I have so far dealt with purely secular movements. I now come to the schemes put forward by the followers of different religions for setting up a new order. Of these religions the principal ones are Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The followers of each of these faiths claim superiority for their particular faith, and allege that by following its teachings the world can get rid of all pain and tribulation. The Hindus proclaim that they will unfurl the banner of Om at Mecca (which God forbid). The Jews assert that their law is superior to everything else. The Christians try to persuade that the teachings of Jesus alone are worthy of being practised. The Muslim claim, and rightly, that Islam alone prescribes efficacious remedies for the misery and suffering of mankind. I am not at the moment talking of the spiritual benefits to be derived from prayer and fasting. I am dealing with the question of want and poverty. I have referred to movements which have been started with the object of abolishing want and poverty. I now desire to discuss the theories which are advanced for the purpose by these great religions. In other words, what are the social and economic systems which these religions desire to see established in the world?
For this purpose I shall start with Judaism. The system advocated by Judaism is purely racial. There is nothing universal in it. For instance, Judaism teaches that the descendants of Israel alone are the chosen of God, and that the rest of mankind were created to serve them. If followers of the religion obtain a position of domination in the world, tyranny is bound to increase rather than decline. Again, Judaism forbids a Jew lending to another Jew on interest (Deut. 23:19- 20; Lev. 25:35-37), but leaves him at liberty to lend on usury to others. Now, if the lending of money on interest is evil, why is this evil prohibited when the debtor is a Jew and permitted in the case of a Gentile debtor? The reason is that Judaism is a purely racial faith and permits in the case of Gentiles what it does not countenance in the case of Jews. If this faith were to prevail, it is obvious that it will impose levies upon Gentiles and distribute the proceeds thereof among the Jews. Similarly, Judaism encourages the spending of money for the relief of poverty and other charitable purposes, but restricts its application to the Jews alone. Under the Jewish Government, therefore, the benefit of all such expenditure will go to the Jews alone. Again, Judaism does not prohibit slavery, though it prohibits a Jew being made a slave permanently. That is to say, a Jew should not ordinarily be reduced to the position of a slave, but if he should happen to be one, this should only be temporary. This is secured by the ordinance that all Jewish slaves should be set at liberty every seventh year, (Deut. 15:12; Exod. 21: 2).
If a Jewish slave is purchased immediately after the expiry of one of these septennial cycles, he would be free after seven years. If he is purchased after the expiry of one year from the commencement of a new cycle, he will obtain his liberty after six years and so on (Lev. 25:39-46). That is to say, the maximum period during which a Jew can remain in slavery is seven years. The rest of mankind may be reduced to perpetual slavery, but with this Judaism has no concern.
Judaism also lays down very harsh conditions which must be imposed upon nations opposed to it.
“When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee and they shall serve thee.
And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it. And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword. But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee. Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations” (Deut. 20:10-15). This is with regard to foreign countries. With regard to the land of Canaan which was the promised land, the injunction is still more stringent. “But of the cities of these people which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth” (Deut. 20:16).
This is the social and economic system prescribed by Judaism. If Judaism were to prevail, every male Gentile would be put to the sword and their women and children reduced to slavery. Not only Christian men, women and children resident in the land of Canaan but even horses, donkeys, dogs, cats, snakes, and lizards in the land must all be killed. For, the injunction is to kill everything that breathes. Under this system the Jews may obtain some relief, but other nations will be utterly destroyed.
The message of Christianity is that the Law is a curse. If the Law is a curse then all that it ordains or prohibits must also be a curse. Christianity no doubt preaches love, but Christian nations decline to act upon that teaching. If they had taken this teaching to heart, Europe should have presented a spectacle of perfect peace and not one of constant conflict and wars. Christianity — having declared the Law to be a curse cannot put forward any definite programme. For, whatever the programme, it will be a part of the Law and hence a curse. Its enforcement will bring no relief to mankind but will only increase their misery. Christian nations appear to believe that Divine Law, however, brief and simple, is a curse, but laws made by man, however complex, are blessings. The result is that for want of anything better, whatever a successful and dominant Christian nation strives after is described as the Christian ideal, whatever philosophy may at any time be in the ascendant is called Christian philosophy, and whichever social system becomes prevalent or popular is called the Christian system. If at any time Great Britain is predominant, it is the victory of Christian Socialism, if Germany comes to the fore it is also the victory of Christian Socialism and if the United States of America win the race for ascendancy, it equally is the triumph of Christian Socialism. Christianity is thus the ally of the successful and the victorious, so that whatever system becomes prevalent, it means the spread of Christian civilization. At one time, for instance, the prohibition of divorce was a characteristic of Christianity. Today divorce is dearly prized among the Protestant nations. Their faith is thus like a wax model which may be moulded into any desired shape; there is no danger of its breaking apart. Christianity as a religion, therefore, never had and never will have a programme.
