The Quotable Hitchens

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“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

“The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.”

“If god really wanted people to be free of [wicked thoughts], he should have taken more care to invent a different species.”
―God Is Not Great

“Is it too modern to notice that there is nothing [in the ten commandments] about the protection of children from cruelty, nothing about rape, nothing about slavery, and nothing about genocide? Or is it too exactingly “in context” to notice that some of these very offenses are about to be positively recommended?”
―God Is Not Great

“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.”
―God Is Not Great

“I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves.”
―Hitch-22

“Gullibility and credulity are considered undesirable qualities in every department of human life — except religion.”

“Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.”

“Bombing Afghanistan back into the Stone Age’ was quite a favourite headline for some wobbly liberals. The slogan does all the work. But an instant’s thought shows that Afghanistan is being, if anything, bombed out of the Stone Age.”

“For the people who ostensibly wish me well or are worried about my immortal soul, I say I take it kindly.”

The Quotable Sherlock Homes

sherlock holmes

“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know.”
-The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

“You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”
-A Scandal in Bohemia

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
-A Scandal in Bohemia

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
-The Bascombe Valley Mystery

“Come, Watson, come!” he cried. “The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!”
-The Adventure of the The Abbey Grange

“What one man can invent another can discover.”
-The Adventure of the Dancing Men

“You have a grand gift for silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion.”
-The Man with the Twisted Lip

“My mind,” he said, “rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”
-The Sign of Four

Popular Indian Athiests

In a country battered by religious dogma for most of its existence, where riots on religious grounds have been commonplace, and where religion is as much a tool of suppression as of political advantage, it is important to highlight Atheism as a credible philosophy.

Where people take it for granted that belief in God is a virtue and that disbelief implies immorality, lack of character and integrity and attracts only scorn, ridicule and social boycotting from the masses, it is important to point out examples of popular people who were atheists and still known for their high moral and ethical standards as well as their unquestionable patriotic credentials (as patriotism can invariably be attached with belief in God by politically motivated forces).

So, here goes a list of some of the popular Indians who are also atheists:

Jawaharlal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru

1. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. He quoted on religion:

“The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organised religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled me with horror and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seemed to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition, exploitation and the preservation of vested interests.”

 

Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh

2. Bhagat Singh, one of the most popular figure in the Indian independence movement, whose popularity matched that of Mahatma Gandhi.

He wrote a book, Why I Am An Atheist, when he was in jail.

Amol Palekar

Amol Palekar

3. Amol Palekar, famous Bollywood and Marathi film actor and fimmaker. Regards himself as an agnostic.

4. Javed Akhtar, famous poet, lyricist and scriptwriter. He was born into a Muslim family, but later stated he was an atheist in his speech “Spirituality, Halo or Hoax”

Baba Amte

Baba Amte

5. Baba Amte, A notable social activist.

6. Khushwant Singh, famous Journalist and Author of books such as Train to Pakistan

Kamal Haasan

Kamal Haasan

7. Kamal Haasan, filmmaker and actor, known for making films having themes of both Atheism and Brahminical Hinduism

Baichung Bhutia

Baichung Bhutia

8. Baichung Bhutia, torchbearer of Indian football in the international arena

9. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Indian-American astrophysicist who also won the 1983 Nodel Prize for physics

10. Mani Shankar Aiyar, former Indian diplomat turned politician

11. Rajeev Khandelwal, Indian film and television actor

12. Arundhati Roy, Indian author and political activist

13. Salman Rushdie, author of Bestsellers like Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verse

14. Ram Gopal Varma, film director

15. Shriram Lagoo, notable actor and rationalist activist

16. Beechi, the Kannada humourist-philosopher, whose ‘positive atheism’ is similar to that of Douglas Adams.

17. Gopinath Muthukad, A notable magician.

18. P. L. Deshpande, A notable Marathi writer and artist.

For further readings on this topic, visit the sources for this blog:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism_in_India
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Indian_atheists

The Hurt-Feelings Group

censor

In my previous blog, Books can be Dangerous, I tried to ridicule a certain kind of people who hate books and are scared of reading them and even intimidate others who read them or talk about them. The reason they give? “Our feelings are hurt. Sob! Sob!”

