Ms. Megha Jaiswal
Religion is a topic which is most sacred to majority of the people. People are born by it and
they die by it. Religious sentiments are ingrained in people right from the time they can
comprehend things. There are many sections of people who are frantic about their religion.
From centuries before, religion has been communicated to keep people informed about the
God’s messages, to transform them and to spread the religion beyond boundaries. Religion
has lead to many wars, bloodshed as well as it unites people and forms communities. Our
religious belief raises its head on an everyday basis whether in terms of superstition, habit or
conscious decisions. Religion is the crux of any society and forms its beliefs and ideas. Since
time immemorial religion has been injected in people’s blood. Earlier times saw priests or
hermits, maulvi’s and Pope spreading knowledge about religion. Even now the scene hasn’t
changed much but with digitalization coming in, things have become more high tech. There
are different ways through people choose to communicate about their faith in order to
inform, address or transform people and this thesis focuses on a few of those.
Evangelism- Evangelism is the practice of relaying information about a particular set of
beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs. Throughout most of its history, Christianity
has been spread evangelistically, though the extent of evangelism has varied significantly
between Christian communities, and denominations.
Music- At its most basic level, gospel music is sacred music. It is a unique phenomenon of
Americana which had its earliest iterations toward the end of the nineteenth century. It is
folk music which suggests that it and its secular counterparts are greatly influenced by each
other. Just as much of the contemporary gospel music of today sounds like R & B and Hip-
Hop, so did most of the early gospel music sound like the Blues. Gospel, meaning "good
news," derived its name from it close connection with the gospels (books in the New
Literature- Religion and literature spring from the same fundamental sources. Not only do
religion and literature spring from the same fundamental sources, they also are formed by
the same forces. They both make a constant appeal to life. The translation of the Bible into
Gothic by Ulphilas not only preserved the Bible, but also helped to create and to perpetuate
literature. Luther's translation of the Bible and the King James' Version are not only
themselves great literatures, but also have helped to form great literatures in modern life.
Websites- Religion has been given new wings by modern day people to reach out to
millions others. Technology has helped it spread its wings. Numerous religious websites
have come up which preach and influence peoples thinking.
Note: The following are the important excerpts from the thesis, please contact the institute
for the full Thesis Report.
Religion is a cultural system that creates powerful and long-lasting meaning, by establishing
symbols that relate humanity to truths and values. Many religions
have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning
to life. They tend to derive morality, ethics,religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their
ideas about the cosmos and human nature.
The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system, but religion
differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have
organized behaviors, including congregations for prayer, priestly hierarchies, holy places,
Academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world
religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths, indigenous religions,
which refers to smaller, culture-specific religious groups, and new religious movements,
which refers to recently developed faiths.
The development of religion has taken different forms in different cultures. Some religions
place greater emphasis on belief, while others emphasize practice. Some religions focus on
the subjective experience of the religious individual, while others consider the activities of
the community to be most important. Some religions claim to be universal, believing their
laws and cosmology to be binding for everyone, while others are intended to be practiced
only by one, localized group. Religion often makes use of meditation, music and art. In
many places it has been associated with public institutions such as education, the family,
government, and political power.
One of the more influential theories of religion today is social constructionism, which says
that religion is a modern concept suggesting all spiritual practice and worship follows a
model similar to Christianity; social constructionism suggests that religion, as a concept, has
therefore been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures.
Religion (from O.Fr. religion "religious community," from L. religionem (nom. religio) "respect
for what is sacred, reverence for the gods, obligation, the bond between man and the gods")
is derived from the Latin religiō, the ultimate origins of which are obscure. One possibility is
derivation from a reduplicated *le-ligare, an interpretation traced
to Cicero connecting lego "read", i.e. re (again) + legoin the sense of "choose", "go over
again" or "consider carefully". Modern scholars such as Tom Harpur and Joseph
Campbell favor the derivation from ligare "bind, connect", probably from a prefixed re-ligare,
i.e. re (again) + ligare or "to reconnect," which was made prominent by St. Augustine,
following the interpretation of Lactantius. The medieval usage alternates with order in
designating bonded communities like those of monastic orders: "we hear of the 'religion' of
the Golden Fleece, of a knight 'of the religion of Avys'".
According to the philologist Max Müller, the root of the English word "religion",
the Latin religio, was originally used to mean only "reverence for God or the gods, careful
pondering of divine things, piety" (which Cicero further derived to mean "diligence"). Max
Müller characterized many other cultures around the world, including Egypt, Persia, and
India, as having a similar power structure at this point in history. What is called ancient
religion today; they would have only called "law".
Many languages have words that can be translated as "religion", but they may use them in a
very different way, and some have no word for religion at all. For example,
the Sanskrit word dharma, sometimes translated as "religion", also means law. Throughout
classical South Asia, the study of law consisted of concepts such as penance through
piety and ceremonial as well as practical traditions. Medieval Japan at first had a similar
union between "imperial law" and universal or "Buddha law", but these later became
independent sources of power.
There is no precise equivalent of "religion" in Hebrew, and Judaism does not distinguish
clearly between religious, national, racial, or ethnic identities. One of its central concepts is
"halakha", sometimes translated as "law"", which guides religious practice and belief and
many aspects of daily life.
The use of other terms, such as obedience to God or Islam are likewise grounded in
particular histories and vocabularies.
Evolution of Religion
Religion's success is undeniable. It is in every culture, and in every corner of the world. We
spend billions and billions of dollars on building monuments to it, supporting it, and of
course proselytizing on behalf of our own favored brand of it. Individuals give up sex and
eschew family and friends for religion. Beyond that, we sacrifice time and effort to its
rituals, and indoctrinate our children and grandchildren to do the same. We are even willing
to kill for it.
Modern science, particularly modern biology, has given us the freedom to shuck off the idea
that our existence and the existence of the universe requires an intelligent being. In fact, as
Richard Dawkins pointed out in The God Delusion, invoking an intelligent being doesn't
explain anything -- it just pushes the question back to 'Who designed the designer?' Despite
the illogic of believing that some great being in the heavens, capable of creating not only the
laws of physics, the principles of evolution, and the vastness of time also cares a great deal
about whether or not you use your left hand to clean up after defecating, eat a cracker while
sinless, or not mix cheese with chicken, we still seem to sup it up like mother's milk.
The reason religion is so successful is that it taps into our primal-brains in much the same
way that a Big Mac does -- only more so. Religion gained its foothold by hijacking the need
to give purpose at a time when humans had only their imagination -- as opposed to the
evidence and reason that we have today -- to fathom their world. Spirits and demons were
the explanation for illnesses that we now know are caused by bacterial diseases and genetic
disorders. The whims of the gods were why earthquakes, volcanos, floods and droughts
occurred. Our ancestors were driven to sacrifice everything from goats to one another to
satisfy those gods.
Along with the need to attribute purpose, our faculty to intuit the intent of others spills over
into a predilection for determining the intentions of gods and goddesses (or spirits, demons,
and angels). Of course the major problem has been that we can never quite agree among
ourselves about god's intentions, which often ends in unfortunate violent discussions. Our
evolved proclivity for aggression feeds into that as well. We justify our prejudices, hatred,
murders, and war by attributing our own biases to a god. As long as we kill in god's name,
we are doing good.
Our primal-brains that keep track of kin can be easily hijacked through language and rituals,
which is why religion uses terms such as 'god the father', 'Mary the mother of heaven',
'brother', and 'sister'. Rituals reinforce fictitious kin through feasts, worship, and ceremonies
such as marriages and funerals. Despite our smart-brains being able to recognize the
difference between real kin and not, those ties created within religious organizations bind
tightly. Leaving the faith one was born into would certainly have led our ancestors to being
shunned if not worse. In Islam, the punishment for apostasy is death. And in Western
cultures, it is not uncommon to hear of individuals whose families and friends have turned
their backs because they have disavowed their religious beliefs.
The fear of losing family and friends is a powerful force for keeping people in tow. It is far
easier to ignore the evidence that there is no god than to give up the love and friendship of a
community. Our survival depends much more on being part of a community, even in
today's modern world, than on abandoning religion. Psychological studies strongly suggest
that our social network, that is family and friends, are essential to personal happiness. For
our ancestors it was more than that, it was necessary for our very survival itself. Exclusion
would have meant death, and our primal-brains have not forgotten. We did not evolve to be
solitary creatures, nor to be independent of social support. Religion has, for better or worse,
always offered a ready social network, an entire (fictive) extended family. Our primal brains
are designed to not only strive to maintain close family and social relationships, but when
coupled with the attribution of our own primal fears to the mind of god along with our
tendency for aggression, we are more than willing to commit the most heinous acts to
protect our fictive kin and beliefs.
