WHAT IS RELIGION? DOES GOD EXIST?

Words like Religion, Love and Peace look very simple in our lives. All people know about them. But what looks simple may not be easy to define. I realized it when a school girl asked me about Religion.

Once after my speech in Shri Pramodbhai Kanailal Desai School at Kim, near Surat to the students and their teachers a teenage girl asked me a simple question during our question-answer session: “What is religion?”  Then I realized that it was not easy to answer the question. All the same, I told the students who were listening to me very attentively: “To me religion means our relationship with God and with our fellow human beings. This relationship helps a person to walk in the path of love, peace, justice, forgiveness and service according to his/her conscience.”

Perhaps no one may object to this my simple definition of religion. My listeners, the boys and girls did not raise any objection. But I was not fully satisfied with my definition of religion. But the ideas and the understanding of the boys and girls sitting in front of me were certainly different from mine. For instance, when I use the word ‘Bhagavan’ for God my understanding of the word means Jesus Christ who lived on this earth some 2000 years ago as love-personified, as Son of God the Father. But for the boys and girls ‘Bhagavan’ word could mean ‘Rama’, ‘Krushna’ or any other god of their choice and understanding of God.

Then, I told them that Religion means relationship of men and women with God and with other fellow human beings.  But people have different types of relationship with God and other human beings. So the understanding of relationship could be different from person to person. Hence there could be question about what type of relationship which I spoke about.

Personally speaking God means to me God the Father – Creator of human beings and of the entire universe. So human beings are all equal as children of one and the same God the Father. In my relation with God, I consider God as a loving friend who takes care of me and sustain the entire creation. So my relationship with God is one of friendship. But I know from my experience that many people have a very different relationship with God. People keep a variety of relationship with God like that of father and son, giver and seeker, Guru (teacher) and disciples, Judge and criminal, autocrat and subject, master and slave, lord and servant, Police and thief.

A person’s behaviour is according to his/her relationship with God. Children in forming their relationship with God usually follow their parent’s model.

Parents, teachers and elders keep their personal relationship with God according to their idea of God. Some people like me keep very friendly relationship with God as a very loving and merciful Father. Those who keep relationship of friendship with God are not afraid of God. But those who consider God as a cruel judge, fear God like thieves and criminals. They can never put their trust in a loving and merciful God.

When I spoke these things a teenager got up and asked me a question about the existence of God. He said that sometime back in his school Shri Ramanbhai Pathak gave them a lecture. Pathak Sahib is a rationalist atheist. So Pathak sahib told the children that there was no God. Temples and priests in the name of God and religion are cheating people for their selfishness. God does not exist. The teenager who asked me the question wanted to know what I say about Pathak Saheb’s denial of God.

I know Patak Saheb as we have exchanged our books. In fact I met him in his home a few weeks before his death. He was in a hopeless state of mind in his sick bed. But I did not expect any question from the school children about the very existence of God. Some years back I had studied philosophy when logical arguments were put forth for the existence of God. But I did not want to present such logical arguments to the school boys and girls. So I simply told that I believe in God and follow my Christian religion. Most people in the world believe in the existence of God and follow one or other religion according to their faith in God.

Where do people get the idea of God’s existence? Human history shows that from the beginning people believed in a power beyond them. From the first human being the modern men or women experience a power at work beyond their comprehension and understanding. People call that power, God.

The rationalists and the atheists have their understanding of good and bad.  A person’s conscious or inner voice inspires him/her to do good and protests against his/her evil deeds. A person experiences happiness in doing good while s/he experiences prick of conscious for having done evil deeds. I told the children listening to me intently that my inner voice and my understanding of good and bad make me feel the existence of God.

In the past many mysterious-things which were considered beyond human understanding have been explained and revealed for all people through modern science and technology. Humanity has achieved many things through science and technology. Still it is a true fact till today that we have not been able to create not even a grain of sand out of nothing. Men and women cannot give life to a dead thing. Men and women could not stop a person from death. Men and women achieved much by using existing things. Till this day men and women cannot create anything from nothingness.

Something is there hidden in every person. They call it Divine Existence or Divine power/which proclaims the existence of God. In the words of Swami Vivekananda, “Divinity remains hidden in every person. The aim of life is to express the hidden Divinity.”

When we speak about divinity or divine life I remember a beautiful epic story. The ancient story says that in the epic time all people were like gods. But people began to misuse the divine power in them. So Brahma took away the divinity from people and decided to hide somewhere. Then Brahma called a meeting of all gods to find out the most secret place to hid the divinity. Gods suggested to Brahma hidden places like the top of Himalayan Mountain or at the bottom of the deep sea. But Brahma felt that sooner or later human being will reach such places and discover the Divinity.

Brahma finally decided to hide the Divinity in the heart of every human being! For human beings explore the whole university, but not in themselves. Today human beings are searching for the lost Divinity in the entire universe but do not go deep into themselves. So Brahma hid the Divine Power in the heart of every person. Today men search the lost divinity everywhere in the whole universe!

Abandoning their faith in God and hating religion some people may be leading a luxurious life and enjoy all things provided by modern life, but in their heart of heart they experience an inner void, and an emptiness, a lack something unknown. I believe that, that emptiness, that void, that unsatisfied desire is a longing for God.

The ancient story, the feeling of inner emptiness – everything proclaim that God exists and that human being need a religion.

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Changed on: 16-12-2019

Next Change: 01-01-2020

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019