It is sometimes said that Jainism is atheistic nastika. If nastika means an unbeliever in a life beyond, i.e., “one who does not believe in a surviving self,” then surely Jainism is not at all nastika. If nastika, means one who repudiates the authority of the Veda, then Jainism is certainly nastika. If nastika means one who does not believe in God, then a categorical answer is not possible to make, for although Jainism does not believe in a creative God, it does believe in godhead. Jainism deliberately rejects the conception of a supreme personality responsible for the creation of the world. The Nyaya philosopher says that the world is of the nature of an effect and that it must have been created by an intelligent agent, the agent being God (Ishwar); but the argument is conclusively controverted by the Jaina. (1) The cause of an effect need not necessarily be intelligent, and if God who is regarded as the cause of the creation be regarded as intelligent on the analogy of human causation, then he must be admitted to be imperfect like human beings. (2) Also God must be admitted to have a body, for we have never seen any intelligent creator without a body. (3) Even if it is admitted for the sake of argument that a bodiless God can create the world by his will and activity, did he take to creation through a personal whim and give high status to some and poverty to others quite arbitrarily? If the creation took place simply through his own nature, then what is the good of admitting him at all? Professor Dasgupta sums up the rest of the argument like this:


“Assuming for the sake of argument that God exists you could never justify the adjectives with which you wish to qualify him. Thus you say that he is eternal. But since he has no body, he must be of the nature of intelligence and will. But this nature must have changed in diverse forms for the production of diverse kinds of worldly, things which are of so varied a nature. If there were no change in his knowledge and will then there could not have been diverse kinds of creation and destruction. Destruction and creation cannot be the result of one unchangeable will and knowledge. Moreover, it is the character, of knowledge to change, if the word is used in the sense in which knowledge is applied to human beings, and surely we are not aware of any other kind of knowledge. You say that God is omniscient but it is difficult to suppose how he can have any knowledge at all, for as he has no organs he cannot have any perception, and since he cannot have any perception, he cannot have any inference either. If it is said that without the supposition of a God the variety of the world be inexplicable, this also is not true for this implication would only by justified if there were no other hypothesis left. But there are other suppositions also. Even without an omniscient God you could explain all things merely by the doctrine of moral order or the law of “Karma.”


Jainism rejects the conception of creative divinity as self-discrepant. Its belief is that there is no God and that the world was never created. In the view the Jaina is curiously enough in agreement with the Mimansaka, the upholder of strict orthodoxy. But as we mentioned above, although Jainism does not believe in a creative God, it does believe in godhead. Theistic systems are generally anthropomorphic, they bring down God to the level of man. Jainism, on the other hand, looks upon man himself as God when his inherent powers are fully in blossom. Every liberated soul is divine. God in Jaina theory being only another word for the soul at its best. In rejecting God who is so by his own right and with it also the belief that salvation may be attained through his mercy, Jainism recognizes that karma by itself and without the intervention of any divine power is adequate to explain the whole world of experience and thus impress on the individual his complete responsibility for what he does. “Jainism more than any other creed gives absolute religious independence and freedom to man. Nothing can intervene between the actions which we do and the fruits thereof. Once done they become our masters and must fruitify.”


God in Jainism is the ideal man, that is to say, the ideal of man; there is a way to achieve it and that is the Jaina ethical way. Others have striven in that way and achieved it in the past, and their example is a constant inspiration to us. “Such an ideal carries with it all necessary hope and encouragement, for what man has done, man can do.”