Of course there are other factors that contribute to this tangled web, such as the desire for
power, land, wealth, and, where men are concerned, access to females for reproduction. All
of these extant drives ingrained in the human psyche have also been justified through
religion. No matter how terrible the deed, by attributing to god our own fears and hatreds --
anything could be justified. Religion and gods were extremely useful to the ruthless and
Different types of Religion
Religion adds meaning and purpose to the lives of followers, granting them an appreciation
of the past, an understanding of the present, and hope for the future. By definition, a
religion is a belief system concerning one or more deities and incorporating rituals,
ceremonies, ethical guidelines, and life philosophies. Since the early times of Paganism,
religion has diversified and grown to include major monotheistic religions
like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as Indian and Far Eastern religions
like Buddhism and Sikhism, Iranic religions like Zoroastrianismand Bahai, and African
indigenous-based religions like Santeria. Other belief systems, including Atheism and
the Mormon Church, have also developed with time. While religion dictates peace and
good will, many battles and divisions have taken place because of religion. Religious belief
plays an important role in the history of the world. The people of the world could benefit
from learning about the different types of religion.
Religion defines who you are, what you are, and your views about the world around you.
You must understand, a religion is much more than deity worshiping. Religion is the
philosophy of life and a belief system. There are as many as four thousand and two religions
in this world. Surprisingly, people know only a handful of religion.
There are many, long established, major world religions, each with over three million
followers. We have shown the five largest North American religions in bold:
Christian groups, denominations and families (Amish to The Way)
Confucianism [Actually, this religion has no formal symbol. But this one is
sometimes used unofficially]
Neopagan religious faiths:
1 Neopagan faiths are modern-day reconstructions of ancient Pagan
religions from various countries and eras. They experience a high but diminishing level of
discrimination and persecution in North America. They were once rarely practiced in public
for reasons of safety. This is rapidly changing for the better.
Ásatrú (Norse Paganism)
Other organized religions:
These are smaller religions, with a well defined belief in deity, humanity and the rest of
the universe. Of the many hundreds of faith groups in the world, we have chosen these
because of their historical significance, or because of the massive amount of
misinformation that has been spread about them in North America:
Elian Gonzalez religious movement
Hare Krishna - ISKCON
Ifa, the religion of the Yoruba people of West Africa
Native American Spirituality
Rom, Roma, Romani, Rroma, (a.k.a. Gypsies)
Satanism; The Church of Satan
The Creativity Movement (formerly called World Church of the Creator)
The Yazidi branch of Yazdanism
Portrayal of Religion in the Media
The portrayal of religion in media depends from country to country. The first important
factor lies in the government and the governments policies set for the freedom of the press.
Media shares a very give and take relationship of information, and so any kind of
information given by us is provided by the media. For instance, media telecast of communal
riots. Media doesn't really provide its point of view for any religion.
The other form of portrayal could also show some of the religious practices performed by
certain faiths. It could also include the cultural traditions of a community. Sometimes the
telecast is not just countrywide but takes place at an international level as well. For example
Mother Theresa, Princess Diana's andPrince Charles wedding ceremony and lately the
attack on America's World Trade Centre.
On December 6, 1992, a group of 120,000 Indian Hindus tore down the Babri Mosque in
Ayodhya. The Hindu groups believed that the Mosque had been built in the 16th century
over the remains of a Hindu temple that had been the birthplace of a reincarnation of the
deity Rama. In retaliation, more than 6000 Hindu temples were torn down in Bangladesh
and 3000 in Pakistan. While neither side is without blame, only the Hindu destruction of
the Barbri Mosque received any Indian press coverage. Muslims were portrayed as the
courageous victims, with the Hindus playing the role of villain.
On September 30, 2005, a Danish newspaper published a series of 12 cartoons, featuring the
Islamic prophet Muhammad. According to Muslim tradition, any depiction of the prophet
is considered too close to idol worship to be tolerated. These cartoons created a world-wide
crisis, during which some Muslim leaders called for peace, while other demanded
retribution. Some Muslims also saw the cartoons as the expression of a deeply-held media
bias against Islam. The newspaper insisted that the point of the cartoons was to include
Muslims in Danish society and to satirize Islam as they would any other religion. More
than fifty countries re-published the cartoons over the next few months.
On September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of student scholars at the
University of Regensburg in Germany. In the speech, the Pope quoted Byzantine emperor
Manuel II Paleologus, that the Muslim prophet Muhammad contributed nothing to
humanity but “only evil and inhuman”, including a call to violence for the Islam faith (Qtd
in Ratzinger). In the long and academically complex speech, the media grasped upon the
single quotation, centering their articles on the potentially offensive quotation. This
quotation enraged religious leaders around the world at the insensitivity of the Pope to even
quote such a statement, regardless of the Pope’s intentions. The Pope later explained that
the quotation bared no semblance to his own opinion on Islam, but had used to quote to
show his clear rejection of the relationship between violence and religion.
With these stories, it becomes painfully obvious that the relationship between media and
religion is problematic. The two seem to have difficulty in their coexistence. This raises the
question of from where the problem stemmed. The answer to this question lays, at least
partially, in the fundamental difference between religion and media, namely, in the clash of
fact and beliefs. As writer Jim Stentzel wrote, “In the press one turns over a rock to expose
the dirt; in the pulpit one turns over the dirt to expose the Rock.” (qtd in Bridging the Gap,
The media is trained and expected to report verifiable fact. Media is, “about questioning,
probing, verifying, taking nothing for granted or at face value. Not for nothing has the motto
of Chicago's legendary City News Bureau become renowned as a summation of the
journalist's approach to things: ‘If your mother says she loves you, check it out.’” (Wycliff)
The media is granted the responsibility of reporting the news as factually and honestly as
possible. Media works with things that can be measured or rationally described and
Religion, on the other hand, relies upon faith and other transcendent intangibles. Faith
requires a leap, a suspension of strictly logical or critical thought in order to seek a deeper
meaning or purpose of life. Faith cannot be seen, only experienced by those who choose to
believe. It can not be objectively observed, only discussed. Almost “by definition, any
religious faith looks illogical to an outsider, while to the committed adherent it is the source
of life's ultimate meaning and purpose.” (Wycliff)
The harmonization of these two opposites is where the problem of media and religion lays.
The two ideas seem to be almost too much at odds to be reconcilable; however this is
exactly what both sides have the responsibility to attempt to do. The attempts can be
successful, and “the result is a strong, accurate, balanced, fundamentally fair news story.
When it is met poorly -- and that too often is the case -- the result is exactly the opposite: an
inaccurate, unbalanced, unfair story that is disrespectful to followers of the faith involved
and insulting to the intelligence and fairness of even neutral observers.” (Wycliff)
The conflict between faith and fact is not the only problem faced by the media and religious
groups. Both sides have taken actions, or not taken actions, that have also contributed to the
tensions between the groups. On the side of the media, there is a lack of religion reporters.
Only the largest newspapers and news agencies can afford to employ a religion-beat writer.
Without a thorough background in the very complicated topic of religion, there are almost
too many little nuances for a reporter to understand and report on the subject. When a
religion topic is covered by a non-religion writer, the problem becomes even more
troublesome, as most writers do not have even a little background on the topic. Because of a
lack of knowledge on the subject, news reporters often gloss over the details that, if
examined carefully, could explain the situation more thoroughly. The religious groups are
also to blame. They often do not communicate with the media, leaving the media to collect
information from whatever sources they can. By shrinking away from communicating with
the media, they create more difficulty for the media to report fairly and accurately.
While many would say that the media does not need to cover religion, that it is not an
important aspect of the public’s life, this belief is unfounded. A definite need to report on
religion exists. Religion is one of the fundamental ways that people express themselves and
is often at the core of their belief system. A specific religion, or even a non-specific
spirituality, is often one of the most important elements of a person’s identity. According to
a poll taken by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 60% of Americans
classify religion as “very important” to them, making them very likely to be interested in the
reporting of religion (Qtd in Primer on Religion). To deny the importance of religion in
society is a large mistake, especially in the field of mass communications.
Once recognizing the problems of reporting on religion and the importance of fixing this
problem, the question at hand becomes what can be done. How can the relationship
between religion and media be mended?
Over the last decade or so, the topic of interaction between media and religion has become
more prominent, leading many individuals from both groups to work on bridging the gap
between the two.
In India the print media is mostly owned by large business houses with a variety of trade
and commercial interests, and they are keen to propitiate Hindu religious interests. As a
reaction to the propagation of the majority viewpoint, and many times out of their own
vested interests, smaller non-Hindu sections of the media promote their own religious
lobbies. In an atmosphere which is vitiated by such propaganda it is very difficult for the
ordinary citizen to sift fact from fiction. When there are inter-religious disturbances, the
media go to town with their distorted version of the happenings, depending on whichever
vested interest they represent, so adding fuel to the fire of communal passions. This
naturally increases the intensity of the conflict, thereby promoting their agenda and
sometimes their self fulfilling prophecies. Usually, after a few days of mayhem order does
return. Since the average citizen of India is mostly a peace-loving person, the media stokes
the fires of communal passions proactively. They are kept burning with a low key program
of soft communal agenda and promotion of various types of superstition.
