The new atheism movement is on the upswing. Thinkers like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett have made a clear and logical case for atheism. Religious belief is on a decline in the developed countries. Anyone with even a basic education knows that the people in the past did not have knowledge of the sciences. The scriptures of most major religions are substantially contradicted by modern science. Most cultures that were based on religion appear repressive and primitive.
There is no conclusive evidence of God, and what evidence there is argues against His existence. For example, everything that is measurable in nature observably occurs under natural laws and God is superfluous for explaining everyday experience. The problem of evil is a vexing one. Bad things, (really) nasty things happen to decent persons all the time. A benevolent God does not tally with common experience.
Given atheistic trends in modern society, it may not be surprising that religious fanaticism is on the upswing (although fanaticism has always existed). Conspiracy theories abound in the field of religion, and common sense tends to take a back seat. Believers feel under siege, and are fighting back against the rise of empiricism and the sciences either through scientifically disastrous theories like intelligent design theory, or ad hominem attacks against science and scientists. However, it has proven very difficult to argue against science, against evidence and against a rational opponent. Only the intellectually weak, or obscurantists and sophists, or those that have been substantially influenced during their childhood years, it would seem, would continue to believe in religion.
Is there any case to be made for the existence of God? Consider the following question:
What is one inviolable truth that we know for sure, without relying on any one else for knowing it?
It is the certain knowledge that “I exist”.
The rise of the sciences has made one thing abundantly clear- human beings, and indeed everything else in the world, are programmed molecular robots. We are information, matter and energy processing robots that are capable of self-replication. The laws of physics demand that fundamentally, each one of us is a giant molecular complex arranged in certain spatial configurations, and no more.
The implications of this are staggering and I will let the reader draw them. Just imagine that you are a robot. What does that say about your goals, relationships, aspirations, thoughts, desires, morality, and indeed anything that you hold important? It is pointless to continue being in a state of being a giant molecular structure. Particularly when disassembling that state can instantly end suffering.
The problem is that such a notion goes against the only truth that each of us is certain of. That we exist. We don’t walk around thinking we are molecular robots. We know we matter, that our opinions matter, that the pursuit of knowledge and truth matters. Further, we want to know- who we are and what we are doing here. We are self-aware, and we are aware that we are self-aware. Amazing.
Bhakti scriptures offer us the possibility that we exist in a more substantial sense than as molecular robots. In fact, the Bhagavad Gītā states that we are not the molecular robot- we are different from the body. Further, we are passive onlookers that do not interact with the material body – which means that no instrument of science could ever discover our own existence (as separate from the body).
To me, exploring the possibility that “I exist” is all important to continue on in the world. And because the Gītā offers that option, I am interested in the Gītā. It so happens that the Gītā also states that Kṛṣṇa exists. Therefore I believe in Kṛṣṇa’s existence. If I don’t exist separate from the body, it matters not what I believe or don’t believe. If I do exist independently from the body, then I see no problem in accepting that Kṛṣṇa exists.
What about the fact that the scriptures are contradicted by the sciences? Śrī Jiva Goswami explains in the Bhagavat Sandarbha that the only purpose of the scriptures is to explain a reality beyond the grasp of the mind and senses, a reality that is beyond material nature. Therefore it is pointless to look to the scriptures to reconstruct human history or the history of the world. The purpose of scripture is to help us discover ourselves, and therefore Kṛṣṇa.
As for the problem of evil, according to the Gītā’s theology, we are individual jīvas, untouched by happiness or suffering. The experience of happiness and suffering is really information processing in the mind and has no impact on us. There is no evil or good in the world- it is all an illusion.
What about the fact that there doesn’t seem to be anyone who has seen (or is willing to admit) that he/she has seen Kṛṣṇa? What is the evidence for Kṛṣṇa’s existence? To that, I reply- what is the evidence for my own existence? When I myself am beyond perception, why would He be perceptible?
To not go against our own intuition of ourselves, we are faced with the fantastical notion that we are each a spiritual being, and that there is a spiritual being called Kṛṣṇa. A most strange state of affairs!