Reflections on Nationalism in India

It was in the month of February last year that anti-national slogans were chanted in the JNU campus and a students union president was arrested on the charges of sedition. Watching Kanhaiya’s videos on youtube, I couldn’t understand why there was such an uproar. We were supposed to be living in a democracy with freedom of speech as a fundamental constitutional right. I also had a very hard time (and still do) understanding the logic behind the involvement of our home minister in the matter of a student speaking his mind. Even if he did say something anti-national, for which there is no evidence, shouldn’t the University administration be allowed to deal with it? Or maybe the local police can handle it. What’s the point of the involvement of home ministry of country as large as India?

But I digress. The year has changed and there is a new controversy in the limelight. This time, there’s a 20 year old student of DU and a daughter of a kargil martyr Gurmehar Kuar at the center of the storm. “I am a student from Delhi University. I am not afraid of ABVP. I am not alone. Every student of India is with me. #StudentsAgainstABVP.” read the signage held by her on a tweet. Soon, a sports star, a Bollywood actor and a politician weighed in. Everyone’s aware of what followed. In typical trollish fashion, she was called a prop, a sickular, a political pawn incapable of forming independent thought and even received rape threats from the multitudes of so called “Nationalists”. All because of a single tweet voicing an opinion against a particular student organization.

I can go on because there’s a lot more to the story and there are a lot more stories. Take for example the Supreme Court order of playing national anthem at Theaters or the movie boycotts or the journalists revoking and dispensing nationalism licenses live on TV news channels! Everything seems to revolve around the word “nationalism”. What does it actually mean and why is there such fierce opposition (to the point of rape threats) to anything that is perceived to be anti-national?

May I suggest that the “nationalism” that is being experienced in India today is rooted in a philosophical void within Hinduism? It seems to me that Hinduism as a ideological framework doesn’t have a unifying cultural identity. In his riddles of Hinduism, Dr. Ambetkar asks who can be called a Hindu? Hinduism is an umbrella term under which multitudes of faiths, philosophies and deities are gathered together and each of them are equally valid philosophically. It means that, speaking strictly philosophically, there’s no correct or incorrect way to be a Hindu.

As I pointed out in an earlier article, identity crisis has become a global phenomena in our times. There’s a strange resurgence of nationalism around the globe. Why this is so is anyone’s guess, and there are many theories, but it seems to me that in the end, it has something to do with people’s want of identity and meaning. People are hungry for what philosophers call ontological security. People want their own story to fit within a metaphysical narrative that stretches beyond their own lives. It is a basic human need. However, the principles of Karma & Reincarnation and even moksha as conceived within the framework of Hinduism are ill equipped to provide this meaning. Hinduism is essentially fragmented because it is a collection of different culture and faiths that are equally valid. These cultures and faiths provide micro narratives to their adherents but these micro narratives are insufficient to provide meaning in our globally connected world. Something bigger than a micro-narrative is required. And here, Hinduism falls short because it fails to provide a unifying meta-narrative to fulfill people’s want of identity and meaning. Hindu nationalism is a response to this fundamental void as it is an attempt to provide this culturally unifying meta-narrative.

However, Hindu nationalism is an idea that is fundamentally at odds with the Indian constitution. India is a secular pluralistic democracy. Remarking upon Nationalism, Nehru said, “I am convinced that nationalism can only come out of the ideological fusion of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and other groups in India. That does not and need not mean the extinction of any real culture of any group, but it does mean a common national outlook, to which other matters are subordinated.” In his vision of a pluralistic democracy, Nehru considers Hindu, Muslims, Sikh and other groups in India as equals. He gives all faiths equal chance to contribute towards the idea of India and restricts each one on the same standard of a common national outlook under which a faith is to be subordinated. Hindu nationalism, to the contrary, is a form of supremacist nationalism and envisions India as a country where only Hindus are first class citizens and all other faiths and cultures subordinated to the Hindu culture and philosophy. If we are to subscribe to the idea of a secular pluralistic democracy in India, Hindu nationalism cannot be adopted as an ideal or official concept of nationalism. India as it exists now, and the idea of Hindu nationalism are fundamentally incompatible with each other. Both cannot co-exist. One of them has to go for the other to survive.

When people subscribe to a specific flavor or narrative of nationalism, they begin to perceive themselves as part of that meta-narrative. In short, the collective identity of the nation becomes a part of their individual identity. As a result, whenever anyone criticizes the nation or the national identity, it is perceived as a personal attack on their identity and honor. In India, honor must be protected. Even by non-honorable means. And thus we see, movie makers being slapped, celebrities being told to leave the country, a man lynched because of a rumor that he had beef in his fridge, college students being charged for sedition and a daughter of a martyr receive rape threats and silenced for her liberal views challenging the status quo.

But let me step down from the high horse of philosophy for a moment and reflect upon one aspect of the culture of India. As far as I can remember, I have always been uncomfortable with our conflated ideas of pride and honor. When I was younger, I learned a story in school. I don’t remember all the details but the central part of the story was: The writer of the story was visiting some far off relative in far off land. The person who he was visiting was an old widow, who had 4-5 sons. This family was very poor. But when the writer of the story visited them, the poor family fed him, even though they themselves went hungry because they had nothing else to eat. Everything that they had, they gave it their guest. This whole affair always seemed a bit ominous to me.

