God only knows!

“Everything happens for a reason – we humans cannot know that reason. God operates in mysterious ways, and only God knows the reasons behind all the apparent unfairness in this World. Everything happens in accordance with law of Karma keeping in with deeds of your previous incarnations. Or you never know, what you think as bad today, could be a blessing in disguise! ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are your puny, worldly definitions. How do you know if God operates by the same definitions? Just think ‘positive’, okay?” -Typical ‘explanations’ given to prove God’s fairness and goodness in face of ‘bad’ things happening to good people.
School teacher (T) in an exam to a class ten student (S): What is 12 plus 15?

S: 27? I don’t know. My mom knows the answer.

T: You idiot! You think that is even an answer? You’re unfit to study in this school. Don’t you know the answer is 27? Isn’t it obvious after 12 years of studying maths? I’m flunking you. Get lost! Oh, I see my child, you’re really devoted to your mom and love her so much. I’m glad to see, you’re not arrogant enough to actually think you know the answer. Your humility is commendable. You’re the best student I have ever known. You know everything! You’ve transcended to the next World gained sufficient expertise to yourself be a spiritualmathematical Guru! Here, take these chocolates. I’m sure, even your mom will give you lot more chocolates to see you love her so much. As it is, who am I to decide 12 plus 15 is 27?

Yes, our flawed education system is in need of urgent reforms.

25 thoughts on “God only knows!

  1. Beautiful mate 🙂
    Reminds me of the incidence from Atlas shrugged when Daggny wants ‘able’ man to run the frozen Comet and gets only one answer,”who Am I TO Know?”
    Great one.

  2. and people are watching 3 idiots,weeping with it and saying system needs to change.bludy we are the system.if its to change we have to.jut blame another shall we?everyone wants to play along but nobody wants to loose…free

  3. my friend ketan,
    with hope that i have fully conceived what u have tried to project in this post,i hope u have not muddled up god with the sciences that we human beings have put up together,as a science follower u should have already known that its just one way of knowing the world around, and it seem helpless to define the god as ur ‘law of karma ‘or ‘incarnations’,but see we know an infinity or the uncertainity principle in a way resides in the science text books just like the god in our spiritual text books……i do believe if can just define god and the influence of such a source on our lives ,then it becomes irrelevant .Any thing cud be this way or another ,that itself stand out as the god,’thath thwam asi’- its in u……………mahesh

  4. Dear Ketan,
    Some time ago, in my active blogging days, we used to have some very engaging discussions upon various aspects. I remember that then, while outrightly resenting the existence of an almighty, you admitted that there is an ‘unpredictable, uncontrollable randomness’ as far as world is concerned; something which I called ‘fate’ and you ‘euphemised’ as the aforesaid…..It goes without saying that it is by the virtue of this phenomenon, that you and I became what we are. And our birth itself is a prerogative that this uncertainty has brought about.

    To be able to speak for or against something, one must first get into the ‘heart of the matter’. Going by what you say, Buddha was merely struck by some sort of ‘lightning’ while sitting under the Bodhi tree and consequently, went mad and Bhagavad Gita is nothing but the finest comic book written till date….

    Your friend,

  5. Well, most of the conversation of teacher and student is “bouncer” to me. But what surprises me is you talking about “Laws and Karma” and “previous incarnations”… If I have not understood wrong, do you believe in those things? I mean, not surprising, but shocking that would be!!

  6. @ Tarun:

    I feel so sorry that I have read Atlas Shrugged only once, and hence can’t recall the actual conversation. But, I can totally understand what it must have meant.

    A prong of my post was directed towards critiquing the attitude of supernaturalism that religions encourage, which in effect glorify statements like “who am I to know”, but more direct grievance was with replacement of plain confession of ignorance of how things work with more fanciful manner of putting it – “my mom/God knows the reason/answer”.

    If one simply says “I don’t know”, they might at least try to learn about it in future, but when one says in a very twisted fashion that, “God knows the answer”, and that itself is taken as knowledge and sign of ‘wisdom’, then one can rest assured that no further attempts at learning the truth would be made. Rather, all the subsequent efforts would be spent in rephrasing “God only knows” in more strikingly figurative ways.

    If one says, “God only knows, but I too want to know the truth”, then still the stance would come as less ridiculous. But then, such assertions are taken as arrogance by fellow religious followers.

    Another issue was the ‘problem of evil’. How does one reconcile the problem of evil with an all-good and benevolent God? To escape the most honest conclusion that either no God exists or that God also has an evil streak, various excuses have been invented – the ones I already highlighted.

