Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Analysing Spinoza's Conundrum: If the Topic of God Arises, Religion Cannot Be Far Behind

By Sumit Paul, New Age Islam 14 December 2022 We Do Not Question The Scriptures. Who Wrote Them? What Special Qualifications Did They Have To Contend That They Were The Chosen Instruments Of God? Who Has Validated Their Assumptions? ------ What's incomprehensible today, does not mean that it shall continue to remain unexplained even after thousands of years. Human intelligence is never stuck at one point like a needle of the clock that has stopped working, though there's little doubt that in the realm of religion and god, the evolution of intelligence and insights often hits a cul de sac. Benedict Spinoza's god, translated from Dutch by Edmund Elter Let's assess and analyse this famous quote, often termed as Spinoza's conundrum. Going back into history or mythology, the Greeks believed that Zeus lived on Mount Olympus. Then one day Man climbed Mount Olympus. So, god could not possibly dwell where Man could reach. So, he moved further away. The Egyptians believed that their god Ra lived in the sun; then Man realized that our sun was just a minor star, and god gradually retreated beyond boundaries that could be physically defined. We humans actually are so full of ourselves and have an in-born desire to know everything and to control everything. We are loath to admit that there are certain things we cannot explain, so we ascribe them to god. A study of human history would reveal that over the centuries, as our knowledge of the physical laws that govern the Universe has increased, we have attributed less and less to god as there has been less that we cannot explain. But one thing that we are not able to accept is that once we die it is kaput, the end, there is no afterlife and no re-birth. This is where god comes in very handy and all that goes with him; heaven, hell, judgment day, retribution etc in other words- perpetuation of our existence even after death. The earth is the third rock from the sun, an insignificant star, on the fringes of an ordinary galaxy among billions of others and we would like to believe that the humans that inhabit our planet are special! Whenever the topic of god arises, then religion cannot be far behind. Has it ever occurred to any of us that whereas we humans have consistently updated our understanding of all that happens on our planet, validated them through scientific investigation and discovery, we still continue to blindly accept the veracity of religious scriptures written more than two thousand years ago. Not just that , we have also delegated interpretation of these scriptures to pundits and clerics who want to control how we live our lives, based on what someone put down in writing centuries earlier. We do not question the scriptures. Who wrote them? What special qualifications did they have to contend that they were the chosen instruments of god? Who has validated their assumptions? Today, human knowledge is expanding so quickly, that even school textbooks become outdated in a decade and have to be revised/re-written. But our scriptures - nobody dares to question them. Isn't there a disconnect here? Human civilization has progressed because of the inquiring nature of the human mind, our ability to experiment, to consistently search for an easier and more efficient way of doing things. But when it comes to religion, our minds literally stop functioning; we refuse to even consider questioning its postulates. Why? Is it because we are afraid of divine wrath, or is it the fear of ostracism by the community? A study of history will show that maximum wars have been fought and the most innocent human lives have been lost because of religion, different gods, different faiths, and different perceptions. Is this not strange (if not foolish) considering that there is still no incontrovertible evidence that god exists! As an aside, till now, except for Buddhism, which is an atheistic religion, all other faiths (including the atheistic Jainism) believe in hell and heaven. The reason being, all scriptures aver that hell and heaven do exist. But does this outlandish belief gel with the innate nous all humans are endowed with? It's time to pitchfork this innate intelligence and come to the conclusion that the imaginary hell and heaven are mere mental states and have no physical existence. Agreed, even an atheist has his/her limitations in perceiving and comprehending a number of phenomena just like a believer is full of silly and stubborn self-assurance. Therefore, human intelligence needs to evolve constantly till it gets all the answers. There mustn't be any let up until this profound mission reaches its logical end. ---- A regular columnist for New Age Islam, Sumit Paul is a researcher in comparative religions, with special reference to Islam. He has contributed articles to the world's premier publications in several languages including Persian. URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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