Saturday, September 18, 2021

A Prayer on Covid19

Dear Lord, Covid19 has been creating havoc in the lives of so many people. So many people have lost their near and dear ones; their livelihood have been disrupted. O Lord, we pray for a solution to this disruption. In your wisdom and mercy, O Lord, let people be able to rebuild their lives again. Dear Lord, let healthcare professionals and scientist be given wisdom to find effective measures to contain the germ causing Covid19. Dear Lord, let people be given prudence to prevent spreading of the infection from one person to another. May you bring healing on this earth that you have created. Let people on earth realise their mistakes, and O Lord, in the days to come, let such germs remain where they should be. We pray for the leaders that you grant them wisdom to take political measures to bring healing and to stabilize society broken by Covid19. Dear Lord, in Jesus name we pray that your eyes would look on us favorably and our lives would once more be free of Covid19. Amen. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

UGC's Exception Form


One can take a print out of this or make a form similar to this for use. 

NB: This form is used to renew the fellowship when it has lapsed for more than one year due to medical reason or something of that sort. A friend of mine went to the Scholarship Cell to obtain this form, but was told that this form would be available with the UGC. The UGC official said that this form would be available with the nodal officer of the respective university. Both sides did not seem to the have the form. So, for the sake of easy accessibility, I put up the form here. As of 2020, this form is valid. Hopefully, the format may remain the same for years to come.  I see no reason why it should change.         

Saturday, November 21, 2020

When Consensual Actions are Illegal

In a liberal democracy or any state, actions that are harmful to others are illegal. So killing is illegal; it is a crime because it harms others. So is stealing a crime because it harms others. But what about actions of an agent that do not harm other people? 

Many of the actions that are not harmful to others are not considered a crime even if it is harmful to the self. This is because liberty is an important category for a liberal democracy. So many of our actions are not considered illegal even when they may be deemed immoral or unhealthy. For example, smoking is injurious to health. There is no dispute with this fact. Yet, in a liberal democracy, smoking would not be considered a crime. This is so because the person's liberty trumps over the potential injury smoking may cause to the agent. Many people in the society would also consider watching of pornography or consensual sex outside of marriage immoral. But again these won't be consider illegal because the liberty/freedom of the agent trumps over certain other people's idea of morality. However, there are certain actions that may be consensual or is chosen by the agent for herself/himself and yet is illegal or must be considered a crime. What are some of those actions? 

Consensual cannibalism is an example when an action is consensual and yet is considered a crime. There is a story of a person who offered himself to be eaten when someone sent out an invitation to eat a human being. The two agree that it was consensual and there is no coercion involved at all. Yet, the cannibal was arrested. You can google or read the story here: Victim of cannibal agreed to be eaten | World news | The Guardian

Pedophilic action is another consensual action that deserves criminalization. 

On a slightly different note -- because here it is not about two individuals choices, but an action chosen by an agent for herself -- one may impose some form of punitive measure for driving without helmet or seatbelt. Here, the agent may not harm anyone just by driving on the road without wearing helmet or a seatbelt. Even if there was an accident, it may harm the agent iherelf, not anyone else. Yet, punitive measure for not wearing seatbelt or helmet is fair. 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Political Secularism Vs. Social Secularisation

When we say 'secularism', it is often understood in different ways by different people. For example, in India there is this idea among some people that secularism entails respect of all religions. So some these folks say that no one should say this religion is bad/wrong; people need to accept that all religions are equally valid and no religion is more correct than others. Now this is a wrong understanding of secularism. 

In order to remove confusion, we need to differentiate between political secularism and social secularisation. Let me explain what these mean. 

Political secularism does have some sense of respect of all religions. But what is meant here is that the state should not discriminate any citizen on the basis of religion; the state should not say people of this religion cannot vote or people of that religion cannot have access to justice in the Court etc. Political secularism implies that the state is not going to discriminate any citizen on the basis of his or her religion. (As an individual I might say this belief of religion A is wrong or that practice of religion B is morally bad. But that's my opinion, not the state's opinion. As part of freedom of conscience that any citizen has, I can have my negative or positive opinion about this religion or that religion. But the state is not going to discriminate religious believers on the basis on his or her religion.) This is an essential aspect of political secularism. 

