Coming from India and that too a rural background, where science is almost an outcast, I guess I grew up with the idea of God and never questioned it. It’s so easy to live without questioning prevalent ideas. Luckily I got good education and now I am in a position to understand so many things, get exposure to so many ideas meet so many different people. I am constantly surprised as I come to know different new things everyday. I guess it has affected my thinking a lot and in a very radical way. I am so open to new ideas and new ways of leading life nowadays. Questioning the existence of God is one of those ideas. People back at home will be surprised if they get a clear picture of me and will be forced to ask a question – ‘what has education done to him?!!’
For most of the people in India, the idea of education is not ‘education’ itself. It is just a way of getting a good job and getting a handsome pay and living life comfortably/happily. The motive is purely monetary. Knowledge is a secondary outcome of education. I don’t see anything wrong with this kind of motive. Only food can satiate a hungry man and not knowledge.
At least 60% of India lives in poverty. These people see the educated people with good jobs and good money. Parents are forced to think that education for kids is an escape route from poverty, which is also true. And I must agree that this kind of thinking has done a lot of good to people. I am no exception. I hope this thinking will change over time. It should change. Children should be educated for knowledge and nothing else than that. But again, food is important.
Coming back to the question of God, I agree that the idea of God has done a lot of good to mankind. It has, without question, induced a sense of morality in people. I am pretty sure that world would have been a far worse place than it is today if it were full of atheists. I am not telling that atheists are bad people. But just the idea of God adds another check on people doing bad things.
The idea of God also gives a sense of peace to an already confused mind. It calms down the mind. We think that God listens and most often we talk to God when we are in trouble. Psychologically, it strengthens our mind.
It also unites people (sometimes in a bad way, like people of one community fighting others. Here we see that god has indeed divided people!). Sociologically, the idea of God is like an adhesive. It brings people together. We often see huge masses of people taking a dip in the great Ganges, looking at the sky, offering prayers and ‘washing’ off their sins. We also have the Amarnath Yatra where thousands of people trek to the Himalayas to visit one of the shrines. We also have the Haj among Muslims and similar practices in other religions. The effect, these phenomena have, will definitely make an interesting study.
There are many good things with the idea of God. So why question it?!!
Science has always worked on the basis of data, experiments and ideas which can be ‘proved’. That’s one thing that God hasn’t allowed us to do - to prove His existence!
But I believe that the very fact that we cannot prove the existence of God gives enormous strength to the idea of God. It’s a paradox. The more difficult it is to prove the existence, the stronger the idea becomes.
I have read a lot about Swami Vivekananda’s life and his works. It makes a very interesting read. The story goes like this: Vivekananda was very intrigued with the idea of God and he started questioning the existence of God. He became an atheist for sometime. Then one of his professors told him about Ramakrishna Paramahamsa – the only man known then, who claimed to have seen God!! The rest is history. Vivekananda becomes a disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and is believed to have seen/experienced God. And Vivekananda started a mission to spread the ideas of Hinduism (not the religion) all around the world. Even today, the Ramakrishna mission is a very big organization which is striving to spread the ideas of Hinduism.
It is becoming very uneasy for me to live with the idea of God, an idea which does not have any foundations. Only God can help me I guess!! I sometimes seriously think of putting some efforts to find God with whatever means available. We also have a school of thought which tells that God is in everybody. So why take the trouble of finding?!!
Or, it’s a Sunday. Probably I should just go and have some beer!! :)