Jun 25, 2009

Love and God

Over the years, I have experienced two distinct emotions and thus far, I have never been able to come to terms with either of them. I lost faith in both; I have modified the belief in one and accepted the rationale behind other’s belief of the other. Both have been responsible for tiffs with my parents and both have led to countless hours of thought, strife, and emotional trauma. One is love; the other is religion.

Please do note that I have called religion an emotion, taking to past the field of a belief and bringing it to the realm of experience. The reason that I have done this is simple; the connection that I can see between love and religion is in their experience and the effect that they have on an individual.

The tie that binds both love and religion is something called vulnerability. I will see what justice I can do with vulnerability in the picture.

Vulnerability is the feeling of helplessness that overcomes a person on certain situations. It leaves the person open to attack and many a time the person is rendered weak and defenseless.

Just as I have talked about vulnerability above, it becomes easy to see as to how both religion and love cause vulnerability. With respect to belief in a super-powerful God, we leave ourselves open to the pain that comes with that belief. We are dependent on that God for running most of our daily lives and we tend to let him/her be the final judge on what we do with our daily lives.

This in many ways seems familiar with what I have seen and heard as well as experienced from love. It makes one incredibly vulnerable when it comes to the person who is the target of the emotion. Everything that they say/do not say, do/do not do makes a difference, rather makes too much of a difference. Just as it is with the lord, even what is presumed to be shortcomings is forgiven for they are the ultimate being in our eyes. We have put them on a pedestal and we are not ready to take them down from it.

The flip side of this vulnerability is that even though we are vulnerable with that one being, either the God or the target of love, we are stronger with rest of the world. Both are beliefs that go to strengthen the person’s defense systems against all possible attacks from the outside world. I did mention that the vulnerability is towards the target of the emotion.

A staunch believer in God is not going to give too much of importance of what goes on around him/her for they know that it is just another game that is played by the Almighty. Just as the Almighty got them into the current situation, the Almighty shall bring them out safely.

Similarly, with love, the fact that there is that one person shall go a long way to render the rest of the world impotent. The attacks, both personal and professional shall bear no fruit, as the lover shall find solace in the arms/illusion of arms of the target of love.

There is no on who is capable of hurting the lover except the lover’s lover themselves, just as there is no one capable of hurting the devote other than God himself/herself.

Jun 23, 2009

God and Joy

During one of my very infrequent trips to a temple with my parents, a thought occurred to me, a thought that is in its process of crystallization. This post is more of an attempt to crystallize that thought, rather than to state a point of view. As always, the topic continues to be open to discussion.

It has never ceased to amaze me seeing the throngs of people who travel great distances to arrive at a temple, stand in the queue for hours together; all just to catch a moment’s glimpse of the so called Lord. Every time that I am in the temple, I am more interested in seeing the expression of pure joy on the faces of the devotee rather than strain my neck trying to catch a glimpse of the deity.

Being a self confessed non-believer, I needed to know what it was that was driving this effort, what drives the person to do whatever they do, all for a moment’s glimpse. It was then the answer was obvious, to catch a glimpse of what they believe is certainty, to realize something that their daily lives do not provide.

In one of my earlier pieces, I have talked about the fact that belief in religion and belief in a god provides a person with a certainty and a purpose, one that is readily available, something that the other non-believers have to search and find on purpose. Now, armed with this belief, when a person reaches a temple, a church, a mosque, a gurudwara, they realize that they are in the presence of something that to them is greater than they are. This greatness has all the power that someone can think of, to give, to take away, to create, to protect and finally to destroy.

When they are in the presence of this raw power, one that makes life certain, one is overcome with an amazing sense of belonging. This is the one thing that any human is in constant search for, the certainty of life, the knowledge that they are not alone in the world, and they would have eternal company. To see the physical manifestation of all their doubts, in the form of a deity, a cross, a stone, or even an abstract thought called god, is bound to bring joy to any human.

