Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Shetubondhon - An Agnostic Rejoinder to Kaushik Sen

Ontoray Baybhichar Dosh holo Bidhatar - An Agnostic Rejoinder

Dear Dr. Kaushik Sen,

I have been following the above debate with an element of boredom and hurt, and as I have recently complained to explain to Dr.Omar Farooq in a personal email, debates on religion are spiraling down on this forum on supremacist notions, which is certainly not helping us in the spirit of 'building bridges'. This debate is also no exception.

To begin I take this para from your submission :

Attributing human qualities to the Divinity (graciousness or mercy) is not an acceptable concept in Buddhist theology.

I find this a bit too far fetched. I guess the entire debate on Divinity is centred on a 'hub and spoke'? philosophy, by which I mean, we humans tend to think that God exist in some celestial Heaven millions of miles away guiding human destiny by some kind of remote device in the 'hub' we call earth or whatever. That would leave us with two contradictions:

1. That Divinity created Man in his best image.
2. That Divinty itself is a creature completely alien to man.

I'd like to stand by the first notion, and as an agnostic it gives me immense pleasure to go by the Muslim notion of a monotheistic Allah, a God that can only be best percieved in Mans deepest imagination - and no human more important then the self has any entry there. So be it.

For a Hindu ofcourse his God is an alien creature, or where else in the world can you find humans with say 10 heads or 20 limbs? If that makes them happy - so be it.

If I may be allowed to dissect and cut in your last statement in the para which reads :

But all sane people (including the defense attorneys) at least theoretically want the truth to prevail even if they have widely different interpretation of truth. Truth even with its limited understanding is still a human idea and a human virtue.

The problem with truth is it hits everybody. The harder the truth, the harder the hurt and so life goes on with contradictions. The contradiction between existense and non-existense is the greatest of all existense, and whilst we would much rather leave our respective Divinity on his own turf to sort out differences -if any- instead we tend to imagine that our respectives Divinty's are at war, and we have extended that war into the turf of Man! In this quasi war, it seems that MAN have taken on the role of the Divine himself - which makes me wonder if man is the ultimate alien creature - and 'graciousness and mercy' may be attributed to him!

Lastly there may be agnostic sinners like myself in public arenas (visualize me planning to read a Playboy magazine during the departure of a Biman flight) to whom such forced piety may appear as redundant. You just got another example of 'other affairs'. There is no chanting of Geeta in an Air India flight (I can only imagine the repercussion if the Indian Muslim flight crews would have been forced to go through that in every flight.) I can give you plenty more examples with full understanding that many of them are only skin deep.

For an agnostic it should hardly matter if you read a 'stimulating and intellectual' magazine like Playboy while the a sura from the Koran is recited in the background by a Muslim stewardess of Biman - except ofcourse the supine nude figure (Playmate of the month) in the centrespread that you are ogling over- is thankfully not your wife or sister ! Man is allowed to commit 'baybhichar' or adultery with his soul is'nt he ?

It should not bother an agnostic like you, that while you are flipping the Playboy page, that the passenger on the next seat could well be reciting a Hindu prayer during take off, half scared that the plane will crash - and importantly a few minutes later you forget it all when Satan takes over, as members of all faith and denomination would gladly imbibe the whiskey, beer and screw drivers that our flag carrier offer as a 'welcome drink ' - khosh amded Dr.Sen !

Eroticism and fear is perhaps 'agnostic' - as it transcends all religion, all race and all levels of class!

Meanwhile after you disembark, the Biman bala would wish you 'Allah hafez' - yet minutes later while you board an Air India connecting flight, a petite airhostess will welcome you on board with hand folded in 'Namaste' - which again is no different that 'Sawadee khap' on a Thai Airways flight.

It should also not matter to any agnostic that Bangladesh Television simultaneously relay recitation from the Koran, Gita, Tripitok and Bible, because it only goes to prove members of all faith are doing their best to ensure that sanity prevails, and should prevail under all circumstances.

The problem with agnosticism is that you have got to be able to shed off your biases and like it or not Dr.Sen, we all have our biases. Agnosticism is not to be considered an absence of Divinty, and lest we forget it is not ATHEISM.

It is being in a state of NOTHINGNESS, and I personally believe it is a human virtue that one can acquire only when they realise, what they do not have. Humans usually tend to respect things that they do not have - like money, fame or fortune - and once you realise that you do not have a religion, you can start respecting all RELIGION, devoid of symbolism or rituals. It is arguably not an easy state to be in - and perhaps it is this mental state that Buddha referred to as Nirvana.

But no matter what you say I will insist that Bengali ladies have the best dresses, best looks and the best nicknames. No rationale or debate on that, any difference can only cause riots.

Regretably I am not a 'Bengali lady' with the 'best nicknames'. But I wonder if there is anybody out there on this forum, who can help translate my Arabic name into a politically correct 'Bengali secular' nickname. I very much regret that had my father known how important it would be to have a Bengali name 44 years later, he would not have put to death through slaugther, two innocent 'chaggol' (goat) only to enter my name through an 'akika' in the thick register that Allah in Heaven 'allegedly' maintains.

Last if not the least - I am more than sure that Allah must be a Bengali or how else can the Bengali race make it this far!


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