The story bothered me because, I did not like either the guest or the hosts. I didn’t like the guest because he put burden on a poor family. And I didn’t like the hosts because they didn’t tell the guest their condition. They could’ve asked for his help. The could’ve shared the meal among themselves so everyone had something to eat. But nothing of the sort happened. Instead of the poor family suffered alone. Why? It seems to me that all of this was nothing but an exercise in “keeping up appearances”. And I can see around me that everyone is busy “keeping up appearances”. If there’s some social glue that binds the Indian culture, it must be social stigma. And if there’s any question that explains our irrational decisions against our own-well being, it must be the question “What will the people say?”

The whole of Indian civilization seems to be under the tyranny of the question “What will people say?”. Not only Hindus, but pretty much every faith / culture within India is affected by it. Keeping up appearances has been the ruin of many lives. “Protecting the honor” of the household has led to a resurgence in “honor killings” among other things. The question not only terrorizes us individually but also collectively. When Aamir khan remarked upon growing intolerance within India, there was a nationwide public outrage. Of the many things he was accused of, one of the primary accusation was of “degrading the public image of India”. People opined, a public figure of his stature should not criticize India as it will degrade the image of India on the international stage. Very few people asked if there was any truth to what he said.

If we are collectively worried about our national image, (which we are) then the question “what will people say?” has the power to unite us under the umbrella of nationalism. But if Hindu nationalism is the only flavor of nationalism that is politically backed and publicly available, then that’s the only form of nationalism to which unsuspecting men and women will subscribe to. This is our current situation and a very dangerous territory. If protecting the national image has become more important that what India stands for, and allegiance to a flavor of nationalism has become stronger than our allegiance to truth, then truth and reason has lost its place from public discourse. And if truth has become a casualty in our search of a collective identity, I fear what is to come.

Scriptures of the secular age

Scriptures has always held an important role in human culture and society. Scriptures, sacred texts of various religions, promoted a set of non-negotiable principles on which to construct a worldview. Our collective history shows us that we are peculiarly dogmatic creatures. So much so that G. K. Chesterton once quipped, “There are two kinds of people in the world, the conscious dogmatists and the unconscious dogmatists. I have always found myself that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic.”

Scriptures or dogmas (among many other things) fulfill 2 important functions in human society. It provides a set of common precepts or beliefs which serves as a framework upon which a culture is developed. To paraphrase, it provides a set of non-negotiable, self-evident, absolute truths which become the foundation on which human societies, cultures and nations are formed. Scriptures provided eternal truths to its subscribers.

Furthermore, no scripture was ever written simply as a list. The truth that it represented was always communicated as a part of a story. A narrative. A myth. It may be a complete fabrication as it was the case with Greek mythology or it may be based on a historical narrative as it is the case with Judaism and Christianity. Whatever the case may be, scriptures were generally not communicated as mere lists of absolute truths. The truths were always communicated in the context of a story. And they can only be interpreted and understood in the context of that story. And when interpreted in the context of that story, the truths fused the story with a meaning. The truth gave meaning to the lives of people in that story. This is the second function of scriptures. To provide meaning. And isn’t that the eternal human quest? To find the meaning of life? If it is so, then the fundamental longings of the human hearts are eternally linked with scriptures.

It is no secret that our post-modern, post-truth society has rejected the notion of absolute truth. It is a widely held belief that truth, and especially moral truth is only subjective and relative. That what’s true for you may not be true for me and vice versa. What this means is that dogmas or principles as laid out in scriptures no longer provide the framework on which to build the cultural values (or the melting “pot”) of the society. And advocating universal moral values based on a certain religion has become the intellectual equivalent of committing a political suicide. As a consequence of the absence of commonly held dogmas within a culture, the ideal of pluralism has become the driver of sectarianism instead of liberty. By the minute, the secular society is becoming ever so fragmented.

In this context, I want to draw your attention to a very peculiar phenomena that is being experienced around the world. In olden days, what was shown on screen was judged based on scriptures. Now, what is shown on the screen judges the scriptures. In days past, the content of any movie or TV serials was judged by the scriptures of a culture to be moral or immoral. Now the roles have been reversed and it is interesting to see how whole worldviews are being re-interpreted and re-aligned to comply with what is shown on the screen. The rise of Trump, the sexual revolution of the west, even the rise of suicide rates around the world can reasonably be traced back to the power of the screen. But I must ask, why does the screen hold such power?

Historian Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Sapiens: A Brief history of Humankind promotes the idea that the secret glue that is binds the human culture and society is a myth, a story. When people believe the same story or a myth they come together and work towards a world that the myth promotes. Even Nietzsche in his Parable of the Madman where he declared the death of God asks, “What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent?” Having declared the death of God, Nietzsche immediately asks what new myths will need to be invented to take the place of God? Both of these great thinker seem to suggest that without a unifying myth, Human civilization will break down.

Earlier I pointed out that the scriptures provide 1) common absolute truths and 2) context within which the meaning of life can be found. But the scriptures are nothing more than the container for the myth. Religious texts are prime examples of such myths and we can see it’s power throughout history. But as the dogmas and myths of the old are being driven out of the mental landscape of culture, it has created a want of meaning. People are quite content making up their own truths but these truths without the context of a narrative have no way to provide meaning. Recently in a TED talk, Chris Anderson, the prime curator of TED asked, “What are humans for?” as a question that’s been haunting him in recent years.

Today, media houses around the world are churning out myths at an unprecedented scale. Even elections around the world are being won or lost based on who’s myth is more appealing to the masses. The myth doesn’t need to be true to gain momentum, it only has to be appealing. Because “the need of reason is not inspired by the quest for truth but by the quest for meaning.” as Hannah Arendt pointed out. Truth and Meaning are two different entities. And humans at an existential level are more concerned about meaning than truth. Having abolished the traditional myths, the hunger for meaning has become a cultural phenomena rather than an individual crisis. Is it any wonder that facts and truth holds less weight in public discourse? Today, we have amassed more knowledge than any point in human history and still the metaphysical question of meaning continues to haunt the masses.