Since I have begun with what it means to a believer, I need to expound how does a non-believer achieve this level of joy, why he goes through immense tests of belief and strengths to achieve certainty.

The simple fact is he does not achieve certainty for all he has is uncertainty. Now, this is no similar to man before he achieved a belief in god. The person who believed moved one step forward and found peace. The one that is left behind, who refuses to acknowledge the god that there is, has to come up with a measure to bridge that gap.

This leaves a non-believer like me with just one option, rush to the only other certainty, death, or make peace with the uncertainty, understand that life as we know it is just a set of infinitesimally small combined probability and move on with life. In the end, it is all about peace.

At this point, I would like to conclude with a few lines from Demons, a novel by the Russian author, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

God is necessary and therefore must exist. However, as a man I know that he does not and cannot exist. Do you not understand that a man with these two thoughts cannot go on living? Do you not understand that a man can shoot himself for that alone? You do not understand that there may be such a man, one man out of the thousands of millions, who will not want it and will not endure it.

Nov 28, 2008

God as everything

God as everything in the universe.

I was reading a post online someplace, when I chanced upon what seems to be a novel means of definition of God. The more I think of it, the more it seems to make sense; however, it is not something that I can accept. What I can understand is the relative simplicity of such a God.

The idea is captured in Spinzoan philisophy, where in God is the infinite, where god is everything. Rather than making him the controller, a kind of external influence, by placing everything in him, rather than under him, it disables the need for a creator of God. The reason that this is highly attractive is that the general notion of God as the creator of the universe raises the question of infinite regression, wherein if God created everything, who created God?

I have reproduced Spinzoa's proposition here

God is the infinite, necessarily existing (that is, uncaused), unique substance of the universe. There is only one substance in the universe; it is God; and everything else that is, is in God.

Proposition 1: A substance is prior in nature to its affections.

Proposition 2: Two substances having different attributes have nothing in common with one another. (In other words, if two substances differ in nature, then they have nothing in common).

Proposition 3: If things have nothing in common with one another, one of them cannot be the cause of the other.

Proposition 4: Two or more distinct things are distinguished from one another, either by a difference in the attributes [i.e., the natures or essences] of the substances or by a difference in their affections [i.e., their accidental properties].

Proposition 5: In nature, there cannot be two or more substances of the same nature or attribute.

Proposition 6: One substance cannot be produced by another substance.

Proposition 7: It pertains to the nature of a substance to exist.

Proposition 8: Every substance is necessarily infinite.

Proposition 9: The more reality or being each thing has, the more attributes belong to it.

Proposition 10: Each attribute of a substance must be conceived through itself.

Proposition 11: God, or a substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses eternal and infinite essence, necessarily exists. (The proof of this proposition consists simply in the classic "ontological proof for God's existence". Spinoza writes that "if you deny this, conceive, if you can, that God does not exist. Therefore, by axiom 7 [‘If a thing can be conceived as not existing, its essence does not involve existence’], his essence does not involve existence. But this, by proposition 7, is absurd. Therefore, God necessarily exists, q.e.d.")

Proposition 12: No attribute of a substance can be truly conceived from which it follows that the substance can be divided.

Proposition 13: A substance which is absolutely infinite is indivisible.

Proposition 14: Except God, no substance can be or be conceived.

This proof that God — an infinite, necessary and uncaused, indivisible being — is the only substance of the universe proceeds in three simple steps. First, establish that no two substances can share an attribute or essence (Ip5). Then, prove that there is a substance with infinite attributes (i.e., God) (Ip11). It follows, in conclusion, that the existence of that infinite substance precludes the existence of any other substance. For if there were to be a second substance, it would have to have some attribute or essence. But since God has all possible attributes, then the attribute to be possessed by this second substance would be one of the attributes already possessed by God. But it has already been established that no two substances can have the same attribute. Therefore, there can be, besides God, no such second substance.

If God is the only substance, and (by axiom 1) whatever is, is either a substance or in a substance, then everything else must be in God. "Whatever is, is in God, and nothing can be or be conceived without God" (Ip15).

