Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Does it Matter if God is Real or Not?


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Is God real? It's something a lot of people struggle with.. that's for sure. Millions around the world struggle to sleep at night trying to answer that question. I know this rapper does for sure... it's what inspired me to write this post.


Well, unless he, or she, other they show their face, I don't think we'll ever know the answer to that. Those who believe in him don't have solid evidence to back him, rather they use faith. But that's enough.

From a science perspective... there's no evidence for him existing. He was most likely a notion created by a father whose child had asked "why does the sun rise and set Papa?" to which he replied with a folk tale, or a story, and somehow it all got out of hand form there. Philosophers suggest we humans invented the notion of god not only to give reason to the world around us, but to get over the guilt of subjugating animals to our control, by making us somehow superior to them all. But that's no definitive answer... 

So do I believe she/it/they/he exists? Well, for a long time I did. Then when I questioned why there was so much suffering in the world, and why I, of all people, had been put through so much it myself, I didn't. Today, I'd have to say, I dunno. 

Many question if he does exist. But I think something everyone mistakenly tries to do is humanise Him.

The very definition of God places him above humanity... a being so entire, so encompassing, so all-knowing that he reigns above us all. So why do we pretend to know what He or She or They want of us?

If he does exist... what's his agenda? Why create us in the first place? Are we an experiment for him? Some weird play thing? If he sees us all as his children, and cares about us... why doesn't he intervene and help us?
 
Maybe he doesn't want to... he wants us to sort it out. But surely - he can make the world a better place.. considering the suffering millions, scratch that, billions are going through.
If he does care for us, why is there still so much pain and misery in the world? Well, if he is indeed real, and does indeed care and want the best of us as his children, or for life as it is on Earth, how would he achieve that? God is all knowing, he probably possess an IQ over 300 and can understand the huge and far-reaching implications of any changes you make in the world. I mean you can't make one groups wishes come true without affecting someone else... If you were God and you loved everyone equally... who would you help out first? Who would you let go by?
If you think about it, why should he care about you or I as individuals, when millions suffer elsewhere? How can he make changes which help everyone? Well - maybe it's just too hard for him to intervene... maybe he's trusting us to figure it out... who knows?

In the end, we're basically left with what he's apparently trying to tell us... through his teachings and scriptures - which, may I point out, humans have written themselves in what we like to call religion. 

I think something people get overly carried away with though is a literal interpretation of these words of God, these religious scriptures. Whether or not they were actually God's/the Gods' own words, or whether they were created by humans, I think they were said to try and create some sort of order in the world. Back a few thousand years ago when all people had was an instinct to survive, tempered solely by the love and care of mother and family; emotions required, probably even created as an evolutionary response over the years to raise such resource intensive, demanding children, religion may have been required to form societies. Some sort of belief system which established basic moral principles is probably what allowed us to form such large, complex, interconnected social groups whilst still maintaining a sense of individuality.

Years ago, religion and its scriptures were the dominating way in which order was achieved in society. And it worked. For centuries. Using the primal instincts of fear, the instilled order and values into humanity. Sin, break one of the ten commandments, commit adultery, or eat the meat of a cow and you shall be punished with eternal damnation, stoning unto death or with misfortune later in life; the concept we know as karma. 

But many argue that today, we don't need it. With judicial systems in place, at least a general concept of what is right and wrong being displayed by most individuals, and with concepts of human rights, freedoms and values becoming widely accepted, religion could be viewed as obsolete. And many are coming around to that way of thinking. The rapid growth of atheism and agnosticism  over the years is evidence of that.
But still many adhere to the old ways of religion. I'm not here to argue that that's bad. Many great, wonderful things come from it. Islam purports that a proportion of all earnings be donated to the needy, many missionaries and charities had been started, and are continually funded, by churches, temples and mosques the world over, and millions derive strength, values and a sense of purpose from religion. I myself, despite not being convinced there is a God (partly because there's no proof, partly because I question why he'd bring harm to millions, including children, including me), have sat down and prayed with other patients and their families. And I prayed earnestly, wanting to believe it'd help them get better. Many have prayed for me during my battle with cancer, my mother the most fervent of them all; she still goes to the temple every week, asking her Gods to keep me alive and healthy. None of the friends I prayed for made it, but they, or their families all gained strength from it, as do millions around the world.

But it's when the words from scripture are taken literally and used or twisted to obstruct the freedoms of others, to acquire financial or political power or to incite violence against others... that it's wrong. We see it happening throughout history, and it continues to this day, from the harsh right-wing religious based fundamentalism leading to oppression and terrorism the world over, to the 70 odd year siege of a nation of people justified by having had that land proclaimed theirs in religious texts written thousands of years ago. 

But that issue is not what I'm focussing on here.
Instead I'm talking about how people choose to view religion.
Too long, too many have been too focused on the literal observance of religious texts and scriptures; the following of rituals, traditions and the literal interpretation of God's words as orders, outlining what we can or can't do in life. 