Having denied the “True Myth” people continue to look for other myths that may provide meaning to their lives. The screen provides myths in abundance. And thus the masses turn towards the screen as if it is the oracle of God. Peering intently into it as it narrates the myth of the secular dogma. Because the scriptures of our secular age are not written on pages. They are shown on the screen.

The fallacy of Situationalism and Cultural Relativism

Situationalism says that morality is determined by situations, and situations are relative; therefore, morality is relative. It says, even killing cannot be called wrong if done in self defense. Even stealing can be good if you are stealing a weapon from a terrorist. And since situations are so diverse and complex, it is unreasonable to hold universal moral absolutes. And thus, the situationalist concludes against moral absolutes because he finds all morality related to situations.

The premise of situationalism does have some truth in it. Situations do influence moral judgments. But when one says that situations influence moral judgments it does not automatically follow that all morality is relative and there are no moral absolutes. Situationalism begins on the right track but reaches the wrong conclusion. How? Let’s delve deeper.

Let’s consider the two examples stated earlier. Killing, which is generally viewed as wrong, cannot be called wrong if done in self defense. Stealing, which is generally viewed as wrong, can actually be called good if you’re stealing a weapon from a terrorist. You must note here that in each of these situations, there are actually not one but two moral actions. In the first case, it is killing and self defense. In the second case, it is stealing and preventing a genocide. In the first case, judgment is reserved because killing happened in the heat of the moment. Probably by an accident without any premeditation. In the second case, the evil of stealing is trumped by a much greater good of preventing a genocide. Thus, we must observe here that killing or stealing hasn’t become essentially good, but only balanced or trumped by greater good or evil.

If stealing is good in the above situation, it does not follow that killing and stealing does not have intrinsic moral value. And suppose if stealing has an intrinsic moral value of -10, then preventing a genocide might have an intrinsic moral value of +1000. (Note here that moral actions cannot have any empirically verifiable value due to the intangibility of moral actions. Here I’m just assigning an approximate value based on common sense.) The statement, “Stealing can actually be good if you’re stealing a weapon from terrorist” does not only talk about the moral value of stealing but it is also talking about the moral value of preventing a genocide.

And if, what I’ve stated above is the thought process of the situationalist, then he has already presupposed a moral framework. He already assigns more positive moral value to preventing a genocide than the negative value he assigns to the act of stealing. And this moral framework is not part of the situation. Rather, it is judging the situation by itself. And if there’s an external moral framework outside of the situation that is judging the situation, then, the situationalist has already presupposed a moral framework that he is trying to determine through situations. You cannot have a cake before baking it. And since situationalism is trying to smuggle a cake in the recipe of making a cake, its logic is faulty at best and its intentions questionable. Situationalism simply can not be true.

As a side note, situationalist’s own thinking pattern is not at all different than that of a moral absolutist. Moral absolutist do hold to a rigid moral framework that is universally true, but this moral framework is not rigid in it’s application. It can be applied flexibly in different situations. In Christianity, when there are conflicting morals, we are to oblige the greater good. The above thought process of weighing good and evil where conflicting morals exist in the same situation is called graded absolutism in christian ethics. The situationalist not only presupposes a moral framework but he believes this framework is true absolutely because it is used to judge different situations. And situations can be infinitely complex. If a moral framework is to be applied to situations that are infinitely complex, then it must be absolutely, universally true.

So, the situationalist actually believes exactly what moral absolutist believes and behaves exactly like a moral absolutist. But it leaves us with a question. If the situationalist already presupposes a moral framework, then where does this moral framework come from? I know the answer that the situationalist can provide. In fact it is the only answer that he can provide without explicitly invoking any moral absolutes. From cultures. People learn their moral framework from their own cultures. And cultural values can be relative.

This is basically cultural relativism. The claim is that anthropologists and sociologists have discovered moral relativism to be not a theory but an empirical fact. Different cultures and societies, like different individuals, simply do, in fact, have very different moral values. In Eskimo culture, and in Holland, killing old people is right. In America, east of Oregon, it’s wrong. In contemporary culture, fornication is right; in Christian cultures, it’s wrong, and so forth. And if different cultures can have different moral values, then moral absolutes do not exist.

But the fact that different cultures behave differently in the matter of ethics doesn’t automatically follow that there are no moral absolutes. Different cultures do behave differently in the matter of ethics, but that doesn’t mean that all of them are right. Only if we presuppose that all of different moral frameworks created by different cultures are right, then only we can say different cultures hold different moral values. But the statement that different moral frameworks created by different cultures are right is an absolute statement. It applies universally to every culture in every time. It is presupposing the very moral cultural relativism that it is trying to prove. This is basically circular reasoning. And even that with the help of an moral absolute.

The conclusion is, that complete situational or cultural relativism by itself simply can not be true. It has to presuppose a moral absolute. But moral absolutes is exactly what it is trying to disprove. And thus, any type of moral relativism simply can not be true.

But leaving aside what is philosophically true or false, we do live in a society where I can choose to subscribe to a worldview even if I do not believe it is true. I am perfectly capable and free to do that if I wish to. But we must tread with caution in the matter of moral relativism. Because if we do away with moral absolutes as relativism is trying to do, then eventually we will lose the ability to distinguish between not only right and wrong, but also right and left. That’s the only logical progression relativism offers. Everything else requires positing absolutes. There is no way of escaping from absolutes. We can have morality only through some set of moral absolutes.

