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Environmental Ethics: 4.3 Rationality (3)

Author:  Image of S.M. JainS.M. Jain
Published: 19.02.2012

Hero worship:

The submission to imagined or articulated God or deified icons of past great and brave persons resulted in subservient tendency of hero-worship. This is continuing even now in so-called democratic societies. The name and fame of exalted and eulogised families and persons persist for their several future generations. This is autocracy in distorted democratic form. The lack of realisation of cause, wrong activities responsible for problems and also lack of initiative to mend things by appropriate actions because of tendency to attribute problems to will of God or some deity and to expect solutions by propitiation of these is most irrational aspect of prevailing human psyche. The same is the case of living icons and people look for solutions of problems to them instead of collective effort for common problems and appropriate individual action for individual problem. There is so much obsession for few good or bad individuals endowed with specific strength and knowledge that people follow them blindly and do as directed without any rational consideration. Following a good person also should be rational. The passivity that only some particular individual shall come and solve problem is not correct. It has promoted and encouraged negation of individual and collective action required to meet a particular situation. Inertness, inaction or passivity is worst form of slavery.

God’s puppetry:

The philosophy of one almighty being controller of all actions and interactions, evil and good, has dangerous repercussions on social and physical environment. This negates all morals and values to be adhered and followed by individuals and groups. When everything is by the express will of god then nobody does anything wrong. All human beings are just puppets being played by strings in controlling hands of Almighty. Thus corrupt people, murderers, traitors, terrorists, adulterators, rapists and other such evil doers do not do any wrong as they are just doing what is ordained and desired by God. While this tendency is tenaciously persisting, the religious scriptures are full of instructions about good code of conduct, and examples of consequences of good and bad deeds. People read these scriptures, listen to sermons yet act differently. There are laws, rules and systems of punishment. All this is contradictory because if all that is happening is as desired by God, then there is no need for scriptures prescribing good conduct and laws to punish law breakers. To attribute to God the creation of universe and all objects including human beings is another fallacy propagated by many religions. God is described as kind, merciful and impartial and yet he created the world full of cruelties, miseries, disease, earth-quakes, floods, droughts, wars, violence and disparities. Slavery and atrocities on slaves were common till recent past. Poor and deprived have suffered through out ages and their sufferings are continuing unabated. Such is the regime of benevolent God. Therefore he is not at all kind and merciful or he is not at all the creator. God is supposed to be omnipotent and perfect architect and yet created such a imperfect world. A good chemist or an architect could have done better. According to the renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking only those who are deficient in mathematics believe in God. It is argued that there has to be some creator or maker of things as we see in every day life. So there has to be a creator of the world. The question then arises that their should be creator of God also and there is no answer. If God can exist for all time then why not the matter, energy, space and time that constitute the universe. These constituents have inherent capabilities and mutations to join, break, rejoin, assemble, reassemble, react, interact and manifest in myriad phenomena and there is no need for any creator or controller.

Surrogate in religious practices:

Wily people take advantage of this confused psyche and offer spurious solutions. There is practice of offering penance by these on behalf of wrong doers on payment of proportionate sum of money assuming that this will absolve the incalcitrants from their sin. It is so ridiculous that there is no logical basis because following this practice would mean that one can go on doing wrongs and then getting absolved by paying to someone who will do penance on his behalf. Likewise chanting of hymns along with odd practices such as offering of cereals, butter etc. in a fire pot etc. are propagated and preached to solve problems of drought, floods, epidemics, wars and even to cure diseases. It is now known that rains are a natural phenomena based on various natural conditions and can not be induced by reciting certain hymns. If it has been possible then there would have never been droughts in history. The causes of floods, earthquakes, floods, epidemics are also well known. There are historical records that rulers were assured by occultists; victory by their power of making ineffective the weaponry of cannons etc. of the enemy but this did not happen and such gullible rulers faced ignominious defeats. Wars can be won only by matching and superior weaponry and strategy and not by hymns or occult practices.

