I want to recount a few incidents, that are not very uncommon in conversations of Indians living in or outside India. The idea of sharing this snide remarks is to broach a topic that has a high human cost.
A Muslim friend, “Did they teach your kid any thing from bible in school?”
Me, “maybe a little bit”
Hindu friend, “Thats why it is good to move to a public school once they reach kindergarten”
Muslim friend, “They start converting you after that”
The discussion was about a Christian Pre-School my son attended.
Another day, another city:
Me, “You should watch sixth sense. You wont guess the story till the end”
Christian friend seriously replies, “I don’t watch satanic movies”
These are few of many incidents, am sure we all have witnessed or taken part in. The “outsider” or “outside source of information” might change based on what the “ingroup” you belong to. You get the idea. I understand the affinity every one feels to their affiliated groups. And the natural human need for social groups and religions. But what I don’t understand is the underlying fear and their surety in fear to ideas/information outside our/their own.
Internet has touched/connected every human life, and information is more and more democratized. Gone are the days where Ramanujar was condemned by other priests for sharing secret sacred mantras to the common man. The age of wikileaks, where even self-interest foreign interventions are exposed and judged by the global citizens. If there is something that is traded, literally freely across boundaries and languages, it is information. Information is shared between countries/groups include cultural “learnings”, findings, know-hows, weaponry or software. Less and less have become the days where information is used a strategic weapon, to gain edge over competitors or countries or people. Any commodity that does not take any raw material other than a fixed upfront human labor and thinking,is slowly becoming commoditized. Software industry and internet are the prime example of this trend.
Microsoft which protected its Operating system code so strategically close to its heart is taking a beating in the small business server market, as free open source operating system Linux is replacing it. It is a foregone conclusion in the larger server market that open source code has replaced protected Sun, Windows and HP operating system. The PC and mobile market are the next battle grounds for free and open source of software. This means a large chunk of the copyright fee cost of the data you receive on internet or over your mobile or any technology product or service has been removed. Knowledge procured at a one-time fixed cost, is increasingly distributed freely across the world, lowering the cost to improve human life. Some examples? The knowledge of Yoga is not a secret of Indians alone and has spread across gyms across US, available more freely than in India. Once protected Oriental arts are more freely available in developed countries than in their native places. Many food recipes have spread to a larger populace in foreign countries than the local populace.
The trend continues at such an alarming pace, that it is threatening whole industries. Music Industry and the writing industry are fundamentally affected by such free flow of their output freely across the internet without any collection of fee for the happiness or entertainment they provide. Even mass destruction weapon making which is direct source of power and should be feared, has flowed between China, Korea and Pakistan, if not freely. At the source of this trend is development in information sharing and communication technology and its pervasiveness. The trend is going to continue further as information storage and sharing in peta bytes of storage (against mega bytes of storage of the 80s) is becoming cheaper. And as international data transfer across countries, be it voice or data or video has become free. Obviously the trend is led by grass-root individuals who fundamentally are information sharers and seekers.
Coming back to the topic in hand, the founding fathers of religions or the prophets were not very different from the open source developers. They learned, documented the knowledge and spread the information, so that there would be a large uptake leading to large societal benefits and human betterment. I hope you would agree with me that every religion has some benefits to the practitioners or at least was relevant and helpful at the time and social setting during their founding. The prophets were open source developers, in the sense that did not encrypt/protect the information/benefits of using the tenets strategically to themselves. If the communication and spread of knowledge has been intrinsic feature of religions, when did we start getting so afraid of outside information? After all no religion could have existed on day one, when homosapiens started appearing on earth 200,000 years ago.
-Continued [Is the fear truly unfounded?]
[Disclaimer: This article is not in support of or against religious conversion, but to question lack of openness, intellectual curiosity and communication which leads to conflicts. Since Religious heterogeneity can’t be avoided in our society, it explores the issues associated with it.]