Prof. Vasant Natarajan has called for a new scientific model of society that will discard primitive religion. He argues that religion is a villain. Most wars have been fought because of religion, men worship the sun and wind in ignorance, religion is based on a childish fear, miracles are bogus, etc. So let us move on to the post-theistic age accepting the call of philosopher-messiah Collin McGinn and “leave behind the words uttered by ignorant men long ago.” Mercifully, he has not labelled theists as subhumans — only nearly so.
Now, let us take a hard look at science. Scientists invented dynamite, they made guns, they invented the atom bomb, they made nerve gas, they manufacture missiles and cluster bombs, they expose us to nuclear radiation and they make weapons of mass destruction. Reason enough to renounce science?
Some “ignorant” sages have opined that both religion and science have their source in God as the fount of all wisdom and knowledge. The two are twins, one imparting wisdom and the other, knowledge. Both are critical for the progress of man and have no mutual inherent contradiction. But all through history intellectuals have been at pains to put the two at odds with each other, making a new god out of science and shaming religion out of sight. One is reminded of the villain Iago, who disturbs the domestic bliss of Othello and Desdemona on the scientific evidence of the missing handkerchief.
While we condemn the dastardly killing of rationalist Dr. Dhabolkar, let us remember that believers have also been slaughtered in their thousands and millions for their belief by despots. The Roman emperors systematically exterminated many thousands of Christians, Hitler ruthlessly killed millions of Jews and Stalin executed thousands of Christians. Should we then, like Maoists, call for abolition of government? No, we only try to refine our systems of government.
A deeper reading of religious wars makes us perceive their real driving force not as religion but as politics or, more correctly, religious politics. That is why the modern Christian Church has wisely separated religion and politics and the one-time Holy Roman empire was dissolved and the papal states were given up in favour of the tiny independent state of Vatican.
Agreed that religion and politics make a deadly combination and they should be put asunder. But politics continues to use religion as a tool for its power games. So we have the Boko Haram’s Christian massacres in Egypt and some African countries. There is the Taliban imposing the Shariat law and female servitude. We have political parties in India instigating and organising religious riots. But we should not forget that so much humanitarian service is carried out by religious organisations. So it is not religion that has to be discarded but religious politics.
If believers are considered primitive in their thinking, they are in the good company of many great men and women whose thoughts are echoed by the nature poet, William Wordsworth, in his poem, The World is too much with Us. He laments that the modern, scientific man is out of tune with Nature. The great sights of Nature do not move him. “Great God! I’d rather be a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn ...” But perhaps poetry too, like religion, is childish for the atheist?
“There is no supernatural miracle that has withstood the scrutiny of science,” says Prof. Natarajan. If so, all that can be validly said is that science is baffled by the nature of miracles, and do not say that miracles do not exist. That would be intellectual honesty. To make doubtful conclusions is being less than scientific. Just because we have no clinching proof of the existence of living beings on other planets, do we declare that they do not exist at all?
You can’t issue from your judicial chair a habeas corpus order to produce God in your court. He is outside your jurisdiction. If you want to meet Him, you have to undertake a spiritual odyssey or do some out-of-the world investigative journalism. He is outside your coverage area, beyond space and time. You just don’t rule him out of existence like someone missing in action during war. To conclude, one is not too sure if fear is central or exclusive to religion. Even insurance companies refuse to include in their policy coverage the so-called “acts of God,” events beyond their control. And what about fears of crashing stock market and rupee? So then we are not quite ready for the “post-theistic society” — as yet.
(The writer is an assistant professor in a college. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)