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Question of God
By KHUSHWANT SINGH
The Tribune, Nov. 4, 2006
The debate on whether or not God exists is as old as humanity itself. And goes round and round ad nauseam, repeating the same points for and against His existence. Our ancients - from the Charvakas to Mahavira and Gautama Buddha - expressed their doubts and came to the conclusion that conduct was more important than belief. Our religious thinkers asserted that not only did God exist but questioning His existence amounted to blasphemy.
All of us accept the fact that if a thing exists, there has to be someone or something that brought it into existence; if there is a watch, there must be a watchmaker; if there is world, some person or power must have created it. If everything has a cause, what was the primary cause, causa causans (cause of all causes). Believers call it God. That is how we explain our existence to our children. But when a child asks, 'Mummy who made God?' Mummy has no answer.
In recent times it was philosopher Bertrand Russell who in his essay 'Why I am not a Christian,' published in 1927, totally rejected the notion of God as perceived by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He was more inclined to accept Darwin's Origin of Species. Atheists continue their tirade against believers. The latest is Professor Richard Dawkins of Oxford University. In his book The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin), he lauds atheists' 'brave and splendid' aspiration and condemns belief in God being 'not only a delusion, but also pernicious.' What then is the answer? The honest one is, 'We do not know, nor does anyone else.'
However, I believe that believers have no justification in ascribing attributes to God like almighty, just and merciful. Epicurus gave cogent answers to believers. He wrote: 'Is God willing to prevent evil, but is not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but unwilling? Then He is malevolent. If He is both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? If He is neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?'
I, for one, am not able to refute Epicurus's logic.
There are other accretions to religion, which I find unacceptable. All of them, at least all who subscribe to one or the other, believe their religion is superior to others. This gives birth to narrowmindedness, intolerance, bigotry and fanaticism. It leads to inter-religious violence. 'Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities,' wrote Voltaire. And added for good measure, 'This world will never know peace in the world until the last politician has been strangled with the guts of the last priest.'
Prayers make even less sense. Prayer should be addressed to oneself for self-improvement, to make oneself a better human being. It seldom is. Most of the time it is addressed to God or some deity about whom one knows nothing. And most prayers are little more than chaaplusi (flattery) and chamchagiri (sycophancy) to an unknown entity.