Is it necessary to follow a religion to have faith in God

Obviously not. So many people believe in God, but act irreligiously. That is to say they don’t follow the laws of God.

There are four pillars of religion - cleanliness, austerity, compassion, and truthfulness. There is a systematic and well-rounded process to religion, whose foundation is structured on these four pillars. Religion is not simply a matter of faith, nor just a system of morals and ethics, although it is often portrayed as such. It is more than faith, it is a science - in Bhagavad-gita, Krishna calls it the science of the self.

As these four pillars are the foundation of religion, the Vedic scriptures also teach that there are four main sinful activities - illicit sex, intoxication, gambling, and meat eating. Why are they "sinful?" Because they each attack and destroy a specific pillar of religion. Cleanliness is destroyed by illicit sex; austerity by intoxication; compassion by meat-eating; and truthfulness by gambling.

Thus it is clearly seen that modern, contemporary culture is consistently trying to destroy religious principles by undermining the four pillars of religion. For example, the vast majority of all TV and movies out of Hollywood are based on the repeated and glorified practice of the four sinful activities mentioned above. There is a constant propaganda going on to normalize and make acceptable illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling.

Thus, the modern global culture, which is being hailed as the pinnacle of all human progress and knowledge, is actively seeking to destroy the eternal religious principles mentioned in the Vedas. Another sign that contemporary culture is thoroughly degraded and guided by atheistic principles is that the most intimate dealings between a man and a woman, ie. kissing, is depicted in minute, graphic detail on big widescreens. According to the Vedic standard that is tantamount to pure pornography.

Now, when we point that out to mainstream people, it is rejected and scoffed at as being backwards and primitive. But when one of the most intimate exchanges between a man and a woman is engaged in freely and publicly without any restraint, what does that tell us about the culture we live in?

Why this observation? Because as devotees of Krishna, we are trying to emulate the Vedic culture and values. At the same time many of us live in a society, where these values are regarded as primitive and back-wards. In fact, as westerners we have grown up to see the standards of the modern consumer culture as normal and even coveted and glorified.

Srila Prabhupada said, that the difference between him and his disciples was that he was afraid of maya, they were not. This is to show how important it is for a devotee to understand how harmful and degraded the modern culture is. Things that according to the Vedic standard are considered extremely sinful are considered completely normal in modern society - cow-killing, kissing and fondling in public, scantily clad women, and so on.

The global culture is merely an attempt to make the whole world into a market place of MacDonalds, Levis and Coca-cola. It is being hailed as the info-age, but when examined closely, the info available is a barrage of propaganda to make the general population into good and loyal consumers and usurpers of nature. The goal of life, instead of being knowledge of the self and an end to the existential problems of life, is now centered around getting an education, then a job that will enable one to make money in order to consume.

The goal of life has become to spend money on consumer goods, and the producers of these goods spend vast amounts of money to convince people to buy their products. Basically the whole world is running on trade. It is a business-culture governed by vaishyas not by brahmanas, as a proper human culture is meant to be.

So Srila Prabhupada ordered us to create a class of brahmins to guide society, and the only way to do that is by preaching sanatana-dharma - the eternal religion, and that is exactly what ISKCON is doing all over the world.

Krishna says:

Those who are free from false prestige, illusion and false association, who understand the eternal, who are done with material lust, who are freed from the dualities of happiness and distress, and who, unbewildered, know how to surrender unto the Supreme Person attain to that eternal kingdom. (Bg. 15.5)

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