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Environmental Ethics: 4.1 Rationality (1)

Author:  Image of S.M. JainS.M. Jain
Published: 17.02.2012

An essential pre-requisite:

Rational is what is based on sound reason and is best in a given situation relating to the subject or the object, place, time and intent. Rational attitude and behaviour is that which is beneficial to all and cause no or least harm to any of the constituents of environment both animate and inanimate. Human beings, the homo-sapiens have superior power of reasoning. Ever since its evolution mankind has been questioning, analysing, synthesising and reasoning the various phenomena in nature all around and evolving, synchronising attitudinal and behavioural patterns, modes, ethos and life styles. Initially the Palaeolithic man had very limited needs of food, clothing and shelter and got all that was required from abundant natural forests covering the entire surface of the planet earth then. The population was automatically checked proportionate and commensurate to available food. Extravagant vulgar consumerism prevalent now was non-existent. It is not rational to be cruel to other life-forms and physical constituents of environment because all constituents are essential part of nature, the whole system, all playing their useful roles for mutual benefit to sustain and maintain the system. It is irrational to exploit other constituents beyond their carrying capacity by unbridled proliferation in numbers (population explosion) and insatiable consumerism. To attribute unlimited number of children (even beyond one’s capacity to support) as gift of imaginary God is not rational. It is also not rational to attribute various phenomena to will of some super power and ignore the principle of cause and effect. Rationality enjoins proper analysis of phenomena, their causes and remedies by appropriate actions, not leaving on any super or lesser power to come from some where and help. A rationalist will have scientific temper and does not subscribe to superstitious beliefs, blind faith, dogmas and inaction. If mankind adopts rational attitude and behaviour there will be no harm to environment.

Agriculture and genesis of superstitions:

Accidental birth of agriculture changed the whole scenario. Forests were cut and burnt extensively to prepare land for agriculture. Though a large group initially stuck to forest based livelihood, it also has to resort to hunting in absence of diminishing availability of food from shrinking forests. These two new occupations of agriculture and hunting disturbed the harmonious balance and symbiotic eco-systems. With expanding agriculture population increased, more and more forests were destroyed upsetting even the climatic patterns. Both the professions of agriculture and hunting depended on chance circumstances more often beyond control of man. Some selfish wily people took advantage of uncertainty in success or failure of agriculture and hunting and articulated occult practices of future forecasting, controlling misfortunes by their portended superpowers to cure diseases, bring fortunes etc., by misguiding gullible people and it generated irrational superstitious beliefs and practices which are galore even in the modern, civilised and highly technical societies all over the globe. The changed environment, because of destruction of forest-based model which was symbiotic and cooperative and expansion of agriculture which is predatory and exploitative, the intermittent successes and failures, vagaries of nature, floods, droughts, pestilences and wars created deep scars on the psyche of mankind. Human psyche became more and more susceptible to temptations promising quick results without effort, though with long term harmful consequences and became prone to promises and prophesies false or real, irrational, virtual and occult practices. The fundamental natural principle of cause and effect got ignored more often than not. The rational way to solve problems, amend and correct wrongs is to analyse the causes, evolve suitable measures, make efforts and take appropriate action. This was mistakenly considered time consuming and painstaking. People by and large were allured and succumbed to the temptations articulated by wicked tricksters, ritualists and occult practitioners who gave false assurances of results, benefits without effort. Under their influence people grew more and more superstitious and the menace is growing even now inflicting incalculable harm to social and physical environment.

Exploitation under garb of superstition:

Several ways were adopted by some cunning persons to deceive and entice gullible people to ensure their easy incomes. Fear was created of various spurious gods and goddesses or even of dead ancestors. Rituals were propagated and established to propitiate and appease these imaginary spirits. The methods adopted were dubious. Agents were hired to propagate the false beliefs and practices. The agents were made to act as if spirits of some dead has taken possession of their bodies. Agents were paid to pretend as patients and then propagate that they were cured. The paid agents or blind followers attribute miracles to their saints, idols of deities to allure people. Any stone or object of whatever form, shaped or not, was installed and worshipped to bestow boons. Cruelties such as beating, burning by hot iron rods were perpetrated on patients suffering from various diseases particularly mental. Women suffering from mental disease hysteria were treated badly even exploited sexually.

