Cultural Revolution refers to radical change of faiths, beliefs and customs in a society. It occurs wherever people use their reasoning power and change the inherited faiths, beliefs and customs based on reason. It happens wherever people make free enquiry and analyse the traditional values logically and rationally and discard the useless and outmoded ones. It takes place wherever people live with scientific curiosity and have the courage to surmount the obstacles to change the prevalent faiths, beliefs and customs based on reason.
In human society, many Cultural Revolutions have occurred in its long history. However, the Cultural Revolution that has taken place in western Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries is a lesson to all societies. The reason is that it made people think and act as guided by reason. It imbibed passion to realize truth in anything and everything. Consequently the society achieved tremendous progress in science and technology.
That society’s transition from age of faith to age of reason raises many basic questions in all enquiring minds. What factors brought renaissance in that society? How the spirit and love for reasoning and scientific enquiry grew in that society? How the blind religious faith was subdued and critical attitude was imbibed in the minds of people? Finding answers to these fundamental questions are valuable since they will enlighten the ways and means to be followed by other societies for such a transition.
During the middle ages, (1100 to 1500 CE), in the European society religious ideas dominated the spirit of the people. Society was in control of the church. Every social activity was measured in terms of religion. Education was confined to studying religious scriptures. There was no scope for free enquiry. At that period, a few thinkers courageously said that religious ideas should be put to scientific test or enquiry as well. Thus, a beginning was made to introduce scientific curiosity against then existing dogmatism.
During that period, the old Greek ideas and scientific thinking, philosophy and rational approach was revived. Blind faith and superstitions gave way to reasoning. People began to take interest in the present world and not in imaginary world or heaven. This knowledge shook people’s blind faith in religion and church.
During the fifteenth century, Greek scholars fearing Muslim invasion fled from their countries and entered Europe with books of Greek philosophy and science. The knowledge they took into Western Europe was new to the people there. By coming into contact with Greek philosophy, Europeans learnt the value of skepticism. They learnt the importance of enquiry, investigation and thought. In addition, they realized the importance of independent thinking without depending on religious scriptures.
In that social environment, the rationalists spread the idea that attributing divinity to religious texts is a myth. The knowledge of Greek philosophy emboldened people to think anything logically and rationally. Their independent thinking based on reason gave them courage to discard many of their faiths, beliefs and customs. In addition, many factors such as growth of national churches, weakening of feudalism and contact with the East were responsible for bringing renaissance in western Europe. However, without the sincere and devoted work of rationalists, people would not have become bold enough to discard the religious yoke.
Thus, knowledge of Greek philosophy, Roman laws and spread of rationalistic thoughts spread awakening in the minds of people. These factors paved way for the change of the mental outlook of the people. As a result of inward change of mind and spirit, people acquired scientific temper. They became curious, adventurous and enterprising. The adventurous spirit led to geographical discoveries. By enquiry, experiments and thoughts, they enriched human knowledge on various subjects. They produced agrarian, industrial and intellectual revolutions.
Similar inward change of mind and spirit had not occurred in most of the societies. Reasoning attitude did not develop in other societies to an appreciable level. What are the reasons for this? On critical analysis, we find that many irrational religious faiths, beliefs and customs are the cause. Because, in most of the societies, religious faith dominates the spirit of the people. They believe blindly that their religious texts are divine and supreme. They assume that their religious doctrines are infallible. This prevents them from putting their faiths, beliefs and customs under enquiry. This insularity and the fear to change their way of life are the prime reasons for non-development of scientific temper in most of the societies.
Though this is the general condition in most of the societies, the nature of the problems vary from society to society. Their severity also varies.
In the Indian society, religion is the major obstacle to Cultural Revolution. The hereditary priestly class (i.e. Brahmin priests) control Hindu religion and they don’t preach anything worthy. They stress on idolatry and rituals just to extract money from the gullible public.They spread numerous superstitions and keep people superstitious. They preach as if the religious beliefs should not be doubted and questioned. In this manner, the priestly class nips the spirit of enquiry in the bud.
Casteism is the other major obstacle. Caste based social discriminations make people believe in karma theory and fate and destiny. The fatalistic ideas, in turn make people servile. They deprive the people of their self-respect and self- confidence. In this way, casteism indirectly destroys the sprouting of critical attitude in people’s minds.
“religion is the major obstacle to Cultural Revolution. The hereditary priestly class (i.e. Brahmin priests) control Hindu religion and they don’t preach anything worthy….
They preach as if the religious beliefs should not be doubted and questioned.”
In the Indian society, Hindu religion, Brahmin priests and casteism combined together to make people live like demented slaves. The slavish mental outlook does not give the people the courage to doubt and question the culture they inherit. They are in chains. The blind religious faith keeps their mindset insular and conservative. Observing this condition, the famous scientist of Indian origin and Noble Laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan comments that “People in India lack passion to realize truth”. His comment is correct. Most people in India live like imbeciles.
To awaken the people in Indian society or in any society, developing intellectual freedom is the first thing we should do. Allowing freedom of thought and freedom of expression is the other thing we need to do. Presence of intellectual freedom and open discussions and critical comments will embolden people to doubt and question anything and induce them to think. They will acquire critical attitude. On critical analysis, they will realize truth. They will shed their blind faith and will be ready to change anything using their reason. This inward change of mind and spirit will causeCultural Revolution.