Saturday, April 09, 2016

Why does god hate Calcutta, er, Kolkata?

We humans have always been interested in understanding the cause-effect relationship.  If we don't know why something happens, then we bullshit our ways through.  When the moon in the sky was slowly disappearing as if somebody was chowing it down, and then when it re-appeared in the sky after a while, I imagine that a few curious people in the old country asked the wise old man who had seen it all for an explanation.  He convinced them that it was the celestial serpent that was swallowing the moon, and that the gods came to the rescue and slit the serpent open. He then told them that if they wanted the moon to keep coming back, they had to pray to the gods.  If they didn't know the language to communicate with the gods, well, he would gladly serve as their interpreter.

I pick on the religion in which I was raised because, well, that's the honored tradition--to make fun of your own people.  Every faith has its own bizarre stories about their own gods.  

Meanwhile, there were other kinds of curious people in that same old country.  They did not listen to the old man's bullshit and, instead, noticed that there were patterns that emerged when they studied the phenomenon.  And not only the moon, but even the sun was darkened out in the day.  How could that be?

The systematic thinking, based on reason and evidence, led scientists like Aryabhata to understand the cosmos without serpents and gods.  I suppose Aryabhata made sure that people would not be so mystified by "zero"; else, the number may have become a god as well ;)

Understanding cause and effect has also helped us create things that never existed before.  It is not through faith that we create electricity, for instance.  A whole lot of cumulative knowledge-building in physics and engineering has resulted in the easy life of today where we press a switch and the lights come on.  Heck, I merely walk into a restroom on campus and the lights magically turn on!  As Arthur Clarke stated in his third law, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

The same way, when accidents happen, we try to understand the cause.  Something that I learnt a long time ago back at the Park Club in the old country.  When a plane goes down, we try to understand what caused it.  Right?

So, when a bridge collapses in India, you do not expect that to be attributed to god.  This atheist won't even bother reminding the faithful that "god" is a product of faith.  But, to grandstand for whatever reason that a god broke the bridge like how a kid snaps a twig is remarkably stupid.  Asinine.  But, hey, it is all ok if the emperor says so!  India's prime minister boldly and loudly proclaimed his verdict: "Flyover collapse is God’s message".  God certainly chooses some strange people as her messenger!

Apparently god decided that killing 26 people was the only way that she could send the message.  Maybe she does not know about texting, tweeting, or even updating her Facebook status and getting the message across without harming lives.  I tell ya, god is one hell of a terrorist!

Of course, India's prime minister is not the first leader to read the divine tea leaves.  In this country, sleazeballs who pose as political leaders trip over each other with "god bless America" as if god is on their side and not with, say, Tanzania.  And when disasters strike, there are sleazeballs who pose as religious leaders who proclaim that those are god's way of punishing us for whatever is the religious leader's favorite sin to target.

Such is life in these "modern" times!  I, for one, have always loved Calcutta ;)


Anne in Salem said...

Sorry to say, this will be my last regular comment for a while. A very complicated summer has started early on the farm, or at least my portion of it. I'm likely to be pulling long hours for the next few months. Take care and enjoy.

Sriram Khé said...

Oh ... come by every once in a while ...
Will need to visit you at the farm then ;)

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