More to follow on the significance and my own opinions of the theory.

Article citiation: Nadler, Steven, "Baruch Spinoza", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Nov 13, 2008

Whirlpool of life

Imagine if you can
You are a fish, caught up in a whirlpool.
You are being sucked to the center of the whirlpool as you take all efforts to swim away from the hole in the center.
You know that as you get closer to the center, the centrifugal forces are going to increase and when you reach the center and are taken down the vortex, your body is going to be torn apart by the immense force concentrated over a very small area.
Now, as you get closer to the center, you see a fisherman's line, with a morsel at the end.
You have two choices, you can either ignore the fisherman's line, get pulled into the vortex and die.
Or you have another option, take the bite, get pulled up by the fisherman. You are saved from the twirling waters, only to die of asphyxiation out of the water.
That is life.

Nov 12, 2008

Religion as a means to peace

For quite sometime, religion has caused a lot of strife in the worlds. Let us begin with the spread of Christianity, with the belief that once every human being on this planet is Christian, the Lord will descend in a golden triangle to save humankind, the crusades of the middle ages, the so-called War on Terror - a throw back to the crusades, the Israel Palestine conflict, Terrorism and its offshoots, Hindu fanaticism in India, election of a president in the United States, all of the above have caused pain, have caused strife and have religion undertones.

However, my understanding is that one of the main goals of religion is peace, both personal and societal. The way that religion works towards this is simple.

Religion is the acceptance of a power superior to us, to believe in something that is more powerful that controls most of the events that occur around us.

When one has something that is greater than oneself, there is the ability to leave things in the hands of that so called mightier being. It is like saying that something is out of my control and therefore, is the prerogative of that being. Let us call that being God.

When I do not understand something, like why a particular religion is so fanatic, why someone killed my brother in the twin tower, why someone raped my sister because she was a Christian, why my father was murdered because he was a Hindu, I have two option.

1) I can either take offence and go on a killing spree. You killed my blood, I shall now spill yours. Simply said, the cliche "An eye for an eye makes the world go blind".
2) The second option is when I say that it is a part of the games played by the God and is not for me to understand or avenge.

The first option is not going to lead anywhere, I will never forget that I was wronged, and the person I wronged will not either. Neither will I have personal peace, nor will I have societal peace.

The second option on the other hand, will give me grief for a period of time. But when I have left it to the supreme power, then I do not have to understand. I am letting time heal me. Over a period of time, my memories will be of the person, rather than the means of death.

I do agree that it is quasi-peace, but I am of the opinion that it shall work in all frames of reference. I took the easiest to illustrate.

The point I am making is that by transferring the blame to something that cannot be avenged for the mistake (imagine if you can, I go to God and try to have an argument with him). In the process, my conscience is clean, and that leads to peace.

Highly convoluted agreed, slower sure, but surer.

Apr 11, 2008

Why do I do this?

In the last few months, the concept of god has taken a back seat and the search for a purpose, for even something as trivial as purpose has taken the front seat. When I was writing the previous post called as The provider of purpose, I undertook an experiment. I tried to live a life without the purpose as defined by someone else. The end result is just that life is not life without a purpose. It can be something as simple as keeping oneself occupied at points in time, or something as profound as keeping oneself happy at all times, one needs a purpose of some kind or the other.

This post is not something that is strictly going to talk about the functionalities of religion. It is something more personal and therefore much more free flowing. It was during the period of religion-lessness that I thought about the reason behind this blog. I confessed at the start that I am an atheist, with belief in reason. Agreed, but then there are many atheists out there who are satisfied with being one. Why do I have to go and try to discuss god. Well, I guess the reason is the one thing that separates me from most of humanity is the belief in god and I wanted to see the logical reasoning behind it. However, that is not the complete truth. If one sees the structuring of the posts in this blog, they seem to be an outright effort to convince the people that their belief in something bigger than themselves can be explained by reasoning it out. Once a person knows what something is and how it evolved, then they lose the fear of that particular thing, and then it stops being mysterious. I guess that one would agree that if religion does not have its mystery then it cannot exist in its current form.

