2008/01/03

Gorblimey!

At least two have asked me if I'm the author of the latest TFE IP, basing their suspicion on the army of PJ's in it. I amn't.

And, do contribute! If your piece is good, it'll directly get published. If it's bad, it'll be touched up before it sees print. If it's worse it'll be bounced. If it's perfectly pathetic, again, it'll directly get published -- along with your photograph, room number, and the location of hockey bats in your hostel.


My attitudes toward the delusions notions of God, Religion, Spiritualism, etc. underwent phases.
When I was as tall as my hip, my mother* gave it to me in a shot: 'God can do everything.'
This gave rise to several complications. For instance, could this God person really handle a calculator? Yes, vouched the parent for Him. I was quite impressed. A flurry of questions sprang over the following days: Can He read magazines? Does He know how to use a mixie in the kitchen? Does He speak English? Can He type as fast as my mom? The answer was always a why-not-of-course-yes.

The real clincher came when I had a groundbreaking conversation with her during, I reckon, my First Grade. I distinctly remember its gist. Allow me to paraphrase.

Son: Free me from ignorance, mother. Are foeti conceived in wombs by themselves at unexpected moments? Or is it that women are equipped with the power to calve at the time of their choosing?


Mom: Spoken like a prodigy, my gold brick. Your second hypothesis is closer to the truth.

Son: Indeed. So thought I. But could you throw light as to how you mothers decide when to populate your uteri? How, for instance, did you have me, not to mention my brother, in your belly, just the time you wanted us to be there?

Mom: I prayed... to God.

Son: Oh?

Mom: Yes. Time will tell all, jaggery lump. Now show mama your homework.

This little chat sealed any doubts I had on the omnipotence of the Chap. My piety deepened. I dared not get into my parents' bad books for fear of ending up having my eyes punctured by Him. In temples I put up my best behaviour, lest He be lurking in a dark corner with watchful eyes.

And then the father factor set in. That my papa's papa was a supervisor of temples in TN and was an ardent, if not fanatic, Hindu, was outweighed by the astronomy lectures he (my dad) had attended in his college. When I was still in my single-digit years, he opened my mind, in little degrees, to reason. Practical difficulties faced by ten-handed goddesses here, an elementary anomaly in the concept of omnipresence there, and so on. He never forced his atheism on me, merely pointing out the common sense-defying postulates of the God theory now and then. This kept me on think mode, and I turned agnostic. My faith and a temple in the neighbourhood followed an inverse-square law.

In the summer of Fifth Class, I was hospitalized for a fortnight. My maternal grandfather had me run prayers on a daily basis. And my eventual cure rendered me a whole-hearted believer again.

God existed for the next three years.

Books by Tamil writer Sujatha and Lankan rationalist Kovoor, further god-gossip with my father, and the due course of lifely events later transformed me to what may be best described as an agnatheist. Belief peaked a few days a year, always coinciding with exam dates. Whenever asked about my ideas on God, I came to mumble 'I don't exactly call what I believe as God... But I am sort of half-convinced that something -- something -- controls the network of events and things in the universe and the beauty of it all, if you know what I mean, you know. A pattern, I mean. Kind of arragement of coincidences, et cetera. Well, there is a lot of deep thinking left. I have to do it sometime. But I'm also open to--' and so on till the listener would halt me with a quick 'Okay-okay-okay'.

It was only after joining the institute did I fully realize that quasi-atheism and poinephobia were synonyms. I soon started calling myself a 'non-believer', for saying "I'm an atheist" (despite being a staunch one) somehow implied coming across as one who pooh-poohed others' intelligence by virtue of their faith alone and who took it upon himself to breathe logic into his fellow men. I've seldom attempted to bring people to my side of the God line. I don't see why G H Hardy, Dawkins and the rest waste/d their valuable time and cerebral resources in disproving the existence of God -- atheists would applaud their works and others would cling to their own faith anyway. Once you're absolutely convinced of His/Her/Its non-existence, why care? 'Rabbit's horn' is the phrase that leaps to mind. Thus, to me, apatheism is the highest form of atheism.

Some cool links:

(1) FAQ
(2) Dragon
(3) Spaghetti
(4) IPU
(5) Paradox
I particularly want you to read (2).

A request. If you're writing a counterattacking comment, please spare the catch-line 'God can only be sensed / realized / intuitively felt.'

*a semi-theist

11 Obiter dicta:

Blogger N couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

No anonymous comments please.

