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Beyond the delights of belief

There are two worlds for each one of us. One where there is order, purpose, love, and joy. The plain truth is that this world of goodness is our own creation. We create the order, the purpose, and all the rest of it. Then there is the second world, a ruthless one which is beyond our control. The Goods and Services Tax (GST), the occasional floods and landslides, deadly viruses, and the Enforcement Directorate. And a lot more, of course.

Confronted with the horrors and terrors of this second world, we seek solace and some sort of spiritual belief comes to our aid easily. It’s so facile to believe that there is a God sitting somewhere up there bringing this second world under some kind of control in response to our prayers.

Mark Twain found this God too infantile to accommodate. In his book Letters from the Earth, Twain made Satan visit the earth. Twain’s Satan is astounded to find that humans think God is watching them. As if God has nothing else to do than watch some silly creatures on a tiny planet in the infinite cosmos! Twain’s Satan wonders why God even bothered to make this potato-like planet his footstall ignoring the much more gigantic and glorious ones out there. What Satan finds most amusing is that the heaven conjured up by human imagination is a place where the most boring things abound: prayer, group singing and harp playing. Humans are such unimaginative creatures! Or, does religion make them so? [Apparently, Twain was not aware of the Islamic heaven.]

Religion seems to strip believers of many good things like reason and sagacity. Of many virtues too. If you believe that truth is something that was written a few thousand years ago and that such truths don’t ever change, what kind of an imbecile will you be? Yet, what does religion do but make imbeciles of us all? As the Bible/Koran/Gita says… Thus goes the believer. And all these scriptures have been disproved again and again by science as well as our own personal experiences.

Let there be religion for those who wish to have its solaces. Let Gods bring all the spiritual benefits they can. As Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, said, “Let them worship as they will. Every man can follow his own conscience, provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid them act against the liberty of his fellow men.” Ataturk was not a believer. “I have no religion,” he affirmed in no uncertain terms. “I wish all religions at the bottom of the sea. He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government.” [Emphasis added]

Ataturk’s successors who were/are religious fell back on religion to uphold their governments and we know what became of Turkey.

Ataturk’s disbelief was so much better.

Is disbelief superior to belief? No, I never said that. I go with Salman Rushdie who in Satanic Verses said that doubt is the opposite of faith, not disbelief. Disbelief is as certain as faith. As certain as the blind man’s disbelief in light. “I don’t believe in light,” said the blind man. But he believed in God. Belief and disbelief – they are two sides of the same coin. They are both about certainties. I believe. So, it is true. Amen. I don’t believe. So, it is not true. Amen again.

Doubt is what carries the world forward. What created electricity was doubt. If you believed in Genesis 1:3, you wouldn’t think of creating electricity. Doubt is the foundation of truth. As Jennifer Michael Hecht puts it in her erudite book Doubt, “doubt is a rigorous approach to truth above the delights of belief.”

Belief brings a lot of joy especially when we have to come to terms with the second world we spoke of at the beginning of this post: a world of uncertainties, terrors, diseases, calamities, viruses – a world which is beyond our control. There is no more harm in accepting those comforts than in seeking your liberation in a couple of drinks or the soothing effects of a placebo.

PS. Written for Indispire Edition 455: In Rushdie's novel, Satanic Verses, it is said that disbelief is not the opposite of faith. Doubt is the opposite of faith. Because disbelief is as certain as faith. Too certain. Hence another version of faith. Do you agree with the view? #FaithAndDisbelief


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  1. Sir your post is thought provoking. Yes I agree with you over belief and disbelief. Since I am exploring mindsets, i feel curiosity answers our ongoing turmoil within our mind. We say as, "I doubt, will you be able to do it?" and the person thinks.. really will i be able to do and energy goes down. Same thing if i say as. "What will happen if I do this?" My mind wired out...haa what will happen, let me try and see..(here curiosity works). I think I missed and messed you doubt delight. Your post made me to think. Thank you.

    1. Carry on questioning and you will love doubts as you seem very much on the way to that.

  2. Without belief, faith, man will suffer the unbearable lightness of being.

  3. Thank you, Yam, for such a detailed response. You sustain me as a blogger.

    Faith, belief, trust... How do we differentiate? When it comes to religion especially. Superstition takes the place of all of these quite often. Then there's the question of experience. My country's PM is a very religious person. But I believe he is the most wicked and pernicious person in the country. Belief. Borne out by experience.

    I brought in doubt as it is meant by Rushdie as well as Jennifer Hecht. Doubt that questions everything intelligently. Such questioning is the real opposite of religious faith.

  4. I think we all have our way to handle life. As we have been brought up, we believe in God and that he is the one who blesses us with family and other things. There are doubts too, but I also try to find the reason behind whatever happens in the world. Like 'why would have God let that happen to them?'

    1. God is indeed the ultimate consolation for a lot of people. I know many people for whom life would be unbearable without the faith in God.

  5. Now this is a bookmarkable post! It comes at a time when i'm questioning the status quo so i'm inclined to think it serendipitous. Which is a concept in itself existing on the plane of belief in something higher! The conclusion i'm reaching about it all is that i will have to keep exploring, keep asking. It is in this inquiry that i'm finding some purpose of life! An ouroboros indeed~


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