When George Bush started a ‘pre-emptive’ war on Iraq, he said ‘God is with us’. The USA won the unprovoked war and innumerable innocent lives were lost. One of the following conclusions could be drawn: 1) God was indeed with George Bush and helped him win the war 2) God was not with George Bush but could not do anything about the loss of innocent lives (this would not agree with any definition of God) 3) God was not with George Bush but chose not to do anything about the loss of innocent lives.
Third choice can equally be interpreted as God does not take any side and does not intervene in human affairs. Might is right in the earthly affairs. Democracy is a mild threat to might but it is no guaranty against injustice. The USA likes to follow the rules. George Bush amended the US law which prohibited preemptive attack on another nation. He got bipartisan support for this unjust war, as God was with him. A whole country can be fooled without much difficulty and who can argue against patriotism! The God of the might then turns out to be the most potent. If we would like our God to be the most potent, we need to grow in stature in the world.
I come from a surrounding where people pray to God to get a cure from common cold to passing JEE. There were specific promises to the God that on getting this favor, some thing will be done in return. This could be breaking coconuts, lighting lamps, shaving off one’s head, money in the Temple Hundi …. you name it. I have seen people carrying out the promise when their wish came true. I always wondered what was done when it did not come true or when the deal was not kept. God perhaps never bothered about individual promises and was not keeping track.
During my youth, I prayed to God with specific promises for personal favors on a few occasions. One was when a new-born child in our close family circle was in a serious condition. I had a silent prayer and promised to God that I would do something if the child survived. The child did and I kept my promise to God. In the next few years, we had another young relative in serious condition and I made the same offer to God. This young relative did not survive. For some reason, I thought I should still keep my promise to God and did. God must have tried hard and the efforts must be rewarded, not the end result.
People around me had Murugan as their favorite God. Bathing Him in milk was often a promise to get something from Him. I remember carrying a pot full of milk (Paal kudam) when I was a kid during a specific festival known as Paal kudam. Devotees would become hysterical as they carry the Paal kudam towards Thirupparankunram, one of the six temples of Murugan. I was carrying the Paal kudam with no emotion whatsoever.
Another occasion I prayed to God was when I wrote the entrance exam for IIT Madras, MSc admission. Unlike the other two incidents mentioned above, this was in a lighter vein. Just for the sake of it, I prayed that we will give a ‘milk bath’ to Vinayagan, the elephant God, brother of Murugan. I thought Murugan was getting far too much milk and Vinayagan did not get any share. The deal was complicated. Myself AND a friend of mine should both get admission to IIT Madras. He was a top ranker and I was a reasonably good student. We both made it and as a bonus, two more of our classmates got admission. One of them was a christian! They were both good students too.
Now we were in some kind of a shock and denial. Many temples of Murugan do this routinely and at that time I was not aware of Vinayagan temples doing this. My friend asked me, where should we do this now? We had our own Vinayagan temple in front of our house where we lived all our childhood. I told him that we would do it in that temple and he agreed. We arranged a function and did do what is known as ‘Paalabhishekam’ or giving the statue a milk bath. Until that time, I had not witnessed such a ritual in Vinayagan temples. To our surprise, when we reached IIT Madras, there was a Vinayagan temple in the woods. We accidentally walked through the temple on our first day and there we witnessed the same event once again. It was an incredible sight.
Selection was based on the performance in the exam and as long as God helped us perform better, it would be alright. I hope the God did not do anything to favor us at the cost of another more deserving student and that would be unlike God. Often when my students ask me about God and religion, I tell them this: When your experiment works if you want to thank God, go ahead. When it does not work, don’t tell me that you have prayed to God. Better sit in the lab and fix it.
If you look at the world today, it would not be difficult to identify the major causes for conflict. One is energy and another is water. Iraq war was not for restoring democracy. I was born in Tamil Nadu and work in Karnataka and our states fight for water, even when India and Bangladesh seem to have some water sharing agreement. However, if you look around, both water and energy are available in plenty. Two thirds of our earth is water and everything is energy (E = mc^2). The trouble is that portable water and usable energy are not freely available. For that, you need to understand and make efforts. Clearly, God wants you and me to work. If not, ocean could have drinking water and the energy in my pen could be used readily.
In the recent days, I have been reading about so many murders in the name of God. I have also read news paper reports about large amounts of cash and Jewels being deposited in the Temple Hundis. The common perception is that this is a share from ill-gotten wealth. Fortunately for God, none of the Lokpal bills (anti-corruption bill in Hindi) have any provision to touch God even if God were given a good share of the loot.
I must add one thing before concluding. I have seen this in India. People who grow by cheating a system eventually suffer even if they had given a fair share to God. May be one life-time is not enough to see what happens to a country or group, which in the name of God commits atrocities. May be the law of nature or God will eventually make things even. How can I ensure that no one blames God for killing another person? The nation-states of today should ensure that.