Religion, Secularism, Democracy, Humanity and Bangladesh

Religion, Secularism, Democracy, Humanity and Bangladesh


Mo Chaudhury

 Religion, Secularism, Democracy, Humanity and Bangladesh
Part 1 [February 12, 2012]
Our days are always numbered, so might as well share some thoughts before they become unreachable. It is only natural that my thoughts have evolved over a rather eventful lifetime, but then it is supposed to be that way, else my lifetime would have been wasted frozen in a solitary point. As a matter fact that is precisely my thesis, the more religious we become about anything including religion, the more blinded and intolerant we become of apparently competing but inherently congruous views. Gradually but surely we, as individuals or as a collection, enter a phase of endless conflict with the "not-me" and "not-us" subsets, starting within the set of people we know to the set of country men and ultimately the humanity

Religion, Secularism, Democracy, Humanity and Bangladesh
Part 2 [February 26, 2012]
Universality of Divine Messages
With respect to religion, my premise concerns all religions. By definition, each religion/faith starts with the blind belief that only their version of the Creator and Creation is the "truth". By implication then, the followers of a given religion are to view all other religions as wrong and their followers as being misguided. This is precisely where religious intolerance is rooted and the process of blinding vision starts. This is because it is nearly impossible to accept [or even see any merit in] the view of another person believing that person to be absolutely wrong at the core.
I have to reiterate that belief in the Creator is not where the potential problem lies, it is the lack of belief in the dignity of all creation that breeds intolerance and blinding vision.
Everyday thousands of children are born worldwide into families practicing numerous religions. [And this has been going on for millions of years now]. Clearly if you believe in the Creator, you have to believe that it is solely the Creator's decision as to what parental religion, if there is any, a child is born into. Then you have to wonder why the creator is going to create a greater burden of finding the truth for the newborns who are born into supposedly misguided parents.
Or, is it possible that the divine messages to all religions at all times are, have always been and will always remain the same? Perhaps it is our intrinsic human limitations and self-induced blinding visions that keep preventing us from seeing the commonality in all messages. What else could explain as to why the more "religious" people become about their faith, the more they litigate the untruth about others?

Religion, Secularism, Democracy, Humanity and Bangladesh
Part 3 [March 01, 2012]
Why does it make sense to believe in a (the) Creator?

Let us start with the proposition that earth and life on earth are deliberate creations and not merely evolutions from random collision of some gaseous stars (with oxygen and hydrogen). The word random here forms the foundation of belief in divinity as we know. Else humanity is no more than a Poisson outcome continuing indefinitely until another astrological Poisson event (doomsday?) terminates humanity and transforms random pieces of earth into outrageously blissful (heavens?) or hostile (hells?) environments. The metamorphosis of those new abodes might be such as to sustain a robust form of life (no death any more!). But what happens to all of us who ever lived on dear earth and became deceased? Nothing really, our deceased cells dissipate into the matter of earth and in that quantum form we will continue to exist in the newly formed environments. This chance-driven physical story is rather an unexciting tale with no drama or intrigue that we human beings feed on!

On the other hand, the saga of a (the) Creator and creations (earth and life on earth) is enormously inquisitive and purposeful. Leaving aside the spiritual quest for another day, I will take for now the mundane perspective of rational choices like many other (education, relationship, employment, et cetera) we make in course of our lifetime. 

Let us start with clearly articulating the proposition: Earth and life on earth are deliberate creations. Then there has to be at least one Creator. It seems quite illogical that there are multiple Creators, simply because otherwise the biology of human beings at any given point in time would have varied considerably depending on the number of creators and because the laws of nature on earth seems too universal for too long for them to be governed by independent multiple Creators. This sensibility of a single Creator is of course what many apostles, saints and philosophers have contemplated out albeit at different times.

With the Creator, the next queries are whether there is life after death, whether there is a post-earth reward (heavens) and penalty (hells) system for our actions on earth, and whether the Creator dictates human beings to live their lives according to a single or multiple (and alternative) sets of codes. Notice that a post-earth reward/penalty system makes sense only if there is a life after death (apparently similar to the ones I described under No Creator or random configuration). And for systematic adjudication of our actions into rewards and penalties, there has to be at least one reference point or benchmark, namely an ideal code of living.

In principle, there is a prospect that there is no life after death and hence there is no code, the Creator just wants us to have a good time here on earth and in whatever way we find it enjoyable. Since there are no ill consequences in this latter case, we have nothing to lose in not believing in a Creator. However, it makes little sense to believe in a deliberate Creator and then not believe that divine guidance in some form exists. Thus, we can effectively interpret the belief in a Creator equivalent to the belief of at least one divine code. Let us denote by p the probability of a deliberate Creator (and hence at least one code).