7:04 AM  
Anonymous UK couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

Einstein says, "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

There are people who are able to give plausible explanations to many of the customs being followed by the Hindus (I say only Hindu, because I do not have information as regards to this for other religions.) It is not surprising to me, though, that people follow these customs blindly not knowing even the inherent religious reasons let alone scientific reasons for these.
The "Indian Institute of Scientific Heritage" http://www.iish.org/about.asp
has been set up, as a step towards a scientific understanding of religious customs. Perhaps, those of you who wish to understand more can avail of this.

The supernatural anatomies, (might I call it that?) of the idols of gods and goddesses are symbolic and representative of what the god or goddess stands for. Though, I have never ventured to understand their meaning, for I do not care, I do see a point in the ubiquitous idols, or portraits, similarly fashioned by age old customs. (The material used, albeit, being different now a days)

Having said all of this, I must say, I am a person who is unable to believe in the existence of god. That is, even if I were given scientific evidence that God exists, I would find myself incapable of acknowledging the fact that God exists. Though, to borrow from Srinand, that is my problem.

This "problem" has been the central theme for numerous films and books. "Seventh Seal" a beautiful film by Bergman deals with this theme.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Frame couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

This is the oldest question of all time. First of all, you might want to publish the following comments in the TFE with my name, room no. and hostel Hockey bats, :|

But there is an inherent paradox in the presumption that there exists a force which can do _anything_ . This is very similar to Russell's paradox and is proof( mathematical= scientific evidence, to quote UK)
that there cannot be any God.
If god an do anything can he build an object he cannot lift?

I'll end at that. It might seem silly, but the above logic proves God as we know him, cannot exist. It's mathematics. IT'S SOLID.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

While your're quote-mining Einstein, remember that Einstein also said this

"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

-- Albert Einstein, 1954, from Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press

10:00 AM  
Blogger pratyu couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

"apatheism is the highest form of atheism" (I totally agree.)
It is ideal, but only with conscience.

Science and religion in a sense are opposites. And in a sense, without one, you cannot appreciate the other. Ironicaly so, in my dictionary, God and Quantum theories are synonymous and are the result of extrapolations of obscurity.

If only science could teach conscience. Or religion unteach prayers.

I believe i'm an apatheist. Years of association with various spiritual heads has not changed me.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

Frame:

Another example is the problem of evil, which Epicurus outlined so well:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?


While your examples of omnipotence paradoxes are very valid, the way out by apologetics is that God isn't well defined by most religious people.

If one doesn't define God as omnipotent, but loosely enough (like, an "undetectable" entity which influences our personal life), then there isn't any mathematical quandary.

The major problems in believing a personal god exists is that there's no scientific evidence (anectodal evidence may be important for you, but doesn't count in science). For example, prayer doesn't "work" in controlled studies, there's no scientific evidence of any miracle which violates our laws of science, or afterlife, or heaven and hell.

Besides, the tendency to believe in a personal god can also be explained in terms of a Darwinian argument, which I'll explain if someone wants to know.

Ultimately, belief in a personal god is a matter of an individuals faith. Even when the empirical evidence shows otherwise (which it clearly does), some people tend to reject the "scientific framework" as not applicable. (See, Stephen Jay Gould's theory of NOMA. Richard Dawkins argues against this saying, "the God Hypothesis is that there exists a super-human, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us," is a scientific hypothesis, and is therefore not exempt from scientific examination).

Others reject it from an argument based on postmodernist epistemological relativism.

"“Who’s to say what’s true? Everyone has different experiences; you might even say everyone has a different reality. So what’s true is just a matter of opinion."

This is of course, a load of claptrap.

The ultimate believer believes in a personal god, just because. No amount of logic, reason and empiricism will cause any doubt.

Finally, in the major monotheistic religions, why should God referred to as HIM and not HER?

10:44 AM  
Blogger A songbird couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

I'd been waltzing around alone, I find a companion, though you've moved far ahead , more hurdles to be crossed before i fall in between the two boats!

Good piece!


@pratyu:"If only science could teach conscience. Or religion unteach prayers." Whoa!

11:23 AM  
Blogger N couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

To all:
I wrote this post chiefly to narrate how I evolved in god matters and try to get you to laugh. The last passage of the post (which took a serious note) has defeated my purpose. As I had put it differently in the blog, I do not care deeply for the efforts to refute the existence of God, especially through elaborate philosophy. It is so obvious to me (and ought to be to any true person of science) that God just ain't there that I yawn if the point is painstakingly elucidated. Imagine someone giving you an hour-long speech on why a square can have only two diagonals. But I do enjoy quirky proofs for His Holy Non-existence, of course.

