“The worst moment for an atheist is when he is finally thankful and has no body to thank for” – Dante Gabriel Rossetti
I am not a legacy person, never will be. Legacies fail me always. For one more time, I am losing in bits and pieces perhaps the biggest legacy one acquires over the life time. Legacy of faith, belief and meaning or better put together, God. Awakening is usually a high feeling, an ecstasy pill but the journey from believing to not believing is filled with overwhelming depressive sights and no intellectually tempting signs or curves are good enough for a loner amidst a tricky maze who has almost decided that there is no ultimate destination he should be seeking in the first place. As it happens, rarely though, that we find something unique and fundamental about ourselves and when we do, we owe it to us to rediscover the discovery for its consistency and validity.The magic gets twice the charm if one discovers it on his own, first hand and not under any influentially rich or divine literature. I am glad for experiencing a definitive transformation as I interrogate my existence as an individual in a natural realm, nothing more nothing less.
Lately, I have come to realize that valency of my or anyone else’s conscious, unconscious actions, motivated, repelled or liberated from any value-system, does not equate with any defined code written in religious or social philosophies. By philosophies I particularly mean ‘Moksha’ and by ‘we’ I incidentally mean me. There is no system governed by any spiritual or divine being who is there to maintain records of humanity-gone-wild and consequentially, there is no entity we know as God. It’s only causality that makes the world go round. This is a note from a real person who in her sound mind, health and spirit is seeking a non-epistemological, non-scientific but radically experiential view that God does not exist other than as a comfort.
It begins with memories of time when I was raw and real than I would ever be. I whole heartedly deny that we create memories consciously, it is however memories that go on to define us. I remember reading a very interesting quotation in the newspaper long ago. I think it was by Plato. I was in our modestly put drawing room, sitting on a dying sofa facing the fading pink walls to feel the impact , ‘stimulating’, I said and it read -“He must be a wise man who invented God”. I was just enough grown up to give benefit of doubt to the idea of godless individuality. Memories from playful childhood and tough teenage years are still all over the place and there I am, a young soul between old chaps, caught up in a group of grandparents of our neighborhood who would gather at night after dinner, reading sacred quotes from Bhagwadgeeta to them. I remember doing it quite often. I agree it is not usual for a teenager to extend intellectual wisdom to old as an act of charity. Ordinary I was but I guess weird too! One lazy summer afternoon, I reached home with heavy load of books and found ‘Sampoorna Mahabharata’, one of the credits of well-defined CBSE education for eighth graders. I finished it off in a couple of hours like a child wanting to finish the story leaving behind morals to follow him in future. I think it was the beginning that set me on the course to the concept of ideal and absolute and I bought it pretty well. It is funny to think that there was an innocent me in time, scared of ‘Hanuman’ getting mad over me for ignoring him while singing bhajans for other deities at the local temple, which was just because all throughout until very recently, ‘Krishna’ was my favorite. Also that they literally fry evil people in hell which further reminds me how well guarded I was by my value system into not hurting or cheating people. I would vividly imagine of standing in front of a divine being reading my Karma log book in front of people who I cheated or lied to, asking me to provide explanation in front of them. 🙂
I anyway ended up in hurting and lying to many people throughout. If any of this at all is true, I am in trouble already!
My memories serve me well in connecting the dots between how layers of conditioning shaped my value system and how experiences both worldly & intellectual, are coming to derange it. I owe it to myself to contemplate over the fundamentals lying beneath this change. This post is a way to document the transition. It may come in handy you never know! What I know is, I believe in sudden transformations, definitive incidences where individual’s dormant identity gets revived by an unexpected event altering his entire line of ideology. (Actually the alteration begins way before we know it. An event is just a boiling point where conventional wisdom melts and parallel, alternative ideologies culminate and take over). It is a proof that conditioning is inferior to the inherent ‘Id’ (as Sigmund Freud portrays) and just another reflection into how humans are vulnerable to find meaning in almost every event they go through in life. It is surprisingly extreme when that individual happens to be a Hindu for whom the theory of ‘Karma and Moksha’ is written all across his deliverables like a holy anthem. So, I have some serious concerns about how my past around this theory, conveniently shaped my thoughts and actions and how important is it for me to contain the collateral damage as soon as possible. This is just where scope of my development lies as it makes me wonder, why we do not seek truth or more importantly sense in Karma or Moksha before blindly accepting it as the sole answer to human’s destiny. These concerns can’t be ignored easily and it is high time when I should be consciously looking for the genesis of this transformation.
