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Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world. “An overwhelming majority of Hindus (94%) live in one country, India.” http://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-hindu/ This means we can study India to determine the effects of Hinduism on the culture. But it’s not so easy. Hinduism is the most open-minded of all religions and thus difficult to nail down. You can be an atheist and the Hindus will think that is just fine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism_in_Hinduism

The Religious Tolerance group states, “…we do not criticize beliefs, only practices that harm others.” http://www.religioustolerance.org/hinduism4.htm Their two issues include the caste system and the status of women. I will add sanitation issues and the value of humans versus animals.

CASTE SYSTEM
“The Rigveda, a collection of ancient Vedic Sanskrit hymns dedicated to the Gods, defined four varnas (castes). In decreasing status, they are normally described as:
Brahmins (the priests and academics)
Kshatriyas (rulers, military)
Vaishyas (farmers, landlords, and merchants)
Sudras (peasants, servants, and workers in non-polluting jobs). The Dalit were outcasts who are not even considered to be part of the caste system. Until the late 1980’s they were called Harijan (children of God). They worked in what are considered polluting jobs. They were untouchable by the four castes. In some areas of the country, even a contact with their shadow by a member of the Varnas was considered polluting.
Practicing untouchability or discriminating against a person because of their caste is now illegal. The caste system has lost much of its power in urban areas; however the tradition has been preserved largely unchanged in some rural districts. The government has instituted positive discrimination by reserving a percentage of civil service jobs for Dalits, in order to help them.
Many Dalit have converted to Buddhism, Christianity, and other religions in recent years. This has often been motivated by a desire to escape the caste system. On 2001-NOV-4, one million low-caste Dalits were scheduled to meet in Delhi, India, for a mass conversion to Buddhism. According to Gospel for Asia, Dalits feel that “The only way for our people to find freedom from 3,000 years of slavery is to quit Hinduism and Castism and embrace another faith.”
Mass conversions to Christianity have also occurred. This has generated massive anger and even instances of violence and murder directed at proselytizing religions by some Hindus.” http://www.religioustolerance.org/hinduism4.htm
There is anti-African prejudice in India. “This may be due to a “caste-related bias in favour of lighter skin.” (Potential brides are advertised as having ‘rosey’ or ‘wheatish’ complexions.” The Economist, June 4, 2016
STATUS OF WOMEN

“Over the millennia Hinduism has existed, the role of women, at first respected, has deteriorated. There are child marriages, a ban on widow remarriages, polygamy is practiced, temple women are sexually exploited, sexual trafficking is ongoing and female infanticide still occurs. The government of India tries to end these behaviors, but, again, that is primarily due to British influence, not the Hindu religion. The arranged marriages in India have a very low divorce rate, however about 50% of Indian women are married before the legal age of eighteen.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_India, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_India

Rishi Inyengar wrote, April 22, 2015, “Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi addresses a press conference on the completion of 100 days of her ministry in New Delhi on Sept. 17, 2014.

“You have 2,000 girls who are killed in the womb every day,” Maneka Gandhi told news channel NDTV in an interview. “Some are born and have pillows on their faces choking them.”
There is already a marked increase in the number of girls being admitted to orphanages, a sign Gandhi says is somewhat heartening because it represents a transition from “being killed to being thrown out.” http://time.com/3830874/2000-girls-killed-every-day-india-minister/

SANITATION

Hinduism has aspects of animism such as the belief that the Ganges River is a healing force, and that cows are spiritually at a higher level than humans.
It is believed that bathing in Ganga washes away one’s sins and the water cleanses you of all the evil. The Ganges water is considered to be holy and Hindus cast the ashes of their dead in the river in the belief that this will guide the souls of the deceased straight to paradise. Along with the glory of Ganga, comes the pollution as well. The pious river has become an agent of the worst water-born diseases like dysentery, hepatitis, and cholera. Money is being raised by the government and other groups such as the Swatcha Ganga to clean the Ganges. http://www.famous-india.com/rivers-in-india/ganges-river.html

A gastroenterologist here in Las Vegas returned to India often in order to wash his sins away in the Ganges River. Is there any link between what he did in his colonoscopy practice and his religion?
Judy Witman, one of his medical technicians, said she became concerned about the physician’s work, even as his reputation grew and his practice became busier and busier.
“Everybody thought he was this great physician,” she said in a phone interview from her Pennsylvania home. “But he wouldn’t allow us to properly clean the scopes (used in colonoscopies) because he was in a hurry to get patients through to make more money. He was so cheap. There was always blood and stool on them” after they were washed. “It was disgusting.”
Witman, who now works for a Pennsylvania hospital, said she quit her job at [the] clinic after a few months and notified the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners about [the doctor’s] behavior in 1989. http://www.lvrj.com/news/23786294.html

VALUE OF ANIMALS versus HUMANS

Who is better off in India – animals or children? Many westerners have come to value the idea that we should not kill animals. The extreme following of this belief is seen in India where rats eat about half the grain while humans starve. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,947662,00.html The Hindu scriptures teach that cows are our mothers. Cow urine is supposed to cure diseases. Swami Bhakti Vedanta Varaha writes, “One who…does not protect them [cows] affectionaltely is a simmer and offender and their destination is certainly hell…It is forbidden to kill cows under any circumstances.” http://bhagavad-gita.org
Which is worse, smothering baby girls or killing and eating cows?

Bless the beasts and the children

For in this world they have no voice
They have no choice
Bless the beasts and the children
For the world can never be
The world they see
Light their way
When the darkness surrounds them
Give them love
Let it shine all around them
Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe
Keep them warm
Light their way
When the darkness surrounds them
Give them love
Let it shine all around them
Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe
Keep them warm
The children
The children
The children
Songwriters
WARREN, HARRY / DUBIN, AL Published by
Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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