Sunday, November 4, 2012

Losing My Religion

                This is pretty much my first real post on this blog ignoring the quizzes of course. From my very childhood we were taught to start everything with God’s name. So we used to start our new year’s notebook with God’s name on the first page, not to mention even some of my examination answer sheets had “Om Ganeshaye Namah” on first line. I remember our housewarming party was a grand pooja, new machines getting installed in Dad’s factory also preceded by poojas and Mom, Dad and Grandpa starting there every single day with Pooja (still do). So carrying on the tradition forward here also I am writing my first post about Him or rather about Him being not.

I got born in the family of Brahmins – the priestly caste of Hindus who are expected to play the role of custodians of Dharma in Hindu Society. Knowledge of religion was imparted to us – me and my siblings – by our parents with the same sincerity as parents teach their child about morals. Actually sometimes both were so intertwined for us that I do not remember any such immoral act which does not offend God. I was probably the most religious kid among my friends till I was 10-12. The main influence for it was my Grandpa who himself is a very religious person. He was retired from business by the time I got born and so he used to devote significant amount of his time worshiping or reading about Him. I used to accompany him to daily morning ritual of hour-long pooja on Sundays I still have fond memories of him singing me lullabies of God’s bhajan which I absolutely loved.

As a little kid, I had this definition of God – He is someone who has all the powers in the world who will grant all your wishes if you are a good person and show respect to him regularly failing any of these you are bound to be doomed and all bad things will happen to you. Pretty basic eh? As time passed I started seeing some anomalies about it – like my wishes came true only about half the time (I was a pretty demanding wisher) and I was not bad to others and I had my own share of visiting temple to show respect (and to wish more too). Then somebody told me that the wishes should come out of your heart and if your heart is pure you will get what you want. And of course  they told me you need to work to get what you want – only wishing wont help. Wont help? Wont help? But why? I am fulfilling all conditions to get what I want and what is this pure heart anyways!! And if I need to work for it then what is the use of the wish. I was confused.

I did not stop wishing though and even found out ways which increase my chances of getting what I wanted. There are three ways– donating money/kind to God, do pooja/havan or you have to visit some superholy temple for your wish. For any of these three means there is a pre and post – either you could have faith and do them and expect for the best or you could tell God you would do them if your wish is granted. I always preferred the second one as there is no risk attached to it. If it doesn't happen I have nothing to lose.

The odds of wish coming true were still the same. Also every now and then I used to get some experiences which seemed strange to me. Like how I made donations to God but it ended up being used by priests to lead a lavish life.  Like the priests and helpers used to ask money for doing services to God. Aren't they supposed to be doing this for love of God and get what people voluntarily give them, if any? Like how some of the most religious looking people chanting prayers all along were the most ill-behaved lots in extremely crowded temple atmosphere. Aren't these guys supposed to be the good guys? Why my mom has to keep so many fasts to keep God happy and why would God want anybody to be suffering for him? Saying which why at all God wants us to show him respect regularly? What is he so insecure about? Isnt he the one who controls everything? Doubts keep coming in my mind during 12-15 age whenever I thought about God and religion. But who has courage to say bad things about God and “people of God” as I knew bad things might happen to me if I do. Then came Godhra riots and the idea of people killing each other in name of God was absurd even to a 15-year old. Can God allow such cruelty in His name? The idea of God not being there started breeding in my mind as I got bored of visiting temples often and praying regularly as they were not taking me anywhere. And I failed to see any other utility but out of fear of bad things happening to me I still used to visit Him and then wished some more while I was still there.

As time progressed to college and work-life, things changed. As I read more and kept on thinking about it, I started doubting my faith in God in whatever form it remained. I want you to ponder over the thought of him not being visible to anyone. It is like He has decided to conceal himself and let people guess He is there. If God would have been there it should have been possible to see him, feel him or sense him. And we are told of God being a fatherly figure taking care of us. What kind of father would be like “you are my son but you can’t figure out whether I exist or not. So you would have only your faith to bank upon.”  Or at least He would have taken care of His children, which brings me to my next point.

The world is full of evil – evil in the form of atrocities on innocent people by other people or nature. Please note that I am not talking about the hardships that people face that make them stronger at the end and which religious guys want to think as God’s way of helping us. There are mothers dying while trying to have babies, small kids dying of diseases ranging from dengue to cancer, wars causing villages to be wiped off. I am talking about pure evil which is cruel to humanity helping no one in the process and is absolutely unfair to those who suffer. There can be four possible things supposing God exists. God can’t make a difference to this but He doesn’t want to, He can’t but He wants to, He can but He doesn’t want to or finally He can and He wants to. Well if He can’t but He wants to then that makes him impotent. If He can but He doesn’t want to that would make him out rightly cruel something which doesn’t go with the image of caring father as mentioned in my previous point. If He can’t and doesn’t want to then it makes him both Cruel and impotent. If He can and He wants to also then probably God is doing a pretty lousy job it seems and the concept of omnipotence is just hyperbole.

Believers point out that if God is not there how possibly this majestic universe full of millions of intricacies and just too perfect can there be. There is someone out there who created this and who is driving all this. Well I agree that there is some energy which created this and is driving all this and that entity is nature. Nature is not fair, it doesn’t have feelings – it is just indifferent and that precisely how life is. The nature is actually the real power but it in no way fits into the image of God that we have. My theory is that the concept of God and religion has been created for two reasons – to comfort ourselves and to control public. Just think about how religion just gives answers to all the questions unknown which causes fear in our mind.

Life after death? Well there is God who will take you in His home. There you will reunite with your loved ones. Your died loved ones can see you from up there already. How do I deal with this immense problem in my life? God is watching who will make everything right. And when that problem doesn’t get sorted out? Whatever happens it is will of God and it happens for good eventually. Why we are here? God sent us to fulfil certain purpose and you need to find that purpose.

How comforting. Isn’t it. This is all too good to be true. Apparently God is answer to everything unknown. Even tides were explained as an act of God some time ago.
Second reason for creating religion was that it is just too easy to control people through it. People will not do immoral act with the fear of God which terribly reduces the act of catching and punishing people. It unites people towards a common cause and is a strong cultural foundation. And moreover “People of God” got upper hand over the general public making ruling much easier. How Vatican used to call shots in entire Europe at one point of time and Brahmins being essential King’s advisors in India.
I am not against religion. On the contrary I think without it society would just collapse. It is must for keeping order, uniting people and letting people feel a sense of comfort. Without religion, life would be very difficult. But it is not for me. It is too difficult to believe in something which you do not find logical just for the sake of others. I can’t. Saying that I know the life this side is not easy. Just imagining how it would feel losing a loved one and getting to terms that there is just no getting back makes my Heart stop for a bit. Also realizing life is not fair because nature is indifferent is difficult to imbibe too. But I believe that is how world is and I will not resort to comforting answers to feel better. Rather I can’t. If you want to explore atheism more do read this book The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Comte Sponville from which I was able to consolidate my thoughts.