By Sajad Ahmad
Is there a God? Thus goes the title of a small treatise written by a famous western thinker, Bertrand Russell, who tries to show the “fragility” of the existence of God. Russell is akin to a ship in a deluge, which lurches from atheism to agnosticism. His dilemma can be gauged from his own words: “As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an “Agnostic”, because I do not think that there is a “conclusive argument” by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street, I think that I ought to say that I am an “Atheist”, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the ‘Homeric Gods’.”
Such intellectual tendencies were prevalent especially among the Occidents after the Renaissance. After the Renaissance, the ideas and perspectives pertaining to all walks of human life — be it pure intellectual thinking, restructuring of social institutions or outlining the road map for an ideal world — went through a paradigm shift. Of all social compartments and institutions, religion was bruised. All religious teachings and values were desanctified and defiled, and religious authority challenged. It seems that Nietzsche’s “God is dead” was coming alive and realised pragmatically.
Since the concept of God is the nucleus of all religious theology, it was rapidly replaced by the ‘man-centered’ philosophy. If the atrocious behavior of the nobility in European society is to be blamed for paving the way for revolutionary sentiments, the clergy headed by a distorted Christian theological episteme is not less significant in providing a rich source for irreligiousness or anti-God ideas. And this was due to its inability to offer an exhaustive and comprehensive roadmap which could prove to be a panacea for spiritual and material progress and advancement of the people. The religious leadership proved to be instrumental in augmenting the suffering and miseries of the people. In such a situation, the European elite began to rethink the contours of thought whose strings were connected to a God-centered notion.
Deteriorating conditions of people and society further added fuel to the fire. The European intellectual ship found the idea of a merciful God quite contrary to the prevalent miserable situation of mankind. Russell maintains, “A man who commits a murder is considered to be a bad man. An omnipotent Deity, if there be one, murders everybody. A man who willingly afflicted another with cancer would be considered a fiend. But the creator, if He exists, afflicts many thousands every year with this dreadful disease. A man, having the knowledge and power required to make his children good, chose instead to make them bad, would be viewed with execration, but God, if He exists, makes this choice in the case of very many of His children.”
The failure of such thinking lies in abdicating the fundamental principle of the meta-narrative of life i.e. the purposefulness of life. Allah (SWT) says, “He who created death and life so that He may put you on trial, which of you is best in deeds.” Thus the scheme of human life is required to pass through a test. The entire world and all it contains proves to be a source of that test. Whatever man attains or is deprived of in this examination hall (worldly life), his health or disease, to be born in a slum or in a palace, his being either a slave or a master etc is just “a means of the test”. He is left with ample choice to decide his own fate. His efforts are going to be the basis of eternal bliss or unending damnation.
If the concept of an other-worldly life is done away with, then the entire domain of human affairs has to be believed to be an interplay of unjustified blind forces. But such a notion ceases to be compatible with the all-organized and superbly fashioned world. Every particle of the cosmos exhibits a baffling legacy of harmony and masterly order and points to the purpose of its creation. So, how can the ‘cream and crown of creation’ i.e. Man, be purposeless?
Thus, the denial existence of God can be intellectual entertainment, but loses ground when it comes to practical life. A plethora of theological and philosophical explanations have been prescribed throughout history about fortunes and misfortunes of human life, but nothing parallels the concept of “test and trail”.
This brings every strand into complete harmony and defines the music of life. It neither disappoints the poor nor annoys the rich, it neither slanders ugliness nor worships beauty, it neither approves of austerity nor disapproves prosperity, it neither glorifies masters nor damns slaves; it sweetly declares that the entire stage is set to check the performance of the characters in the drama of life.
Thus, the multi-dimensional, multiplicity of human conditions and affairs arranged in variable forms makes me admit: Yes, there is a God.
—The writer has a MA in Arabic and sociology