By Promod Puri
When atheists reject the concept or existence of God, their conclusion is based on limited perception because we human beings are like a speck of creature in this colossal universe incapable of fathoming its enormity.
Their case does not win credibility either by just ridiculing those who believe in God.
And those under theism believing that God exists in physical form or in some supernatural and transcendental actuality, and offers a sensory experience, then it is merely an unjustified and ritualistic impression. This conception can be easily rejected in the face of the rationale-seeking contemporary society.
Likewise, if one has understood God thru rituals and customs, then what has been understood is not God.
In the vast celestial arrangement and the unseen sub-atomic fields where humanity is mystified as who caused all this phenomenon, as well as when we accept and revere the senseless ritualistic customs, the concepts of atheism and theism can find limited argumentation in the non-believability or believability of God.
In both the convictions, the inherent human limitations in reasoning and observation, along with our blind obedience to one supreme deity, there is no confirmation that God does not exist or the belief that God exists.
But God is an established institution which can not be eliminated despite lack of rational outlook.
REVIEWING UNDERSTANDING OF GOD
In the enlightened existing culture where both empirical evidence and convincing rationale are unavoidable factors, the concept of God can be reviewed to establish a fresh and meaningful conception and realization.
The review process is also helpful for those who have a rigid mindset belief in God’s presence because of ritualistic impacts.
In this reassessment, God’s perception can be altered, rationalized or perhaps restored with pragmatic understanding and awareness. Nevertheless, God cannot be rejected for lack of empirical evidence or accepted in the solely ritualistic or blind-faith image.
God and religion are the two synonymous influences which are subjected to evolution in the ongoing social construction of humankind.
In this evolution, atheism can contribute too because of its creditable roots in various religious ideations. The main reason is for its earnest call for humanism in the conduct of our lives.
The fact is, since the time God was institutionalized in the religious orders, atheism despite being firm on His non-existence, has played a challenging and stimulating role in man’s spiritual and divine pursuits.
For those reasons, atheism has been accepted as a valid philosophical concept in the religiosity of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism.
ATHEISM IN HINDUISM
In its liberal and democratic discipline, atheism is part of streams of thought in Hinduism. Both Sankhya and Mimamsa, the two known and oldest faculties of Hindu philosophy have rejected the involvement of God in the creation and management of the macrocosm.
“Who really knows, and who can swear,
How creation came, when or where!
Even gods came after creation’s day,
Who really knows, who can truly say
“When and how did creation start?
Did He do it? Or did He not?
Only He, up there, knows, maybe;
Or perhaps, not even He.”
-The Rig Veda Chapter X, Para 129 in the Hymn of Creation (Nasadiya Sukta)
Hindu commentator and a former judge of the Supreme Court of India, Markandey Katju, has even claimed that out of nine Hindu philosophical systems “eight of them are atheistic as there is no place for God in them. Only the ninth one that is Uttar Mimansa, which is also called Vedanta has a place for God in it.” (source Wikipedia under “Atheism in Hinduism”).
Both Astika, believing in God’s existence, and Nastika, meaning an atheist, are the concepts which are factors in the democratic tradition of Hinduism.
The Nastika philosophy has been traditionally the base of both Buddhism and Jainism as well.
And in Taoism, an ancient religious Chinese philosophy, “there is no omnipotent Being beyond the cosmos, who created and controls the universe.”
The guiding force in Taoism is Tao who is not a God or god. Tao means ‘way’ or ‘path’ in Chinese.’ Taoism believes that the universe organizes a natural path by itself. And there is no central controlling principle or order. Instead of delving into the existence or non-existence of God, Taoism focuses on “living a simple and balanced life in harmony with nature.”
The concept of God in all these religious isms is more of a metaphysical nature rather than physical or supernatural existence. And that is the reason there has been almost no objection to accommodating atheism in their numinous thoughts. Instead, these religious orders got enriched with a diversity of thoughts, philosophies, and appeals. Hinduism is the prime example to harbor atheism in its vast structure.
Atheism and theism in our religious thinking are not the topics in the virtuous conduct of our lives. Rather, like Taoism, the ethical conduct of life has been the basic tenet of all the world faiths, and this is where the practicality of God lies.
COMPREHENSIVE NATURE OF GOD
But in that practicality, the understanding of God does not end.
A simple and brief, but still far from the complete, characterization of God can be: the sum-total of everything and every process in this universe and beyond is God. Everything, known or unknown that exists is what a universe is all about. (Source: Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions, Amazon publication)
It is from this perspective that an overview of astronomical creations both in the celestial world and in the tiniest of atoms is supportive in our study and evaluation of that mysterious force or energy.
This very energy is the cause of everything, living or non-living, observable or non-observable present in this universe and beyond. And that includes the space where all these entities are placed.
What is that energy which keeps the sub-atomic particles moving, the earth and many other planets spinning, and keep everything alive in one form or the other?
Known physicist Late Stephen Hawkins says: “If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”
The answers we seek, as Hawkins puts it in the “science of God” can reveal as well as change our whole concept and perception of God which can be more acceptable in our questioning society.
What we are seeking is a renewed understanding of God which is in line with contemporary thinking based on rationalism and intelligent perception.
This undertaking can represent the wholeness of God from the celestial world to the tiniest of particles. Also lies in the renewed comprehensiveness of God are the ethical and spiritual needs of humanity with detachable rituals and customs.
(Promod Puri is the author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions, and writer of several essays on religion, politics and human interest. Websites: progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com).