Tuesday, September 26, 2017

About my usage of term 'Almighty God' and offense it may cause to some non-believers in some situations

In a public post I put up some days ago, I had written, "My prayers to Almighty God and best wishes for the people of Houston and other parts of Texas, USA, reeling under floods from torrential rain that some say has not been seen before by them (not seen in Houston in living memory)."

It was pointed out to me that some people have the view that God doesn't care about suffering that people endure like in the case of Hurricane Harvey and that the term 'Almighty God' can be offensive to some innocent people who have suffered due to such disasters.

I had not realized that such words of mine could cause offense to some!

My apologies to those who got offended by my usage of those words. There is no doubt that there was and continues to be some horrific level of fear and suffering that's going on in Houston and other places in Texas, USA (including the coastal town of Rockport that got battered by the hurricane; flooding may not have been the big issue there). And that suffering is going to be there for months for those whose homes and properties have been damaged by this flooding. I realized that those of these suffering people who don't believe in an Almighty God may find my words to cause offence to them and increase their suffering! That is NOT an outcome I intended or desired.

I was thankful for the objection being raised to my usage of the term, 'Almighty God' in this context, and for exposing me to this aspect.

In a recent blog post of mine, Unprecedented menacing language exchanged between USA and North Korea leaders using United Nations General Assembly podium,  http://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.in/2017/09/unprecedented-menacing-language.html, I did use the term 'Almighty God' as follows: "I pray to Almighty God to calm the heated verbal exchange atmosphere between these leaders and protect the world from an outbreak of nuclear war, however short it might be."

In the above mentioned post, I have used the term, 'Almighty God' deliberately as that is part of my belief (with God's might coming into play in proportion to intensity of prayers to Him). I felt it was important to express this belief of mine in that post.

Here are some of my thoughts, not so deeply thought out yet but sincere and truthful thoughts to the best of my knowledge and intellectual ability, about the argument that the existence of suffering and evil means that there cannot be an 'Almighty God'.

A little bit of context about my Hindu belief would be appropriate here. Hinduism has the view that there are good actions (with good karma benefits, unless one acts with an attitude of desireless actions/karma offered to God in which case there is no karmic effect) and bad actions (with bad karma ...). Bad people (those who indulge in many bad actions) as well as good people (those who do many good actions) have been existing in the world over the ages.

Good people who believe in God pray to Him to protect them (from bad people) and keep bad people under check. Now this is the vital part of Hindu belief (which may be similar in other religions): In response to intense and genuine prayer from good people seeking protection and help, there have been many instances where God/divine power acts in the world defeating or reforming the bad and thereby protects the good (who prayed to him, mainly, but sometimes the benefits accrue to others as well).

Now bad people may also believe in God/divine power and pray for special boons that will help them dominate over others! This part may not be there in religions like Christianity. God responds to intense prayer in the way in which he is prayed to, and showers boons/grace in the way the devotee wants!

The classic case for this is the demon king Ravana and Lord Rama, a revered deity in India as Lord Rama is viewed as an ideal king and an embodiment of ethical behaviour.

Ravana, the demon king, did intense penance and prayer to Lord Shiva, and acquired great power through boons conferred on him by Lord Shiva (as per Ravana's desire to have such great power). After that, Ravana ran riot over other (human) kings and, in particular, he and his supporter-demons targeted the (human) Rishis (sages) who were doing penance and worship in the jungles.

The human sages prayed intensely to God for help and for protection from this demon who was making life hell for them. Those prayers led to God taking birth as Rama (in human form/body with divine powers), who killed Ravana in battle, and tilted the balance of good and bad in that age then, towards good, and reinforced faith in good people about divine power interceding in human affairs to protect the good when they pray to that divine power.

So, as a Hindu believer, presence of demonic people in the world like the Nazis, say, does not put a spanner in the works, as far as my belief and worldview is concerned.

Why there are such demonic people in the world is a more complex question which I don't think I have deeply studied (from Hindu scripture perspective).
From my Hindu belief perspective, I think just the words, Almighty God, do not present us with the problem of suffering and evil. It is when we presume that Almighty God is always good and only desires good for all of creation and so will prevent harm from happening to anything in creation, that we have the problem of explaining why such an almighty and always good God allows for the existence of suffering and evil.
Hindu belief roughly divides supernaturally endowed beings into good beings - gods (devas) - and bad beings - demons (rakshasas/asuras). Their essential difference from human beings is in their having supernatural power.
I also felt it appropriate to include below the contents of an Oct. 2012 post of mine from another blog, https://iami1.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/epicurean-paradox-a-hindu-take/:

Epicurean Paradox – A Hindu Take

In an email exchange I was referred to the following Epicurean Paradox (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicurus):

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

— end Epicurean Paradox —

My take on it is as follows:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

My understanding of Hindu philosophy and my belief is that good and evil are two sides of the same coin. Good and bad/evil actions done by living beings are, at least partly, out of choice. E.g. In one case, jealousy may lead a person to hurt another (bad/evil act) whereas in another case a person may overcome pangs of jealousy and not interfere with the happiness of another (not bad/evil act). Similarly one person may be indifferent to another person’s suffering whereas a third person may be moved to help the suffering person (good act).

The good and bad actions living beings do, typically, create Karmic effects which they experience later on in this life or a future life. Prayer to God (Divine Power) may give strength to face the fruits of bad Karma, and, in rare cases, cancel the bad Karma. Also, very importantly, at rare points in human history, intense prayer by devotees of God have led to Avatars take form like the Narasimha Avatar and, in this case, kill the evil doer who was harassing the devotee.

But these are beliefs – I certainly do not have solid historical evidence of Narasimha Avatar which is acceptable to scientists. Puranas and similar scripture of other religions may be viewed as myths by many scientists and I can’t really fault them for it :).

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

He/It lets it happen but is willing to interfere in Karmic law only on intense prayer or something like that.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

At least partially answered in above points.

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

He/It is able and willing but only on intense prayer or something like that.

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