Saturday, March 21, 2009

Separating God from religion

God and religion have been deeply and inextricably intertwined through our human history. You either believe in the God of this religion or the God of that religion but belief in a God without religion is alien to most people.

This deep and pervasive conflation of God and religion leads to a number of interesting side effects and consequences.

Firstly, since people solemnly believe their religion to be the literal word of God, any attack on religion is seen as an attack on God. Religions are full of inaccuracies, contradictions and commandments which at times go against our intrinsic human morality, but when these are pointed out, people start taking them as arguments against the existence of God which they clearly are not. People fail to see the faults in their religion because they consider God to be faultless. Only if they could separate their God from their religion can the light of awareness and clarity shine upon them.

Secondly, all religious people can clearly see the absurdity and fallacies of all religions except their own. Asking ourselves why can shed a lot of light into the nature of religious belief.

We are able to see other religions for what they really are because we don't have any emotional and spiritual ties with the God of those religions. We are blinded to the imperfections and fallacies of our own religion precisely because we have built emotional and spiritual ties with the God of our religion. It is not difficult to see how it is the notion of God that binds followers to their religions and yet how this notion can bind people to any religion provided that they are indoctrinated with its beliefs since early childhood. The ties we build with the God of our religion effectively blind us from objectively and critically evaluating our religion.

If you really care about the truth, and don't just pretend to, then the above should give you a pause. It should make you self reflect and question your deeply held beliefs. It should make you realize that you can NEVER honestly evaluate your religion unless you separate your God from the God your religion talks about. Until and unless you make that subtle but critical distinction, you will be swept away by your own emotions and bias and won't be able to think straight. You owe this separation to no one but your own self -- after all, self-deception is the worst of all forms of deception.

In addition to this personal lesson, separating God from religion can also be a good strategic move for humanity. The human species has come to associate a lot of reverence, awe and respect with the God word over the ages. People have wildly different notions of who or what God is but everyone associates it with the highest and purest of virtues we as humans can aspire for. It will serve all those arguing against the absurdities and fallacies of religions to refocus their efforts on refuting the religious beliefs and the particular God(s) talked about in those religions rather than the notion of God in general.

Throughout our human history, religions have hijacked God over and over again and used him for their own purposes. They have hidden their fallacies and absurdities behind the facade of a beautiful perfect God. It will serve humanity well to rescue the God word from the clutches of religion.

The notion of an irreligious God might be alien to most of us, but I believe that it is what is needed to save humanity from the collision course between religions it is headed towards.


  1. Thank you for this brilliant post.

    As a non-religious mystic, I'll have quite a lot to say on this later on (in a bit of a rush right now) -- with some book recommendations if you're interested -- but you are 100% spot-on here.

  2. Hi, well you have only described half of the stuggle to find truth. In later half you have to seek help from God. And God will surely guide you.

    If God dosnt want to tell us something than we are left all alone. our lives have no meaning. i guess you have a purpose of your life. Islam satifies my mind as water satifies fish. It tells me what God is and how in every age he has guided us.

    Being lost is a blessing for those who seek help from God.

    These are my thoughts on this topic.

  3. Ahmad, desiskeptic is all for spiritual seeking -- just not for dogmatic adherence to organized (and especially politicized) religion. Hence the title of the post: separate God from (organized) religion. To which I say: mazel tov.

  4. @stumblingmystic

    if you have some information about God and Spirituality than why not you share it here. It would be great to listen something inspirational and new. So What is God? Does he play any part in our lives?

    This idea of seperating God from religion in not a new idea, many people knowingly or unknowingly do it and i believe it is a very good idea but it will not deliver success in terms of knowing God, it is like a unfinished journey, it is only a one step towards God, what about the other steps. At some stage you have to ask help from God while accepting defeat.

  5. Good post. Normally I see atheists bashing belief in God as if it were the source of all evil, but I think the association of God with specific doctrines and narratives is what they should be criticizing, not belief in God itself.

    Ahmed, I'm afraid you're wrong. Religion is not a second step to spirituality. A person can have a spiritual journey that does not rely on organized religion in any way.

  6. @stumblingmystic

    Thanks for appreciating the post. I will be looking forward to your book recommendations.


    You might have truly found Islam to be the satisfying answer. However, I would like to add that people of other religions use very similar arguments to yours to justify their beliefs and are just (if not more) satisfied with their religion. That satisfaction alone doesn't make their religion true (as you would agree) and that satisfaction alone doesn't make your religion true. I have tried to explore one reason behind why we are satisfied with our religions and what it says about the nature of religious belief in this post.

    I have voiced my concerns and dissatisfaction with religion in general and Islam in particular in the previous posts and will probably continue to voice more of those in the coming days.


    I agree. God is the common denominator between most religions and that is perhaps why atheists bash it that much. Making the distinction you talk about might be a good strategic move.

  7. @Desiskeptic

    With due respect, i have been reading your blog since day one and uptill now you have not pointed out a single thing which disproves Islam. I can only find some arguments on Evolution which you yourself know is not negated in Islam, even if it is a reality.

    Dont think that i never thought about questions in your mind. Ive been confronted by every question which you have in your mind. But Alhamdolillah i accepted defeat that my mind is not capable of knowing the absolute truth, even though i had answers to all those questions. so i asked help from God and God not only gave me his beloved people and ive seen truth by my own eyes.

    I dont know why you not trust in God. When you move towards God, God will run towards you. It is a verse of Quran. But problem is you are not ready to accept defeat infront of God. This defeat is nothing but cleaning of your heart from pride and ego. I know from my heart that you will be a satisfied person too Inshallah, if not now then later.

  8. @Ahmad

    Evolution does go against the Adam and Eve creation myth. I have seen people work their way around that, but that leads to a discontinuous and ultimately intellectually dissatisfying view of the world.

    I have talked about several things that bothered me about religion in few of my earliest posts. I will talk more about them in days to come.

    I have a mind and I plan on using it. Its not a question of conquering or being defeated. Its a question of looking at the world, looking at the evidence and then making up your mind.

    I personally consider it much more arrogant and proud to say that my religion is right and all the other ones are wrong when I use very similar arguments as them. I consider it much more humble and honest to look at the world as it is and not make any unwarranted claims.

  9. separating religion from 'god', would mean ending belief. But belief can take many forms, even the communists had their ideology in which they believed, belief can also take the form of nationalism. It's probably to do with attachment to opinions, things, persons, also money and material things. It maybe has to do with search the search for security. The current religions of the world will probably disappear in the future, just like the religions of ancient greece, rome and egypt, probably being replaced by other absurd beliefs. A man, who no longer seeks psychological security in some idea or material thing is a free man. Maybe he is like god, not psychologically dependent on anything, and thus clear, honest and true. Aristole calls him the immovable mover.

  10. @adam

    You are right when you say that we humans have a very strong need for psychological security. Deeply reflecting on the nature of reality helps you lessen the need for it a bit. Studying a bit of Buddhism was useful to me. Realizing the transitory nature of all objects that we perceive, including ourselves, and realizing the illusion of self and that of life and death was an illuminating experience. But that is certainly not our default state. Changing our default viewpoint of real objects which we mentally attach ourselves to requires a lot of intellectual struggle.

    Buddha said most of this stuff 3500 years ago and we still have so many religions that are still stuck with the concept of a man-like supernatural God. It might take us a while before we get to that level as a species, and I will be more than happy with religions which are relatively benign compared to the present day religions in the meanwhile :)