Questioning beliefs in a “Cultural Soup”- A good “job” for a writer!

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How beautiful to hear a temple bell ringing through a sleepy country village to gather devotees for an evening ritual.. How nice the music of a church choir mixed with a sound of a piano and sight of beautiful girls singing.. How majestic the architectural landscapes of world-famous cities become by, mosques and pagodas.  Also how tragic if people go into the wars to “protect” the belief and “faith” and kill each other?

I should confess that I am not a very religious person and I often question various aspects of religion. But I have always liked the cultural attachments of the religion and unique interactions and forms it has taken in literature and arts. I believe religion plays a big role in cultural traditions. This is because humans have a “spiritual self” integrated to their genes from the early stages of evolution as I believe.

I was born as a Buddhist and grew up in Sri Lanka, where we usually wake up to the chanting of “ pirith(a form of Buddhist prayer)” from national broadcasting services. I have to admit, I was attracted to its practices as a result of family, peers, and culture. To this day I have a deep sense of respect for it. But do I have to follow it and practice it as an adult because I was born to it? Or, should I cherry pick whatever I like from the religion and live as an adult?

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My thought process, which I am putting down to words came to me after reading the novel American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar . Ayad Akhtar takes us on a journey of a Muslim boy growing up immersed in a cultural mix, in his parents’ newfound western society. A family going through ups and downs in a new country with their orthodox religious beliefs..

There’s this young boy struggling with his faith and adolescent emotions.. In the background his “ unbelieving” father who admire the freedom of great American dream, drinking whiskey and chasing white women…  There is this Mina auntie who evokes the religion as well as secret passions in this young boy’s mind… what a drama and material to evoke thoughts..  Ayad Akhtar put on the table for us to judge and discuss controversial topics without forgetting that we are all humans with feelings..

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I believe by knowing about religions, we can understand different cultures more. By understanding cultures, we can understand the behaviors of humans in this world.  May I propose the religion is a “double-edged sword” in a given cultural setup.  Why?  Religion is associated with healing, at the same time religion is associated with war… In that sense, should not we be questioning about the various aspects of religion and it’s interpretations?

I think there is always a vacancy for a writer in this niche, who is brave enough to do that. True and honest questioning without being judgemental about its cultural aspects is a fine art and it is a craft to master for the benefit of the society. I believe a writer can be a mediator to evoke discussion in these aspects.

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