A matter of faith

Sanjay from the Dwarka Parichay blog invited me for a guest post. It is published there now with the same title: http://dwarkaparichay.blogspot.com/2009/07/matter-of-faith.html

Economists are always baffled by the apparent stupidity of humans. They seem to make some decisions which are completely irrational, and go completely against any form of rational logic.Take, for example, the fact that people go ahead and buy lottery tickets. As any statistician can tell you, the probability that you will win a 10 crore rupee prize after buying a one rupee lottery ticket is about the same as that of you getting the money after you flush the one rupee note down the toilet. And yet, people do it. What perhaps the academicians forget is that that one rupee also buys them some hope, a promise of untold riches and even for one moment, buys them a smile on the face.

Perhaps you've already guessed where this is going; our favourite topic - God. Does it not occur to you at times that you are talking to thin air when you're praying? Don't you sometimes feel like snapping fingers in front of someone who is talking to a mound of clay and asking them to wake up? Or otherwise, don't you sometimes feel this huge urge to shake those atheists and tell them, "Wake up - don't you see the work of God all around you?". Sometimes don't you pity those who're blind to the divine presence? Whether or not this God exists, the question is, does the thought comfort you to know that someone is there? Or does the matter of God present you with a challenge - something that prompts you to forge your own destiny and to show others, "Look - I did it without your God".

Both sides ought to learn tolerance, I think. If you believe in God, well, be at peace with it. If you fanatically pick fights with atheists or the sceptics to prove that God exists, you will not come away any wiser. On the other hand, if you are one of those who thinks that the god delusion will pass similar to the flat world delusion, again, be at peace. Trying to rub your disbeliefs and scientific proofs into the pious man will get you nowhere except causing the man mental agony. Sometimes, though, you need to step in. If you see a man bereft of hope who seems to be fighting a losing battle against the many turmoils of life, maybe prayer will bring him some relief. Or for that matter, if you find a man being cowered into shelling out hard earned money to some temple because God ordered a minimum donation - give him good advice and ask him to see reason. At the end of the day, its a matter of faith.

I know what you're thinking - if a matter of faith applies to this, then all vampires, ghosts, spirits, astrology - its all a matter of faith, isn't it? How do you prove or disprove any of that? The point is - you can't. All you can do is to choose to believe what comforts you the most. Perhaps I should add a little personal touch to this. About God - I'm sceptical. To quote, I think "God is a mean kid sitting on an anthill with a magnifying glass". But I tend to lose myself in some devotional songs at times, and love the simply serenity that overcomes you once you are in a temple. There has been more bloodshed in the history of mankind in the name of God than anything else. And yet, a lot of our family gatherings and social events centre around this God. Whether you fast or not on a day which is auspicious or normal, and whether you started your business on a Friday or a Saturday, its a matter of faith.

Comments

  1. Hi Sudipta,

    I think that the popular assumption is that faith is a matter of a crutch in times of distress is typical of sceptics who want to be seen as "sympathetic" towards believers. I am not criticizing you, but unknowingly you take that route and hence try to re-affirm your own scepticism.

    I tell you that God is not a matter of faith or belief. God just is... Take it as you will... I am certainly strong in knowing that God exists regardless of our faith or belief and that certainly has not taken away my personal courage or moral responsibility in any way. I think any intellectual inquiry into God can never succeed because God is beyond our limited intelligence and imagination and you need to reach into your spiritual heart to discover Him.

    I am certainly not thrusting my point of view on you, but I want to let you know that that assumption is what actually really annoys most people who believe in or rather KNOW of God's existence. No physical proof is necessary and that is where I think most sceptics and agnostics can never relate with us.

    To me God is nothing but what drives the world naturally above and beyond the reach of ordinary human perception. It is the Law of Nature which includes and goes beyond mere physical laws that we can measure and observe.

    I think the acceptance that human senses and perception is very limited and current scientific research is an extremely miniscule part of reality is required to analyze in depth why physical proof of God's existence is impossible in our current state of evolution.

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  2. Hari, first of all, thanks for the detailed comment. I have read through it at least thrice, but I still don't stand convinced. Sample this, if you will - in your comment, substitute every occurrence of the word "God" with "vampires" or "aliens". I don't wish to sympathize with anyone who believes or doesn't believe in God. My theory is just, "whatever rocks your boat".

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  3. There has been more bloodshed in the history of mankind in the name of God than anything else.

    Sums it up I guess.

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  4. Hi Sudipta, Hope you are doing well. It has been a long while and I am still slowly catching up on your previous posts. You see, I was away from the blogging world for a while and now I am back. :)

    I like the way you say towards the end of your post, to choose to believe what comforts you the most. And also the fact that you lose yourself in devotional songs and temples and feel relaxed. I guess it implies somewhere subconsciously you feel the presence of something powerful above your logic. Anyway, nice topic to debate but no one will win in the end. : )

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  5. Sudipta, that is merely a play on words as an argument which I cannot accept in your argument. You cannot replace "God" with "vampires" or "aliens" because God IS real while the others are make-beliefs of human imagination.

