what do i really believe in?


When it comes to religion, a lack of knowledge about the unknown has meant that I have come to classify myself as a sort of agnostic (as opposed to atheistic), but if you were to argue with me about God and rituals you’ll find I’m mostly just apathetic. I have been known to do rituals simply because they need to be done: it matters little to me that they are done at all; I can do them because they matter to others. My ‘religious beliefs’ are thus dynamic enough to be classified by more than one person as mere hypocrisy.

How and why I lost the absolute faith that characterized most of my childhood – I don’t know. Sometimes these things happen. A loss of faith (or a lack of understanding) in what rituals signify eventually means that religion itself starts to seem very arbitrary. Merely performing the rituals did not prove much to me, and not performing them made it that much harder to hold onto what faith I had left. Eventually, normal absolutes such as a religious basis for God became superficial.

Recently, however, events have happened to make me question my own agnosticism. There was this year’s avani avittam (related post still in progress), and the associated realization that the real depths of religion can only be understood by accepting everything about it completely. Hoping that faith is rejuvenated based on doing one set of rituals a year (no matter how sincerely) is not really doing much at all – indeed, it can seem hypocritical (as I’ve pointed out). Giving a way of life a real chance is the only way it can have a real effect. On the flip-side, my current apathy is based on the fact that blind faith does not hold up in my own scrutiny. Doing something just once a year for the sake of faith and assuming that the reason to do it will be found – and then finding none – has killed a lot of my faith. As cliched as it may sound, I need a reason better than ‘blind faith’ to accept religion completely again.

A second event, more recent, brought home to me the fact that all events are generally explained in one of a few ways: (1) a game of chance, (2) a series of pre-ordained events, (3) logical steps which led to a logical conclusion. However, the results of such events (whether fortunate or unfortunate) can defy any such explanation.

We can blame a mysterious ‘luck factor’ for the result – this effectively means we can only control so much of our own actions (for e.g. “Life is 99% effort, 1% luck” and so on). Alternatively we can explain it as the demonstration of a Higher Power, which also in a way curtails the limits of our own actions.

I tend to side with the former explanation. My logic runs thus: if my best efforts are put in,there is a high chance that luck favors me. Now, how is this different from believing in God? All too often, not getting what we want means we automatically deem ourselves undeserving. Or we conclude we didn’t ‘do enough for God’. And at this point I get pissed off, as I see this as escapism – you don’t want to take responsibility for your actions (or inactions). Conversely, getting what we want is attributed to God, and not enough credit is given to what we have personally done – a different kind of escapism. Not having an entity to blame it on seems to prevent this sort of escapism.

After this last event (yes, this so-called ‘event’ was not a good thing – and no, I don’t want to go into details right now), things have gotten murky. Luck favored me in one way, but not to the extent that the event did not happen at all. To my knowledge, I did everything I was supposed to do. It is not the first time that such an event has happened. In the earlier event, I could see a clear link between my own actions and the result. I can’t now. All I can see is that my so-called ‘luck factor’ has favored me in similar ways in both situations. Which somehow goes against the spirit of my rationalization.

It would be amazing to say that this last event has changed my life, more so when I take it in conjunction with what I realized during avani avittam this year. But I hate doing things the easy way. I really want start believing in God completely, forget all the ‘Higher-Power-is-only-possible’ crap, and somehow rediscover my latent faith. I can’t rationalize this course of action easily though. It seems as though I am trying to believe something just because I got lucky twice. Like I’m condoning every cliche in the book by letting one event change my life.

Starting from blind faith, I explored to the best of my ability what it really meant to me. It meant I rationally chose the path of agnosticism – I want to now rationally find a way to theism.

p.s. It is possible that all my arguments are not perfect, and I know they can seem hypocritical to a fault. It is possible I have not analyzed/presented this as best possible. Indulgence and understanding is appreciated, and debate is encouraged.


7 thoughts on “what do i really believe in?

  1. Vati

    I have seen this happening to many a person I have met in my life. To generalise we quite often see in movies how “some” happening makes the person believe in the hidden-super power. Not that they all live the rest of the life peacefully. I have read about GOD to be felt – just like one cannot see air but requires air for breathing and living. This is again questioned until the dawn of a day when it is slowly believed. I have found that there are lot of sources of the basis but most people do not have the time and inclination to fathom out the facts. But life goes on for ALL in its own way irrespective of efforts or luck or faith. Theist accepts the basis while atheist rejects the same – both for their own convenience. Can a present day schoolboy accept a life without calculators, cell phones, computers, internet etc ? But we all know it was there in the past. We can go on on…. but unless self-realisation with passion happens nothing can change.

  2. Galadriel

    All too often, not getting what we want means we automatically deem ourselves undeserving. Or we conclude we didn’t ‘do enough for God’.
    – this is not true. the only reason we pray to God when we haven’t gotten what we want is so that we can hope to fare better the next time the same thing happens. we don’t (or shouldn’t) blame ourselves for something that was beyond our control PROVIDED we have done everything that is in our control to the best of our abilities. that isn’t hypocrisy, it is actually a very logical train of thought if you think about it.

    if you did everything right, you worked really hard and yet you didn’t get what you expected, then wouldn’t you lose the motivation to even make the effort the next time around? but if you kept the faith that things will happen, maybe you were just out of luck/ it wasn’t the right time and so God will help you out because you believe that you deserve better then doesn’t it make it that much easier to believe that things will work out in your favor in the future? and wouldn’t you end up putting in perhaps the same or more effort to make sure that you achieve your desired results the next time?

