Gospel & Universe
Version of Deity
This page touches on the Hindu notion of Supreme Unifying Beings and on reasons why atheists aren't necessarily right about the general concept of God.
Hindu Substitutes - Why Not?
Unlike theists, who tend to believe in a particular conception of God and soul -- and unlike atheists, who refuse any conception of God or soul -- agnostics entertain a variety of possible frameworks. These frameworks are historically and culturally constructed; they are ready-made frameworks which lay out before us big pictures of the universe. They also hint at who we are and how we might fit into the universe. To believe in one of these conceptions may make the universe a solid, understandable thing, yet to contemplate many of these conceptions -- and to juxtapose these to none of these conceptions -- makes the universe an unpredictable, mysterious realm worthy of our deepest and continual study.
If God exists, He, She, or It might take the form of a personal Being (Yahweh, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahadevi, etc.) or an impersonal Force or Principle (the One, Being, Brahman, Tao, etc.). In Hindu philosophy, God can be both impersonal and personal at the same time, the ineffable Brahman manifesting Itself in universes, gods, demons, humans, etc. Brahman can also shift into what I call SUBs -- Supreme Unifying Beings such as Vishnu, Shiva, or Mahadevi, which might also be seen as substitutes for the ineffable, formless Brahman. Like the vibration OM, these deities merge all differences, including their own particular attributes, back into the One or Brahman, that is, into the sum of the physical and spiritual energies in the universe.
Many Hindus find this type of philosophy rather detached, and prefer to see God in emotional forms, such as the loving Krishna, the Divine Mother, or the blending of aspects seen in the union of Radha-Krishna. There may be some overlap here with Catholic and Orthodox Christians who, finding Yahweh rather distant and austere, find comfort in the loving, forgiving figures of Jesus and Mary.
If the soul exists, it could take an afterlife existence that is 1) free of a bodily form, 2) in a completely different body or form of existence, or 3) in a human body on Earth, in Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell, in another world in this universe, or in a world or dimension removed from this universe.
Most theists believe in a particular existence in the afterlife, although some theists are less certain of what form the soul will take after the body dies. Atheists, on the other hand, formulate a thesis before all the evidence is in. For them, God doesn't exist and no one has a spirit that lasts beyond our earthly years. To be fair, the scientific evidence doesn't so far indicate the existence of God or soul -- let alone such things as a Garden of Eden or a Resurrection. Yet the agnostic doesn't rule out these possibilities. They remain hypotheses, some of which appear next to impossible (such as Creation occurring in a week) while others appear very unlikely -- God delivering the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, God having only one Son and one Holy Book, Jesus walking on water, or Jesus lifted by sorrowful angels into the sky.
Yet the following two hypotheses are neither likely nor unlikely, given that they're completely open for debate:
- There's a benevolent Power that governs the universe, and
- Humans have souls, essences that exist after the body's gone (whether or not they're eternal is another matter of speculation). Atheists may claim that the weight of scientific evidence, or rather the lightness of non-evidence, lies in their favour. They're correct in this. Yet they might also remember that:
- Experiential states don't necessarily come in quantifiable or verifiable forms.
- Things that were once invisible or completely mysterious -- distant galaxies, subatomic particles, waves, gravity, etc. -- were in time subject to the investigation of science.
- The truth of any given reality is not always graspable by the system used to grasp it. To use an analogy, humans may be like smart domesticated dogs -- integrated with and aware of their surroundings, yet largely in the dark about the powers and principles that structure their existence.
Agnostics don’t claim to have a crystal ball that will allow them to see what happens after death. Nor do they try to turn science into a crystal ball. For most agnostics, science is like humanism, liberalism, democracy, and secularism: it provides an invaluable method for living in the practical world. Science and liberal humanism may act in some ways like belief systems, yet neither is a belief system per se. Neither adopts a philosophical argument about the meaning of it all. Agnosticism, on the other hand, presents an epistemological argument: we don't appear to know any Ultimate Truth about this world or the next.
Next: Mere Religion?