Thursday, July 18, 2024

Can religion be questioned?

Must Read

Religion is a strong phenomenon. Questioning and critiquing religion constitutes one of the oldest practices in the world of philosophy, theology & science. The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was forced to consume a glass of hemlock. This is because he was indicted by the Athenian government for “corrupting the minds of youth, including raising critical questions about religion”. In that context, Yuval Noah Harari holds the view that religion is a good example of storytelling of homo sapiens.

- Advertisement -

Religion is a powerful social force, but can it be questioned?

Hindu thought and nature

Therefore, questioning religion is indeed a risky business. However, a comparative study of religions across societies and periods of time has revealed that the Abrahamic faiths are far too sensitive to criticism of religion than other oriental faiths.

- Advertisement -

This is evident from the example of Hinduism. This beautiful religion/faith has a distinct 5000 year old heritage dating back (probably) to the days of the Indus valley civilization.

However, Hinduism has a rich legacy of argumentative nature. Amartya Sen, in The Argumentative Indian talked at length about the argumentative and critical nature of Hindu religious philosophical thought.

- Advertisement -

This is a reference to the Charvaka or Lokayata school of thought which questioned the authority of the holy Vedas and denied that there existed, the concept of afterlife and its associated beliefs in sin and good deeds.

The beauty of Sanatan Dharma lies in accommodating and subsuming, peacefully, the opposite currents of thought with the aim of emerging as a better religion. Therefore, it can be legitimately claimed that Hinduism truly encourages questioning beliefs, no matter how controversial those beliefs are.

Abrahamic faiths

When it comes to the Abrahamic faiths like Judaism, Islam and Christianity, things get a bit complicated. Judaism is a peaceful religion now, but the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible contains horrific graphic description of what to do with non-believers.

This claim has been made by Steven Pinker in his book The Better Angels of Our NatureHowever, the Jewish people are one of the persecuted ethnic communities in the world and have every right to defend themselves when it comes to defending their homeland.


Coming to Christianity now, people consider it to be a very peace loving faith. But the reality is far from that.

In the same book’s fourth chapter- The Humanitarian revolution, the author has given a description of massive deaths in the European wars of religion from 1524-1680.

He describes in detail the gruesome nature of the Spanish and Portuguese inquistions. One of the objectives of the Age of reason in Europe was to improve the moralistic and ethical outlook of religion which can allow abjuring from violence.


The most controversial Abrahamic faith in question is Islam. Islam doesn’t criticism of any religious beliefs and ideals of itself. One cannot question the Shariat, the nature of holy prophet Muhammed, and his complicated life.

Richard Dawkins in an interview with Mehdi Hassan has stated that apostasy in Islam is punishable with death.

In that context, Henry Kissinger has highlighted that in the early years of its expansion, the Arab caliphate gave three options to ‘infidels’- either convert, or pay taxes and live as second class citizens or die.

Even today a highly respected writer like Salman Rushdie have suffered a stabbing attack last year due to his extremely controversial book The Satanic Verses and the ensuing fatwa issued against it by the Iranian supreme leader back in 1988. The premise was that it was critical of Islam and the content of the book was blasphemous by nature.


Religion of any kind must catch up with the present circumstances and must adapt itself to changing circumstances. If cannot do that and if its constructive criticism is not allowed then humanity risks falling back to the middle ages. That is why questioning religious beliefs is so important.









- Advertisement -

More articles

- Advertisement -

Latest Article