On Religion: Faith vs. Rationality
It is unfortunate that I must present this viewpoint in writing, as the standards for writing today presume arguments in a logical form — the preferred choice of the rational faculties. My argument, however, is born out of feelings and an innate sense of understanding that I cannot logically derive. Unfortunately for many readers, that declaration itself is grounds to dismiss any value in this piece. I challenge you to try reading this with faith.
Emerson once said that self-trust is sticking to one’s conviction despite forces that try to muscle you aside. One must never subordinate their unique viewpoint to that of others. To embrace this transformation is to live “with nature in the present, above time.” I believe what Emerson was getting at was something very spiritual combining divinity and the self in a way that has never been done before.
Forget the idea of God for a second. Just focus your mind’s eye on space. Picture it. Imagine it. Let your wills and egos try to control, as they love to do. Inevitably they will surrender in futile defeat because space is infinite and the mind only wants finitude. The obsession with finitude is often a primary motivation for people to argue against God — a practice that is enhanced by religion.
Religion shifts its focus from both the self and God to the custom and tradition that go with it. People stop seeing God as something in their present and associate it with the past. For example, it is very difficult for someone to relate to a figure like Jesus as compared to someone they see on a daily basis. That person may be equally godly but religion distracts from the everyday man, and the present moment.
Due to the distance it puts between itself and individual man, the teachings of the religious institution are seen to be historic and almost mythical. Men may discuss or preach the stories of their holy books, but these anecdotes fail to penetrate them on a deeper level — they are only superficially connected with God. The consequence is a loss of the true power-potential in Emerson’s ideal of God. We lose the honesty of the lessons because these preachers are drawing upon the wonder of the story and not their own experiences. People get so used to this distance as the norm for their relationship, they completely lose out on access to infinite faith.
I find the argument of ‘narcissism’ leveled at God very humorous. Disbelievers claim that such a God could not be the self-absorbed being presented in holy texts. This argument, itself, comes from human beings’ own narcissism. We anthropomorphize God, not understanding that She tries to protect us from the harmful rebellious instinct that plagues us all and urges us to keep our center within faith — a much more suitable master than reason.
Why is faith a more suitable master than reason? Faith is better connected with our natural human empathy — an empathy that does not need reason’s judgment of right and wrong, but naturally understands the world, other humans and what it means to survive. Faith is the method by which we can revel in that glorious self-trust that Emerson advocates.
To atheistic scientists, I implore you to give a reason why science and God cannot be compatible. While the world is Her creation, is it not ours to discover through investigation, experimentation and the wonderfully elegant scientific method at the same time? God is just a name for something we can never fully comprehend with the mind. It’s the funny feeling you get when you see an old friend. It’s the childlike wonder one has when they envision the cosmos. When people viciously try to denounce God, they forget all the simple ‘goods’ that come with such an ideal. God, in Her best sense, is not religious but spiritual. God is much closer to the heart than the mind but ultimately beyond the heart as well. Religions, too, are not that different from each other. Moses, after all, is a hero in all texts — including the Qur’an.
I also find it funny that there is an inherent paradox in religious debates. People that contend their religion is the ultimate impose duality upon a concept that is very obviously beyond the binary. However, while politicians and extremist groups are more concerned with interests rather then truth, I make this declaration for the educated — the polished minds that still choose to mercilessly uphold one religion over another. If you don’t believe, you would still surely concede that upon Her hypothetical existence, She’d be ashamed. Isn’t it amazing that we have the ability to perceive a Creator? How does it matter whether we created Her, or She created us? Isn’t the beauty in such an ideal worth it purely for its own sake? Even if we created Her, could we not follow Her word at its highest level — a word of self-belief, faith, love, peace and trust? The infinitude of God is available to us all. Be not swayed by the biases of your rationality, and that ugly rebellious side of the will that sadistically enjoys argument over empathy. Feel Her divine power in nature, and in your actions. Use that power to act, and to better your world. Her perfection is infinite — let it shine through you.
Dhruv Chatterjee is a College senior from Kolkata, India.