I usually face a major dilemma when people ask me about my belief in God. Our country being what it is this is one topic which c.an pretty much come up in any conversation. The fact that I am married into a deeply religious family does not simplify matters. My biggest dilemma is how do I classify myself. The easiest thing to to do is say I am an atheist. The dictionary defines an atheist as “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being”. Fair enough I guess. After all, from a broad perspective I do not believe in God, in a Supreme Being who holds the strings of our lives in the palms of His hands. However if one looks closely, I do have faith. Faith in the goodness of my fellow humans. Faith in the fact that my talents and abilities will reward me with what I deserve in life. Faith that whatever happens, no matter how bad it seems now, happens for the good. Faith that I am not alone in the world, that someone somewhere is watching out for me. Faith that I have the courage and conviction to live my life to the fullest no matter how bleak the future seems. Not all these beliefs of mine come true. I have faced many disappointments on many of these fronts but I have not lost my faith. So what does that make me? An atheist who is spiritual? I admit, it sounds funny to my own ears.
Thing is, I am mostly disillusioned by the concept of religion. For centuries our country has seen bloodshed on the grounds of “My God is better than your God”. Isn’t tolerance supposed to be one of the first tenets of any religion? We grew up learning that in India there is ‘unity in diversity’. But where is this fabled unity? It’s like the Loch Ness monster or the Abominable Snowman – everybody talks about it but no one has actually seen it. Not all religious people are intolerant, at least not in practice.In spite of that we are still divided by our respective religions. How much do we know about the religions other than our own? Come to think of it, how much do we know about our own religions? We follow all the rituals but do we really try to understand the meaning and lessons imparted in the stories we have grown up hearing?
There was a very pertinent dialogue in the movie ‘Oh My God!’. Mithun Chakraborty, who played the scheming godman in the movie dubs India as a God-fearing nation rather than a God-loving nation. That is so very true. In our quest to appease God we end up avoiding washing our hair or refraining from travel on a particular day. I don’t want to be irreverent or offend anyone but can someone please explain why God would be displeased by such small issues when things like rape, pillage and murder continue to haunt our nation every single day? Somehow I feel that, God, if He really exists, would be happier if we spend our time doing our bit to make the world a better place. Instead of donating crores to build a grand temple or a mosque or church, wouldn’t it be better if the same money is utilised to building schools where underprivileged children can get good quality education? Instead of wasting litres of milk or oil or kilos of sweets on a stone idol, wouldn’t God be more pleased if all these were distributed among people who don’t get even one decent meal a day? We quail at handing a one rupee coin to the beggar child at the traffic signal but happily spend thousands to pray for our son or daughter’s admission at a good college. God does not expect us to turn to Him to solve all our problems. He has given us the capabilities and reasoning power to solve these ourselves. He will be our pillar of strength when we are weak but most of the time we end up bargaining with Him to make our lives better instead of taking steps to make it better ourselves.
God and religion have become more than a way of life today – it is a very lucrative business. Take a look at the inflated prices of flowers and sweets outside places of worship and you will know it is the truth. There are fixed rates for every ritual performed by priests and these rates are pretty exorbitant. Recently the disaster at Uttarkhand is all over the news. A place of worship has been reduced to rubble by natural forces. Thousands of pilgrims are still missing, the death toll is steadily increasing and even in these dire circumstances unscrupulous people are taking advantage of the hapless souls trapped there. Reports of food, medicines and other basic necessities being sold at five times the actual price make me feel ashamed to call myself an Indian. Is this what our scriptures and religious texts have taught us, to make money off other people’s tragedy? That too in a place of pilgrimage, a place where God is said to reside? And then people wonder why I am cynical about religion and the widespread belief about the existence of God. If these people can believe in God and still justify such inhuman behaviour then I cannot bring myself to believe in their God.
I am an atheist who believes in a God Who is there to support me at every step. I do not seek Him in stone idols, rather I see Him in my family, my friends and every person who has walked alongside me in life. I do not object to a person’s belief in God or religion; all I am saying is do not believe blindly. God is our friend, not a strict principal who is forever on the lookout for transgressions on our part. So trust in Him and the abilities He instilled in you. Let’s try to make the world a better place to live in; by doing that you will be giving God a gift more valuable than any other offering you can ever make to Him.
Author-speak: Stay connected with me on Facebook