Christmas, Religion, and Health

“Religion is a way of walking, not a way of talking.”

William R. Inge (1868-1957)

Christmas is almost here and that gives me a chance to talk about religion.

I have lived in four continents and I have spent most of my adult life amongst people of different religions. I agree with Robert Burton (1577-1640), who said, “One religion is as true as another.” All religions teach the same virtues – forgiveness, kindness and generosity.

If one religion is as true as another then why do we need so many labels? Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) said that sensible men are all of the same religion. And what religion is that? Sensible men never tell!

But the current world atmosphere makes it difficult not to talk about one’s religion. Look at the politicians in this country and the USA. Religious beliefs come up for discussion all the time. Elections are fought and won on what is religiously right. It seems our values and politics are judged on the basis of our religion. There is no end to stereotyping.

What I don’t understand is why it is necessary for a sensible man to talk about his religion in public? Here, I agree with Sean O’Casey (1880-1964), who said “I think we ought to have as great a regard for religion as we can, so as to keep it out of as many things as possible.” To this I would add, let common sense prevail so that society can be just and kind.

Every religion has its share of bigots, zealots and fanatics. This is not something new. It’s been there for centuries. These people promote their brand of religious beliefs which promote divisions and hatred rather than forgiveness, kindness and generosity.

But I believe the vast majority of people (whatever their religion) use religion and spiritualism to promote good health, happiness and brotherhood of man. It is used to achieve peace and tranquility in life.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) said, “Life as we find it is too hard for us; it entails too much pain, too many disappointments, and impossible tasks. We cannot do without palliative remedies.” Unfortunately, religion is not what he had in mind when he suggested palliative remedies. In fact, he said that when a man is freed of religion, he has a better chance to live a normal and wholesome life.

Now, some people would agree with that. Since every religion imposes on its followers certain type of discipline. Some religions are more rigid than others. But many people find common sense flexibility more attractive than dogmatic rigidity.

Most sensible people carry on life the way they feel is best for them and their families, in a quite way, without making waves or hurting anybody’s feelings. After all one’s religion should be something very personal. Many people find happiness and comfort in religious activities in a quite way. And that is good. The happier you are, the healthier you feel.

Remember what George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) said, “There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.” Let us respect them all so we can do unto others what we like done to us.

Merry Christmas and a safe holiday season.

Thought for Christmas:

At Christmas play and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year.
Thomas Tusser (1524-1580)

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