The new millennium has witnessed a radical shift in the belief system of our society. A spate of atheistic, even blasphemous, books like Richard Dawkins' 'God Delusion' and Christopher Hitchen’s 'God's not great' prove that we're open to questioning our age-old religious beliefs and are more comfortable in dealing with esoteric issues, which we took for granted until a decade ago. But, has this paradigm shift made us more bohemian and less spiritual? The answer is NO. Questioning has never been considered as an act of audacity in the true sense of spirituality. Gautam Buddha says, " Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, unless it agrees with your own common sense." The concept of ijtihad (enquiry) has been a part and parcel of Islam right from Muhammad.
There's an instance of ijtihad in Bukhari's Al-Shams. One jew embraced Islam after much indecision. His was full of doubts about his new faith, i.e. Islam. Every time he'd meet Muhammad, he'd ask him a number of questions about Islam. Muhammad would very patiently reply to all his queries. One day, Muhammad's other disciples asked him whether he ever got annoyed with that newly converted man's innumerable inane doubts? Muhammad told that until he cleared all his doubts, his faith would never be complete. Doubting is a part of faith and even complete negation of any supernatural existence's also a belief, because god's even the atheism of the atheist. Out of the six schools in Indian philosophy, three are atheistic, viz, Jainism, Buddhism and Sankhya Darshan. Jainism actually believes in 'ex nihilo' (nothing comes out of nothing). Cosmos's a great vacuum, where there's no god, believes Jainism. Similarly, Buddhism denies the existence of any higher agency as Dhammapad categorically repudiates anything as potentialy divine. Sankhya darshan has the distinct echo of the Upanishadic "man's the measure of all things." And only man's the lodestone by which even the god should be judged. Yet the atheism of these three systems of Indian philosophy cannot be termed as outright nihilistic and sacrilegious. The atheism of Jainism, Buddhism and Sankhya is not in-your-face type. It's subtle. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan called it "gentle and mellowed denial" in his book "The Hindu Way of Life." One can be spiritual without being a believer or having any faith whatsoever. In fact, spirituality stems out of no belief. It's because of our so-called belief in a system and order, we get sucked in. Denial of faith ushers one in a state, which exceeds our existing and long-held perceptions of divinity. It goes beyond hell or heaven. These are human creations, which scoff at the so-called human intelligence. Spirituality's when your heart finds the same echo in all beings, living as well as non-living.
It (spirituality) is sublimated empathy. It connects and relates us to the whole mankind and universe, qualitatively mellowing us eventually. Having a sensate soul is to have a believing mind. The deep-seated spirituality ennobles the heart and mind, nay the whole entity of not just an individual or possessor, but of all that comes into contact with it. Spirituality is a self-cleansing process that also cleanses anything that it touches. In other words, spirituality has a Midas' touch. It turns into gold whatever comes to it. True spirituality dusts off the turbidity of perceptions and keeps the mirror of inner self squeaky clean. It has an edifying quality to it that goes beyond mere belief and unbelief. Jiddu Krishnamurthy summed up innate spirituality as, 'A cosmic trait that believes, yet not believes.' Following an example from out mythological treasure- trove will make Jiddu's rather inscrutable observation of spirituality a bit comprehensible:
The super intelligent Vidur of Mahabharata was affectionate towards Krishna, but he never believed that he (Krishna) had godly attributes because he wasn't believing type. Yet Krishna called him the greatest believer. " Only a true believer transcends all beliefs and knows not that he believes," says Krishna in Gita. Like fragrance to a flower, spirituality's embedded in human psyche. It's not just integral, it's intrinsic to us. We question not to deny, but to consolidate our own beliefs lest they should get atrophied. Even if we deny the existence of god, we can remain morally and spiritually grounded. The problem with plain religious belief is that it has hijacked the morality and obfuscated our perceptions of what's right or wrong. We've relegated spirituality down to the level of rituals and obscure practices. This is obscurantism. True faith is devoid of any theological conditions and spiritual obligations. There's a passage in Talmud (Jewish scripture)- "Let the person believe or not believe, I'm only concerned with the tenacity of his unbelief." There're thousands of so-called atheists, who've done more good to mankind than those who swear by god. Even ontologically speaking, the more vehement are our denials, the more profound will our faith be. We cannot go against our nature, which's essentially theistic and deeply spiritualistic. And because of the atheists in the society, spirituality strikes a balance between faith and blind faith. Atheists are needed as they're like the critics, who maintain 'cosmic equilibrium' and are like the Egyptian Plover. The Egyptian Plover bird goes for lunch, where lunch usually goes! As soon as the crocodile springs its jaw open, it's a signal for the Plover to hop in and play toothpick. It eats the food stuck between the teeth and for that little service, the crocodile leaves it well alone and harms not. Atheists are god's toothpicks. Remember, they're more protected than the believers.