“Steve Grand (in his book, “Creation: Life and How to make it” ) points out that you and I are more like waves than permanent ‘things’……What we see of the real world is not the unvarnished real world but a model of the real world, regulated and adjusted by sense data – a model that is constructed so that it is useful for dealing with the real world. The nature of that model depends on the kind of animal we are. A flying animal needs a different kind of world model from a walking, a climbing or a swimming animal…”
This is a quotation from the book, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. This reads suspiciously like the theory of Maya of Shankaracharya, the great sage and commentator of Vedas (10th century), who said that this world is an illusion. The example given is: “a rope looks like a rope in the dark. ” The world is not what it looks like. He also said the essence of things is the same – God, who takes different forms and shapes to suit the different situations. God is like water which can become steam and ice at different temperatures. Both-biology and Hindu philosophy-seem to agree that the world is an illusion.
Dawkins, a well-known biologist and an author of many books, takes a critical look at the concept of God and religion from the rational and scientific way. He states that ” any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution” rather than ” there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it including us.”
Dawkins refutes the three arguments of Thomas Aquinas (Unmoved mover, Uncaused cause, cosmological arguments) thus : All the three arguments rely upon the idea of regress and invoke God to terminate it, he says. It is unwarranted to assume that God himself is immune to regresss, he adds. He also says that there is no reason to ascribe omnipotence, omniscience, goodness to him, even if we assume there is a God.
A reading of the book, An Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhamsa Yogananda and the life of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, who are almost contemporaries of our times as both of them lived in the late 19th and the middle of the 20th century, would have dispelled some of the doubts of the author about God. All mystics, Hindu, Muslim and Christian, have had the experience of God. Scientists have dismissed their experiences as hallucination, illusion and even madness rather then practice the regimen of mystics or yogis and understand it.
Darwin’s evolution of life
The most important point that Dawkins makes in the book is that Darwin’s theory of the origin of life, evolution of life, natural selection and the survival of the fittest explains the complexity of life – plant, animal and human – in the world. While the ‘creationists’ in the West deny the validity of Darwin’s theory, Hindus have no problem in accepting it. It is a part of the divine scheme. It is not a negation of God but an affirmation of God. Microcosm and macrocosm are as interrelated like a drop of water in the ocean or a spark to the flame or fire. Drops of water can create a ocean and a spark can create a flame.
Hindus believe in dashavatara (ten incarnations of God) to establish righteousness – The Fish, The Tortoise, The Boar, The Midget, The Man-lion, Man with the Axe, The Perfect Man, The Philosopher-King, The Liberator and the Destroyer. These incarnations symbolise the evolution of life. The ten incarnations could be interpreted as the evolution of life from conception to death – various stages of life..
Dawkins says that religion provides consolation, comfort, fosters togetherness and satisfies the yearning to understand why we exist. He then explains that ‘the irrational religion’ could be a by-product of ‘the irrationality mechanism’ built into the brain for falling in love as both are addictive. He gives the example of moth flying into a candle light mistaking it to be a moon or a star. The author seems to believe that life is all about survival of the species. Then, how do we explain the creativity of man – art, architecture, literature etc. ?
The author says that the moral sense seen among the animals as well and states that it is rooted in our evolutionary past. Moral grammar, like language, flies beneath the radar of our awareness, says he. Morality may be ingrained in us but it has been sharpened and moulded by the religion we follow and the society we live in. However, all religions and societies have some moral values which are universal-love, brotherhood, restraint on desire, respect for others etc. Unfortunately, some religions have restricted them to the followers of their own faith, not to all mankind. This amounts to restricting and belittling God and his universality. This is the main reason for the conflict of religions and religious wars. Hinduism is the only religion that believes in universal brotherhood irrespective of faith, and it accepts, nay respects all paths which seek to search for truth including science.
While denouncing the crimes of Hitler and Stalin in the name of insane and unscientific eugenics and, dogmatic and doctrinaire Marxism, Dawkins adds, ” Individual atheists may do evil things but they don’t do evil things in the name of atheism.” This ignores Marx’s observation that the religion is the opium of the people and the suppression of religion in Communist countries. History will not forget the crime of the atheist regimes of the Soviet Union and the Communist China of killing millions of peasants in the name of building an utopian society.
Zeitgeist (The spirit of the times)
The society does not depend on religion to find what is right and what is wrong, says the author, and adds that the slavery is sanctioned in the Bible. The rights of women have been denied by many religions. He says that society changes its attitude to right and wrong with a mysterious consensus which Germans call zeitgeist (The spirit of the times). He cites the example of women’s suffrage which was adopted in USA and the European countries in the 20th century.
Zeitgeist almost has the same meaning and significance as Yugadharma (The law of the Times). It is an extension of the Hindu concept of dharma-that which sustains society and the individual. That is why family planning and choice were not big issues in India. Universal suffrage, periodical elections and the success of democracy itself in a poor country with a large illiteracy are the results of the sense of dharma (what is right and what is wrong) among the people of India.
The role of religion
The Bhagavad Gita, The Ten Commandments and The Sermon on the Mount have helped people grow from the animal instincts of survival to the humanistic ideals of equality and fraternity. However, the followers of religion have not lived up to these ideals and the religions are now full of rituals which obscure and overshadow the main purpose of all religions-to promote brotherhood of mankind. The time has come for religious leaders to review their religious practices and sift grain from the chaff. However, we cannot throw the baby with the bath-water. We cannot throw the ladder through which the humanity climbed to a civilised life.
Richard Dawkin has written a scholarly book from the point of view of a scientist which should make all theists to re-examine their religious life and throw away what is not relevant and useful for the progress of the mandkind. Religions have to reinvent themselves to suit the present age.