If there is a deliberate Creator and we do not believe in any code, we will never make it out of the hells into the heavens. Those of us believing in a deliberate Creator and hence in at least one code, we face possible penalty time in hell for our deviations followed by endless time in the heavens as a reward for our belief in a Creator and our effort to pursue a code.

This leads to my premise that it is rational for us to believe in a (the) Creator and as such in at least one such code known to us. In doing so, we lose nothing, and the worst case is that there is no life hereafter and as such there is no infinite bliss of the heavens (payoff: +∞). On the other hand, not believing in a Creator (and as such in at least one known code), we run the risk (p) of eternal and abject misery of the hells (payoff: ─∞). Thus, it is a choice between the expected payoffs of +p∞ (believing) and ─p∞ (not believing). Now, our leaned friends would argue that there is a cost in the form of discomfort/disutility from the restrictions and extra efforts pursuing a code. But, guess what, so long the disutility is finite (and it is surely so), it would always be miniscule relative to the expected payoff +p∞ (of believing). Therefore, the choice of believing in a Creator clearly dominates the choice of not believing, and accordingly every rational human being should choose to believe in a Creator (and hence in at least one known code). 

Typically multiple codes have always existed in the known history of humanity. Thus the next issue is whether truly there is just a single divine code among the known ones at a given point in time. If it was provable, then only a single code would have survived and known to us by now (after a few million years). The truth of the matter is that it is not provable at all by any means. The rational choice is then to believe that the known codes must be compatible and congruent in a divine sense that is beyond our human frailty. As a matter of practicality, however, each of us should chose to follow just one code but always with utmost reverence for the other codes and the choices of their followers. In this pragmatic sense, it is natural to choose the code our parents are following as this is the path of least frictions. In the end, if there is a Creator, what will matter most is whether we have made an effort to pursue a code known to us, and not as much which known code we chose to practice. This is because the Creator did not give us the intelligence of proving the authenticity of the divine codes and as such cannot hold us responsible either in this regard. This is also because the known major codes that have survived to our time mostly share the same values of honorable living, differing largely in rituals.  

As always, my sincere apologies if my heuristics hurt the feeling of any friend or for that matter of any fellow human being. I am also solely responsible for any errors and pitfalls. Of course, corrections will be very welcome.

PS: In my mind (not necessarily to others or by conventional rule), I am a Bangladeshi Muslim in belief and self-identification, although a sinner by most codes. But more importantly, I believe in a (the) Creator and am struggling to pay due respect to humanity of other persuasions.  Best. - Mahtab

 [Note: Poisson Process is a widely used statistical process to describe the random occurrence of events. It is a single parameter process and the parameter is often referred to as Poisson intensity. The probability of one or more independent occurrences within a given time span is dictated by the intensity parameter].

Religion, Secularism, Democracy, Humanity and Bangladesh
Part 4 [March 03, 2012]
A simple explanation of it is rational to believe in a Creator

I realize that I was perhaps too verbose in arguing why it is rational to believe in a Creator. Here is the short explanation in case it helps to make my point.
For brevity, let me define as Divinity as the combination of a Creator, a divine code for life on earth, a life after death and a penalty/reward system that leads to infinite misery [hell] for not believing in Divinity and infinite bliss [heaven] for believing in divinity.

It is true that with our current level of human intelligence, the existence of Divinity cannot be proven. Very importantly, however, the non-existence of Divinity [that there is no Divinity] can never be proven.
At the risk of sounding casual, this is like a black swan phenomenon. That there exists a black swan can be proven if and when we see one. But the statement that there exists a black swan can never proven to be false. Granted it is a low probability event given our common knowledge, but it is never zero and it never goes to zero.

When do even low probability events matter? The answer is when the severity is exorbitantly high when it happens. Low probability high severity events are often referred to as tail events or black swan events in the world of finance and risk management. What can be done to manage such extreme risks? The answer is insurance. We do this all the time in our daily life, like insuring our homes and other valuable properties and assets, we go as far as insuring our life too. Why do we insure, it is because the consequences of losing the insured assets can mean grave misery for us, or for our family or business.

Well, guess what, all of these earthly miseries that we insure are miniscule at best compared to the prospect of endless misery in the life hereafter if Divinity exists and we did not do the simplest possible thing in our lifetime, namely, insure our hereafter by just believing now in the existence of divinity.  If we can fully practice one of the divine codes known to us, it is all the better, since as we practice more completely, our insurance deductible goes to zero [no initial penalty time before infinite bliss]. But belief in Divinity seems necessary, like having an insurance policy at all.

In a nut shell, believing we have nothing to lose with the possibility of infinite bliss if Divinity exists.  Not believing, however, there is always a positive probability of infinite misery [black swan or tail loss event] if Divinity exists.


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