    Conversely, getting what we want is attributed to God, and not enough credit is given to what we have personally done – a different kind of escapism.
    – again, this is a way to keep you grounded and not lose your head in your success so that you don’t become arrogant and overconfident and stop working hard the next time. if you are one of those who can keep themselves from going crazy and ruining their success by being arrogant, then congratulations, you’re the perfect human being. not all of us are like that. some of us need an external factor to attribute our success to, so that we can go about doing things right consistently. my mom told me that Mother Meera always said “if you want to achieve something, then you need to make 70% of the effort. then pray to me and I will take care of the remaining 30%.” doesn’t that make sense?

  3. Success and failure, much like accounting is a transaction. If someone gains, the other involved (living or non living) loses. If you happen to fail it was merely because your opponent was stronger or had a better control. If one meets an accident, it is merely because the driver was not paying attention to the road, or the natural forces (friction etc and not god) at the given moment acted the way they did. As for faith, it is the point where you stop questioning and do what is asked to. The concept of religion and god is optional and irrelevant and are only mere means to fall back on, till science finds a plausible, reproducible explanation to things yet inexplicable. Going by statistics, they have done more damage to the world than benefit.

  4. SEV

    @Vati: I’m coming to realize this.

    @G: Common tendency is to attribute both success and failure to God. This is not wrong, it just ends up becoming an escape route in my experience. Not getting what I believe I deserve, and not having a God to attribute it to, forces me to analyze my own efforts more thoroughly – so that I can do better next time. Given that God has not figured majorly in my reflections so far, I find it also tends to ground my analysis in more practical matters. As far as arrogance goes, again, it is a matter of keeping yourself realistic. Either way, arrogance eventually causes a fall – at the end of which you get up grounded anyway. I guess I’m saying that the more realistic I make myself, the better I work. And the more my ‘luck factor’ seems to make no sense.

    @Srini: You have essentially pointed out there exists a logical sequence of events that lead up to any incident. However, the result of this incident cannot always be explained like this. I repeat, I find it hard to believe I just got lucky twice. It goes against the sequence, it goes against logic. You refer to blind faith when talking about “doing what is asked”. I’m talking about faith grounded in logic. Yes, I believe such faith can exist. Religion and God are as irrelevant as you make them – just as they are as harmful as you make them. Maybe someday we will scientifically prove there is no God. But then science is limited by human knowledge – and I have always accepted that there may be powers outside our knowledge. Its all about your POV.

  5. I agree with you sawa that attribution of success and failure to god does create common escape route…not that I blame people for that but also at same time I guess faith in god to some people means something more beyond this point as well. Its a total different story that I don’t get it and I don’t think I ever will. For example ,religious people often argued with me that they pray to get the will power and energy to sustain the lows of life. For me an hour of good music does it ,not that I get will power or anything but it just helps me get on with life 😛 ,but if what those guys say is true than I guess they are really lucky enough to have something to fall back upon to get hold of their inner strength. For godless peon like me (and maybe even you) ,getting on with life and trying to do better the next time without bothering the so-called god is the only option 🙂

    PS. One of them also argued that he doesn’t have enough guts to not believe in god. That to me is pure hypocrisy ,more than what you classify yours as.

  6. Remember Anbe Sivam’s dialogue? “Nee/naan daan Kadavul” (you are/I am God).

    The concept of a Higher Power makes people think sanely in insane times. This holds mostly for those of us who find ourselves joining hands and praying fervently when no one’s around, requesting Divine intervention to alleviate some pain/provide a solution. Rather paradoxically the (ir?)rational act of praying-when-in-trouble helps people think clearly and face real-life situations with strength and equanimity. Whether this is hypocritical is highly debatable and I’m inclined to agree with you on this.

    I’m not so sure if we should be asking if this is hypocritical or not. At the end of the day, most human beings desire happiness and mental peace. If a ‘God’ helps them to the end…then I’m happy with ‘Him’ being the catalyst.

    I have never really ‘thought’ of a God in the zoo/anthropo-morphic sense when I pray occasionally. Its more like, “Hey Power! I’ve done almost everything possible within my area of control but I realize there are innumerable things over which I will never have control. But I have been taught to believe that good generally begets good. I have done good. So….please reciprocate…”

    And I guess that’s what you call Faith. Faith that most times things will take care of themselves if you’ve done your bit with integrity.

  7. SEV

    @Dhake: I wouldn’t equate music with God 🙂 But I get what you are saying. We appear to be in similar boats.

    @Hemant: That Faith is exactly what I have lost. As far as retaining that sanity goes, God has rarely figured in that equation for me. Indeed, I could argue talking with my missus does more than requesting any intervention for me. I repeat, losing something at a basic level makes it all the harder to rationalize while trying to find it. But that dialogue is a lot deeper that I first thought.

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