Almost every newspaper has a column on religious propaganda – even the most so-called
progressive ones. There are some exceptions to these like those published by some of the left
front parties. The largest selling newspaper in India, The Times of India, carries regularly on
its editorial page, columns like the ‘Speaking Tree’ which is a vehicle for the “thoughts” of
reactionary elements of Hindu leanings while on certain days like Christmas or Eid token
write ups are carried authored by those professing other religions. As the author has
experienced, there is nothing pertaining to the scientific temper, Humanism of any type or
rational thinking ever printed in this column. If one were to send reactions to the drivel
published therein they would never be published.
Take the so-called progressive newspaper The Hindu (it has supposedly nothing to with
eponymous religion) originally started from the southern town of Madras (now renamed
Chennai). It carries a regular column called ‘Religion’ which has write-ups like ‘God’s
graciousness’ (loving devotion to God is an end to itself as a devotee who has reached such
heights of devotion transcends all duality and exists only for His sake). Another one,
‘Karma – a binding force’ quotes Swami Paramarthananda as follows:
“The universal law of Karma is a binding factor on all human beings. This manifests itself
as the joys and sorrows one experiences in life as a consequence of one’s past deeds, good
and bad. What is the solution for these? …the Karma Kanda section of the Vedas suggests
ritualistic solutions for the varieties of problems the mankind faces while also offering
methods and skills for diagnosing them.”
If this is the sort of thing published in a newspaper with a ‘progressive’ outlook one can
imagine what the others do.
With reference to the newspapers published in Indian languages, the biases are even more
blatant and their role in the spread of superstitions and communal hatred is legendary. In
the state of Gujarat the newspapers belonging to a certain section incited passions and
actively assisted in the Muslim genocide of 2002.
In Muslim dominated areas like the city of Hyderabad in southern India the Urdu press
(Urdu is a language identified with the Muslim community) has incited riots, communal
hatred and intolerance. In his hometown of Mangalore in the southern state of Karnataka,
the author can vouch for the role of the local and state level newspapers in pursuing a
hidden communal agenda with a view to making it as communally polarised as the state of
Gujarat. The largest circulating newspaper of the region called Vijaya Karnataka was first
owned by a transport baron who later on joined the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party
(which was instrumental in opening up communal tensions in 1992 with the destruction of
the Babri Mosque in North India, a structure owned by both Hindus and Muslims to be
communally sensitive, thus unleashing communal riots in the entire country), got elected as
a Member of Parliament on their ticket, resigned from that and started his own party.
During his ownership, the newspaper was promoting his ideology. The newspaper was
taken over by The Times of India group, arguably the largest media group in the country but
the editorial policy did not change. The newspaper caters to all sorts of superstitions and
carries columns one of which called all Muslims ‘terrorists’ and had to face their ire. One
thing in common to all of the columnists is the hatred towards the forces of reason, rational
and Humanist thought.
In the area where I reside, the largest circulated newspaper called the Udayavani is unique
in having no editorial section. This lack does not mean that it has no agenda – in that
department this rag is very strong. It promotes the communal interests of one community
and the upper castes in particular. It goes to great lengths to glean pearls of communal
wisdom and stories of so-called miracles from everywhere. As is the usual practice,
reactions to these are never carried and even if carried are heavily edited and the debate
distorted to make it appear as if the forces of rational thought have been defeated.
Thanks to these, minor incidents like a Muslim vendor pricking a girl with a needle have
been projected as Hindus being infected with AIDS, minor quarrels between communities
projected as major riots (the resulting reactions fulfilling their own prophecies). In another
case a tableau depicting a Muslim bowing before a Hindu goddess (which was a part of a
local legend in which there is a temple built for that goddess by a Muslim and named after
him) resulted in communal riots. These resulted in almost three days of round the clock
curfew in certain areas and the loss of several dozen innocent lives. All this because the
media had projected such a minor incident as a great affront to the faith of some. This has
been going on for a long time and has resulted in benefit to the Hindu right who have gained
a lot of political advantage. The Bharatiya Janata Party has won several seats to the
One may question why voices of reason are not raised against these. The unpalatable truth
is that the media is in the hands of a few powerful barons who claim to mould public
The new age guru Ravi Shankar who attaches two ‘Sris’ before his name (it is like being
addressed as Mr.,Mr.!) and titles like Guruji Maharaj (Lord and Mentor Supreme) is
promoted by the media as a saviour of mankind. He promotes something called art of living,
probably implying that those do not undergo his course are dead, which is a mishmash of
yoga and some Hindu superstitions. All his fame has been due to the support of a section of
the media and unreserved acceptance by others. Then there is one Ram Kishen Yadav, who
calls himself Baba Ramdev (Father Ramdev), who claims to be a yoga expert and promises
health for all and cures for every possible disease through his untested, unproved
concoctions. He is almost solely a product of media hype. The success of these godmen is
probably due to their publicity on TV channels, but the print media has also played a large
role in promoting them.
On the other hand, rational forces within the media can find themselves harassed by the law
under various obscure sections of the Indian Penal Code. When B.V.Seetaram, columnist of
the Kannada newspaper Karavali Ale, questioned the propriety of Jain ascetics going
around stark naked and why that did not attract the provisions of the Indian Penal Code on
nudity, he was arrested and paraded around in chains like a criminal. On the personal front,
when the writer of this article, who is the president of the Federation of
Indian Rationalist Associations was queried at a public meeting about the efficacy of cow’s
urine as a panacea, he replied that urine of all animals whether a cow or a dog was an
excretory product. This was highlighted in a newspaper famous for its reactionary views. It
was followed by a campaign orchestrated by statement and the person who made it with
threats to prosecute him under any possible sections of the Indian Penal Code. The
campaign came to an end only after a legal luminary suggested that no legal action could be
taken as the author was a Hindu (despite his claims to the contrary) and that every Hindu
had the right to criticise and try for the reform of his own religion!
One has to understand the role of the media in the Indian context to know its effect and
efforts to promote religion and related superstitions. Though most of my analysis had been
of the Hindu right and its efforts in promoting the Hindutva (radical Hindu) agenda, one
cannot discount the role of the followers of the other proselytizing religions like Islam and
Christianity. But due to the smaller number of the followers and their realisation that it
would better for them to be in the good books of the secular non-believers, they have toned
down their attacks against most of us. Of course Taslima Nasrin and Salman Rushdie who
have chosen to launch direct attacks on their prophet are exceptions to this! The Christian
dominated media is at the very fringes in most of India and they have not succeeded
anywhere except in the southern state of Kerala (which has a large Christian population),
where they own a newspaper chain. Their utilisation of the media has been mainly through
the power of money and claims to empathy from Sonia Gandhi, leader of the ruling
Congress Party, whose Roman Catholic origins have made the party faithful obsequious to
followers of their leader’s faith. Under these circumstances it is very difficult for Humanists
to make our voices heard. We are provided a platform by a very small section of the media
sympathetic to us to express our point of view, and sometimes heavily edited versions of our
side are also published to make a show of fair play.
Religious reporting in India
The word diversity best describes India. In his book The Argumentative Indian, India’s Nobel
Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen says, “India is an immensely diverse country with
many distinct pursuits, vastly disparate convictions, widely divergent customs and a
veritable feast of viewpoints.”
The diversity offers excellent potential for reporting religion, but it also poses many
challenges, as realities change from rural to urban areas, from one state to another, and even
from one region to another within a state. Given that India has 28 states and six Union
territories, one can understand how diverse the realities must be.
It would be safe to assume that reporting of religion and religion-related issues in such a
situation will not be homogeneous by any stretch of imagination. An endeavour to identify
blanket trends will be a futile exercise.
Although a majority of the 1 billion-plus population of India is Hindu, there is a sizeable
number of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and people from other religions — even atheists,
who have coexisted with the people belonging to the “majority” religion for centuries.
In The Argumentative Indian, Sen points out that while most of Catholic Europe was given
over to the Inquisition, and in Rome Giordano Bruno was being burned at the stake for
heresy, in India the 16th-century Mogul emperor Akbar was declaring, “No man should be
interfered with on account of religion, and anyone is to be allowed to go over to a religion
that pleases him.”
Today, India has the world’s third-largest Muslim population, after Indonesia and Pakistan.
In addition, about 2.2 million people in India follow the Bahá’í faith, forming the largest
community of Bahá’ís in the world. India is also home to followers of Zoroastrianism, who
in India are called Parsis. They represent about 0.006 percent of the total population, with a
concentration in and around the city of Mumbai, the capital of the western state of
Religion plays a key role in the lives of Indians. Rituals, worship, and other religious
activities form a very prominent part in the daily life of an individual. Religion also
organises social life, especially in rural parts of the country.
