On God and Religion

Our perspective is limited to our perceptional abilities. With our senses, and with the sophisticated equipment that we developed with the help of those very senses, can we perceive anything in the world. But we are very well aware that neither our senses nor our equipment are really equipped to sense everything that exists. If that isn’t the case, then we would be all knowing beings. So since we acknowledge our lack of ability to perceive everything, we have to hypothesise about various possibilities in this universe. And one such hypothesis is the God hypothesis – an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent being who looks over life on earth. Well, this term has changed a lot over the centuries, perhaps during the Abrahamic period, it meant a God who loved only his followers and hated everybody else. Perhaps now the more socially acceptable meaning would be a supernatural being who loves people, and who tells them to love everybody else, even if they do not believe in him. Now it is clear that the definition changes with time, via people. Recently, I read about a girl who was 15 years old, when she was raped by a stranger, had become pregnant, had been kicked out of school for it, had suffered trauma and had given birth to a baby who died a few weeks later! Imagine the anguish any person would experience from such happenings. Perhaps death would have been a bit more easier than life for her at that time.

I know of a woman whose sister had had a leg amputated due to an infection, and has been enduring the pain with the hope of a better life, only to know that the infection had affected her again! This person is good by human standards, and she believes in a personal God too, and she believes that God is looking down and helping them through life!

Only a couple of days back, just as I stepped out into my balcony to breathe in the cold morning air, have I seen an eagle hanging upside down in the air, with its claws being strangled by a kite string. It was perhaps stuck there since several hours, desperate to free itself, and ironically, right behind it was a small temple, carrying on with its normal routine of rituals. I went out immediately, gathered a few people and was able to free the bird, and to my surprise, I heard a person saying that it is saved by God’s grace! I replied back that it was in fact suffering there since hours, and asked if  that too was by God’s grace. He was floundered for a moment, but said, ‘perhaps the bird did some mistake and that is why God punished it’. I retorted back that it was the said God’s quality to forgive living beings for all their mistakes, and if he would punish first, then there would indeed be no difference between the nature of a man and God, in that sense.

A few nights back, I was having a casual discussion with a very close friend. He was a good man, and he believed in a personal God. He told me of the death of the mother of one of our mutual friends, and I was very distressed after hearing the news, and in fact, more so after knowing how: She had a full body burn by her clothes catching on fire while doing a religious ritual. She was praying to her God for a better life for her and her family, to say the least, and she was dead a few days later, after being treated in the hospital. I couldn’t help but tell him how I cannot comprehend of such a God who would make even his believers suffer. I personally do not think that such versions of God deserve worship. And if God is one entity which we worship through the worship of several individual versions, even then such a God would be knowing of his worshippers, and their motives, and wouldn’t subject them to such extreme suffering. I stated that such a God is either not powerful enough to prevent their suffering, or is not benevolent enough to do it. My friend was taken aback and asked if I can prove that God doesn’t exist. Without invoking the Russell’s Teapot to explain to him about the burden of proof, I instead told him that if a God does exist, then that God simply does not at all fit into the common religious description, and he had to reluctantly agree. There is tremendous amount of suffering in this world, and we humans of this age are in fact very fortunate, and we will realize it when we look into our history or into the lives of other life forms. Some religious people say that God intentionally makes us suffer, and that it is all part of some divine plan. I find that it is an absurd way of comforting ourselves with delusion, because there is literally no basis for such a belief to be true. It is a nice fantasy to believe in, and is on the same lines as any other fantasies that children believe in, to alleviate their emotional insecurities. If people are indeed comforted by that thought, then it is more like a placebo effect, and has nothing to do with the reality of the existence or non-existence of God. Moreover, if God has created the universe, and the billions of galaxies and planets and all the other stuff, it is quite ridiculous to think that he would be so interested in the little and relatively insignificant creatures like us that he would look into each one our daily lives and doings, give us points for all the good and bad things we do, and later redeem those points to put us in heaven or hell. I am not an atheist, and I think it helps to know about the Spectrum of Theistic Probability, the knowledge of which allows us to have a more practical view on our level of belief. Having pantheistic and panentheistic tendencies, my views regarding God would perhaps be somewhat closely described by Einstein’s words when he said,  “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.” And I think that the term God is only very abstract, and unfitting to this kind of a belief, as its meaning is mostly dominated by the anthropomorphic model of God.

Looking with awe at the astounding structure of the universe and the human life in it, it is completely reasonable for us to think of a creator or a supreme intelligence, more so when we do not understand it,  and it would even perhaps help us in our endeavors by providing a sense of subconscious emotional support. And it is reasonable enough to conceive of an anthropomorphic deity with super powers. But in the face of humongous evidence, it is irrational to believe in such a deity in the present day. And if we define such a deity as beyond everything we can conceive, who are we to define on the first hand? How do we know? Personal revelations are not reliable at all, for we know of the human mind and its delusionary nature more now than ever. If there is anything that is worth reverence, it is nature and the laws by which it functions. We can see them working around and in us. And if we do not respect those laws and instead set out to respect something else formed out of sheer imagination, then in a way we are disrespecting what is worth the respect. And if there is anything through which the entire universe functions, it is through energy, and its the same energy which is in us and in everything around us. And I do not think we need to call it God, unless we want to institutionalize it and go after the power which comes along with it. Just Energy suffices. We know that this energy is in, and transcends all living things, and I can as well find that energy in a lump of coal, or even in every breath that I take, and I revere it, for my life and the universe around me is totally comprised of it.

I strongly believe that the moment we take our religious scriptures as general civilizational histories generously topped with fantasies, we will be able to understand our past, and our position in this world better than if we assume them to be sacred and unquestionable

Let us look from the perspective of microscopic organisms. They perhaps do not even acknowledge the existence of individual living beings like us, instead they just rely on their environment at the cell level. All their interactions are at the cell level itself, but these interactions affect us as a being. However, these microorganisms might not even know of that. They might perhaps wonder what is happening, when we take measures against them, because we are too massive for them to perceive as  singular entities. Instead, we form the entire natural surroundings for them. Similarly, maybe there are creatures which interact on a different level in this universe, and we are forming a habitat in or around them. We wouldn’t be able to perceive of their existence objectively by our current sensory developments. And we wouldn’t understand why our lives are being affected by unknown forces, on which we have no command upon. We may attribute randomness to such forces, but they might make sense on a much larger scale of existence and perception. We just do not know. This is a fantasy, albeit a reasonable one. And if scientific advancement can hint towards such a perceptional reality of a particular level of nature, it is really commendable. But on the other hand, the moment we come to know about such beings, we attribute the title of God, along with a  sense of sacredness to it, and stop all further exploration into the concept, then we would be doing more harm than good. That is the problem with the religions. We believe in doctrines, and we won’t change our mind no matter what. I do not think such religions will be of any real help to mankind. Merely pointing to God is only laziness and escapism from trying to explain the phenomena.

Some people say that if I do not think it is rational to believe in their God, then I can as well stay shut, instead of letting out my own beliefs. But I must assert that I will do just that, the moment religious apologists stay shut about their own beliefs. I find these people distributing pamphlets, giving free sermons, and attempting to attract into their religions at every possible instant, which is very unwelcome when all you are doing is having a casual walk by the lane. If one’s religion guides one to attempt attracting people into it, and one can declare some religious book as an authority for one’s actions,  then a normal person like me can as well declare my own reason and mind as sufficient authorities towards speaking my beliefs. And freedom of expression anyway prevails. One person hurting another’s beliefs is but natural, when there are only two possibilities: I believe in your God, or I don’t. Anyone can claim that one is hurt by someone who doesn’t believe, but the line is blurred.