I had an intriguing conversation on religion recently that spanned two separate days and lasted for almost 4 hours or so. The bulk of the following abridged excerpt, which was written from memory and is not in the exact same sequence (i.e. not verbatim), comes from the last hour or less when I started to speak more. Prior to the last hour, I had mainly been asking questions and listening intently to his monologues.
Me: There’s this thing called the omnipotent paradox, and I find it very interesting. God is all-powerful and he can create anything he wishes, right? Like what you said, he created the universe. So if he’s all-powerful and he’s able to create anything he wants, he should be able to create a rock so large that even he cannot lift – which then makes him not all-powerful.
Him: But he’s all-powerful. He’d be able to lift it.
Me: But he created something so huge that even he could not lift.
Him: But God is not so stupid. He won’t create something like that.
Me: Then that’s his weakness, right? He knows not to do that otherwise he’ll not be all-powerful, which makes him not all-powerful.
Him: No, God will be able to lift it because he’s all-powerful and all-knowing – it’s something that we are not able to fully understand. Even if we are reborn for over a 1000 years, we will only know 2% of what he knows. So there’s still 98% of knowledge that we don’t know.
Me: There’s another thing I’ve heard and I find it funny. It goes… “I wanted a new bike and prayed for one, but I know God doesn’t work that way so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness instead.”
Him: That’s Christianity. It’s a flaw in Christianity to think that God won’t punish you for doing bad things. He’s not so stupid, right? God will punish you. He sees everything, he knows all of us and everything about us, he knows our past and our future – everything, he knows. If you commit a crime, the law will punish you. It’s the same – God will punish you also. Maybe not in this life, but in the next life. If you do something once, it’s okay, we learn from it. But if you do it a second time or a third time, it shows that you didn’t learn your lesson. Like with children – we’ll tell them not to touch fire because it’ll burn them. And if they touch it, we’ll scold them. But if they touch it again after that, we will say, “I’ve already told you not to do it”. Ah– there’s another flaw in Christianity’s teachings. I’m not saying that Christianity is wrong, because God is the same. But what they teach is wrong. They say that if you do something bad, you will suffer in hell forever. So if you do something bad for 5 years, you will suffer forever. So, what’s the point? I can just go commit more crimes. No – God is not like that. If you do something bad for 5 years, you will be punished for 5 years. So you still have the chance to change after that.
This is spiritual science. When we have spiritual knowledge, God promises us eternal happiness when we reach the spiritual world – but, of course, that is not easy and will take a long time to get there. By talking about him and teaching others about him, I’m getting nearer to him. When we find out our purpose – why he created us and put us here – and we serve him, he will give us happiness because he’s generous. It’s like a dog – we get a dog for a purpose, right? For it to protect us. If it doesn’t protect us, then we won’t feed it. But if it serves its purpose, then we will hug it, play with it, and even let it sleep with us on our beds. So, it’s the same. God created us for a purpose, and he will be happy if we fulfill our purpose, and he’ll share the joy with us because he has so much. If I had 1 million dollars, I would share it with you – so, it’s the same.
Me: Is happiness important for you?
Him: Sure. Everybody wants to be happy.
Me: Happiness isn’t important for me though. What’s more important is… I would say…
Me: No, I mean for me personally. What’s more important for me is intelligence – logic. A lot of the things you’ve said, I see logical flaws in them – logical fallacies. Do you know what logical fallacies are?
Him: (shakes head)
Me: It’s like–
Him: Maybe you can tell me where you see the flaws and I’ll explain them logically to you.
Me: But it’s not something you’d be able to explain logically. It’s like saying that 1+1=3 – it’s not 3, right? It’s 2. And there’s no way around to explain that 3 is right. It’ll change the whole system and what you believe in.
Him: If you’ve noticed, I’ve not used the word “believe” at all the whole time I’m talking about this. Because this is the truth – they are facts.
Me: ‘Fact’ is a very scientific term. In order to be termed as a fact, it needs to be proven. There needs to be evidence to support it.
Him: This is a science – it’s spiritual science. It’s not a belief.
Me: But even if you don’t use the word–
Him: It’s still a belief?
Him: I think science is using the word ‘fact’ wrongly. All these are facts. But tell me what are the logical flaws that you see.
