Follow Up: Losing my faith...

Well as I had previously mentioned, my dilemma with the breakdown of my belief system has been one of the more important factors of my life in the recent past. Since I haven't had any satisfactory answers from any quarter, I turned to a somewhat spiritual perspective of things. I got myself this book caled THE BEST OF SPEAKING TREE. It has a compilation of the best SPEAKING TREE columns from the Times of India. This is something I found rather interesting and thought everyone should give it a read.
By Dilip D'souza
  • One dictionary defines an agnostic as "a person who holds that the ultimate cause (God) and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable." That is, an agnostic is somebody who does not know whether God exists. And really, he doesn't much care anyway.
  • Now not being either a believer or a non-believer is one thing (or two), but not to even care? Is the agnostic that uninterested? Is it OK that he swings his legs uncaringly on the fence, particularly over a question as profound as the existence of God?
  • In a word: Yes. Because being agnostic puts your life squarely where it belongs: in your hands. Being agnostic urges you to take responsibility for your every action.
  • In contrast, religion's greatest weakness is that it pushes you to give up responsibility. Which is why religion has so much to answer for: the misery and bigotry it has caused through history. Those can always be blamed on somebody else. God, sometimes. The rest of the world, some other times.
  • But me myself, even if only for being blind to misery? Never.
  • "It's God's will," some will say. "He works in inscrutable ways, don't you know?" Christianity takes this argument down another path: it argues that suffering is a cleansing of sin and thus good for you -- which explains horrible disasters, or needless deaths, or crippling poverty.
  • Actually, it doesn't explain. It only forces convoluted ethical compromise. Bertrand Russell once wrote, "No man who believes that all is for the best in this suffering world can keep his ethical values unimpaired, since he is always having to find excuses for pain and misery."
  • After all, if a God has decided that millions must live in poverty, well, we mere mortals can hardly fight that, can we? There will always be poor people. We had better accept that because God designed the world that way. Yes, we might take up the occasional programme to alleviate poverty, but there's no reason to be more than half-hearted about it, because God doesn't really want it to work.
  • I don't mean thinking like this embellishes every well-meaning social worker's efforts. What I mean is an attitude -- an acceptance, perhaps, where there should be outrage. But outrage comes from personal involvement. Religion detaches me instead, gives me a scapegoat. If I do get outraged, it is only when I am persuaded to see the followers of other Gods as the cause of my problems.
  • When some external, if still sacred, entity is the reason for miseries, I am off the hook. I don't need to feel outraged. I don't even need to feel responsible.
  • It's no stretch to see how this renunciation of responsibility explains wrongs around us. Institutions crumble, criminals win elected office, cities get more polluted, violence becomes endemic: all this happens and we feel helpless, pressed into inaction by the sheer weight of these issues.
  • Besides, God has willed it all anyway.
  • Agnosticism addresses the helplessness in the most direct way: by telling you to leave God alone. When you don't care about that any more, you are left with no choice but to grapple with problems yourself. That's the only chance they will ever get solved.
  • In fact, grabbing responsibility with both hands is the best reason of all for agnosticism.
  • Beginning a 1948 radio debate with a Father Copleston, Russell pronounced himself an agnostic. Copleston then asked him: "Would you agree with me that the problem of God is a problem of great importance?"
  • Russell replied: "Roughly speaking, yes."
  • Or: it may be important, certainly, but is it really important enough? Do I care? Russell's words, it seems to me, capture the essence of being agnostic


VISIT Dilip D'Souza on

Losing my faith...

I was once religious. I believed that the Idols I worshipped were god--they had the ultimate power to make or break things. If I ever had any problem--with my friends, my family or with my life, I had the Idols to look forward to for help. Just close my eyes and pray for things to be resolved. As a kid, I dont remember how many solutions I asked for and eventually how many were actually solved. Then came a time when I wished for something real bad, and when that didn't happen, I fought with my gods and I started calling myself an Atheist.

As a kid, my grandmother had taught me many different things. Hymns, Chants, prayers and how each god was to be worshipped during different festivals. The stories of the gods fascinated me as they would fascinate any child. I was totally in love with Lord Krishna and made him my favourite god. His stories were by far the best. Naughty little Krishna and his pranks, his mischevious smile and his beauty as was explained to me as a kid, made him my hero. I remember the time I had gone to this exhibition where I saw this statue of Krishna and pestered my mother to buy it for me. I had it for the longest of time. Until I was religious. Then I gave it away when I started believing that Krishna is nothing but a fable, a story that people cooked up a million years ago. The statue still resides in my aunt's place and it is so strategically placed in their apartment that you just cant miss it when you go there. I go there often and everytime I watch it, I am transported into the past when I believed that blue Idol to be my saviour.When you lose someone so precious in your life, you are bound to be shaken. So was I and became an Atheist, or rather called myself one. If anyone asked me what my religion was, then "Human" or "Indian" was what echoed out. I often revolted when asked to follow religious customs and traditions. If I was reprimanded for something that went against the religion, it left me all cranky and bitter towards those reprimanding me. I always had friends who followed Islam and were devoted muslims, and I continued to have muslimfriends. I never labelled myself a Hindu, even while I was religious. But ever since I became an Atheist, I started saying that I didn't follow any religion except Humanity, and I have no problem with those who did. I was once admonished, well "admonish" is a nicer term, lets say I was brutally attack with a barrage of insults by a person who was from the same caste I was born into. My fault for deserving the insults??? I was talking to a Pakistani friend online. I had enough of comments on my being non-religious and was ready to take more of them in my stride. But what really hit me was, a fellow Indian was questioning my integrity as an Indian. I cried bitterly at that time, but soon learnt that people will vent their feelings, and nothing should affect me as long as I stand by what I believe. I had started the process of learning.

Friends often asked me to come with me to temples and I would often say that I am not interested as I didn't believe in god. Even today I visit temples, once or twice or thrice a year, with the company of my friend. If they find the peace of mind there and in doing what they do, I had absolutely no problems with them. I could just come there as a spectator of the architecture that went into those marble blocks. I always maintained that I was non-religious and thought whatever greater power there was, came from within me and my surroundings. I believed if there was god, then it probably would be what I find withing myself or in my family and dear ones. There was no other god for me.
Then there was this day when I just sat back and listened to this person, who I consider the most wonderful and intelligent human being I know, apart from my family. She was talking about this concept of Atheism and God. She said something that had me thinking. If you are an Atheist, you totally rule out the concept of God. The question of god did not arise there. That statement had me thinking, for the first time since I rejected Idols, that was I truly an Atheist?? Did I believe that there was no such thing as God?? Here I was, back home thinking over it in the middle of the night, when I should have really been thinking of the exam that was at hand the next day.
It hit me instantly. I didn't completely rule out the existence of God. I had just refused to be the part of a system which taught that you are supposed to do such and such things in so and so manner to make the "Gods" happy. I still believed that there was something supreme, inside me and outside, that make things happen mysteriously when I dont expect them to happen. Whatever else I believed earlier, of idols and chants and hymns had been long flushed out from my memory. But what remained was even more powerful. I only refused to follow a system. This is the question I want to ask myself--or to the world. Because right now, I dont find myself capable of answering my own question.

Am I an Atheist??

Watch out for this space as I update my
quest for anwers on this topic.
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