The other day I came across a long discussion on a popular social media platform between an atheist and a believer. Both were devoutly fanatical and convinced to be able to “save” the other from damnation. Frankly, it was a very unnerving exchange.
These “shouting matches” have been raging forever in houses of worship, media outlets and have found a wider audience on the internet. This particular interaction made me recall a story a Buddhist monk told me a few years ago just outside a temple in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar. See photo.
“About 2,600 years ago a group of people congregated one morning in a remote village to listen to Lord Buddha, Gautama Siddhartha. A man stood up and asked the Buddha if there is God. Known for his long answers, this time he spoke emphatically however: ‘There is no God’. In the evening Lord Buddha spoke in a neighboring village and was asked by another person: ‘Is there God’. He answered: ‘Yes, there is God’. After the session was concluded a Bodhisattva who always accompanied Lord Buddha asked him why he had flip-flopped. He answered: ‘Why would I flip-flop? If you believe there is God, or if you believe there is no God, you believe in something you do not know. You believe this, the other believes that. What difference does it make? Everyone can believe whatever he wants whether or not it is based on facts'”.
Now, do I think this story is real? I don’t know, there is no way of establishing that. Yet it tells us more about ourselves than anything else.
This above mentioned social media discussion is more about classifying people in “good boxes” and “bad boxes”. But, as soon as you do that, you divide the world. Firstly, how did you become good? Where did you get the idea that you’re good ? Chances are you’ve compared yourself with other people based on color, sex, religion, origin, sexual preference and labeled them as bad. And, now you feel good and liberated.
You may ask where I stand on this issue. Is there God? For me it’s an absolute irrelevant question. More relevant would be for example to ask why we create God(s) or deities? India has over 300,000. Maybe both sides need to be honest about what we would expect to see if God(s) do(es) or do(es) not exist. What would we have reached? Certainly not the end of social injustice, discrimination, global warming and all kinds of misery we confront on a daily basis.