Science and Religion

It’s been way too long since I last updated my blog, so I figured it was about time I posted something—even if it’s just filler material, pending the next major project that I’m currently working on for Horizon Cybermedia. A quick update on what’s to come—I recently started editing the next film in my Exploration series, which will visit the outstanding rock-cut Kanheri Buddhist cave temples located in the Borivli National Park near Mumbai, India. At the same time, I plan to post a review of a fascinating novel I have been reading, written by a friend I have known since childhood. The novel is The Rozabal Line by Ashwin Sanghi. It is a remarkable work of speculative fiction that delves into the deepest, hidden recesses of the human psyche and dares to address one of the most controversial, difficult subjects of all—religion! The novel ties in very neatly with my film, as Buddhism plays a crucial role in the story—one that I will address in greater depth when I am ready to publish my review.

As it happens, I have also been reading another very interesting book on the subject of comparative religion, namely God is Not One by Stephen Prothero, in which the author does a comparative analysis of the eight major world religions, emphasizing their differences. He suggests how unlikely and even dangerous it is to assume that it is at all possible to envision a world in which all the world’s major religions could be unified into some sort of harmonious whole or molded into a global world religion. He strikes many interesting chords, and I am inclined to agree with his point of view in many respects. 

However, I think he neglects to address what I believe to be some basic truths—namely, that, in the end, all religions, however diverse they may be, are essentially the product of the human psyche, which is fundamentally similar. So at the core of all religions are some very fundamental, universal truths and these truths, I think, could be a foundation to establish some sort of common ground between religious systems—not so much in an attempt to promote a “global world religion” as to promote understanding, peace and fellowship among human beings of all creeds, backgrounds or ethnic origins. As a Christian myself, I interpret Christ’s message to be this very theme—after all, wasn’t Jesus Christ most critical of doctrinal orthodoxy and dogma to the exclusion of basic humanity and human decency? Would not Christ, if He was with us right now, be sharply critical of so-called religious authoritarians, whatever their credo, who use doctrinal orthodoxy to justify or rationalize a basic lack of decency, humanity and compassion? Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the whole point of the Christian message is to move away from the head and towards the heart—away from petty doctrinal divisiveness and towards basic humanity and compassion.

Interestingly, another project I am currently working on, quite independent from anything to do with Horizon Cybermedia, is a novel based on a screenplay I had written a couple of years ago. This novel is more about science than religion—it tackles the other great subject of our age. It brings to my mind how fundamental this dichotomy between science and religion is—the more so in this 21st century, when science and technology continue to advance at an ever increasing pace. For some reason, nevertheless, religion is proving to be no less relevant even in this era of supposed enlightenment—an enlightenment to be inspired, in part, at least, by scientific and technological advancement. So where will it all lead us? What does the future hold? The end of religion, in a world where scientific knowledge reigns supreme and abolishes the superstitions of the past? Or will religion make a dramatic comeback and have the final say? After all, in a world in which “Scientology” is itself a religion, one cannot—one dare not—underestimate the power of religion over the human psyche! Truly religion is a force to be reckoned with, but even so, does it have a place in a progressive, technologically advanced society, and if so, what is it’s role?

These are some of the questions I hope to address in future blog posts. Consider this one to be a starter—a foretaste or foreshadowing of blog entries to come!

Meanwhile, I welcome your feedback. If you happen to be reading this blog entry or following this blog, I welcome you to reflect on these weighty issues and post a comment or two with your insights. Religion is a sensitive subject and is liable to provoke a passionate response from some quarters, so I urge you to measure your words carefully before posting them. Of course, I will be moderating all comments to ensure that nothing offensive or inflammatory gets posted on my blog so that the spirit of congenial dialog is in no way compromised!

I look forward to hearing from you! Meanwhile, do keep on the lookout for the next film in the Exploration series, coming soon, and, of course, my review of Ashwin Sanghi’s brilliant novel, The Rozabal Line and even, possibly, of Stephen Prothero’s book God is Not One. Meanwhile, do continue to visit http://www.explorationtheseries.com and check out the current and archived videos in the film series Exploration with Uday Gunjikar, which takes you to fascinating sites around the world right from your armchair by the fire at home!

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.

Radical Islam Threatened by Hollywood

Not long ago, I ran across an article on the web—an Associated Press release—that included the following passage (quoted verbatim):

Elsewhere in the northwest, a car bomb exploded close to a movie theater in the city of Peshawar [in Pakistan], killing at least six people and wounding 80 others, witnesses and police officer Saleem Khan said. Authorities blamed militants that have targeted theaters before in the region, believing them to be un-Islamic.