The Knowledge of Good and Evil – The First Temptation

Since I wrote my last post on the topic of the Fear of the Lord, something’s been bugging me. In that post, there is one topic that I have left untouched and upon that very topic, I have based my reasoning. I have stated that, “You should obey the Lord, when you don’t know what is right and what is wrong.”. This statement assumes at least some knowledge about what is right and what is wrong. Where does this knowledge come from? This, I have not addressed.

How can I know what is good and what is evil? I will address that question later. But for now, let’s go back to genesis and look at that unfortunate event that sent the whole world into disarray. As Eve was walking in that blessed garden of Eden, she unintentionally wandered too close to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It wasn’t a significant event, as I’m sure that she would’ve waked past that tree countless times. But this time, something was different. She heard a serpent calling her. She responded. And the snake had one of the most intriguing proposition. As I read the words of this most preposterous utterance, I’m amazed that how can anyone tell so many lies in such a short sentence and still sound convincing?

But the serpent said to the woman, You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Gen 3:4-5)

With this simple statement, the devil accomplished two things.

  1. He sow the seeds of the very pride in the heart of humanity that had been the instrument of his own downfall.
  2. He laid the foundation of all the vanities of man that are based on lies.

Let me explain what these two things mean. The devil begins by saying that when God said that you will die, he was telling a lie. Actually, you won’t die. The reason God was telling a lie is because he is afraid. In fact, if you eat the fruit of this tree, you will become like him. He doesn’t want you to be like him. All powerful, all knowing. That’s why he has told you not to eat the fruit of the tree. That’s what the devil says to Eve.

Now if you take that statement and look at it under a microscope, you won’t find a single thread of truth in it. You will not surely die? A plain lie. (Although Eve did not immediately die, in the sense as we normally perceive death, that is a topic for another essay) Your eyes will be opened? Nonsense. My eyes are already open and I can see plenty fine, thank you. I will be like God? I’m already like God. He made me this way. You will know good and evil? I already know what is good. And why in the nine hells would I ever want to know evil?

If that’s so plain to see, then why couldn’t Eve see through the deception? Pride. It blinds you. If you begin to see, it binds you. The devil was playing with her pride as an independent sentient being. Independence and freedom. Two of the many invaluable gifts that her creator had bestowed upon her. And pride is a possible by-product of the mixture of these two. That pride once blinded the archangel Lucifer and led to his downfall into the infernal lake of fire. That same pride also blinded Adam and Eve from seeing the truth, which consequently corrupted a perfect world.

But that wasn’t the only thing that the devil accomplished. Leveraging on the opportunity of having sown the seeds of pride in the heart of humanity, the devil told a lie and made it look like a truth. The devil made the fruit of the tree of good and evil desirable when in fact it was the most useless fruit in the whole garden. The fruit certainly had a purpose as I have pointed out earlier, but it was not advantageous for humans to eat it. We all know that prior to eating that fruit, humans already understood what good and evil was. Even after knowing that they would be doing a bad thing, they did it. And that was the first sin. They did it because they believed a lie to be true. This lie sent them in the wild-goose chase of the knowledge of good and evil that will make them like God (forgetting that they are already like God) instead of only focusing on God. It was the very first instance of man’s pride getting better of him and believing a lie, they sinned rejecting the truth that they already knew.

The same thing continues to happen to this very day. All the lures and attractions of this world are lies. Partial truths made to look like the ultimate truths. Temporary pleasures decorated to look like eternal nirvana. Because the man believes that these things are true, he runs after it. Trying to grab hold of it. And as Solomon says in the book of Ecclesiastes, all these things are futile and like chasing after wind. A lie can never deliver what it promises. But the one who believes a lie, will go chasing after it; because for him, it is the truth. And truth is the only thing worth following. And thus, the man who does evil, only does it because somewhere is his outlook of the world, he has mistaken a lie for a truth. And to this day, these things keeps us in the tangled mess of evil and away from good.

Now that we’ve taken a closer look at what it was that caused us to sin in the first place, only now we can go about its undoing. If we are to avoid sin, if we are to regain the perfect knowledge of good that our race held at its very inception, we must see through that very first temptation. After truly seeing the temptations for what it is, in my opinion, we must focus on undoing the second accomplishment and deal with the first as we encounter it. Because without having the truth by your side, you will not know when pride deceives you.

The way to go about acquiring knowledge about good is to go to God. Because he is the source of every good and perfect thing. When we begin to reach out from the ashes of this fallen world to the eternal God enthroned in heaven, we must study his methods and his ways. To all who seek him, he reveals himself for he is the God who loved us first. I have found a book called the Bible. It contains his words. There is truth in it. It will cleanses the windows of your eyes that have been stained by the dirt of this world. The truth for a truth and a lie for a lie it makes plain to see. But this book has a singular purpose. It is not self contained, rather it points towards a person who claimed to be THE Truth. But, there’s more…

Soon, you will come at the crossroads of the cross. Upon that cross, hangs the lamb of God about whom a voice in the wilderness cries, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”. You may be a thief, a widow, a beggar or just a kid but to him it doesn’t matter who you are or what the world calls you. He loved you, and love is blind. When you encounter the cross for the first time, do not run away. It is not there to condemn you but it is the instrument of your salvation. The very pride that led us to sin in the early parts of genesis, will be laid to ruin by the sight of the cross. For when the devil sought to become the greatest of all, Christ became the lowest of all, the servant of all and he took up the cross on behalf of me and you. And as if it was not enough, he rose from the grave for love’s sake. He became the light of hope in a dark, cruel and unforgiving world. He is the truth. And his cross is the remedy for our pride. He will come to you when you call him. He will tell you what is good, when you ask him.