India hosts numerous pilgrimage sites for almost all religions. Most festivals are celebrated
by people of all communities, irrespective of which religions these festivals belong to.
Unlike the West, where a drift away from religious orthodoxy is a visible trend, the people
in India are generally drawing closer to traditions in search of their identities in the wake of
The number of Hindu gurus (and of their followers) is increasing. The number of
templegoers is also on the rise. Even in the national capital, Delhi, young and old Hindus
can be seen going to a temple barefoot and carrying a bowl of milk as part of a religious
ritual. People prostrating themselves in front of a temple on a busy road has also become
commonplace. Generally speaking, people in smaller cities and rural places are more
religious than in bigger cities.
Sections of the upper middle class are also drawing closer to materialism and the New Age,
like in the West. However, it must be acknowledged here that Hinduism is conglomerate of
diverse beliefs and traditions, and not a “religion” as understood in the West, and therefore
the diversity within it is so immense that any generalization is extremely difficult.
Indian Muslims and Christians too have started asserting their religious identities, perhaps
as a reaction to the rise of Hindu extremism, because Muslims are seen with suspicion in the
wake of the “Global War against Terrorism.” On Fridays, Muslims can be seen kneeling
publicly on roadsides or in parks to offer “Namaz.” Similarly, Christians too can easily be
identified as most of them owning a car will either have a cross hanging in the car or a
Christian sticker on the back screen.
There are at least 14 religion channels in India, and the number is growing by the year.
There are close to 6,000 daily newspapers published in over 100 languages, in addition to
more than 40 domestic news agencies in the country. The reach of the press medium (dailies
and magazines combined) has increased from 216 million to 222 million during the last
year. The number of readers in rural India (110 million) is now roughly equal to that in
urban India (112 million).
Similarly, there are more than 100 TV channels, and the number of news channels is
growing. Satellite TV has grown considerably in reach — from 207 million watching in an
average week in 2005 to as many as 230 million in 2006 — further expanding its lead over
the number of readers.
Hate Campaigns against Minorities in Hindi Media
Reports on Christian missionaries indulging in “conversions” are commonplace in Hindi
newspapers. The largest selling Dainik Jagran daily is the best example of this trend.
The local edition of Dainik Jagran in Himachal Pradesh state has been carrying provocative
stories maligning the local Christian community for the last two years. It has been
publishing a series of reports with the same headline, “Isaiyon ka gorakh dhanda”
(Misdeeds of Christians), each time carrying a picture that shows a trishul (trident, one of the
signs of a Hindu god) piercing the cross and stains of blood.
Several Dainik Jagran stories have alleged that Christians eat beef (the cow, considered a
holy animal, is worshipped by Hindus) and “forcibly” convert Hindus, identifying Christian
workers with their names. According to local evangelical Christian organisations, the
extremists somehow get hold of their in-house magazines and misquote from these
publications in the newspaper to support their allegations.
In fact, there is a feeling among local Christian workers that it is a result of the anti-
Christian campaign in the local media that the Congress Party government in Himachal
Pradesh Assembly passed an anti-conversion bill on December 30, 2006, alleging that
“conversions” were happening, leading to law and order problems in the state, and the local
people wanted a law to ban “forcible” conversions.
Hindi news channels’ obsession with spiritual healing and occultism is easily perceivable.
Reporting on such practices features in almost every news bulletin. To give an example, the
Aaj Tak channel on July 28 showed a “healer” stepping on young children to “heal” their
diseases. The coverage lasted for more than 15 minutes, and the clip repeated several times
in the day.
TV channels recently showed devotees of the Hindu god Ganesha in Delhi and other parts
of the country offering milk to the idol, claiming that it was actually drinking. The coverage
was shown the whole day after short intervals, and Hindu priests were interviewed on the
possibility of an idol drinking milk. A few days later, the channels showed a clip of devotees
of a temple on a seashore in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, drinking sea water, which
had reportedly turned sweet. The devotees attributed the “miracle” to their god.
In fact, there are special half-hour programs on most Hindi channels showing the fame and
claims of occultists claiming to have supernatural powers. English news channels also report
on incidents related to people’s superstitions, but the frequency is way lower than their
Hindi counterparts. From time to time, superstitions do figure in debates on English
The media can blame the viewers for this trend, as such coverage does increase the TRP
(Television Rating Points) of a channel, but it is also true that this is promoting superstitions
among the people.
Lack of Serious Religion Articles in Newspapers
Most newspapers have special religion columns, but they lack serious content.
The Hindustan Times has a column called “Innervoice” which appears each weekday.
“Innervoice” normally features articles on the philosophy of religion written mainly by the
readers. Till last year, it carried contributions from popular Hindu gurus, clergy from
different religions and freelance writers. Of late, the policy of the newspaper changed and
the column was made open to readers’ contributions. The flip side of this policy is that it has
brought down the quality of the articles.
On Saturdays, the newspaper features a special page on religion, “Faith on Saturday,”
which carries four columns. These columns normally feature “entertaining” stories related
to religion, like the beauty of the building of a temple, with almost half the page devoted to
graphics. One does not find spiritual articles meant for followers of a religion, except some
quotes from various scriptures on a topic.
The Times of India has a column, “Speaking Tree,” which appears from Monday to
Saturday. The articles in this column mainly talk about Hindu scripture Vedas or Reiki,
Feng Shui (an ancient Chinese practice of arranging space to achieve harmony with the
environment), and Vastu Shastra (traditional Hindu canons of town planning and
The daily also carries a special page on Sundays, “Mind Over Matter,” which normally
features articles by famous New Age gurus like Deepak Chopra or those who advocate
using spirituality for enhancing management skills and success in worldly matters.
The Hindu‘s column, “Religion,” also runs from Monday to Saturday. The newspaper has
its own writers for this column, which invariably talks about Hinduism. The articles do not
carry a byline. Only on festivals celebrated by other religions does it feature articles by
clergy or writers from other religions.
Until recently, The Indian Express had a biweekly religion column “Faithline,” but as of now,
it does not have any religion column.
The trends in the way religion and religion-related issues are reported in India give us at
least three inferences:
First, the Indian media give substantial coverage to religion and religion-related issues, but
highlighting mainly the negative and divisive aspects — which perhaps is the case in general
reporting too. For instance, many religious communities are doing commendable social
work, but their work rarely gets the attention it deserves. This is perhaps a result of most
media being market-driven, rather than having an agenda, which compels them to use only
stories that are potentially sensational and can sell.
Second, there is a decline in seriousness in the various religion columns in newspapers.
Maybe this only reflects popular Indian religiosity, which seems to lack spiritual substance.
Third, generally speaking, the Indian media promote false spirituality. Perhaps the popular
Indian gurus, who seem to be very shallow in the spirituality they preach and practice, are
good in public relations skills and are aggressive evangelists.
It would be naïve to expect that the media leadership will take any initiative to deal with
these predicaments, but it is possible for individual reporters and editors to do their bit in
bridging the gaps in reporting religion as news.
Press Freedom vs. Blasphemy:
An Indian Perspective
The publication of cartoons of Prophet Mohammed in the Danish newspaper Jylland-
Posten led to outrage, boycott calls and violence in many countries. People were killed,
newspapers were closed and editors sacked. The controversy has been narrated as a clash
between two civilizations. It has also been described as an encounter between freedom of
expression and religious fundamentalism. While many cited the publication of the cartoon
as an example of irresponsible journalism, another section stood by the Danish newspaper,
arguing for the unlimited freedom for the press.
The cartoon controversy was the third modern transnational incident of blasphemy sparking
pan-Islamic outrage preceded by the Salman Rushdhie episode and the protest movement of
1969 following an attempted attack on the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem by an Australian
arsonist. All three incidents were initially local in nature and then developed into global
news event with different meanings and interpretations for different countries and
RESPONSE IN INDIA
India has also witnessed protests in different parts of the country including Delhi and
Mumbai. Four persons were killed in Luknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh. Political
parties have expressed solidarity with the minority Muslim community. The state elections
for various legislative assemblies in April-March 2006 compelled political parties to
organize demonstrations against western media accusing it of anti-Islamic propaganda.
Minority vote bank politics touched a low when a minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh Haji
Yaqoob Qureshi announced a reward of Rs. 51 crore for beheading the Danish cartoonist
who drew the offensive caricatures of the Prophet.
The Government of India expressed deep concern over the controversy and suggested to the
Danish government that it seek an assurance from the newspaper that it would not publish
such cartoons in future. Anticipating a communal clash, the Prime Minister of India came
out with a statement, saying (Mujataba S.Ali, 2006 Sept.29),
It is incumbent on all of us to be sensitive to the beliefs and sentiments of other and avoid all
actions that cause hurt to them [Muslim Community]. India’s commitment to religious
harmony and tolerance is unshakable and actions that cause hurt to the sentiments of any
part of our people are not acceptable.
