Chapter 8: The Irrational Rationalist
The first question:
The Current of 18th December has an interview with Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor, eighty-year-old rationalist and atheist from Sri Lanka, in which he refers to and criticizes you. What do you have to say about it?
Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor seems to be a nice old man, but a little senile. Senile, I call him, because a person cannot be both together - a rationalist and an atheist. It is impossible. Either you can be a rationalist or you can be an atheist. A rationalist cannot believe in anything. A rationalist cannot have any belief - in God or in no God. A rationalist suspends all belief. A rationalist can only be an agnostic; he can only say, “I do not know.”
The moment you say “I know,” you are no longer a rationalist. The moment you say “I know that God does not exist,” you are as irrational as the person who says God exists. You have lost track.
How can you say God is not? The whole existence has not yet been measured. There are depths upon depths, there is much still unknown. A little is known; far more remains unknown and unknowable. How can you say dogmatically that God is not?
A rationalist will avoid all temptation of dogmatism. He will say, “I do not know.” Socrates was a rationalist, Buddha was a rationalist, Nagarjuna was a rationalist, but they were not atheists. Atheism means you are against theism; you have chosen a belief. To believe in God is a belief; to believe in no God is again a belief. You remain a believer.
To be a rationalist is very difficult, arduous, because man wants to cling to some belief.
Now this T. Kovoor is eighty years old. For eighty years continuously he has been traveling around, arguing, saying to people that God does not exist. This seems to be absurd. If God does not exist, he does not exist. Why bother? And why waste your precious life for something which does not exist? It is absurd, it is irrational. But if you look deep into it, he is clinging to this no-belief. This disbelief has become his practice, his religion. Now he cannot simply rest; he has to argue - argue against God, argue against religion, try to prove that God does not exist. For what? What is the point?
Your precious life is wasted. And he believes that he has only one life; after death there will be no life. Then this is foolhardy, then this is simply stupid - to waste your life in the service of something which does not exist. And you don’t have a soul, he says, and there is going to be no more life, this is the only life there is. And he has devoted his whole life to nonsense. How can he be a rationalist?