When I started `Mitti Pao!’ I had vowed to steer clear of two subjects – politics and religion. The former already has too many voices, each trying to out-decibel the other, and I didn’t want to add to the cacophony. As for religion, it is too personal an issue, and too easily causes offence.
Besides, apart from factors such as upbringing and education, one’s beliefs are formulated more out of felt experience. And since cogent reasoning or logic rarely contribute to these beliefs, any argument or discussion is pointless, and will generate more heat than light.
But whenever I think of the role organized religion plays in life, the conclusions I reach are pretty depressing.
At the outset, let me apologise in advance for any offence this post may cause. These are my views, and can quite easily be junked without causing me any ofence!
If not an out and out atheist, I am definitely an agnostic. This may seem to many like `playing it safe’ – or as my friend Gururaj would say, `applying for anticipatory bail’ – on the off chance that there is a God, and he may actually smite me for these views!
The floods that have ravaged Uttarakhand are an unmitigated tragedy. Thousands have been killed. But each survivor has been effusive in his thanks to God for saving his/her life (“Bhagwan ne bacha liya, saab!”). So if God has indeed saved these survivors, by the very same logic, hasn’t he also killed the thousands that died?
A building collapses in Mumbai, killing about 60 odd people. A few days later, a child is rescued from the rubble, still miraculously alive. The cry goes up “The child is blessed! God has saved her!” So the natural corollary, if that is so, hasn’t He also killed the other 60?
If you’re giving Him the credit for saving one life, also apportion to Him the blame for snuffing out so many others! But that will never happen. The child survived, it’s due to the grace of God. So many died, it’s due to their bad karma! Karma, that handy excuse for actually letting God off the hook! As Mir says..
Naahaq hum majbooron par yeh tohmat hai mukhtaari ki
Chaahatein hain so aap karein, hum ko abas badnaam kiya..
Worse. The floods in Pakistan in 2010 were blamed on the `wrath of God’. Even as great a person as Mahatma Gandhi decreed the 1934 earthquake in Bihar as just punishment from God for the unspeakable sin of untouchability! Why Bihar, when it was the Southern states where this sin was most rampant, had no answer..
The brilliant Arun Shourie, in his book `Does He Know a Mother’s Heart?’ talks of how human suffering refutes religions. Arun’s son Adit was struck with cerebral palsy when he was just 3 days old. His wife Anita has been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for the last 23 years. Shourie has seen human suffering up close, and the book is his answer to everybody who has offered him the solace that his travails are basically `God’s will’.
Personally, looking around me, I have HUGE issues in believing that an all powerful, all knowing, omniscient, compassionate power is at the wheel. And which God would permit a child to suffer? Did the four year old whose legs were blown off in Gaza have bad karma? The karma theorists would have you believe that it must have been his deeds in his previous life. And how do they know that? Because his legs were blown off! Now what would you call that? A circular argument?? Blaming the victim?? You tell me!!
And if the argument isn’t circular, it always concludes in ignorance – ‘God’s ways are inscrutable, and beyond our understanding..’
And yet we continue to petition Him all the time – to ensure our children do well in exams, to ensure that a sick relative gets well, to ensure success in our profession or our business. “How are you doing?” you ask a friend. “God has been kind”, he responds, “Business is really looking up.” If God is so busy ensuring people’s businesses prosper, no wonder He has no time for climate change! Result? Uttarakhand!
It all boils down to time and chance, I feel. The problem arises because we posit a God to try and explain human misery. Take that away, and it becomes ever so simple. As Donald Rumsfeld put it so succinctly, `Shit happens!’