New book explores love, death, religion and rape in South Asia

BLOG AV COVER

A UNIQUE new book is set to take South Asia by storm as it addresses burning issues such as love, death, rape and religion in the developing sub-continent.

Divided by partition, war and politics, but united by creativity and common humanity, Asian Voices has brought together 20 emerging writers from across the region to shine a light on their diverse societies.

In 37,000 words, across 260 pages, the contributors paint graphic pictures in poetry and prose of issues which divide and unite people in their respective countries of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The book is divided into 10 sections: Darkness, Light, Love, Loss, Heaven, Hell, Life, Death, War and Peace.

And it is within these sections that the diverse Asian Voices can be heard.

With an infant mortality rate of 4.4% in India and 6.1% in Pakistan (the UK rate is 0.28%) and an adult death rate of 31% and 21% respectively (UK rate 10.3%) – an even higher rate in war-torn Afghanistan – it is hardly surprising that the issue of death features strongly.

Mortality is dealt with sensitively by the Asian Voices writers in at least three sections of the book.

This extract on coping with grief by Lahore based writer Shahreen Iftikhar is an example:

“They say, there are five stages of grief;

I got stuck in denial, with no reasons to heal.

Is this what life is; scribbles on an empty sheet?

Making no sense, just filling the voids of our being?

I said to myself: ‘To Hell with all this grieving and the misery.

It’s time for me to let go of all the tragedies.’

All I had to do was believe.

That is all it took for me to heal.”

 

All countries in South Asia live under different degrees of social patriarchy and this is reflected in the treatment of women.

Rape is the third most common crime against women in India.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau 2013 annual report, 24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012. Out of these, 24,470 (98%) were committed by someone known to the victim. And many more rapes go unreported.

Similarly, physical abuse, house-arrest imprisonment and even bride-burning (now illegal) also go largely unreported.

One of the Asian Voices writers, Janvi from Jaipur has already made a name for herself in calling out for social reform.

This extract speaks volumes:

And then one day we decide to raise our voice 

But again, this society shut us by claiming it as useless noise.

The politicians and the media cry that they worship women and cow!

Is this a way of worshipping? But How?

As our wails grow louder and louder about the demons residing in our own town 

They paint henna on our hands and send us off to an unknown place, looking like a clown.

Wondering that this was not the life that we were destined to live, we decide to put an end

And here you go, creating loads of new monsters and making it Trend.

We are sacrificing ourselves from centuries just so that you know

And here you go, treating us again like the trash that you throw. 

We’ve had enough, being the sacrificed Goddess 

Next time we’ll turn this country into a bloody mess.

 

Religion also resonates within the pages of the book.

India is home to at least nine recognised religions, and while Islam dominates in Pakistan, there are also significant minorities of Christians, Hindus and Ahmadi, and even more diversity in Afghanistan.

So the sections on Life, Heaven and Hell deal with each writer’s views of spirituality and faith.

This piece by 16-year-old Shaheeba from Sibsagar touches many pulses:

How could she survive further?

When her life resided in this heart rate.

Though not here, but in Heaven

They merged to a single soul

Whenever their love tale was evoked

It started raining

Dripping all with pure love.

This flooded the river of love

Which immersed both the fragments of the hamlet

With the virtue of love.

There was love everywhere

Flowing in the winds of hamlet

Residing in the lifeless soil

Felt in the arms of the mother

And in the oneness with God.

Some souls are united in Heaven.

Some stories are plenary despite being partial.

 

The one thing which binds all the writers together is the eternal subject of Love.

For centuries the Indian sub-continent has given birth to some of the world’s greatest love poets. And they continue to emerge as we enter 2019.

This poem by Agathaa Shelling of Ahmedabad, explores that deepest of all human emotions:

You’re the sanctified sacrament in the shrine of love. I’ll devour you and I’ll become pious forever.

Yes, I’m an atheist and there’s only one religion that I practise. That’s love. And there’s only one deity from whom I receive my hymn… it’s you.

And if this is not love. I don’t know what it is. A little bit of fall in your summer. A little bit of rains in your spring. Sunshine in your winters. And a chilly gust of wind in scorching heat.

“There was once a king of verses. Power were his words. Mightier than any sword. And then there was a queen of metaphors. Deep were her rhymes. Deeper than any ocean.

He weaved a tiara out of his words and she sharpened his sword out of hers.

And that’s how they announced their love, with poetry.”

 

Minnie Rai, a writer and 26-year-old refugee from Kabul, who now lives in London, sums up the ethos of Asian Voices: “We don’t become by knowing… we become by doing.