The Fallacy of Social Evolution

First of all, let me define my terms. What do I mean by social evolution? Well, it’s a close companion to the theory of evolution. It basically states that all of our social behaviors have evolved for millions of years and are still evolving. You should note that this evolution has no direction. It doesn’t understand if it’s going up or down or left or right or if it’s going round and round. It is basically a balloon full of hot air which goes wherever the wind blows.

But, according to this particular theory, a few thousand years ago, someone tied a rope to that balloon. Then someone tied another and another and then they kept tying ropes for a few thousand years. Now, the balloon couldn’t go wherever it wanted to. Rather, it is controlled by the people that tie and cut the ropes. Generally, the system that handles tying and cutting the ropes is known as the government.

Now, the government in the 21st century is largely influenced by the people that are governed. If the people don’t like the government, they stage a coup d’etat and overthrow whoever is governing. Egypt is a recent example. And then, the people have the power to bind and loosen the ropes that lets the balloon float.

That is a quite convenient arrangement. What it means is, now we have the power to shape tomorrow’s world. Now, there is a social organism which controls it’s own social evolution. That is quite interesting. It is also quite intoxicating. It feels good to be in power.

Now let me get to the point. The world I see around me fits the last description. Humans do have the power to shape tomorrow. But what I don’t agree with is the beginning. The Darwinian theory of evolution. Because the Darwinian theory of evolution and social evolution are quite contradictory. I don’t mean to say that a thing such as a contradiction exists in the world of Darwinian evolution, however, it does exist in the world where I live.

Where is this contradiction? I’ll tell you. We all know that humans have an inherent desire to do good. Even the bad things that people do must have some element of goodness in it. So, when we try to shape the tomorrow by forming laws, we desire to make the world better. Not worse. But good and bad don’t exist in the naturalistic world. So then, what the heck is Joe doing forming laws?

But since I am feeling generous today, let’s grant a morality to naturalistic philosophy. Suppose that good and bad is the product of evolution. So, we have a set of standards defined by a blind process of which one we don’t like and one we strive for. Alright. But if that’s the case then we are actually being controlled by the process of evolution and we aren’t actually shaping the world of tomorrow. We are just playing out a script that has been written by a blind process which in all probability does not exist. We are the puppets and the universe is pulling the strings. You know, there is a word for it. Fatalism. Where Dr. Fate decides everything and you don’t have the freedom to choose anything.

So, any way you look at it, in a naturalistic framework, it is self defeating through and through. BUT, (and it’s a big but) it seems that it is true. We just need to look at our history to know that mankind has actually shaped the world we see around us today. So, maybe it is true. If you have read so far, you must be wondering what does it mean? Why is it important?

It is important because we are shaping the world of tomorrow. With each action, we are changing the world. However, it is more important today that it was before because of the prevalence of the scientific methodology in the modern thought. I don’t mean to say that the scientific methodology is wrong. It is perfect. But I’m not sure if that is the right methodology to apply in the regards of social or cultural reform.

The reason is, science helps you determine a certain category of truth. Namely about the physical world. However, there are certain things that science can not tell you. It can’t tell you the meaning of love (or meaning of anything for that matter). It can only help you gather information. Nothing else. The scientific methodology consists of trial and error. In layman’s terms, it is about gathering data from experiments and then refining those experiments to reach the truth.

However, this particular method itself is problem for social evolution. Because it means experimenting with society. With people. Testing on human subjects without their informed consent is considered a crime. Still it’s ok to do so under the label of social evolution. In social matters, it is better to find the right way without experimenting. Otherwise, humanity will incur a great loss.

Supposing that any civilization tries to go by the literal meaning of social evolution and tries to find the ideal government or society. If a society goes in the search of utopia, who guarantees that it will ever get there? Who’s to say that they will not fall into the thousand pitfalls of all the modern and ancient philosophies and become just another casualty? Just a tragic tale telling others to not go by a certain route? Just another case study at a community college?

Who can by certainty say that such a system even exists? And who is to say that with our finite knowledge and understanding we will ever find it if it exists? Who is to say that we will not keep trying the wrong way until every single one of us ceases to exist? Modern thinkers say, “Our morality is constantly evolving. What is good today might not be good tomorrow!” All I can say to them is, “Nonsense! You were a good thinker yesterday but today you are not!”

This is the problem with our generation. We don’t know the truth and we don’t know what is truth. I wrote a story to illustrate what I have said in this post. There can be a thousand wrong ways in which humans may try to evolve the society into. However, there can be only one right way. There are many angles at which one can fall but only one angle at which one can stand.

This is one basic property of truth. Truth is exclusive and it eliminate all falsehood. Once you know the truth, you can tell what is false. A single truth can eliminate a thousand lies however a thousand lies can not point towards a single truth. The scientific method is not a reasonable method for social reform. For it assumes nothingness in the beginning, it will lead to nothingness in the end.

What then, can be the solution? Should we just settle for things just as they are? By no means. I said, in a naturalistic framework, it is self defeating. Not in the theistic framework. In theistic framework, social reform is possible. However, it is not evolution. For one, unlike evolution, it has definite goal. It is reformation rather than evolution. I told you that I wrote a story. Go read that if you haven’t.

Read it? No? Go read that. I’ll wait.

