Ask a room full of people about their opinion on God or their relationship with him and chances are that the conversation would outlast your supply of alcohol for the evening. What I have gathered from inconclusive conversations and infinite observations of people’s behavior with respect to God is possibly worthy of a book not a mere post. But it is a good place to begin to structure the question for what it is worth. After all, none of us would go through life without ever thinking about this at least once to know in our heads as to
What is my relationship with God?
Some like Richard Dawkins have attempted to answer at least some aspects of this very subjective relationship, slotting them on a clear scale to determine our predilection from a theist to atheist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability)
So if you had no doubt about the existence of God you would be a pure theist, without any question that a whole lot of us struggle with for most of our conscious lives (or 1 on Dawkin’s scale) . At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you were sure that there was no such thing as a God you would be an atheist ( or 7 on the Dawkin’s scale). And the rest of us still trying/not trying to examine the role and relevance of God in the world, would fall somewhere in between on that scale, depending on our degree of involvement or disengagement on the subject.
Taking a cue from Dawkin, in this vast debate, I decided to take a stab at understanding the subject through three more questions of HOW, WHEN and WHY?
Now, each person in that party, irrespective of the amount of wine flowing in their blood, would tell you their version of HOW they know whether God exists or not. It is a great possibility that the phrase ‘ Spiritual not Religious’ would be done to death during these conversations. But yes, everyone who falls in between 1 and 7 on that scale, wonders about the possibility of a force that they could believe in. Whether they are trying to find the answer through rigorous rituals passed on to them through centuries, or seeking them through newer, more subtle tools of inquiry. Through visits to temples, shrines, mosques, churches or synagogues or through the polishing of their own souls in deep meditation. In prayers or in chants. Whatever our method, we are all seeking the same thing- a force/ or being that we have never seen/heard/touched but has far more power than has been invested in us or in other words- GOD.
When does someone start examining this relationship? I know I never started thinking about God in a conscious way till a couple of years ago. Not once through the words of the prayer ‘Our Father in Heaven’ I recited from rote daily in the school assembly, or the hymns that were sung in the school choir; nor once in any of the fasts, or stories from Hindu mythology that my mom would impose on us.
For me, none of it ever had to do with him. But, he was remembered in the complaints when grades were not up to my expectations in school and later as it turned out, life would follow a similar course. At one point, God was also who you requested, demanded or bribed for fulfilling worldly desires. He was also remembered in moment of helplessness, in the darkest of hours, when nothing tangible could bring peace or comfort. Of course, I learned with time that God was all of that and none of that. Yet, he never answered me in the way described in Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, and I really doubt that he does. To quote an extreme case scenario from America’s Drama series ‘Homeland’ where an atheist Nicholas Brody turns to Allah and becomes a devout Muslim in the face of extreme adversity as a prisoner of war in Iraq. Locked in a hole for eight years with little human contact, he turns to something whose existence he rigorously denied in regular life.
I have posed this question to many a atheists, as to where do they look for strength in their weakest moments, when they have negated the possibility of a larger force or the comfort of any faith?
All of the observations above point to one one obvious why. Why do we care about our relationship with him?
Is the concept of God the black hole where every question, that cannot be answered within the realm of our understanding, be dumped and labelled ‘God’s Will’? How else would we explain the unbearable cruelties, the ugliness, the unfairness that exist in our little lives and the world at large. Or is his existence mandatory to keep hope floating in some of us who aren’t strong enough to stop looking anywhere for reassurance? Why after all, are people flocking in millions to the doors of the ‘spiritual leaders’ around the world?
Of course I know, that in this lifetime, unless you are on any definitive extreme of that scale, you would endlessly fluctuate between those numbers, with new wisdom with new experiences. However, in my daily inquiries and conversations with what I believe to be my God, I know for a fact that the answer must be in the attempt.