FOUR THEORIES ON GOD’S EXISTENCE

By editor - 19.10 2017

There are shocking contrasts in this world; the reality of some swimming in opulence is incongruent with many others drowning in deprivation. No wonder people are confused about God’s existence. Over the centuries, four popular theories have developed on God. Theism This is a belief in the existence of a Supreme God and faith in His kindness despite all reversals and tragedies in one’s life.

A Theist has a personal, loving relationship with God, and trusts all His actions and wisdom in maintaining this world and all its inhabitants. A theist takes special effort to count his blessings; he cultivates gratitude to God, and accepts difficulties as sent by God to purify him and teach him some important lessons. Arthur Ashe’s tragedy- ‘Why Me?’ Arthur Ashe won the Wimbledon in 1975, and was ranked number one for some time in professional tennis circuit. In the early 1980’s he contracted HIV from a blood transfusion he received during a bypass heart surgery. When Ashe, who was known to be a devout Christian, publicly announced his illness in April 1992, his fans were shocked; how could God do this to such a nice human being.

A young fan wrote to him, “I am pained to see God mete out such injustice; you have always helped others and inspired thousands to be good human beings. Why you?” Ashe’s profound response reveals the mind-set of a true theist, a lover of God, “Each year around fifty million begin to learn to play tennis, and only half a million actually learn to play the game. Of them, less than 50,000 make it as professional tennis players. And amongst them only a thousand odd make it to one of the grand slams. Amongst these, only fifty make it to Wimbledon, and of them only four reach the semi-finals and only two make it to the finals. And it’s only one player- the winner- who holds the trophy proudly. And I was one such rare, fortunate amongst the millions. If I didn’t ask God then, ‘Why me’, how can I ask this question now?” Deism- God is the creator but has no control Deism is a belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, who created this world, yet He neither intervenes in its functioning nor does He interact with the humans living on this planet. The concept became popular amongst the philosophers and scientists during the 17th and 18th century with the discovery of may natural laws like the law of gravity, laws of motion and the differential calculus. Sir Issac Newton, a great believer in God, propounded how this universe which is like a perfect machine created by a super intelligent designer follows definite laws.

He compared God to a clock maker who makes a clock according to perfect laws, and sets it into motion. Once made, the clock simply follows the laws, and continues to function without the intervention of the clockmaker. Meanwhile the scientists found evidence for existence of definite laws in the universe, yet through their limited, material methods they couldn’t ‘see’ God within this universe.

Hence they concluded that God is indeed a super intelligent being who has perfectly created this cosmos to follow rigid laws, and now the world doesn’t need His direct intervention any more. Although this philosophy certainly glorified the intelligence and greatness of God as the Supreme Law maker, it nevertheless showed God in a poor light; as a helpless onlooker who could do nothing once the universe was set into motion. Besides, in this school of thought there was no scope for a personal relationship with God, and He had no presence or meaning in one’s life. The problem of evil – Is God helpless? Harold Kushner in his bestselling ‘Why bad things happen to good people’ (1981) declares God is helpless in the face of evil of this world. A Prominent American Rabbi, Kushner, authored this popular book following the death of his teenage son from the rare premature aging disease called Progeria.

Kushner wonders aloud in his work if God who is all-powerful is also all-merciful. He reasons that God couldn’t possess both qualities because there is so much suffering in this world, and if God is indeed all-powerful, why is He unable to remove this suffering? Kushner concedes that God is certainly all- merciful and loving, yet He lacks ability to help all His creatures. This is seen by the fact that there is undeniable, all-pervading suffering in this world. In essence Kushner gives full marks to God for being kind and merciful, but sympathizes with the ‘poor fellow’ for being helpless in front of the onslaught of evil in this world.

Taking responsibility for our suffering The Vedic understanding of evil, which many like Kushner are unaware of, places the responsibility of suffering on the individual soul. God is not the direct cause of our suffering, it’s we who have misplaced our free will, and decided to come to this material world to enjoy and suffer independently of God. On hearing this principle, many accuse God of giving us the free will in the first place, and thus they hold him responsible for all our suffering. 

It’s like accusing the parents for giving good facilities to the child which the boy misuses. If the child was not given good food, a nice school to go, and a decent pocket money, the parents would be accused of abuse, but if they do give these conveniences and the child choses to waste them, are the parents to be blamed for giving the benefits! Similarly it’s clearly a catch-22 situation for God; damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The fact that God has given us a free will is a cause for celebration; we can choose to end the cycle of suffering in this material world and go back to the kingdom of God.

Yet we chose to suffer life after life in this miserable material world, and blame God for giving us the choice. If he hadn’t given us the choice, we would have blamed God for being so authoritarian and cruel. The good news for Harold Kushner is that the Lord is kind and powerful, both. Although we have chosen to be away from Him, He doesn’t forget us. He comes as an incarnation, and gives us scriptures like Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam and also sends His representative, prophets and messiahs to help us. Thus He is Supremely merciful, and also completely powerful to take us out of this material existence. The Supreme Lord confirms this in the Bhagavad Gita. “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.” (Bhagavad Gita 4.7) Atheism Atheism is the belief or theory that God does not exist. With the progress of science, the scientists became more concerned with the laws of the universe than the creator of the universe and its laws.

Although Deism acknowledged God as the creator, by propounding that the laws of nature are independent of God’s control, His connection with this universe was removed. Then with Darwin’s theory of evolution, God’s connection from life in this universe was also removed. Darwin emphasized that there was a ‘natural selection’ and ‘survival of the fittest’ that caused the evolution of species, and it wasn’t God after all who created life and species in this planet. And today the scenario is if you mention ‘God’ in scientific circles, you’d be accused of being un-scientific. While some scientists do acknowledge that there is an intelligent designer, and a divinity in this creation, they fail to see how this ‘divinity’ or ‘intelligence’ interacts with His creation; since the material methods can’t help one see God, they deny His existence in our lives.

Thus for all practical purposes, even if some scientists talk of superior intelligence, they defy God’s laws and cut themselves off from His divinity. Since they lack a personal, loving relationship with God, they find no reciprocation from God or any tangible experience of God. Hence they turn to be atheists; they declare, “God doesn’t exist for me” Confusion-ism With the rising influence of the ‘four bearded murders’ of God in the late 19th and early 20th century, it was believed that in a few decades, religion would cease to exist.