Krishna and Theism In General
There's only one Supreme Being, but He has many names. Krishna & Rama mean "He who is the most attractive" and "He who gives the highest pleasure." Anyone who accepts God will accept that He is the most attractive and that a relationship with Him gives the highest pleasure.
Krishna Himself says that he is the source of everything in Bhagavad-gita 10:8 — "I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts." But He also is selective about who He reveals Himself to:
"I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible." 7:25
We see that in the material world everything has a cause. Nothing comes from nothing. With a little intelligence, one can see that there's intelligence behind everything...so why should we consider that this vast material world, with so many complex arrangements, came about by chance? It really doesn't make sense. So if there is a God, and you accept His existence then you should also consider that He is one, and has many names, and Krishna is one of them.
Also, if doubting persons try to chant Krishna's name with faith, they will also come to know that Krishna is God; on the absolute platform, God and His name are the same.
God, who is complete, cannot be formless. Everything in His creation has form, so how can God have no form? This would mean that God is less than His creation—or in other words, that the complete is incomplete, which is simply illogical.
The complete whole must contain everything within our experience and beyond our experience; otherwise He cannot be complete. In addition, all the great scriptures of the world instruct us to love God. How can we love something formless or void? It’s impossible.
We're all persons, and we desire to love other persons—not some dark oblivion in outer space. We desire personal relationships, and the ultimate relationship is with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
(Excerpted from The Form of God: Fact or Fancy?)
All genuine scriptures agree that there is one Supreme Being. By logic and definition also, there can only be one supreme God. It would be reasonable to conclude, then, that what we see as differences in various scriptural descriptions of God are due only to different perspectives on the same Supreme Person.
We say there are basically three phases of realizing the one supreme God:
1. impersonal—the all-pervading spiritual oneness,
2. localized—God dwelling within the heart of everyone
3. Person—the Personality of God Himself, as He is.
Krishna, the all-attractive One, is the specific name that devotees of God give to His ultimate, personal aspect, the "up close and personal" view of the one Supreme Being. We may have different perspectives on the infinitely great, multifaceted supreme Person, based on upbringing or preconceived notions, but it helps to remember that ours is not the only perspective.
If Krishna is the Supreme Being, why isn't he mentioned in other religious traditions or scriptures?
The concept of the existence of a Supreme Being is common to all religious traditions. That the Supreme Being is a Person is also a common notion, but exactly Who that Person is and what He does—when He's not creating this universe or interacting with people of this earth—is most comprehensively spoken about in the Vedic writings of ancient India.
Qualities such as honesty, tolerance, mercy, austerity, nonviolence, charity, faith, and cleanliness are valued in all religious cultures, regardless of denomination. This sense of shared values suggests that the source of all religions is the same Absolute Truth, since religion itself refers to laws given by God and meant for governing human behavior. People's concepts of God may differ from culture to culture, but the source and aim of religion itself—the Supreme Being—is in fact the same Person.
The Supreme Being reveals Himself selectively, according to time, place and circumstances. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that he doesn't show Himself to everyone; only to those whom He trusts aren't envious of Him. Envy of God, wanting His position for ourselves, is the underlying symptom of everyone's consciousness in this material world, which is often compared to a correctional facility for those who are averse to Krishna's supremacy. Krishna has His reasons for remaining personally aloof, just as a President doesn't habitually walk the halls of all the nation's prisons.
The fact that Krishna's name or descriptions of Krishna's form or personality don't appear explicitly in each and every religious scripture of the world doesn't suggest that Krishna is the property of one tradition and not others. Nor does it indicate that His personality is fictitious, or that He's merely one culture's idea of God. Different scriptures are meant to facilitate differing levels of interest in God. Many are satisfied to simply follow God's laws insofar as such lawful behavior enables them to pursue their independent aims without fear of punishment.
But for those who are genuinely interested in the Supreme Being Himself—His activities, His personality, His interactions with His pure devotees, His spiritual form, and so on—Krishna has arranged that a wealth of information is available, especially in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which describes Krishna's many avatars, devotees, and His own transcendental activities.
It may be that Krishna Himself doesn't appear in so many other spiritual teachings because the significant teachers within those traditions were simply presenting as much information as was available to them in a way they felt would be most easily understood and applied by their followers. Srila Prabhupada, who wrote translations and commentary on most of the Vedas' major books on devotional service to God, bhakti-yoga, referred to the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita as "post graduate scripture," meaning that very few would have interest in or be able to understand such detailed discussions of the personality of God. But it certainly makes sense that such writings should be at least available to those interested few. Our aim is to make them available to everyone.