Occultists misguide people that they can inflict harm even death on their enemies but when the same occultists are asked to do the same on terrorists they just shudder. Many lives are lost for lack of proper treatment as people fall prey to occult practices. Occultists generate and propagate concocted events about non-existent spirits which are said to be bad or benevolent. They pretend to invoke them to grant boons and also to exorcise (push out of bodies of persons occupied by evil spirits). Many superstitions, miracles at places of worships are attributed to such spirits. On scrutiny these were all found concocted and manipulated. Mankind on planet earth is making all possible efforts to locate and contact intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe but it has not been possible so far. UFO’s supposed to be spaceships from other planets have all been proved conjectures and mirages. It is often claimed that spirits or intelligent being from other planets of heavens visit earth, do miracles but it is surprising as to why these spirits do not establish real contact for which we are anxiously trying. So far it appears illusory and concocted. The astrologers, ritualists and occultists for their selfish monetary interests frighten people about events like solar and lunar eclipses which are just only natural regular phenomena. These may have some temporary effect like lowering of temperature and increased radiation on whole of the globe but not on a particular person to succumb to imaginary threats propagated only to extract money on pretext of ameliorating rituals.

Some persons have cleverly put on the garb of god incarnation by adopting various tricks, slate of hand, materialising objects, concocting fake stories of miracles such as curing diseases, granting and fulfilling boons and wishes and spreading their name and fame through paid agents or partners in the boot. Such pseudo-gods are mushrooming because of superstitions, tendency of inaction, reluctance and lethargy towards hard work. If the assumed super powers are true then none of their devotees should be unhappy, poor, ill or unsuccessful. They should ensure adequate rains at proper time and good harvest. They should prevent calamities like earthquakes, fires, accidents, floods, epidemics. But it is not so. They are all farce and misguide people for their own selfish interest.

Offerings of cereals with butter in fire is a common practice to atone sins, to propitiate gods and goddesses for successful completion of construction of houses, bridges including even various projects and solve other individual and social problems and even by police to solve crimes and also by political executives for welfare of their state or areas. This practice is very much exalted in several religious cults and in some followers are ordained to do it daily. If sins can be atoned by just such offerings then there is no need of preaching good deeds and penance and vows not to do wrongs in future. House, bridge or other construction and various projects will be successful only by proper planning, good materials and skills and dedication of executives, supervisors and workers. In spite of glaring scientific facts and relentless efforts of rationalists the useless, harmful and wasteful occult practices are continuing all over the world even in most advanced and developed countries. It is a pity that highly educated eminent leaders, judges, policemen and even scientists of repute succumb to superstitious occultism. In spite of the Act of Indian Parliament 1954 prohibiting practice of curing of diseases by occult practices and doubtful medicines such practices are rampant in every nook and corner of the country. There are superstitious beliefs that some part or whole of animals cure diseases or are aphrodisiac and wild animals, tigers, rhinos, sharks, dolphins etc. are being killed in large numbers. In last few decades there is mushroom growth of yoga teachers who misguide gullible people and do more harm than good. ‘Yoga’ is an elaborate process starting from ‘Yam’, ‘Niyam’ i.e. adherence to vows of non-violence, truth, non-stealing, non-acquisition and celibacy and also prescribed code of conduct but these preliminary essentials are completely ignored and pseudo teachers start teaching ‘Asanas’ i.e. postures and ‘pranayam’ i.e. breathing exercise which may cause harm if vows and rules are not followed and air is polluted which is generally the case.

