The god that is not
In times of pandemic and crisis, it is not the believer’s god that can offer a way to salvation but rather the faith of rationality that will lead the way forward
Two gods exist in the human mind. The believer's god and the non-believer's god. The believer's god is conceptualised and shaped by organised doctrines, which in common parlance is religion. Religion promises to bring to its followers a complete god — packed and patented. The non-believer's god is an almost non-existent one, or at least it has no particular shape and is not available in any package of belief. Man remembers the god of his belief in troubled times. The more desperate he is, the more submissive is the prayer. But if even after it does not work, the believer's god reluctantly gives way to the god who is not in his belief system.
Now let's turn to the crisis that humanity is faced with today i.e., the Novel-Coronavirus. It has suddenly halted the human world. Every person is alone in his boat in the sea of unseen. So the god of his belief is readily available to a person as their saviour. So they become more faithful, seek pardon and repent. Everybody in the family wants everyone else in the family, in the neighbourhood, among the relatives and friends to join him in his prayers. In this age of unbridled access to social media platforms like Whatsapp, Telegram, Facebook, Instagram, etc., and in a relatively underdeveloped society like India, where religious beliefs precede any reason and rationality, 'forwards' and 'shares' are almost impulsive. Soon after the threat of COVID-19 reached the Indian shores, the believer's god came to the fore vehemently to ward off the ill effects of the deadly virus and to save his followers. Almost everybody kneeled before the god of his belief and forwarded or shared all such messages and posters on social media platforms which warn others to repent their 'sins'. While doing this, they tend to forget that it is god who heaped the wrath on them. He is kind as well as cruel. He is a creator and he is a destroyer.
Amidst all the melancholic news of the virus engulfing more and more countries, killing thousands every day and the sheer helplessness of the mighty and powerful economic powers, many of us may have recently seen a viral video that shows a man, purportedly on a street in New York, in a frenzied voice, shouting at New Yorkers to repent for their sins because only that has brought them the misery and thus they should pray to god and ask for forgiveness. The man is unknown but he may have become the voice of the millions. But as time passes, with the threat of the pandemic becoming more deadly, more widespread, the believers find their god is nowhere near enough to save them. Reason and rationality, cause and effect, caution and precaution, restrictions and advisories, need to join hands to fight the pandemic and submitting before the power of medicines and protective gears and medical professionals have become paramount for almost every person. Now, instead of offering the power of prayers, the people of a certain religious group are offering blood plasma, because they have come around to a more logical sensibility. Clearly these do not form part of a believer's system of divinity. But nothing in this universe is separated from god. Since the non-believers rely only on things that are proven or can be proved, so these automatically form whole or part of the non-believer's god. With all the information, data, news, views, analysis, heart-warming stories of survivals and dreary incidents of more casualties every passing day, relentless services of the doctors, paramedics, subordinate staff in the hospitals, struggles of the scientists and biochemists to break the chain of the virus and develop a vaccine or a pill, the honest and well-meaning reporters and anchors of newspapers and channels, the newspaper vendors, the vegetable sellers, the 'kirana' shop vendors, the milk suppliers, the policemen enforcing lockdown, the volunteers working to mitigate the sufferings of the hapless, the functionaries of the governments working diligently to put in place a better mechanism to fight Covid-19, are now in fact, tiny manifestations of the non-believer's god.
As much as people are realising that the virus is here to stay till somebody toiling in a laboratory develops a vaccine, they are also realising that the god of their belief will not be able to help them much. Their chosen places of worship have shut the doors on them. When people were afraid of the Coronavirus, they had turned to the god of their belief. Now they are far more afraid of its wrath, they have turned more towards the god who apparently does not exist and who never asked to be worshipped. They have found within themselves this god of no-belief, in this unprecedented situation, to contribute to the fight. People who were confident of the magical power of prayers and belief have of late started forwarding and sharing advisories from governments, medical fraternities, WHO, etc. So can it be construed that in the race of believer's god versus the non-believer's god, the latter has defeated the former? If not defeat, at least it is the sidelining of such a god so long as the threat of COVID-19 is not over. Ironically, once this pandemic is over, I am sure, the believer's god will again push the non-believer's god to the hinterland, till such time when another disaster engulfs human society. Disasters, as it were, are here to stay, with another name, form, scale or magnitude.
The writer is an Indian Information Service Officer who previously worked as News Editor in AIR and DD. Views expressed are strictly personal