We all understand God not for its nature but for the infinite fear or excitement in what he represents. Moksha or Karma is one of the reasons, God is treated as ‘God’ in India. For us there is no difference between the two.
Chicken or Egg?
The quotation I mentioned before serves as a philosophical problem of innumerable implications. Who invented whom? Human invented God or God invented him? Let me be more brutal, human defines meaning or meaning defines him? The battleground for this universal debate will unfairly continue to exist independently of the outcome, CERN’s ‘God’s Particle’ claims to solve. Any explanation aimed at solving cosmic puzzle for the sake of atheism, will never satisfy individual’s thirst for meaning which by inference takes meaning to even higher level than God himself. After all, if God created man or the entire universe to mean something, then by inference, meaning should be the reason for God’s own existence. The ‘meaning’ thus elevates the spiritual periphery further to the top spot in the sacred hierarchy.
And there begins the gradual but dramatic collapse of my institutionalized individuality. Why I believed in God in first place, well the answer is simple. I didn’t have a choice. It was a legacy gifted to me so I make something novel out of this installment of birth. Layers of rituals and traditions set outright since life begins in a womb till washed away in Ganges, delicately penetrate the idea of afterlife and re-birth deep inside us to be our fundamental worries and concerns and I was no exception. (If you think either of your parents or on-the-way mentors introduced the idea of God like a one-on-one counseling session, you are underestimating the depth of conditioning). Institutions, formal or informal played their roles handsomely to craft an ideal human out of a man who in absence of this faculty is a loose cannon, dedicated to destroy himself. In a nutshell, a moral code was cultivated to ensure that mission human-life is accomplished.
So we see there, how religion cunningly established a direct and intense connect between morality and God. Thereby implying Moksha as a guarantee to our elevation to the supreme. Well, I am no expert of any religion but I have tried to understand its hypothesis with a reasonable level of intelligence and I have some real questions that were never answered. “Why I should believe in God?” or “How the idea of God serves my individual instincts?” If you naively think that believing in God makes us or for that matter me, a morally superior being, state of our nation or that of the world is a living testimony that morality has nothing to do with religion and they can function independently of each other. In fact, in that scenario, their synergy is exemplary!
My speciousness towards Moksha stems from the restriction it implies over my ability to think, feel, behave and deliver as a human but not being humanly at the same time. I am a young adult and my experiences obviously are younger but there is a strange clause with Moksha that never allows me to age with experiences. Moksha is the philosophy of true realization and liberation that comes from self-consciousness. But the slope gets real slippery here. How should I see ‘self’? Find ‘self to find God’ is a way too protective notion. If ‘self’ is already elaborated in the balance books up there then I am by inference, denying the existence of other variations in the equation. How judgement for example does not influence my actions or in-actions. Fear or excitement, it seems, become the only constants in the equation of life manipulating the truth and how does that not disturb the process of true realization? Liberation pursued under a command in itself is an oxymoron.
But what if one consciously does not believe in God as a deity? God serving others as a written code with no shape, no form but still a divine force who created all, is a trickier proposition. This God is an abstract whose existence depends on how one decodes the message. In short, we define him and not the vice-versa. But why? Why God at all?
Ever heard of Dusk Meer’s struggle about chasing a fragrance all through and its ignorance that it itself is it.
What makes God so real is human’s innate inability to fathom the terrifying idea that his existence is mortal, temporary and will vanish one day. That, whether he likes it or not he is the most intellectual being in the universe and there is no mentor he can seek to evolve further. By inventing ‘afterlife’ he is merely satisfying his fantasy where he still exists, as a dust or some spiritual element doesn’t matter as long as he is alive. It is a pity indeed to be a giver all the time, to remain a professor all this while who is desperate to become a student for once, desperate to find a closure with a valid report card that he has done well, finally. He has evolved from a natural man into a super-man. He has become God.
Unless, if God re-emerges in the debate as a magical creature with infinite powers.This is where almost all give up their argument in favor of an imagination. Beneath the magic lies the idea of a power that can play with nature’s rules at ease of will. Believing in magic is like surrendering to a rationally confused psyche that is creative but does not care enough to provide the very answer around the ‘non-sense’ in the concept of redemption.
