Sunday, July 13, 2008

Barber and God: A fable

This fable was an email forward I once received.

This is one of the best explanations of why God allows pain and suffering that I have seen:
A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed.
As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation.They talked about so many things and various subjects.
When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said:"I don't believe that God exists."
"Why do you say that?" asked the customer.
"Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn't exist.
Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people?
Would there be abandoned children?
If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain.
I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things."
The customer thought for a moment, but didn't respond because he didn't want to start an argument.The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop.Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt.
The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber: "You know what? Barbers do not exist."
"How can you say that?" asked the surprised barber."I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!"
"No!" the customer exclaimed. "Barbers don't exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside."
"Ah, but barbers DO exist! That's what happens when people do not come to me.""Exactly!" affirmed the customer.
"That's the point! God, too, DOES exist! That's what happens when people do not go to Him and don't look to Him for help. That's! why there's so much pain and suffering in the world.
"If you think God exists, send this to other people---
If you think God does not exist, delete it!BE BLESSED & BE A BLESSING TO OTHERS !!!!!!!

While this fable does a good job in making one realize one's mistake by not approaching God, I feel there is a flaw in this article when looked at from a different perspective.
Let me try and bring out the gap in the argument. First I number the lines of interest and then take them one line at a time and try to elucidate that it might be more complex than this article has made out. There you go.

1. "I don't believe that God exists."
2. "Why do you say that?" asked the customer.
3. "Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn't exist.
4. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people?
5. Would there be abandoned children?
6. If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain.
7. I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things."

1. "I don't believe that God exists."
In trying to prove the existence of God, this article does a good job. It simply explains that people don't go to God and hence they suffer from all the pain and suffering. Beyond that, however, this article is too simplistic and incorrect. It toes the line that religions all over the world have always taken: trying to prove that God is jealous, revengeful and unforgiving. He will give you all the pain and suffering just because you hate him or don't consider him or don't accept his existence or don't go to him. Read the first line that this article begins with.

"This is one of the best explanations of why God allows pain and suffering that I have seen."

Ask yourself a question here. Is this the kind of God we are praying to? A God who makes us go through hell if we don't pray or go to him? Doesn't he appear vengeful and unforgiving? Isn't this a God conceived and contrived by humans who in their "mortalized and conditional" love couldn't think of a God that could shower His love upon us "eternally and unconditionally"? And yet, God is not what this article portrays. That is where this article goes wrong. For God is with you even if you don't go to Him. God is irrevocably, perennially, deeply, sublimely, blessing you - in every act you choose for yourself. And that act can be Hitler's genocide or Gandhi's satyagraha.

Let us go to Line 4.
"4. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people?"
All the Popes and priests are men of God, aren't they? Don’t they fall sick and die? Is being sick proof enough of God's inexistence? Line 4 has an inherent fallacy: may be, falling sick itself is not bad. It doesn't have anything to do with suffering. For pain at a physical level is an experience that soul chooses to experience and precisely that's why we fall sick. We consider sickness bad because we find it a precursor to death and death is a bad occurrence in our conscience. What we need is a way to answer for ourselves if death really is a 'bad event'.

Line 5 now.
"5. Would there be abandoned children?"
Yes. There would be. Because of the way the universe is designed, it is blessing every thought and desire of the soul. So if the soul desires to experience learning independently without experiencing parental love then it gets that experience through what we call abandonment or being orphan. And hence, those parents who we brand "bad parents" just because, fearing some social stigma, they dumped the 'physical child' into the orphanage are actually helping the soul of that newborn baby to slowly experience being an orphan. So now with one change in perspective, what you call bad is no longer bad.
Line 6 now.
"6. If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain."
If everybody in this world had money, would there be any value of it? In this world of relativity the good can't exist without the bad. If you've never felt pain, how will you ever enjoy being pain free? Would you even know that there is something called pain free until you experience pain? Pain and suffering are two different things (the author however uses the words as synonyms). Pain can be very much a physical experience. But a pain doesn't necessarily cause suffering. Suffering is a very psychological phenomenon. You can be extremely poor and yet be extremely joyful. Haven't you seen the little kids of labourers playing by the road side? They have the pain of poverty just like their parents, but that pain doesn't convert itself into suffering for the kids. For they need to understand the existence of money before they can feel bad about the lack of it. Until then, they have the pain, but they're not suffering. Pain essentially is a lack of some kind of comfort of a desirable state we want to be in. Disease is a pain because we see health as a desirable state to be in. But can we avoid the suffering due to disease if we know that I'll appreciate my health even more for I now know what it is to be 'not healthy'? And you alleviate your pain and suffering too or just the suffering, even if the pain persists. So just revel in the glory that every bad thing exists so that you could appreciate the good. When many souls are created from one supreme soul (that we call God), some souls choose to be good and some choose to be bad. This is precisely why God doesn't punish anyone for choosing to be bad because they're only seeking to be one aspect of that duality. And until we meet bad souls, we can't appreciate the good souls.

Line 7.
"7. I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things."
Your imagination is too limited my dear fella. God will never block your free will. If the soul that envelops your body (yes – soul envelopes the body) wants to experience pain and bad things then God lets you experience those things. But why would a soul want to experience bad things or be bad by itself? Because soul knows that the physical life is a limited reality. If you are a good and a versatile actor, would you prevent yourself from taking up a role of a begger, a rich person, a villain, or a hero? Every role has its essence and after you finish one role - say of a hero - you feel bored and feel like doing something different; even if that means being a villain. Our soul goes through such cycles. And would it be fair on the part of God, to first allow us such a freedom to choose and then punish us for being bad? Is that by any means a free choice at all if God tells us something like, "I give you two choices to choose from: Good and Bad. But if you choose bad, you'll suffer in hell for eternity." No. That is not true. And hence, there is no hell. Hell is a concept contrived by religion to introduce fear of God in the minds of people. For without fear, religion would lose its existence. So have no fear. Everything that you did or happened to you which you think is/was bad is meant to be savoured as an experience and God needs to be thanked for it, for he brought to you what your soul chose to experience.

Bless every moment. !!