What if I told you those scriptures, the stories, the traditions, the restrictions were supposed to be metaphors. That religion was a tool used to educate and teach people back in the days where knowledge of how the world worked and why we should be good, kind people wasn't as prevalent and easily accessible as it is today.
I'm sure many reading this would think that's an outrageous thing to say...
But I mean, that statement wouldn't seem too crazy if you were to look at it as if you were an alien who'd never been exposed to the goings on of humans on Earth. If you think about it, the stories told religious texts are not dissimilar to the tales we tell our children, to warn them of what not to do, to teach them the difference between right and wrong, to give them moral guidelines to how they should live their lives. They aren't actual stories of what happened, or people to follow and revere, or a list of dos and don'ts, that you must believe in, adhere to or follow to be a true believer. They're trying to teach us lessons on how we, as people, should live.
Wouldn't that make more sense than some of the impossible things they talk about?
So are those stories, the messages of the scriptures, useless today? I don't think they are. All religions, in some way or another, try and propose a system or a way in which to create a world that works. And all of them, at their very core, preach the same message. To treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, to live life peacefully, with some meaning and restraint and to try and help those around you. 

They say it, sometimes plain as day, but what if the stories, the examples they gave had deeper meanings than just strict rules to adhere by or things to do to live forever? What if the Gods were just telling us to be good?

Well, all the major religions do just that.
Christianity does it through the concepts of Grace, the ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus and through various passages in the Bible telling others to care for others and to be dignified, respectful people. It's well documented and widely known and here are a few phrases that show it. http://www.openbible.info/topics/being_a_man . In Islam, the very concept of Jihad is not the external struggle it's been twisted as by extremists and Western media alike, against Kafirs (whose very meaning has been shifted from those who oppress their right to practice Islam to that of a "non-believer" or infidel), but a much harder, internal one of being a good man. A man who"treats his wife well," who does not opt to "cursing others", who "desires for his brother that which he desires for himself", who "looks to those inferior to him", who is grateful for what he has and isn't jealous or spiteful or angry. http://www.islamondemand.com/true_teachings.html . Hinduism's basic tenets outlined in the Gita are to (1) Accept that we live and we die and live our life without deluding ourselves of this one fact. Instead of fearing it, use it to temper the other 3 and make your life meaningful. (2) To do your duty in life. (3) To be responsible for your actions and (4) To leave this world in a better state than which you found it; all of which leads to better people. 

So are the rituals, the mantras, the celebrations and this focus on the literal interpretation of God's words bad? No, not necessarily. They give those who don't know better, or those unable or unwilling to read the texts critically, direction, some purpose in life. They instil unto us a sense of discipline.
But an over-focus on the literal interpretation of scriptures, the condemnation or judgement against those outside their religion, or even those inside them who aren't "as devout" (such as that suffered by Sikhs who cut their hair, Muslim ladies who don't wear a Burqa or Christians who don't attend church), is unfruitful, and can, at its worst, be harmful. The holy texts are written there. It's up to make the most of it. And right now, I don't think we're doing that.
If religious preachers, leaders or figureheads were, in general, more focused on creating better people, rather than better followers, they'd not only be creating a more devout, satisfied following, but a better world too. In the absence, or lack of this focus by those leaders though - it comes unto us to choose how we take religion. Don't just conform to the idea that it's something that defines what one can or can't do in life, but think about it critically, and, whether you believe in God or not, use its teachings to live a better life as a better person. If you do believe in him, in the end, God's the one who gave you a brain, and intuition. It'd be a sin to not use it to try and decipher the true meanings behind his words, and live life in the way that he wants us to; with consideration for others. If you don't believe in him, it doesn't mean you can't learn from "His" teachings. Take the good, dismiss the bad, and use it to become a better person. Why not? In the end, it brings the only satisfaction that can't be taken away from you, or made to seem hollow; the satisfaction of helping others.

So am I religious? Well, by the definition I gave above, I must be. I know many choose to lean on the concept of a God, or a supreme being looking over them for a sense of comfort, to give them assurance in hard times and purpose in life. Me, after everything I've been through, lots of thinking about death and what our purpose is, I've come to believe in myself. When it comes to religion though, I choose instead to focus on trying to be the perfect man he wants me to be, by doing what I reckon he's trying to teach me. I don't do it to please him or because I believe I should do it to be religious... but rather because helping others, putting a smile on someone's face and making the world a better place is simply the best, most rewarding thing you can do in life. It's the best way of staying happy. Unlike any other form of happiness; money, fame, power, women (or men, whatever floats your boat), that smile, that feeling of making someone's life easier or better can never be taken away from you; it will never seem a hollow, or meaningless both in life and when you're on your deathbed. Hell, if all we are is just a bunch of chemicals interacting with each-other in a series of odd arrangements, and there is no god or purpose in life... we, as humans, who are doomed to have minds that think too much; too deeply, have to make it all seem worthwhile by giving ourselves some sense of purpose. If we're here, and then we're gone, that purpose may just be to live life doing anything to be as happy as possible. But what better, more sustainable way of getting that dopamine flowing is there than helping others?

Instead of believing that doing good will lead me to Heaven, I choose to try and make the world we live in a Heaven... not just for me, my family or my country, but for the 7billion + people who live on it... or failing that, as much of it as I can.
 

The only way I can't be happy in life is if all my efforts seem fruitless... If all my efforts are not accomplishing anything, or not helping enough people. And despite the happiness I've brought many so far through my writing, speaking and actions, sometimes it does seem I haven't made much of a difference... that my efforts are fruitless... that there's no real reason to live.

When that happens though - I talk about it with others. My family, friends, I catch up with someone I've helped in the past. I remember that getting to help 1 individual person get past their fear of treatment, their depressive mood, their shyness, helping 1 friend or stranger achieve a goal they've wanted for years or simply getting to put a smile on 1 person's face is beautiful. It's what keeps me going. And I'm glad this blog has been able to help me do that. I hope it, and other things I plan on doing, help me keep doing it.

God (or whatever) Bless. 

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