Thursday, 4 June 2015

Who Denies God?

Dedicated to those who struggle to believe and silently face the trial of doubt and disbelief.
“Faith is not a question of the existence or non-existence of God. It is believing that love without reward is valuable.”(Levinas)
“Conscience is God. He is even the atheism of the atheist.” (Gandhi)
There is a problem of declining faith all over the world that has of late increasingly made itself felt in our State as well. I know many young students struggling to believe but fail to find satisfactory solution to the moral and intellectual questions that popular view of belief in God received from culture seems to raise.  I know anxious parents watching their children slip into disbelief and losing respect for what they have considered holy or sacred.
I know of silent atheism of many bright people who chose not to talk about it. There are a large number of thinking people including apparently very religious ones suffering from certain doubt regarding some or the other vital issue connected with faith that ultimately is linked to faith in God. I know of too many who fail to convince children on such issues as rising early and praying regularly. And children are resisting, sometimes with vehemence.
The Quran doesn’t ask us to believe in God but Unity or Reality. We can say for the Quran existence of God isn’t an issue. It invites us to unity of Reality/Truth, an invitation hard to resist by any rational person. Jung was asked if he believed in God. He replied he needn’t as he has seen him as God is psychological archetypal reality. Tillich defines God as what constitutes our ultimate concern. After his lecture on symbols of faith a professor remarked: “Mr.Tillich, you have denied me God given right to deny God.” God as Absolute has never been in doubt for any world religion or almost all great thinkers though an anthropomorophic personal God has been passed over in silence by some including the Buddha. God as Being, as Being of being, as pure Being, as power to be is undeniable intellectually though as cosmic policeman, as capricious force he is no longer believable to many thinking people (that explains many sermons invoking such imagery no longer impress so many). No great religious thinker takes God to be a proposition one may conceivably reject on logical grounds, a being among other beings (one may question in the scientific worldview), some occult force who is required to fill the gaps in naturalistic explanations. God is the rasa of existence – sweetness of all sweet things.
For Sufis and gnostics He is the Beauty and Majesty we see everywhere. God can be seen in every event, every meeting with our friends or with other (yi chu mulaqaat…as a Kashmiri Sufi poet has put it). “You can meet Him in the streets, in the bazaar, on the hills, in the cottages of the poor, in the palaces of kings, in  hermitages and jungles, in workshops and offices—at all places.”
According to traditions, it is mystics, following prophets, who best understand what God is. Nasr says that if it were possible to teach metaphysics to everyone, there would be no atheists. I think it is possible to see how there is no atheist around and everywhere we see everyone worshipping one or the other of God’s Names. If God is goodness, beauty and truth, who is not driven by these values and thus seeking Him? Ibn Arabi, building on a Quranic verse, maintained that knowingly or unknowingly all are worshipping God.
Let us try to understand the universal language and drive of worship or faith in God so that we understand why the Bible says that it is only a fool who says in his heart that there is no God and why should the first and most important job of education be teaching of God? 
Those who know the grammar of religious terminology can only laugh at those who find errors in scriptures, who find faults with God’s work. For those who defy God only defy themselves. If one knows oneself to its depths and heights one knows God. Personal Lord of which Ibn Arabi talks is differently and uniquely associated with everyone and it is what sustains one. God is available to everyone or made accessible through prayer. Prayer isn’t petition but invitation.
God, let all those who blaspheme, note is “praised on every tongue.” It is the question of both definition and vision. Vision with all its ecstasy may be denied to unworthy but some aspects of the Treasure that God is are given as free lunch to all. Isn’t there an eternal feast of beauty, love, joy, goodness, mystery, wonder all tasted or experienced to the extent of one’s intellectual, artistic and spiritual development? God is Irresistible according to the Quran. No man can resist Him. Who can resist the pull of the Divine Names of Beauty (that ground all lovely things in life we seek on our own such as joy, beauty, peace, love) and push of the Names of Majesty (anger, power)?  
Man’s problem is that only something that transcends man and his finitude (this we call God in the broadest sense) can give him fulfillment. Ala bi-zikr-llahi tatmien-al quloob.  Man is ever trying to look skywards, to fly, to transcend his given state. No animal does it. Tell anyone his deepest wish and he can’t name it. It is what we call God. Man refuses to be happy without God as twentieth century literature amply demonstrates. The problem with man is he doesn’t get happiness with any transient thing. Denying man the right to be happy, to be blissful, to enjoy orgasm with the universe every moment which mysticism provides him is gross violation of human rights. Happiness is an inalienable attribute of Spirit that Sacred denying secularism doesn’t fully recognize though it does, because it is human, recognize its images and reflections and they alone sustain it. Man is “condemned” to worship God – the very passion to seek truth and in its name deny God may well qualify as a form of worship because God is truth or truth partakes of the Divine.
The greatest of philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Derrida and Levinas (such great names as Hegel, Bradley, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Whitehead included), great Christian, Buddhist, Muslim and other religious or traditional philosophers, our greatest artists of all ages and greatest writers from Homer till date, Eastern and Western all fundamentally share something of what Karen Armstrong documents in her masterly texts  The Case for God and A History of God as mystical view of God or transcendence.
Even in the age of modernity that is said to be largely secular there are hardly any lock, stock and barrel atheists who have no use for the Sacred as embodied in art, in culture, in play, in work ethic and counltless other cultural formations and pursuits. Russell who is often cited as amongst the most brilliant agnostic philosophers treasured Heraclites and Spinoza as the greatest philosophers and both were essentially God intoxicated philosophers. Our greatest scientists from Newton to Einstein (post Einstein we don’t find a scientist of his stature) have also been  believers in the Sacred, the Mystery (let us remember the old maxim of ignoring inferior thinkers or men and these will include many Nobel laureates as well). So atheism has always been a shallow doctrine. Theism too has been transcended by the great religious geniuses (from Buddha to Schuon) who are essentially Absolutists or transtheists.
So we find the best minds in every field agreeing till date regarding the reality of Transcendence/Sacred and defining human state as a quest for what transcends man. Love pulls us as does beauty as does joy as does mystery and wonder.

To where? To the Netherlands of Spirit/Sacred. So who is an atheist?  An atheist is one who despairs (as the Quran implies), who is joyless, love forsaken, who has nothing to thank for as he sees nothing as gift, and is beauty and mystery insensitive, and thus lost soul. A theist is one who can unconditionally love God. Take a look and see who is who. Don’t trust labels or masks people wear.
To sum up the purpose of life is to seek happiness, as one Chinese maxim puts it, and God is the ground or principle of all happiness and in Himself is the Supreme Joy.
The eyes that haven’t seen God haven’t seen anything or seen only vaguely, in a fog and thus missed blinding beauty all around and killing joy within us. Ask children and artists and mystics like Rumi how Love summons us all. Ask Hafiz what a feast life is. Atheism seeks to compromise quality of the feast we are invited to take. I am not ready for this compromise.

1 comment:

  1. Very impressive! Sir
    Now If you're talking of feeling, that feeling of security. That bliss.
    My point is, after you put everything you have in that blackholic search, that search for truth, and you return with nothing but despair. When you're just sitting, seeing your cells die without a hope of them growing again,waiting to perish with no understanding of your very existence.
    That feeling is metaphysically very cruel, sir.
    In short, I have a very simple issue with your God.
    He could've made it a little simpler?