What if you’re wrong?

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I am often asked this question by believers when talking about belief in God, “what if you’re wrong?” I do admit that it is definitely a fair question and so it deserves a fair and honest answer.

My answer is:
I believe in humanity, happiness, fairness, justice, equality, honesty and humility. I would like to see everyone to be happy and treated fairly, irrespective of their gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, caste and color amongst other things. And more importantly, I believe that everybody should be allowed their fundamental rights to say what they want, live the way they want and whoever they want to live with. All these are important and real issues and principals of humanism. These matter. Not having a blind belief in a God allows me to hold these very real principles as sacred and in a way devoid of any prejudices against any groups of people who might be different from me and hold principles different from mine.
If I am wrong about the God question, then it doesn’t really matter because I have still lived for real causes, real people, real happiness, real fundamental rights, real freedom from oppression. And these would have still remained equally important whether god existed or not because if he did, and he is half as good as you claim him to be, then I can be sure that I would be okay in his eyes because I still advocated for very real issues which were of a more pressing concern in my world than taking time out to worship an omnipotent and omniscient ultimate entity – something that simple logic definition becomes needless – or spending my energy on persecuting people who held different beliefs from me or had a sexual inclination that I did not approve of.
So, if I were wrong, I wouldn’t have lost out much in life anyway because I would still have been the same person as I am today. And if there turned out to be a god who’d still punish me for not worshipping him, then I submit that we would already be living under a supernatural dictatorship – an anarchy if you will – the nature of which would in itself indicate doom for humanity and the universe.
But you, a believer, have lived and dedicated your entire life to an assumed entity that you had no way of knowing for sure. And you don’t possess any special mental and physical faculties that I don’t so you cannot claim to have a way to know that I cannot. And because of your belief in that assumed supernatural entity, you have decided to live by a code which is based on compulsory love and extreme fear of the same entity and which makes some of you do really really horrible things to really really sweet and innocent people -things which someone with secular mindset could never even dream of. What about the sufferings you could cause in the world by following religious dogmas that persecuted people because of their beliefs, sexual inclinations and who they loved.
So, now i ask you the believer, what if you’re wrong? Haven’t you missed out on the most important things in life itself while thinking only for something that didn’t even exist?

Ridicule of religion

religion vs scienceWhy is it that when Charles Darwin, the genius who changed the world with his discovery of the concept of evolution, is made into a cartoon by attaching his head to the body of a monkey and when jokes are made and repeated by people in religious authority, nobody from the scientific community or science “followers” gets angry or violent or even remotely offended? But at the same time, utter anything against a religious figure, such as even a self-proclaimed godman, and you can be sure that people are going to get deeply offended, become violent, damage public property and even kill other people.

I think the difference here is what your belief system teaches you. Publicly, religion says it teaches tolerance and that without this tolerance the world wouldn’t survive. But privately, what it really teaches is to tolerate people only as long as they do exactly what you would like them doing and stray no further. Since birth, people are taught to revere their religious beliefs, which they don’t even understand properly, and blindly follow everything that is told to them.

For instance, if any other person proclaims himself to be highly religious or a godman, then everything he says must be taken as words of perfect wisdom. It doesn’t matter who these godmen are, how many times their acts of con are exposed (as in the case of Sathya Sai Baba), how low their educational and intellectual levels are (such as ISKCON’s Srila Prabhupad). The moment you mention examples of their ignorance, religious people get deeply offended and shut their ears but their dedication to such ungodly people continues despite what you say.

But have you ever heard a scientist or an atheist pelting a single stone towards any of these con-men despite their horrendous world-views?

You know why?

Because education gives you the maturity to ignore when people deserve your ignorance and pit evidence of all sides against each other and dismiss that which cannot hold its ground. No need to get angry if the same godman as above is making a fool out of themselves by saying that the “…moon is above, 200,000 yojanas above the sun… Above the sun. How they’ll go? [laughter] They are going to the wrong… bluffing only. I am repeatedly saying, they have never gone, simply bluff.”

Well, I only take offense to one thing in the above dialog. And that is that the laughter belongs to the listener and not the speaker.

And I challenge any religious followers to tell me I am wrong in laughing at the ignorance of such statements and the people who make them.

Thank God or else…

When some people thank (their) God for giving them what they wanted – happiness, money, health, etc. – and claim the greatness and lovingness of God because of their own personal experiences, isn’t it unfair to those who are supposedly given the opposite of that – disease, disability, grief and a life of immense and eternal suffering?

