Saturday, 29 March 2014

Is god really dead?

Who says god is dead? Nietzsche has got it so wrong. If anything, the gods are more alive now than they have ever been. The world is infested with gods. In the past, the Greek gods ruled the ancient world. You have gods of and for everything. God for the earth, sky, weather, music, fertility, wine, love, sex, wisdom, and hades. Even the dead have gods looking over them.

I can’t imagine a world without gods. It would be a world without us. We are special. We are different. I do not see a hippopotamus going on its knees to ask for divine guidance or a cat meowing out a song of lamentation. Neither a group of monkeys coming together to sacrifice their newborn as an act of appeasement nor a raging bull rushing to the altar for absolution. 

No animals on land, fishes in the sea or fowls in the sky have ever formed a community held together by a common faith to worship their object of worship. They do not thank god for their creation. Neither do they fear god for their savageness. They live only in the present. This everydayness of existence excuses them from the haunting of the past and the dread of the future.

For them, there is no mystery of the past or the fear of the future. You don’t see animals debating about their origin or their creator. They don’t go looking for their source. They don't have our equivalent of the Adam and Eve narrative. Neither do they huddle together to discuss about the end of the world, the beginning of a new heaven and earth, and the eternal damnation of fire and screams.

They are not tormented by sins or the reality of hell. Neither are they pining any hope of a place of forever bliss where there is no more tears or sorrow. No man can imagine a pig or dog or snake being placed before the mercy throne of the divine to be condemned for their deeds on earth. You can’t scare them with hell and expect them to rush into confessional boxes for immediate moral purging. You cannot entice cows or goats to work out their salvation so that they will be rewarded with a heavenly mansion somewhere in the blue yonder.

They would remain no more than animals in heaven. You do not want to waste heaven on them like casting pearls to swine. They would only soil the gold-paved floor of the many rooms in the celestial mansion. They would only destroy the well-carpeted lawn with their, well, foul animalistic habits. And my god, the noises they collectively make in heaven would make heaven into a hellish cacophony of eternal unrest.

So, an animal will remain an animal. They will not change. They are no more god-fearing than a chair will worship the carpenter or a nail will plead for mercy with the hammer head. You can say that the animal kingdom is strictly "atheistic". It is completely godless.

Only man. Only us. We are different from them. We are chosen. We are the elect. We are exclusive. We can’t teach a child disbelief. Neither can we undo his or her belief. To tell a child that there is no god is as ludicrous as telling a fish it can’t swim in the sea or a pig it can’t roll in filth. 

But of course, with such privilege comes great responsibility. We are not blind to the past or to the future. We do not live like animals restricted only to the mundaneness of the present. We are liberated from the prison of everydayness. While our physical bodies remain here in the present, our restless mind travels to a past where it all begun in earnest and to the future where it will all end in a furnace.

Our minds are not time-bound. Neither is it place-bound. And for this reason, a great responsibility is bestowed on us. We will never find rest until our mind is satisfied that the mystery of our past is resolved and the eternity of the future is secured. This has always been our mission in life. It is not a mission to seek out extraterrestrial life in space. Neither is it a mission to find a way to live together in peace. Those are just existential hobbies. On the contrary, like nemo looking for his dad, we are looking for our creator.

I can imagine an orphan going from house to house, door to door, knocking and hoping for the right parent to open it. And in this search for our divine parentage, we have turned many stones, looked into many crevices, and ran after many false leads. In the past, this search has caused us to worship the sky in fear of rain, sacrifice our very own to the sun in fear of darkness, and dance like drunken lemurs to placate the wrath of the earth.

We have created and killed many gods over the centuries. When we discover that one god doesn’t serve our purpose we kill it by depriving it of attention. One after another the gods disappeared from our mind. But somehow, with one duly slayed comes another to replace it. Sometimes, a god brings a partner as a security-blanket. India alone has 330 millions of them.

The world doesn’t lack gods. We may lack resources, land or space. We may lack talent, skills and innovation. We may lack love, tolerance and understanding. But we never lacked gods. They are everywhere.

Alfred North Whitehead defines religion as, “What a man does with his solitariness.” And as long as we are alone and lonely, our mind will scour for gods with a vengeance. This search will never cease because the mystery will never be lifted. The atheist may call it delusional but they are somewhat guilty of it too. They are forgetting that they are also in this search together with us. Although they are searching for god-alternatives to explain this mystery, under the pristine name of science, their search is no less faith-driven than ours.

And as far as humanity is concerned, theists, atheists or agnostics alike, we are bonded together by this common pursuit. It is very much our raison d’etre. In this life, we search desperately for many things; happiness, success, fame, power, love and utopia. But the search for god or god-alternatives will be our main preoccupation; and for many, their undying devotion. And because we are never at peace with just the present, the mysteries of both our past and future will haunt our minds all the way to our graves. Ironically, and without prejudice to our search for the Truth, it was Voltaire who once said that if there were no God, it would have been necessary to invent him.

So, Nietzsche has got it so wrong that god is dead and we have killed him. If anything, it would be more accurate to say, with apology, that he is dead and the gods are very much alive. Cheerz.   

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