Is an evil, but devoted, person more valued by the Gods than a good, but an atheistic, person?
This is a good question often asked by people. This question is asked because people think that good karma automatically should lead to moksha, bliss and relief from suffering. I will try to establish that this simplistic idea is not right.
Does Ishvara distinguish between a devotee and an atheist?
The answer is no.
I am the same towards all beings. None is hateful, and none dear to Me. But those who worship Me with devotion dwell in Me, and I too dwell in them.
Ishvara is neutral and does not take any position for or against any person.
So what really happens? Why should a sinner be forgiven if he turns to devotion towards God? Why should an atheist suffer even if he is a good person?
To answer these questions one should first find out the requirement to attain moksha and relief from suffering.
Among thousands of men, there will just be one here or there striving for spiritual perfection. From among the aspirants so striving, one perchance knows Me in truth.
One attains release from suffering by practicing spiritual techniques leading to spiritual perfection. A person might have a bad karmic history but through the practice of spiritual disciplines attain moksha and freedom from suffering. An atheist might be a good person but due to not striving for spiritual perfection remains bound to suffering.
Even a confirmed sinner, if he worships Me with unwavering faith and devotion, must verily be considered as righteous; for he has indeed taken the right resolve.
Soon will he become righteous and attain to lasting peace. No devotee of Mine will ever perish; you may swear to this effect, O Arjuna.
Let me explain the whole situation by an analogy. Imagine Samsara as a very large ocean. Jivas are on little sail boats in this ocean and are suffering from a variety of ills. Let us now think of 2 jivas, one a bad person and another a good atheist.
The bad person's boat is taking in water and his sail has holes in it due to past bad karma. He has been told by a kind hearted person that he will get relief if he sails his boat to a distant shore which is free from storms and tribulations. He listens to this advice and unfurls his sail and gets his boat moving towards that distant shore. He has numerous problems due to the condition of his boat and the sail but through persistence he succeeds to reach that distant shore and is free from all troubles.
The good atheist's boat and sail are in excellent condition due to his good karmic history. He is also told that he will be free from the storms and tribulations of Samsara if he reaches that distant shore. However, unlike the bad person, the atheist does not believe in that distant shore. He tells himself that all he can see is an infinite ocean and there is no evidence that there is any shore reaching which all troubles disappear. So he does nothing and his boat keeps getting flung by the numerous storms of Samsara.
The moral of this little story is that both the bad Jiva and the good atheist are responsible for their lives. The bad jiva strives for spiritual perfection and solves his problem. The good atheist does nothing and attains nothing.
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