Me: Like the example you gave about the pen. You said that even if we don’t see the pen, it doesn’t mean that the pen doesn’t exist, it’s just that we don’t see it. And because there’s such a word, it means that there’s such a thing. That is a logical fallacy. I don’t know the proper name of it, but using that same logic, I could just come up with any word and then argue that there’s such a thing. Like, I could say… ooh-la-la is a god, because ooh-la-la is a word.
Him: But you are the only one saying it, right?
Me: That is a good question. So, if I tell it to my friends, and they influence other people, does that make it true just because more people believe in it?
I’m very much into logic and psychology. Do you know what psychology is? The word itself means ‘the study of the mind’. It originated from the Greeks and it used to mean ‘the study of the soul’, but it’s the study of the mind. Whatever you’re saying, I can use psychology to explain it.
Him: How can you study everyone’s mind? There are so many minds to study. It’s not possible to study everybody.
Me: There are similarities and patterns.
Him: The mind controls our actions and speech, correct? And everyone has different actions and speech. How are you going to study it? Everyone is unique. It’s not possible to study every unique mind.
Me: We are not unique. With the billions of people across the globe, and more in history – from the past – there’s little chance of being unique.
Him: So there are 300 or 500 others who are like us, but how are you still going to study all of these groups?
Me: There are fields in psychology where they study groups, and there are also those where they study individuals.
Him: So tell me, how can you explain the difference between the living and the dead? I want to know.
Me: What do you mean? By using our senses? We see the body not moving, that it’s not conscious…
Him: A dead person is when the jiva has left the body. Tell me how psychology can explain what dead is.
Me: Oh I didn’t mean that psychology could explain these sort of things. I meant that it could explain why there are such beliefs. Like with death. People are so afraid of death – and it’s natural to fear death; it’s a common fear – that they create things to believe in for… relief, like what you mentioned.
Him: I don’t create any of these.
Me: Or they cling on to what others have created. I don’t fear death. But if religion helps some people find comfort, then that’s okay. There are advantages and disadvantages to everything; even if there aren’t any, humans would create them, like red is a lucky colour but it makes us angry. If religion is used in a bad way, there’s terrorism like what you said. And the same with science – if used in a bad way, bombs are created like what you said also. Science and religion do not have all the answers.
Him: Spiritual knowledge will give you all the answers. There are some of the gurus – the yogis – who spend all their time on spiritual knowledge and have spent decades serving and being dedicated to Krishna 24/7. They do not even look at women; if a woman talks to them, they would turn away so they don’t have to look at them. They are so pure and perfect, they don’t want to look at a woman and get lusty. They’re at such a high level that they can even meditate and transport their jivas into other people. Those – they know all the answers. I’ve been studying the spiritual knowledge for 10 years, and maybe in 40 or 50 years, I’ll be perfect like them. For them, they don’t have any more questions because they already know all the answers.
Me: That is a weakness – to think that you have all the answers. Humans are so afraid of the unknown that they’ll create or cling on to beliefs. As you said, only God is all-knowing, right? So, we, as humans, will never have all the answers or know everything. Like, I could help them with English.
Him: What for? What’s the point? They don’t need to know English. They study spiritual knowledge.
Me: So then they don’t know everything.
Him: It’s like an engineer and a doctor. Why would an engineer want to learn from a doctor?
Me: Why not?
Him: What’s the point? Someone could study for 10 PhDs, but what for?
Me: To learn for the sake of learning. Learning is highly important for me. I will never not need or want another’s help. There will always be things to learn and improve on.
Him: They don’t need your help. They don’t need anyone’s help. They are so superior. Why do they need your help? You are inferior to them.
Me: Superiority and inferiority are terms that I do not like to use. I see everyone as equals, even between the genders. I’ll talk to my boss the same way to a garbage collector. You mentioned that I’m your guru in this setting, but I am not superior to you. I may be more superior to you in English, and you are more superior in “spiritual knowledge”, but we are equals as people.
Him: Men and women are different. Women are more insecure — but, of course, men also have disadvantages. They usually resist being submissive, and women submit more easily. Correct?
Him: Oh, maybe because you’re one.
Me: —I see men and women as equals.
Him: But men are physically stronger than women.
Me: Sure, there are differences, but I have a more westernised perspective and I see the genders as equals.