It turns out, I spoke too soon. And too little.

The fact is, it is not just about books – though books are the easiest targets – it is as much about any other medium of information such as Television, Cinema, Newspapers, Magazines, and other Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. And if you thought you’ve seen everything, you would be surprised to know that even the toy maker LEGO has been accused of racism. (Read this wonderful blog for more or this news link). And why? Because LEGO made a model of the domed palace for a star-wars character called “Jabba the Hutt” and this infuriated a Turkish community in Austria who complained that it was intentionally made to look like a Turkish mosque. And what was the resemblance? The mosque has a dome, Jabba’s palace has a dome, the mosque has 4 towers around it, Jabba’s palace also has a tower. Hence, the resemblance. Conclusion? Racism. See this:

Jabba

Even though some of these disturbances might be dismissed as politically motivated or uninformed and uneducated reactions of “some” people, it is important to analyze these situations with utmost diligence because what look like isolated incidents might turn out to be indications of long term problems.

What gets attacked? Anything.

Protests against Rushdie and his "The Satanic Verses"

Protests against Rushdie and his “The Satanic Verses”

Books they have never read and will never read and which were, in some cases, published decades back but went unnoticed by “them” because of the same reason: they have never read and won’t ever read (and can’t, maybe?). Prime examples of mindless attacks are a) 1980s: Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, b) 2012: Some authors reading from this book, c) 2013: Organizers of previous year’s event even though there isn’t even any talk of the book this year at all. What does the State say? Nothing.

vishwaroopamCinema: Films that have not been released yet are the easiest targets. The most recent example is the Kamal Hassan starrer, multilingual thriller called “Vishwaroopam”. I am not certain what caused this movie to be opposed so vehemently that its release in a few cities in India has been deferred by 15 days. This is going to be a disaster for the project and a complete insult to the hard work of a man who has been a jewel in the crown of Indian Cinema for decades. Instead of saluting Mr. Hassan for his contribution to Indian cinema, some people have chosen to destroy his movie. And, I think the reason given for their opposition to the movie is that the terrorists in the movie are shown to be of a certain religion. And you thought such a detail would be trivial, huh? What does the State say? “Ban the damned movie.”

Social Media: Like a facebook comment or cartoon and the Police might show up and arrest you, even slapping you with the charge of sedition against the state, like what keeps happening now.

mfhussainArt: Take, for example, what happened in India a few years ago when legendary painter MF Hussain, another jewel in India’s crown, was driven out of his own country and into exile by fundamentalist organizations who threatened to kill him for creating a painting which depicted a Goddess naked (at least that is how I percieved the issue). Even the state did not make any attempt protect the legend. And why? Because the hurt-feelings-card was played.

Let’s accept it, art is not for everyone. A piece of art by a popular artist can be worth millions to those who understand it, while to the layman who is uninterested, unappreciative and uneducated (in arts) like most of us (yes, me included sometimes), it might not hold much value. Despite that, I understand that proclamation of the “hidden” meaning of a piece art should be left to those who appreciate and understand it and so, if you ask me, I would completely refrain from passing a judgement on a painting or sculpture. Simply because I don’t understand it, my opinion would be of no relevance whatsoever to the world and therefore the meaning of any such piece of art should not be my business to interpret and attack.

But that is exactly what some people forget. They go around their tiny little world putting their sensitive and underdeveloped intellects in the path of others, ready to flare up and burn the world at the tiniest of provocation (or no provocation).

Today, they are attacking things in public domain, tomorrow they will intrude into our homes and even tell us what we can and cannot do as individuals.

The only solution is for States to crush such misadventures of opposition to anything, even if the issues raised seem isolated. Otherwise, tomorrow, these will become precedents for bigger and bigger problems.

Books can be Dangerous!

books2If you are a backward thinking, feudal, fanatic, unenlightened, unscientific, uneducated, dimwitted, numbskull, blockheaded, ignoramus, fundamentalist, oppressive, tyrant, or a bully, then you should indeed be afraid of books.

