Introduction The Question of Faith There once was a town that was the envy of all who lived outside it. The people in the town were happy, their businesses did well, and everyone was in good health. New residents arrived constantly, knowing they would be building their lives in a wonderful place. God was watching over the town. One summer, however, things changed. Monsoons drenched the area, and most of the crops were washed away. Animals couldn't find shelter from the continual rain, and they were dying along with the crops. The people became depressed as they lost their sources of food and incomeand watched their family members fall ill. The times were so bad that an atheist in the town went out one night and painted his credo on the side of a prominent building: G O D I S N O W H E R E When the townspeople saw this, they wanted more than anything for the man to be proven wrong. But they struggled to mount a convincing counterargument. They had no reason to think God was still with them. If He were, wouldn't the rain let up? They went on with their business, wading always through inches of water, thinking no one could help them. One day a wise monk visited the despondent community. He knew how beautiful the town had been, and he wondered what could have happened to destroy everyone's faith. He wanted to do something to restore the people's hopeful outlook on life. As the monk walked through the town, observing the devastation, he realized the difficulty of his task. He stopped townspeople and asked what they were thinking. They told him God had left their village, and there was no one who could help them. They had no choice but to succumb to the misery. The monk assured them their lives would get better, but his words were easy to dismiss. Then the monk rounded a corner and saw the atheist's message painted on the side of the building. Suddenly, he saw what had to be done. The next day, as the townspeople passed the building, they saw a slightly altered message. Only one diagonal line had been added, and yet it changed everything. The message now read: G O D I S N O W / H E R E The change in the town was dramatic and immediate. When the people realized God was still with them, they became optimistic again. Maybe God had just been testing them, and for a while they may have failed the test. But now they knew they could withstand anything with God's help. The people realized their future was being looked after and their prayers would be answered. In no time at all, the town became prosperous again and the residents spread the word of God to every newcomer. This story served as my introduction to the world of other religions. At the age of five, I knew very little about religion or God. But I did know one thing: anyone who believed in a faith different from that of my family was wrong. I don't remember being taught that, I just picked it up indirectly from my parents and other adults who shared our religious beliefs. When my mom told me the story of the once-prosperous village, I don't think she intended to criticize other belief systems. She just wanted me to understand that God was great and if I said my prayers, according to our religious beliefs, I would be in His good graces. I could understand the wonderful, sanguine message that the power and reach of God were incredible. But recalling the story now, almost twenty years later, I can't help but ask a number of questions: Where was this town? Why didn't they arrest the guy who vandalized the building? Wouldn't the monsoon rain wash away the freshly applied paint? And are you telling me that just one slash mark really changed everyone's thinking? Such is the nature of a skeptical person. We don't put our confidence in fables that are meant only to inspire us.Mehta, Hemant is the author of 'I Sold My Soul on Ebay Viewing Faith Throught an Atheist's Eyes', published 2007 under ISBN 9781400073474 and ISBN 1400073472.