Letter from New Delhi
With more and more non-believers in the West, the new style churches are taking shape but end up somewhat like the churches the atheists escape from.
A church that is not a church for non-believers in God and religion! Yes, in USA, a number of churches have been formed for people who do not believe in God or religion. The number of atheists is increasing rapidly in the west. Today, one in five Americans claim they do not belong to any religion or religious group, up from one in six five years ago, according to a recent article in TIME magazine.
The number of these non-churches is also increasing rapidly. “The rise of atheist churches is part of a growing willingness by many atheists to adopt secular versions of religious practices. It is also the result of more non-believers,” said the article. They are springing up all over USA, like the Houston Oasis, and even in the so-called Bible Belt in central USA where the grip of Christianity is very strong. They plan to launch 100 more in 15 countries by the end of 2014. About a dozen are open in the USA and almost twice as many are planning to open soon.
The beauty is that these atheist churches are very much like the traditional churches! They meet on Sundays, the group leader greets all comers at the door, they listen to music, sit for a ‘community moment’, hear speeches – not sermons – and then go to the nearby café to chat and gossip. Some quibble that it is too much like the church they left!
A book, ‘Religion for Atheists’ by Alain Bottom, argues that religion should be understood as an explanation of the origin of the world and the afterlife in addition to a set of rituals and social practices. Seems like a very religious book, Is this the new Bible for the atheists?
The paradox of these churches that are not churches is that these new groups of non-believers are closely following the long entrenched churches and will end up like them – mired in new rituals and politics.
Osho predicted the fading away if not the end of religion in the west almost half a century ago. Since they do not have any replacement, they are trying new formats instead of the path of spirituality which the west abandoned centuries ago. Yes, there are plenty of spiritual groups in the west but these are minuscule to make an impact on the public mind in a big way.
The journey from the alone to the alone, the path of spirituality, is the real way ahead to find the real meaning in life.
* * *
The Growling, Shouting, Screaming Beast Inside You
Most of the time, it lies dormant deep inside your being. When you are disturbed, provoked, annoyed, offended or insulted, it rises up. Even without these external punctures, it wakes up when your ego is hurt.
Once awakened, it soon becomes a monster out of control. As it awakens, it growls, shouts, screams and swings into a deadly attack mode that can destroy and damage your relationships, friendships and even your mental health.
What is it? The beast inside you. Naaaah! There is no beast inside me, you protest. You are so calm and cool all the time. Really? Whether you are aware or not, there is a beast inside you and indeed all of us. This beast is formed with all the deep rooted rejections, prickly comments, nasty barbs, suppressed anger and untold frustrations that we all carry deep within us. At the slightest needling, it rushes out and attacks uncontrollably.
The beast in man was first highlighted by the famous French novelist, Emile Zola in his classic novel, La Bête Humaine in 1890. The human beast here is a railway engineer who has to tame his engine that runs amok. Zola constantly reminds us that underneath the veneer of education and an accepted moral code of civilized society, the savage beast will always remain. Characteristically, the writer doesn’t shy away from baser human impulses, confronting us with a truth, not always palatable. It is a brutal study of individuals derailed by primal forces beyond their control which, at the close, leaves us questioning our belief in ourselves as civilised human beings.
The British author, Robert Louis Stevenson, wrote another classic on the same lines called Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 1886. In this novel, we have one person with two identities: a respectable Dr Jekyll and his beastly, Mr Hyde. Here is a case of a split-personality: both the good and the bad, come out. Dr Jekyll faces horrible consequences when he lets his dark side run wild with a potion that changes him into the animalistic Mr Hyde.
Both these classic novels, popular to this day, explored the crude, wild, raw nature of man for the first time in literature and both were made into movies. In the last century and even more so in this century the ugly nature of man has become a crucially important subject for mental health.
Osho has made a path-breaking contribution in taming this hidden beast. All of Osho’s active meditations are aimed at catharsis or release of pent up and deep rooted emotions, anger, trauma and disturbances. This happens in the initial stages of these techniques and only after this release you sit or lie down silently to experience the peace beyond your ever ticking mind.
“Scratch the surface a little and the beast emerges from within – and it comes out so violently that one wonders if the person was ever a human being at all, says Osho.
Now it is up to you to face your inner beast and then decide if you want to tame it and evaporate it with Osho’s meditations. Or else, at any time, it will start growling.
Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi
* Published in print edition on 21 November 2014