Women with other mental disorders and on the pretext of their some sort of abnormal behaviour were defamed as witches and treated badly, ostracised, stoned and even killed. Forced “Sati” ritual i.e. burning alive the wife with deceased husband was perpetuated with ulterior motives and even deified for selfish property interest of relatives. Extortion of money was the main objective. The practices are still continuing. Many tribals even now make promises to their spurious deities that they would burn such an such tract of forest several hundred hectares for getting boons.

Superstitious astrology:

Astrologers and soothsayers articulate their prophesies in such a language that these will be construed true either way whether true or false. Influence of various planets on individuals got highly ritualised. Planets have balancing effects on each other as sun, moon etc. on earth as a whole but certainly not on a particular individual in a particular way. There is no rational what-so-ever that the planets can be propitiated and appeased by rituals to ward off the evil effect on a particular individual. Initially only seven planets were known and their good and bad effects on particular individual were propagated. Astronomical discoveries are now adding to the number of known planets. Astrologers have inculcated fear in gullible people about planets “RAHU” and “KATU” which do not exist at all. Births of individuals during a particular conjunction of stars and planets were interpreted ominous and otherwise. It is an extreme example of superstition that births of children were manipulated by caesarean operations to conform to a specific conjunction of stars and planets so that the children get destined to be senior officers, ministers etc. The fact is that in a labour room in a hospital where 3 or 4 or more children born at a same time, at same place (Latitude and Longitude) do not have same destinies. The scientific rational is chance genetic mutations and subsequent environment in which, children are brought up. There are examples of children brought up by monkeys or other animals behaving as such animals. Systematic astrology, palmistry etc. are based on collection of data of very large number of people born on particular date and time and possessing various symptoms or lines on palms etc. These data have been generalised. It is like any statistical prediction with probabilities of errors. By chance prediction, if cases of a few people materialise and then these people work as honorary agents propagating that such and such astrologer or soothsayer makes correct prophesies. This has multiplier effect. Astrology attributes the same power to planets as assigned to one almighty unitary God, to various non-existent spirits, and numerous worshipped idols of deities which are superstitially believed to control and shape the lives of people. This negates and makes redundant individual efforts, good and bad deeds, which are really the causes for their effects good and bad. It is individual who shapes his destiny and not astrology, its planets, supreme God, spirits or idols of deities. Astrologers have admitted that they cannot predict mega calamities at macro levels such as Tsunami. As a matter of fact it should be easier to predict events at macro level then at micro level. It should be better and rational if people rely on their actions rather than on astrology.

Propitiation of various deities with superstitious beliefs:

The same is true for people going on pilgrimages to pay obeisance to various deities for asking various boons viz. children, money, promotion, success in litigation. Strangely those persons, who survive in train or road accidents, propagate that they have been saved by the deity ignoring that others who died travelling with them were also devotees of the same deity. Likewise some people hardly a miniscule percentage get by chance or effort what they wished after visit to deity, they propagate and create multiplier effect. Psychologically people start making efforts to achieve desired goals and simultaneously beseech a deity and succeed, they attribute to the deity and not to the effort. There are cases of large number of people of all religions going on various pilgrimages to places of deities, saints or other holy places dying in accidents, fires, stampede, drowning etc. and deities and even all powerful God do not save them. Religions emphasise discipline which is most lacking at places of worships, pilgrimages, rituals and that is the main reason for deaths and injuries by fire, stampede etc. If a particular person is not harmed in the accident there are several factors viz. his position (place), genetic strength and impact of force at his place. Even dedicated saints and recluses, devoting most of their time all through their life in worship and other rituals in obeisance to famous deities suffer diseases, hardships and even imprisonment. There are cases of immoral activities including sexual exploitation of woman devotees in so called holy premises of temples etc. There is perpetuating blind faith that the deity they are worshipping will come from somewhere and help them. Many deities being worshiped are articulated icons of good, brave, Samaritan men and women. In India there are icons on the boundaries of villages popularly known as Kshetrapalas (Protectors of the area of the village). Actually icons are of some brave persons who fought invaders and died to save the village people from atrocities. Likewise Vaishnodevi, Jeenmata and such others were real or mythological idols of women, brave and courageous who fought and overpowered bad atrocious persons termed devils. Karnimata or Karnidevi of Bikaner (Deshnok), worshiped widely, was a real women in recent history, was benevolent and obsessed with her benevolence she was made a deity after her death. The widely revered deities in India Shiva, Rama, Krishna, Hanuman, Ganesha etc. were real or mythological persons who were brave, courageous, righteous and benevolent. Hanuman was not monkey but a human being. Different tribes, kingdoms had different marks on their respective flags of birds, snakes, monkey etc. and their clans were known as such Nagas (snakes on their flag) etc. The various shapes, and shades of idols of different deities viz. Ganesha, Hanuman, Shiva, Durga etc. are just imaginative perceptions of artists which in due course with spurious attributes of miracles got deified and entrenched in religious rituals. Ganesha, the elephant god is a glaring example of unbelievable unscientific interpretation because at no point of time the head of the youngest elephant can measure up to fit on the torso of even healthiest human being lest on that of a child. The point is that it is alright to worship such persons as it should remind us of their good qualities, life styles, precepts and motivate us to follow their ideals but not that they will come and do our work. Any student if keeps on reciting devotional song or the name of his deity will not get through the examinations unless he reads his course books. Likewise no person will achieve anything unless he makes efforts for it.

