On Secularism

world-religionA very short, hastily written note that just had to be, well, written.

There’s a difference in the notion of secularism I grew up with, living in Bombay and what my son is growing up with, here in Manhattan.

I had holidays for Diwali, Eids, Christmas, Buddha Jayanti, Mahavir Jayanti, Parsi New Year, Guru Purab etc etc. In school, we learnt Sanskrit shloks alongside O Come All Ye Faithful or Buddham Sharanam Gachhaami, had Santa come give us presents on Christmas and knew Bakr eid from Ramzan.

Secularism gets interpreted in my son’s world by non-celebration of any religious festival in school. In fact no religious displays of any kind are allowed. Merry Christmas becomes Happy Holidays, traditional Christmas songs  sung for winter concerts make appearances with skillfully altered lyrics to cleanse them of any/all religious bias. No holidays are given for festivals (except of course, the winter break that coincides with Christian and Jewish celebrations).

I suppose these are two ways of approaching the same thing, though I prefer my path to my son’s.

Introduction to several religious ideas, festivals, ways of life, broadened my outlook. The world was not merely Hindu I realized very early on. There are Buddhists, Jains, Muslims, Sardars, Christians, Parsis and they all have interesting ways of celebrating their lives. A window into the unknown. Association. Empathy.

Not talking about religion is not going to make it go away. It’ll always be there in one way or  another. Why then not celebrate its diversity instead of shunning it in entirety?

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2 thoughts on “On Secularism

  1. It is all a good reason to become an atheist! I am over the Christmas thing. Maybe I am becoming that cynic I never hoped I would when I was younger. Just too commercialized
    for my liking…

    • How I miss our morning discussions on the weather and God and everything in between 🙂

      I have no issue with being an atheist, but as a student of sociology, I know that festivals almost always bring great succor and cheer to the masses.. and festivals almost always are religious. Even when non-religious, they are wrapped around controversial concepts like patriotism e.g., independence day or some national leader’s b’day. Theres no escaping festivals and what they are essentially rooted in .. so in which case, why not celebrate them all in the right spirit.? (i know, Utopia much?)

      I do hwr agree that xmas is v commercial. it shocked me when i saw it here the first time. back home they’re trying to do the same to diwali too. really hope they fail.

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