150. Development and critique of religious thought. Part two
With these subterfuges God was still good and powerful and had nothing to do with the suffering. There was a third argument that suffering was not really suffering, but an illusion of suffering, because this was a transitional period; universe was proceeding towards a noble goal, therefore some pain had to be borne.
Still it did not explain animal suffering by a kind God. Also it did not explain the suffering of children born with diseases, such as HIV: AIDS, or disabilities, such as blindness (because it was not their fault. They had not yet lived long enough on earth to commit sins)
And, how about bad people having a good life? The answer to that was that these people will be judged and punished on judgment day. But that brought in the question of free will vs. fate, which is an unsolvable contradiction. In other words, it was not their fault; because even if they had free will (and not preordained results) it still boiled down to how much free will they really had, because a lot depended on their inherited genes or their early environments, none of them was in their own control (I have already discussed this problem in nine blogs, 134-142)
Before I proceed further, I must state what all religions (except Buddhism) believe;
(1). Religious scriptures are either literally word of God (as Quran) or inspired by Him, as Bible and Torah. Therefore no alteration in the religious tenets or religious beliefs is allowed, because they are derived from the Holy Books. They are perfect.
(2) The followers of every religion think that their religion is the best, the others have some defect. The other religions are either outdated, like an old edition of a textbook, or polluted over the ages, so that the original teaching has been lost.
(3). All religions teach that each member should perform good deeds and avoid bad deeds, such as stealing, looting, murder, or coveting one’s neighbor’s wife. These teachings appeal to common sense because they would be good for the tribe.
(4) All religions teach that one should be good to others. If one is good to others, the others are reciprocally, good to him. Again, very good for tribal society.
Apart from all these good points, there were still philosophic problems with
(a) Satan appeared to be a human invention; to explain the evil. How could Satan be so powerful, almost as powerful as God Himself? Why did He make Satan and why did He allow Satan to put people on wrong path? If Satan was created to test people, why should God be testing people (how they will react to adversities?) when He should know the result beforehand, after all He is the All- Knowing God? Is suffering due to deeds in the previous lives? If so, how about poor animals who undergo suffering. Why such cruelty in animal kingdom? The theory of suffering due to sins of previous lives breaks down in case of animals because they have no concept of sin.
(b) Why so many religions (and not one religion), which differ with each other in their instructions to mankind ( Hindus worship cow, Muslims eat cow; as founder of Pakistan, Jinnah, famously said ), and thus cause doubt over their authenticity and cause strife amongst human beings? Why did God not give clear instructions to mankind in some unambiguous fashion?
(c) The universe was so big and an individual was so small, that it did not appeal to common sense that He was going to concern Himself into looking into what every lowly person was doing (as most religions proclaim will happen on Judgment Day).
After considering all that I have written above, I decided not to follow any religion. The moral compass of an enlightened modern man should be sufficiently developed, that he should not need the crutch of religion. Belief in God is an entirely different matter. One should not confuse God with religion. One can believe in God without believing in any religion, as most secular humanists (like this writer) do, and one can believe in a religion and not believe in God, as most Buddhists do.
What makes the moral compass in us? It is the mother (to a greater degree), father (to a lesser degree), the nuns in Catholic Schools, teachers in general, fellow students, books, films, and the society in general. I have talked to several people who got their education in Catholic Schools. They told me that the nuns were a great role model; here were women who had given up everything and accepted chastity, poverty and obedience, for the sake of God. They taught that one should love and obey God and help other human beings. One should not lie, rob, cheat, or steal. I am a great supporter of religion. Core base of morality in human society has partially originated from religion, and partially because the innate value of many practices such as not to steal, rob or kill, not to covet neighbor’s wife, were beneficial to the tribal society. The mission schools and hospitals in 19th and 20th century spread light and helped the sick and downtrodden masses in the world. This mote went to a missionary run college. My mother took a 5 hour journey, from a village, by train, to go to a Holy Family hospital in a city, to undergo serious abdominal surgery. What could she have done if there were no nearby hospital where she could have had surgery? It would be fair to assume that, in the last two hundred years, events like these must have happened to hundreds of thousands of individuals in Asia and Africa. I think critics of missionary activities in colonial period wrongly consider that these activities were just a cloak to spread Christianity. Yes, spreading Christianity was their mission, but helping the indigenous population was also their mission. The two missions were not mutually exclusive.
To be continued