By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
In today’s world people have become cynical and rightly so. We hardly find an honest person. So it is tural that we have lost our trust on people. If you have been duped by someone, turally you become suspicious and start doubting everybody, even those who may be above suspicion. Yet what a miserable life we would have if we don’t trust anybody. Faith is essential for our very survival on this good earth of ours.
Imagine a life without faith. If we do not have faith on people, life will be dull and drab—full of despair. It is faith that brings a ray of hope, a silver lining to the dark clouds hovering over human life. Faith is very important to religion. Without faith religious life would be impossible. H. L. Mencken said, “Faith may be defined briefly as on illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable”. It is true that faith is an illogical belief, since logic does not enter into it. But for that we cannot minimize the importance of faith.
It is a fact that faith is essential for our survival. But there should be some limit and we must be very careful. Unbridled faith does more harm than good. Yet if judiciously applied faith becomes extremely beneficial. Faith on some miracle may brighten our lives and bring hope for a better future.
Faith is essential no doubt, but we have to be very careful, so that nobody can take us for a ride. It has been seen that whenever someone falls into despair or whenever one is overwhelmed by some misfortune, the immediate solution seems to be a visit to some palmist or an astrologer. They take full advantage of the misfortune of the customers and make their own fortune out of the misfortune of others. They suggest remedies to dispel misfortune, which are gratefully accepted by the unfortute clientele, as a drowning man catches a straw to save himself from drowning. At such times of adversity reason does not count and faith takes the upper hand.
The astrologers claim that they can reverse fate. I really do not know how far their claim is justified. There is a gradation of these destiny-makers. Some can be seen on the pavements in some busy places and they hopefully wait for the customers. They sit with various parapherlia which proclaim their profession. They are mainly approached by some persons, belonging to the economically backward section. The poor customers swallow everything that the fortune-teller recommends—hook, line and sinker. The payment charged by these road-side palmists is not heavy and the customers give whatever is demanded from their meagre earning. For them it is the only way to get rid of evil forces.
But some of the high profile astrologers demand a staggering amount for their fortune-reading. They recommend various kinds of precious stones, which cost thousands. If even one of their predictions comes true, people forget about others which did not come true, without realizing that it involves the logical fallacy of “non-sequiter”. Even enlightened people fall into the error of believing these predictions to the sky. Their faith without reason often leads to disastrous effects on the victims. To buy the costly stones they go to any length and when the desired result does not materialize they fall into flat despair.
The emergence of god-men have played havoc in the field of religion. The word “religion” implies a particular system of faith and worship. It is intended to reveal unity which is latent in diversity. But religion has been perverted to meet the selfish needs of man. Now it has become a theatre of violent self-contradictions. At present the concept of religion has been changed to make a wall of division between man and man.
Every religion owes it existence to the sublime feeling of some great and noble person. It gives a feeling of eternity in this temporal world and brings up the elixir of values to human life. This kind of spiritual enlightenment is the root of any religion. Faith is essential to any religion—but it is not meant for usurping reason. Faith must be combined with reason to understand the meaning of religion. Faith complements religion and only faith can elevate man to spiritual level. If it goes against reason, then it is not true faith.
But those people who want to manipulate the masses for their own advantage, prefer to encourage irratiol faith, which brings untold misery to the people at large. A faith to be beneficial, must have some ratiol explation. Faith without reason is a dangerous process and it leads to the emergence of god-men on the one hand and fortune-tellers on the other. These god-men turn religion into a kind of sensatiolism and people get swayed by their sleight of hand. This kind of display of dexterity impresses the people to such an extent that they lose their ability to distinguish between faith and reason and due to ignorance, some people flaunting magical powers are regarded as gods on earth. The persol charisma of these god-men are far more irresistible than the religious dictums to the common man. The god-men make every effort to keep their mass appeal. The money and the wealth some of them collect from the hapless devotees is enormous. They live like millioires and some of them reside in palatial buildings, move around in expensive imported cars and have everything that money can buy.
The god-men have many tricks in their bags to dupe the innocent. The most important and attractive device to attract people, they use, is the element of the miraculous. By performing miracles in the full glare of public view, they mage to get explosive advertisement, which bring thousands of people to their fold. They create such an atmosphere that people lose their ratiol judgment and the critical power to distinguish between right and wrong. It is a kind of drugged state, which destroys the development of human faculties.
There is a huge difference between the god-men and the saints, the truly religious persons. The saints are interested in improving the physical and mental health of the society. But the god-men do not do that, because only in a sick society they flourish. Most of them do not impart any spiritual guidance to the devotees.
They have popular appeal and the resultant material success. They never try to reform the people who go to them. They only offer quick-fix solutions and magical advantages. They appeal to the emotion of the people and not to their ratiol power. Actually they should try to improve the mental health of the society and should impart spiritual training to the devotees, who should be made aware that they are not gods on earth. But that will go against their interest, so they do not try to do that.
It is true that some of them are doing charitable work by establishing schools, hospitals etc. But their opulent and obscure life style is repugnt to any ratiol person. They live like royalty. Their followers are hypnotized by their smooth talks in such a way, that they believe that these god-men have the power to give whatever they wish. Because of their blind faith, many people of the affluent section give these god-men all the wealth they have. Consequently some of the god-men are worth several crores. They do talk of love in their sermons, but the word seems to be hollow without substance. They do not seem to be bothered about the spiritual significance of human existence. Spiritualism is opposed to materialism, but these mini gods on earth seem to be more interested in amassing wealth, out of which only a small portion is doled out in the me of charity—possibly to impress people with their supposed generosity. Actually at such a time, when the world is enveloped by the dark clouds of terrorism, corruption and hatred, we stand in need of urgent spiritual revival to combat the evil forces.
Spiritualism does need faith, but it should be combined with ratiolism. Faith without reason is nothing but superstition and insensibility. The masses should be given spiritual education, so that they are not lured by unscrupulous fortune-tellers or the pseudo gods, who only serve their own interest. Only then the people will be able to raise their voices against the emotiol blackmail perpetrated by the religious quacks. They should know that God lives in the heart of every human being and He does not need any material benefit. We have to cultivate faith combined with reason, to understand the significance of God and his creation, this beautiful universe. Faith should be judiciously practiced and it does help people to overcome many a heartaches.
I suppose we have to accept what Providence ordained. Human life goes through phases of pleasure and pain, happiness and unhappiness, joy and sorrow. We cannot have one without the other. It is no use going to astrologers or god-men. One should have faith on one’s own self to overcome any obstacle, come what may. Socrates said “Know thyself”. Self-knowledge is the best knowledge and that is the right path to happiness. Hence I believe that we should have faith on our own selves.