Prayer And Other Aspects Of Religion – My POV

I was born and raised a Hindu. I attended my primary school in a Hindu institution, my high school in a Catholic school , my Engineering degree in a college founded by a Muslim visionary and My MBA from a Government run university . I am influenced by teachings of all these religions – and when I was in college, the student body was very left leaning, so I have read a fair amount of marxist type literature too.

On the plus side – this makes me totally tolerant of all religions – because, once you abstract it to a high level, they all say pretty much the same things. There are specifics like idol worship that are significantly different between religions, but that does not matter to me all that much. On the minus side – there are plenty of things that are not very clear for me about the concept of God, Prayer etc which frustrates me to some degree.

All these religions teach us the superiority of God over everything else, and I buy into that. But – at the same time, they also give totally human characteristics to God. This makes it hard for me – does God really need us to offer a prayer of praise?. I cannot imagine that God needs an ego boost from humans. If God were human – would we like a someone who won’t help unless we constantly sang praises?  But we do it any way – at least on occasion. Why?

What about prayer of petition? Religion tells us that God’s will is all that matters, and that we must succumb to it. If that is the case, why would we then also make prayers of petition? If God has a plan for everything – what does it matter whether we petition for something or not? 

I can see some rationale for prayers of love,charity and contrition. Our actions do not always account for all that happens to us. Hence – saying thanks and sorry to the power that accounts for the grand plan sounds logical to me. Somehow, apart from some ritualized aspects of contrition and penance – these types of prayers take a backseat.  However, there is one question in my mind – if God already made plans for everything that happens around us, what is the point in saying sorry and thank you and please?

Also, what is the need for middlemen between man and God. In a human organization, I fully understand the need for hierarchies. However, since God is über powerful – is there really a need for priests, saints etc to convey messages between us and God?

Why do we need a defined place for worshiping – like a Temple, Mosque or Church? All religions tell us that God is omnipresent, and that God is within us. Then why would I need to go to a certain place to communicate with God?

If devotion to god is not an act, and a way of life – do we really need specific days to worship? We need father’s day and mother’s day and independence day and so on because people have busy lives and in the mad rush, we do not think daily of dad and mom and the nation. We feel guilty of that occasionally, and get rid of our guilt by using an arbitrary day to take care of it. Although dad, mom and the nation could probably use more interaction with us – they are usually not in a position to change our behavior. But God is much more powerful – so if God cared about constant attention from us, wouldn’t God have done something to influence it? Since that does not seem to be the case – my theory is that God does not really care if we think about God all the time.

I think Religions serve more societal and psychological needs than spiritual needs. Having a place and time to worship brings people together, and augments the legal framework of a society with a moral framework. People resist the temptation for crime partly because of fear of God punishing them in some form on top of the society punishing them. Having God to blame for our disappointments give us a big psychological relief. Believing that God will intervene and make things right for us help us keep trying. So yes – religion does have a very valid reason to exist.

The people who founded religions probably found that it was easiest to get a following by giving God some human attributes. This would help others relate to the concept without a lot of critical thinking, and help make teachings more accessible via stories. This also helps explain why middlemen came into being between God and commoners. By instituting prayers of praise and petition – humans can easily think of God as a very powerful human who is more powerful than a King, rather than as an abstract concept. And as they get to think over time, they can fine tune their belief and faith to whatever suits them. So I think it was a very smart idea to put such a framework in place.

Concept of life after death is also a very clever and smart idea in my opinion. Since no one knows exactly what happens after death – the thought that you could be praised/punished will keep us even more focused on sticking to the framework when we are alive. This serves as a catch-all for anything that happens which cannot be explained easily. For example – say you followed all the teachings of your religion, and still got in to trouble some how. This can then be explained that this is “a test” and “your reward will be in your next life”. The next life of course differs across religions – some saying you will be born again to suffer consequences of past life, and some say you go to hell/heaven after God tallies your score and so on. Risk averse nature of many people make them feel more secure that if they stick to the rules – they have a good chance of going to heaven, in case there is a heaven. In case there is no heaven, it still gives them a reason to feel more peaceful in life and stay out of trouble. So it works either way.

Enterprise 2.0 – another “build and they will come”?

I already un-followed several people on twitter because I could not stand any more E2.0 trivia being hurled at me. I have hardly seen anything new being said about it. And no –  just by adding “social” and “collaborative
” to every sentence does not make you or your idea look smart.

I earn a living by finding out my customer’s pain points and offering solutions to them. I have only been in consulting for about 12 years or so, and hence don’t claim to be the most experienced dude around. However – in these 12 years – I have not seen a significant change in the top 5 pain points for big companies. And till date – I have not seen E2.0 in that list. I actually doubt if it even makes it to top 10.

Don’t get me wrong – executives at almost every single client of mine are keen to find how E2.0 can help them in their business. Most are willing to invest in pilot projects to check out the idea too.  But almost invariably – they can always find other avenues to invest that money for better ROI.

Here are  few things that are probably worth keeping in mind in this context.

1. Business users are not dumb

Everything does not have to be stupid simple. There are complex things they need to do, and a simple UI is not always what they are looking for. These people are smart enough to use complex tools as long as it serves their purpose.  They feel insulted when they read/hear that things have to be made stupid simple for them.

2. Not all customers are consumers

What works in B2C does not work in B2B all the time. So when we talk about facebook type things for enterprise – remember that it is only one of the many things a business user needs to do.

3. Guess what – people have been collaborating before E2.0

If a millennial reads about E2.0 – he/she might think that people used to never collaborate till now. Enterprises have been collaborating internally and externally all the time – it is the tools that kept evolving. Email, telephone, snail mail all have helped us collaborate and they all still work. What the new tools help with is scalability. But then again – unless it is B2C – not many enterprises need such extreme scale.

4. Large enterprises cannot be flattened

I get very amused when the E2.0 gang keeps talking about flattening hierarchies. Try doing that in a significant way for a large company – and you will soon figure out it cannot function effectively.

5. You can build your own community online – but you cannot control it

And this can bite you. If you nurture a community and make every one passionate about it – you should also be prepared for even more backlash if you mess up. Plus – you cannot restrict all the activity to a site you control. It is a free world – and people will discuss about you anywhere they please.

6. Collaboration is not always neatly tied to a given business transaction.

Lets say you can have an online chat with your vendor on a certain product. It is very seldom that you talk only about one transaction – you will talk about many transactions, weather, baseball and so on. But when you go back to that transaction – you don’t want to see the baseball discussion – you just want some specific discussion about that transaction. And most software I have seen don’t support a useful way to use collaboration information. Just being able to collaborate is not value adding – using that effectively in decision-making is key.  MDM, content management, collaboration, OLTP and OLAP all have to play together – and this is hardly possible today.

Bottom line – till it becomes a top-5 pain point, I do not see many enterprise customers taking the E2.0 plunge. And I am not holding my breath on it for now.