Fanaticism and Superstition are the biggest enemies of Religion: In fact, these are Irreligious attitudes
The biggest enemy of religion is not atheism but fanaticism. Or, better still, fanaticism and superstition. Both have truly disfigured the face of religion and de-humanised its spirit.
And fanaticism and superstition have been marketed in the name of religion to exploit innocent masses. Both fanaticism and superstition are in fact the antithesis - the very opposite - of religion. Both have been used and exploited to the hilt by commercial opportunists posing as clergy or moral police.
What passes for religion in common language is just the opposite of religion. Those who hate religion must learn to distinguish it from communalism on the one hand and from dark superstition on the other.
What is communal is fundamentally irreligious. Religion sees one-ness in all Nature. Therefore, religion unites, and it unites not only man with man, but also man and the entire Nature. It brings man in complete communion with the entire phenomena of Nature, life and all that there is.
Communalism does just the opposite: it divides. Religion reveals the basic one-ness of everything to our hearts, and in doing so, it evokes the sentiment known as love. Because communalism divides, it evokes another sentiment that is opposed to communion: that sentiment is hatred. Love is God, and both love and God are an experience of One-ness. Hatred feels bad and evil because it is an experience of divisiveness.
Let me push the envelop a little further.
Sikhism and Hinduism and Christianity and Islam and Judaism etc, as we use these terms these days, are not names of religion. These are names merely of communities. Communities are social groupings based on the ritualistic observance of practices which are misnamed religion.
Even these communities have something common in them: belief in the One-ness of entire Natural phenomena. And that belief is a religion. But belief is not experience. In most cases, religion stops at being just a belief. When it becomes an experience, it dissolves everything else into a single feeling which a fusion of joy, freedom and love. Religion is love, freedom and joy. Communities are slavery by different names. We are, most of us, slaves of one community or the other. A truly religious soul breaks these bonds and is liberated from this slavery. That is why generally great enlightened souls are not liked by members of the community they are born in. Because they deny communal identity and live by a larger experience which can only be described as "simultaneous experience of freedom, (mukti) joy (anand) and love (prem)."
"Anand bhaya meri maaye, satguru main paya" is a celebration of that love.
And what a celebration:
"Raag rattan parivar pariya, sabad gaavan aaiya ...."
Nanak celebrates life and Nature. And he does so in a state which is beyond the comprehension of miserable community-striken (or communal ) minds: Anhad shabad vajant bheri....The entire universe turns into a song as Nanak invites celestial wonders to his simple, innocent little attic . Stars and suns and skies and winds and waters and galaxies…all dance in a trance ...oh, what an illumination of enlightenment must have descended there when he sang out:
Gagan may thaal rav chand deepak bane taarika mandal janak moti.....
and then, he exults in wonder
"Kaisie aarti hoye bhavkhandana teri aarti..”
How would you confine this wondrous moment of Nanak to just the Sikhs, to just Punjab or India or just humans alone. Nanak himself turns a flute of the sublime and he is the singer and the song and the listener and he is the lover and he is the beloved..everywhere, its the same glow that unites all things living and non living
(Sabh main jyot jyot hai soye..tis te chaanan, sabh main chaanan hoye)..
And here, his followers talk about themselves as distinct from the rest of the folks.
Nanak eliminates those distinctions and holds his Sikhs by the Finger and leads them as drops into an Ocean of Oneness. Religion in its glory of liberation, love and sheer joy.
Because these great souls do not subscribe to communal identity and refuse communal rituals, they are damned as "irreligious and a danger to society. " Mansoor, Jesus, the Gurus - they were all misunderstood in their times as enemies and iconoclasts. Every religious soul is a liberated soul. Liberated from the community or society he or she is born in and from the norms of all groupings known as communities. They are revolutionaries, Nanak, Kabir, Mohammad, Jesus, Meera.
Gurbani is religion. But Gurbani is beyond communities and social groupisms. So are all scriptures in their truest essence.
