Interesting ideas interspersed with nonsense - RSS - by nikhil bhatla, -
Home Archives November 2008

« A Reflection - Controlling robots with your mind »
How I came to believe in God
Nov 6, 2008, 12:12a - Religion

Since the 6th grade, I've been a devout atheist. My rationale was pretty straightforward and certainly not unique. The world is such a fucked up place, that between the bad things that happen to good people and the good things that happen to bad people, even if there is a god, he can't be a good one. And if he isn't good, as far as I'm concerned he might as well not exist. What kind of god thinks it's all hunky-dory to take a child from their parents, sexually torture them, and then brutally murder them? This type of shit happens in our world - what sort of omnipotent being permits this?

Some deal with this apparent contradiction by reassuring that "God has a grand plan, one that us mortals simply cannot fathom. I must trust in Him to do the right thing." They put their faith in this plan, believing that in the end, what happens was not only meant to happen but what must happen for our good God's grand plan to come to fruition. This argument is a bit circular, but so be it - it's a reason to believe.

Others blame Adam and the Fall, resigned to the fact that though God may be all-powerful, humans possess that one thing (Free Will) that is beyond even God's control. It is this Free Will that is the source of the evil in the world, and we must wait until the Apocalypse for this evil to be wiped out by His Wrath.

(Of course there are other perspectives, but it is the Christian mind that I know best, having spent my whole life in the United States.)

None of these arguments placate me. The world is fucked up, and the one who has the power to change things does not. That one is nonexistent at best, neglectful at neutral, devious at worst.

And so my mind remained, stubbornly made up, for the past 20 years. Then, in the summer of 2007, I went to survival school.

Nothing really happened in survival school. No burning bush, no visions of angels, no rocks naturally carved in the Virgin's visage. We wandered the desert for nearly 30 days and 30 nights, a bit like Jesus, but back as a messiah I came not. There wasn't any pain in survival school, just a distinct lack of pleasure and a decent dose of discomfort. But it's in this nothing that I realized something. It was in this deprivation that the meaning of life became clear. I was meant to do nothing more than relish food, relish warmth, and relish love. To do all of this, I had to be conscious - I could not act like a robot, just going through the motions without experiencing anything.

So after getting back from survival school, I realized, "Fuck productivity." I could have been born thousands of years ago, when survival school was not a weekend adventure but the only way of life. What if I had been born then, a life where whatever you want, from water to getting over the next ridge, required you to work for it? No faucet to turn on, no car to jump into? Now imagine that I have been magically transported to now. Would I be worrying about how productive I was, trying to make diminishing optimizations on my efficiency? Would I build my mind, my life, around some abstract, arbitrary goal? Or would I just be sitting in my house, looking out at the rain, marveling that staying dry can be so easy? That when I'm hungry, I can open up my fridge and eat? No bare-handed fish-catching and matchless fire-starting, just the magic of fridge and stove.

And from my perspective, this is exactly what happened. After a month in the wilderness, that life had become my life. It had become routine, it had become the way things are. And then, whisk, back in a restaurant, back in the "real world", back in my previous life. But sensitized to it in a way I had never remembered being. The closest that I can imagine is that of being born, that miraculous change from nothing to something, from emptyness to the richness of life. Alas, my birth I do not remember...

So here I am. The world may be fucked up, but you know what, that's OK - it's better than it's ever been, than I really have any right to expect it to be. I'm just happy to be alive, to have consciousness. That is the true magic of the world, the magic of life. I could have been born at any other time, under any other circumstance, but I was born NOW. Not then, but now. Why? I dunno. What I do know is that I now pray before every meal, thankful of the amazing good fortune I have for the life, mind, and body that I have been given.

It doesn't have to be this way. There's really no reason for it to be this way. Yet it is.

It seems much more likely for there to be nothing instead of something. Yet here we are, with something instead of nothing.

That is my best evidence for a higher being, and I accept it. I no longer think of God as benevolent, or of really having any human qualities. It's not something we have control of, something we can beseech with wishes, with greed, with desire. It's just something that makes the impossible happen, that thing which gives us the experience of experience. It is that capacity for existence that is the greatest evidence of all.

I guess that's born-again spirituality for yah :)

As my spirit pops in and out of existence, I write. If this kind of thing interests you, check out what I've written on arrogant atheists and an experiment with non-atheism.

Also, here is my survival school journal.

Read comments (8) - Comment

Niniane - Nov 7, 2008, 11:41p
This was a very thought-provoking post. It also made me tempted to go to survival school, but I might just hate it the entire time.

My mother was very ill in 2004 (during the last months of Desktop, if you recall), and I remember thinking that if she got better, I would be satisfied with life. I wouldn't pine for more productivity or accomplishment or any other desires.

She did get better, and I was very content for a while. Then I started slipping, and now I'm discontent most of the time. :| I am going to visit a friend near Tibet, where he says the village is very Buddhist, so maybe I will reconnect with my contentedness there.

I really liked your post, Nikhil.

Laura - Nov 24, 2008, 2:10p

Reading this post made me think of a book I read some 10 years ago.

