Yesterday I looked at the subject of avatāras from a perspective of an atheist – can they serve as a proof of God? Most likely not. There’s no hard rule against it, of course, but the Lord descending onto the material platform is still the Lord, He is still beyond the reach of material laws and, therefore, is not obliged to respond to testing in the way that would satisfy the atheists.
He could, but that would also go against His stated purpose (BG 4.8) to destroy that kind of people. Exact word was duṣkṛtām, translated by Śrīla Prabhupāda as “miscreants”, and atheists are most likely to fall into that category.
There are cases when they wouldn’t, however, and so their lives might be spared. “Miscreants”, interestingly, comes from the same root sound “kṛ”. “Duṣ” and “mis” are prefixes of practically the same meaning, indicating effects opposite (and negative) of what is expected from the root verb. “Creants” in English comes from a Latin word that we know as “credo” while Sanskirt “kṛtam” means performing good work. “Credo” and “creed” in Latin were meant “to believe” and “to trust”, as in “put one’s heart into”, and related to Sanskrit śraddhā, firm faith. Seems to me that this etymology avoids making a direct connection to “kṛt” but what can I do? To me “miscreants” and “duṣkṛtina” sound as having practically the same meaning, which is not equal to “atheist”.
Atheism is denying existence of God and as such it’s a quite popular interpretation of Vedic scriptures. There are jṇāna yogis, for example, who simply can’t find God by their ascending process, and Kṛṣṇa doesn’t say anything about destroying them, He rather accepts their method as legitimate even if slow and unreliable. There are karma kandīs who reject existence of God behind Vedic rituals, they claim rituals work perfectly well on their own, as laws of nature, and do not require God behind them. They sound just like modern day atheists but, as followers of a legitimate Vedic sage Jaimini, they would probably be spared when the Lord comes after duṣkṛtinas, too.
Agnostics, people who do not deny God but simply state that His existence can’t be determined at this point, ie they “do not know”, should probably escape Lord’s wrath and quite possibly get the confirmation they profess to be ready to accept. Those are in the minority among modern atheists, however. Most atheists are of a militant kind, wishing to eradicate religion from the face of the Earth altogether. They stand no chance and will be first against the wall when revolution comes.
Kṛṣṇa’s determination to restore dharma and punish duṣkṛtinas, or infidels, let’s not beat around the bush here, should tell us that there’s no prospect for the peaceful co-existence with atheists. This is an important point because peaceful co-existence is the mantra of the day. “Enlightened” society of the present and especially the future is seen as being at peace and allowing everyone to express himself in any way he likes, allowing for full religious freedom while secular and atheistic at its heart. That is not going to be possible.
Policy makers in the West have designed laws and practices to provide said religious freedoms but only as a concession, only as long as they don’t threated atheistic foundation of the society. They make religion a private matter and provide time for indulging in it but this time must not be during office hours. People’s life force belongs to atheists, their faith must be practiced in their free time, preferably when atheists are still in bed after the night of drinking and debauchery and so their paths do not cross – on Sunday mornings, for example.
Christianity lends itself perfectly to this arrangement since it was meant to accommodate Christians first. They are perfectly content to perform their religions rights only once a week and their religious aspirations are not that different from atheistic ones – buttered bread, happy family life, good health, and tons of money.
It’s not so easy with Islam – Muslims tend to take their religion way more seriously. They, like us, understand that there’s fundamental incompatibility between religion and atheism and they correctly predict that atheism would win if allowed to compete in a “free market”.
This is Kali Yuga, after all, no matter what we do, no matter what we preach, people will become corrupted and irreligious. They can’t maintain their purity, mercy, honesty, and they can’t remain austere in the face of temptations. You don’t need to be a Muslim to have one look at modern women and conclude that men don’t stand a chance in their company, they WILL for them and fall hard.
Sexual discipline is absolutely essential to any religious practice, we know it very well – it’s either lust or devotion, we can’t have both. There’s pure form of sex, too, of course, but it must be free from lust and that can be achieved only by strict following religious rules.
Everybody knows that religion and politics are two sensitive topics that better be avoided in unfamiliar company. There are families that consciously keep them off their dinner tables for the sake of peace. It isn’t peace, however, it’s temporary truce, a breather, a timeout used to fill one’s belly before resuming the fight. Agreeing to disagree does not solve the problem here, only postpones the confrontation until a later date.
At some point things must come to a head and decisions must be made, and somebody is going to be very upset about it. Perhaps even Kṛṣṇa would come and give the miscreants a figurative smack on the head – He is not going to actually kill anyone for the next four hundred something thousand years.
Kali Yuga is the age of quarrel, even without religion conflicts appear everywhere without any particular reason, under all kinds of pretexts. In some cases the original reasons are buried deep in history so no one remembers what they were and even if they did, new ones have been piled on top and addressing the “root problem” won’t pacify anyone anymore.
So Muslims often take a different approach from the West – instead of solving problems they prevent their appearances. They stop Kali Yuga influences at their borders, they legally restrict their women to behave in a certain way, for example, so that the men’s minds can be peaceful and relatively free from lust. They don’t drink, that helps, too, and this means two of the four regulative principles are being legally enforced.
If we ever get a chance to build our own society we should probably legally enforce all four, issuing bans on cow killing and gambling, too. Atheism should also be legally prohibited just like Holocaust denial or racism in the West.
It won’t stop Kali Yuga but it would keep it under control. As long as we engage in Yuga dharma, saṇkīrtana, we should be okay. Ultimately, however, it’s a lost cause. We can’t stop planned deterioration of the world and we can’t stop its eventual destruction.
When we say that saṇkīrtana in Kali Yuga brings the same benefits as temple worship or Vedic sacrifices in previous ages we shouldn’t assume that this means material benefits. Dharma in this sense is a spiritual practice that pursues spiritual goals. If we look to emulate material gains we should remember that dharma practiced previously ended with us suffering Kali Yuga consequences anyway. Why would we want to emulate that?
So, the prospects for us blending into the general society and practicing Kṛṣṇa consciousness side by side are not very bright. They are actually pretty dim. I know we WANT to make it work but it’s simply impossible, in the long run we’ll inevitably lose, so we must find another way for us to move forward. Big topic for ISKCON, I don’t even know where to start with its practical application, and I don’t have time for it today, so I’ll leave it at that.