Skip to main content

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

 

Top post on Blogchatter

Comments

  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.

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

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

    ReplyDelete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
  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?'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    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.

      Delete
  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~

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

An Aberration of Kali Yuga

Are we Indians now living in an aberrant period of history? A period that is far worse than the puranic Kali Yuga? A period in which gods decide to run away in fear of men? That’s a very provocative question, isn’t it, especially in a time when people are being arrested for raising much more innocuous questions than that? But I raise my hands in surrender because I’m not raising this question; the Malayalam movie that Maggie and I watched is. Before I go to the provocations of the movie, I am compelled to clarify a spelling problem with the title of the movie. The title is Bhramayugam [ ഭ്രമയുഗം] in Malayalam. But the movie’s records and ads write it as Bramayugam [ ബ്രമയുഗം ] which would mean the yuga of Brama. Since Brama doesn’t mean anything in Malayalam, people like me will be tempted to understand it as the yuga of Brahma . In fact, that is how I understood it until Maggie corrected me before we set off to watch the movie by drawing my attention to the Malayalam spelling

Karma in Gita

I bought a copy of annotated Bhagavad Gita a few months back with the intention of understanding the scripture better since I’m living in a country that has become a Hindu theocracy in all but the Constitution. After reading the first part [chapters 1 to 6] which is about Karma, I gave up. Shelving a book [literally and metaphorically] is not entirely strange to me. If a book fails to appeal to me after a reasonable number of pages, I abandon it. The Gita failed to make sense to me just like any other scripture. That’s not surprising since I’m not a religious kind of a person. I go by reason. I accept poetry which is not quite rational. Art is meaningful for me though I can’t detect any logic in it. Even mysticism is acceptable. But the kind of stuff that Krishna was telling Arjuna didn’t make any sense at all. To me. Just a sample. When Arjuna says he doesn’t want to fight the war because he can’t kill his own kith and kin, Krishna’s answer is: Fight. If you are killed, you win he

Kabir the Guru - 1

Kabirvad Kabirvad is a banyan tree in Gujarat. It is named after Kabir, the mystic poet and saint of the 15 th century. There is a legend behind the tree. Two brothers are in search of a guru. They have an intuitive feeling that the guru will appear when they are ready for it. They plant a dry banyan root at a central spot in their courtyard. Whenever a sadhu passes by, they wash his feet at this particular spot. Their conviction is that the root will sprout into a sapling when their guru appears. Years pass and there’s no sign of any sapling. No less than four decades later, the sapling rises. The man who had come the previous day was a beggarly figure whom the brothers didn’t treat particularly well though they gave him some water to drink out of courtesy. But the sapling rose, after 40 years! So the brothers went in search of that beggarly figure. Kabir, the great 15 th century mystic poet, had been their guest. The legend says that the brothers became Kabir’s disciples. The b

Raising Stars

Bringing up children is both an art and a science. The parents must have certain skills as well as qualities and value systems if the children are to grow up into good human beings. How do the Bollywood stars bring up their children? That is an interesting subject which probably no one studied seriously until Rashmi Uchil did. The result of her study is the book titled Raising Stars: The challenges and joys of being a Bollywood parent . The book brings us the examples of no less than 26 Bollywood personalities on how they brought up their children in spite of their hectic schedules and other demands of the profession. In each chapter, the author highlights one particular virtue or skill or quality from each of these stars to teach us about the importance of that aspect in bringing up children. Managing anger, for example, is the topic of the first chapter where Mahima Chowdhary is our example. We move on to gender equality, confidence, discipline, etc, and end with spirituality whi

Kabir the Guru – 2

Read Part 1 of thi s here . K abir lived in the 15 th century. But his poems and songs are still valued. Being illiterate, he didn’t write them. They were passed on orally until they were collected by certain enthusiasts into books. Vipul Rikhi’s book, Drunk on Love: The Life, Vision and Songs of Kabir , not only brings the songs and poems together in one volume but also seeks to impart the very spirit of Kabir to the reader. Kabir is not just a name, the book informs us somewhere in the beginning. Kabir is a tradition. He is a legend, a philosophy, poetry and music. I would add that Kabir was a mystic. Most of his songs have something to do with spirituality. They strive to convey the deep meaning of reality. They also question the ordinary person’s practice of religion. They criticise the religious leaders such as pandits and mullahs. Though a Muslim, Kabir was immensely taken up by Ram, the Hindu god, for reasons known only to him perhaps. Most of the songs are about the gr