Monday, April 17, 2017

A case for and against God

A recent death in my family has caused me to re-examine my relationship with God. Being an atheist (will get back to this), every condolence worded in clichés like "She's with God", or "She's in a better place", trigger a very emotional and existential whirlwind of a crisis within me. What is the purpose of life if being with God is the end goal? What good are your degrees, patents, accolades, your unnoticed sacrifices, your selfless acts, if you cease to exist? What is the point of writing a book that no body will read in its entirety and then burning the book? Should there be point?

I've been on both side of the isle. I've been a devout Hindu while growing up and been a complete Dawkinian atheist for most of my adult years. However, I find myself trying to go to the temple and think about God in times of joy and sorrow. And when someone asks about my allegiance, I give them a wide range of answers, ranging from the obtuse:"What is God?", to vague:"mostly atheist", to random:"Yes, I'm a pastafarian".

I can't call myself pure atheist, because, well... I like going to temple & praying. I can't call myself an agnostic, because I'm not ambivalent, I do not have any doubts about the existence of God, and I'm not religious as I don't think that reciting certain texts can give me an edge over others. So, what am I? I am all three, and I'm neither of those at the same time. All the three groups approach the concept of God differently.

Credit: Andrea Baldwin (

Life is an uphill journey that starts with birth and ends with death. That is the undisputed, cold fact. Imagine a life, of just climbing up a steep set of endless stairs, with no guard railing on the side. The sole purpose of life is to thrive and propagate, but how does an animal, who, by the freak of nature, questions the futility of the exercise & the purpose of existence, survive? The first thing, most of us, who are afraid of heights, would do is imagine a guard railing. Is the railing really there? No. Does it help me climb the endless stairs towards death? Yes, of course. That guard railing we imagine is God.

This is where the factions come in. A general atheist with a mouth piece would yell that there is no rail. He doesn't care if the person relying on this mental construct is scared of heights. He doesn't care if he could help pull someone up the stairs. If he is not scared of heights, he rallies that no one else should be either. A garden variety religious person, on the other hand, tries to convince a scared person that the railing is real. He rallies hard to convince others that not only the guard is real, but his stainless steel railing is much better than the plastic railings others have. He convinces others that it is perfectly alright to lean on this railing. He convinces others to fight for his cause. Of course, we need stronger railing to stop us from falling into the bottomless abyss, don't we.

Not everyone is bad though. An enlightened atheist might distract you from the deep abyss and show you the wonders that lie ahead of you. You can always create other mental constructs to alleviate your fears. Even most people who identify themselves as religious, fall into this category. Why else would they believe in the power of small sheets of paper with numbers printed on it? (Money.. in case you didn't get that). Similarly, there are a lot of religious people I know, who would just point to the railing to comfort the scared climber. Nothing wrong with that.

An agnostic, would just give an ambivalent answer. He would look straight ahead and tell that he's not sure if the railing exists. He is not sure, either because he is not sure whether the person is referring to an actual railing, or, he just doesn't care about the answer.

So what am I? I'm whatever the person who needs help climbing the stairs of life needs me to be. My own relationship with my God, or any other mental construct, is my own, and varies with the ebbs and flows of life. Defining any relationship with a single word, will take the depth out of it. Love without devotion is nothing. Devotion without conviction is nothing. Conviction without awareness is nothing. We rise from nothingness and we go back into it. Nothing encapsulates everything.

Humans have had the need to box off their uncertainties in their life and attribute it to a higher power, or a foreign country, or a sect, or anyone but themselves. This disassociation helps them achieve extraordinary feats in life, and has definitely helped the human race progress at an accelerating pace. As long as one knows what God is, and use it to imbue positivity in their own life and in the life of others, God is and will remain, the most redeeming feature of the human race.