There are persons, teachers and students of science who manipulate and get conferred title of environmentalists by their own group of people while subscribing to superstitious beliefs of asking boons from idols of their preferred deities and even take silly vows like travelling a few miles bare foot to pay obeisance or offerings of sweets, ornaments if their wishes for awards or other material benefits get materialised. Pseudo environmentalists even indulge in irrational rituals of “Havan” i.e. burning wood, butter, grains etc. which could otherwise be better utilised. Burning of anything even butter and aromatic substances also produce CO2, CO, SONO2 etc. and harm environment. The practice of “havan” or “Yagna” sanctified as an essential ritual in many religions is in fact reminiscent of practice of cleaning and burning of forests by Devas or Suras who were agriculturists to extend agriculture.  In forest based symbiotic model air, water and soil do not get polluted at all and do not need any treatment. Since ‘yagna’ is being prescribed from very early times particularly from beginning of Vedic Era even when there was no such pollution of air requiring any treatment, the argument that ‘yagna’ was prescribed and practised to purify air, is not correct. The fact is that ‘yagna’ does not purify air at all. The burning of some aromatic substance fill up the air with pleasant odours for a very short time and then same pollution returns. After all it does not create an air-tight impregnable wall or shield that can prevent polluted air from surrounding areas to creep in again. Even aromatic substances burnt in ‘yagna’ have many other constituents, Nitrogen, Carbon, Sulphur, Phosphates and even some metals in addition to little quantities of aromatic oils. The other constituents when burnt do produce toxic molecules of nitrates, sulphates, phosphates etc. Wood is a major component burnt in ‘yagna’. The proponents of ‘yagna’ claim that they use only dry wood is a blatant lie. Dry wood produced naturally is hardly available in forests. All wood that is used is manufactured dry wood from green trees. In some major ‘yagnas’ such artificial dry wood procured by cutting and drying green trees is used in very large quantities to the extent of 50 to 100 tonnes. The green trees cut for the purpose are several thousands in number. The aroma from ‘yagna’ lasts hardly for 3-4 days whereas green trees if not destroyed for ‘yagna’ will keep on absorbing obnoxious gases and simultaneously producing oxygen relentlessly for over 50 to 100 years. As prescribed if ‘yagna’ is performed daily by every family then all the existing green trees will get destroyed within 5 to 10 years. There will be colossal increase in CO2 which is already increasing the green house effect resulting in rise in temperatures, melting of ice caps and triggering harmful climatic changes. In addition to CO2 other harmful gases CO, NO2, SO2 etc. will also accentuate air pollution. It is also wrong that ‘yagna’ induce rains. ‘Yagna’ are being performed for last several thousand years, yet there has been serious recurring droughts and famines through out the ages. If ‘yagna’ could bring rains then there would have been no droughts and famines. There is another silly argument that by heating a substance its beneficial potency is enhanced but enhanced potency may be destructive as in nuclear bomb and splitting of CL2 atoms which is destroying the protective ozone layer. There is also no truth in the claim that burnt perfumes and substances rise high in air and impart medicinal properties to the rain water. Ganges only a century back possessed medicinal and bactericidal properties because its route in Himalayas was covered with medicinal plants and this was without ‘yagna’ i.e. burning of these plants. Since superstition is singularly most harmful for environment such hypocrites are not environmentalists at all by commitment and actions. Most of the superstitions are generally justified on the pretext that they are matters of personal faith. But faith should be rational and logical and it should not be harmful and destructive. There are still people who have faith in the practice of ‘Sati’ (burning of wives on the pyres of their husbands). Such a faith is certainly not justified. Likewise faith in rituals of sacrifices of innocent animals and even children is most illogical. Similarly asking boons from stone idols is also not at all rational.

Unfortunately most of the past and current literature is full of superstitious and irrational concepts based on unrealistic non-existent objects and themes of animals, fairies, ghosts etc. In the famous story book ‘Panchatantra’ animals speak language of humans which is wrong. Animals and birds do not speak our language. Fairies and ghosts do not exist and eminent writers including Nobel laureates use similes, metaphors and anecdotes which are not rational. It is necessary that literature should be based on rational themes, objects and anecdotes which are within the ambit of scientific scrutiny and human experience and not on myths, falsehood and superstition. Also there are different interpretations by different scholars of the same texts including the Gita and even Vedas on various pleas under various rules and more than one simple meaning of words. As a matter of fact any writer has only one meaning of a word or sentence or stanza written by him. It is the subsequent interpreters or translators who distort the meaning and intention of the original writers. In all fairness dictionaries should now be so revised as to give only one meaning of a particular word in all languages. There are very obscene and objectionable interpretation of Vedas by even eminent scholars like Mahidhar. This is only because there are various meanings of words.

