Fr. Babu Thattil CMI, New Age Islam
needs something or the other to believe in—a deity, a power or maybe an
ideology. Many of us believe in an All-Powerful Being called in English as
It is a
human tendency that people who share a particular understanding of God gather
together and form a religious sect or community. They develop strong bonds
among themselves, based on their beliefs, dogmas, laws, customs and practices.
They are often proud of their own religion, leaders and mode of belief and
practice. They try to keep all those do not belong to their group at a distance
or else seek to incorporate them into their group, which they believe is the
only one on the right path. Along with this, they sometimes tend to look at
others with suspicion or even abhorrence and contempt, which can, on occasion,
turn into conflict and even war.
go the extreme of wanting to promote their own belief system to the exclusion
of all others and even at the cost of their extermination. Many conflicts
through human history have been driven by this monopolistic urge to establish a
group’s ‘faith’ or power over others. In such cases, the ultimate purpose is
actually to foster the group’s collective ego, which they conveniently
attribute to God.
God is beyond
Our Limited Understandings
Ultimate or Absolute, God is beyond our human understandings of Him. But,
despite this, people try to confine God to their own limited understandings.
Since these understandings are a product of human reasoning and interpretation,
they are different and diverse. Because of this, different groups of
religionists often come into conflict, each believing that their particular
understanding of God is the only valid one, or the best one. When we try to
limit the power of God within the narrow confines of a particular religious
tradition or a particular understanding of God, egoism rises, communal egos
clash and this leads to conflict. This is a consequence of a very narrow and
conception of God.
however, is that God, the Ultimate Power who created the universe and still
continues to control and protect it, cannot be limited within the boundaries of
any religion, ideology, sect or community. Being the Supreme Power, He is and
must be beyond any such limits.
and there can be, only one Ultimate and Supreme power, and we all are only His
children. How can God, being the creator of the entire universe, be the God
only of a particular community, religion or sect? This is simply impossible!
Growing in our knowledge of the immensity of God can help us grow out of
limited and self-limiting understandings of God that have been used through
history to foment conflict between religious communities. And one way we can
grow in our appreciation of God’s immensity is to reflect on the immensity of
the universe, which is God’s creation.
on God’s Creation
on the universe, its size and its complexity can help us realise that the God
who has created the universe and is sustaining it is just one, that He is the
same God of all—Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and everyone else. To
think of that there is a God of one particular community and a second God of
another community and so on is completely false!
on the immensity of God’s universe can also help us realise our own nothingness
in comparison. This, in turn, can help religious groups understand that they
need to be more humble in the claims that they sometimes make about God and
their particular understandings about Him.
Mindboggling Facts about God’s Universe
known object in the universe is light. It travels at a tremendous speed of 3,
00,000 kilometers per second! In one minute there are 60 seconds, in a day
there are 86000 seconds, and in one year there are 3, 15, 36,000 seconds. So, in one year, light travels a
distance of 94, 60,80,00,00,000 kilometers that is, approximately 10 trillion
kilometers! This distance is known as one light year.
light of this, consider these facts: The star nearest to Earth is the Sun. The
Sun is located at a distance of around 149,600,000 kilometers from Earth, and
light takes 8 minutes and 20 seconds to travel from the Sun to Earth. That may
not seem much time. But did you know that the distance between Earth and the
star closest to it after the Sun, which is called as Alpha Centauri A, is about
4.22 light years—that is, around 4.22 X 10 trillion kilometres!
some more amazing facts! The Sun and its planets, including Earth, together
form our solar system. This solar system is located in a galaxy known as the
Milky Way. It is believed that there are 100– 400 billion stars in this galaxy
alone and that there are more than 100 billion galaxies in this universe!
also this fact: Our Sun is one of the smallest stars. Yet it has 8 planets,
including Earth. Other stars definitely can have more planets that the Sun
does. If we assume an average of ten planets for each star, how many planets
could there altogether be in the universe? The figure may be around 400x109x100x109x10
(400 billion X 100 billion X 10)! Again, this is a figure far beyond our
Milky Way, the galaxy where our solar system is located, the average distance
between the nearest stars is about 5 light years, or 45 trillion kilometers. On
this basis, the size of the Milky Way may be calculated as 400 billion x 45
trillion kilometres! And that may be the approximate size of our galaxy alone.
Remember, there are billions of other galaxies in the universe! How immense,
then, must the whole universe be! And do keep in mind that the universe is
the closest known galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy is the Canis Major Dwarf
galaxy. It is located at a distance of
236,000,000,000,000,000 kilometers (25,000 light years) from the Sun. If this
is the distance between our Sun and the nearest galaxy to ours, can you imagine
the distance between us and the farthest galaxy in the universe? Even if light
travels several trillion years it may not reach from our galaxy to the farthest
universe is so immense, how immense must God, its creator, be!
What is the
size of Planet Earth? Its circumference is only 40,075 kilometers and its
diameter just 12,760 kilometers. Does this Earth have any real significance, in
terms of size, in the universe?
imagine that a truckload of sand is deposited in an empty space. Can you
calculate how many tiny pieces of sand the heap contains? It sounds impossible,
but one simple way to find out is to take a gram of sand and count the number
of particles it contains. Then, measure the weight of the truckload of sand in
grams and multiply this figure by the number of particles in one gram of sand.
This will give you the approximate number of sand particles in the sand-heap.
consider this: Does a tiny particle of sand have any significance in a huge
truckload of sand? No, not at all! How many particles of sand are carried away
by the wind or by vehicles that pass over the sand-heap and no one bothers
about them! In terms of size, if we take the entire universe to be a giant
truckload of sand, the Earth is just a miniscule sand particle or even less!
The Earth is thus not even a tiny speck in this immense universe!
the Earth does not have any significance, in terms of size, in the enormous
universe, what do you think is the real significance of just one individual on
the Earth—you or me or anyone else? Yes, you probably guessed right! We are
actually almost nothing at all! But yet, with our individual egos and communal,
ethnic, religious and national
superegos, we think that we are the centre of the universe! Individuals
and communities think they are the best of all!
however is that we are actually insignificant creatures in this huge universe.
With the advancement of science, man feels that he can do everything and attain
anything. But the truth is that we are unable to control the power of the
nature, especially when it becomes violent. We are absolutely helpless before
things like earthquakes, tsunamis, tectonic movements, and even the rain! Yet,
we consider ourselves as something very great! We want the whole world to go
ponder on the mindboggling immensity of the universe, which reflects the power
of God Almighty, its creator, we may realise how limited and limiting some of
our erroneous and divisive views about God are.
that there is only one, enormously powerful God, only one humanity and only one
life for everyone. We need not stupidly try to ‘protect’ God by killing our
fellow men in God’s name. The true way to serve God is by respecting the life
of all human beings, no matter what their religion, ethnicity or nationality,
and by respecting the life of all other of God’s many creatures too.
Fr. BabuThattil CMI, a Catholic priest with many
years’ experience in educational field as principal is presently Associate
Director of Vidyavanam Ashram, an interfaith Christian ashram in Bangalore.
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