Do people need a religious authority to guide them? Does one authoritative figure or an institution be given an all-powerful right to be the sole representative of God or God’s words?
Most of the religions are thousands of years old that don’t even have a fixed date in ancient past or a written history of their development over time. There is, without a doubt, an enormous amount of information and knowledge generated with the genesis of each religion. Much has been said and believed over years; much has been revised with changing times. Bits and parts are reserved in the form of holy books or ancient scriptures, mostly in ancient languages which are not in use today. However, a large part of ancient religious heritage was oral words and thoughts passed on through generations of humans. It’s practically impossible to avoid contamination during multiple rounds of interpretations and subsequent discussions. The dissemination of knowledge in oral form through multiple humans can not maintain its sanctity. Even the written word has been diluted over the years with multiple interpretations written by various scholars and multiple versions printed in various languages.
All of us in current times cannot be completely aware of this knowledge in its entirety. And we invariably look around for answers. There are priests and scholars spread across the globe to share this knowledge with common men and women; they are the guiding light for us lesser informed. However, in the recent years, we have also seen many of them misusing their knowledge and power to mislead people for their personal benefits. Some of them have become self-proclaimed authority on a particular religion; some of them have received unquestioned support of followers across the world. Amongst this set of savants co-exit both the saints and genuine scholars of a particular religion with noble intentions as well as the mercenaries and frauds corrupted with absolute power. The uncomfortable truth is that we have no way of knowing who to believe.
All said and done, these authoritative figures do simplify things at times. There are millions who find comfort and peace in their sermons and advice. Millions are grateful just because they have someone who can answer their questions and whose words can hold them through tough times. Their presence is a manifestation and reinforcement of the existence of God to look after miserable and to uphold justice. Christians are lucky (or perhaps wise) because they have ‘the Pope’ and they have ‘the Vatican’. They have a clear defined organization, structure and hierarchy. However, Hindus have no single all-powerful ultimate authority to guide the followers of Hinduism. This has resulted in multitude of small factions across the nation claiming to be the authority on religion and God’s words. Sometimes I wonder who gives them that right. How do they manage to gather the courage, pride and power to direct people on paths defined by them and claim that everyone else who dare to question or does not follow their rules are fools, uneducated and traitors?
On second thoughts, aren’t these terrorists groups across the world also just another form of self-proclaimed messengers of god and an absolute authority on God’s word and the ‘right’ interpretation of their religion? Aren’t they fighting in the name of God and religion?
I guess every individual has a freedom to follow religion that comforts him / her. And no one has to necessarily follow the rules declared by some organization.