Suraj Prajapati-   Persuing MBA at Thakur Institue of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

Having been brought up in a moderate religious tradition, I have been able to question, ponder and reflect over the purpose of religion. Many see religion as a sort of control mechanism, restricting the followers to blind belief, enhancing prejudice and, essentially, an outdated concept for people who are scared of death; so they choose to invent ideas about: a God, heaven and hell and all other sorts of metaphysical concepts. I, however, believe that religion is essential for society. Religion is a force for good. Atheists, secularists and rationalists may be snarl at that last comment, but let me share with you the most profound reason why a human being needs religion. You see, by nature, a human being’s conscious state is that of tension and the contradictions ingrained in our personality denote that our origin is fraught with problems. Everybody, I repeat, everybody has personality defects. Whether it be a lack of patience, anger management problems, uncontrollable lustful passions or even the vice of extreme laziness. It is crucial that we address these problems. There is no better system in human society which deals with a human being’s innate contradictions and flaws than religion. Every religion deals with these human problems by discouraging them, and even enforcing punishments for those who do not try and combat them. All religions echoer the biblical message of ”Love the neighbour” -it is at the heart of all religious traditions. But deeper, more profound messages are taught within religion pertaining to: ethics in business, the environment and the importance of virtue even within your own household.

Some at this point will be thinking…”I can be a good person, I don’t need religion!” But I pose the question-who are you to define what is good? Good, without religion, is a wholly subjective term. Ask a million people what good is, and you’ll get a million different answers. Furthermore, is a human being able to struggle with oneself to defeat the contradictions within his personality without religion? Maybe slightly, but they can’t achieve self mastery. The primary purpose of religion therefore, is to completely suppress these sinful inclinations in man or woman so that they can better themselves as individuals. And holistically speaking, better the whole of society. Once these harmful, innate inclinations are suppressed, beneficial innate inclinations will start to eminate from a human being without them thinking twice. This is without doubt the highest state a human being can achieve. Whereby they suppress the evil and promote the good (naturally). They, in effect, no longer need to turn to the teachings of religion, but they will end up teaching others about religion through their daily practises. This is the spiritual state all those who follow a religion should strive for.

However, it would be a idiotic of me to assume that the current state of religion is perfect-because frankly, it’s not. Religion can be used as a tool for bigotry, racism and prejudice. But, is it the religion itself which advocates such things? No. It is the ‘followers’ of that religion. Using certain scriptual verses out of context, or particular concepts in an unjust way, people can use religion to further their ignorant and evil intentions. But at the same time, books like Richard Dawkins ‘The God delusion’ (which basically calls religious followers backward and stupid) can be used to increase prejudice against religious followers and increase tensions between atheists and believers.

What do I propose? Religion needs a reformation. Not a reformation of central beliefs or practises. But a change in the way we go about religion in the 21st Century. We need to adapt our religious customs with the change in time without changing the religion itself. This is why I believe liberalism and religion do not necessarily contradict per se. Religion needs intellectual and academic scholars to steer religion and the followers of religion in the right direction. Albert Einsten once said ‘science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind.’ One must not follow a religion blindly, but must test their intellectual capacity, think rationally and deliberate over their religion. Intellectuals such as Hamza Yusuf, say, without religion, the human psyche can enter into a state of despair. It is not religion that needs to change, but our understanding. By-Omar Shahid (journalist)

Launch of Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century Graeme Innes Race and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Australian Human Rights Commission Canberra, 21 March 2011 I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and I pay my respects to their elders past and present. I also acknowledge colleagues from government, and from non-government organisations, including from a wide range of churches and faith-based organizations Back in July 2005, the Council of Australian Governments decided that there should be a National Action Plan to Build on Social Cohesion, Harmony and Security. Under the plan, which Ministers endorsed in 2006, the Australian Human Rights Commission was funded to undertake a range of projects. One of the projects which the Commission was funded to undertake has been an extensive project, of community consultation and research, on Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century. The National Action Plan focuses on fostering connections and understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians. And so the Commission’s programs, funded under the Plan, do include a particular aim of increasing social inclusion for new and emerging communities, and countering discrimination and intolerance towards Australia’s Muslim communities.

But of course, we knew that a project on freedom of religion and belief in Australia could not be confined only to concerns for one particular faith group. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of religion and belief was proclaimed as a fundamental right for “everyone”: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law, and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions. So, since freedom of religion and belief is a right for people of all faiths, a wide range of faith groups were consulted during this As well as hearing from faith based perspectives, the consultation also heard from people and organisations who sought to emphasise that freedom of religion and belief also includes freedom from having other people’s beliefs imposed upon them. These views, too, are reflected throughout the report.

As well as discussing these ‘big picture’ issues, which arise across the whole spectrum of religion and belief in Australia, the consultations gave space to people whose religion might be considered by many to be outside the mainstream of religion in Australia. Inclusivity and respect are certainly hallmarks of this work. As the many people here involved in promoting positive inter-faith dialogue and co-operation know, you don’t have to share someone’s religious belief to respect their right to hold and exercise that belief. Many people involved in this have said that the opportunities to share perspectives with people with different beliefs was as valuable as the opportunity to have their own voice heard.. . I do want to celebrate this report, as the culmination of a process through which individuals, communities and organisations around Australia, have come forward, and let us hear their voices on what freedom of religion and belief means to them. As such, it will inform the conversation into the future.

Conclision: Live together for ever