The word 'religion' causes much miscommunication than it should. It is the supreme irony of ironies, isn't it? Religion seems to have lost the essence for what it stands for: a cultural system of behaviours and practices, world views, sacred texts, holy places, ethics. It also stands for a societal organisation that relates humanity to what an anthropologist has called "an order of existence".

Looking at what is happening around us… Not just in India but the world over. It sadly appears to be such that religion and anything to do with it has now been coerced into being a 'dirty' word. Here not only is everyone's faith and belief being questioned, but is also looked down upon. Unfortunately, the word religion has lost not only its meaning but also its significance. The worst illiterate is the religious illiterate.

On home ground, in a heated discussion recently on religion, it was made clear in a 'matter of fact' manner from a handful of sane voices that even Hindus didn't want to acknowledge India as being only a 'Hindu', country as is being projected and pushed forward these days. Politics has made the very word 'religion' dirty - the prevailing environment has cast a shadow.

Which leads me to believe that many people now are wary of voicing an opinion in 'matters of religion' as that may set off chain reactions. Secularism in this country seems to be largely hypocritical. There can only be some normalcy if there is some form of national awakening for religious freedom in our country.

Are we not all the same? So hence, are all religions not equal? The bottom line is that first and foremost we should all respect our heritage with all its history and glory. And not look at rewriting history as per convenience, or ignoring, or trying to obliterate the past. There's nothing called a 'clean slate' no matter how hard each government at the helm tries to project an unsullied record.

Sadly, we also seem to have a 'Religion Complex' now. All old, archaic, and staid, showcasing caste system dysfunctionalities are sticking to our pre-conditioned and irresponsible minds. Akin to a plaque, it needs prising and loosening. It's almost like 'when sex was dirty, the air was clean', now it's religion!

When others tell you what to believe and when others tell you what to do is organised religion. This is a conflict zone as so many different religions exist at the same time, vying for belief. There is a place for spiritualism in modern society but no place for organised religion.

A secular society is not a godless society, but one in which people of different faiths and religions can flourish. If you look at it with an open mind, you can teach your children good morals and values without religion and at the same time have faith in something without a religious book or institution telling you what to believe.

What does a person's religion have to do with his or her being human? We are the ones who created these preconceived boundaries, no pun intended of course. Surely, all the Gods can live in one Mandir, Masjid, Church or Gurudwara but not people of different religions… No, Sir! That is just now allowed!

There are those that think they are 'superior', and others are made to feel 'inferior'. This is what India is made up of today, the ostentatious on one end, and the fools and fundamentalists on the other. With no end to hypocrisies, how does one wake up the elite Kumbhakarnas and dormant intellectuals, and make them come to grips with reality.

Recently, the cacophony from the intolerant and extremist strains in our society have become louder and more insistent. The new rhetoric of hatred, intolerance and extremism are becoming quite commonplace. The endless furore to incite inter-racial and inter-religious tensions has gone out of hand.

I urge you all to awaken your conscience, in unity, cohesion and abundance of humanity and love, above hate, and aggression. We need to go beyond just 'tolerate', to accept and even celebrate our multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural diversity.