers of the first two have become sufficiently mature that criticizing the ideology does not make them go off into a murderous rage. The third desert ideology is vicious, vengeful and cannot tolerate criticism. To that extent, it is the most uncertain of the truth of its proposition.
But the third desert ideology is the most vicious of all ideologies so far invented by humans. It commands its faithful to kill those who refuse to convert, as previously noted. It kills its own children who want to leave the faith. And all the time it proclaims that it is the most best perfect unique unalterable grand shining magnificent perfect superb best perfect grand profound perfect . . .
Enough to make a body scream enough already.
As Hitchens used to say, it makes some rather tall claims for itself — claims to supremacy and to perfection. Of course, if it were all that wonderful, how come it has to keep its people imprisoned and kill those who wish to leave? Have you heard of any club which they claim is so wonderful that everyone must join but if they try to leave they are beheaded?
Anyway, Indian jholawalas trot out the “you are a Hindutva fanatic” and “Hinduism is equally bad” the moment they hear any criticism of the desert religion.
I am happy to state that I am a Hindu. I am a Hindu because of accident of birth — my parents were Hindu. I am also a Hindu by default — as I am not a Christian, Jew or Muslim. More broadly, I am a follower of what is called the “dharmic” traditions — those that arose in India — which includes Jainism and Buddhism.
The dharmic traditions do not make claims to supremacy. They do not imprison their people. People are free to leave, if they so desire. They are not immutable. They are not revealed, and therefore their truths can be discovered through reason. What does not accord with reason can be rejected and there is no penalty.
I am a Hindu but I am also an atheist. I don’t believe in anything that does not make sense to me. I don’t believe in the supernatural. I don’t care what you believe in or don’t believe in.
I don’t judge people for what their beliefs are. I judge ideologies for what they are. I judge people based on how they behave. I think Wafa Sultan, an apostate from the desert religion, put is very nicely: “Brother, I don’t care what you believe in. You can believe in a stone as long as you don’t throw it at me.”
I am a Hindu but I don’t believe that Hinduism is perfect. Neither do I believe that Hindus are infallible. I take what I want from whatever ideology that is (according to me) reasonable and sensible. I am a free person. This is quite contrary to what that desert religion would have people behave.
So now to the final point in Vickram’s comment. Is India’s backwardness due to Hinduism?
India is backward and its culture has something to do with it. As religion has a major role in defining culture, and since India is predominantly Hindu, I would say that Hinduism has something in it that makes it hard for India to prosper.
Vickram no doubt pointed to Hinduism to deflect blame from the desert religion. Heaven forbid that anyone ever point a finger at that most holiest of ideologies. Tauba, tauba. Hai main marjava.
Or perhaps his point was that all religions are equally bad. Which of course is one of the more asinine points made by jholawalas. (I don’t know Vickram and therefore cannot know for sure that he’s a jholawala.)
The asininity of “all religions are equally bad” brings to mind Isaac Asimov’s point that right and wrong are relative concepts and are not absolutes. Here’s what he wrote in an essay “The Relativity of Wrong” in the Skeptical Inquirer (Fall, 1989). The context: someone had written to him pointing out many people had been shown to be wrong in the past and therefore all scientific understanding of the world is likely to be wrong.
My answer to him was, “John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”
The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that “right” and “wrong” are absolute; that everything that isn’t perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong.
However, I don’t think that’s so. It seems to me that right and wrong are fuzzy concepts, and I will devote this essay to an explanation of why I think so.
That is where the tu quoque argument falls. Not all religions are equally bad. There are degrees of “badness” of religions, you can say. Some are indeed worse than others. My point is that that desert religion is the worst of the lot.