Him: When women marry, they will submit to their husbands — and they should. When wives submit to their husbands, there’ll be no problems. There will be no quarrelling. Whatever the husband says, the wife will just follow. Now, because the modern women are more independent and they go out to work — last time, women didn’t work and stayed home to cook and serve the husband — they don’t want to submit to their husbands and then they divorce. Do you know the divorce rate now in this country? It’s 50%—
Me: —But that’s the debate, isn’t it? Whether it’s better for parents or for husbands and wives to stay in an unhappy marriage or to divorce. Staying in the marriage doesn’t mean that there are no problems.
Him: There will be no problems. When wives submit to their husbands, they will align to their husbands’ thinking and follow what the husbands says. If not, the country will suffer if there are so many divorces and not enough children. And there are so many jivas waiting to be reborn.
Me: I see husbands and wives being on an equal level. Neither one submits to the other, and no one is superior or inferior to another. Every one – all living things: nature, humans, animals – are all equal. Humans think too highly of themselves.
Him: I’ve never heard someone saying that before, that a dog and a human are the same.
Me: It is uncommon.
Him: That’s the higher spiritual level, but I’m talking about the human level, because we’re all here which means we still have not reached the higher levels yet. So you think that a poor baby and a rich baby are the same?
Him: Then how do you explain why a baby – an innocent baby – is born poor or rich? A poor baby has no food to eat because of his previous life. He hasn’t reached a higher level yet.
Me: Because of the circumstances it was born into – the economy, the–
Him: What has the economy got to do with a baby?
Me: A baby is born poor and has no food to eat because it was born into a poor country that has no food. But I know that’s not what you’re asking. I’m giving you a very logical explanation but you’re asking about the reasoning behind it, yes? And there’s no reason behind it. It’s just… like genetics–
Him: But people won’t be able to accept that, right? How can you tell someone who’s poor that there’s no reason for why he was born poor? When I was in India, this old beggar came up to me, and he was so skinny and so dirty. I gave him 10 rupees, which is just a few cents, but he was so happy. I was like God to him and he gave me the highest blessings. You see, something so small meant so much to him. And because I helped him, I felt better and happier, and I know I’m getting higher up the levels.
Me: I help without expecting anything in return, like how I’m helping you now.
Him: You think you’re helping me? But you’re getting money – you’re getting paid for this.
Me: Ah– but outside of work, I help without expecting anything in return, not even a thank-you.
Him: But that’s being polite. You’re supposed to say ‘thank you’.
Me: It is manners, but, for me, it isn’t obligated. If I help someone and they don’t say ‘thank you’, then that’s okay. I don’t expect anything in return. And I hate the word ‘obligation’. Like how people usually say that you should be grateful to your mother for giving birth to you and carrying you for 9 months – but I didn’t ask to be born, so I don’t see why it’s an obligation, why it’s forced that children should be thankful to their parents and that they should love them.
Him: That’s arrogance. Your mother went through so much to give birth to you and raise you, so you should be thankful to her. You can’t choose whether you want to be born, but if your mother had a choice, she would pick a baby that’s more intelligent, that’s better looking. But we don’t have the choice. You’re just arrogant.
Me: You see, if I had a child, there’d be no obligation for the child to be thankful to me.
Him: Your parents went through so much raising you, you should at least be thankful to them. It’s manners; that’s the way society functions.
Me: It is the way societies around the world work, but I don’t subscribe to it. I help others as equals – not because I’m “superior” to them or because they’re “inferior” to me.
Him: But that’s how society is. The government has superiority; the president is your superior. If there is no government and everyone is equal, then no one will help one another and people will become like animals.
Me: If there’s a sudden drastic change, then, yes, there would be immediate havoc. But if, like, I set up a community with like-minded people, we would all help one another as equals so as to progress and improve together.
Him: What do you think about sins, then? Do you think that there’s such a thing, or that there’s no such thing as sins?
Me: I wouldn’t call it that. I would probably term it as… morally wrong actions.
I hope you’re not getting offended by our discussion, by the way.
Him: Well, I’m talking about Krishna, so of course I’m happy. And we’re both still smiling.
Me: I like talking and debating about these sorts of things but usually others are not interested; or they get angry because they think that I’m attacking them or because by the end of the conversation, I still hadn’t changed my beliefs; or they go “Huh? What?”. Even if we have differing perspectives and opinions, I genuinely want to know and understand your perspective. So thank you for sharing – I learned a lot.
Towards the end of the conversation, he asked for my credentials, which left me feeling irked, but it was an interesting discussion nonetheless.