    Thanks for the comment! Do read my subsequent comments, too. You’ll find them relevant.

    @ Soin:

    I’m afraid, you probably didn’t get the oblique reference in my post. Though I do have my issues with the current Indian education and exam systems, the post did not deal with that.

    The issue was this: In our daily life, we do not consider knowledge of someone else’s possessing an answer as knowledge. For instance, if you want to get your motor bike repaired, your friend will not be considered an expert for simply telling you that motor bike mechanic knows how to repair it. You’ll consider the mechanic himself as knowledgeable, but not the friend.

    But when it comes to religious matters, all standards change.

    According to me, the law of karma (as depicted in the post) is just another way of saying I don’t know. Why not, then, rather concede that we don’t know the reason why bad things happen to good people?…

  7. …In fact to assume by default that only good things should happen to good people, itself is wishful.

    I leave it at that. Thanks for commenting.


    @ Mahesh:

    Thanks for commenting and welcome to the blog!

    And honestly, I could not understand your comment in entirety. So please do excuse me, if a few things I address were not your assertions.

    1. No, I have not introduced or talked of sciences here at all. At best, you could say the post involves the concept of naturalism (in context of formal philosophy).

    2. As far as I see it, both the Worlds – as put together by our senses and their extensions (outcomes of naturalism – what you termed “sciences”) and the World put together by ‘other methods’ (which I am not aware of, and are broadly termed as ‘supernaturalism’) with God as its center – are human constructs. Both are fundamentally hypotheses with their set of characteristic axioms. This is best illustrated by the fact that there are so many religions and so many scriptures, all of which try to define God. If religions and scriptures would not have been human constructs, there would not have been so many of them.

    3. Infinity, again is a human conception. In trying to understand the Universe, its role is very limited. Because there is hardly anything that is actually infinite. Most of the things only approach infinity. But despite my stating this, I do not follow what has the mathematical concept of infinity got to do with this post.

    4. I guess you were refering to the Heisenberg’s principle of Uncertainty. Being a medical student, I won’t feign any deep knowledge of the principle. But from what I know, it merely states that for any particle, its linear momentum and position in space can never be determined with complete accuracy. But this does not obviate the possibility that we can still know quite a bit about that particle. We can always know something about that particle. And moreover, when the center of mass of a very high number of particles is considered, the cumulative uncertainty actually decreases, so much so that we can quite confidently launch huge satellites into the space, the proof of which your reading my post and my comment.

    But law of karma as stated by so many people cannot reasonably predict people’s fates at all!…

  8. …All the wisdom about deeds of the past incarnations dawns only retrospectively, for instance AFTER an earthquake or AFTER someone dies in an accident. No one says, “hey, you had done bad karma in your 11th incarnation as a caterpillar and so today you’re going to meet with an accident.” How come?

    5. From your last sentence, am I to gather that the inherent (apparent) randomness in the way things happen itself is God? If it is so, why not just call it randomness? Is this randomness worthy of worship? Does this randomness result in fate that is ‘deserved’? Does this randomness listen to our prayers? Is this randomness ‘knowable’ by some sort of exercises/rituals? Can expertise be gained in ‘understanding’ this randomness? If yes, then it is not random. If no, then why call it exertise?

    Take care.

    @ Rohith:

    A few clarifications first off:

    1. I had been aware of “unpredictable, uncontrollable randomness” even before entering a discussion with you.

    2. Personally to me, unpredictable, uncontrollable randomness sounds much more ominous than ‘fate’. So there is no question of euphemism, here. I’d just mentioned somewhere that I could slip while walking, hit my head on a modest little rock and die (forever). So, I’m not averse to using ‘fate’ as an expression of this unpredictable, uncontrollable randomness.

    3. I do not resent the existence of almighty (for which I’d have to believe in the existence myself! 😉 ).

    I do not even reset people’s beliefs in that almighty. I resent the consequences of such belief, and intellectual double standards it comes to represent in many cases. Even the latter I do not really resent, though find only mildly irritating.

    Where your and my views start diverging is here:

    “And our birth itself is a ‘PREROGATIVE’ that this uncertainty has brought about.”

    In particular, your manner of usage of “prerogative” humanizes it. Which I find needless. You could have simply stated – “your and my births are outcome of this randomness itself”. Here, randomness remains a perfectly inanimate, abstract nondescript entity. But the moment you grace it with a prerogative, you elevate it to a Godly level. Is that required? That is for you to think for yourself and answer (to yourself).