Individual experiences across the world reveal terrifying tales of people who have experienced evil and thus God in-directly. I am a novice here and certainly not a snob who is committed to defame God but this imagination benefits me in exploring one absurd fantasy. What if ‘God’ is evil? Powerful, merciful, supreme but evil. To deduce the equation to one constant i.e. evil, we eliminate the natural attributes mankind is blessed with; honesty, goodness and kindness. So we end up identifying God through our natural attributes. But mankind nature’s is a grey package. Greed and corruption are written below the ‘conditions apply’ section. So why we never put these labels across God? I guess, we seek our evolution in a noble, supreme God because evil is not seen noble in a conventional retrospective setting of values.
‘Super-natural God’ as an inspiration for man, is a bottomless pit where we can never transcend our natural instincts to accomplish a fantasy super-natural man. Natural means entities defined by the law of nature where limitations are essential for his survival.
How ‘magical’ expects ‘natural’ to travel a journey that God himself covered under magical powers. No matter how deep one digs, it only gets confusing further and farther. Ever heard of a God without magical powers. Never! Imagine if mankind had one God that didn’t have magical attributes. How our lineage and heritage would have shaped?!
I do not believe in superstitious rituals or evil but it does not mean I am not afraid of possibilities of its existence. Hell I am! Which brings me back to human’s love for fear of God. ‘What one does not know is what he fears the most’ fits right as yet another definition of him. While science was yet to empower human with reasons and not miracles, mankind had already invented God. God became the only refuge to surrender his existence, a survival kit he carried for generations. The gap between discovery of God and science is a giant leap we are yet to cover. Fear or excitement towards a possible afterlife, is too tempting to de-condition God’s influence.
Struggle of a new born atheist!
Well as far as fear is concerned, I am human and my instincts make me cautious for threat and pain equally as for truth and ecstasy, not as much as, in fact way less. Torn by a constant tug-of-war between what I have believed all life and what I am coming to understand crystal clear, is a difficult spot to be in. A long stay in a no man’s land is not only depressing but also taking away my constructive nature to build a new perspective of life. God still exists in my habits, conversations, opinions, even fantasies. I still fear dark spaces. I have never said it to God’s face that I am an atheist or dared him to prove his existence. Like I said, I am a poor bird who has been set free but is scared of flying into woods.
Of all the atheists across the world, struggle for a Hindu atheist is way more savaging and holistic. Asking a hindu to delete God from his life is like asking him to become invisible. Deleting God means to emerge out naked from layers of culture wrapped around his personality.
The real challenge here is how to pursue the journey being an atheist. Surviving a godless journey means dis-connect from purpose, peace and accomplishment, obviously intellectual. No purpose means a dis-interest in life’s higher ambitions, no records, no end-point, no destination, no road leading nowhere, in short a sucking life. A depressing journey.
Can I survive a journey that has no meaningful end? I think I can and I must. On to atheism, my individuality is a loyal companion and it doesn’t leave when it pours. It emerges even stronger as a guide to help me not only survive human life but also live it well too. It didn’t catch me off-guard but social implications of being an atheist are way more helpful in raising my bars. This turn-around from God also took me more close to the fact that Karma is not at a religious or spiritual philosophy but the genesis of the causal-cycle. It is the basic drive that runs the universe. It is the deduced meaning and ruthless acceptance of religious fables around this brilliant concept that destroys its true integrity. Being an atheist allows me to take responsibility of my actions and see things for what they are and not accept them over the face value of Karma. Although my disgust with the theory began much early as I kept observing families, friends and neighbors’ extreme addiction to relate success, failure, gains and loss with how they performed in previous birth, it became permanent all along while my work took me to visit vulnerable regions of India and interview people for their share of sadness and plight. While they were right in blaming government for its failure to listen their stories, Karma usually appeared as the end title.
It is like the umbilical cord between afterlife and this birth is never cut-off for an Indian.
So, here I am, an atheist in making, searching for a way forward and I see there is a scope to evolve further even while I remain divorced from God.
I know atheism will test me for if my awakening is delusional or enveloped around a loss that could have been spared. I hope it does! In any case I will be at benefit as it will only bring me closer to real me.
The only consolation in taking God back into my life will be a blessing in disguise. I will know that Ishaan is up there in good hands and I will see him someday.
Note: This is a personal perspective towards atheism and does not intend to hurt feelings of those who believe in God in any way.