Followers of all prevalent religious groups - Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Christians etc - are too blinded by community-pride at best and communal ego and vanity at worst to understand religion. Religion is not a matter of groups or communities. That should not be difficult to understand. But that is precisely what it has been reduced to. Guru Nanak and ancient seers before him had repeatedly emphasized the true nature of religion as nothing but a direct communion of the individual with the cosmic reality (Atma with param-atma...but atma and paramatma are the same. This play-acting of merger is described as Leela) .
When Guru Nanak disapproved of the Brahminical or Islamist clergy and rituals, he was not declaring the need for a new religious grouping. Those who claim that Guru Nanak did not start new religion are ironically right. But by not starting a new religion, they perhaps mean that he remained a part of the religious grouping he was born in: Hinduism. That is ridiculous.
Nanak is too large for any "ism" to contain him. Sikhs or Hindus, Muslims or Christians -- they are all too small for enlightened and powerful souls like Nanak. He was merely debunking the relevance of religious groupings per se. He was proclaiming independence of Hinduism, Islam as one proclaims freedom from slavery. But by declaring his independence from these prisons, he was not creating a new prison for himself or others. he was simply breaking walls. His followers belong to humanity, not to any one religious grouping. They are Sikhs as they are students in the school of love, joy and freedom. A true is not just another member of a new community. He is beyond communities, including his own. He loves Nanak and like Nanak, he must challenge prisons and pull them down. Surely, Nanak did not do this because these prisons were small and he needed a larger or better prison. He just proclaimed himself free and independent of all prisons, old or new. He was emphasizing the true nature of religion as a matter of personal pursuit of truth.
A Sikh is not merely a member of a new community, like there are members of old communities. A Sikh is non-community creature. He is a world citizen. This world is his village. This world belongs to him - every inch equally strongly. And he belongs to everyone - Hindu, Muslim, Christian or anyone. In fact, he does not recognise Hindus or Muslims or Christians or Sikhs. he recognises only human beings, only living creatures, only glowing and living particles-- a particle is merely a part - a part that is, of a larger Truth. All creatures, including humans, are particles of that Truth.
Nanak exults in this dance of particles which are all energy dancing different dances under one choreographed pattern.
( jal tarang aur phem budbuda, jal te bhin na hoyee.......sabh ghat Ram samaana re ....Sabhe ghat Ram bole, Ram ,Rama bole, Ram bina ko bole re...)
The pursuit of religion and investigations of science both end in identical conclusions. Science searches and examines Truth through the slow , heavy and weary "ploddings of intellect" while religion pursues the same Truth through intuitive revelation. In religion, to know truth is to live truth, and to live truth is to be one with truth. And truth here does not mean an opposite of 'falsehood or lies" but a 'quickening impulse which falls in love with what it sees and becomes at once ONE with what it loves.
And what it loves is all that there is, and there is nothing beyond.
It is in this sense, and in this sense alone, that love is God.
It is not possible to be religious and fanatical and unscientific at the same time. Both science and religion in their purest and highest forms are human endeavours in a single pursuit: the pursuit of truth as revealed through nature. Guru Nanak in fact raised Nature to the status of Godliness itself. And nature does not mean just trees and forests and rivers and seas but the entire cosmos at large. In Religion, Truth, God and Nature are interchangeable "entities". I use the word "entities" in a very loose sense because all three in their true essence are infinite and cannot be reduced to definitions or entities.
Religion, like science, is nothing but an attempt to understand and love the unity in the vast and infinite diversity of Nature.
Everything, in science as well as in religion, is born of the same single force or energy and every single atom or cell or sub atomic or sub-cellular or sub microbial reality is
interconnected with everything else that surrounds it in the entire universe.
The word universe itself is a misnomer because both in religion and in science the universe we live in is a mere hamlet in a vast and limitless landscape. The Vedas and the Gurbani of Nanak in all ten incarnations refer to countless multiverses that surround the little universe in which our solar system is a small nook in a sleepy street.
Religion is nothing but a revelation of truth that surrounds us. And what surrounds us is nothing but us. And this revelation coming through a lightening flash breaks the bounds of intellect and artificial divisions. Science also breaks these artificial divisions and arrives at the essential oneness of phenomena and Nature.
All things lived together in one single impulse is awakening and that experience is loosely called love. In fact , rightly called 'love' but loosely understood and confused as desire.