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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Atheist's argument

One of the ways to keep an open mind is to compel oneself to listen to novel ways of looking at things. Even better is to listen to a view opposed to our own. I keep reading arguments from distant pasts when Advaitins and Buddhists argued about the existence of Atman. “Atman is in you” said the Advaitins. Buddha said that he looked deep inside and did not find any Atman.

Similarly, there are those who believe in “god” and those who do not believe in “god”, the so-called atheists. Then there are those who say that they do not know, the agnostics. I have always wondered what lead the atheists to their belief.  I found their ideas well-articulated by Michael Shermer in a recent article in the Scientific American (May 2012, page 86). Here is how it goes: If God is the creator and He created all of these out of nothing, the next logical question is “who created God?”  If the answer is that God does not need a creator, then why is it that the universe has to have a creator? (But, that is not an argument. It is countering a question with another question)

If the argument is that God is not the creator of the universe, but the creator of laws of nature, then God had no choice in the creation of the universe, since such laws are deterministic. Pretty interesting logic! But, we started with the premise that God was involved with creating the laws of nature and therefore was indirectly the creator of the universe.

The problem is that these arguments prove only the intellectual capacity, verbal skills, the speed of thinking and debating skills of the discussants. Personally, I like the humility expressed in the Nasadiya Sukta of Rg Veda (see post on March 21, 2010) which says that we really do not know.  I like Buddha’s teaching even better. He would rather we spend our time by learning how to live this life better.