Consider a state that does everything for the rich but neglects the poor and takes away even their basic rights as humans –  right to health, education, food, water, justice, etc. Wouldn’t it be unfair to the unfortunate for these few lucky people to praise that state endlessly because of what it does for them?

And, what if the state declares that it will only take care of the people who vote for it again and again and that those who don’t, must be punished forever or at least until they also fall in line? Wouldn’t you call that state an evil state? Of course you will. Then how dare anyone ever say that in order to get the love of God, you must pray and worship endlessly and have complete faith otherwise you would be subjected to eternal damnation even after you are dead? Sounds equally evil to me.

How would you explain the lovingness and generosity of God when a child is born with a permanent disability, is going to live in suffering for its entire lifetime (long or short) and is marked to die with it? When I see someone suffering immensely, wouldn’t it be a corruption of my mind and morals if I should still praise God?

As Epicurus famously quoted:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Moon further from Earth than Sun: Godman

prabhupadaI recently came across this website (http://www.prabhupadanugas.eu/?p=9315), dedicated to Late Srila Prabhupada, anchor of the Hare Krishna Movement of the ISKCON fame, and I couldn’t make up my mind regarding whether they are serious or is this all some sort of a joke.

You wonder why I say this?

Because, though this website is supposed to increase the Godman’s followers even post-humously and add strength to the movement, it makes the mistake of actually and shamelessly publishing a lot of junk that he has preached which no sane person can dare to utter and another dare to hear without breaking out into a fit of laughter and ridicule.

Sample this. The Swami says that man has not landed on the moon (http://www.prabhupadanugas.eu/?p=9315) and explains it in a conversation that becomes absolutely non-sensical after the first 5-6 sentences itself:

They have not gone to the moon (excerpt from conversation with disciples, Perth, May 12, 1975)

Prabhupada: They have not gone to the moon planet .
Paramahamsa: Really?
Prabhupada: Yes. It is far, far away. Their calculation is wrong. They are going to a wrong planet.

Paramahamsa: It must be the Rahu planet.
Prabhupada: Yes, or something else. Not moon planet.

Well, as everyone clearly knows, there is NO Rahu planet. Yet, the godman seems to be unaware of modern (or even medieval) astronomy. Anyway, after this bit, the conversation drifts into looney calculation territory which is mind boggling even for a class 6 student because the swami and the other person keep tying themselves up in knots. Suffice to say that they end up concluding that the moon is further than the sun and then he says it is above the sun (another crackpot conclusion). And then he says:

Prabhupada: Above the sun. How they’ll go? [laughter] They are going to the wrong… bluffing only. I am repeatedly saying, they have never gone, simply bluff. How it is that they brought some dust? So brilliant, it is blazing, full. There is fire blazing.

Another conversation on the same page:

Guru krpa: How is the moon behind the sun?
Prabhupada: Not behind, above.
(ACBSP. 27th May 1975. Morning Walk in Honolulu, Hawaii.)

The moon is really above the Sun? Am sure this is going to piss Newton off because if defies his theory of gravitation Gravitycompletely. And I wonder how an eclipse is caused then. Oh, well, but wait… he has answered that important question also in an equally looney way:

Amogha: Is that Rahu planet closer than the moon to the earth?
Prabhupada : Rahu planet orbit is in between moon and sun. So when it comes in between moon and sun there is eclipse . At night it is eclipse in the moon, and daytime it is eclipse in the sun.

Eclipse in the moon and eclipse in the Sun? I have never heard such preposterous claims in my life and I was shocked to the core. I could not understand if I should simply laugh at everything and let it be. But then I realized that it is extremely sad to know that ISKCON has a huge following world over and this is what they must be preaching to their innocent unquestioning followers, so this is tragic news for humanity.

I really think that all the followers should now attend ISKCON sessions but only for fun and entertainment and not for science anyway.

Oh, and by the way, this is how that webpage concluded considering all the arguments against (none in favour, mind you) man landing on moon:

So as ISKCON devotees we are left with various possibilities :

1) Astronauts did indeed land on the moon, but they did not perceive the world of the demigods (Candraloka) because it is invisible to gross sense perception.

2) The astronauts were deluded by the demigods at some stage in their journey and diverted to the planet Rahu. (SB 4. 29. 69p)

3) The entire moon-landing story is a complete conspiracy, which has fooled millions of people all over the world for over 30 years. (Some say that they filmed the “moon’s surface” in a place in America known as Area 51, according to the TV program.)

