Almighty Indifference

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It's hard to escape God in America. Especially now, as the political season kicks into high gear, it seems everyone is invoking the Almighty. Any aspirant to high office in this country must declare his faith first and foremost, and the higher the office, the more God is dragged into it. No political speech is complete without the obligatory "God Bless America," which is often delivered in a tone of voice that's more command than prayer. The moral certitude of the political faithful is enviable, and as I watch them hold forth on their personal relationships with God, I often find myself yearning for a slice of that heavenly pie.

My own relationship with God can only be called one of almighty indifference. My lack of faith did not reveal itself to me as a grand epiphany. Rather, faith seeped out of me over many years, bit by inexorable bit, till there was nothing left.

This was surprising since in India, where I grew up, one is surrounded by Gods everywhere. There are Gods for home and hearth, for love, for sex, for learning, and for wealth. India is the Wal-Mart of divinity. There are big and small Gods, benevolent and vengeful Gods, Gods to suit every budget and taste; and if you cannot find even one that meets your exacting needs, there are thousands of demigods and minor deities to pick from. I did not lose my religion due to lack of choice, but it happened nonetheless.

My mother was pained to hear about this, but as with everything else, she took it in her stride. On my visits to the old country, she still asks me to accompany her to the temple. I never refuse. I love going to the temple. I enjoy taking off my sandals and walking barefoot on the cool flagstones, and savoring the fragrance of burnt oil and incense and sandalwood. Most of all, I love standing next to my mother with my palms together over my heart, a flawed reflection of her devotion, praying to a God I do not believe in.

With a Perspective, I'm Papi Menon.