A certain person, close to me, holds an incredibly simple but unglamorous view of life. His philosophy has irked me for years, yet I must confess that I have secretly (but nervously) been fascinated with it. Sam’s theory is brutally cynical; he claims that we proud humans are like ants. We come into this world for a bit; we mostly lead ordinary lives tending to our needs; at times we get trampled upon, yet life goes on undeterred. If and when we do get squashed, we meet the same fate as ants — a fate of nothingness. There is no higher ground, no after life: there is-essentially nothing but the short-lived reality that we call life.
Sam, as you can imagine, is a non-believer; he despises organized religion, which he claims to be the root of all evil. “If there were a compassionate being, he would not allow such injustice — especially towards the innocent,” he calmly states. It is a rationale that I cannot argue with.
At this point, I must mention that in spite of this apparently pessimistic view, Sam is one of the most optimistic people I know. He is a genuine human being — kind, upright and strong — yet someone who claims that he does not require religion — a crutch — to lean on. Sam never questions or impedes upon others’ beliefs. His philosophy is simple: kindness toward all, regardless of faith, color, creed or any such superficial attributes.
I must shamefully but honestly admit that more and more as I see life unfold before me, I am starting to slowly subscribe to Sam’s views. Growing up, I never questioned my blind faith and strongly believed that God is a compassionate being who heeds the call of those who genuinely call upon him but more and more I find this not to be the case.
When something good happens, we thank God but when something terrible befalls us, we tend to blame everyone but God because the compassionate God we want to believe in cannot do anything unkind. Why, then, is God so inconsistent, I ask? Why is He so whimsical? Why is He so cruel often? Or is it that there is NO GOD and hence “He” has no power? Perhaps it is our weakness and our inability to believe in nothingness that leads us to cling to something that we call God. How many of us are strong enough to accept that the high and mighty, egotistical humans that we are, are just as minuscule as insignificant ants that we don’t think twice about trampling? How is it humanly possible to accept that everything that we build around ourselves — material and otherwise, the stuff that we painstakingly amass all our lives and the relationships that we intricately weave — are nothing but an illusion that ends with us? Is this why we have an intense urge to believe in something fantastical?
We, the modern, educated, sophisticated humans, look back at the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt in utter disbelief at their firm belief in the after life. It was this intense faith that led them to create elaborate sarcophagus complete with everything they would need for their journey ahead. We know now that these mighty kings’ beliefs were erroneous; we laugh at their naivety, yet do we not harbor the same feelings of grandeur believing that some day we will travel to a better place? How, then, are we any different from those we laugh at in disbelief? (We know that these descendants of the Gods did not travel to a life of eternal bliss; many did however travel long distances — especially over the course of the past century from museum to museum to be displayed and gawked upon).
A few years ago, I heard something that touched a nerve but it was something I was not ready to explore quite yet. My faith was strong and I did not have the strength to question or doubt it. I did look into it recently and was shocked to find that what I had turned a deaf ear to was indeed true. Mother Teresa, witnessing endless and needless human suffering had begun to seriously question the very existence of the God that she had dedicated her life to. Come Be My Light is a collection of letters through which she communicated her intense loss of faith with her superiors. An excerpt from her letters reveals how trapped she felt:
I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone … Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness and darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd in my heart — and make me suffer untold agony.
A Saint is an embodiment of God; a Saint does not doubt God’s Godliness; harboring such views is sacrilegious and therefore successful efforts were undertaken to systematically suppress these powerful writings. But in the end the picture is pretty grim: Mother Teresa, the ultimate believer, had become a non-believer.
I must confess that I greatly envy those who are able to hold on to their faith firmly no matter what may come. I wish I were among those lucky enough not to question God’s existence. I am no Mother Teresa but am able to find some solace knowing that I am in good company. I want to believe; yet can’t especially in the light of recent tragedies. People tell me that it is God’s way of testing the faithful. To me this is cruel and unfair treatment and is akin to me, a mother, torturing my children just to test whether they love me or not. I am not that insecure — I promise to love my kids unconditionally and shield them from heartaches, not torment them to satisfy some twisted need for affirmation of their dedication. God — the ultimate protector — should be fair and merciful at least to those that do no harm to others. Where is that just and loving being that has the power to love me in this life and the next? Where is my faith?
In the end, I cling on to Sam’s view of goodness towards all without the need for a middleman. In the end, I cling on to Ramakrishna’s philosophy — the only true words of wisdom — “Humanity is the only Religion.” In the end, I have faith in me and my religion is you.