Summary of What is Religion by Nehru

Historical Background

The essay begins with Nehru telling that while he was in jail he heard the news that Gandhi has decided to fast unto death. Nehru didn’t approve such activities and thought about the impacts of it on the nation if Gandhi dies. But he was emotionally attached to Gandhi and had to accept that Gandhi was on the right path.

Soon he comes to know that the fasting had a great effect on muscle and a tremendous upheaval was running through the nation. Nehru got a letter from Gandhi telling that he missed the former.

After the upheaval, Poona pact took place that calmed down the movement. However, the focus of the people on untouchability made the civil disobedience to suffer reason being that people consider this movement safer.

Gandhi also upheld Harijan movement. This again made Nehru upset as according to Nehru, such movements were becoming hurdles in the way of National Movement.

One year later Gandhi again began his 21 day fast which was not approved by Nehru but being emotionally attached to him he had to believe that Gandhi was on the right path. Nehru understood well that religious sentiments have a great effect on the minds of people.

Nehru’s Idea of Religion

Nehru begins his own views. He thinks whether religion and emotions attached to it are right to run a nation or not. There was rivalry among people belonging to different shapes and their narrow-mindedness because of blind faiths, dogmas, bigotry, superstitions and exploitation.

According to Nehru,

  1. Organised religions in today’s world lack real content and are filled with harmful elements. Church of England is a good example. It is more political and less religious. it is served with capitalism and imperialism. It is full of hypocrisy. Christians used religion as a tool to get their ends. Other religious institutions are no different from it. However, they could not be successful.
  2. Protestantism that considered itself as refined also made a big business.
  3. In spite of all this, Nehru considered religion good. Once he got Catholic books from a friend that helped him to learn that like Islam and Hinduism Christianity too provides solutions to mental conflicts.
  4. Nehru not believing in Afterlife preferred a life free from religious obstacles. He wanted to accept his life with all the problems and improve it.
  5. Religion according to him is self-centred, egoist and intolerant of other opinions and ideas.
  6. A follower of religion, in order to perform salvation, forgets his duties towards society.
  7. Organised religion does not accept new ideas. Christian Church didn’t help the slaves improve their social status. Today they hide this attitude.
  8. In the end, he questions Gandhi’s statement “no man can live without religion”. He considers this statement true until it remains to oneself and rejects it when used for politics.