Begging from inanimate powerless idols:

It is really amazing that humans though wisest of all living beings, worship and beg from the idol they themselves have made, installed and deified. Thefts of such idols, their valuable ornaments are common. The idols which cannot protect themselves, their own belongings are supposed to protect the devotees, help them get their desires fulfilled. It is a greatest fallacy and contradiction of all logic and wisdom human beings are supposed to have. Idols are only good as objects to help concentration while meditating and to remember ideals, good deeds and preachings of good people whose idols are made. However, devotees do quite opposite not at all intended by the Samaritans, philanthropists, brave and benevolent persons whose idols have been deified. They are worshipped only to get boons, fulfil desires without effort. The intelligent crooks taking advantage of the lethargy and the weakness of human psyche to get results without effort, exploited the people. The ideals, efforts, good deeds of iconic persons are not at all imbibed and followed. Human intellect and reasoning has been so much overshadowed by blind irrational faith that the mischievous libidinous persons have successfully introduced pornography and obscene sexuality in many religions, in their literature, art, temples and practices. In one of the sect icon of genitals of man and woman in actual copulation is widely worshiped. While sexuality is discouraged in most of the prescribed codes of conduct in scriptures ironically some of the same scriptures contain titillating pornography.

Waste of money on ostentatious rituals:

There are rituals, processions, ceremonies and constructions of places of worship and money in billions and billions is spent every year. The amount spent on superstitious shows is colossal and can be used on education, health and better livelihood for millions suffering from poverty, basic sanitation, and health facilities. The good persons on whose name there is ostentatious vulgar display never said that they should be worshiped. They only preached good conduct they themselves followed. If out of regard for them, their icons are to be deified and worshiped then, the places of worship should exhibit simplicity not costly marble, golden paintings, platings, ornaments etc. The rituals, processions and ceremonies are not at all necessary. Electric and other decorations cost high and deprive farmers, industries and others who need power. There is very high decibel singing and beating of trumpets causing avoidable noise pollution. Fireworks are also displayed on religious occasions, which is sheer waste of money and cause very harmful pollution. There is pernicious practice of immersion of thousands of idols of Ganesha, Durga etc. in water bodies, tanks and rivers which is highly polluting. Ideally and rationally the places of worship should be peaceful without noise and other disturbances so as to facilitate meditations in order to recollect and imbibe the ideals and precepts of great persons. The crooks, the so called agents of gods and goddesses have devised and perpetuated all the extravaganza for their own interest and livelihood by befooling and misleading people in blind faith.

