Monday, November 26, 2007

The Social Software

I remember the day when I finally decided to stop having to do anything remotely resembling any form of a religious (pertaining to god) activity. It wasn’t just one day as such, but was a few years encapsulated within that bubble of thought, which seemed so irrelevant that I really didn’t want to associate with the concept of God at all. I don’t know how it all began, maybe because of constantly watching shows about astronomy on The Discovery Channel as a school kid, or even being influenced by other people. It was just a sudden trip to my logic circuits trying to understand what is it that makes me believe in god, and nothing happened. The circuit just stared at me like a dead light bulb desperately not eager to switch itself ON. But I knew even as a kid, I knew that I was about to face substantial criticism about this choice, even if not criticism but atleast a barrage of questions being thrown at me.

A couple of my friends stared at me aghast when they heard, like god himself appeared in front of them and said that he doesn’t believe in himself, I don’t believe in the existence of a god. I was caught by surprise why it had meant so much to them that I believed in a god. Even in school, I roughly remember 4th grade, a teacher had encircled the word “god” in my answer sheet just because I hadn’t written the “g” in an uppercase. She hadn’t reduced any marks, but she had made a margin mark saying, “god with capital G”. I asked her why it was that I have to use a capital “g” (this is pre atheism times) for the word god and to my surprise, she said, “That’s how you should write it.” I wasn’t as curious about a letter at that time, since it meant nothing to me, but it nevertheless surprised me the day I remembered this incident when I made the same mistake of writing a lower case “g” and replaced it with an upper case one. In fact I was so surprised that I left the sentence midway and closed my notebook in the middle of a class. That was 9th grade, when I realised that this concept means absolutely nothing to me. So I decided to educate myself about it. I referred some of my mother’s books, by Vivekanand, about Spiritualism and its connections with religion, the concept of a god and the Indian version of epistemology (but I still think it’s a little mystical to decipher). I read and read trying to make sense of it, translated into pure Marathi, straining myself to understand every word, just to realise that it sounded completely unconvincing from the point of view which I had.

I wasn’t stubborn enough to stick to my disbelief, since I didn’t know if it was true or not. But the whole chase for the truth made me believe that I was right and I might have biased myself into misinterpreting the text and its meaning. I didn’t bother to touch it again for around a year till my summer vacation began, but then when I picked it up again, it became clearer than before. I felt I was right. The reasons, the arguments, the justifications, the dominance of religious thought upon a mind was far clearer to me now, than ever before. Around that time, I developed an interest in computers and spent hours playing games at my cousin’s place and pressing every conceivable button on the keyboard and on the screen to see what it does and constantly reading the help menu to understand its implication. The concept of an operating system put some weird ideas in my head, I wish I wrote a diary back then to pen those thoughts down, I knew they meant a great deal to me back then, but with time and my rustic synapse the thought faded away.

The idea was, was religion a sort of social software that governed the way large groups of people (groups of variables) behaved in a society (their immediate society/environment)? This was too big for me to understand then and probably is too huge for me right now as well, but I am much read now than back then to comment peacefully and mull over it till some other legitimate argument pops out. I personally am not a fan of the concept of IQ, since I don’t think they have yet mastered the technique of measuring it right, until then I rest my doubt about my intelligence in the dark dungeons of my temporal lobe. But the point is, about the diversity of intelligence itself, by that I mean not the garden variety intelligence needed to get along with our lives, but the actual ability to objectively question your own beliefs to find the truth about them, or to say in a very mild manner, to stop clustering ourselves in groups of race, religion, nationality, etc and to actually assess the evolution of such a segregation.

Is it not as systematic as a software system, having a flow of rituals to be followed to be a part of some religion, or some rules or doctrines thrust upon us by some sage living thousands of years ago and allegedly for thousands of years too? It is just like being a piece of code in a software environment where you need to adhere to the system’s boundaries to run yourself smoothly.

It is remarkable that it has really managed to stick along, the concept of religion, even when some great philosophers did argue over its being true or not. That is how I know the disparity amongst the population who want to know the truth and who choose to believe in something that they don’t understand.

A professor of mine once told me that if you don’t understand something, it is because that the thing itself is really way above your sense of understanding or far undeserving of your time to even bother to understand it. I did believe him at first, but I strongly disagree, because if you don’t understand, you are not asking the right questions. So was my question correct? Is religion the software that governs the society and keeps them bound in a balanced environment? If that is the case, then what are atheists? Are they an anomaly in the system waiting to be expelled? This just sounds like those system programs at the beginning of the third instalment of the movie Matrix (Revolutions). This is where Neo meets these two system programs, Ramachandran and his wife and daughter Maya. They are afraid that if they don’t obey the system’s rules they might be decommissioned, but having outgrown the system’s construct, they know a loophole which they want to exploit to save their daugter.

It feels very strange now, for me to even start thinking about a god, because I have left that shore so long ago, that it’s not even an insignificant dot for me any longer. Now I float just on a small piece of driftwood in the whole ocean of possibilities which surrounds me, to look for the true answer. I may not be a physicist, a logician, or even an evolutionary biologist to even start thinking about the endless possibilities of this sheer explosion of life on this planet. But I am most certainly willing to use my sense of comprehension, to realise if I am the anomaly or the whole construct is flawed. It never occurs to us, how many religions might have just become extinct right since humans started embracing the concept of religion. If we follow the same evolutionary pattern that applies to biological life forms, we can deduce the same pattern in the transfer of ideas, like memes as Dawkins says. Thus we can safely assume that there ought to be some religious societies on the face of this earth which might have gotten extinct in skirmishes with other stronger religions or even lost popularity when rituals became too absurd to follow, or even the proponents didn’t live long enough to spread their idea virus across. There can be endless reasons for why a person is a Hindu by religion, is it by birth, by society, by conversion somewhere in the lineage, or even by choice. But nowhere has it led to the thought of why is he a person of that religion? Where did all this come from, these rituals, these codes of conduct, this preservation of genetic purity and the whole bunch? The Indian society in Ancient India was deeply segregated just to protect the genetic makeup of the future generations, for instance, Brahmin should marry Brahmins to give rise to a progeny of the same gene pool and so on. This was religiously motivated to a large extent since the common man, other than the scholars (the objective thinkers) couldn’t deduce these answers on their own. To a certain extent, to make it sound like a conspiracy theory, I would also like to add that the scholars knew that this is all part of an artificially framed construct to keep the society in control but afraid to write about it, due to say the contemporary social pressure. No wonder we have so poor a collection of great Indian thinkers (apart from the few that we already have in circulation). I refuse to believe that there wasn’t a single atheist in our society over the past thousands of years who just wasn’t able to write his thoughts down, because if there wasn’t an atheist then, there would be no atheist today. I know religious thoughts are genetically motivated as a behavioural trait and I gladly believe that there was an ancestor somewhere in my family tree or social tree who refused to follow regular norms and ventured into the ocean of uncertainty and of objective reality.

Its just like the X-Files saying, The Truth Is Out There.

1 comment:

Multisubj Yb TruthSeeker said...

The existence of "spirit/soul (aatma)" has not been proved. The entire Sanskrit spiritual literature of India about a million verses is based on the existence of spirit. Hence there is nothing wrong in getting convinced.
About Vivekananda: You may like to see what I researched and analysed: vivekanandayb.BlogSpot.Com.