So even those concluding from it were nuts? They gave so much thought to the Swami’s arguments that they perhaps didn’t consider a fourth more obvious conclusion:

4) The man was crazy.

 

P.S. I know all ISKCON followers would be fuming by now reading this blog. But please stop here one minute and think and answer one second. Don’t you think it is grossly unfair of you to get angry when everything I’ve state here is the truth substantiated by Prabhupada’s own webpages? And do you really believe that the moon is further from the Sun?

Come on.. You know he was wrong.

The Quotable Atheist

“Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man … living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.”
― George Carlin

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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

“All thinking men are atheists.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”
― Voltaire

Argument of God vs Evil

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What displeases me about arguing with creationists is that in order to challenge the existence of an imaginary being (i.e. God), we must first assume the existence of another imaginary being/force (i.e. Evil) and from there start arguing backwards. Of course, just as concept of God is flawed, the concept of there being an Evil is also equally flawed because we again end up dividing good happenings and bad happenings as effects of a supernatural phenomenon, rather than using the most simple and logical explanation: That human beings behave differently and some of us do good while others do bad. Natural things happen according to the laws of nature and these laws do not presuppose the existance of a special species such as Humans. However, to creationists, the idea of assuming more and more imaginary entities is nothing of concern. Once you say Yes to religion, you can go on believing anything that you like. Even that Elvis is still alive.

A cold and harsh reality

Image source: http://www.wellhappypeaceful.com/overwhelming-sadness/

People who have faith in the supernatural, sometimes find it a lot easier to deal with pain. Faith acts as a guiding force, a form of support that helps you cross the road when the going gets tough. All you need to do is continue to believe in a universal force that is out to help you very soon. There is comfort in knowing there is a big brother watching over you. Sooner or later, things will be better.

But for people who do not put their faith in an invisible deity or mantra or good or bad karma, any suffering becomes hundreds of times more difficult to deal with. There are no imaginary friends to take care of you and no promises of a better future. All there is is a cold and harsh reality. Things won’t become right by kneeling, praying, offering sacrifices, worshiping idols or following godmen who claim to be agents for your salvation. There is just a realization that you don’t always get what you want, you simply get what you get. Things happen. We can’t always explain everything but it’s alright. The question, “Why me?” gets the answer, “Why not!” or maybe “So what?”

I feel it is alright to take support in whatever makes it easier to deal with pain, despite whatever anybody else might say. And this is coming from someone who chooses not to do so himself. Because I also think there is no way I would ever pray, ask or beg for happiness. That is not the way life is supposed to be lived. I believe we are a lot more than puppets being subjected to good and bad conditions by a universal force just so that it can get devotion and admiration in return.

The Quotable Hitchens – 2

Hitchens 595

“I have tried for much of my life to write as if I was composing my sentences to be read posthumously.”

“I learned that very often the most intolerant and narrow-minded people are the ones who congratulate themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness.”

“I’ve proved to be as difficult to convert as I am to hypnotize.”

“My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilisation, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can’t prove it, but you can’t disprove it either.”

“Religion is not going to come up with any new arguments.”

“The totalitarian, to me, is the enemy – the one that’s absolute, the one that wants control over the inside of your head, not just your actions and your taxes.”

“The suicide-bombing community is not absolutely 100 percent religious, but it is pretty nearly 100 percent religious.”

“There are all kinds of stupid people that annoy me but what annoys me most is a lazy argument.”

“To terrify children with the image of hell… to consider women an inferior creation. Is that good for the world?”

“To the dumb question, ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply, ‘Why not?'”

“Trust is not the same as faith. A friend is someone you trust. Putting faith in anyone is a mistake.”

“Well, to the people who pray for me to not only have an agonising death, but then be reborn to have an agonising and horrible eternal life of torture, I say, ‘Well, good on you. See you there.'”

Arguing with an Irrational Creationist

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This is an account of a debate that I accidentally and unintentionally got into with a friend’s Christian friend a few years back.

I had come across Richard Dawkins’ book, The Greatest Show on Earth in a book store and my curiosity got the better of me. Till that point, I didn’t know much about Dawkins and never thought too deeply about evolution, but I started reading the book after being sure that he was a legitimate and accomplished biologist. It turned out to be quite a discovery for me and I really liked the way the concepts were explained by him.

I came across a few references to Noah’s flood but had no idea what the story was (after all, I was not a Christian) and speaking to a friend that evening, I expressed my curiosity. She told me she had another friend who had converted to Christianity sometime back and, without warning me, called him up and put him into conference. She told him what I wanted to know and the friend started explaining.