Beggar saints and pseudo saints:

Even the well meaning persons who relinquish their family life and become ascetics with the purpose of devoting maximum time in meditation, study of scriptures and preaching follow almost the same beaten track of superstitious beliefs. Most of the ascetics or recluses, saints live on alms and begging. To be parasitic as beggars is not a good example for their followers. It is not ideal to run away from challenges of life as a householder and a responsible person. To cope with stresses and strains of life is a great art and challenge. Coping with various situations in life is a long cognitive process which one learns with age and experience and a person however great, saintly and erudite who have not experienced the challenges and learnt the art to cope with is certainly not competent to advise and guide the house holders. But the recluses and ascetics even though ignorant of experiences and without necessary cognitive competence have the audacity to preach and advise. Surprisingly a vast majority of people flock to them for advice. There are only a few exceptions who were saints as well as professionals in their respective jobs and earned their own livelihood. In between there are many shades of pseudo saints who adopt ascetism and put on the garb of a saint as a profession and amass wealth. In many religions there is customary practice of proscripting young and very young boys and girls as disciple ascetics. When these young ascetics grow up as adults they stray away from their model code of conduct under the impact of surging sex hormones and there are cases of sexual indulgence by monks and nuns within themselves and outside also. This brings a very bad name for the institutions for ascetics otherwise proclaimed to be pious and puritan. There are cases of sexual exploitation even by senior and aged saints. It is better to get married and lead a faithful married life by ascetics than to transgress the vow of celibacy. There are cases of other sensuous indulgence by saints and heads of rich religious institutions which then results in misappropriation of funds, cheating and other financial irregularities and also rivalry culminating in wars of words, fists and even murders forcing the state to take legal action. Some heads of rich religious institutions live such a opulent and ostentatious life that is envy of even autocratic royalties of past. They live two life-styles, one as a devoted saint, ritualist, worshiper and preacher and the other luxurious and licentious indulging secretly in all sorts of sensuous pleasures including women and wine. In spite of their short comings having been disclosed, they are revered by gullible superstitious people who throng to them for seeking their blessings and instructions for good living.

Hypocrite intellectuals/scientists:

The travesty is that even highly educated, scientists, top leaders succumb to superstitions, blind faith, illogical rituals, soothsayers and occultists and put on various rings, jewels, amulets and even indulge in sacrifices not only of innocent animals but children of neighbours and even their own. Teachers of science and technology in reputed colleges, universities and institutions, preparing future scientists and technocrats also indulge in superstitious rituals and the tendency has percolated down to the students. There is science and technology but not the scientific temper and age old superstitious beliefs are continuing in the modern societies also. In most of the schools teaching starts only after prayer or singing praise of incongruous and non-existing God. In many countries with constitutional commitment for secularism there are priests and worshiping facilities for different religions in military also. This is a violation of constitutions and is divisive also. The sacrificial rituals in many communities have been so much sanctified under the garb of religion that they are persisting in spite of ban and it is impossible to even question in case of some orthodox religions. The principle of non-violence enshrined in the texts is proved by the fact that during obeisance to holy places, it is ordained not to harm any creature even mites, ants etc. even if they are biting or crawling on body. By sacrifice the preachers meant getting rid of one’s ego, passions, lust, sins and other bad actions both mentally in thought as well as body activities including harsh words. This cannot be substituted by sacrifices of innocent animals and birds to appease various gods or goddess or as rituals. Obviously it was lust for non-vegetarian food from early Vedic time that initiated and perpetuated the practice.

It is unfortunate that God is reinvented in a country like America which was founded on secularism by its people who were migrants from Europe and were mostly those who suffered religious persecution. When Benjamin Franklin suggested that meetings should begin with prayer, the proposal was turned down. The first amendment in constitution of America in 1791 enjoined on the state that it would not enact any such law which would promote religion. However, things changed in fifth decade of twentieth century. America promoted religious fanatics the Taliban to fight communism considered atheism by Americans. Taliban are now greatest danger for them. President Eisenhower in 1955 inserted words “In God we trust” in currency notes and also in national emblem. Such is the lure of religion that even scientifically most advanced Americans succumbed because it promises gains without efforts, though irrational and not true.

Environmental Ethics
Prakrit Bharati Academy, Jaipur
Society for Scientific & Ethical Living, Jaipur
1st edition 2006
HN4U Online edition:
Dr. Rudi Jansma


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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Bikaner
  2. Body
  3. Celibacy
  4. Concentration
  5. Consumerism
  6. Discipline
  7. Durga
  8. Environment
  9. Fear
  10. Krishna
  11. Meditation
  12. Non-violence
  13. Rama
  14. Science
  15. Vedic
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