Honorable mention: High school essay contest: Harikeshav Narayan

Harikeshav Narayan

Honorable mention

The perpetual battle between religion and progress

FFRF awarded Harikeshav $200 for his essay.

By Harikeshav Narayan

 Religion is often described as highly pragmatic, with its primary purpose being to aid humanity in the comprehension of its needs and desires. However, this is done by dictating “our” needs and desires. It is worth noting that I fully accept the relevance of ancient religious scriptures. As an Indian born into a Hindu family, reading the Bhagwat Gita and reciting mantras were quotidian practices that helped shape my personality.

I exhibit disbelief in religion when it begins to influence society, thereby clouding the line between faith and justice. For instance, I was a toddler when I first noticed my mother would often sleep on the floor with only rags to cover herself. Subsequently, my sister began doing the same. Attempts to inquire only yielded unceasing rebukes.  It wasn’t until the age of 13 that I was informed about the periodic cycle of menstruation. The same religion that advocated for equality ostracized the women in my family during the period of menstruation, because they were “impure.”

It’s rather ironic that the religion which manipulates denizens into labelling “purity” conveniently ignores the fact that 23 percent of female students in India drop out of school by the 7th standard, due to the insufficient availability of sanitary pads. This blatant prioritization of purity over the vocational development of the female half of the human population by religion is reprehensible.

Religion may be the cause of numerous problems in modern society, but humanity cannot be absolved of guilt. Most television shows and mass media propagandists twist religious ideologies to warp public opinion. A startling example is Lord Krishna, who is described as Neela Megha Shyama — which translates into dark as a rain-filled cloud —  portrayed as fair-skinned on television shows. Those pious followers who preach Hinduism are also ashamed of the gods because the gods don’t meet their beauty standards.

From Triple Talaq to Sati, religion has often bred a climate of fear among humanity. My distaste for religion kindled familial disapproval in my orthodox household. I hope for a brighter tomorrow where humanity believes in solidarity rather that segregation based on religion.

Harikeshav, 18, is from Bangalore, India, and will be attending Indiana University-Bloomington with plans to major in finance. He was age 2 when his parents moved from the United States to India. He was a member of Model United Nations and was on the debate team. He interned with the Smile Foundation of India.