Devotees at a temple in Guwahati, Assam | Photo: Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg
Devotees at a temple in Guwahati, Assam | Photo: Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg
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God has survived wars, famines, tsunamis, genocides, and pandemics like plague, flu and cholera. And now, in all probability, He — God is still a man, unfortunately — will survive COVID-19 and India’s 21-day lockdown.

From the Vatican to the Mecca, from Tirupati to Siddhivinayak, places of worship are shutting their doors in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court Monday took up a PIL seeking closure of all places of worship in India, but the court said it can’t pass orders that cannot be implemented.

Rationalists have been asking a pertinent question — why is God not mitigating the plight of His creations? Authors such as Taslima Nasreen say humankind has to look to scientists and not Gods to find solutions to COVID-19 pandemic, and want laboratories to invent and produce medicines and vaccines. 

Nasreen argues: “Gods are saviours for many, the ones they pray to throughout the year for protection. But when humanity is in peril, it is usually the gods who flee first.”

Whenever a new drug or vaccine is invented, the rationalists hope for a day when the gullible masses will finally get rid of religion and superstitions. But that has never happened in the past. And it’s naive to think it will in the future.


Also read: Mecca to Vatican — COVID-19 proves when human beings are in peril, gods flee first


God and poverty

After every calamity, religiosity rises and God emerges stronger and more potent. No scientific inventions or interventions have been strong and powerful enough to dent or damage the kingdom of God or the godmen. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, when the water receded, people returned to their broken homes and villages, repaired their religious places and some of the relief money also went into building new religious structures.

The same process may take place in the case of COVID-19. Faith in God will be renewed and rebuilt. And He will be given the credit for ‘defeating’ the novel coronavirus. So there is no need for God to fear that people will abandon Him.

In fact, misery and religiosity are directly proportionate to each other. The poorer the society, the larger the chances of it being more religious. Although there is not enough data to prove this empirically, but there is enough evidence to form a robust hypothesis. Europeans have abandoned churches in droves.

With the advancement of science, many societies are becoming irreligious, and secular/nonreligious/agnostic/atheist is the fastest-growing tribe in the world religion map.

At the same time, backward countries and societies are embracing God more tightly. Although, this is not a linear process. The USSR abandoned God almost six decades back and after the demise of the Communist regime, God was resurrected and the Russian Orthodox Church is now thriving there. It proves that God has capacity to rise even after hibernation.


Also read: Amid coronavirus scare, Yogi govt cancels Ram Navami festival in Ayodhya


Opium of the masses

The paradox is that the people who God has ‘endowed’ with all worldly things like money, education, nice homes, ample food, health care are the people who are abandoning God.

It proves that human miseries are not the anti-dote of religiosity.

The eternal atheist, Karl Marx had an explanation for this. If we read his ‘religion is opium of the masses‘ statement in totality, it reads like this: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.”

Interestingly, Marx had prophesised the withering away of the state, but never religion.


Also read: Why an atheist witness was ‘forced’ to take oath in the name of God in a Guwahati court


Here’s why God will survive COVID-19

God has no KRAs

God is not there to solve the problems of humans. God’s existence for humans does not depend on His ability to avert calamities and human miseries. He is there to assist people living with their miseries.

Fear of the unknown and limitations of science 

Even at the final frontiers of modern science, there are still many unknown things.

As then-Secretary of State of the US Donald Rumsfeld stated at a Defense Department briefing in 2002: “There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns… But there are also unknown unknowns.” So, dear Taslima Nasreen, in the Rumsfeldian world of unknown unknowns, there are things we do not know we don’t know.

The latter two categories of this statement are testimonies that God has quite a fair chance of not only surviving COVID-19, but for much sticking around for much longer.

In fact, after the end of the pandemic, God may emerge more powerful because it will again prove the limitation of science to explain unknowns.


Also read: Hinduism vs Hindutva debate ignores Hindu people, puts religion where it doesn’t exist


The concept of sin and karma 

Many religions believe that misery is a form of repentance and atonement. Religion says whenever sin (or ‘paap’ in Hindu mythology) is on the rise, God strikes down on people with greater vengeance and anger. Pandemics, famines or wars are seen as manifestations of God’s anger.

In the aftermath of the devastating Bihar earthquake of 1934, Mahatma Gandhi declared that the earthquake was God’s punishment for the sin of untouchability.

Some Muslim cleric may argue that the coronavirus pandemic is a result of God being unhappy with Indians because they have brought misery to Muslims with the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens. Or some Hindu godman may preach that the Hindus are becoming paapi and that is making God angry.

A God who is powerful, feared and unaccountable cannot be sacked easily

God has a functional role in social and personal life, and science is not in a position to replace God in that position. Other than a religious role, God is a tool to regulate human lives in many ways. This God is not expected to be either benevolent or merciful. The will of this god is manifested by man-made institutions and it has societal sanctions.

