Tuesday, July 17, 2007
This was my project 2 speech in Toastmasters. TM does not allow topics related to sex, politics and relegion. Although this topic has nothing to do with relegion in my opinion, I was apprehensive that the evaluators would percieve it that way. I therefore did not do this project in my club but chose The Smedley Speakers Society whose members are my good friends :-)
It all happened. The journey to the heights of Kedarnath on a rough terrain. A holy dip in the Ganges that was near frozen. A tour of all the temples in the country that were specimen of architecture. But……….. my proximity to the zenith of sacrosanctity did not do to me, what it did to the others. It did not evoke in me any feeling of devotion.
The doubt still remains as to the existence of an almighty. I do not know if it was my inability to connect to the divine or a lack of knowledge that led to skepticism. To call this doubt blasphemy would not be right. To call it a product of a rational thinking mind would certainly not be wrong.
When I tried to apply my analytical skills to understand the existence or non existence of a supreme power, I did not arrive at any meaningful conclusions but my endeavor gave me an insight into human psychology which I wish to share with you.
This understanding is a mental dichotomy, that is two arguments coexisting in the same mind. Let me start by presenting before you the argument of skepticism.
When do people go to GOD? In adverse conditions, unfavorable circumstances. People become more religious as they grow old. Old age is when helplessness and desperation creep in. Emotional insecurity gets the better of your self confidence. Uncertainty and unsteadiness of life become a preoccupation of the mind. Fear of death starts haunting. In short, these are times when people need a source of comfort.
When you drill down deep into the issue, when you sit down and try to think about when people go to God, how frequently they do it and what their circumstances are, you will discover that God is more of a psychological need, more of an emotional necessity than anything else. Necessity is the mother of invention and since the thought of a supreme being is definitely very comforting, it would not be wrong to say that God is an invention of man.
The thought of a GOD primarily came into existence because of so many questions that we do not have the answers for. The thought of a universe that began in eternity and would end in eternity was something that the human mind found difficult to comprehend. People are not comfortable with questions for which they have no answers. A hypothetical GOD is better than no answer and a lot of confusion.
Another reason for skepticism is too many contradictions in the world of theosophy. SIN for example. Were it not for the existence of sin in this world, all human beings would have believed in God, the same way they believed other people.
Listen to these questions carefully.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able to? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able to prevent evil, but not willing to? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then where does evil come from?
Is he neither able nor willing to prevent? Then why call him God?"
The greatest paradox of all times is that all the bloodshed and crime in this world happen for the cause of GOD. If people did not believe absolutely in some particular GOD, there would be unity in this world and no discrimination at all.
Saying prayers is another contradiction. You believe that there is a destiny, that all episodes of life are predestined, preordained. But when you pray, for good, for betterment, for whatever cause, you actually expect the laws of the universe to be cancelled or re-written for the sake of a single devotee who is nothing but a spec in this universe”.
Now let me present to you the other argument, the argument of belief.
It may be that GOD is the product of a psychological need, but just look at the actual consequences it has on peoples’ lives.
Parents often do a good job of upbringing, when they implant this fear of GOD in the minds of their children. When the child lies, the mother tells him, GOD will punish you. This trick often works and as we grow up to become adults we carry this belief along with us. Most of us abstain from wrong doings and even when we do stray from the correct path we feel guilty because of a fear of GOD that was instilled in us during childhood.
What I am arriving at is, if this fear of a hypothetical God can stop people from doing the wrong things, compel people to choose the correct path in life then… I have no objection to the existence of such a hypothesis.
There is one thing that keeps the world going. It is not money, it is not power, nor science, nor economy, it is not even gravity but it is a strong belief that works like magic.
Faith and Hope. There are people in this world who do not have enough to eat, who starve to death. People who don’t have clothes to wear. People who lose their near and dear ones in accidents and calamities. People who suffer from ailments from which they never recover. The deaf, the dumb, the blind, the lame. Some of them see improvements in their conditions, some of them don’t. But all of them have one thing in common. Tenacity to life. The will to carry on. The hope that they may see a better tomorrow. A faith that whatever happens, happens for good.
This faith for most of the people is not just faith in life, but faith in a supreme power, faith in a GOD who is believed to be the silent listener to every conversation, an uninvited guest to every meal, an arbitrator in every dispute who will see that no evil goes unpunished.
Why I am telling you this is, if this belief makes people go on in life despite their troubles, then I would not want to validate the truth of this belief. I would not verify the correctness of it, because the belief in itself is not of much concern. But the consequence it has on people’s actions, their approach towards their problems is what really matters.
Now that I have presented both the arguments, you must be wondering what is it that I believe in. Am I a theist or an atheist? Have you heard of this third category called agnosticism?
Agnosticism is a school of thought in which it is believed that the question of whether a higher power exists or not is unsolved and insoluble. That is an agnostic is someone who simply does not know for sure whether God exists or not. And I, am an agnostic.
There may be a God, there may not be a God. I don’t know. All I know is, if there is a God, he does not have great expectations from me. He only expects me to be a good human being, be devoid of vices like jealousy, cruelty, pettiness…….. He would not expect me to visit temples everyday, say my prayers regularly, perform rituals and rites, but he would expect me to be compassionate, generous, helpful and kind. And that is what I am trying to be.
My skepticism comes from a conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.
My skepticism comes from a commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems.
To choose to question the existence of a GOD is also a matter of personal convenience. People do such unbelievable and difficult things in order to seek the blessings of the supreme power. They go on fasting, starve for days and weeks. They travel to distant places of pilgrimage, walk bare feet on burning coal. Punish their bodies to free themselves from sin. Abstain from marriage, self indulgence and other pleasures of life, spending most of their lives controlling and enslaving what should be really free. Human emotions. I do not have to do any of these things.
Thank God, I am an atheist!!!