Waiting…

At this time, we do not need to figure out the thousands of ways in which the civilization can fall. We need one way where it can stand. Since the theories like the one that I have just discussed makes it crystal clear that we do not know which way we should be going, it’s obvious that we should take advice from someone who does know.

Did you notice the description of the stranger in that story? A stranger that fell from the sky an instant before! Someone who knew the way and was willing enough to help him. Someone who cared enough to come down to earth to help him.

Well that story never ever took place, however something similar took place in our world. Check your history books. About 2000 years ago, you will find a figure in history that has changed the whole world. His legacy is unparalleled. In 3 and a half years of public ministry, he turned all the philosophies of the world upside down. He showed us a model to live by. Philosophers searched for truth. He claimed to be the truth. The atheistic thinkers of the 21st century talk about a world constantly changing, evolving in God knows what! But for past 2000 years, his figure, his message and his impact has stayed constant.

Only in what he says, I see hope for our world. Only in him I see the remedy for our society. Only in his teachings I see a way to change our corrupt nation. Let the darkness be pierced by the shining light of his glory. Let the nation be conquered by his love. Let his body prepare for the coming battle. Let the church arise!

The Trap of One Thing

For past few weeks I’ve been involved in a debate in one internet discussion forum. The subject is, “Why do people believe in God?”. Since, I am a believer, I thought, let’s join in. Let’s see what happens. So, I presented my reasons in a simple manner. Starting from the cosmological argument, then to the intelligibility of the universe, then history and finally my own experience. However, since I entered the discussion, it has really heated up. However, what I get asked for a LOT is the scientific evidence of God’s existence.

Now, as I see it, the phrase “Scientific evidence of God’s existence” is a paradox in itself. Since, science has made it’s business to explain things, to give evidence of God’s existence in scientific terms requires me to explain God. But this is impossible. So, the next thing I get asked for is a bit more reasonable but equally unreasonable plight to provide the evidence of a miracle. This again, can’t be done without a miracle.

Why? Because miracles are miracles. Miracles do not happen in a pattern. If they did, we wouldn’t call them miracles. Miracles are the things that science can not explain. So, to provide evidence of a miracle, one must predict where a miracle is going to happen and then record it(in a video or picture or something) or hold a public exhibition and call all the skeptics let it happen right in front of their eyes. In the first case of video or a photo the skeptics will most probably say, it is faked.

However, the second scenario, God wouldn’t allow. That is because he has given us free will and he won’t violate it. Thus, he won’t take any person in position where that person is forced to do something (in this case, believe in something) without their own will. Because of these two reasons, atheists can claim that there is no evidence of a God. But that’s not true. The right way to say is this: there is no evidence of a particular kind. The kind that will force people to believe in God.

So, now that little prelude is aside, I want to get to the heart of the issue that I think is the problem. What’s the problem here? What’s going on? This whole thing is so complicated that I’m not really sure if I can really express it adequately so that you can understand. Still, I will try. I think, the problem is, people have trapped themselves in a single kind of mentality which they believe to be true. That’s the core of the problem. Now, let me go into the details a bit.

There are certain groups of people that identify themselves with a certain kind of methodology. For example, atheists. They put a great deal of emphasis on reason. For them, everything must be reasonable. And for that part, I totally agree with them. However the problem arises when they limit their sources of information. The main source of their “reason” is the scientific methodology. Test things in test tubes. The findings must be independently confirmable. The conclusion must be verifiable.

All these things have their use. I’m not denying that. That’s the definite way to go to do science and to further our technologies. However, when one bases a whole worldview on a single methodology, it comes up pretty short handed. That’s why atheists have immense problems when they get in any debate about morality. Very few atheists acknowledge that. However, that’s not the point I want to make here. The point I want to make here is, why do atheists have problems? It is because they rely on a single specific methodology for their information, and the evidence for their arguments.

Still, atheists are not the worst when it comes to applying a single methodology in everything they do. They are still reasonable enough, and I believe, honest atheists will eventually find God in some phase of their life. Their problem is much less severe than other group of people I’d like to talk about. Atheists have only limited their ways to find out the truth, and the way they have chosen is an adverse one, to say the least, for the reasons I described above about the evidence of the miracles. Nevertheless, at least, they do not jump to complete contradictory conclusions. That is the trademark of the other group I want to discuss.

The other group is, new age believers. The people who believe in the methodologies of new age spirituality. They all practice similar methods to reach the… um… spiritual state. To be one with the universal conscious(am I using the right word?). The peculiar thing is, they also believe in complete relativism. Everybody practices the same things. However, everybody can come to their own conclusions. What’s moral for me won’t be moral for the person sitting next to me. And then they have this nonsensical conception of truth. Everybody has their own truth. Everybody must find their own truth! How? Using our methodology. Is there any guarantee? Nope.

Again “new agers” believe in their methodology. The thing that is completely mind boggling to me is that how can someone trust a methodology when it produces complete contradictory results? Still those who believe it have accepted the methodology as the truth. I think this is the most dangerous thing our generation has fallen into. The trap of one thing.

Why do I think it is dangerous? Because it is the complete opposite of what bible teaches. There is only one truth and you can come to that truth using many different methodologies. Take philosophy, history, cosmology… Personal experiences. Everything points to one truth. Not different ones. Because atheists have limited their point of view to a mere scientific one, they have created hindrances for themselves when they try to find the truth. However, in new age spirituality, the complete opposite is happening. There is only one methodology, and a lot of truths.