Moreover, the Indian Government diplomatically dissuaded the Danish Prime Minister
Anders Fogh Rasmussen from visiting India around the end of March 2006, saying the
controversy surrounding the cartoons of the Prophet would overshadow the visit.
Rasmussen’s visit was planned by both countries well before the controversy over the
PRESS FREEDOM VS. PUBLIC INTEREST
The Jyllands-Posten apologized for hurting the feelings of the Muslim Community but was
not ready to change the earlier stand regarding the right to publish the cartoons. Rose (2006)
says, “I acknowledge that some people have been offended by the publication of the
cartoons, and Jyllands-Posten has apologized for that. But we cannot apologise for our right
to publish material, even offensive material. You cannot edit a newspaper if you are
paralyzed by worries about every possible insult.”
When Rose says that the newspaper has the right to publish even offensive material it
contradicts his earlier stand. Offensive material always provokes the affected party and there
was no doubt that the controversial cartoons would be an insult to the Muslim community.
The newspaper was not bothered about the outcome of the publication of the cartoons.
They simply wanted to prove a point at the cost of universal peace and harmony. It not that
media should not publish any offensive material but any such decision should be taken only
after considering the possible fallout of that action. Any possible risk regarding the
publication of any kind of offensive material should be weighed against the public interest.
It is imperative on the media to asses the possible impact of the publication of any material
on its readers. In this case, was the publication of the cartoons by the Jyllands-Posten in
public interest? Was it prudent to put society in danger in order to achieve the limited goal
of provoking the European media regarding self-regulation? The Jyllands-Posten should
answer these questions.
The irresponsible and short-sighted behaviour of the press often puts society in danger and
there could be irrecoverable damage. While pointing out the importance and possibilities of
the modern media the US Commission on the Freedom of the Press cautions about the
danger of irresponsible and unregulated media. In the report it (1947) says,
The modern press itself is a new phenomenon. Its typical unit is the great agency of mass
communication. These agencies can felicitate thought and discussion. They can stifle it.
They can advance the progress of civilization or they can thwart it. They can debase and
vulgarize mankind. They can endanger the peace of the world; they can do so accidentally,
in a fit of absence of mind. They can play up or down the news and its significance, foster
and feed emotions, create complacent fictions and blind spots, misuse the great words, and
uphold empty slogans. Their scope and power are increasing every day as new instruments
can spread lies faster and farther than our forefathers dreamed when they enshrined the
freedom of the press in the First Amendment to our constitution.
Media organizations have the primary responsibility of creating an informed citizenry in
order empower society and strengthen democracy. Media should also play an active role in
enhancing social and religious harmony and the upliftment of the poor and the needy. It has
to fight against corruption and social injustice. At the same time media has to perform its
responsibility with out challenging the harmony and peace. If it fails to protect the interest
of the public or challenges the law of the land, other regulating agencies come to play
including the government and the court. The Press Council of India (Norms of Journalistic
Conduct, Section 23:I) says,
Newspapers shall, as matters of self-regulation, exercise due restraint and caution in
presenting any news, comment or information which is likely to jeopardize, endanger or
harm the paramount interests of the state and society, or the rights of individuals with
respect to which reasonable restrictions may be imposed by law on the right to freedom of
speech and expression under clause (2) of Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
Religious music (also sacred music) is music performed or composed for religious use or
through religious influence.
A lot of music has been composed to complement religion, and many composers have
derived inspiration from their own religion. Many forms of traditional music have been
adapted to fit religions' purposes or have descended from religious music. There is a long
history of Christian Church music. Johann Sebastian Bach, considered one of the most
important and influential European classical music composers, wrote most of his music for
the Lutheran church. Religious music often changes to fit the times; Contemporary
Christian music, for example, uses idioms from various secular popular music styles but
with religious lyrics. Gospel music has always done this, for example incorporating funk,
and continues to do so.
Monotheism and tonality, all tones relating and resolving to a tonic, are often associated,
and the textures of European homophony, equated with monotheism, may be contrasted
with Asian heterophony, equated with poly or pantheism. Navajo music's cyclic song and
song-group forms mirrors the cyclic nature of their deities such as Changing Woman.
The earliest Christian or Jewish notion of a song devoted unto God, was mentioned in the
whole chapter of Exodus 15, where the Israelites returned from egypt, and had seen what
God had done once they crossed the river (and Pharao's armies where destroyed in the
river). The musical notes where lost just as every of the old psalms.
A Christian view point of 'Sacred Music' is to be fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, to bring
forth musical tones and words (sometimes accompanied by musical instruments); in honor
and reverence to God. Many christians consider sacred song to be a spontaneous revelation,
opposite to a song that is sung over and over again.
'Sacred music' or Sacred song is also known in Christian circles as 'Inspirational music',
'Free Worship', 'Free Flow' and 'Prophetic song'; they are very close connected to Free
worship inspired by the Holy Spirit in 'Tongue language'; which is basically the singing
of speaking in Tongues or otherwise known as 'rivers of the spirit'.
There is virtually no record of the earliest music of the Christian church except a few New
Testament fragments of what are probably hymns. Some of these fragments are still sung as
hymns today in the Orthodox Church, including "Awake, awake O sleeper" on the occasion
of someone's baptism. Another early hymn is the Phos Hilaron (Greek for "Gladsome
Light") which was part of the Liturgy of the Hours morning prayers (matins) in the early
Christian Church. It is a hymn describing the morning light. Being Jewish, Jesus and his
disciples would most likely have sung the psalms from memory. However, the repertoire of
ordinary people was larger than it is today, so they probably knew other songs too. Early
Christians continued to sing the psalms much as they were sung in the synagoguesin the first
Hindu music is music created for or influenced by Hinduism. It includes Indian classical
music Kirtan Bhajan and other musical genres. Raagas are a common way of Hindu music
in classical India.
The most common Hindu bhajan in North India is "Om Jai Jagdish Hare." Gods are
religiously chanted to often include Vishnu and his incarnations, Shiva and the Goddess
(Parvati, Shakti, Vaishnodevi).
A bhajan is a Hindu devotional song, often of ancient origin. Bhajans are often
simple songs in lyrical language expressing emotions of love for the Divine, whether for a
single God/Goddess, or any number of divinities. Many bhajans feature several names and
aspects of the chosen deity, especially in the case of Hindusahasranamas, which list a
divinity's 1008 names. Great importance is attributed to the singing of bhajans with Bhakti,
i.e. loving devotion. "Rasanam Lakshanam Bhajanam" means the act by which we feel
more closer to our inner self or God, is a bhajan. Acts which are done for the God is called
Traditionally, the music has been Indian classical music, which is based
on ragas and tala (rhythmic beat patterns) played on
the Veena (or Been), Sarangi Venu(flute), Mridanga(or Tabla) (traditional Indian
instruments). The Sikh Scripture contains 31 ragas and 17 talas which form the basis for
kirtan music compositions.
The earliest synagogal music was based on the same system as that in
the Temple in Jerusalem. According to the Talmud, Joshua ben Hananiah, who had served
in the sanctuary Levitical choir, told how the choristers went to the synagogue from the
orchestra by the altar (Talmud, Suk. 53a), and so participated in both services.
Sephardic music, the music of Spanish Jews, was born in medieval Spain, with cancioneros
being performed at the royal courts. Since then, it has picked up influences from
across Spain, Morocco,Argentina, Turkey, Greece and various popular tunes from Spain
and further abroad. There are three types of Sephardic songs — topical and entertainment
songs, romance songs and spiritual or ceremonial songs. Lyrics can be in several languages,
including Hebrew for religious songs and Ladino.
Nyabinghi music is the most integral form of Rastafarian music. It is played at worship
ceremonies called grounations, which including drumming, chanting and dancing along
with prayer and smoking of ritual ganja. Nyabinghi probably comes from an East African
movement from the 1850s to the 1950s that was led by women who militarily opposed
European imperialism. This form of nyabinghi was centered around Muhumusa, a healing
woman from Uganda who organized resistance against German colonialists. The British
later led efforts against nyabinghi, and classified it as witchcraft through the Witchcraft
Ordinance of 1912. In Jamaica, nyabinghi was appropriated for similar anti-colonial efforts,
and is often danced to invoke the power of Jah against an oppressor. The connection
between the religion and various kinds of music has become well-known due to the
international fame of musicians like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
Rastafarian music is not the only kind of religious music in the Caribbean. Religious sects
have their own musical styles, though they vary from island to island. Obeah and Myal as
well as Christiansects associated with revivalism are common in Jamaica. These styles have
also influenced Jamaican dances. Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Haiti in particular have also
developed African-influenced musical styles that are used in religious rituals associated
with Santeria, Vodou, and Espiritismo.
Religion and literature spring from the same fundamental sources. Not only do religion and
literature spring from the same fundamental sources, they also are formed by the same
forces. They both make a constant appeal to life. The translation of the Bible into Gothic by
Ulphilas not only preserved the Bible, but also helped to create and to perpetuate literature.