The author is the former managing editor of India Today Hindi magazine, and has authored books on media and sociology. Views are personal.

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11 Comments Share Your Views

11 COMMENTS

  1. just want to say one thing “a person who never studied science has no right to criticise it and same goes for spiritualism” Science is all related to physical world…. And spiritualism is all related to non physical inner world…. Both have different phenomenon, way of experiencing. Many scientists including great APJ abdul kalam was theist. So dont judge Or analyse a filed in which you never entered or never studied about it.

  2. Loved the article…though you had been sarcastic of God kingdom through out… the way you concluded for us no need to abandon the religion sighting unknown of unknowns where science still struggles….religion offer few things for our way of life…It is quite balanced…and very realistic..

  3. Even if the entire humanity is to be wiped out of earth, we cannot attribute it to the failure of science or religion. What we can maximum attribute is that to be the failure of technology (after effect of science) and failure of prayers (which is only a part of religion).

  4. This questioning is nothing new and is in fact centuries-old, very boring fundamentalist atheistic trope. This is known in philosophy as the “Problem of Evil and Suffering” and basically means “if god exist, why bad thing happen” an ignorant, petulant childish question. Theists like Alvin Plantinga and many others have answered this even to the satisfaction of modern atheists and you can look up ” answers to the problem of evil and suffering” on the Internet . Religious texts including the Bible (see the Book of Job) explicitly affirm this phenomenon of God *deliberately* allowing bad to happen to good people too. Using this pandemic to beat this dead horse again only shows the intellectual bankruptcy of the modern atheist movement.

  5. Interestingly in Holy Bible Psalms 14:1 it is mentioned “the fool says in his heart’ there is no God'”. No other religious text openly mocks atheists but also gives the first person account of the Creator Himself. Without a transcendent God humans can not find an answer to meaning of life and moral standard. Our author says material need is the reason for religiosity, but one of richest and wisest king – Solomon humbled himself before the Creator. Modern Europeans less attachment to Christian religion because of exaltation of self
    and difficulty to adhere to the moral values demanded in the Holy Bible.

  6. This article sucks! No almighty interferes in human lives! When pandemic happens the so called almighty flee first, the mist high who can’t avert evil to save the the people who serve him whole heartedly! Then why is he called omnipotent? Why did he not answered the prayer of the imprisoned, of the helpless? And when children was sold from the breast of mother’s why was he deaf to the mothers cry? Men’s idea is behind religion! Creating the picture of heaven and hell!! There are no men of God, it’s just a scheme of exploiting people! When pandemics happen the almighty flee first COVID-19 break out all the house of God are lock down, hospitals are open and the scientist are the one finding the vaccine, where are the men of God ? The self acclaimed men of God can’t perform any miracle to heal the infected people?
    People need to study the history of their religion.

  7. In context of God ,there are still people who revere asaram & that scoundrel ram Rahim.It was Einstein who said the universe & human stupidity are infinite, about the universe he was not sure. God is sure of survival ,just because of the one quality that Einstein ascribes to human creed.

  8. Belief in God has truly become a problem in developed countries. With new inventions and theories individuals are now distancing them from God. But the ‘belief’ that science can make people not believe in the existence of God, itself is turning irrelevant. Science is sort of making people believe in God. Scientific facts present in the quran is attracting more people towards islam. Incomplete knowledge of science makes a person an atheist. But complete knowledge of science makes a person believer in God. Now the fact that critics are challenging various articles of islam actually results in people reading more of quran. So, even if any author like Taslima challenges the authority of God, people will surely know WHO GOD IS!

    • Western societies do not have a problem with faith in God.
      They have a problem with institutions like the Church.
      Paedophilia in the Catholic Church . Etc. etc.

  9. There is a hormone implanted in the human brain that helps leave every outcome to the Unknown Mightiest when every support is lost. Women folks are the ones who naturally draw much of their courage and inspiration from it because they mystically know they have to suffer the worst tribulations on earth to make the family and humanity survive. That is why the vast majority of women are seen flocking to most religious functions. That’s why Hindu female Goddesses are called SHAKTI. They have 8 times more energy and drive than men but prefer not to show it and accept to be a complement to men at marriage functions but regain their natural stature to make the family and the nation survive….

  10. What a bogus article! Of course with the development of science comes understanding of nature and then people start seeing the religion is nothing but a fraud. Developed countries like northern Europeans already have people becoming atheist. Of course some people will always be irrational and at least their numbers will shrink and not rise as this author is claiming. If society aggressively questions the benefits god and his man made institutions have brought to them, and compare it with the benefits science brings. They will see the light. Problem is that scientists do not get aggressive like religious people and that’s why ignorance has been allowed to exist in the society.

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