Unni,
"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
If there's anything worse than religion, it is the attempt to marry religion and science. Somebody ought to have checked his alcohol level when Einstein said that. Although he later explained what he meant by religion (as the first 'Anonymous' has quoted here), he should have known that the first quote would diffuse more.

Frame,
That and other arguments like 'If God can do anything, ask him to make one plus one equal three' are seen in item # 5 in the list of links at the foot my post.

Pratyu,
When I said 'apatheism', I meant 'Not giving a damn to debates on why God does not exist due to the pointlessness of arguing on something that definitely isn't there in the first place'.
If you notice, you will find that atheists are more disciplined and humanitarian than religious (wo)men.
'And in a sense, without one, you cannot appreciate the other.'
I beg to differ. I, for one, do not even think of religion, leave alone appreciate. Religion is a taboo word to me. And I fail to see why one can't appreciate science without -ugh- religion.
'Ironicaly so, in my dictionary, God and Quantum theories are synonymous and are the result of extrapolations of obscurity.'
Yeah? In my dictionary, sardines and event horizon are synonymous then.
'If only science could teach conscience. Or religion unteach prayers.'
Er, science (technology included) has enough things to do on its list. Conscience and stuff has to come from personal experience and from the mom-dad-teacher squad.
Religion unteach prayers? Lol. Got any more jokes like that?

Anonymous The Second,
Your comment has 'Parseval' written all over it :)
Thanks for the links and ideas. Yeah, like I'd said in the post, I had a personal god too. Glad that I shot him cold-bloodedly one fine day.
As for your question 'Why is God referred to as Him and not Her?'... I put myself in a theist's shoes and figured it out: We all know about the affinity males have for remote controls...

5:31 PM  
Blogger Mohan K.V couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

Hockey bats - Most thoughtful, _Most_ thoughtful, TFE is in good hands :-)

Gold brick and Jaggery lump, ROFLMAO, the few terms for endearment I know in Kannada are closer to 'Goldie' and 'Silverie', terms from other languages will make for a most intersting wing discussion :-)

I hadn't come across Sagan's Dragon essay earlier, it was an excellent read!

You should read about the (un?)holy link between the Cosmological argument and the Axiom of Choice:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_argument
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiom_of_choice

and Russel's general stand on the matter(?).

Do read Phantoms in the Brain by V.S.Ramachandran if you haven't already.

6:37 AM  
OpenID parseval couldn't resist being opinionated thus:


Your comment has 'Parseval' written all over it :)
Thanks for the links and ideas. Yeah, like I'd said in the post, I had a personal god too.


Twas me. Forgot to sign in.

Anyway, I'll point out that I'm not exactly an atheist. I'm strongly agnostic. It's for the following reason.

The scientific epistemology makes the two following assumptions

- That there exists an objective reality of which we are a part of.
- Such a reality can be described solely by a mathematical model

These assumptions are essential to the validity of the scientific epistemology.

However, all a person needs to do is to say, "everything which happens (ie, which can be measured, modeled etc) is because of God's will which can only be experienced subjectively" (or if you want, replace God with Flying spaghetti monsters or invisible pink unicorns)

Although this ontological argument doesn't actually "predict" anything by itself, it still is entirely consistent within it's own framework.

The only reason we reject such a framework is because of Occam's razor and the fact that it is useless in acquiring knowledge due to a lack of predictive capability. Compare this with the tremendous and objectively verifiable predictive ability of the scientific method.

However, it's pointless to assert the existence or absence of a God (or flying spaghetti monster, or ipu, etc) in such an epistemological framework, since such a framework is inherently unverifiable by it's definition.

This is the reason why I'm agnostic and don't answer on the question of God's (or, ipu et al) existence, because such a question is inherently unanswerable.

Note that this doesn't mean that "individual" predictions that such a framework makes can't be disproved. It's crazy to believe that the Earth is 6000 years old, because enough evidence can be seen subjectively as well (eg, a trip to the museum).

7:19 PM  
Blogger Omega Mum couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

Enjoyed this - but very daunted by your submission criteria!

8:55 PM  

Post a Comment

Caution: Useless link below

Create a Link

<< Back to the big bad blog