Luther's translation of the Bible and the King James' Version are not only themselves great
literatures, but also have helped to form great literatures in modern life.
Anti-Catholic stereotypes are a long-standing feature of Anglo-Saxon literature, popular
fiction, and even pornography. Gothic fiction is particularly rich in this regard. Lustful
priests, cruel abbesses, immured nuns, and sadistic inquisitors appear in such works as The
Italian by Ann Radcliffe, The Monk by Matthew Lewis, Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles
Maturin and "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe.
Such gothic fiction may have inspired Rebecca Reed's Six Months in a Convent which
describes her alleged captivity by an Ursuline order near Boston in 1832.
Reed's claims inspired an angry mob to burn down the convent, and her narrative, released
three years later as the rioters were tried, famously sold 200,000 copies in one month. Reed's
book was soon followed by another bestselling fraudulent exposé, Awful Disclosures of the
Hotel-Dieu Nunnery, (1836) in which Maria Monk claimed that the convent served as a
harem for Catholic priests, and that any resulting children were murdered after baptism.
Col. William Stone, a New York city newspaper editor, along with a team of Protestant
investigators, inquired into Monk's claims, inspecting the convent in the process. Col.
Stone's investigation concluded there was no evidence that Maria Monk "had ever been
within the walls of the cloister".
Reed's book became a best-seller, and Monk or her handlers hoped to cash in on the evident
market for anti-Catholic horror fiction. The tale of Maria Monk was, in fact, clearly
modeled on the Gothic novels popular in the early 19th century. This literary genre had
already been used for anti-Catholic sentiments in works such as Matthew Lewis' The Monk.
Maria Monk's story exhibits the genre-defining elements of a young and innocent woman
trapped in a remote, old, and gloomily picturesque estate; she learns the dark secrets of the
place; after harrowing adventures she escapes.
The anti-Catholic Gothic tradition continued with Charlotte Brontë's semi-autobiographical
novel Villette (1853). Bronte explores the culture clash between the heroine's English
Protestantism and the Catholicism of the environment at her school in 'Villette'
(aka Brussels) before magisterially pronouncing "God is not with Rome."
In a chapter of Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov called The Grand Inquisitor, the
Catholic Church convicts a returned-from-Heaven Jesus Christ of heresy and is portrayed as
a servant of Satan.
Dan Brown's best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code depicts the Catholic Church as
determined to hide the truth about Mary Magdalene. An article in an April 2004 issue
of National Catholic Registermaintains that "The Da Vinci Code claims that Catholicism is a
big, bloody, woman-hating lie created out of pagan cloth by the manipulative Emperor of
Rome". An earlier book by BrownAngels and Demons, depicts the Church as involved in an
elemental battle with the Illuminati.
The oldest known religious texts are Pyramid texts of Ancient Egypt that date to 2400-2300
BCE although there are older quasi-religious texts that indicate a religious undertone
without specifying the actual incantations performed (e.g. the Sumerian "Locust Charm"
text that is a listing of someone clearing out pests from various people's fields). The Epic of
Gilgamesh from Sumeria is also one of the earliest literary works dating to 2150-2000 BCE,
that includes various mythological figures . The Rigveda of Hinduism is proposed to have
been composed between 1700–1100 BCE making it possibly the world's oldest religious text
still in use. The oldest portions of the Zoroastrian Avesta are believed to have been
transmitted orally for centuries before they found written form, and although widely
differing dates for Gathic Avestan (the language of the oldest texts) have been proposed,
scholarly consensus floats at around 1000 BCE.
The first scripture printed for wide distribution to the masses was The Diamond Sutra,
a Buddhist scripture, and is the earliest recorded example of a dated printed text, bearing the
Chinese calendar date for 11 May 868 CE.
The sacred literature of Hinduism can be divided up into two distinct categories: sruti and
smriti . Shruti , that which is heard or divinely revealed, consist of the Vedas , the most
ancient of the scriptures, the Upanishads , the Brahmanas , and the Aranyakas . Shrutis
refer to the manifestation of the divine in the world, and more specifically, the truths
revealed by the dieties to the early sages or rishis . There are four collections which comprise
the Veda , the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda , and Atharva Veda . The Veda contain
accounts of creation, information on ritual sacrifices, and prayers to the dieties. The
Upanishads are considered to be the most important of the remaining three scriptures of
shruti literature. It is believed that these texts were secret scriptures taught by a sage to a
The other type of Hindu literature, smriti , that which is remembered or handed down.
These texts are also considered to be based upon revealed truths, however, theyare of
human composition as opposed to that of the divine. The Epics, the Sutras and the Puranas
comprise the bulk of the Smriti literature. The earliest of these epics are the Mahabarata ,
which includes the Bhagavad Gita , and the Ramayana . These sacred texts are lenghty
poems which narrate episodes in the lives of the great warriors. Krishna appeared in the
first, and Rama had a central role in the second of these great epics. The Sutras contain a
number of important texts concerning subjects such as dharma, yoga and Vedanta. The
most important of these texts was the Manusmriti or Laws of Manu, which dealt with
Hindu law and conduct.The Puranas are mythological texts which often told the stories of
the gods and goddesses.
As a people who derive their identity from a sacred book, Mormons have a natural interest
in religious texts and narratives. Indeed, they are in a significant way a "people of the book,"
for the Book of Mormon as a religious text is both a keystone of the Latter-day Saint church
and an expression of the deepest matters of faith for each member. Along with that book the
often-told story of Joseph Smith's 1820 theophany in the woods of upstate New York has
become a sacred narrative of the highest significance as it both identifies and narrates the
beginnings of this new religious tradition. This interest in religious expression is of course at
least as inclusive as it is exclusive. That is why the suggestion of a symposium at Brigham
Young University devoted to the literature of belief met with such an immediate and
enthusiastic response when it was first proposed almost two years ago.
We knew, of course, that any attempt to be either comprehensive or exhaustive with such a
vast subject as religious literature would be foolhardy. From the sutras of Buddhism and the
epic tales of the Bhagavad Gitato the ancient creation narratives of Moses and the modern
warnings of approaching apocalypse, the array of forms and modes and subject matters of
religious literature both written and spoken make the whole field infinitely vast and
complex. So we knew to begin with that any symposium could offer only tantalizing bits
and pieces at best. But the idea itself was so appealing that we could not resist making an
attempt. We were fortunate in this regard in being able to have the support of two important
organizations on campus, the Center for International and Area Studies and the Religious
Studies Center. Drawing on the impressive backgrounds of our own colleagues in these
centers, we were able to bring together their combined resources in a remarkable effort of
mutual support and unselfish cooperation quite unusual even for a college campus. With
this support we were able to invite scholars from within the borders of our own country and
others from halfway around the world as participants in the conference.
As the acceptances began to come back, we could tell that our highest hopes for the
symposium were being realized. Not only would the topics be exciting and varied, but the
speakers would, without question, be some of the most significant scholarly voices of our
When sessions got underway that Thursday and Friday, March 7-8, 1979, the enthusiastic
reaction of the audiences demonstrated that the symposium was everything we had hoped
for. From the exotic and stimulating presentation of Joseph Campbell, through the dance-
like lecture of Wing-tsit Chan, to the enchanting narratives of the charismatic P. Lal, the
different sections of the symposium presented us all with a varied and unusually appealing
But if good luck and good management of car pools, room assignments, and microphones
can make a good symposium, far more is needed to make a good book. While we had
hoped all along to be able to publish the proceedings of the symposium, we recognized as
the program went on that we had before us an array of presentational modes that fit the
symposium format splendidly, but were less easily set down in cold print.
It was at this point that we received unusual help, not just from the symposium participants
themselves in shaping their manuscripts, but from two remarkable and capable people,
Lavina Fielding Anderson and M. Gerald Bradford. Lavina has helped us not only with the
preparation of the copy for the book itself, she has helped find appropriate manuscripts to
cover some of the obvious gaps which the symposium itself, because of the limits of time,
had simply to acknowledge and pass over. Gerald, out of his own scholarly background and
sense of friendship to BYU, stayed with us throughout this whole project as advisor, editor,
and as an essential guide, steering those of us less knowledgeable away from the pitfalls of
our own ignorance. If errors persist, they are ours, not his. Anyone who reads the
introduction which follows will sense the contributions that Gerald has made to this
Many others deserve thanks as well: A. Terry Schiefer, JoAnn Allen, Cloma E. Callahan,
Lillian M. Osborne, and my colleagues in the Center for International and Area Studies
who were the originators and organizers of many of the sessions where these materials were
first presented. I especially want to acknowledge the substantial assistance given to the
symposium and this volume by the World Religions area of the Religious Studies Center
and by the general director of the Center, Ellis T. Rasmussen. Dean Rasmussen has been
impressively patient and supportive as the effort to get these pages prepared has moved
slowly along since the original symposium in the spring of 1979. His unflagging interest kept
alive a project that, given the difficulty, may have otherwise quietly expired.