    I do not usually speak against or for people….

  9. …Especially, if I do not know them personally or sufficiently well through other sources (like knowing their ideas extensively). And of course, Buddha and Krishna both fall in that category.

    To the best of my knowledge, Buddha has never stated that behind the unpredictable, uncontrollable randomness there is a sentient being with intention and elaborate plan for the Universe.

    As for Geeta, I have not read it, so cannot comment. The only thing I know is what’s called ‘Geeta saar’ in North Indian languages (“summary of Geeta”) – “Don’t expect fruits for your deeds, just keep on doing your duty.”

    While, lot of commentary has taken place on how to interpret the above intelligent-sounding assertion, one thing that has bothered me is a very simple doubt, “who determines what my duty is? Who tells me what choice to make in a given situation as a part of my duty?”

    It is here I see signs of attempts at inspiring servility among the masses. ‘Duty’ of one born a farmer is to keep on farming (and paying the taxes to the king). The ‘duty’ of a king is to hunt wild animals in the jugle, fight over expansion of kingdoms, gamble away villages (with living humans in them) for personal entertainment, being ‘fanned’ and kept well-ventilated by personal assistants (discharging their ‘duty’ as if they were insects), etc. And who decides whether you should keep on discharging your duty as a farmer or a king or a ‘fan-shaker’? God! Wow! Brilliant.

    “So, you unlucky wretched farmer, you must never wonder why the king gets to enjoy all the luxuries. ‘Cuz it’s your karma! ‘Cuz Lord in his infinite wisdom has ordained that you keep on working in scorching heat, producing food in your fields as a part of your ‘duty’. And so that the king will send some goon-like soldiers (their ‘duty’) at your doorstep to collect taxes, so that he could pay the fan-shakers and jewellers (who make jewels for the king as a part of their ‘duty’) – all this as a part of his ‘duty’. [If you think this duty is unfair, and decide to go on a strike along with other farmers and soldiers and fan-shakers, then the king would be overthrown.] If you do not heed to this piece of advisory, you will rot in hell (or its Vedic equivalent of recycling in incarnation cycle).”

  10. …If your question is: whether I find the above ‘ideology’ funny, then I would say, no, not in the least. Rather, it is the most subversive method of ‘herding’ the people – employing the fear of the unknown. So, in that sense, I do greatly admire the cleverness of whoever propagated the ‘Law’ of karma, but not the intention behind it.

    After reading my this response, the choice is yours – either to get angry at me (and the interpretation) or to see for yourself if my interpretation makes perfect sense in context of economic and political trends of those days.

    Now coming to an amusing observation I made. 🙂

    Did you notice, I haven’t used words like ‘funny’ or ‘comical’ anywhere in the post with regard to law of karma? Rather, I have put it the common version of employed by people very plainly.

    Think about it, why did you think I was ridiculing the law?

    Quite possibly, because you found the teacher-student interaction comical, right? It means you found the teacher-student interaction funny. Why did you think I was comparing it with law of karma? Again, because both had one connecting link – trying to pass off ‘someone else knows’ as a sign of knowledge. If you found the second example comical, what prevented you from finding the law of karma comical? That it is attributed to well-known people like Buddha and Krishna? That you respect them?

    Well, to digress a bit here, to whatever extent I’ve read about Buddha, I respect his ideas, and found them philosophically quite advanced.

    But why did you ever think I was attacking them (persons)? I do not agree with the ideas. That’s all! And I have illustrated why do I not agree. Is there something fundamentally wrong with doing that?

    And with regard to the “heart” of the matter, I’m not bothered about what Krishna or Buddha had meant when they said what they said. What but bothers me, is the manner in which those ideas are interpreted and the context in which they are employed in the REAL WORLD.

    Perhaps you might be interested in knowing what had made me ponder upon the law of karma (the way people use it) and reach the above conclusions….

  11. …While I had been curious for quite long as to who determines what our duty should be in context of Geeta saar (even when I was a believer in the existence of God and ‘fan’ of Geeta saar), the tyranny behind it hit me much later.

    In my MBBS days, our mess used to employ underaged employees, who should rightly and rightfully have been studying. Some other employees were almost similarly aged as me.

    What always used to bother me was the rude behavior of almost everyone towards the workers.

    This, for some reason always used to pinch me. It was not so much the rude behavior itself, but rather the ‘authority’ with which others around me used to indulge in it.

