What God do you want to believe in?
And what would you rather not be true.
Humans throughout history have believed in some sort of supernatural phenomenon. From believing in afterlife, to believing that the universe was created by a omnipotent god, there are a lot of philosophies that one could have grown up with. We can spend a lot of time arguing which of these philosophies are true, or are most likely to be true, but a more interesting in my opinion would be which supernatural does one want to believe in. Exploring the kind of god you desire can tell you a lot about yourself. Thinking about the your spiritual goals can help you understand what your goals in life are, and how you want to reach them, even if you are agnostic, or don’t believe in god. Lets look at a few different beliefs I’ve thought about.
Belief in Afterlife.
Afterlife is the idea that, living beings continue their existence even after their demise. Most religions around the world believe in some kind of afterlife. Some, such as Christianity believe in a Heaven and Hell. They believe that you are judges upon your death, and it is decided whether you go heaven to live in eternal bliss, or burn in hell till the end of time.
The purpose of heaven and hell are different in different religions. In Hinduism, you stay in Heaven or Hell for a limited amount of time. Once your punishment is over, you are reborn. Jainism has the belief that you are always reborn after death, and it is your purpose to break this cycle and achieve Nirvana. You might even be born as a animal, based on your karma. There is also the belief that your soul might wander around after death as a soul.
Finally, there is also the belief that your existence is finite. That there is no soul, and once you die, you will stop existing.
Most religious people believe in some kind of afterlife, and find comfort in knowing that, after it all ends there is more. But, and many people have realised that existing for an infinite amount of time, even if it is in a place like heaven, is a miserable. Infinite time, is a lot of time. You will eventually run out of things to see, do, and learn. To me, it is the worst case scenario.
Reincarnation, where you have no memory of your previous lives, is a little bit better to me. But you are still stuck in a eternal cycle. How are you any different from a dementia patient, who thinks they just woke up every 5 minutes. While Jainism allows you to break the cycle, it still requires you to live a life devoid of any karma, which means not having any desires, attachments, and basically any interaction not necessary to your survival. You cannot even grow your own food, since that would count as karma. This alone makes a extremely undesirable belief.
The best case scenario, in my opinion, is that you stop existing upon death, and your consciousness ceases. There are two kinds of philosophies in this bucket. The optimists, who believe that since this is your own life, you should live it to its fullest. Try to minimise suffering, and maximise joy, for both yourselves and others. Often associated with the YOLO, or “You Only Live Once” movement. On the polar opposites are the nihilists, who believe that since there is nothing after death, nothing matters. That life has no purpose.
I am in the bucket of optimism. Knowing that there is an end, gives me motivation to do the most I can in the limited time. I think knowing that there is an infinite amount of time, makes people less motivated to work towards their goal, though I concur that this is more of a strawman argument than anything.
Belief in a Soul and God.
There are three major beliefs, when it comes to the topic of God. The first is monotheism. This is the belief that there is one and only one true God. Christians believe in such a entity, called YHWH or Yahweh. They believe that YHWH is a omnipotent, omniscient being who created the universe.
The second is polytheism, which is the belief in multiple Gods. In the Japanese Shinto religion, for example, there are eight million gods known as kami (Nelson). In fact they don’t even believe that they are immortal or omnipotent. It is also possible for humans to become kami after death. Hinduism is also a polytheistic religion, but they do believe that some Gods are immortal, and believe in a God who created the universe called Brahma.
Thirdly, the there is atheism, which is the belief that there is no god. Note, that this doesn’t not mean they don’t believe in any supernatural phenomenon. Buddhism is also atheistic. In Buddhism, while there is no God, there is a concept of Rebirth. This is slightly different from reincarnation, since in Buddhism everything is impermanent, including your soul while you are living. What is reborn from you is not the same as what you are. Atheism also refers to the lack of belief in the concept of God, and spirituality in general.
I don’t think a God exists, but it would be very interesting if one did. I wouldn’t like a God that was conscious similar to a Human. Because that would mean they wouldn’t care about Humans, or what happens to them. God as a separate entity has a lot of paradoxes for me. If a God did exist, I would like it to be something similar to the concept for a universal soul or consciousness in Jainism. This is slightly contradictory to my statement earlier, where I didn’t want a afterlife, but I would imagine “You” would stop existing, and would just become part of “God” when you die. What I would prefer the most would there to be no God at all.
Belief in Morality.
Morality is a huge topic, and there are a lot of different philosophies that you can follow, but I will only discuss Objective vs Subjective Morality.
Most Christians believe in Objective morality. It is believed that there are right and wrong ways of living, and not living according to those ways will result in them going to Hell. In fact a lot of religious people believe that morality is absolute, and set it stone by God. Some believe that while morality is not defines by God, there are definitely good and bad ways of living.
Some people believe that morality is completely subjective, and have their own moral compass. I am in that category.
Having a Objective morality set by god has a lot of issues. As a living person, it is not clear what the objective truth is, which makes it impossible to follow. I would hate it if my way of living didn’t match up with the objectively good way of living, and I had to suffer, just because I didn’t know it. Even having a objective moral code in a godless world would be undesirable, since people aren’t perfect, and having a standard for being the best person possible would be impossible to follow.
This was a quick write up. I explored what I believe in and what I want to believe in, and I would urge the readers to do the same. There are a lot of things I didn’t talk about in the post. There are probably beliefs that I didn’t even think of. If you think there is something I would mention, you find a mistake in the article, or find a source to something I mentioned and think it would be helpful to add, please contact me. I am open to any edits to this post. You can send me an Email or toot at me on Mastodon. You can find my contact details on the homepage.
Copyright © 2020 Dhruva Lokegaonkar
This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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Nelson, John K. A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine. University of Washington Press Seattle, 1996, https://archive.org/details/yearinlifeofs00nels.