Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Agnosticism - My religion

From a very young age, I have found it difficult to believe in the existence of God. Oh! Don’t get me wrong now. I have done my share of prayers and temples and bhajans and poojas but somehow, I have found it difficult to believe in the existence of the Ram’s, Krishna’s, Vishnu’s, Lakshmi’s and the 33 crore other Hindu deities. Nor do I, for that matter, believe in the Allah’s, Rahim’s and Jesus’ of this world.

Growing up in a typical Brahmin family, I have, from a very young age, been taught the required quota of Shlokas and Bhajans. My devout mother used to conduct Bal-Vikas classes for all the children in our neighborhood and I would happily take part, singing glories of Ram and Krishna with great gusto. Those were the days when I believed that if we questioned His existence or spoke ill about anything even remotely religious, Yama Raj would ensure us a place in Naraklok. And that, if I said “Om Shri Ram Jay Ram Jay Jay Ram” 108 times a day, I would surely land in Swarglok.

And having attended a couple of convent schools, I was quite knowledgeable about the ways of Christianity and had gotten quite fond of the peace and quiet that the chapel offered. Moreover, Christmas sounded like one of the best festivals ever.

But as time rolled, I began to question the various things I had taken for granted. I began to question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. And I found that there were no convincing answers. What kind of God would let the hard-workers suffer in abject poverty while the corrupt got away with all the goodies? What kind of God would let Innocent children be ill-treated and beaten up? What kind of God would allow women to be treated as mere sex objects? What kind of God would allow discrimination on the basis of caste, creed and color? What kind of God would turn the blind eye when all around there was just suffering and indiscriminate bloodshed? What kind of God would fail to take care of those who He created?

I had been taught that God would ensure justice and that, by the rule of Karma, the wrong-doers would get punished in their next birth. But I thought that only the Indian justice system was the delaying type, not His justice system as well.

I wasn’t that great a disbeliever to label myself an atheist. Moreover, they have no holidays!And therefore I suffered a religious-identity crisis. Thankfully, I soon learnt of a word called agnosticism and since it suited me fine, I gladly adopted. Agnosticism simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that for which he has no grounds for professing to believe.

I believe that there is divinity in each of us. Being good and doing good is all it takes to bring out this quality. There is no need to worship idols or shed blood – human or animal, in the name of the Almighty. All that is required is a feeling of love and compassion towards our fellow beings.

Few nations have been so poor as to have but one god. Gods were made so easily, and the raw material cost so little, that generally the god market was fairly glutted and heaven crammed with these phantoms the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress. No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or torture. I consider it a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure -- that is all that agnosticism means.

Just to know more about the origin of this term, I googled it and here is its etymology

Etymology: from Greek agnôstos (ignorant), gnosis = knowledge.

The word agnosticism was created in 1869 by Thomas Huxley, British naturalist (1825-1895) who took inspiration from the ideas of David Hume and of Emmanuel Kant. Agnosticism is a philosophy that declares absolute, divine, metaphysics, and more generally what cannot be grasp by experiment, is inaccessible to the human mind and to perception. Consequently, the existence of God cannot be proven. Agnosticism professes a complete ignorance about the profound nature, the origin and the destiny of things. It is a form of skepticism applied to metaphysics and theology.

Already present in the Ancient Greece, agnosticism developed much in the 18th and 19th centuries because of the progress of science that provided experimental results contradicting the religious dogmas and the Holy Scripture like Bible.

God being unknowable, the agnostic cannot come to a conclusion about his existence and consequently considers that it is useless to worship him or to submit to revealed morals that should have been dictated to men.

Buddhism and Jainism are agnostic religions. Protagoras, Democritus, Hume, Emmanuel Kant, William James, Herbert Spencer, Albert Einstein were agnostic. As is Shilpa Krishnan.

Now coming to the reactions of people around me. My parents tried a little to re-convert me but I stood adamant and they gave in. thankfully, I found a few friends who agreed with me and a few others who thought that this was just a new fad I picked up. But overall, nobody was really surprised and my conversion didn’t raise much of a ripple.

Having converted into an agnostic, I could enjoy the best of both worlds. I could celebrate the festivals I thought, made sense. I could mock the rituals I thought were insensible. And I could make all the fun I wanted of the so-called god-men. So I had a galore when the Shankaracharya was charged with murder and accused of molestation. And couldn’t stop telling all and sundry about the Breast baba (apparently he molested women on the pretext of ensuring them their progeny).

All you believers out there can curse me all ye want, but I give a damn cos I don’t quite believe that such a place as hell does in fact exist. on a closing note, I would like to say that even if one might not quite believe in God’s existence, it has occurred to me that God has Alzheimer's and has forgotten we exist.

Agnostically yours,

p.s. check out this joke.

“Q: What do you get when you cross an insomniac, an agnostic, and a dyslexic?

A: Someone who stays up all night wondering if there is a Dog.”

Anyways, here’s an online quiz I took. Now, this might say I have Islamic tendencies, but I didn’t spend the last half an hour typing about my new-found religion, to be labeled a Muslim. I therefore insist that I am a devout agnostic. Even if this test claims otherwise.

Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
created with QuizFarm.com

You scored as Islam. Your beliefs are most similar to those of Islam. Do more research on Islam and possibly consider taking the shahadah and officially becoming a Muslim, if you aren't already.