Because, books can provoke, enlighten, educate, emancipate, illuminate, inspire, break barriers, and liberate minds from the clutches of traditions and beliefs and challenge conventionally accepted ideas and morals and replace them with skepticism, criticism and an awakening of souls.

One book can ignite a fire in the minds of millions that can change the world. Gandhi, Churchil, Washington, Bhagat Singh, Thomas Paine, Jefferson, etc., were all inspired by books. Even the most hated political figure of all times, Adolf Hitler, writes in his book, Mein Kanpf, that he used to skip dinner so he could buy a book to read.

Books are Man’s greatest achievement ever. Bigger than airplanes, computers, steam engines, nuclear energy, mobile phones, rockets and construction.

Over centuries, oppressive, tyrannical societies have tried endlessly to ban and burn books, authors and readers. Because they understood the immense power of ideas that such tiny leaves with dots of inks held. And yet, books have been every society’s biggest treasure.

And so, even today, literature festivals, something that millions should cherish and be proud of, are being threatened. And why? The reasons haven’t changed. Some people think some books can threaten their strongly held beliefs. They are scared of what a book might contain.

Of course, most of those who are opposing the lit fest have themselves never read the book being targeted (it being quite another matter that the book really has nothing to do with the fest). In fact, I will go a step further and say that it is quite probable that those who are causing an uproar, have never read ANY books at all. And if that much does not satisfy you, let me even say that they CANNOT read any books at all.

And yet, a handful of such uneducated dimwits and numbskulls want to decide which books the rest of the nation should read or rather, should not read. In this digital age where there is no way left to ban ideas, all I can say to them is, “Well, Thanks for playing!”

Books, not which afford us a cowering enjoyment, but in which each thought is of unusual daring; such as an idle man cannot read, and a timid one would not be entertained by, which even make us dangerous to existing institution – such call I good books.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Insulting Nirbhaya; Insulting Women

asaramwomen2

 

 

 

 

 

Today, another frivolous insult has been hurled at the dead daughter of India, Nirbhaya, who was brutally gang-raped on 16th December 2012 in New Delhi. Today, the man in the limelight is an uneducated, unscientific but prominent self-proclaimed godman called Asaram Bapu.

This man has had the audacity to claim that the 23-year-old was herself equally responsible for what happened to her. Why? Because he thinks she should have “begged to the rapists to spare her,”  and “should have immediately accepted them as brothers” so that the brotherly spirit in the men was invoked and they would have spared her.

Have you ever heard anything as outrageous as this remark? Who is this man? What are his credentials? Is he a psychologist? Is he a social scientist? None. He is just another fraud who calls himself a godman and just happens to enjoy the unquestioning following of a section of believers of Hinduism. Otherwise, he is nothing.

Which brings me to the main point that compelled me to write this post in the first place. Here is an example of how religious people take their beliefs so seriously that they do not bother who they follow. For believers, having faith in EVERYTHING is a virtue. Questioning ANYTHING is a sin. So, for decades, this man claims to provide moral guidance to thousands who flock to his satsangs (religious gatherings) leaving their homes at the drop of a hat. People follow him, and many others like him, blindly and dreaming of salvation and of achieving God. But why is it that in order to achieve God, man needs to become intellectually blind? Why do the masses not question the moral standards of who they follow?

Today, this man has exposed his dirty standard of his thinking and I am sure a large number of people must have opened their eyes to this. But I think this will only get worse in the future because the most reliable way to really fool innocent people into following you is to flaunt the religion card. People don’t care whether someone is educated enough or not, literate enough or not, has any morals or not. They just care if that someone invokes religion enough.

So, it doesn’t matter if you have to insult a dead girl, so long as you use religion to cover it up. After all, don’t all religions already treat women as objects of man’s desire only? Do I even need to give any examples at all? So, how can we expect anything moral from people who claim to be living lives of devotion, abstinence and forbearance but when you really look at them you find they travel in the most expensive and luxurious cars, have the richest ashrams and temples in their “trusts” and the same ashrams become the source of most horrific crimes, like the murders of numerous children that came as revelations out of the ashrams of the same godman as mentioned above.

If we really care for the spirit of Nirbhaya, what we need is change, not only of laws and administrations, but also of standards of our own conduct in our lives relating not only to what we do to others, but also who we follow.

