Khader Syed

What is God?

Mon Jun 13 2016


I was born to Muslim parents in India. Mum was and is still a staunch muslim. Dad used to be an atheist, but goes to the mosque regularly now.

My brother and I read the Quran daily for 6 months or so, when I was 10 or something. I understood parts of it, as much as I could comprehend as a kid, but then never again went back to reading it. I occasionally go back to it whenever I want to look at all the contradictions in it.

My brother hated religion growing up, partly due to being forced to read the Quran when he could have been out playing. Years later, he would give up his job in the US and return home, so he could live a pious life. He’s still pious, relatively sane, and often tries to convince me to follow the path of Allah.

Dad had a big influence on me with respect to atheism. Mom force feeding religion didn’t help either.

My brother and I went to Christian missionary schools in Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad and elsewhere. Fortunately or unfortunately, we never made it to the madrassas.

Growing up, we watched a lot of Hindu epics, like Ramayana and Mahabharata. I read a lot of comics based on these epics and other Hindu stories. These stories would give me a perspective on Hinduism.

After college and university, I moved to Bangalore and remained an atheist. My friends and I would ponder about all things metaphysical, spiritual and philosophical. And, it was in Bangalore that I was introduced to Buddhism and Zen.

There was always the question of the self, who I was, what I was and what I was doing. It still remains a question, but has perhaps become irrelevant over time. Like most questions.

In the Wellington summer of 2011, things changed. An easel, a palette and some painting happened. I had a revelation and then some. Things weren’t what they seemed. Too many questions came to the fore.

During college, my muslim friends would often try to convince me about Islam (some of them still do) and I would ask them, if god created everything, then who created god? Figures that applied to just about every other religion in the world. There never was really a good answer, beyond blind faith.

Once you started asking questions, the questions never stopped and it felt as though you never got any reasonable answers. And so, here I am, summing up what I’ve to come to believe over the last few years.

So, what do I believe in?

  • I believe we are part of a bigger whole - warts and all - good and bad
    • E.g. the whole would be the body and the parts would be atoms in the body
    • We are part of the universe and the universe is us - B^2FH
  • I believe that our actions and lives are predetermined
    • We were seeded with a random number, so to speak, but there’s only so much randomness
    • We always act in a very predictable fashion, even though we think we are unpredictable
    • There’s no such thing as a free will - Radiolab
  • It is unreasonable to expect things to be reasonable - they never are, never have and never will be
  • We have to traverse this ocean of reason and unreason the only way we can - the only way we know how
    • That path is unique for each and every one of us
    • Only you can acknowledge that and act accordingly

And this part in Baruch Spinoza’s wikipedia page, completes the picture of what I’m trying to say:

… envisages a God that does not rule over the universe by Providence in which God can make changes, but a God which itself is the deterministic system of which everything in nature is a part. Spinoza argues that “things could not have been produced by God in any other way or in any other order than is the case,”; he directly challenges a transcendental God which actively responds to events in the universe. Everything that has and will happen is a part of a long chain of cause and effect which, at a metaphysical level, humans are unable to change.