Good­ness Sakes

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page - MUKUL SHARMA

A cor­re­spon­dent has for­warded a story, do­ing the rounds on the in­ter­net from the early 2000s, which il­lus­trates the value of lat­eral think­ing. And, as the pre­am­ble puts it, “It’s also one of sev­eral sim­i­lar ur­ban myths in which an ap­par­ently very dif­fi­cult or im­pos­si­ble ques­tion is de­feated by a very sim­ple quick clever an­swer.”

A phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor set an un­usual task for his class. He lifted his chair on to his desk and wrote on the board sim­ply, “Prove that this chair does not ex­ist.” The class set to work, com­pos­ing long com­plex ex­pla­na­tions — ex­cept one stu­dent, who took just 30 sec­onds to com­plete and hand in his paper, at­tract­ing sur­prised glances from his class­mates and the pro­fes­sor. Some days later, the class re­ceived their grades for the test. The stu­dent who took 30 sec­onds was judged the best. His an­swer was, “What chair?”

The stu­dents in the rest of the class, how­ever, tend to re­mind one of fa­mous athe­ists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Har­ris or Christo­pher Hitchens who have made a re­li­gion of their un­be­lief while miss­ing the spir­i­tual an­gle al­to­gether. They too write reams of ar­ti­cles, dis­ser­ta­tions and books try­ing to prove that God doesn’t ex­ist. It’s as if some child­hood men­tor had lifted the con­cept of divin­ity and, plac­ing it on a pedestal, had in­toned, “Prove this does not ex­ist.”

People like them are sorely in need of an­other 30-sec­ond boy won­der to sub­mit a judge­men­twin­ning ar­gu­ment in a sim­i­lar short phrase or sen­tence. A lot of spir­i­tual athe­ists don’t say it in so many words but their equiv­a­lent state­ment is, “Be­cause good­ness is enough.”

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