    Also the qualities which are invested in God can never be substituted with any other real or imagined being.

    Just think: if God wasn't real or at least no more than aliens or vampires, we would have a huge majority of the world' population believing in aliens and worshipping them. Yet even though aliens and vampires might exist physically, but do they have even 0.0001% of of the grip on the human mind as God does?

    However, that doesn't happen. Aliens and vampires simply don't have that kind of reality and hence the power to influence human thought, behaviour and life...

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  6. Neeraj, but consider on the other hand that a lot of the good charity work that has happened over the ages has also happened in the name of God.

    Syrals, ah yes long time no see. Welcome back :)

    About the the powerful stuff beyond my logic or reasoning, well, I don't know. It might just be that the song was sung well with ardour and passion. But you're right - nobody will win the debate. :)

    Hari, to answer you, lets say the concept of vampires or aliens is relatively new in human history and that God as a concept has had a much longer foothold. I understand that you're using the effect to show that a cause exists, but to me its has more been a socio-evolutionary influence (or grip) on human mind and history which has been primed towards the concept of "God". I don't wish to challenge your belief - I am merely stating my own perspective.

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  7. I am aware, Sudipta, that nothing I can say will change your mind, simply because I truly know how the human mind works. Showing an effect to prove a cause is not my point. Rather it is acceptance of a Reality that already exists and you can experience all around you if only you open your spiritual heart.

    It is also near impossible for me to prove by any kind of logical or rational analysis the existence of God. Because unlike logic and rationality which are products of human intellect and in many ways limited by our own level of intelligence, God or spirituality are not. It is near impossible for us to grasp the existence of God by merely trying to prove His presence intellectually.

    What I mean to say is that, no - you needn't agree with me. God's existence does not rely on human acceptance or not. God is not a concept. God is Reality and therefore you will never be able to use the same analogies with God as with other imaginary creations of the human intellect.

    You can call God by whatever name you wish and yet, it is the qualities invested in God which shine out whenever you utter his name. Unlike products of the human imagination like vampires or aliens, God has far greater power than you or I can even imagine, let alone put into words.

    God can only be realized by opening our spirtitual hearts and not by constantly questioning using our sceptical mind or by asking questions of our intellect. Intellect is a great device of the human mind to deal with our existential problems, but can hardly be invoked for reaching to depths that are far beyond ordinary intellect.

    So there is no way I can continue this on an intellectual level. All I can say is that I know that the Almighty exists and He is beyond human perception in a physical sense. I suppose you will scoff at me for this. I cannot argue with that either.

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  8. Hari, Once again, I'm not trying to scoff at or ridicule anything. Its simply live and let live. If it simply means believing what I wish to without imposing them on someone else, so be it. Similarly, I would expect the same courtesy from others: let me live with my own beliefs without trying to convince me in a debate which obviously has no end. I don't take it as a personal affront that someone has firm faith in God and draws power and inspiration from the thought. Who am I to judge something that millions around the world hold dear to their heart? Similarly, it is undesirable that you should feel offended about the fact that I don't believe in what you do. Tolerance is the key - live and let live.

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  9. Well, live and let live seems a nice policy Sudipta, but you were the one who raised this topic.

    My point was that the point of many atheists seem to be that if somebody believes in God, they are using their belief as a crutch. God is not a concept... God is Reality and that was my point.

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  10. Hari, in that case we'll simply have to agree to disagree. For me, God is a concept. And yes of course I have raised the topic - my blog! :)

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  11. I would like to echo the lines of John Lennon - "God is a concept by which we measure our pain"..

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  12. Tanwistha, yes - a very interesting concept, to say the least!

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  13. "God is a mean kid sitting on an anthill with a magnifying glass" - That makes me giggle! Well-written!

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  14. Ships, yeah that line is from Bruce Almighty. :)

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  16. Sudipta-Yeah of course a lot of charity work has been done in the name of god. But the line 'There has been more bloodshed...' sums it up for me because that is the extent to which mankind is willing to go...taking the lives of other men for god-something god himself if existed would never advocate.

    Its interesting how the regular posters havent felt it necessary to say anything (or havent stumped up the courage for it). Its kind of pragmatic as there is clearly no end to this debate.

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  17. Neeraj, to quote from a source I don't remember, a fanatic is someone who does what he thinks God would have done if He had the details of the case. That statement is very true, but that does not sum up all that represents God for me. I might not be a big believer, but the concept in itself has its own merit.

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