" In search of the miraculous" by P.D. Ouspensky.

you might like it.


Laura - Nov 24, 2008, 2:31p
And by the way, being a technical recruiter I cannot but say that I am impressed with your professional background.

I happen to look for engineering talent for Microsoft Experimentation Platform in Seattle.

If it happens to be the right time for you to consider it, I will be happy to have a brief chat with you at your convenience.


Sanjay Mavinkurve - Mar 18, 2009, 9:06a
I'm really disappointed to read this post, Nikhil. It seems as though you've answered questions that seem unanswerable (and which may indeed be unanswerable) with God.

Sure, you are lucky to have been born during this time, but that good fortune doesn't mean that an omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent God (or, for that matter, any God) exists.

It takes an incredible amount of strength and belief in awesomeness of the universe to say to oneself, "There are a heck of a lot of questions that I have no answers to, and that humankind may never find answers to, but until then, I accept that I simply don't know the answers." Let's not lose our inquisitive nature that loves to discover truths about our world and universe just because we're stumped by the awesomeness of it along the way. Let's not create mythical answers to the most difficult of questions because we're uncomfortable in not knowing. Let's instead embrace not knowing because it leaves wide open the door for future investigation and discovery.

Above all, though, let's not cast reason and evidence-based investigation as somehow existing on a lower plane to the somehow "enlightened" state that your 30 days left you in. You seem to suggest that reason is on a lower plane, a plane for the unenlightened.

I'm not sure how much after your 30-day experience you wrote this post, but I urge you to rethink all the reasons for which you have suspended reason.

Your last paragraph does console me, however. It seems like the "God" you now believe in is not really a "God" at all, according to how most people I know define it. You're using the term "God" in a poetic sense, almost in an Einsteinian sense. You're bottling up all the awe, wonder, love, and other powerful emotions that you experience as you contemplate your existence and the meaning of existence altogether and calling that "God." Which is fine, except that it's, well, extremely confusing for everyone.


nikhil - Apr 21, 2009, 6:13p

Good to hear from you. I hope you're doing well, and thanks for the comment. Here's a response:

I think believing in God embraces not knowing just as much as not believing in God. Nor do I discount reason, as I use it incessantly on a daily basis. What I'm suggesting is that you should not be a slave to reason, a logic machine that accepts only those things arrived at by reason. Reason and logic are a closed, cold space, and while they work wonderfully as a tool, they aren't the only tool by which to act. The other tool, one that I often neglect, is the arational impulses and feelings that I often have. Some call it "trusting your gut", which is sort of what I mean.

One thing is clear to me. We can break knowledge down into 2 classes: the objective and the subjective. Science (and reason) provide knowledge in the objective domain. But let us not forget the second domain, the subjective. Even the very existence of the subjective domain (e.g. "feelings" via consiousness) has no space in the objective domain, and seems to be very much orthogonal to it. Yet it exists. It's existence is to me a testament to real, true knowledge or phenomena outside either the subjective and objective domains. I might call that the domain of God.

Maybe this is a clearer way to think about it: I have a strong subjective feeling of having a soul. I may have been taught it, or it may be "natural" - I can never know. What I do know is that I have this feeling, and I've denied it since the 6th grade. Why? Why not embrace my feeling, treat it as a truth, and see where that leads? Denial is not a good method by which to seak Truth.

I don't think my conception of God is Einsteinian, as you call it. I do believe that there is a higher power (whatever that might mean). I just don't think it's of the kind depicted by mainstream religions, or any organized religion that I've encountered. So this is not just the bottling up of awe.

I don't expect this to be very clear, and it is difficult to write about. So sorry about that - just trying to communicate what is inside me as clear as I know how. It's amazing that we're able to communicate such abstract ideas at all...

Ruggero - Sep 17, 2009, 12:47p
Personally, I find it pointless. I mean who gives a damn? God or no God, this is not an extremely important question at this point in time. Much better: intelligence or not intelligence? The emergence of intelligence from matter is the still a mistery. Science has been able to get the keys to life a few years ago and now time has come we do the same with thinking. I guess this might also help in case anyone - at that point - start to wonder about the existence of God. But for he time being, I suppose is still too early for that.

Ramu - Nov 13, 2011, 4:38a
Many therories on this earth to prove
that GOD'S existence....

IF U exists,,, then belive some one exists.........
Because u don't have the capacity to
create or destroy////U may do it with the material things....
U can't create,destroy or can't do anything....Some thing is there ....with which.......U can ......
Sceince is an experiment with the sense organs in the same way Philosophy is a science with the expectations and examinaitions.......

If u have to have any convincing answers,please feel free to contact me

Sanjay Mavinkurve - Jan 18, 2018, 10:02a
Hi, Nikhil! Not sure if you still read these comments. But I'm back on this page almost 10 years after my first visit. I don't know what my equivalent of survival school is that caused me to change my outlook (maybe my children?), but what you're saying makes a lot more sense to me (you're right--it's hard to express).

« A Reflection - Controlling robots with your mind »

Come back soon! Better yet, stay up-to-date with RSS and an RSS Reader. Creative Commons License