Judging a Religion

14 07 2007

That religion should be judged not by its worst specimens but by its best is true enough but does it dispose of the matter ? I say it does not. The question still remains—why the worst number so many and the best so few ? To my mind there are two conceivable answers to this question : ( 1 ) That the worst by reason of some original perversity of theirs are morally uneducable and are therefore incapable of making the remotest approach to the religious ideal. Or (2) That the religious ideal is a wholly wrong ideal which has given a wrong moral twist to the lives of the many and that the best have become best in spite of the wrong ideal—in fact by giving to the wrong twist a turn in the right direction. Of these two explanations I am not prepared to accept the first and I am sure that even the Mahatma will not insist upon the contrary. To my mind the second is the only logical and reasonable explanation unless the Mahatma has a third alternative to explain why the worst are so many and the best so few. If the second is the only explanation then obviously the argument of the Mahatma that a religion should be judged by its best followers carries us nowhere except to pity the lot of the many who have gone wrong because they have been made to worship wrong ideals.

N. B:- It is important here to state the question which M.K Gandhi had posed and to which this quotation is addressed. It is as follows,

” In his able address, the learned Doctor has over proved his case. Can a religion that was professed by Chaitanya, Jnyandeo, Tukaram, Tiruvailuvar, Rarnkrishna Paramahansa, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, Vivekanand and host of others who might be easily mentioned, so utterly devoid of merit as is made out in Dr. Ambedkar’s address ? A religion has to be judged not by it’s worst specimens but by the best it might have produced. For that and that alone can be used as the standard to aspire to, if not to improve upon. (Harijan, July 18, 1936)

Appendix I and II, Annihilation of Caste. Vol-I, Dr. Ambedkar Writing and Speeches

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