1- About fifteen years ago, a reporter from a religious publication called me and asked for an interview. In those days, I rarely said “no” to the media, but when I asked about the interview, I said “no” to this one.
I was going to comment on “crying” from a psychiatric point of view! Given that this publication is published by a religious institution, I guessed that they were going to take out words from me in favour of crying! That’s why I refused to be interviewed.
But it seems that the editors of the mentioned magazine insisted on this interview, so they found the person who had the right to be my professor and mediated him, and I had to sit in this interview.
As I guessed, the reporter of this magazine had a mission to make me to “confess” that crying is good for mental health and laughter is bad for mental health! Since I had already prepared myself for such a subject, I made clever dodgers against his efforts, and he did not achieve his goal.
But when the monthly was published and I received a copy of it, I froze with surprise and, of course, anger! The whole article was distorted! What they wanted me to say and what I had not said was completely quoted from my word! The most catastrophic of all were the words that were printed with a big headline:
Dr. Sargolzaei (psychiatrist) says that crying increases the light in the eyes! By violating all the principles of professional ethics, civic ethics, and even their own religious ethics, the editors of the magazine had used my scientific prestige to achieve their goal.
2- I am sitting on the plane. I turn the pages of the newspaper A report has been published from the meeting of the Tehran City Council regarding the bill of spending five billion Tomans for the Arbaeen ceremony. “Some municipal contractors have not received their money for six months, and the injection of one to two billion tomans has a great impact on the lives of their workers,” said a city council member.
Another member of the city council said: “Five billion tomans is a small amount for the Arbaeen ceremony.”
These two events may seem unrelated, but I find an important connection between the two: “religion and morality.”
Some experts have said that every religion has three parts:
Religious beliefs include the core beliefs of a religion, such as belief in one god or belief in polytheism, belief in heaven and hell, or belief in reincarnation.
Religious rites include the rituals of a religion, such as the rituals of Tirgan and Mehregan for Zoroastrians, Easter and Christmas for Christians, and the festivals of Fitr and Qurban for Muslims, and the rituals performed in each religion on these occasions.
Religious ethics includes right and wrong frameworks and their commands and prohibitions. For example, in some religions, sacrificing animals is forbidden and in other religions it is permissible and even sometimes obligatory, or in some religions polygamy is forbidden while in other religions it is allowed.
An important debate in the philosophy of religion is which of these three aspects is the most important part of a religion. It is true that these aspects of religion interact with each other, but if two of these aspects are to be in conflict with each other, what is the religious duty of religious people?
In the two examples I gave at the beginning of this note, you are confronted with “ritual-oriented” religiosity. The reporter or editor who gave a distorted interview of me to his readers was a religious man who sacrificed moral virtues (honesty and trustworthiness) to promote a religion (mourning and weeping).
A person who votes to spend five billion tomans from the municipal account to perform a religious ritual (Arbaeen ceremony) while the payment of religion (debt payment) is delayed, is a religious person who has considered religious rituals prior to religious ethics.
A hadith has been narrated from the sixth Imam of the Shiites (Imam Ja’far Sadegh) which is in favour of the priority of morality over rituals:
“Do not look at the length of a man’s bowing and prostration, for that is something he used to do.
(Sufficient Principles – Book of Faith and Infidelity)
[To know someone’s honesty] Do not look at his long bowing and prostration, because perhaps this long bowing and prostration is something to which one is addicted. In that case, if he leaves it, he will be terrified. [To know goodness and honesty] look at the truthfulness and respect for the rights of others and the fulfillment of his trust [and use it as a criterion.]
Certainly, the religious people who consider religious rites to be prior to religious morality also rely on other hadiths, so I did not mention this hadith to use intra-religious statements in favor of the priority of religious morality over religious rites, but I did mention it to clarify that from this religion one can also read “morality”, as it is also quoted from the Prophet of Islam that:
“But the revelation is not completed by the virtuous morality” (virtuous morality)
“Indeed, I have been sent to complete the moral virtues.”
For these “extra-religious reasons,” I consider morality to be better than ritual religion:
1- Acceptance and performance of religious rituals is based on acceptance of religious beliefs, while acceptance of most of the virtues of religious ethics such as honesty, trustworthiness, kindness and fairness based on an inward rationality (strategic thinking) is also possible and philosophical doubts about religious beliefs lead to They cannot be suspended, as narrated from Imam Ali:
““If we had not hoped for Paradise, nor feared fire, nor reward, nor punishment, we should have sought good manners, for they are among the signs of the path to success.”
“Even if we did not hope for paradise and fear of hell, and there was no reward or punishment, I would still choose the virtuous seeker of morality, because the study of virtuous morality is the way to victory.”
2- Religious beliefs and rituals are the aspect of religious differences, while religious ethics is the aspect of religious agreement. Although from a cultural and psychological point of view, I consider diversity and pluralism (in the words of Jean Piaget, Diversity and Richness) necessary for the evolution of human culture, but relying too much on religious beliefs and rituals hinders world peace and coexistence, while religion is morally oriented. Global peace and cooperation and dialogue and interaction between religions help.
I believe that “critique of religion” should basically be done from an extra-religious perspective, otherwise we will not face “serious criticism” but “pseudo-criticism”. Therefore, I find morality-oriented religion more rational and useful than ritual-oriented religion.
Dr. Mohammad Reza Sargolzaei – Psychiatrist
Translated By: Negar Kolkar
I have read the report of Tehran City Council talks about spending for the Arbaeen ceremony on page 26 of Hamshahri newspaper on Monday, November 16th.
Photo by: Soheil Sargolzaee
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