The recent debate on this page did not start with the relative superiority of atheism over religion but with the cruel criticism of a letter from a reader who tried to console people who had lost loved ones in the 3/11 tsunami. The main religion of the Japanese, Buddhism, has explanations for the complaints by Barry Ward in his April 15 letter, “Pondering a flawed creation,” and by others.
The Supreme Creator has created a terrible world, our earth, for specific purposes. The Creator has no intention of creating heaven on this earth where there are no germs, disease, floods, volcanoes or death. As Buddha explained, this world is full of suffering, as even the kings cannot escape the sorrows attributed to the deaths of close relatives, old age and death. A human being must suffer by going from one birth to another to pay for wrong actions performed in his/her previous life — once he/she has opened one of the three gates of hell: violence, greed or lust (according to Krishna). Only a perfect soul can escape this cycle and be unified with the Creator in Nirvana or Supreme Yoga state (Yoga means unification).
Krishna said there are two paths to perfection: the path of knowledge, or Gyana Yoga, and the path of pure unselfish actions for the benefit of others, or Karma Yoga. Perfection cannot be achieved in one birth. Buddha himself has narrated his experiences and unselfish sacrifices in different reincarnations. As we are imperfect and cannot have heaven on this earth, we will have to achieve it in another universe. Our world is just one planet among an infinite number of worlds inhabited by intelligent beings. The Italian Dominican friar Giordano Bruno was burned alive by the Catholic Church in 1600 for saying that. Was he just naive?!
Atheism only can deny, without giving us any alternative explanation or new information, except to say, as ancient Indian atheist philosophers did, that this world and its creator are just illusions. Religion is not only belief but also, as Karl Marx wrote, “the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed, the heart in a heartless world.”
So, there are no logical errors in thinking that the Creator of the higher heaven “in the sky” is taking care of the souls of the Tohoku disaster victims, temporarily, before they are reborn on this earth.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.