At the age of seven, my childhood priest warned me that, on the Day of Judgment, every grain of wasted rice would return as a snake and devour my head. Needless to say, instead of comics and Disney characters, many of my dreams were superimposed with different snakes that engulfed my body parts.
Growing up in a hybrid environment – one religious parent and the other of a more liberal bent – my childhood and teenage was packed with religious and cultural rituals and contradictions; however, the basic tunes of religion never stuck a deep chord in my mind. I practiced reading the Holy Quran in Arabic (without much understanding of what I was reading) and prayed before serious exams and on Fridays.
Fast forward about 15 years; at an interview on PBS, a renowned philosopher talks about how he couldn’t imagine his God creating a place like hell. His God is so loving and caring, and makes humans in his own reflection, that hell is not a factor in his world.
From that day onward, I felt an affinity to this point of view and have had a highly skeptical and cynical view on organized religion of churches, mosques and synagogues.
I have fallen in love with a Loving God; a God who cares, forgives, nurtures, nourishes – benevolent and non-interfering. Unlike the one that sits around and constantly watches (with billions of micro cameras) what I am doing and writes down in a big book with a magic marker.
After the birth of our first child, I had a long argument with one of my elders about why children need to be raised with one of the major organized religions. I don’t want to raise my children with the fear that is so prevalent and practiced in most Abrahamic faiths, where men and women are never equal and God has a vengeful side and lands you in purgatory if you don’t pray umpteen times or don’t cover your head in a particular way.
I am perfectly comfortable if, as an adult, one of our daughters pick a religion that gives them peace of mind. In my world, however, I have chosen not to have priests or intermediaries.
When I am upset or feel treated unfairly, I try to meditate – to come closer to that higher, kinder spirit, I believe, helps me understand both myself and the environment that surrounds me.
I know that all the answers that I seek, will not be revealed with some message – but I seek the jurisprudence to make a fair decision that will not hurt anyone and will seek to build better relationships rather than destroying them. My father had a couple of simple rules; don’t lie and don’t consciously do something that hurts someone else.
When I watch natural disasters, like a Tsunami or an earthquake, it’s easy to believe that God cannot be sitting up in some space, seven layers above, manipulating the sun and the moon in ways beyond my comprehension – no way could she let these innocent (and mostly God fearing people) be devastated without any rhyme or reason.
When I watch poverty besieged around me in Bangladesh, or abundant prosperity of my own surroundings and realize that very few people have the ability to break out of their own circle of truth and become someone else (other than who they were born), one wonders, why the lottery of life I have won, is different, from the person next to me.
On a lonely plane journey, when the plane suddenly falls into turbulence, I do say a quick prayer. But the prayer is to my non-interfering God – who looks up and smiles and wishes me well; she inspires me to be truthful – not to blame others – or to look for reason in everything.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. My beautiful God resides all around me; with all of her benevolence and beauty.