Religious bigotry and fanaticism have recently become more widespread in certain sections of Muslims of the world, and among the American Christians, which are offensive propaganda to the secularist viewpoint. We are familiar with the jihadis. What is least known is that in the United States the propaganda has assumed the shape of numerous attempts to undermine the separation of Church and State as provided in the Constitution. American Baptists are trying very hard, though not always successful, to turn America into a Christian state and those who are opposed to second class citizens. ‘In God We Trust’ the national motto of the USA, has been passed by both Houses and is now the law of the land.
In Britain the situation is a bit different. There are established churches and religious instruction is legally sanctioned in all state schools. However, as there is religious tolerance men in public life have less hesitation to be openly known as unbelievers. The best known atheist scientist of our time is Richard Dawkins who dismissed religion as delusion in his book, God delusion.
Science-religion debate has been going on since religion was born a few centuries ago; but so far no religion has ever been made obsolete by scientific data. It was because no religion has been set out in terms scientific experiments, which could be proved wrong. A religious believer can always fall back on a faith that does not depend on verification. Since my school days as an elementary student of evolutionary biology and fundamental physics I began to doubt in the existence of a God. As I studied physics and biology in college my disbelief hardened. While I was studying at St Xavier’s college in Bombay I used to attend the religious classes (Catholic). I remember asking the Spanish priest – where did the God come from to his assurance that nothing comes from Zero. His reply was ‘God is God and he does not have to come from anywhere. That lacks scientific merit. For science, God must be reproducible in the same way water (H2O) can be broken into H and O at any time. When I became a doctor I dispensed with the existence God, partly because the life and death of a patient was often in my hand. Because of moral issues I like any other doctor, always put human life at the top of my professional ethics. To prove my point, a doctor in the UK, Harold Shipman, murdered 215 patients ranging from 41 to 93 years of age, by injecting lethal dose of morphine, until he was apprehended on September 1998. That is, he has the power of life and death for these people, not God.
While in the UK, I became a freethinker, seeking new meaning in the process of a changing world in physical and mechanistic terms. I began to question what Scholastics professed to be logical arguments proving the existence of God. I disagreed with the ethical arguments (destroyed by Darwin) that God is almighty. I became convinced that religions do more harm than good because of the particular tenets believed and the kind of belief which is thought ought to be given to it. While I was doing research for my first book, ‘My search for God’ (1998-2003) I read Bertrand Russell’s book,‘Why I am not a Christian?’ I found my views are quite similar with his.
The God I am referring to is a something – a being outside of time – a being beyond the experience of mortal man and could only be understood though faith. Einstein showed us that time is part of the physical universe. Space and time is mathematically provable to be one and God is not in it. That is, God is outside space and time. The ontological argument for the existence of God is based on the theory that ‘nothing comes from zero’ ie ‘the First cause argument’. It is like the Hindu view of the world that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested on a tortoise but no mention of where the tortoise rested. It is a carrot of dubious scientific merit. Individual transition of atoms has no cause. It is simply the poverty if our knowledge. After Stephen Hawking’s theory of the Big Bang as the beginning of the universe, physicists are now nearer to finding the sub atomic particle- the God particle in the Hadron Collider. Its discovery could unify the understanding of the content of the universe and help humans to debunk God as a designer. At least, it will be able to produce the conditions in the universe within the billionth of a second of the beginning of time. The recent book The Great Design by Hawking and Miodinow, if experimentally proven, will show that the universe started without a designer God.
The teleological argument that God is a perfect designer does not square up with the image of God, given that the world is in chaos. If I were present at the beginning of his creation I could have suggested a thing or two to him. The world is so imperfect that it needs to be taken back to the drawing board for redesigning. Darwin has shown that the environment was not designed to suit living creatures; rather, living creatures adapted themselves to the environment.
Another theological argument for the existence of God is morality – religious morality. That is, without God we will not know the difference between right and wrong. If there is a difference then it must be due to God’s will. If so, God is involved in both good and evil designs. This cannot be true for our God. The right and wrong therefore, must have come into existence outside of God. Then morality has nothing to do with God. Morality has something to do with culture and education. Similar in attitude is the recent finding that for white racialism for black and Asian people is much less among the college educated people.
We want a good God that they can pray to and who will respond to our prayers. Theologically, we are talking of a God who is present everywhere and involved in everybody’s day-to-day affairs and answering occasional prayers of a student to make sure that he passes his exam the following day. Many of us have a bit grooved out of our angst in the farcical meeting of God in a public toilet as he is everywhere. If God (he, she, it) is not a person but timeless and an abstract, he is not of much comfort to me. It is like praying to an atomic bomb with potential to explode. But people, who are newly converted to any religion, believe that their soul will be saved by believing in that particular God, as my parents did in Krishna bhagavan. I mention this simply to point out that the belief in a God is partly acquired.
Studies have shown that God and religion are 50% inherited from our parents and 50% acquired. Belief in a God is so deeply embedded in the human brain that it has evolved with a small area, the ‘God spot’, which lights up in the brain scan, when a person prays. Religion is not a special case of belief system but evolved along with other belief and social cognitive abilities that improved the chances of survival. Though belief in God is partly inherited it needs nurture. The ants have inherited a well organised society though there are no ant schools, but as there are no ant colleges they make no further progress. This God module is very difficult to disown. Muslim Nargis (deceased) married Sunil Dutt, a Brahmin. She lived as a Hindu with a bindi on her forehead. But when she died she was buried with her husband reciting fatiha, the opening chapter of Q’uran.
The question of the truth of religion is one thing, but the question of its usefulness is another. I am not anti-religion. Religion is good in that it provides a belonging. It is good for birth, marriage and death. These rituals verify our experience that all earthly things have an end. Stars die and become supernova. Our sun will die one day when it runs out of energy, to become white dwarf.
As a belief in a God is diminishing a new spirituality without a metaphysical God sweeps the world today. It has evolved from agnostic materialism, increasing awareness of human psychology and the new physics. Here the emphasis is on man as the new God. This is Humanism- a philosophical system that asserts the worth of the human with ability to think rationally.