CONSCIENCE AND DIVINE REVELATION
Is divine revelation essential for man's guidance? Isn't it enough for people to live according to their conscience?
Conscience is a great gift. But what is conscience actually? Do the consciences of all people look alike? Is the conscience's decision always similar to all people? Can anyone claim conscience's judgement infallible? All these problems need to be examined.
Conscience is deeply influenced by the family in which a person was born, by the condition where he lives and also by the traditions of the society. Nationality, ethnicity, caste, socio-economic conditions, the age in which one lives, all these have influenced the formation of conscience as well as its judgments.
The intellect and the ways people adopt differ from person to person. Human beings are of different character and of different groups. Their interests vary. There is considerable difference in the levels of their intelligence and knowledge. People view and judge things from their own levels. It is impossible for people to think alike, and consequently their views are divergent.
The aesthetic sense of people differs, and consequently the concept of beauty is relative. What is beautiful for some people may be ugly for others. In taste also there is such difference. What some feel tasty may be unpalatable to others. The question is: Can there be such differences in good and bad? Can they differ according to the taste of the individuals? It cannot be. Good is good, ever and everywhere. Bad is bad always, and everywhere it is bad. Otherwise human beings will lose the sense of value, the distinction between Good and bad will become meaningless, and thus society will fall into anarchy.
Good and bad should not change depending on social conditions and economic structure. To argue that they change so, will, in effect, lead to their rejection - as one sees in the words of Niccolo Machiavelli "that good is merely a name'' or in the words of Jean Paul Sartre that ''good is merely a myth.''
Good and bad should be constant and eternal and they should not be bound with the consideration of time, place, ethnicity, caste or sex. Good and bad will be impossible if they are decided by human conscience, social conditions, economic structure, and national conditions or by temporal interests. So human instincts or conscience cannot be made the basis or criterion of good and evil or justice and injustice. There is no impartial conscience. It can never claim infallibility. Infact, there is no difference between one who lives according to his conscience and one who lives according to his bodily desires. Both live according to their instincts.
Good and bad must be decided by God - the creator of people of all ages and of all places. He has clearly distinguished and demarcated them. So good and bad, as well as right and wrong are decided by Him and they are eternal, and beyond the considerations of time and space. The only way to understand them is God's revelations to his prophets.
Without the light of divine revelations nobody can know the answers to questions like: Who is he? Where did he come from? Where is he going? What is life and for what purpose, and how it should be lived? Many intelligent thinkers and researchers have said and spread sheer nonsense about man, because they have been unable to understand man's essential nature.
People are capable of viewing things only on the basis of available light of knowledge, and even today many aspects regarding man are yet to be brought to light. For the same reason man never stops enquiring about them. Whenever they get new knowledge, the wise seekers of knowledge become convinced of the depth of their ignorance.
People like Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Hegel and Karl Marx viewed man from various angles. In their search for understanding human nature, some concentrated on the body and its form and shape. So they came to certain suppositions which were body-centred. Some viewed man from the occupation he once followed, and thought of him as an animal subjected for evolution. The thought of some other thinkers fell on human belly, and they related everything with it. They found it most important and decided that hunger was the cause of all problems. They thought that once this problem is solved, everything would be alright. Those who viewed man and life through sexuality believed it to be the most important thing and whatever they knew, saw and heard was related to it. They declared that the whole human activity is sex-centred, and if the restrictions imposed on sex were removed everything would be all right. Some others gave undue importance to spirituality and disregarded the body and its needs. So the people who tried to understand man in the absence of divine revelations were like the proverbial blind men, who tried to understand elephant in their own partial ways. They arrived at certain conclusions which were imperfect and full of errors.
Those who do not know man cannot understand how man should live. Every individual must possess the basic awareness to understand how he should live in the world. This awareness is achieved only through the divine message. It was religion that taught man about the meaning, objective, and destiny of his existence. It has also set the ends and means of human life.
For people who do not depend on divine revelation, even the question, what is after death? is irrelevant. They think that life begins with birth and ends with death and such a view deeply affects the ends and means of their life. It has also deep influence on every activity of life. At the same time the divine message speaks about the hereafter, and declares that life after death is the most important one. It emphasises that this world is only a place for work, and the trial, judgement, rewards or punishments are to come in the hereafter. In the absence of this belief, the unfulfilled good deeds on the earth would have become vain. It is not right to assess human acts merely on the basis of outward results. Suppose a man jumps into the river to save a drowning child and he fails in the effort. The failure doesn't mean that his effort was unworthy. Seemingly this sacrifice is a futile effort, a failed attempt. However this act contains a lot of noble values in it. Now imagine that in the effort to save the child, along with the child he too loses his life. The apparent result is the loss of two lives, a huge loss from a material point of view. However the truth is that it is a commendable heroic death. If death is the end of all, then self sacrifice for ideologies would have become meaningless. The joy one gets from a failed fight for justice is not related with this world. If death is the end of everything, the self sacrifice of a heroic leader will become foolish. So if we judge that these sacrifices are after all not vain, then it is the result of our consciousness about the other world. The heroic leader and his acts for good and truth, though failed, are justified and commended as noble. It is also the result of our consciousness about the hereafter. This consciousness is a strong under current, and highly influential in the assessment of events. A human conscience which is completely free from the divine message will not know the value of sacrifice. And such a conscience will not let one take any decision and act accordingly, without considering the profit and loss in mathematical terms.
The absence of divine messages makes one ignorant of the creator, as it has made him ignorant of himself. Suppose a person's father is alive and lives with him, but the person concerned doesn't know his father at all. He is certainly very unfortunate. But more unfortunate than him is the person who does not know his own creator. The ignorance about God will lead into ignorance about His system of life which will eventually lead to eternal damnation.
Science and Technology have advanced much, and knowledge has been expanded. Yet man is ignorant of himself and of the world. Every new information is indicative of the depth of man's ignorance. Without the knowledge of the self and of the world one lives in, it is impossible to live calm and peaceful life. So conscience alone cannot be a guide in human life.
Nobody is free from self interest. If the rules, regulations and the system required for the society are framed by male, men's interests will be served better. If they are framed by female, their interests will be better served. The laws framed by the blacks are favourable for them. Given the opportunity the whites will do the same. The same is true with the working class and the capitalists. People of each country and region give preferences to their own interests. Infact this is fundamental to the concept of nationalism. Machiavelli writes that "good is only a name. Evil is real. So every ruler who wants to strengthen his country must properly understand to do evil''. Wayne Paul's view is the same. "A moralist cannot rule the country because what a country needs for its protection, cannot be done by him. For the good of the country, a ruler must be ready to do anything. A moralist with his sense of right and wrong cannot do it.''
There is no one without self - interests of some kind. So the rules and regulations and the system they frame will certainly reflect their interests. God, the creator and the sustainer of the universe alone can view the world and its people alike. He alone can provide the system of life which will do justice to the whole people of all places and all ages. For the same reason nobody can live a good life according to their conscience alone. God sent this system of life to human beings through his messengers. Religion also demands that this system of life should be the basis for the existence of the individual, family, society and the nation.