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Why Visit Temples? Myths Debunked

The last conversation I had with my mother, she asked me what my plans were for my birthday (it's just 2 days away!). Before I could answer, she rushed in to tell me to go to a temple, any temple. Once upon a time I would have argued with her, because she would make me go. Now I just don't bother, what with a couple of continents and oceans separating us!

But that didn't stop me from having a quite satisfying argument about visiting temples in my head. So here is the mental argument, laid down for my readers.

The Question: Why should a person* visit a temple?

 Note: Person here refers to a Hindu person, I don't intend to discriminate but certain temples only allow Hindus.

Myth 1. To visit God
Hmm, but isn't God everywhere? Why do I have to go to a temple? The puja room, present in practically every Hindu home, won't do? For that matter, if you really believe God is everywhere, I can pray just sitting at my laptop! He's inside me too right?

Myth 2. To find peace/relaxation etc
Many people argue that going to a temple provides a breather from the stress of everyday life, that they like to go to a temple & just sit there to relax. However, people like to relax or find peace in different ways. If I just wanted to get away from stress, I'd rather take a walk in the park or go on a long drive or invite my friends over for coffee or even just curl up with a good book. Some other people might prefer doing yoga or meditation (in keeping with the whole spiritual theme). So why is it mandatory to go to a temple?

Myth 3. Pseudo-scientific theories
This is my favorite pet peeve. Most religious people at least acknowledge the illogical nature of belief/traditions etc. What I detest are the attempts by some people to justify irrational rituals with pseudo-scientific blather like this post I came across on FB recently. You know, the type of person who goes around saying 'our elders actually knew the science, they didn't bother to explain to the rest of us stupid people' etc etc. Sadly it also appeals to those people who take a nationalistic pride in 'Ancient Indian Wisdom'. Many people will read it and delude themselves into believing exactly that. So let's debunk this one right now, shall we?

In the second paragraph itself, the poster manages to throw in some scientific jargon, hoping to convince the reader that what he says is real science. Ooh, magnetic and electric wave distribution...must be real science. Not! Notice how he says positive energy? He doesn't explain it at all. How does it form? What is it made of? 

If anyone cared to read up on the Earth's magnetic field, you'd immediately know that the magnetic field over Earth has its maxima spread over continents! Not little villages in one particular country, besides no one has ever proved that magnetic fields have any healing power over humans. Also I'm curious, according to scientists, the magnetic intensity can vary over years, decades and centuries over the surface of the Earth. So doesn't this mean that temples which were once built on sacred ground no longer deserve to be called temples?

He then goes on to describe positive energies and the benefits of drinking the theertham which has herbs in it to heal people. If there is one thing allopathic medicine has taught me, it's that you don't need religious BS to get people to take medicine. Just results! He then goes on to say that the water sprinkled on people spreads this mysterious positive energy and is the reason men are asked to go shirtless and women should wear more jewellery. Why not make men wear more jewellery then? Make them pierce their ears, nose etc. I love this idea. 

Also if going to temples really had such healing powers, aren't we as a nation being selfish in not allowing everyone to enter? Why are lower castes not allowed to be so healthy? Why are women not allowed to go inside during their period? Why deny this glorious method of healing to Muslims/Christians/Jews etc?

His last paragraph and I quote 
Our practices are NOT some hard and fast rules framed by 1 man and his followers or God’s words in somebody’s dreams.

Here's a little secret - Our practices are hard and fast rules framed by one man (I'm looking at you Manu and your stupid Smriti. Grrr!) or God's words in somebody's dreams. Seriously am I the only who was told stories that God came in a dream to some person and hence that temple was built or some ritual was started? Off the top of my head, I recall my mother telling me the story of how the 'varalakshmi vratam' got going. There was a woman who had a dream where the goddess told her to do it and so we continue to do it, to this day!

He finally concludes saying
All the rituals, all the practices are, in reality, well researched, studied and scientifically backed thesis which form the ways of nature to lead a good healthy life.The scientific and research part of the practices are well camouflaged as “elder’s instructions” or “granny’s teaching’s” which should be obeyed as a mark of respect so as to once again, avoid stress to the mediocre brains. 
There you go dear readers! We, the mediocre brains, needn't trouble ourselves with the burden of skeptical inquiry or rational thought of our own. Everything has been solved by our elders and we can just relax. Or in other words, the same thing that my mother used to tell me when I used to annoy her -
"Don't ask questions, be quiet and just do what I say!"

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