On Sunday, I read this story. In it, the writer asks why Richard Dawkins has refused to see that some people might actually need God in their lives just so they could understand the scary world in which they have been thrown. I agree with her. One of the reasons why people have religion is because they cannot understand why we are on this earth. Another reason is they cannot understand where we are headed after here. To them, if we were born just to live and die and be forgotten, then all of this would have ben the greatest wastage in the history of waste. And so the question is: why? It’s a question to which there must be an answer. And the most satisfying answer is that there is, there must be, definitely a Higher Being who made all this and who knows the purpose of everything.
When I was a teenager, I nearly had a nervous breakdown. Years later when I brought it up, I found out that many of my friends went through the same thing in their teens. They fell ill by questioning the wisdom behind the earth, birth, death, disease, wealth, poverty, the afterlife. But this is how I survived my neurosis: I let go. I realised that worrying about it would not change the fact that these questions exist. Neither would it help me understand or change the fatal trajectory of the world. I could become a scientist or philosopher to help others get the idea better but only one thing finally calmed me: God.
The perspective that the preachers of God offered were mysterious, but then I was made to understand that questioning the mysteries of God itself is like doubting the existence of God. Doubting the existence of God then would be trying to understand why the universe came to be. But no one can understand why the universe came to be. Maybe science can prove the how, but the why? No one can. So, I chose to acknowledge the existence and wisdom of God and it calmed my nerves.
But God is not an antidepressant now, is he? The whole purpose of God is diverse, depending on who you are and what you want. What we call God, others call it something else but the purposes remain. Many powerful people who are not followers of any traditional religion have, at one time or another, spoken of a power that they pray to. Some say it’s the Universe. It’s a spiritual dimension to their solid matter existence. But whatever they call it, it has been said that even some atheists pray to some force that’s beyond their understanding. The Force that calms the senses, that illuminates the mind, that brings luck, that helps you make the right decisions, that protects. For many people, before whatever can go wrong goes wrong, it’s best to just pray.
But if success without God is possible, why bother? I mean, Mark Zuckerberg is an atheist. And Tom Cruise is a scientologist. I don’t know. What I know is that a life built on God is hard to divorce from God. When you go by the rules of the God you know, things only work out according to those rules. When things don’t work out, you try to retrace your steps to pinpoint where you might have strayed from the rules. And if you found out you never strayed, you would think maybe God wanted you to take a different path. Once God is involved, He is always involved. That’s the only way the universe can make sense to you.
Besides, depending on where you live in the world, you may need God more than anyone else. In a country that’s plagued with health scares, low life expectancy, and a weak judicial system, having God would be your reassurance that you’re not totally helpless. Unlike people who live in places where the systems work and who could live under the illusion of self-sufficiency, poor people need God.
To further understand why the impoverished value their Almighty, look at two concepts. First, the Concept of No-Condition-Is-Permanent. Life is fickle; nothing stays the same. You go to bed a rich man, you wake up to a war that’s has taken everything from you overnight. Second, The Concept of Unmerited Grace. It sounds like a Pentecostal canon, but many people hold on to it across different religions. It works like this: you’re less qualified, your family heritage already excludes you but somewhere somehow, someone just decides to give you the chance that ultimately changes your life. Out of the blue. Just like that. People ask their God for that kind of luck every day, because who else do you make that kind of irrational deal with? Now, a lot of rich, successful, happy, healthy or merely comfortable people credit God with magical turnarounds that are due only to Unmerited Grace. In order words, miracles.
Maybe that’s why the most hardened religious militants are the poor and helpless. It’s all they’ve got. Because they cannot fight for themselves, they cling on to religion, and God, to do the fighting for them. And when it seems that Powerful People and Thinkers like Richard Dawkins are ‘threatening’ to take that religion away, the poor people get physical. Fighting with their last breath is often the service they think they can give to the God who has fed them all this while. Conversely, it is also because the poor find peace in religion that people in power easily use religion to suppress the poor. A vicious circle? A virtuous circle? I don’t know.
You may think there’s no God. Or you may think there’s a God. But one thing is true, though. There’s a purpose for God in many people’s lives. For the whole universe on the other hand, that purpose is multilayered. So many people try to do as much adulating as they can of a God so powerful and fearful. But mostly, they just call. And He answers. They ask. He gives. They’re happy. Life goes on.
I wrote this post on June 16, shared it with an inner circle and then forgot about it. But earlier today, Chris called my attention to this piece in the Guardian (of London). So I remembered my one-month-and-a-half old article. What’s your opinion of God and religion? Please say in the comments. Thanks.