I had written this a long time back and recalled it today while reading Life of Pi.
I feel like there are too many interpretations of the concept of God to discard the concept altogether.
There are some that I can identify with. For example, that of a non-judgmental listener – someone to talk to in solemnity, for however long you want and one who, silently, listens without providing any solicited or unsolicited “advice”. The solicitation might be the immature stage where you expect Him to help you out but with time, one would realize that everyone is purely on their own here. Another thought is that may be God is just another name for one’s conscience and conversations with Him are essentially soliloquies. The advice or epiphanies you get or perceive to get are borne out of your belief system, morals, thoughts and experiences. Also while everyone around you could change, one might consider Him as the solitary, unwavering point of faith – someone who cares about your good and looks after you. This thought can be comforting in its own way and I respect that.
Sometimes, I feel that it would be quite a boring life if everything could be explained and reasoned out. Despite being from a Science and Engineering background which, broadly, concerns reasoning about the physical world, I think we are, at the same time, quite fond of mysteries too. Sometimes, when things seem out of hand, it might be comforting to believe that there is someone “up” there who is looking over and has a reason for all the mess (Slightly relevant :)) Sadly it’s a double-edged sword – while one can use this to motivate oneself and get back up in hapless situations, it can also be used to shirk responsibilities by the “everything is pre-destined” philosophy. But then again, this doesn’t take anything away from the idea itself – nothing is inherently good or bad anyway. It’s what we make of it – our attitude towards looking at set-backs and failures.
This quote from Friends by Phoebe to Ross about evolution always comes up when I think of such things.
Wasn’t there a time when the brightest minds in the world believed that the world was flat? And, up until like what, 50 years ago, you all thought the atom was the smallest thing, until you split it open, and this like, whole mess of crap came out. Now, are you telling me that you are so unbelievably arrogant that you can’t admit that there’s a teeny tiny possibility that you could be wrong about this?
Though I admittedly twitch while writing this, I guess it would be foolish to discard the teeny, tiny possibility about His “existence”. Quoting Yann Martel from Life of Pi
If you stumble about believability, what are you living for? Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?
At the same time, I strongly believe it is important to distinguish this from religion though. The concept of religion as is followed in today’s world, I still don’t buy. Related concepts such as rituals, sacrifices, horoscopes too I find BS – work of a few people who exploited the system and people’s credence when science was probably not that well advanced or reachable for the common man. And that if you serve Him well, do as He says and pray and he will reward you – these conditionals piss me off. For instance, if you do x, then something good will happen to you or y happened to you because you were “bad” and committed this “sin”. This sort of suggests that I don’t believe in karma which is not entirely true. If one is good to people, they will recognize and probably remember it and that goodness might in turn be reciprocated, directly or indirectly. However, that one must do good deeds because He is up there keeping a record of them I find quite laughable. There are enough judgmental people around and one’s life would be really sad if he adds God to that list who is apparently going to “rate” you based on the “goodness” of every activity you do. He must have better things to do, surely!
I particularly like the last statement of the following conversation from The Kite Runner between Baba and Amir. This is what I’d like our teachings to kids be like. Not instill them with fears of being punished or something bad happening to them because they didn’t adhere to some made-up ways of pleasing God!
“Now, no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.
There is no act more wretched than stealing, Amir. A man who takes what’s not his to take, be it a life or a loaf of naan…I spit on such a man.
If there’s God out there, then I would hope he has more important things to attend to than my drinking scotch or eating pork”.
I think I started thinking about this after I watched “Life of Pi” and read Khaled Hosseini’s novels – The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Hosseini’s books make me very interested in reading the Koran. Islam (i.e its teachings) seems calm, sound and tolerant. I want to understand where the violence comes from – whether the Koran really talks about sacrifices and jihad – and why has it reached its current state where Islam has become synonymous with fanaticism. “Spirituality” is also something I would like to explore – how much “truth” there is in the power of human mind, meditation etc and whether it really does make one that peaceful. To be honest, I don’t even know if I understand spirituality correctly and whether it is the same as religion and whether what I’m talking about has a different name.
In any case, I feel like my stance on these issues has definitely changed over the course of the last few years. I believe I started ridiculing the concept of God and believed myself to be an atheist because it was cool and that’s what everyone seemed to do. I don’t really know what my current stance is but I feel like I am more tolerant now and, may be, much less of a non-believer than I was before. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t think it matters!