About a month ago, we received a call from the director of the Atheist Society of Silicon Valley. They were putting on a public forum to discuss a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to remove “one nation, under God” from certain government documents.
The person who called had a dynamic and personable nature, so “the devil made me do it,” and I accepted. But I almost immediately regretted it, and a week or ten days later I tried to call and get out of it, but I wasn’t able to do so.
I felt terrifically embarrassed to be associated in any way with the Atheist Society. Perhaps I’m being narrow, but atheism sounds like a swear word to me.
Of course, there was such a public outcry in America over the removal of “under God” that the judges stayed their ruling. It’s almost certain to be overturned, because it’s politically impossible.
Nonetheless, on the fated day I found myself at a theatre with about three hundred people who were devotees of the non-existence of God.
Sitting on one side of me on the panel was the founder of a fundamentalist Christian church.
On the other side was a minister whose beliefs were more broad and accepting. Then there was the state chairman of the Atheist Society, and at the far end sat Dr. Nidra, the man who filed the lawsuit.
Dr. Nidra got a standing ovation when he started his talk. He’s a doctor and lawyer, very bright, talks fast, in a monotone voice, and he’s very clever and determined. He told us that his first wish was to get “In God We Trust” taken off the U.S. currency, but he realized that it would be impossible, so he filed the alternative lawsuit.
Everybody was cheering him and thinking it was so marvelous.
It was such a strange experience for me, and I want to talk about how we, as lovers of God, should respond to these people.
I looked out at all of these human faces that were very much like yours and mine – some attractive, some old, young, educated and uneducated – just the normal stew of human consciousness. Some were highly intelligent, some with sweet faces. But what they were cheering so eagerly was painful for me to hear, especially because Dr. Nidra was filling it with so much ego-centered energy.
The oddest thing was that, as I sat next to the Christian minister, our souls felt united, even though our views would have been far apart if we had talked face to face. We were among only a handful of people who could sense the general vibration of the event. And I want to use the word “evil.”
Of course, none of those present would have called themselves evil. I’m sure that many of them were good and kind people.
But the determination to rip down something so important to our civilization, and in complete ignorance, and even gaily, like children, to tear it to pieces, was shocking to me.
I could feel that the Christian minister and I were reaching out to each other in our common love for God.
In my short talk, I didn’t try to argue with the atheists. I don’t remember what I said, but it wasn’t very effective.
Later, Swami Kriyananda said to me, “You should have denounced them – it’s what I would have done.” I just tried to have a good attitude, because I can’t speak to hostile audiences – it’s not my nature.
Why would I try to persuade them of something they weren’t remotely interested in hearing? But the Christian minister spoke with a lot of courage, and I admired him for it.
The majority of religious people are not aware of the foundation of their own beliefs – the universal truths of Sanaatan Dharma – the “Eternal Religion” – that are valid in all cultures and all times.
One of those truths is that we are all moving toward God to the best of our ability, at our own pace but in the same direction.
And that’s really why I couldn’t argue with the atheists, because they are simply doing what they have to do, at their level of spiritual understanding. This is as far as their experiences have brought them, and it’s what they have to work out at this point, even though they are fighting on the wrong side.
In countries where there is no divine respect for life, such as under Communism, people are considered insignificant parts of the greater whole, and therefore expendable. In China today, people are valued to the extent that they contribute to the collective. “And if you get in the way, we’ll snuff you out. And what difference will it make?”
But we don’t do that in America, because we understand that all life comes from God and is sacred, and we don’t have the right to kill it.
Given our beliefs, the question naturally arises, should we be active? Should we go out and wave a sign that says, “In God We Trust – keep it on our money!”?
There’s a natural feeling that we need to combat atheism. And at the same time, what’s the point?
I felt ineffectual, standing before those people and muttering little bits of information about the things I knew.
And yet I thought, “This is my part.”
We aren’t called to stand in the street and wave signs, or to file counter-lawsuits, or to fight on that level. These are ephemeral struggles that rise and fall like the wind. We must understand that we are living in a narrow window of time, whereas the mission of the Masters is destined to change the world over a period of centuries.
To become one with the Light beyond creation, we must do our part. We must serve the Light actively. Above all, we must detach ourselves from the delusions that separate us from the Light.
The atheists have the grand idea that they will remake the world in a wonderful way, based on scientific thought, free of the delusion that we don’t have control over our lives.
But behind that reasoning, they’re leading a war against the divine consciousness. And it became obvious to me as I sat in that room.
When it was over, the minister and I instinctively huddled together for a moment. He’s a very nice man. He looked at me and said, “I agree with a great deal of what you said.”
I’m sure that if he came to our temple and saw the altar with photos of the masters, we wouldn’t be good friends anymore. But in the presence of that great evil, he was able to say, “I agree with you.”
I said to him, very seriously, “You and I are the only people in this room who can feel how evil the vibration was today.” And with great seriousness, he nodded. Because it was palpable. It was tangibly clear that we were in a war of Light against darkness.
Not all of the people in the room were equally active in their opposition to the Light. Many people get swept up and go along because they don’t realize the significance of what they’re doing.
But there were people in the room who were leading the charge, and you could feel that they were inspired by a very real and very dark force. No matter how cleverly they defined it, or how attractively they tried to paint it over, they were leading a movement to pull down everything that lifts humanity and gives us hope.
Seeing how deeply confused those people were, the worst of it is that they’re working hard to impose their confusion on our culture, and most destructively, on our children.
When I spoke to the atheists, I said that part of the problem is the word “God,” which doesn’t have a specific meaning in the English language.
Someone said, “Well, then, why don’t you substitute the word ‘nature’ for ‘God’?”
I said, “Because nature didn’t create this. Nature was created.”
I thought, “If you believe in nature, nature doesn’t give a damn about you. Nature is the single most unforgiving thing there is.”
You can’t decide to believe in just anything. You have to believe in something that has the power to give something back to you.
If you just believe in yourself, you’ll find that you reach the limits of your power very quickly, and then where are you?
The atheists declare, “I believe in the world as we humans have made it.” And God just laughs. And then He turns you upside down. And why? To wake you up.
There’s a divine power in this world that is very personal. It cares about you deeply. It is your own self. And there is no reality except that power.
We don’t need to “believe” in it. We can experience it. It is who we are, and this understanding is so important, so vital, and so desperately needed at this time.
If we live in harmony with that divine reality, which is the source of all freedom and joy and courage, then yes, our lives may be difficult. And, yes, the divine reality may turn us on our heads many times. But God does it only so that when it’s done we are able to say, “I know what You are doing. You are making me strong. You are taking away from me every weak aspect of my nature, so that I can know the divine truth which has become me.”
Yogananda had a disciple who was crippled by cerebral palsy. He couldn’t talk, and he could only lurch around. Master looked at him one day with lovingly and said, “He’s very close to freedom. Divine Mother is pleased with his devotion.”
Swamiji recalls in The Path how someone remarked, “It must be a very simple kind of devotion.” And Yogananda said very sweetly, “Ah, that is what pleases God.”
Don’t become confused by this foolish world with its clever wiles. Devotion, devotion, devotion of the simplest type – hold on to that, come what may, and God will never let you go.