Despite the actions of some - who go against the teachings of Islam - Islam is a religion of peace; the word "islam" means "peace through submission to God." "Muslim" means "one who submits to God." Islam is the third of the three Abrahamic faiths, and it shares much with Judaism in Christianity; its differences are the acceptance of Muhammad as the last and final prophet, and the oneness of God - in other words, that Jesus, though he was a revered prophet, was not in fact God, and only one God exists. Apparently the Taliban could not read (though their name means "students"), because the Qur'an states that men and women are equal as believers, and that all believers should be educated and seek knowledge. Modesty in dress and behavior is required in Islam for both men and women to preserve the values of society and move the emphasis from superificial appearance to intelligence, knowledge, and God.




















Anonymous said...

Well... I guess it is nice to believe in love,"divinity in yourself" etc...
But, as far as god is concerned, although i dont advocate a "religious"
god (who is supposed to be a neurotic always wanting his "bhaktas" attention), i do believe in the idea of A god. Physics has convinved me to do so.

Anonymous said...

hey shilpa nice topic.... that survey was a bit funny. i had an interesting tie breaker. i was asked to choose between the two sentences- god has no form; abortin is sin. when i chose the first one it said islam. but i went bak again and checked the second sentence it said hindu.

my comments on this topic......... i think there is a god. i believe in karma though i am not sure if it is true i think it ateast makes people do good deeds. and yes the religion i know says divinity is in me. though we have broad classificaitons such as hinduism, islam and christianty etc etc i think the relegion each of us practice is different and does not satisfy all the conditons. but i cannot call my self an agnostic person coz i do believe in certain things that are inexplicable....so ya god does exist atleast for me and i call him or her(havent really given a thought to it) god. as for the many avatars in hindu philosophy i think they all teach us something good. so i might benefit from following them and giving respect to their teachings... ya so thats all i have to say.


lookwhosback said...

anon: well brother, expected as much from u. won't be surprised if i find out that you have an idol of albert einstein's in your room, and you worshippping it first thing every morning. FYI, he was also an agnostic

lookwhosback said...

sriram: guess the survey is just a farce. according to my dad, it was created by some Islam fundamnetalists wanting to propgate their religion. but pa is one fanatical Hindu.

coming to your views on religion, agree with you on most terms. still remember the patient explanations you gave to my queries back then in anandashram.cleared some of the fog in my mind.

Anonymous said...

if u ask me i would not say that the survey is a farce nor would i say that it was created by islamic fundamentalist but i think it has been created by some person who doesnt know hinduism well. for that matter he might be wrong with some principles of other religions also. and sadly surveys of these kind give a very worng opinion about a religion to the society.


nivi said...

hey first of all awesome post.. but i dont agree with ur views.. i think god to be more of a friend.. infact a very very very close friend, a shoulder to rest when i am dull or when i need some help, or some person to cry out my prolbems to.. and also not to forget my happiness too...

and as far as all these religions are concerned, i jus don beleive in them.. as sriram said they are only the broad clasifications and nothing more.. noone is bothered about the religions.. all the religions preach one simple basic thing.. that is.. DO GOOD DEEDS.. thats it..

lookwhosback said...

sriram: totally agree. appa exaggerates a bit too much at times. and ya, i think Hinduism is one of the most misunderstood religions.

lookwhosback said...

nivi: like your theory cos that makes me God ;-) i bless your soul.

g-man said...

oi, kool one. me bein an atheist myself, totally understand da feelin ya had at first. plus you got to writing something i started on a long time ago but have never been able to finish...way ta go!!! k, getting down to business, i don't quite agree with some of the arguments you have on there. still, hats off to you, mate.

lookwhosback said...

g-man: thankoo. and do tell me which of my arguments you don't garee with. we could argue on those.

nivi said...

hey babe...
as many people tell god is in each one of us in one form or the other.. i sincerely beleive that theory.. so i told that statement ocz EACH ONE OF US INCLUDES ME TOO... so i am also god..

at the end of the day.. who is god? he also has some human form, feelings( these we come to know from the ethical stories).. jus that he has some extra bit of powers which none of us possess...

lookwhosback said...

nivi: hmm...but i do possess some "extra bit of powers". and u meant mythical instead of ethical right ;-)

nivi said...

hey babes
sorry to tell.. but none of us prefer those powers... in order to make u understand one point.. i will just give u few instances when i felt the presence of god... i felt him when actually i gave my dance prog inspite of too many problems given by my dance teacher..

and also he was the one gave me all the confidence to write my 12th board exmas with my broken rigth hand(i am a right hander)...
infact i met with the accident when i was coming back from the temple after keeping the hall ticket at his feet..

god need not actually come and help us out directly like how he did for draupadi... but he will surely help his devotees in some way or other

lookwhosback said...

nivi: good that you have soo much faith in Him and also that you tend to view your glass as half full. hope swat learns a bit from this.

nivi said...

yeah ... i know;-)... he he he

Anonymous said...

Dear Shilpa, Religion in my opinion is more personal and one can choose the one that meets ones aspirations. But remember human beings are also termed as social animals and alongwith the religion you need to practice certain conventions dictated by the society in relation to a religion. Here lies the problem. If you ask me personally i prefer a democratic religion that allows you to practice that you believe in and a religion that is stronger in conviction. Our choice of religion need not be dictated by a quiz that has multiple options in the same question and plays on the common threads of various religions. If i take the two aspects of democratic quality and conviction, Hinduism scores by far the most because there are so many thought processes that are dovetailed to form a religion called Hinduism and if you understand the basic texts on which Hinduism is based then you may realise that in today's world a life based on Hindu texts could be closer to a life of conviction. This is my opinion. But do not Immediately term this as a rigid statement. It is more of a personal statement based on personal experience and i believe that one should allow others to practice what they feel right. However, there is nothing wrong in telling them ones opinion with an intention that it could help them in their life. It is in this context that i have made the above statement, apart from making it part of the 'comments' column. Sundaresh