Rational v/s Superstitious:

Superstition is irrational. It kills the initiative to think properly, analyse causes and decide appropriate actions and measures to solve problems. Rational attitude and behaviour is necessary in all spheres of human activity individually and socially. If people are rational they will not be angry and will not start fighting on slightest pretexts. Nations will not go to war causing immense harm to people and environment. People will not be corrupt, adulterators, traitors, and irresponsible towards duties. Terrorism is result of irrational indoctrination and conditioning of children and youth by dogmatic and obscurantist religious organisations which preach that by dying for the religious cause they would be bestowed heavenly pleasures and also because the terrorists are eulogised as martyrs. In case technology of atomic arms fell in hands of such obscurantists and fundamentalists it will be disastrous and there is every possibility as there is no dearth of greedy scientists and others who may sell it. There are already some such cases on record. Many religions generally advocate that mere reciting the name of god or their deity will solve problems and absolve them from sins. This negates the principle of good deeds and righteousness and promotes inaction. The superstitious cult of complete devotion (Bhakti) is outcome of helplessness and escapism from proper action during incessant invasions which inflicted inhuman cruelties and atrocities and made a lasting impact on human psyche.

A rational person will judge persons on merit and neither on heresy, pre-conceived notions nor on basis of caste, creed, poverty or richness. Whereas a superstitious person gives financial or other help in charity for selfish interest or to satisfy his ego, vanity, the rational one will be compassionate towards disabled, physically or mentally as part of his duty. Persons suffering from mental disability are generally neglected and even spurned taking their abnormal behaviour as deliberate. Mental disorders of thought, speech, motor action are not deliberate and can be cured or at least minimised by proper treatment. A superstitious person is extravagant to show his wealth in rituals or to satisfy his hedonistic indulgence. Person if rational will not be extravagant and wasteful and will limit his demands minimum so as not to cause extra stress beyond carrying capacity of natural resources, water, soil, minerals, etc. and also in consumption of electricity, chemicals, food, clothing, shelter etc. He will be socially amicable, understand problems of others and will do unto others as he wishes to be done by. He will always be conscious of his duties and responsibilities and sincere in his work. He will not be lazy and pretending. He will always be ready to help needy during distress, disease, fire, natural calamities of drought, famine, flood, earthquake, storms etc. He will not be selfish and will not do anything that will harm any other human being, animal or other living being and also environment. Unlike superstitious person he will not be superstitious or ritualist or victim of astrology, occultisms.

For a rational person any time for righteous work is auspicious. He will not beg boons from any deity but adopt good precepts of good persons. He will be action oriented. He will act in such a way that is most reasonable, logical, scientific and best in a given situation. He is equanimous. A rational person or society will interact, react and plan strategies to deal with varying situations in best possible ways, peaceful as far as possible. However in case of unscrupulous violence there will not be any hesitation or inhibition to resort to matching violence to deal with the persons indoctrinated with fundamentalism and violence who do not understand the language of peace. Tolerance should have rational limits, otherwise it is cowardice and escapism from reality. He does not consider, the world, its mountains, rivers, forests, diverse life form an illusion (Maya) but real and existent. He will not be living only in past, present or future but in totality of space-time continuum, taking lessons from the past, behaving rationally in present with an eye on immediate and long term benefits for one and all.

Unless mankind realise its follies, abandon superstitions, occultism, rituals and adopt rational attitude and behaviour it will continue to suffer. Above all a rational person will be responsible towards his duties, towards individuals, family, society and conservation of nature. He will not clamour for rights not commensurate with duties. Irrational persons though educated are irresponsible even in daily chores, e.g. throwing garbage and waste in drains, spreading dirt and squalor on roads and other public places and then blaming civic administration. They are insensitive to pains and dangers to poor scavengers (persons doing menial jobs of cleaning). Societies and nations of rational individuals will be free of individual or mob violence which is getting more and more destructive because of irrational indoctrination, superstitious beliefs and actions.

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. Asanas
  2. Bhakti
  3. Celibacy
  4. Devas
  5. Environment
  6. Gita
  7. Maya
  8. Niyam
  9. Non-violence
  10. Pranayam
  11. Science
  12. Space
  13. Tolerance
  14. Vedas
  15. Vedic
  16. Violence
  17. Yam
  18. Yoga
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