09 December, 2009

would i have been happier as a believer?

there are times i wish i wasn’t an atheist. but before you jump to the conclusion that i am having second thoughts and about to cross over to the ‘dark side’, let me clarify this a bit.

a story from about a few months ago might help in understanding my state of mind.

my dad
my inspiration
my father and i were standing in front of a temple and we saw a very devout man in traditional clothes enter it. he had a serene kind of look on his face and seemed to be internally at peace of some sort. i looked at him and told my father how lucky i thought he was to be so peaceful. my father told me that he probably had as many problems as i or maybe even more and looks can be deceiving. things are not what they seem and i shouldn’t be envious of anyone

varanasi ghats
where sins are washed in a polluted river
but i differed with him. and here is why: the believer, unlike me, believes that the world is, on the whole fair, and that he will, in the long run, get what he truly deserves. he believes that there is someone watching over his actions and that this someone (let us call him god for argument’s sake) is doling out boons and curses in equal measure to people who have done the right or the wrong things. in short, he believes in the innate, unmistakable, irrefutable fairness of the world. that makes him happy. because, like all humans, he is under the impression that what he is doing is the right thing and surely, he will be rewarded justly for it in time. this may be illogical considering the current situation he may find himself in. it may be impossible for him to think of any reasonable way that things would turn around

but in the heart of his heart, he believes. he believes all will be well eventually. this, understandably, gives him an inner strength that someone like me, a non-believer, lacks. it gives him internal peace and more importantly, it gives him eternal hope, something that no reason, logic or fact can shake. this in itself may lead to him surmounting the problems he finds himself in. or at least, this would go a long way in giving him that extra edge over someone like me to conquer those problems

i wonder if i need my head examined
(i am being sarcastic!)
it is academic at this point whether he is right or wrong, whether god exists or not, whether all will indeed be well or not. what matters is that one, he is happy in the present (albeit with a hopefulness about the future) and two, he has an infinite source of internal strength that goes a long way in actually helping him resolve his issues in the real world.

now, i come back to what i was saying. i do not believe that the world is innately fair. i do not believe that there is a god watching over us all and that he will give me some good luck to offset the bad times i have had to face just because i have been a good human as per whatever religion this god belongs to

life's not fair
there is no 'being' ensuring fairness
i do not believe that all will automatically be well in the long run in face of overwhelming odds that i face in the real world. i do not believe that a miracle is going to take place that will rescue me from my debts, my personal battles, my relationship issues, my health problems and/or my business, personal or moral failures. this is all very well to think and to understand as a logical, reasonable sceptic. but what it does for my confidence in times of trouble is no great shakes. it saps my will to fight. it makes me less confident, less hopeful and less sure of my future. in fact, all sceptics are less sure of their future since they can calculate the real odds without the rosy glasses of any dogma. i am, in truth, therefore, a realist

and that is why i say that sometimes, ‘i wish i were a believer’. it has nothing to do with reality. just a fantasy alternative universe where i would think all will be well as long as i behave as per whatever god i believe in thinks is the right way to behave.

as i said, just a thought, a fantasy, a flight, a ‘what if’ scenario. it has no bearing on either my stand on the existence of god nor on the actual existence of such an entity! what do you think? would i have been happier as a believer?