Quest Beyond Religion: Dr I.M. Singh; Konark Publishers, Delhi; pp 315, Rs 500.00
There are many who believe in the existence of God or a Creator. They are the theists (from the Greek theos, ?god?). Then there are the atheists who are non-believers. And finally there are the agnostics who are not sure whether there is a God or not and probably couldn'tcare less. And the debate whether there is or there is not a God has been going on since times immemorial.
In India there have been, there are and no doubt there will continue to be nastiks who do not accept the existence of God and have no use of Him. Dr I.M. Singh, an eminent physician belongs to this august fraternity. Dr Singh reminds us how, over the centuries man has exploited the concept of religion with sporadic ruthlessness for his political, social and economic ends. Understandably Dr Singh is opposed to religion. As he sees it, religious belief is passed on to individuals and communities on the cultural ideas extended from generation to generation. Religion, thus, tends to get accepted without challenge. In many interesting ways, he argues, the pre-occupation with one'sGod is so deeply etched on one'smind that despite social and spiritual ills, one is unable to take an interest in scientific alternatives to religion. And, as he further argues: ?It is because one'ssoul is mortgaged to God with docility and eagerness that a change or a revolution in thinking is hard to grasp.? But what has religion got to do with God who, surely, is above religion? The question of God'sexistence has nothing to do with the precepts whether of Islam or Christianity or the history which are a part of Hinduism.
Hinduism, incidentally surely must be one of the most misunderstood of all religions. According to Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan whom Dr Singh quotes, ?It (Hinduism) enjoins a strict code of practice. The theist and atheist, the sceptic and the agnostic may all be Hindus if they accept the Hindu system of culture and life…what counts is conduct, not belief.?
Dr Singh, born a Hindu, says that his disenchantment with God started when his childhood prayers remained unanswered?a very poor excuse. He then proceeds to demolish all the myths about God whether as propagated in Hinduism, Islam or Christianity, in the name of rationalism.
Would God cease to exist if one cannot accept the belief that Christ is the only son of God or that Mary gave virgin birth to him? Would again God be an anachronism if one does not accept certain tenets such as karma, rebirth and leela?
Do we have to give God a gender? The usual argument made by atheists is that God is the creation of man and not the other way around. Would God cease to exist if there was no visible creation? Would there be no God if there was no man or, more specifically, no intelligence to conceive him?
Dr Singh makes the surprising point that ?in general, the more uneducated a person, the greater is the belief in God?. If we pursue that argument, then the greatest disbeliever in God should be the most educated. This is reducing his argument to absurdity. Dr Singh quotes profusely from recent achievements in science to make the point that what is usually attributed to God has been achieved by scientists. He points out that the discovery of human genome and its implications to help us to control our genetic make up has immense significance not only for the future of mankind but also of the animal and vegetable kingdoms and hence man would be able to choose his own destiny. So where does God come in the picture?
According to Dr Singh it is not God or some unknown power that shapes the destiny of man but the ?unleashed power of the atoms?.
Actually, a French scientists way back in the fifties argued that life began when, by sheer coincidence, an organic cell was formed because of the interaction between electricity and the presence of nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen in the atmosphere. A charming explanation. If one understands the scientist aright all creation started with that first beginning of the organic molecule. As a thesis it is fascinating. It was not God who ?created? the universe, but an accident in chemical technology.
Indeed, reports Dr Singh, as recently as November 2002, Dr Craig Ventor, a genomic pioneer and Dr Hamilton Smith, Nobel Prize winning genetist in America created an artificial virus based on a real one in just two weeks. Furthermore, at Ventnor'sInstitute of Biological Energy the scientists bought ?commercially viable strands of INA, and using a new technology, coaxed them to form a duplicate of the genome of a Bacteriophage called phi X. Even more importantly the synthetic genome of the virus was planted into a cell when the virus started reproducing itself. Ergo, then we are asked to believe, if man can create a live virus would it be too long before man creates an artificial man to his own specification?
As Dr Singh puts it: ?The progress in physical sciences has also been gradually eroding the paradigm of God.? Obviously, man is now on his way to become God himself.
The book is aptly titled Quest Beyond Religion. To Dr Singh ?the continuing fascination with God is stressing the lapsed state of the human mind.? That sums up his entire thinking. God help him. Dr Singh insists that he will stick to his own thinking no matter if the majority in the world continues to believe in His Existence. And why shouldn'the? The Buddha makes no mention of God. But does that prove that God does no exist? But let there be no debate. God, if there is God, surely will understand.