In the discussion, “Why do people believe in God?”, one of the main reason for me to make it long and touch on different topics was, to not make it one trick pony. I was pretty sure that it will be challenged. So, I made it broad enough so that it doesn’t get stuck in a single field. Because, if that happens, the argument will be one sided. And in my mind, winning an argument in a single field doesn’t amount to much. It’s like um… one trick pony. It does only one trick. However, except that trick, it does terrible at every other trick. I didn’t want the discussion to be like that. That’s the weakness of getting trapped in a single field. It becomes a one trick pony, good at only one argument and terrible in every other argument.

There is also one advantage of being able to confirm something through multiple fields. Every time a thing can be confirmed through multiple methodologies, there are less chances of it being wrong. If a thing can be confirmed by only one methodology, there are pretty good chances that it can be wrong. However, if it is confirmed by two, then the chances of it being wrong drops down. With three, even more so. And on and on… So, if a thing can be confirmed by multiple methodologies, there is very little chance of it being false.

However, the problem is that the current generation doesn’t understand this. When I provided my reasons, they were pretty much overlooked and the thing I was asked for was “positive non-circumstantial evidence”. And since I could not provide it because of the reasons given above, all my other reasons/arguments didn’t held any value! This came as a bit of shock to me.

I think this generation has reached a point where it is preoccupied with a single thing and is ignoring all the other things. The people around us believe anything that is told to them in the name of science. It doesn’t matter if it’s science or not. Just because it’s labeled as science, it must be true. However, we as christians must not fall into this trap. We must confirm our beliefs by multiple means. And we must never, ever, be preoccupied with anything other than Jesus.

The Truth has set me Free

I have often wondered what is the meaning of the following bible verse:

John 8:32: and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (ESV)

It seemed a very strange preposition. Know the truth, and the truth will set you free. If truth were a physical object, like a sword, I would have thought, it means, learn using the sword, and it will set you free. However, I thought, truth is just an abstract concept of mind. It has nothing to do with physical reality. So, it never did really register into my mind like it should. However, after I wrote about freedom here, I’ve been thinking of the subject more and more. The more I thought about it, the more I became amazed at it, for it became ever more stranger, it took a familiar and yet outlandish shape in my mind. And now, I feel inclined to express into words what is inexpressible.

Before we go on,I want to make it clear that, I won’t be discussing what truth exactly is because pretty much everybody understands it and it is so vast a subject that if I were to write about it, it would contain a large number of things that are obvious and the things that are not so obvious will most probably elude me. So, I am going to assume here that everybody knows the nature and concept of truth.

The Search

Now, let us begin. People everywhere regard truth very highly. Winston Churchill said that in wartime, it is so precious that it should be guarded with bodyguard of lies. That is certainly true, however, it shows how precious the truth is. Because it is regarded so very highly, men everywhere seek it. All the fields of human knowledge are trying to get to the truth. However, there are some basic questions for which everyone needs an answer for.

Everybody does not need to know if the earth revolves around the sun or the moon. But everyone needs to answer a question that has haunted humanity over the centuries more than any other question. It is also the question, by which the fate of humanity will be decided. The question is, what does it mean to be human? Great thinkers of the time gone by has tried to answer the question in different way. But these different theories and philosophies have only added more grass in the haystack and done very little to point men to the needle of truth. So, the question is still burning with the same intensity as ever. But that’s apparent, considering the nature of the question.

Because, the question is about life itself. It’s not about something outside of us and not even inside of us. It’s about us. Since its about us, every one of us asks the question. Everyone goes on to look for the needle in the haystack. After some searching, some say, there is no needle, others mistake a piece of grass for a needle, some get so fascinated with the grass they forget altogether about the needle, and very few find it. However, everybody searches for it.

The Journey

Great many people has compared life with a journey. Let me compare the search for truth with a journey. Because, I think, in some sense, a life is a search for truth. I think humankind once had the truth but lost it, and thus, now we search for what we once had, the thing most precious to us. There is one another way in which the search for truth resembles a journey. That is the swift beauty of it’s end. At least it seems that way to me. Because, I am often caught by the sudden surprise of it’s end and in this sudden and sweet surprise, I sometimes behold the grand photograph of the whole and suddenly realize that the whole is even more beautiful than it’s parts. For, when a journey is not over, one can not look at the whole for the sole reason of it not being whole. But when it’s over, it somehow becomes grander.

Truth also has a similar characteristic. Because for truth to be really true, it must be complete. For, if truth is not complete, it has certain gaps in it’s volume where lies can creep in. And the greatest of lies are that which contain half truths. The greater the ratio of truth:lie in any claim, the greater is it’s potential to devastate it’s believer. That is exactly why truth must be complete. Half truths are easy to twist for one’s pleasure. Twisted truths lead to a twisted end. That is why when a man searches for truth, he must find the whole truth, because if it’s not the whole truth, like the journey, he can not have the pleasure of appreciating the whole picture. For the picture is still being drawn. What’s more, if such a half drawn picture is corrupted by a lie, then instead of illuminating the mind it will only darken the conscious.

And such is the common knowledge of men. That’s why they search for the whole truth. However, the search is indeed difficult. For everyone has a say in it. For their own self, everybody goes on looking for it, and thus, everybody, whatever they found tell it to others. Which makes it almost impossible to go on searching for it. For, one man says go to the left, other, says right. And In this bewilderment I once found myself. Scaling through the highs and lows of human understanding, I looked for truth, which I thought was unperceivable.