Let me point out here that till that time, I had no idea that Christians did not believe in evolution and it was a big bone of contention for most of them.

So, when he was done explaining, he asked me why I was so interested. I explained that I was reading a book which referred to Noah a couple of times but I had no idea about it. He asked me further and I told him I was reading Richard Dawkins but didn’t think he would be aware of the biologist. That is when the whole conversation turned on its head.

He immediately started slamming Dawkins in a manner that I will not expand on. I was a little concerned because I was reading the man’s book and really learned some good scientific explanations in it. I made the mistake of asking him if he didn’t believe in evolution. His answer was such a resounding No that I was mostly left stunned. After all, we had both been from India’s most prestigious school and I could never imagine someone openly declare a known scientific concept as a hoax.

He went on needlessly and without provocation to say that evolution was just a theory, there was no proof for it at all and people like Dawkins are taking a dig at religion by suggesting such baseless ideas. That Dawkins would end up in hell. Now, I am no expert at biology, but I do have some scientific education (I am an engineer). I told him that I have, and so has he, read about evolution in our science text books at school and we have seen exhibits of fossils in museums so we can’t blatantly dismiss evolution like he was doing. To this, he replied by making a point that we can’t simply believe in something just because it is written in a book. I had no idea where he was coming from and why he was seeming so outraged (afterall it was the first time I’d spoken to a Christian apologist) so I asked him how he knew evolution to be false when he himself had no scientific education while I had at least studied physics, chemistry and biology in school and then engineering. To this, his utterly foolish reply was, “because the Bible says so.”

Of course, I’d never read the bible, but I was sure the Bible couldn’t have been discussing evolution since the concept itself came with Darwin. So, when I asked him how he was any better quoting from the Bible while not allowing me to quote from my science textbook, he replied that my text book was written by a human while the Bible was written by God so anything that contradicts the Bible has to be wrong. I told him this was an unfair argument.

“What is the probability,” he went on to ask me, “that an explosion rips through a junkyard and results in an assembled Boeing aircraft?”

Even an inexperience debater like me could easily answer this.

“I know you are referring to the Big Bang (the explosion) and the end result of evolution: Man (the Boeing aircraft) but I don’t think your comparison is correct at all. The problem with your argument is that you mention explosion and end result in the same sentence but completely ignore the most important part, which is what has been happening in between the two stages. It is not as if the Big Bang happened and we fast forward to Humans walking. The billions of years of time in between saw action from Physics, Chemistry, Biology and other environmental factors that invariably led to Humans..”

“Billions of years?” he cut my argument in between.

“Of course, why?”

“Dude, the Universe and the Earth were formed only recently, maybe three or four thousand years ago and that is too little for any evolution to take place.”

“You think the age of the universe is only a few thousand years?”

“Of course, the bible says so.”

“But geologists, archaeologists, paleontologists etc. have all dated the age of the Earth to be some billions of years.”

“They are wrong,” he insisted. “But they use scientific dating methods like carbon dating and others..”

“Those methods are wrong!” he cut in again.

“Oh, those methods are also wrong?”

“Yes, that has been proven. Moreover, anything that contradicts the Bible has to be wrong.”

At this point, I was beginning to see the futility of arguing with a man who has his mind made up and who is not willing to have a reasonable discussion even though he is himself the one who started it. I, at that time, didn’t even know whose side I was on, religion or science, but I could easily figure out the hypocrisy on his part.

I asked him, “What about the fossils that we have found? Won’t you even believe the fossils exist?”

“Fossils have been placed by God himself to test our faith in him.”

“What? God placed them to test your faith? Now, did you read that also in the bible?”

“No.”

“Then how do you know?”

“Because I have faith in God, who sent his only begotten son Jesus to Earth to save us all and he gave up his own life to forgive our sins. He has made the ultimate sacrifice for us and the least we can do is love him back and have faith in him even if the other side brings any evidence to us. We know they are just wrong.”

“But what about the other religions? They have different claims on how and when the earth was created and their idea of God(s) is also extremely different from yours.” I discovered this to be true right then when I said this for the first time in my life. “All religions say the same thing.”

“They do?”

“Ya.”

“No they don’t.”

“Oh yes they do..” and then he started saying something about the Quran admitting Noah’s flood that I had no idea about.

“Ok,” I conceded.

