Where do we live? Every one of us might have a suited answer to this query, depending on his own perspective of his location in the universe. But, hold on for a moment here. Do we consider ourselves the citizens of the universe or are we living in our own little worlds, those built on the paradigms of ethnic, cultural and religious grounds? Now, consider the primary question again, “Where do we live?” and many of us would answer it as Karachi, Lahore, Quetta or Peshawar etc. Some would go a step ahead and say Punjab, Sindh or KPK, Balochistan etc. The ones going a step further ahead might answer the query as Pakistan. Hence the approach, from urban to provincial and then national, gets better gradually.

From this national perspective, let’s take another leap of faith and jump to the global approach. Where is Pakistan? South Asia? Where is South Asia? Asia, OK then where is Asia? Asia is a continent located on the planet Earth. Your quest might end up here if you believe in the geocentric model of the universe, deluded to the age old philosophy that the entire universe is circling around our tiny planet. But, if you have a perspective a bit bigger than the geocentrists, you would climb another foot on the ladder and search for the next line of your address. OK, so where is the planet Earth? Imagine a person at least a thousand years ahead of now writing a letter to someone else while on the back flap he chalks down his address like, Aslam Khan, planet Earth Distt. Milky Way, Virgo Super Cluster. Consider these two approaches towards our placement in the universe and ask yourself, “Where does the human ego, the root cause of intolerance of all the sorts, come from?” How does it originate?

The delusion, that I or We have some privileged position in our little world, has inflicted countless wounds on the spirit of human soul and thrown numerous hiccups in the human pathway of civilization. This delusion would generate all sorts of human ego, based on caste, color, ethnicity, and obviously the worst of all, religious ego. Think of an alien somewhere peeping down on our little planet and getting amused by our delusions. The primary and inherited form of human ego is the place and caste to which one is born. Growing up merely physically and not mentally, one startsowning all sorts of human ego, those of color, class and religion.

Jon Elia, one of Urdu’s modernist poets, wrote once, “Why is it that all the ones who savaged civilizations and led massive mayhems raised from the tribe of religion?” The very notion that we possess some special position in our world, or in the universe, is a catastrophic illusion that leads us to violent ego, finally concluding on intolerance. Once, we buy into the delusion that we are special; we are exposed to a free fall of madness. Since, we have assumed that we are special, we have every right not only to take pride in our race, class and religion but we also have the right to impose this assumption on everyone else surrounding us. On the last foot of the ladder, one actually starts believing that only his caste, race and religion are befitting for humanity and if any other type has to survive, she has to adapt to it, else she must die.

The worst of all these egos is the religious ego. Since, I am Christian, all else have to be Christians. Since I am a Muslim, so all else on the planet have to be Muslims. Same goes for every other religion except the Jewish folks who are the most special ones and none else can be one of them if one isn’t born to them. The madness doesn’t breathe a sigh of relief even here; it goes a step ahead and tells the people in question to be that very specific type of Muslims or Christians etc. The lethality, of this self assumed obsession that only my religion is the correct and the utmost one, has its roots very deep down the course of human civilization.

Why is religion the most sensitive one of all the human ideologies? For a moment, let’s be thankful to science for keeping us from being fooled anymore. There have been times when our ancestors, the ancient humans, have been religiously scared of the thunder lightening, earthquakes, windstorms, floods and other catastrophes. Calling these an act of God or gods, they had always to bewary of their practices and being in awe that they must not commit anything that could displease the gods. So, there becomes it an issue of one’s own survival and one found comfort only in the misconceived morphology of religion. Once having saved yourself by the mercy of your god, you start feeling an imposition that entire humanity has to please only your god. There one goes to spread the word of his god and present the true color of God, his god and then, there comes another one with his color of God, their god. And the two must collide, for the sake of God, to save the image of their own god. And that has been the biggest pitfall for the human civilization, the worst hindrance in the course of our social evolution.

What would take eradicating this obsession; well that certainly is a tough ask. Regardless of how much we preach and educate of the tolerance, we won’t be out of this huddle unless we focus on switching the perspectives. Shifting our focus from being the special privileged entities in the universe to, being just one of the countless beings in the universe could help. It was the great astronomer Carl Sagan who once said, “Astronomy is a humbling and character building experience.” Nonetheless, we could start looking up at the countless bright spots in the heavens, the far distant worlds, those immensely bigger than our little planet and then begin reconsidering our position in the God made universe. That could not only help us identify our God but also could save us from ourselves.