The Chains

As I was searching for truth, frantically looking about, trying to catch the thing at the very first glace of it, which I thought to be non material. And suddenly, I realized, that all the while, when I was running around everywhere, in every direction, looking for truth, I was actually bound with chains that I dragged everywhere I went. Then, even stranger thing happened, for it dawned on me that when I was looking I had my eyes closed, when I ran, I didn’t move an inch, the places to which I dragged the chains were actually nowhere. The chains were only the lingering thoughts that haunted me. For, I was pacing the labyrinthine ways of my own mind and to my dismay, I hadn’t found the truth.

I continued on my search for truth. Dragging the chains up the mountains and through the valleys. But it seemed like everyday, there was a new link added into the chains. Even stranger was the mild suggestion that the chains were interlocking, one with other. Nevertheless, I continued. Until one day, when the burden of chains had became so heavy that I wasn’t able to move on, I stopped and looked around. I was petrified. For, it wasn’t the weight of the chains that were stopping me from moving on, rather, chains were all around me and I was trapped in my own thoughts like a butterfly in a spider’s web. I tried to figure out a way out of the mess, but it only trapped me further. For indeed, these were the chains of thought. For a moment, I wished that these were iron chains. Because then, it would be easier to get out.

The Truth

There in my darkest hour, I understood what the bible meant. “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. I had found out that the chains of thought were much more ravaging than their physical counterpart. I had also came to the conclusion that if only I had truth, I can break all the chains that rendered me paralyzed. Then, in my heart, I desired for truth more than anything else. I prayed and asked for the truth.

Then, the strangest thing happened. Suddenly, the darkness around me was running away like a frightened deer, away from the predator. I raised my head, and I saw a strange figure coming towards me. In shape, he resembled a man. Yet, something about him told me that he was more than a man. There was eternal calm on his face that gave my troubled heart peace. Yet, the fierceness in his eyes pierced me with one glance. Slowly and steadily, with an unhurried walk, he was coming towards me. Just as I was going to ask him, “Who are you?”, I suddenly realized that with every step he took, the chains that I had tried so hard to get out of, were falling away, one by one hurriedly, as if they were running away, trying to hide in the darkness, away from this strange figure. He came near me and said, “I am Truth”.

Oh, and as I struggle to express in words which is inexpressible, I am reminded of that fateful night, when I was liberated from the chains that I had so willingly bound myself with. Now that I try to comprehend the miracle in my life, I am dumbfounded by the sheer asymmetry of my actions that night. For, on the night that I was freed, and when unspeakable joy had filled my heart, it made perfect sense that I should cry. When I thought that I was in the darkest phase in my life, looking around trying to make sense of my world, he came into my world and that was enough. For his light illuminated every dark corner of my labyrinthine mind. Now everything made sense, just because he was with me.

How can I ever aptly describe the Truth. For the truth had turned out to be everything that I thought it was not. I thought it to be an abstract concept of mind. He turned out to be the desire of my heart. I thought it to be non material, yet with open arms he gave me a hug. I thought it to be a merciless, brute fact, unsympathetic towards the people who searched for it so willingly, yet, I found even he had a heart. So, as I end this essay, I am again reminded of him about whom this essay is. With gentle tone, he is calling me, and I run to his embrace.


Commentary

Oh yes! I’m gonna give commentary to the essay that I have written! Partly because, I wanted to try out a different writing style, and because it is new, and a bit poetic, you might miss the one of the points that I want to make here and partly because I want to.

So, here we go:

The Search:

I have pictured the search for truth as searching a needle in a haystack. The first two paragraphs are obvious, because they are written in plain language. However, in the last paragraph I have given 4 different cases. Let me explain what I mean by each one.

  1. The people who say that there is no needle are those who say that there is no ultimate or objective truth. However, there is no truth out there.
  2. The people who mistake a piece of grass for a needle is, those who have done exactly that. They have taken a different philosophy of life then the one which is really true.
  3. The people who are fascinated with the grass are those who are lost in the world. They can be classified as hedonists.
  4. Fourth, those who really find the truth.

The Journey:

First I have compared a journey with the truth. There weren’t very many things are going on in the back of mind when I wrote that. The similarities are pretty obvious. However, there is one thing that I haven’t wrote there literally, but if you really think about it and dwell on it, you will grasp it. Coupling the journey section with the truth section makes it even more obvious. Nevertheless, if you can’t come to the conclusion on your own, I’ll say it here.

The whole truth has a great power. It is that before it, no lie can stand. In half truth, a lie can even disguise as truth. However, that can not happen when you have the whole truth. It’s authority is absolute and it’s abilities infinite.

The Chains:

First, my original conception was that the truth was non material, and yet I was trying to catch it. The chains are my thoughts, as it is stated in the essay, and they are accumulating. Because, all of them are half truths. Because they are half truths, I can not throw them away because the thought that I throw away may be the original truth. However, I also can not eliminate those other than the original truth because, I don’t have the original truth whole. And thus, it looks same as any other.

Then, the sudden realization that I’m not moving an inch when I’m running. This is the core point of this essay. For when there are unanswered questions in your mind you can not really focus on anything else. At least, I can not. Because you can not focus on anything, you can not do anything effectively. So, when you are in confusion or in depression trying to make sense of the world around you, all your physical activities also become constrained. That’s what I meant when I said, I wished that they were iron chains. Because, iron chains only bond the body, they leave the mind to wander anywhere it wishes. However, the chains of thought bind both.

The Truth:

The last section I think speaks for itself. So, I wouldn’t want to say anything that degrades the section from the level it is at. Seems to me, that anything I say will do exactly that. So, instead of saying anything here, I’d suggest that you read it again!