After that, he started saying emotional stuff about how he talks to Jesus frequently and how he was into listening to Rock music in his previous life and when he found out that everytime he lied or did something bad, Jesus got a painful slash on his behalf. This made him feel extremely ashamed and he promptly converted and accepted Jesus as his personal savior.

I could feel that the discussion, even though so soft and civilized on my part and so rude and irrational on his, had somehow caused him some pain, so we changed the topic and hung up shortly afterwards and I realized this is how all debates with creationists go:

creationism

Indi-Ban-ization

Only 4 days back, I wrote a post on the growing religious intolerance in our country. I mentioned how we are banning books, writers (because, you know, Pen is mightier than sword and so the writer might hurt some sensitive people.. sob sob), art and movies, etc.

In just 4 days, so much more has happened that it is with great reluctance that I am writing this post. After all, you need a break from one single topic but India is undergoing its own version of Talibanization at such a rapid pace that would put Schumacher and Usain Bolt to shame. Before we know it, the Talibani leaders might start applying for Indian citizenships.

Pardon me if I miss some more incidents, but fresh in my memory are the following from the last 4 days:

— The Grand Mufti (head of Muslim clergy) in Kashmir has declared a “Fatwa” against singing (Yes, SINGING!) saying it is un-islamic and a shameful act. Yes, you heard (or rather read) me right. Following this Fatwa and a series of online abuses by its supporters against them, Kashmir’s first and only All-Girl-Rock-Band, Pragaash, has called it quits and given up on singing and performing out of fear for their lives. But, the ruling national political party has promptly, after a delay of 3 days, acted by – wait for it – CRITICISING the Fatwa. See? We support our women. Nevertheless, the Band is still banned (no pun intended).

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— Well, how could the Hindus be left behind? In yet another shocking (the magnitude of shocks now coming down with each case) incident, members of a regional (and religious) political outfit, desperate to maintain their fading (if not already extinct) relevance in Indian politics, have started protesting “democratically” in front of an art gallery in the capital warning of consequences (how democratic) if the exhibition is not shut down and some paintings not removed. Their problem? They think that depiction of bare human forms in art is derogatory to “our cultural values” and portrays women in an obscene manner. (Must be those devillish Westerners affecting our Art, I worry). How stupendous – political party, religious faction, art critics, all-in-one? I wonder where their concern for women vanishes when they and their affiliates beat up women for wearing jeans and going to parties.

— Further, BJP, a national political party, has also revealed their well known fascist and religious nature by invoking the Ram temple issue yet again just a year ahead of the upcoming national elections in 2014. To the unknowing, a piece of land in a town (or village?) called Ayodhaya has been the source of extremely dangerous tensions between the Hindu and Muslim communities since decades over a conflict regarding whether a temple or a mosque should be built at that place. The BJP has, as expected, again raised the pitch in favour of temple instead of the mosque.

As I was about to sign off on this post, I have just seen in the national news channels that the same outfit that is protesting against art (above) has contributed to the Ram temple issue by saying they will agitate in favour of building of the temple and, if required, are even ready to display the Hindu might. Okay, so now they won’t even wait for me to finish my blog?

In our country, a huge section of our population is living below poverty line, are uneducated and illiterate and therefore find solace in anything religious. We don’t have enough food, clean drinking water, schools, hospitals, electricity, and jobs and our economy is in tatters, but we worry more about where a temple is being built, which art can be exhibited and which not, which book should be read and which not, whether muslim girls should sing or not, and to top it all, we are even willing to slaughter people for such trivial issues. And this is not going to fade away. The talibanization of our country is afoot.

Why? Because we are a nation of fools and those who are negligent of this rising foolery. We will curtail every form of freedom of expression, speech, etc. etc… Oh, did you say freedom? We will ban the word itself one day.No use invoking the constitution – it does not forbid us from being fools and idiots.

And, did I mention we are also secular? Ya, but our definition of secularism is not the same as that of the “morally deprived west” in that we do not consider secularism to be freedom of and from religion. We think it is the freedom of forcing a religion’s outdated and illogical decrees on to everybody else, and we welcome with open arms, the venomous and regressive ideals that the fundamentalists bring with them.

I wonder why atheists and secularists and scientists do not make similar speeches to say that we will “unleash science education upon those who dare to act stupid,” or “the Earth is suspended in the Solar System due to gravity and we will slaughter any artist that depicts it being otherwise,” or “if you show a ghost in a movie, we will get it banned because as per science, ghosts do not exist.”

I think that would be quite funny. What do you think?

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