The materialist often views a religious person as being unsociable, dogmatic and lacking in intellectual insight. There is a certain perception that “religious” people don’t drink or smoke before every meal, frown at the free mixing of the sexes, are superstitious, impractical and way behind the times. Hence religious people are looked upon as social misfits.

In schools and colleges, students who wear religious marks on their forehead or who recite prayers or shlokas are often subject to ridicule by fellow students. Sometimes they may even be physically attacked for their religious beliefs.

Unfortunately, there have been several cases where people who proclaim intense loyalty to their religion have actually indulged in acts of violence and terror. This has further strengthened the social stigmatization of “religious” people. Whether the “religious” overtly profess their faith on the campus, or at the workplace, peer groups dub them as social misfits. In extreme cases, fundamentalists, through acts of terrorism, only alienate themselves further from society.

A religious person has to take care to tread a path, which allows him to follow his beliefs in spite of living in an environment that is not exactly conducive to his endeavour. The worldly person, in contrast, is a social chameleon who incessantly changes his colours to match his surroundings. He is highly adaptable to change. He can turn from capitalist to communist, friend to foe, Jekyll to Hyde, according to demands of the moment, if only to ensure that his own interests are met with.

In such an environment, it becomes very difficult for a religious person to be accepted as being normal, especially because the chameleon-characteristic is absent in him. Hence he is a misfit. But, the “religious social misfit” knows that one day, the world will turn to his way of thinking. He sees everyone as being essentially spiritual, they having become sensual only superficially.

However, the religious person understands that though he may be a social misfit, others are misfits of a different kind. They are spiritual misfits. They do not fit into the wider, more important, spiritual scheme of things.

The more we broaden over horizons on the physical level, the more spiritual we become. The awareness of the finite cosmos and its miniature parallel, the human body, and the realisation that everything consists of pure energy, bring about feelings of profound spirituality. This is the reason why great scientists like Albert Einstein were drawn to mysticism.

On his return to Earth, the first Indian in space, Captain Rakesh Sharma, revealed that he felt a sense of awe when he saw our wonderful blue globe suspended in infinite space. ”Our planet looked so beautiful!” he said, “but I just couldn’t believe people were fighting down there.”

We live in an age that plays host to a spectrum of human diversity unprecedented in history: a thousand languages, as many cultures, seven major religions divided into a hundred thousand schisms and theologies, and all this with a growing mixed ethnicity.

With advances in communication and transport, the globe has become smaller. The scale of interaction of people from different races, regions and communities is unprecedented.

Many individuals in countries like the US, for instance, live in the throes of an identity crisis because of a bewildering combination of relatives.

Today, an American could have a white mother, brown father, Hispanic uncle, Chinese aunt and Irish grandparents. Misfits abound all around us. And that means we too are misfits among them. At present, everybody is a misfit one way or the other. The extent determines our chances of survival.