    Whereas, on the other hand, I myself used to feel guilty in a weird way. The guilt was because I knew that those workers deserved to have the same financial security as me. That they ought get the same academic facilities as me. That there was nothing special I had done to have been born in the family I was born.

    There was nothing in pariticular I did to remedy the situation (and am unlikely to do in the future), but one thing I made sure, was to never behave rudely with anyone of them. I was constantly and acutely aware that they were “EQUAL” to me in their standing as fellow humans. I did not have to try to be courteous with them. I just was.

    But in contrast to me, almost all other boys kept on being abusive – hurling obscenities even if the cook would not have prepared the meal properly!

    And I kept on wondering, why did others not feel like me?

    Some of my friends had been cordial with those workers. But yet, it was with effort, and with a lurking feeling as if they were doing a favor by being nice to them.

    The underlying idea was – “somehow I am superior as human being to the ‘lowly’ mess worker, because I was born in a well-to-do family, because I got to study in a school, because I am going to be a doctor/dentist/physiotherapist…”

    I confronted a few of my class mates with these questions.

    Some of them pretended to listen but passed it off as some sort of idealistic, impractical rant. Others saw the point also their folly.

    But what still was the binding factor in justification of contempt towards those born unlucky was – deeds of past incarnations!

    Not everyone spelt out law of karma verbatim, but I could make out that was the basis of their pride in being born lucky and having an ‘authority’ to insult the unlucky….

  12. …Now read the opening paragraph of my post again, and try to see if the law of karma is anguishing or not. Especially, its social consequences….

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. TC.

    @ Darshan:

    No, don’t worry, I have not resumed believing in reincarnation and karma yet. 🙂

    By that student-teacher conversation I was only trying to highlight how in religious matters, saying “God knows the answer” is taken as a sign of ‘spiritual’ knowledge and wisdom, but saying the thing in some other context (e.g., exams) sounds utterly ridiculous.

    If you find time, definitely read all the comments by me, here. 🙂


    @ Tarun, again:

    Never mind, ‘it’ is indeed going in the right direction. Remember, God only willed it to go in that direction. 😉

  13. ok my bad.anyways wrt to ur reply.thats coz the mechanic either doesnt exist or is out of coverage area in case of religion.thats why the lower seems to be significant.but ofcourse its not.and can you keep a email follow up option?i just cant remember where i commented and to check for replies.free

  14. @ Gyanban:

    I could not get the relevance of your comment to this post. The issue is not of definition of God, but one of terming what we do not know/want to accept as “God knows”. But thanks for your feedback, anyway.


    @ Soin:

    Yes, I would say you have understood the post perfectly now. 🙂

    I did not discuss the issue only out of philosophical interest. But it has a very important social significance, too.

    Because, once the ‘common’ people are convinced that God cannot be known through the 5 senses, Babas take over from that point on claiming possession of ‘special’ senses in being able to ‘know’ and ‘understand’ the very same God they had convinced others could not be known/understood. And this modus operandi has led to various forms of exploitation of people since very long back.

    As to the email notifications, I’m very surprised, because this template used to have that option at the bottom of the comments’ field!

    Right now I don’t want to revert to a separate comments’ page as I access net through the phone. Will look into the matter after a few days, when I would have more time with me. In the meantime, if you do not mind, please do subscribe to the RSS comments’ feed for this post – the option is at the bottom left of the comments’ field itself. Or you could subscribe to the comments’ RSS for all the posts on my blog by clicking on: http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/“feeds/comments/default.


  15. @Soin,

    Subscribe to comment by email is already there. To see the link you need to be logged into your blogger account then open this page. You will see that option right below the comment form. I am seeing it now… and I am subscribed already.

  16. @ Darshan: Thanks! Yes, now even I can see the link.

    @ Anonymous: Not sure what you meant – maybe, you meant “blog after blog”? Anyway, thanks for dropping by!

  17. Ketan,

    I saw a comment by ‘Ketan Panchal’ on the article by Barkha Dutt in Hindustan Times. Was it you?
    I left a comment too. Its not published.

    Sowmya (letteredfeelings.blogspot.com) (Narcissist)

  18. Pingback: Tweets that mention God only knows! « Neglected Serendipity -- Topsy.com

  19. Fully endorse the sentiment of this blog. IF anyone has any doubt about it go read the epic book on evolution “Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins.

    • AnilAarush,

      Welcome to my blog!

      Thanks for the endorsement!

      I have not read The God Delusion completely, but I got bored in between. Guess, have read almost all arguments that can be made in favor of GOd’s existence, and even those that can be made against it. 😀

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