Stephen Hawking is baulking at the wrong evolutionary tree. He may choose gravity over God to rationalise the creation of the universe, but how does one explain away religion? Faith cannot be exclusive of creation, and there are provisions in it for the idea of destruction as well. Elemental and human factors come together to prop up holiness.
There is the supernatural waiting to accost you at every turn — with an organised belief system, forcing you into a group you may not wish to belong to, making you feel guilty about indulging in what has been created by the same divinity. Society gives no breathing space to those who do not believe in anything of a sacramental nature.
You travel and your itinerary perforce includes places of worship. You are supposed to admire the filigree on cold marble and look up at intimidating stained glass windows and paintings on ceilings. Your mementoes are statuettes of various deities, verses on stone plaques, and mouse pads that look like prayer mats.
As a consumer of objects I find it interesting, but is it initiating me into a faith? How many of us can proclaim without any obfuscation that we are atheists when we buy these symbols?
The problem with atheism as a doctrine is that it is a reaction to religion, therefore it accepts the force of a belief system. To disprove god, one needs to allude to a god. The notion gets further complicated by fence-sitters. Sufism is a copout and a sham. While claiming to cut off the trappings of rituals, it has formed its own cult, rites and living idols, be they poets, singers or those just high on hash.
Most commentators try to understand religion rationally, when logic goes against the faith concept. Theism is based on emotional investment. Structured atheism uses jugglery. Richard Dawkins’ “moths being attracted to flame” theory of religion cannot truly explain the herd mentality nor does it manage to justify a seeking-their-own-demise recklessness. People expect that, as believers, it is the belief that will sustain them.
Superstitions and miracles are devices to keep such synergy alive. Santa Claus too fits in this credo. A while ago a Nebraska legislator, Ernie Chambers, filed a lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction against God. He said God has made threats against him and his constituents, inspired fear and caused “widespread death, destruction and terrorisation of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants”.
In one smart move, intentionally or otherwise, he made God answerable. A God with no fixed address who can reside anywhere in anyone and therefore can cause all the ills he accuses the respondent of. In a sense it is a most democratic suit. No individual based on specific affiliation can be blamed. Even the God is non-generic.
Chambers conveys that if a country refuses to call itself atheistic, then he has a case. As he stated: “The court itself acknowledges the existence of god. A consequence of that acknowledgment is recognition of god’s omniscience. Since god knows everything, god has notice of this lawsuit.”
If one is to use his argument, the case is not really against God but a wry look at subversion of truth.It is also questioning blind belief.
I think more than a one-to-one communion with a supreme being, believers are seeking the approval of the community or a feeling of belonging. A non-believer chooses to migrate to a ‘nowhere land’.
If religion is a telescope that makes you seek out only a specific constellation, the pure atheistic prism has space for the colours of spiritualism in an expansive sky.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2010.
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