But political secularism also implies separation of religious institution and state. Religious leaders will hold the rein of power in religious institution; while political leaders will hold the rein of power in political institution. This is the second aspect of political secularism. 

The third aspect of political secularism is that citizens have freedom of religion. This is closely related to the second point. This says that since the state has no state religion, as religious institution and state are separate, citizens are free to choose this religion or that religion or no religion. The state will not dictate citizens' religious belief. 

Social secularisation on the other hand is the transformation or state of society that is devoid of religious values. For example, if the atheists are successful in converting all the citizens into their way of belief, then that society will be a highly secularised society. 

If the state is politically secular, won't the society also be a secularised/irreligious one? Not necessarily. Apart from the state, there are other institutions. One is family. The state can't dictate what religion a family must follow. So families can choose to be religious. Also there is civil society, and this includes clubs, churches, NGOs, Gurudwara etc. These civil society need not be irreligious; they can be religious too. Freedom of religion that political secularism offers allows other institutions to be religious within the bound of public order. 


Friday, September 18, 2020

Egg Politics in Madhya Pradesh

Politicising food continues in India. Shivraj Singh Chauhan of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled in Madhya Pradesh (MP) from 2005 to 2018. During the time he had refused to give egg to the school children. The policy was influenced by the fact that Mr. Chauhan believed in vegetarianism. This was driven by his personal religious belief. 

In 2019, the Congress led government came to power. And during this brief period, the children were given eggs. The Minister had said that the government was just following the advice of the doctors who had said that egss are good for the children. 

In 2020, after a year of being out of power, Shivraj Singh Chauhan's party was able to topple the Congress led government and returned to power. This allows him to reverse the Congress led government's decision to give eggs to the kids. Now it's back to no eggs for the school children. The government said that instead of eggs, milk would be given to the kids. 

When it was in power some years back, BJP had also tried to prevent beef consumption in Maharashtra. It had tried to do that by criminalising possession of beef. After all to consume, one has to possess first. So without really criminalising consumption, it tried to criminalise possession. But this was struck down by the Court as unconstitutional. This means that a person can bring in beef from other state and cook and consume it. In this case, since it involves legislation, the Court has struck it down. Unless the Constitution is amended, beef consumption can't be criminalised. 

However, when it comes to choices between eggs and milk, BJP has shown its preference for milk because of its religious belief. But a question emerges: is this a fair policy for a secular state?

To answer this, one must also take into consideration these questions: what is the benefit of milk vis-a-vis egg; and how does the cost factor weigh in? If the cost of milk and eggs are same plus the utility factor from medical perspective remains the same, then of course there is no way one can raise meaningful objection. (If we assume that the milk won't be adulterated.) But if egg is more beneficial and cheaper, then it is questionable. However, given that this is not a criminal act, the government would get away with the policy even if it is less beneficial. 

But this also raises an important question: is it morally permissible for government in a secular state  to implement policies that are less efficient just because the policy is more in line with the religious ideology of those in power? 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Christian Ethics vis-a-vis Political Ethics in light of Already & Not-Yet Eschatological Tension

If one reads the Bible, there is no doubt that the Bible does not condone adultery; it is considered a sin. There is also no doubt that the Bible does not condone fornication, whether it is between individuals of same sex or between individuals of different  sexes. There is also no doubt that the Bible does not condone sex between individuals of same sex. Lest, someone says Bible only prohibits, let me also state that the Bible considers marriage (and sex within marriage) as honourable. 

Frequently we come across individuals who believe that because the Bible considers these mentioned activities as wrongdoing or sin, these activities must also be criminalised. Meaning, these activities must be banned by the state, which implies that whoever does such things must be caught and appropriate punishment be given (by the state). Is this thinking quite correct? Just because Christians believe certain action to be wrong or sinful, must that action be criminalised? When I eat pork, which the Muslim considers as sin, should I be handed over to the police? When I eat beef, which is anathema for Hindus, should I be handed over to the police? Not really! Well, the point is that we need to differentiate between sin and crime. 