I wish that was the sole reason. I would be lying if it was. There is a more ulterior motive. I want to believe in something more powerful than I am. I am not sure that I can handle the responsibility of running my life. I would like to know something is in control of what I am doing, and will clear the mess if I (pardon my French) screw up.

How do I plan to do this by being an atheist? Well I don't. The only way that I can have that super-powerful god's protection is if I were a practicing theist. How does one, whose belief in god was broken due to belief in something more powerful, science, get back his belief in god? The answer is by trying to disprove the existence of god.

The question I am sure you are thinking is how can one want to disprove god and then still say that they want to be a theist. The answer is very simple. As any scientist, or any person who has done studies on religion, be it in the field of philosophy, evolution, or just plain theology will tell you, one cannot possible disprove the existence of a god. No matter what one does to disprove his existence, they will come to an impasse. This is a place where god can exist or he cannot exist and neither alternative does not make a difference to the path of the future. The simplest one that I can think of is the period before the Big Bang. If god did exist before the Big Bang, we have no way of proving or disproving it because time as a point of reference before the bang does not matter. Time as we know it today starts at the point of the Big Bang.

Since I cannot possibly prove that god does not exist, therefore by simple negation, if god does not 'not exist' then he could exist. Ergo, I am not an atheist. This is something I am sure that I am going to end up at. However, till that day comes, I shall be a staunch atheist, doing my bit for the improvement of my life.

Jan 15, 2008

religion - 4 - purpose to life

Perhaps the most important role that is played by religion is that it gives people something to live for.

What is the one thing that a man needs to justify his life? It is called a purpose. Everything that man does, he seeks purpose. That is the one unifying ideal, purpose of everything and purpose for everything.

I will illustrate this with a line of thought that scares the hell and heavens out of me. It is about what life is without a single unifying purpose.

However, his birth is the net result of the relationship between two people, a woman and a man. Out of the billions of combinations that are possible between the egg of the woman and the sperms of the man, the birth of a specific individual is just one. It is like saying that my birth is the net outcome of a system whose individual probability is one in a billion. Does my birth have a purpose?

As and when I grow up, I listen to different people in life. During the first ten years, I listen to my parents, then I listen to friends and then to colleagues. Their inputs go a long way in deciding what I want.

Once I am near the age of thirty, I get married and have a family. The next few decades are spent in making life better for that family of mine of which I too am a part. Then my kids grow up and leave the house and I am left to live a life whose goal now is just to wait for death.

When I have such a life, I know that there is only one life that I have and therefore I shall live it to maximize my comfort and my happiness, even if it is at the expense of others. However, as evolution says, that is not necessarily the best way to live.

In fact even in economics, what I lived was the Adam Smith model where the best for a group is what is best for the individuals forming the group. However, the better way for life is the John Nash model, where the best for a group is what is best for the individuals and the group as a whole. Religion provides that group as a whole.

Religion tells me that there is something after this life. It is called hell and heaven, it is called rebirth. It gives me what Hinduism called Karma - the net purpose behind every action, the net remainder of every action.

When there is something that tells me that life is not restricted to this life alone, I finally have a purpose. Even though that purpose may elude me in this life, I know that whatever I have now is the result of what happened in previous births and what is going to happen next is the result of what I do with this life. It also provides moral persuasion, therefore enabling what is best for the human species.

Religion provides the purpose that man seeks, the reason to live life. For without religion, if you go along my line of thought, there is no difference between you living until the age of seventy and dying, and dying right at this very instant, for in such a life, the only truth is death. It is a negative system. Religion removes the negativity as a goal and in that place gives heaven, hell and the system of rebirth. This new system gives man what he perceives to be a bigger picture. When there is life beyond death, life is at last provided a meaning. He shall live his life towards that goal and find the purpose he seeks in that goal.

This is the fourth and probably the most important role – providing the purpose one seeks in life.