The Hindu religion by inculcating the doctrines of Karma and transmigration of souls has completely barred the door of peace and progress upon mankind. Having a regard for these doctrines it is impossible to set up any new system designed to abolish the discrimination resulting from the unequal distribution of wealth. Once it is believed that a person is made poor as penalty for his actions in a previous life, nothing can be done to alter his circumstances in this life. One man may be born to a position of command and domination as a reward for his actions in a previous life, another may be born into a state of poverty and misery as punishment for previous actions, and nobody has power to alter the circumstances of the one or the other. In the face of this doctrine the Hindu religion is not capable of putting forward a new programme for the progress of mankind. For, a new programme means an effort to bring about a change in the prevailing set of circumstances. But if the prevailing set of circumstances has been prescribed and ordained by the actions of mankind in a previous existence, it must be deemed to have been unalterably fixed and appointed, and nobody can have the power to alter it.
Another doctrine taught by Hinduism is that each section of mankind must act within a prescribed circle, and nobody has the power to go beyond it. The Brahmins have their prescribed sphere of activity, and it is not open to a Sudra to take any of these duties upon himself. Nor is it open to a Vaishya to do what may be permitted to a Sudra, nor to a Kshatriya to act like a Vaishya. This doctrine also stands in the way of the abolition of discrimination between the rich and the poor. A system which has that as its object must equally safeguard the rights of all classes and must make adequate provision for everybody irrespective of caste. But against this Manu says, “No collection of wealth must be made by a Sudra even though he be able (to do it); for a Sudra who has acquired wealth, gives pain to Brahmins (Laws of Manu, Tr. by G. Buhler, X, 129).
Under this law a Brahmin or a Vaishya might collect millions, but if a Sudra should happen to save as much as five rupees to defray the expenses of his daughter’s wedding it is the duty of the State to take away from him even this petty amount, merely because he is a Sudra and because a Sudra cannot save money. What scope is left here for any system which aims at improvement in the lot of the poor?
Again, it is written, “Even by (personal) labour shall the debtor make good (what he owes) to his creditor, if he be of the same caste or of a lower one; but a debtor of a higher caste shall pay it gradually (when he earns something).” (Op. cit., VIII, 177). Operation of this law again would tend to keep a Sudra poor or to make him even poorer and to free a Brahmin from obligations he may owe to Sudra. Far from affording any relief to the poor, it would tend only to add to their misery.
This doctrine of discrimination between the castes goes much farther. In the Case of the death of a person leaving behind him widows belonging to different castes, it is written: “Or let him who knows the law make ten shares of the whole estate, and justly distribute them according to the following rule: “The Brahmin (son) shall take four shares, the son of the Kshatriya (wife) three, the son of the Vaishya shall have two parts, the son of the Sudra may take one share.” (Op. cit., IX, 152-153). Under this system what chance is there for a Sudra to improve his lot?
But this is not all. It is said, “A Brahmin may confidently seize the goods of (his) Sudra (slave); for, as that (slave) can have no property, his master may take his possessions.” (Op. cit., VIII, 417).
This solves all the difficulties of the Brahmins, for they are enjoined to take away whatever the Sudras may have collected and are even admonished to feel no qualms about it; for, this looting of the Sudras is no sin but an act of justice inasmuch as the wealth of the Sudras is not his, but belongs rightfully to the Brahmins. This is the doctrine which the Hindu religion preaches, and inasmuch as, according to that religion, everybody except the Brahmins and Kshatriyas and Vaishyas is a Sudra, that is to say, Syeds, Mughals, Pathans, Parsis and Christians, etc., are all Sudras, the Brahmins are rightfully entitled to dispossess all of them of whatever may ordinarily be supposed to belong to them and to appropriate it to their own use. If any of these should earn anything by his labour or by the exercise of his talents, and a Brahmin should deprive him of it by force, he has no right of recourse to a court of law; for, if he should prefer a claim in a court of law, the judge would be bound to inform him that, according to the teachings of Manu, what he had earned was not his, but already belonged to the Brahmin.
You must remember that I do not say that the doctrines taught by these religions today are the doctrines taught by the founders of these religions. It may be, a part of the original teachings of their founders was of temporary character and limited applications, and had served out its purpose long ago. On the other hand, a great deal of what is attributed to them today may not have been taught by them at all. Be that as it may, these doctrines cannot usher in an era of peace and contentment for mankind.