Is Belief in God Morally Imperative?
When I say that belief in God is a moral issue more than an intellectual one, my understanding can be described in the following way:
Man has an inherent moral virtue of being grateful to his benefactors. We are grateful to our parents, teachers, relatives, friends etc for what they have done for us. This inner inclination to thank and pay back to those who have helped us is universally shared so strongly that those who go against its verdict are considered ungrateful, immoral people.
If the above-mentioned premise is valid, then it should proceed from it that the one who is responsible for conferring upon us all the blessings that we enjoy, including giving us the company of the people who deserve our grateful behaviour, should be the focus of our best emotions of gratitude. I concede that, to begin with, one might ask as to why should one thank Him if there were good reasons to believe that He doesn’t exist? The intellectual thought would indeed pose a challenge to the moral impulse in man, but the latter impulse would incline him to search for the right answer far more eagerly than he would do for a question whose answer he is seeking simply for intellectual curiosity. The earnestness in the quest for God should at least be the equivalent of the eagerness of a man who is tracing his parents about whom he is not sure if they were alive or not. My question is: Have the agnostics and the atheists explored enough to claim that they haven’t found anyone who was ultimately responsible for all the blessings they enjoy? Have they earnestly prayed to Him, even without formally believing in Him, as I did? If they would say that they did and yet didn’t get any response, I would say that, at best, I am seriously puzzled because my experience has been very different. When I prayed to Him, even when I thought that I didn’t formally believe in Him, His response was overwhelming. Why aren’t these others going through the same experience in response to the same behaviour? I am honestly baffled!
The fear factor can only be a starting point for believing in God. It is a very superficial reason to believe in Him over a long time. In fact, it is no reason to believe in Him. I would suggest that it is better not to believe in God than to believe in Him for fear of His probable appearance. I don’t believe in a God who should be feared like we fear a deadly monster. I believe in a loving and caring God, who more significantly, responds to my prayers. And I am dead sure that He does. But I am no one to accuse others of not trying enough or not praying to Him sincerely. That’s why I say that I am simply puzzled. What loss would occur to those who haven’t found God if they were to pray to Him in sincere earnestness?
However, for the prayer to cause connection with God, there should be one condition satisfied: One should submit oneself humbly before Him. You might say that it’s a funny proposal for someone who doesn’t even believe in Him to humble himself before God. I would respond by saying that when we feel morally obliged to be grateful to the source that arranged for us all that we have in this life, when we find that there were reasons to believe that He exists (even if there were other reasons that lead to a contrary conclusion), and when our vulnerability causes us to be fearful for our existence, could there be a better response from us than to humble ourselves before Him (or His supposed existence) and see what happens?
I have a feeling that the intellectual arguments of the agnostics and atheists deprive them of that all important feeling of humbleness that inspires one to look earnestly for God. But I can be wrong.
Quite often, I have observed people who claim not to believe in God deriding religion, religious people, and the concept of God. There is often a rejection of the religious concepts with disdainful sarcasm. There is a clear sense of intellectual superiority one can smell from the kind of remarks that one hears. Richard Dawkins has made strong claims in his book on the basis of scientific studies that the more intelligent a person, the more likely it is that he is going to be an atheist. My point is that what they consider to be their strength (intellect) may actually be causing their downfall by making them feel superior and thus causing them to be arrogant and therefore not humble.
Both gratefulness and humbleness are desirable virtues. Both ungratefulness and haughtiness are immoral tendencies. The one pair of attributes leads to God. The other takes away from God. That is why I am of the opinion that belief in God belongs primarily to the domain of morality; the intellectual aspect of it is much less significant than is often realized.
I am not claiming that religious people can’t be arrogant. Some of them are immensely arrogant. Nor am I claiming that all atheists are arrogant. Some of them are genuinely down-to-earth. While arrogant religiosity will find no place in the mercy of God, humble atheism will, hopefully, give way to true belief in Him.