Decoding the Divine Dish: Why We Miss the Point of Religious Texts

Imagine meticulously studying a recipe for a succulent spaghetti Bolognese, only to end up with a steaming plate of biryani.

Both delicious dishes, no doubt, but a stark deviation from the intended outcome. The ingredients might be familiar, the instructions seemingly understood, yet the final dish bears no resemblance to the intended outcome. This analogy aptly reflects the disconnect between reading religious texts, brimming with compassionate and moral lessons, and the stark reality of our actions. While the world delves into scriptures like the Bible and Quran, translating their teachings into active, ethical lives remains a distant dream for many.

One reason lies in the subtle shift towards rampant capitalism. Modern societies prioritise competition and individual success, often at the expense of collective well-being. The teachings of love, forgiveness, and sharing in religious texts clash with the “opportunist” mentality fostered by market forces. We prioritise accumulating wealth and power, leaving little room for empathy and social responsibility. The pursuit of material wealth overshadows the value of compassion, leading to a “biryani” of self-serving actions instead of the “Bolognese” of collective well-being. The inherent inequality within capitalism creates dissonance with the ideals of justice and equality espoused by many religions.

Further complicating matters is the pervasive hypocrisy that plagues many societies. People readily quote scriptures for moral high ground while indulging in personal desires that contradict those very teachings. Greed overshadows generosity, and judgment thrives over understanding. People readily condemn others for their transgressions while conveniently overlooking their own. This inconsistency creates a chasm between professed beliefs and lived realities, eroding the impact of religious texts. People’s selective application of religious teachings creates a dissonance between professed beliefs and actual behaviour, further widening the gap between reading and living.

Additionally, the interpretation of religious texts has undergone significant changes over time. The focus on ritualistic practices and theological debates often overshadows the teachings’ core message of compassion and social responsibility. This moral deterioration, compounded by the influence of personal objectives and political motivations, has diluted the transformative potential of these scriptures.

Finally, it’s crucial to acknowledge the degradation of ethical standards that occurs over time. Acts of kindness, forgiveness, and humility, once lauded as cornerstones of religious life, are increasingly viewed as impractical or even naïve in today’s fast-paced world. Interpretations of scriptures evolve, sometimes losing their original essence along the way. Cultural norms and societal pressures can distort the core message, leading to selective interpretations that justify private agendas rather than promote genuine compassion and righteousness.

However, dismissing the scriptures as archaic relics would be a mistake. At their core, they offer a blueprint for a compassionate, righteous, and active social lifestyle. The emphasis on helping the poor, caring for the marginalised, and promoting peace are timeless values that resonate deeply with the human spirit. The Quran emphasises justice and helping the needy, while the Bible urges forgiveness and love for one’s neighbour. These are not abstract ideals, but actionable principles meant to guide our interactions within society. It is the clerics, by capitalist aim, that impose delusions and distortions.

Revisiting these core teachings is not about blind adherence to dogma, but about reclaiming the essence of what these texts offer. By actively incorporating the values of compassion, justice, and service into our daily lives, we can bridge the gap between reading and living. This doesn’t necessitate replicating the Bolognese of another culture, but rather applying the core principles of compassion and righteousness to create a unique “dish” of ethical living that nourishes both ourselves and our communities. It doesn’t mandate rigid adherence to rituals or doctrines, but rather embracing the universal values of love, justice, and equality that transcend religious boundaries.

Ultimately, the disconnect between reading and applying the teachings of the scriptures is not an inevitable consequence of modernity. It is a choice people make every day. By choosing to translate the wisdom of these texts into action, we can move beyond the biryani of self-serving behaviour and create a world that truly reflects the compassionate and harmonious vision enshrined within their pages. We need to move beyond the “recipe” approach, where scriptures are consumed passively, to actively embody their teachings in our everyday lives. This requires challenging the dominant narratives that prioritize individual gain over collective well-being, confronting our own hypocrisy, and rediscovering the transformative power of compassion, justice, and service. The recipe for a better world doesn’t have to be an entirely new creation.

However, the main takeaway remains: are we having Bolognese or biryani today? In this consideration, we must also remember that half the world remains hungry, satisfied with any food.