Why does God let some people be atheists?
From Nailesh P
Transcribed by: Nikhil Fernandes
When everything is dependent on God, then why are there some people who are āstika and some who are nāstika? Why has God given people the freedom not believe in Him?
Freedom is foundational to love. If a boy puts a gun at a girl’s head and demands that she loves him, she might say it, but there is no love in that. Love requires freedom. When a person freely chooses to offer one’s heart to another – that is the foundation by which real love takes place.
Krishna does not want machines or robots who will just carry out His commands. He is all attractive and He wants us to love Him and wants us to relish His love and His beauty. In this way, we get the highest happiness. But to connect with Krishna, to focus on Krishna and to have our consciousness absorbed in Krishna, we need to choose to love Him. Choosing to love Him implies that there is also the option of choosing not to love Him.
Choosing not to love Krishna can happen at a mental level or an intellectual level. When it happens at a mental level, then that person is carried away primarily by desires. The person thinks that God is good but this world is also good and they want to enjoy in this world. This is the level of desires. When the person turns away from Krishna not just at the level of desires but also at the level of the intelligence and its arguments, then that person becomes nāstika (atheistic). That person intellectually tries to disprove the existence of God.
The vast majority of people in this world are materialistic. They are simply interested in material enjoyment and they are interested in God to the extent that God can provide that material enjoyment. Beyond this there are atheists who use their intelligence to deny and defy God. This arrangement is provided for them to try out their fantasies. Just as people can have mental fantasies about how they could enjoy life, similarly people can have intellectual fantasies by which they can try to enjoy their lives. If somebody wants to live in a fool’s paradise imagining that there is no God, then Krishna provides that facility.
nityo’nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām eko bahῡnām yo vidadhāti kāmān
Katha Upanishad (2.2.13)
This verse indicates that there is one supreme being who maintains other beings. This maintenance is not just physical in providing heat, light, air and water. It’s also in terms of providing world views. Krishna provides various world views for people according to their desires by which they can try to play out their fantasies. The soul can try out each fantasy while thinking – “Maybe this will make me happy, or maybe that will make me happy”. After trying out various fantasies like this, eventually the soul understands that nothing except Krishna can make me happy. At that time, Krishna is there waiting in the heart to help that soul return to Him.
The freedom to choose one’s belief is an expression of Krishna’s respect for our individuality and His respect for true love which requires freedom. Non-theistic beliefs arise when the soul uses one’s intelligence to turn away from Krishna and to justify turning away from Krishna.