Point of View
Christianity and Kataragama

By George Quate

Is it right for some Christians to take solace in the Kataragama God, we are asked. It is easy to brand such Christians violators of the first commandment, renegades or apostates. But this age of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue calls for a more creative interpretation of the first commandment. God is but one irrespective of the form in which we recognize Him. Gods other than this universal Deity are greed, hatred and stupidity. We routinely worship and serve these icons with no fear of apostasy. The first commandment is actually an admonition against this kind of idolatry.

It is grossly unfair for Christianity or any other religion to dismiss the richness of the spiritual experience and traditions of others. Even St. Paul, that uncompromising advocate and apostle of pure monotheism, was sympathetic to the spiritual endeavors of Athenians. Proof of this is the book Acts that contains Paul's speech to the court of the Areopagus at Athens (Acts 17.22-31).

I have no doubt that worshipping Kataragama God must be an immensely satisfying experience for anybody doing it with sincerity, even a Christian. Will it not be cruel to deny people such solace in these trying times?

Finally, I am tempted to quote the inimitable Gibbon from his 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'. Commenting on the diversity of the religious beliefs of subjects of the empire, Gibbon wrote: "The various modes of worship that prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people as equally true, by the philosopher as equally false and by the magistrate as equally useful." I do not know the inclination in the matter of present-day philosophers. But, as all of us can see, attitudes of the common folks and the magistrates (rulers and other politicians) have survived the decline and fall of the empire.