This question calls for more questions: A) What do you like about the Hare Krishna way of life? B) Which teachings of Krishna consciousness do you find attractive? C) What is your concept of "God" (the one you aren't sure you believe in)?
The heart of the Hare Krishna philosophy and culture is to understand 1) how our temporary material body is different from our true self, 2) how the self is a permanent, spiritual entity, and 3) how everything—matter and spirit—has its source in an all-attractive Supreme Person. Krishna means "the all-attractive one"—that Supreme Person with whom each of us has a unique, loving relationship. This is why we find your question so interesting, and we can't wait to hear back from you on questions A,B and C.
Many devotees of Krishna also once doubted God's existence. Fortunately, "belief" is not a prerequisite for becoming Krishna conscious, any more than it is for anything else, like boarding an airplane. Boarding an airplane requires more than a little faith that it will take off and land safely. The first time we fly anywhere, we do so on faith that we won't die. We don't do weeks and months of research about the relative safety of commercial air travel first, unless we're really neurotic, and even if we do it won't PROVE we'll get where we want to go in one piece.
If something is actually true, we should be able to have a concrete experience of knowing it's true, and not just believe what we're told. The practices of Krishna consciousness are meant to give anyone that kind of rock-solid conviction that there's more to life than meets the eye. It all begins with chanting Hare Krishna, which puts us in touch with Krishna Himself in the form of sound. Chanting doesn't require that you believe that. It just takes however long it takes you to say, "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare."
Most of us have started there—with our without faith—and our lives have been enhanced in ways beyond our previous imagination. In most cases, our concept of God has changed dramatically. We often find that when people describe the kind of "God" they don't believe in, we don't believe in that, either. The idea of the Supreme as the most attractive person has changed our attitude towards God from one of avoidance and indifference to genuine interest and attraction.
Thanks for your question and thanks in advance for your reply
To be able to see the Supreme Being personally before you, in His spiritual form, requires great qualification. Just as you can't demand the president of a country to appear before you, you can't demand that God appears before you.
Many people throughout history have independently realized and confirmed Krishna's existence and His identity as the Supreme Person.
By following Krishna's instructions in Bhagavad-gita, anyone can see how their life improves.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna thoroughly defines the Supreme Person—and acknowledges that He Himself is that Person—in such a way that any impartial, reasonable reader would be convinced that He is, in fact, God.
"I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me." (Bg. 10.8).
"I am seated in everyone's heart and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness." (Bg. 15.15).
If someone genuinely wants to know the identity of the Supreme Person, the above statements will be helpful signposts on the path to God-realization. On the other hand, if someone wishes to avoid the question of God/Krishna's existence entirely, no amount of logic, practical advice, or scriptural reference will be sufficient to convince them either that God exists or that God is Krishna. Krishna is a Person, and His energies work in such a way as to bewilder atheists and attract His devotees.
Yes, there are common threads running through all the world's great religions, because all religions are meant to help us develop knowledge of God, an understanding of our relationship to Him, and ultimately love for Him. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.6), one of our scriptures, says that any religion by which men can attain loving service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead is to be considered genuine.
So in many religions you will find people who understand, as we do, that God is the omnipotent and omniscient Creator, and that He shows Himself to those who serve Him with faith and love. In the Bhagavad-gita (10.10), Lord Krishna declares, "To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me."
God does not show Himself to atheists. To fulfill their desire He remains obligingly invisible, generously providing them with the knowledge of how to deny Him. This is the Supreme Lord's compassion. Even when you deny Him, He reciprocates with you.
But although the Supreme Lord does not try to disturb your atheism, sometimes His servants do—because it is, in fact, useless and impossible to deny God, who is the Absolute Truth. As soon as you adamantly state, "There is no Absolute Truth," you have asserted that your statement is itself absolutely true. Therefore, either in affirming or in denying the Absolute Truth, you prove that He exists.
It is also interesting to note that because you are a dedicated atheist, you are drawn to carefully read Back to Godhead magazine—a publication completely devoted to God—just so that you can doubt and attempt to refute its contents. This goes to show that not only the faithful and knowledgeable but even the ardent atheists are fully absorbed in thoughts of God. It is too bad that your thoughts are so negative, but, again, because God is compassionate, even these negative thoughts will ultimately have a beneficial effect on your life.