Friday, August 26, 2005

Stranger than we can imagine

There’s a raging debate on at the Huffington Post (also posted on the Intent blog). Deepak Chopra has been writing a few pieces there about consciousness and Intelligent Design. Should have been fascinating, but the thing has descended from being well thought out and well articulated points of view into a shrill cacophony of voices. I actually trawled through the comments and ended up quite dizzy.

The subject of God isn’t something that people can discuss with any degree of detachment, apparently. I’d always thought that religious zealots and evangelists tended to be vehement, but evidently they haven’t cornered that part of the market. Such intemperate language from the Skeptics/Athiests! Such... why yes, intolerance!

Why though? The concept of God is perhaps the most complex one we have (that is so simplistic it makes me smile, but I’m trying to put a few thoughts down as simply as possible, ok?) For instance, no one knows what that word means to another person. You could say, “I believe in God” but it doesn’t tell you exactly what that form that belief takes. There are as many gods as there are people.

Bandhe na honge jitne khuda hai khudai mein
Kis kis khuda ke samne sajda kare koi

We have gods for everything in India. Beginnings, wealth, learning, music, strength, revenge. Diseases are deified in this country, as is every element. Some people believe in entire pantheons, some literally believe their canons and mythologies. Some take those stories to be parables, enjoy them and construct more sophisticated notions of god for themselves. Some abandon the debate, believing it more important to be good. Others believe in a force, an entity. Some believe god exists in every single thing they see, touch, smell and feel as well as in everything they cannot see, touch, smell or feel. Some don’t believe at all, and will wait for proof. Empirical proof. Solid, verifiable fact.

Each person’s concept is the sum of many things – their upbringing, the god(s) they inherited, their intelligence, the books they read at sixteen, the voices that influenced them, their spiritual quotient and most important, what works for them. Each god (or non-god) then is a reflection of us – current version, up and running.

Very often, other peoples’ concept of God will seem ludicrous. It probably is. They could be very wrong. We could all be wrong. Heck, we could all be right! There are more things in heaven and earth… remember? We can’t know the truth, can we? Not from this vantage point, not with these faculties, trapped as we are in these islands of ‘negative entropy’. I came across this in a play* once in which Pandora, the myth, tells us she doesn’t know what story she sprung from: “I cannot know yet, or perhaps I knew once and have forgotten. Or Fate has written it across my soul in letters too large for me to read.” Like that.

Given this, why must we find other people’s opinions so worthy of contempt and ridicule? It may not be true, their belief system, but they have a workable model and might have need of it. Believe anything you like, but why must you insist others do too? Does being non-religious preclude you from the courtesies of religious tolerance?

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* Daniel Currie Hall, 1996. Schrödinger and Pandora.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Blog-spamming is really not pleasant, I realize now. I empathize with you Vyas. Guess this is the future Matrix predicted!

Anonymous said...

And I thought there will be some interesting comments on this blog, but what do I find instead...
Anyway, very nicely written SV
And get Suds to get you the book - it's in Sec'bad Club library
Nish

Sheetal said...

Indeed, Anon, very annoying. he he. Even more dismaying than total silence. Matrix? Sorry, the reference eludes me right now. Takeover by machines, you mean?

Nish, merci. And I did message Suds but it has not responded yet. Club library has book? Hooray!! Sudha ke haath pair jodne padenge.

Anonymous said...

Takeover by machines... yeah, somewhat like it. But more like, your personal/private world getting hijacked by anonymous forces (like me... ha ha) in a connected world and there's very little you can do about it. You don't even know them. I mean, imagine a spam code roaming the network, pretending to be real people! Ok, forget it, to me it sounds so much like Matrix:) Sure, it's the ultimate conspiracy theory!

the one said...

Hmm .. have you read "The Source" by James Michener? Do try it if you haven't. His take on how the concept of a higher power evolved in the human mind.

And "negative entropy"?? Maybe you mean "decreasing entropy"?

Nice post .. pity one's first comment had to include a nitpick ..

Sheetal said...

the one: Thanks :-). No, I haven't read 'The Source' - I will if I come across it.

'Negative entropy' is the older term for the same thing, I believe, the one used by Schrodinger when he came up with the concept. Has also been called negentropy.

Gayathri said...

Great post! I've always tried to articulate my thoughts on God, Faith and Belief, but have never managed to get it out, let alone so beautifully..

the reluctant blogger said...

hey!you watched our play!and you remember lines from it!*incredulous

aside: have you heard of the pastafarians?

Anirudh Kumar Satsangi said...

About eight years back, in 2001, I have discovered a mathematical relationship for spiritual quotient by using certain physiological terms. In this relationship, Spiritual Quotient can be defined as the ratio of parasympathetic nervous system to sympathetic nervous system. Both PSNS and SNS are parts of autonomic nerveous system (ANS). ANS is largely under hypothalamic control. Sixth Chakra is situated very close to hypothalamus. Concentration to meditate at this Chakra has great physiological and psychological influence on human life.