The article, entitled U.N. seeks $543 million for Pakistan refugees, was originally published at this link. It has since been updated by the Associated Press and no longer includes the passage cited above. The same news story, Bomb at Pakistan movie house kills 6, may also be found at this link, which also contains a similar passage as follows:

Militants have targeted movie theaters in the region in the past, charging that the businesses violate the tenets of Islam. Pakistan’s Dawn News television channel reported that some theaters in the area have recently received threats from the Taliban, and that a few theater owners have shut down.

I find these passages to be particularly eye-opening as they clarify and put into sharp relief what radical Islam and, for that matter, any sort of religious extremism, represents to the world of culture and the arts—which naturally includes cinema. Religious extremists are invariably threatened by the arts because the arts represent freedom of expression and a representation of the truth. Religious extremists, like the Taliban and other repressive theocracies of the world, which base their very existence on propaganda and authoritarian dogma, invariably find themselves at odds with artists and artistes of all kinds.

Islamic radicalism has always been about repression—the suppression of individual freedoms and the violation of human rights. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the same fanatical theocracies that have no qualms about resorting to outright brutality to protect and further their social, political and religious agendas—a fact that the world is witnessing only too clearly with recent events in Iran—would feel threatened by culture, the arts and, most recently, by Western cinema, as evidenced by the recent bombings of movie theaters in Pakistan orchestrated by the Taliban.

From the earliest of times, Islamic culture has been characterized by a particularly intense hostility towards imagery or rendering. Some of this fanaticism may be justified by Islamic apologists as an attempt to assert the peculiar brand of monotheism that Muslims adhere to. And, of course, there is no denying the cultural achievements of the past, in such Islamic cultural centers as Beirut, Lebanon and Baghdad, Iraq. However, it cannot be denied that the radical Islamic movement of recent times, as epitomized by the likes of the Taliban and Al Quaeda, have displayed a pretty ruthless hostility towards all forms of artistic representation. And this destructiveness has been felt only too keenly in such Islamic cultural centers as Beirut and Baghdad, which are now wastelands thanks to decades of sectarian violence and brutality.

In March 2001, in fact, the Taliban ordered the destruction of two gigantic, ancient statues of the Buddha in the Bamiyan province of Afghanistan—an act of ruthless vandalism against art and culture—against historical artifacts of immense archaeological importance and cultural value—an act that many believe was an ominous precursor to the destruction, only six months following, of another pair of monoliths of immense socio-cultural importance, namely the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in the great Western cultural center of New York City. Arguably, the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 is an undeniable expression of a deep-seated hostility for Western art, culture and, in this case, architecture, on the part of radical Islamic factions.

After all, if Islamic radicals like the Taliban, Al Quaeda and the Ahmadinejad regime in Iran have no problem with murdering thousands of innocent civilians (by sponsoring terrorism) or engaging in brutal misogynistic practices or controlling their populations with an iron fist through religious dogma, can it be at all surprising that they would find Western cinema threatening? One has to wonder: how many Hollywood movie stars would feel the least bit comfortable having any dealings with the likes of the Taliban or Al-Quaeda or the Iranian regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? And, furthermore, how agreeable would Hollywood or Las Vegas, with their culture of over-the-top extravagance, be to the average Islamic radical?

I have no doubt that when the likes of Osama bin Laden condemn Western and, in particular, American culture as inimical to the tenets of radical Islam, what they have in mind are such cultural centers as Hollywood and Las Vegas—cities whose culture has always been about extravagance and excess of every kind. For a religion that enforces draconian dietary regulations and forbids the consumption of alcoholic beverages, Hollywood would have to be a profound anathema!

No wonder that the Taliban and other Islamic radicals feel compelled to bomb movie theaters in Peshawar, Pakistan!

Horizon Cybermedia, on the other hand, is about preserving art and culture in the face of brutal religious extremism. We are about championing the cause of freedom, especially in the venue of artistic self-expression. For us, the worst possible of all scenarios would be to be subjected to an Islamic theocracy that denies us our basic freedoms and human rights—freedoms such as those that enable us to produce art, culture and cinema!

Check us out at our website http://www.explorationtheseries.com, which features our ongoing film series, Exploration with Uday Gunjikar, a travelogue documenting our sojourns to remarkable venues the world over.

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar,
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.