In every religious tradition, the rebels (unorthodox/progressive thinkers) define their own version of the original doctrines, selectively accepting what they feel are nice and good and appropriate, and rejecting whatever they feel are inconvenient, irrelevant, or plain wrong.
They are like people who want to eat the cake and still have it: they want to hang on to the religion of their tradition (probably because of the emotional/psychological comfort which affiliation to their cultural/traditional religion brings) without embracing it in toto.
The traditionalists decry, condemn or throw out (excommunicate) such irreverent mutineers. If and when possible (this used to be more common in the West in more ancient times, and now only in certain societies), more severe treatment would be meted out to the “heretics.”
At this point, the rebels form their own sects under an appropriate new leader, proclaiming they are the ones who have the Light, and that the oldies are muddle-headed ultra-conservatives who deserve to be laughed at, locked up, or just ignored.
Now starts a passionate debate on who exactly represent the original religion, and who therefore have the right to be called Christian or Muslim or Jew or Hindu or whatever.
There are two types of religions, though: those in which there is an authority in which power is vested. This authority can give, refuse, or take away membership in the fold. In some instances, it can demand your head if you speak or write against its Holy Book. And then there are some (like Hinduism) in which there is no central authority.
Once a person is born a Hindu, no power on earth can take away the person’s membership in the religion, no matter what a he/she says or writes or believes in, because the basic thesis is that when it comes to spiritual experience (communion with God or whatever), it is between the individual and Whatever is out there. [Not unlike what Martin Luther preached].
That is why there are atheist Hindus who poke fun at some of the traditional beliefs of their co-religionists, but are not denied on this score entry into temples, or refused participation in sacraments or festivals of they choose to be part of these.
August 15, 2012