In a liberal democratic society, just because one religious community considers an action as sin, the state cannot just come in and take action against the sinner. If the society is an Islamic society, eating pork may be a sin as well as a crime. In such a society what is a crime or not may be defined according to the teaching of the Quran. However, in a liberal democratic society, no religious texts should really define what is a crime or not. There has to be something more. There may be an overlap between a sin and a crime. So raping someone may be a sin as well as a crime; so also may be stealing, killing etc., but not eating pork, eating beef etc. Eating pork or eating beef may be a sin for someone but they should not be criminalised. The state must determine what is a crime depending on the sentiment of one religious community while undermining the sentiment and the liberty of other religious communities. This is an important feature of a liberal democracy. Similarly, for fornication, adultery or homosexual act, just because the Bible is against such activities, we cannot ask the state to criminalise the acts. If we are to seek criminalisation of these activities, we have to be able to provide other reason beside appealing to the teaching of the Bible. If we don't do that, the Hindus will seek to criminalise beef consumption based on their belief; so will Muslims seek to criminalise pork consumption based on their belief. And when they do that, we would have no good reason to argue against their effort. 

This kind of reasoning will be appreciated more easily by those who belong to the religious minority in a particular situation. A member of the religious majority may not appreciate this kind of reasoning because they know that they will never bear the brunt of such a policy. This is the reason why many members of the religious majority dislike liberal democracy. 

In the past, many countries would write their laws reflecting the religious nature of the majority of the people.  Things began to change in the 17th century. There are different reasons for that, which I am not going to get into now in this post. Now with people migrating back and forth, and therefore the religious composition of a state/country having become more diverse, being a Christian/Buddhist/Islamic country is becoming more problematic. We still see many Muslim majority states/countries having Sharia law in place. However, even with these states, the tension will get worse and worse, because as more and more people from these states travel abroad, they learn from others; plus, as more and more people from other countries come to their country, they find that there are many people who have a different way of living. Moreover, with social medias like Facebook and Youtube becoming so common, learning both bad and good things about others began to take place, and they influence our way of living. So today the question is whether these Muslim states will open up gradually and accept multiculturalism or they will close their doors because they found other cultures polluting their way of life. 

In the biblical scheme of things, readers realise that though God's kingdom of earth is inaugurated through the dead and risen of Jesus Christ, the consummation of his kingdom is awaited. We are now living in between the tension where the kingdom is already come but not yet fully realised. In this period, people are given the choice to accept or reject Jesus Christ; it is the time when both the wheat and the weed grow together. Therefore, for the Christian to force people not to commit sin through state's legislation is not the right approach to call people to live a life of holiness. God gives choice; and we have no business threatening people with imprisonment if they live an adulterous life. I may persuade a friend or even a stranger not to live an adulterous life; however, it is a different matter if the state criminalises and sends an adulterer to jail. In similar vein, Hindus or Muslims persuading me not to eat pork or beef is okay; but it is a different matter if I were sent to jail for eating pork or beef. Spending much energy and money seeking a legislation that will criminalise activities that I consider as sin, which others don't, is not the way to do public theology for a Christian. The more appropriate approach is to share the message of Jesus Christ to a person who may be living a life that I consider as immoral, and when this persons accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and God, he or she will submit to the ways of Jesus Christ. 

NB: While discussing about sexual behaviour, it is important to make a distinction between criminalisation and legalisation. To criminalise an act is to say that if an act is performed, the one performing the act will be imprisoned or treated as an offender in the eyes of the law. When one argues that an act should not be a criminal act, it does not mean the act is praiseworthy or honourable. So when one says that adultery should not be a criminal act, it does not mean that the state should praise or honour adultery. In similar vein, when one argues that homosexual act should not be criminalised, that does not  necessarily mean that same sex marriage should be legally accepted. In the post, I argue that sexual behavior like fornication, adultery and homosexual act should not be criminalised; I am not saying that the state should honour these activities. In effect, I am not saying that same sex marriage should be legally accepted.