Finally, no one knows more than those of us who have worked on it how eclectic, even
fragmented, this collection of papers may seem. However, like a collection of fine crystals,
each piece casts a particular hue that considered along with the others creates for the
observer a rich and pleasing experience. Seeing each of these pieces in the context of the rest
will, we believe, be a rewarding experience.
After doing a regular bi-monthly literature review online I have come across a few neew
studies and articles on religion and the Internet that look worth checking out.
First in Islam and the Internet, the journal Contemporary Islam has published a piece by
Heather Marie Akou has written an article entitled Interpreting Islam through the Internet:
making sense of hijab that focuses on how the Internet has emerged as a place where
Muslims from diverse backgrounds can meet to debate ideas such as wearing the hijab.
In the study of Buddhism a Recent PhD from University of Queensland-Australia
entitledBuddhist Meditation Through the Medium of the Internet investigates extent to
which the rituals constitutive of the Buddhist practice of meditation have been achieved by
Cybersanghas. Joanne Miller studies online mediation websites to look at the limitation of
online religious experiences.
The journal of Asian Social Science has published a study on interface between religiosity
and Internet use of Filipino migrants in Japan that creates long-distance ritual practice
entitled Religiosity Online: Holy Connections with the Homeland by Filipino Migrants in
I highly recommend Sanderson & Cheong's study of how fans of deceased celebrities create
and disseminate web-based memorials using new social media practices inExpanding
Tweeting Prayers and Communicating Grief Over Michael Jackson Online in the journal
the Bulletin of Science Technology Society.
And finally, I am looking forward to reading Bobkowski & Kalyanaraman's study on the
Effects of Online Christian Self-Disclosure on Impression Formation in the Journal for the
Scientific Study of Religion which looks at the extent to which Christian identity is
assumed in social networking profiles by viewers.
Over the past decade there has been continued debate as to whether the internet simply
encourages communities of consensus or can be used to bridge communication gaps and
encourage diverse and heterogenous relations. The Huffington Post engaged these issues
recently in an article entitled Cyber Dialogue: The Future of Interreligious Engagement. In
it the author stress how social networking sites help to religious communities communicate
their messages internally and externally and asks to what extend can/do online forums
encourage inter-religious dialogue. He sites successful examples such as Patheos. Othe
notable examples could be Children of Abraham orBeliefnet.
Related to this a call has been issues for nominations and self-nominations for
Contributing Scholars for a new blog, called State of Formation. The blog is sponsored
by Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, in partnership with the Parliament of the World's
Religions and seeks to engage religious and philosophical thinker on questions related to life
in a religiously pluralistic society. The call goes out to young scholars and/or religious
leaders who are currently learning about and reflecting on religious and moral issues who
see a unique opportunity for public dialogue and mentoring.
A recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit puts an interesting spin
on the online community/church question. According to their decision in the
caseFoundation for Human Understanding verses the US, a religious organization that
primarily holds their worship services on the Internet (or radio), did not meet the Internal
Revenue Code's definition of a "church." That means they are not eligible for tax-exempt
The criteria for what makes a church is not cut and dry. The IRS states that the entity must
have a recognized creed and form of worship; a formal code of doctrine and discipline; a
membership not associated with any other church or denomination; ordained ministers
selected after completing prescribed studies; and holds regular religious services.While an
online or cyber-church can arguably have many or most of these characteristics they still
hold "electronic ministry" does not fit the criteria (seesummary at Law.com).
The official court ruling is meant to crack down of online entities collecting money for
bogus purposes and organization, however this also a huge ideological impact on the nature
and definition of religion online.
The full ruling it explains this online church failed meet a 14 criteria test set out by the IRS
on the form/function of a church. This includes proving it is "a cohesive group of
individuals who join together to accomplish the purposes of mutually held beliefs".
Therefore, by my reading, to legally be considered a church there would need to be things in
place like formal record keeping, defined authority structure online/offline and ability to
clearly define membership and host a "gathered" annual membership meeting etc. This force
any online church to function within offline boundaries/structures if they want to be
considered/protected as a church and remain tax-exempt. So to have validity the online will
be forced to establish offline structures of accountability. That seem an important shift to
Today we witness an unprecedented proliferation of the internet and satellite television as
well as growing interdependency of various media outlets in the Middle East and the
Muslim world. This process includes media that morph into each other, messages that
migrate across boundaries, and social networks that utilize multiple technologies. The
unanticipated assemblages formed by these media contribute simultaneously to preserving
traditional cultural norms and religious values while asserting cosmopolitan and global
identity; appealing to a local audience while addressing transnational communities; and
asserting conformity with existing political order while fueling resistance and public
discontent. Therefore, this special issue of CyberOrient aims to transcend the media-centric
logic and to analyze the impact of the internet and new media in the light of the
interdependency and hybridization within broader social, cultural and linguistic context of
the Middle East and the Muslim world.
An Islamist terrorist group on May 22, 2003, attacked Christians for the first time in
Kashmir valley, a region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir that is infamous for persistent
bloodshed due to conflicts between India and Pakistan. The attack on a Christian school in
Nai Basti in Anantnag district, Saint Luke’s Convent School, followed media reports
alleging that some Christian groups were using money to convert Muslim youth in the
An opinion article in The Indian Express daily by BJP legislator Balbir K. Punj said: “The
Vatican and allied Christian groups make no bones about using money as their primal
leverage for ‘harvesting souls’ . . . And it’s no surprise that the Campus Crusade for Christ
could afford to pay every fresh recruit in the Valley Rs.2,000 per month, plus perks and
other expenses . . . Would this then not appear to be a more lucrative career choice for some
Kashmiri Muslim youths — with hard cash which not even a terrorist organisation would
have paid him for picking up an AK-56 against the Indian Army?”
Such newspaper reports merely reflected what the three-part investigation report in The
Indian Express, on April 6, 7 and 8 (2003), claimed. Titled “It’s conversion time in Valley,”
the report stated, “At least a dozen Christian missions and churches based in the U.S.,
Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have sent evangelists to the Valley and are
pumping in money through intermediaries based in New Delhi . . . Christian groups are
putting the number of neo-converts at over 10,000 . . . and a Sunday Express [the Sunday
edition of the newspaper] investigation confirms that conversions have been taking place
regularly across the Valley.”
The newspaper’s idea to conduct the investigation originated out of a claim made in a
website by the U.S. evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, which said that thousands of
Muslim youth were accepting Christ in Kashmir.
Titled “Harassed Kashmir Christians reach out to discreet Muslims,” the article appeared
on the website on September 9, 2002. “Thousands of mostly young Kashmiri Muslims,
disillusioned by Islam, are seeking new ways to resolve Muslim-Hindu violence. . . .
Wearied by violence, thousands are interested in the Prince of Peace,” it said.
BJP leader Punj also quoted from other Christian websites in his article. He said, “The
World Evangelisation Research Centre estimates that it takes 700 times more money to
baptise a convert in rich countries like Japan and Switzerland than in a poor country like
In February 2004, an 11-page cover story in the weekly Tehelka carried another article
quoting from Christian websites. Titled “George Bush has a big conversion agenda for
India,” the article was based on material available on the websites of the “AD 2000 and
Beyond” movement and “Joshua Project” I and II.
The authors of the story sought to portray Christian missionary work in India as a “sinister
and disturbing phenomenon” that should “ring alarm bells within the intelligence agencies
in India.” They misunderstood, or maybe misused, the term “spying of the land” done by
Joshua in the Old Testament, which Christians understand in a spiritual context, to mean
spying in a political context. They alleged that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was
behind the preparation of data about postal codes of India by Christian missions.
Religion and Politics
The voters in India can broadly be classified into religious and caste communities.
Generally speaking, the Christian and Muslim communities support the Congress while
sections of the Hindus vote for the BJP – a considerable number of Hindus believe in
More than 80 percent of the country’s more than 1 billion people are Hindu, while Muslims
and Christians account for 13.4 and 2.3 percent of the population respectively.
‘Dalits’ are generally pro-Congress, given the party’s policy on affirmative action in
government jobs and educational institutions. However, the votes of Dalits are divided in
some states, as there are numerous caste-based parties, such as the Bahujan Samaj Party
(BSP) in Uttar Pradesh state and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in Bihar state. The BJP, on
the other hand, is seen as an upper-caste party.
Dalits were formerly known as ‘untouchables’ because they were considered to be outside
the confines of caste by so-called high-caste Hindu Brahmins, the priestly class. Dalits, who
are classified in the Indian Constitution as ‘Scheduled Castes’, account for 16.2 percent of
the total population.