“It is in the present we live and share diversity from within outwards. Through love and death we learn the language of war within us that separates us from the truth that sits beside our heart. When we share that truth, we become one… Asian Voices,” she adds.

 

  • Asian Voices will be published in both paperback and Kindle e-book in February.

 

Christianity: designed to enslave mankind

Jesus gun

THREE years ago, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron declared that the UK is a Christian country “and we should not be afraid to say so.”

He called for a revival of traditional Christian values to counter Britain’s “moral collapse”.

Then last December his successor as Prime Minister, Theresa May called on the nation to take pride in British Christianity.

“Let us take pride in our Christian heritage,” said vicar’s daughter Mrs May in her Christmas message.

Both were re-treading the same political road of former Tory Prime Minister John Major and his ill-fated “Return to Victorian values” of 20 years earlier?

All three seem stuck in a time warp, where they appear out of touch with 21st century reality.

In the 2011 census 59% of residents of England and Wales described themselves as Christian when asked “What is your religion?”

This was down from 72% in 2001… a fall of 13 percentage points in 10 years.

In Scotland, the figure was 54%, down from 65%.

Although the total number of Britons who described themselves as Christian had fallen by more than six million since 2001, the fact Christianity still constitutes a majority is “really, really significant”, said Christina Rees, a member of the General Synod, the highest governing body of the Church of England.

But, Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, says the census question is “flawed” because it assumes the respondent has a religion in the first place.

The 2013 British Social Attitudes Survey reported that 48% of respondents claimed they did not belong to any religion.

The proportion of people who described themselves as belonging to the Church of England was just 20%, down from 40% in 1983.

“Any politician or government that tried to make Christianity and Christian beliefs the foundation of British values or social morality would be building on seriously unstable foundations,” says Mr Copson.

And there lies the nub of it.

For all Christians their holy book the Bible is their foundation.

Most Christians believe the Bible is a direct communication from God to man.

But in reality the Bible is a man-made collection of mythology.

It was not handed to mankind by God, nor was it dictated to human stenographers by God.

The Bible, as we know it, was voted to be the word of God by a group of poorly educated men during the 4th century.

Constantine the Great (274-337 AD), who was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, needed a single canon to be agreed upon by the Christian leaders to help him unify the remains of the Roman Empire.

Until this time the various Christian leaders could not decide which books would be considered “holy” and thus “the word of God” and which ones would be excluded and not considered the word of God.

Emperor Constantine offered the various leaders money to agree upon a single canon that would be used by all Christians as the word of God. The Church leaders gathered together at the Council of Nicaea and voted the “word of God” into existence thereby dismissing any books which created doubt about Jesus being the divine son of God.

They didn’t finish editing the holy scriptures until the Council of Trent when the Catholic Church pronounced the canon closed.

So the real approving editor of the Bible was not God but Constantine.

And thus a Roman Emperor had created a way to use religion to enslave millions of people.

So where does that leave Christianity today?

Most Christians don’t know why they should believe that the Bible is God’s word.

That’s because they’ve been socially and psychologically engineered to assume that it’s a given fact, just like the sky is blue and the grass is green.

That’s why in their normal line of thinking they would never question why they should believe that the Bible is God’s word.

One of the main reasons they don’t question the Bible’s divine inspiration upon their conversion into Christianity is due to the incredible promise of eternal life which they are offered for free just for believing.

Their left brain never stops to analyse what they’ve been preached.

Preachers and evangelists often use sentiment, emotion and touching stories to convert people, rather than reason.

What followers of Christian fundamentalists don’t know and never realize is: nowhere in the Bible does it claim that all 66 books are God’s word or infallible.

The doctrine of Biblical inspiration and infallibility was made up by Christian fundamentalists to create an artificial foundation for their faith.

In fact, many of the authors of the Bible had no idea that their books would be canonized into an “infallible word of God” book.

Even in Paul’s epistles, he made it clear that he was writing personal letters, not dictating infallible words from God.

The doctrine of Biblical infallibility was not a central tenet of Christianity until early in the 20th century when the theory of evolution began to be taught as fact in classrooms.

It was then that the Christians countered with this doctrine.

Not only did it protect Christian tenets from the danger of Darwinist teachings, but it served other purposes as well.

Without the doctrine that the Bible is infallible and that every word of it is of God, it would put question marks on every verse.

Anyone could then pick and choose which parts of it they wanted to be God’s word and which they didn’t, and that would greatly undermine the authority of it.

So this doctrine is necessary to keep the religion intact.

Otherwise, Christians themselves would not be able to feel secure and confident that every verse in the Bible could be trusted.

Now, compare the man-made origins of Christianity and its various dogmas to the simplicity of Deism.

