The meaning of religion
Religion has been used as an instrument to protect distorted ideologies and has been one of the main causes of terror occurring today. Can faith unite or divide? By BMCC undergrad Josephine Ong.
When Mr. Irwan Marlius, an MPU subject lecturer of IACT, suggested a one-day field trip to visit the holy temples in Kuala Lumpur, the BMCC class did not seem too keen about it. However, when he mentioned that the trip would make up 20 per cent of the subject, the class instantly and unanimously agreed to the proposal. Sounds just about the easiest method to score for a subject. Being a Malaysian, one would definitely perceive that one would have known much about the religions in the country. I mean, if one studied in a public school, one would have been through Sejarah classes. What more do we have to learn? I did not understand the purpose of the outing. Hence, truth be told, I was not exactly thrilled for the event on 30th July especially when I had to move out of the unit I was staying at before August.
I could recall the entire week before the excursion, was a week filled with religious and cultural discussions with friends as well as during class. I remember watching videos of the plights of transgender and shedding tears as they speak of the condemnation they endure for being “different”. I remember expressing my doubts towards my faith because of this. In Malaysia where most are bound by religious principles, there is not much space to be “different”. One risks to be rejected and frowned upon in society for not conforming to conventional principles. In fact, making a “wrong” turn could affect your occupation for the rest of your lives.
Religion, is the belief in the existence and the worship of a God, several Gods or of a higher, supernatural power. Usually, one’s religion would dictate their culture, worldly perspectives, behaviour, moral values and ethics. The main religions of the world are dominated by Christianity (2.2b people), Islam (1.6b people), Hinduism (1b people) and Buddhism (500m people). In Malaysia, Islam is the official religion practiced by 61.3 per cent of the population; Buddhists are the second largest population with 19.8 per cent of believers, followed by Christianity which consists of 9.2 per cent of Malaysians and Hinduism, 6.3 per cent. There are of course other religions such as Sikhism and animism being practiced in this South East Asia country.
The morning began, bright and sunny; a perfect weather for a road trip I would say. Our first stop was the Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur; one of the few mosques that allows non-Muslims to enter. Additionally, they have talk sessions as well as facilitators who bring you around the mosque to explain about Islam for non-Muslims who visit. I was at awe of the magnificent artwork surrounding the mosque. The journey continued to the Sri Lankan Buddhist Temple in Sentul. There, we were met with a Buddhist monk who calmly and in the most “zen” manner ever, explained Buddhism and the various sects within the religion to us. We were later generously served with a myriad of delicious curries and dishes for lunch. Finally, we headed to Jalan Tun HS Lee to visit the two temples situated there. The Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple and the Guandi Buddhist Temple. It began to pour but fortunately it was towards the end of the outing.
It is a Malaysian culture, especially when it comes to education, to be spoon fed with information and swallowing it whole without a question or remark. The same goes for religion, Most of us are born with a religion prescribed on our birth certs before we can even open our eyes. We are taught to accept teachings of a certain religion before we even know what religion is. Hence, I believe that one should breathe in the holy texts and follow the commandments while keeping an open mind. And also, never cease to question the legitimacy of the teachings received. I would like to thank Mr Irwan for the trip for not only have I learnt more about the religions in my country, I have also found a new meaning of religion. Religion, in my humble opinion, is by itself, pure and sacred. As a person who appreciates cultures, I belief the many faiths make available to human kind is what makes each individual unique. But it is witnessed that religion, when misinterpreted amongst people, would bring about destruction. Instead of uniting, it has divided nations. It has been used as a tool to defend distorted ideologies and is one of the main causes of terror that has occurred.
Image credit: www.greeceturkeytours.com