Another cluster of communities recognised as the “Other Backward Classes” or OBCs
communities, which are believed to be socially and educationally backward. Almost all
parties, including the Congress, the BJP, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal-United,
Janata Dal-Secular, the LJP, the BSP, and the Samajwadi Party (SP), try to woo different
communities within the OBCs. According to some estimates, the OBCs account for more
than 50 percent of the country’s population.
The use of religion in Indian politics can be linked to the country’s pre-independence era. It
is believed that the British, who ruled India for more than 100 years around the 19th
century, pitched one community against the other to weaken the freedom struggle. They
especially succeeded in infusing a feeling of anxiety among sections of the Muslim
community concerning their wellbeing in a country that had a majority Hindu population
and emerging Hindu nationalist voices. As a result, the Muslims demanded reserved seats in
the legislature and a separate electorate. The British acceded to their demands through
legislation, known as the Act of 1909.
The tensions between sections of the Hindu and Muslim communities resulted in the Indian
Muslim League demanding a separate nation for Muslims. When the British were to
formally leave the country in 1947, the British India was divided into the ‘Hindu-majority’
India and the ‘Muslim-majority’ Pakistan. The Partition resulted in a mass migration of
14.5 million people from India to Pakistan and vice versa, and the killing of around 1
million people – Hindu, Sikh and Muslim – in the violent clashes that followed.
Role of Religious Leaders
Religious leaders have enormous followings and acceptability in India. Not only the people,
but also the politicians seek their “blessings”. There are many Hindu gurus who are known
for their overt support to the BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda. These gurus include Sadhvi
Ritambhara, Morari Bapu, Asaram Bapu, Vasudevanand Saraswati, and Swami
In July 2008, high-profile spiritual gurus, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Swami Ramdev, were
the special guests at the launch of the Hindi version of BJP leader Advani’s autobiography,
‘My Country My Life’, in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state. The gurus
reportedly praised Advani in their address.
How the Indian Media Cover Religion and Politics
Although stories on religion and its use in politics occupy a substantial part of the media
coverage, religion is not a separate beat yet. As a result, reporters are generally ignorant
about basic religious issues.
A story on the website of The Hoot, a private media watchdog, gives one such example:
“Sometimes all that is needed is a word to index a problem. What is then necessary is to
excavate its nature, its whys and wherefores. The Telegraph reporting on an incident in
Jodhpur where a temple of Shiva and Navagraha was shut down following protests from
VHP supporters against an idol showing Ravana “offering prayers and water to Shiva,
believed to be his favourite deity, in an unusual glimpse of the demon king’s religious side”.
The word that merits our attention is ‘unusual’.
“The idea that this idol provides an unusual glimpse to Ravana’s religious side begs the
question: to whom does this side offer an ‘unusual’ glimpse. To the thousands, nay
thousands of thousands of believers who are conversant with one version or the other of
Ramayana? To the writer of this story who is reporting from Jodhpur? To the sub who has
inserted it into the text? The answer to the first has to be an emphatic ‘no’ because all the
popular narratives of Ram’s story inevitably lay great emphasis on Ravana’s religious and
In a symposium on ‘Reporting Religious Controversies’, organised by the Oxford Centre for
Religion and Public Life and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India’s Commission for
Social Communications on September 8, 2007 in New Delhi, Obeid Siddiqui, a senior
journalist and a lecturer in Jamia Milia University, said ignorance and prejudices were the
main obstacles in fair reporting of religious controversies. He pointed out that many
journalists who report about fatwa did not know that everybody cannot issue it, and nor is it
a ruling; that it is just an opinion, and not binding on everyone.
He also pointed out that while the print media allowed a multi-layer reporting, in the
electronic media, the time was always limited, which was a major handicap for a
Intersection of religion and politics in itself should not be a matter of concern. After all,
Mahatma Gandhi, known as the Father of the Nation, led India to win independence from
the British rule through a struggle that was founded on religious beliefs. Gandhi said his
mission was to win ‘Swaraj’ (self-rule), a just and humane government and society, which,
according to him, was realising God on earth. Winning independence politically was only a
small part of it. Religion, he said, in its broadest sense governs all departments of life,
Unfortunately, it is the misuse of religion that we see in politics today, and not the use of
virtues found in it. What is more unfortunate is that almost all political parties are, in one
way or the other, guilty of using religion-related issues for narrow political gains, and even
the hands of religious leaders are not clean. This is perhaps because religion is a source of
identity and a bonding factor in the lives of people, mainly in developing societies like India.
And politics in a democracy that is still maturing is inevitably coercive and amoral.
What does the future hold? There is a hope given the developments after the process of
economic liberalisation that began in 1991 under then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao –
when Dr. Manmohan Singh, the incumbent prime minister, was the finance minister. In the
last 17 years, India has seen many changes that can be linked to the liberalisation. The
middle class has expanded, the economy is booming, the IT industry has made a mark
globally, and a cosmopolitan culture is emerging in most metropolises. As a result, the
people are increasingly becoming more concerned about development rather than respond
to identity-based issues. Social scientists anticipate that the Hindu nationalist movement will
die a natural death in the future.
Freedom vs. Social Responsibility
While enjoying freedom, the media should also be responsible to society, nation and world
at large. There is no freedom without responsibility. Press freedom imposes a corresponding
responsibility upon the press, involving the acceptance and compliance with high ethical
standards by editors and journalists. Freedom of the press is not absolute, unlimited and
unfettered at all times and in all circumstances as this would lead to disorder and anarchy.
The US Commission on Freedom and the Press also emphasize the huge responsibility of
media organizations. In its report, the Commission says (1947: 87), “we insist that, morally
considered, the freedom of the press is a conditional right, conditional on the honesty and
responsibility of writer, broadcaster, or publisher.”
The Jyllands-Posten has been defending the publication of the cartoons and the culture
editor of the newspaper in an article published in the Critique, (vol. 5, No.12) says,
I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self censorship in Europe
caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam.
And I still believe that this is a topic that we Europeans must speak out. The Idea wasn’t to
provoke gratuitously—and we certainly didn’t intend to trigger violent demonstrations
throughout the Muslim world. Our goal was simply to push back self-imposed limits on
expression that seemed to be closing in tighter
According to Rose, the newspaper did not intend to provoke the Muslim world but
challenge the European media to abandon its self-imposed regulations. Even though, the
intention of the newspaper was not to provoke the Muslim community, the ultimate result
of the publication was protest and violence. The newspaper can argue that there was no
protest or violence for three months and the atmosphere began to change when politicians
and extremist elements started taking advantage of the situation. Media organizations have
also played a role in escalating the matter further by asking comments from the Muslim
leaders about the controversial cartoons. The cartoons were uploaded on the Internet
making it accessible to all. The Jyllands-Posten can argue that the Muslim community was
not provoked by it but by the after effects of the publication of the cartoons. But it has to be
remembered the basic issue behind the protest was the publication of the cartoon by the
Jyllands-Posten. It has also been alleged that the cartoons were uploaded in the Internet by
the Muslim fanatics to take advantage of the situation and divided the world but that would
not justify the editoral decision of the Jyllands-Posten. Even if that is true, the newspaper
should be blamed for becoming an instrument of the communal elements by making
dangerous editorial decisions.
The media has freedom as well as responsibility and publication of offensive material should
be done only in public interest. Journalists should play a constructive role rather than
destructive in matters of peace and social harmony. It is advisable for media to impose self-
censorship in the publication of sensitive matters to avoid violence and anarchy. When
media fails to uphold high ethical standards and law of the land, external agencies including
the Government may try to regulate them. The new communication technology demands
the media to be more vigilant and sensitive as it is an opportunity as well as threat. This
does not mean that the media should not publish anything against religions and impose self-
censorship in all sensitive matters. Media has to oppose all kinds unhealthy attitude of
religions based on real incidents or stories. The argument is that the media do not have the
right to publish blasphemous or objectionable, imaginary materials putting society at risk in
the name of the press freedom.
My research was prepared through primary research and secondary research.
Primary research- Primary research involves the collection of data that does not already
exist, which is research to collect original data. Primary Research is often undertaken after
the researcher has gained some insight into the issue by collecting secondary data. This can
be through numerous forms, including questionnaires, direct observation and telephone
interviews amongst others. This information may be collected in things like questionnaires
Secondary research- Secondary research involves the summary, collation and/or synthesis
of existing research rather than primary research, where data is collected from, for example,
research subjects or experiments. Secondary research can come from either internal or
external sources. The proliferation of web search engines has increased opportunities to
conduct secondary research without paying fees to database research providers.
No. of people targeted: 50 (31 female/19 male)
How often do you pray?
Not so often
0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00%
Not so often- 25.81%
Very often- 6.45%
In the growing up years what has been your source of learning about
Religious sects- 6%
Religious songs- 2%
Religious books- 17%
Apart from your beliefs, what other factors influence you towards
How often do you discuss religion with your family and friends?
often Not so
Very often- 3.13%
Not so often- 46.88%