Asif Merchant, New Age Islam
23 May 2019
Is there a
God, or is there no God?
be denied that wherever we look, it is always possible to find a pattern. The
arrangement of leaves on a branch, the way fruits are designed, the human body,
the other animals, in fact, whatever you want to study. In addition, we have
the laws of Physics which always succeed in predicting various phenomena, and
when they don’t, it is possible to find out why, or if necessary, work out
where the law went wrong, and eventually correct the laws. How has all this
come about? There appears to be a Grand Design for the entire Universe. How do
we explain it?
approach is to postulate a ‘Creative Entity’ which is responsible for all this.
The next step would be to try and find out more about this ‘Creative Entity’.
The most common approach is to call it ‘God’, or Allah, Bhagwan, Jehovah, or
any other name. Even this would be okay, but now, in addition to the name,
various properties are assumed as being essential to the Creative Entity. It is
called ‘All-knowing’, ‘Good’, ‘Just’, capable of interfering in earthly matters
in response to supplications from believers, rewarding or punishing humans
after they die, etc.
these are essential to the original postulate, but still, these are deemed as
most important. Religions are made, and people are willing to go to war to
uphold their ideas about the Creative Entity. I don’t occur to most people that
these ideas are limited to the Earth, which is negligible even in the solar
system. Yet we expect the ‘Creator of the Universe’ to be concerned about them.
Such ideas are based more on hope that this is what the Creative Entity is,
rather than a rational approach. If you think about it, most of these ideas
unconsciously assume a flat Earth as the centre of the Universe. People point
upward and say ‘God’. They speak of ‘the Heaven above’. It is this flat Earth
which is believed to be the centre of the Universe, with Heaven above and Hell
below, though most would indignantly deny that they believe the Earth is flat.
the Grand Design, one only needs the Creative Entity, which formulated the laws
of Physics and instigated the Big Bang. Everything else, in the entire
Universe, would evolve in time. I have deliberately spoken only of the laws of
Physics, ignoring other branches of Science because when you come down to
basics, everything depends on the laws of Physics.
If what I
have just written is true, what happens to the teachings of the various
Prophets? Was Jesus wrong? Was The Holy
think so. They had a Message, and that should be seen as being more important
than the ideas of sin, heaven, or hell which dominate religious thinking. I
think they were attempting to present the idea of civilisation. This was
necessary, as populations increased, and there was more interaction between
different cultures. What is known as Globalisation now. As populations
increased, social reforms became necessary to reduce exploitation of the
deprived, and of the women. Maybe the prophets were influenced by their early
upbringing into bringing the idea of God into what they were trying to achieve.
Or maybe they were deliberately employing a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to make
people obey. However, if you think about it, whatever they taught about how to
live, does not need any God. The emphasis was always on living a just life,
respecting different opinions, etc., all with the aim of achieving a way in
which many people could live and work together in peace.
was more direct about this. He said that there is no need to worry about the
nature of the Creator. What is required is a life devoted to peace and justice.
Quran has over seven hundred references to the Universe, and believers are
exhorted to study this. No answers are given, but the command is to go even to
far off places in search of knowledge of the Universe. Ideas about heaven and
hell are not written in the Holy Quran with so much emphasis. Nor is there so
much about sin.
think about it, what we call sins are actions that only affect human life on
the planet Earth. They do not affect the Universe in any way. Surely it needs a
highly inflated opinion of ourselves and this Earth to believe that actions
which are only related to human life can be of any importance to ‘The Creative
Entity’. They have importance to us because they help us live together in large
groups with minimum conflicts among ourselves.
This is what we mean when we speak of civilized living.
civilisational aspect of all religions should have been enough to eliminate
religious disputes. When there is a willingness to agree to disagree where is
the chance of religious conflicts? Unfortunately, this has not happened.
religions have come to be dominated by professionals – the clerics. These
people have managed to acquire a monopoly on the interpretation of the
teachings of the prophets. To maintain this monopoly, they have invented various
rituals that all believers have to follow in order to acquire merit which will
ensure them a place in heaven. The Clerics have managed to convince their
followers that the most important part of living is salvation and a place in
heaven. They claim that only they know the secret of achieving this. The
different rituals guarantee that religions will always succeed in dividing
An essential part of rituals is the Holy
Language, which most clerics don’t understand, and very few believers
understand, but which gives a feeling of holiness and mystery. Perhaps a
nearness to whatever god they worship. Since the holy languages are all
different, this works as one more device to keep people divided. The distortion of the noble aims with which
the Prophets came before the people is complete.
a reformer’s ideas has always occurred. Also the deification of the reformer.
The reformer’s civilisational ideas are replaces by miracles, and the sabotage
approach to religion would concentrate on the civilisational ideas expressed in
various religions. With so much literacy, we are exposed to ideas about living
even from non-religious sources. All these are part of our heritage, and we
should make full use of the ideas available to us. Our own minds can guide us
along the right path. There is no need to subordinate our intelligence to any
so-called religious authority. In fact, Muslims believe that the Prophetic line
ends with the Holy Prophet. Maybe it is for the same reasons that I have
suggested. When there is access to so much thinking by various intellectuals
all over the world, there is no need for a human claiming to be Divinely
Inspired. We should be guided by our own judgment about a just society is
are gifted with consciousness, it should be natural for us to want to know more
about this fascinating thing called life, and the wonderful Universe we find
ourselves in. Instead of worrying about Heaven and Hell, we should try to
discover more about ‘The Creative Entity’ and ‘The Grand Design’.
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