Yesterday, Muslims in Makkah and the world over celebrated Aidiladha, a central tenet of the faith. In a little over two months, Deepavali, the festival of lights, will brighten up tens of millions of households. Then it will be Christmas, marking the birth of Jesus. The time-honoured cycle will continue in 2020, with the Lunar New Year, Wesak and Aidilfitri coming in turn.
This is not a lesson on the great religions of humankind. Neither is it merely a calendar of events and public holidays.(For many, it may have already sadly become only the latter.)
This essay is about bringing to remembrance the position that faiths occupy in the existential fabric of this nation. And to make us think about a future when these pillars may be forgotten, obscured by a form of modernity that allows the shell of faith to remain, but not its substance. Are we ready for this Kafkaesque landscape?
The Federal Constitution (articles 3 and 11) and our collective consciousness, the latter enriched by centuries of understanding and learning, are the foundations upon which belief in God may flourish in this land. Just in case there is any doubt, the Rukun Negara puts this thrust front and centre.
An assault on these foundational structures is palpable, though. It is not led by one person or a group or a foreign power.
It is a tide that has journeyed long in history and which continues to send one eroding wave after another into the sand that is humanity. One force is Nietzsche. His Zarathustra thus delivers this hammer blow:
‘Believe not those who speak unto you of superearthly hopes! ... Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers.’There are other forces at work, and some don’t even say it as directly as the German philosopher.
The unbelief is strong and gaining ground in all corners of the globe. The numbers (believers and non-believers) are complex and differ across countries and regions. But numbers alone may not tell a deeper story, including on the level of faith and faithlessness among the so-called faithful.
This issue is important because it frames our thoughts on another more vital consideration; going forward, in a time when technology makes huge strides in answering humankind’s greatest questions, do we believe the people of this nation really need to continue having faith in a god? That articles 3 and 11 should remain?
Or should we ‘wake up’ and strive to be like Sweden, a developed nation where many young people regard themselves as non-religious? In fact, the BBC, in a recent article, says that ‘some of the societies with the highest proportions of non-believers are among the most secure and harmonious on Earth’.
The NST believes most Malaysians do not want to go down that road. We do not want this God-less future for our children. We believe, even if others vehemently don’t, that faith remains a powerful instrument for peace and amity. Tunku Abdul Rahman, the father of independence, himself thought so.
‘I believe religion taken with moderation and wisdom can be a very good controlling factor in one’s behaviour in life,’he wrote. May God continue to bless this great nation.