For the good of society, our country and specially, our women, who have the right to just as much independence as men, we must recognize and follow, against all odds, our own inner moral compass.

When God cheats

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Whenever a sportsman or a sports team claims that they won because God was on their side, shouldn’t the result be cancelled and spectators’ money returned?

Imagine what would happen if a team started thanking the referee for their victories. Wouldn’t you call it cheating?

What do you think?

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

What’s your Sun Sign?

virgoWhen somebody asks me what star-sign, or sun-sign, or moon-sign I am, a sort of embarrassed grin shows on my face. I am sorry, I could just easily say I’m a Virgo, but something in me stops me from saying that. Then as a few moments pass, I usually stumble for an answer but none comes out.

The problem I face is that whatever I tell others about me should at least be consistent with what I myself consider to be true and of any relevance whatsoever. But when a question like what Astro Sign I am comes up, it puts me into a dilemma.

Firstly, some people in an ancient civilization thousands of years ago came up with this idea that you are somehow governed by the position of certain celestial bodies (like the sun or the moon) in space at the time of your birth. Not only that, they even place you in the same “group” as others who were also born in the same “time period” even though in different years. The thought of belonging to a “group” based on what constellation was being seen at the time of birth sounds as ridiculous to me as belonging to a group based on the color of the walls of the delivery room. Extremely useless, isn’t it?

Similarly, another supposition that a constellation has an effect on a person simply by virtue of it being a recognizable shape in the sky is quite unreasonable. What about groups of stars that don’t form a recognizable shape? Does the non-appearance of a figure make the other stars impotent? What about the asteroids right in the middle of our own solar system? Don’t they get a say on my life? What about Neptune and Pluto? I love Pluto and I want Pluto to have a role too. But no one would listen to me. I know, I know what you will say about this. Wishful thinking on my part, isn’t it?

Anyway, ever since I was a kid, I have been told time and again that I am a Virgo. Well, my birth date falls on 29th August and matches with the date range for Virgo (23rd Aug – 22nd Sep), so I am Virgo. And whatever people said about my personal attributes based on my “sign” was, again, based on the description for Virgo.

But a few years ago, while studying astronomy as a hobby, I discovered that the charts published in newspapers, magazines, astrology books and everywhere else were all WRONG. They were all based on the noted positions of the sun relative to the 12 constellations more than 2000 years ago. I found out, as a matter of fact, that these relative positions have changed over a period of time due to the wobbling of the earth around its axis – also called precession. So, as of the new charts, my actual sign turned out to be…. LEO!! (Aug 10 to Sept 16). Look it up here.

astrotattooWell, I was hurt. I sort of started believing I am a Virgo and it did seem like the most beautiful sign of all 12. Especially when they said that Virgos can be “tough on the outside but soft on the inside” and that “we care a lot about those we love and sometimes really hate the people we hate,” I know they struck a chord with me. And I am not the only one. Others were angry too.

But, now that I know I am not a Virgo anymore, I can’t continue to lie to and deceive people I interact with. Add to that the fact that there are 13 – and not 12 – zodiacal constellations (Ophiuchus – Nov 29 to Dec 17 so boo to those affected by this), the whole thing makes even lesser sense to me now than it did before. Damn that bloody astronomy that changed my view and took away the cosy comforts that astrology provided me when it told me I was part of a group who acted in exactly the same way as I did and that everything happening in my life was pre-determined and so I was not responsible for my failures. And even though the scales fell from my eyes long ago, this exposed piece of error on part of the astrologers even killed whatever little fun I had reading newspaper horoscopes.

So, when somebody asks me what Sign I am, I can either tell them that I am still a Virgo, in which case I would be lying, or I can tell them that I am a Leo, in which case it will not adhere to the prevailing, albeit incorrect system, thus making even this piece of information utterly useless. Compounded by the fact that even knowing a correct Sign really amounts to nothing, I am usually unable to answer at all. But then, one realizes that delving into such an explanation for such a trivial question might not always be the smartest thing to do. So, one quietly answers “Virgo” with the hope the Bozos asking this might climb down our backs. Unless I was Ophiuchus.

newzodiacs

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