Deism is belief in God based only on reason and the creation itself. It makes no claim to false revelations as all of the “revealed” religions do.

To Deists, proof of the Designer is in the design.

On May 12, 1797 while living in France famous Deist Tom Paine wrote the following letter to a Christian friend who was trying to convert Paine to Christianity: “By what authority do you call the Bible the Word of God? for this is the first point to be settled.

“It is not your calling it so that makes it so, any more than the Muslims calling the Koran the Word of God makes the Koran to be so.

“The Popish Councils of Nice and Laodicea, about 350 years after the time the person called Jesus Christ is said to have lived, voted the books that now compose what is called the New Testament to be the Word of God.

“This was done by yeas and nays, as we now vote a law. “The Pharisees of the second temple, after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, did the same by the books that now compose the Old Testament, and this is all the authority there is, which to me is no authority at all.

“I am as capable of judging for myself as they were, and I think more so, because, as they made a living by their religion, they had a self-interest in the vote they gave. “It is often said in the Bible that God spake unto Moses, but how do you know that God spake unto Moses? Because, you will say, the Bible says so.

“The Koran says, that God spake unto Mahomet, do you believe that too? No? “Why not? Because, you will say, you do not believe it; and so because you do, and because you don’t is all the reason you can give for believing or disbelieving except that you will say that Mahomet was an impostor.

“And how do you know Moses was not an impostor? “Yet, it is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man.

“That bloodthirsty man, called the prophet Samuel, makes God to say, (I Sam. xv. 3) `Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’ “That Samuel or some other impostor might say this, is what, at this distance of time, can neither be proved nor disproved, but in my opinion it is blasphemy to say, or to believe, that God said it.

“All our ideas of the justice and goodness of God revolt at the impious cruelty of the Bible. It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes. “What makes this pretended order to destroy the Amalekites appear the worse, is the reason given for it.

The Amalekites, four hundred years before, according to the account in Exodus xvii. (but which has the appearance of fable from the magical account it gives of Moses holding up his hands), had opposed the Israelites coming into their country, and this the Amalekites had a right to do, because the Israelites were the invaders, as the Spaniards were the invaders of Mexico.

“This opposition by the Amalekites, at that time, is given as a reason, that the men, women, infants and sucklings, sheep and oxen, camels and asses, that were born 400 years afterward, should be put to death; and to complete the horror, Samuel hewed Agag, the chief of the Amalekites, in pieces, as you would hew a stick of wood. I will bestow a few observations on this case. “In the first place, nobody knows who the author, or writer, of the book of Samuel was, and, therefore, the fact itself has no other proof than anonymous or hearsay evidence, which is no evidence at all.

“In the second place, this anonymous book says, that this slaughter was done by the express command of God: but all our ideas of the justice and goodness of God give the lie to the book, and as I never will believe any book that ascribes cruelty and injustice to God, I therefore reject the Bible as unworthy of credit.

“As I have now given you my reasons for believing that the Bible is not the Word of God, that it is a falsehood, I have a right to ask you your reasons for believing the contrary; but I know you can give me none, except that you were educated to believe the Bible. “My disbelief of the Bible is founded on a pure and religious belief in God; for in my opinion the Bible is a gross libel against the justice and goodness of God, in almost every part of it,” he concluded.

Today, Tom Paine’s views are supported by many highly educated people.

American biblical scholar Joseph Atwill claims the story of Jesus Christ was invented as a system of mind control to enslave those threatening the Roman Empire.

Mr Atwill, who is the author of the book Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus, asserts that Christianity did not begin as a religion, but was actually a sophisticated government propaganda exercise used to pacify Roman subjects.

His theory is that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and they entirely fabricated the story of Jesus Christ.

Mr Atwill says: “Christianity may be considered a religion, but it was actually developed and used as a system of mind control to produce slaves that believed God decreed their slavery.”

Mr Atwill says that acts of insurrection by Jewish sects, who were awaiting the arrival of a so-called ‘warrior Messiah’ in Palestine, were a perpetual problem for the Roman Empire and that after the Empire had exhausted all traditional means of dealing with the problem they resorted to psychological warfare.

“They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system,” he says.

“That’s when the ‘peaceful’ Messiah story was invented.

“Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to ‘give onto Caesar’ and pay their taxes to Rome.

“Although Christianity can be a comfort to some, it can also be very damaging and repressive, an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history.

“To this day, especially in the United States, it is used to create support for war in the Middle East,” he observes.

An interesting observation, when one considers that Theresa May’s 2017 Christmas message of: “Let us take pride in our Christian heritage” was made as she paid tribute the UK’s armed forces!