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.

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.

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

Blinded by Astrology?

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell.

— W. H. Auden

Of late, I have been having conversations with people and who are ardent proponents of Astrology, as well as with my own inner self that just doesn’t agree with this, and it is with a heavy heart that I conclude that humanity will always be split between believers and non-believers. Though it may seem plainly unreasonable to non-believers like me why there are people who live their lives aligned to their horoscopes and star charts, it is still a sad reality that there isn’t much we can do about it. Except that we can take to fighting this social evil in a case to case basis and only when we are ourselves affected by it.

But even then, you sit with someone who seriously follows astrology and you will realize how difficult it is to talk to them. The first point they make is, “I know it works because I have seen it work. And ever since XYZ happened, I am a hundred percent sure that it works and I will never dare to ignore astrological predictions anymore.”

Try and counter this with a rational argument citing examples of how terribly wrong these predictions can be at most times, and you are cut-off in between by something like, “I understand you may not want to believe it but I can tell you that it really does work. Now, of course I cannot explain how it works, but you must take my word for it, as also consider the testimonials of countless others whose lives have been positively affected by recognizing this science. It is an ancient “vidya” (Hindi for body of knowledge) and there are only a few real masters of this vidya while all others are lesser practitioners and that is why you find some predictions that may turn out to be incorrect.”

Now, this is obscene. Can you imagine a science teacher teaching like this in a science classroom:

“Now, when I say that the sum of all interior angles of a triangle equals 180 degrees, you must trust me on this and take my word for it. I have studied mathematics in college and am far more educated than you are so you must trust me. I agree that your other maths teacher gave you proof yesterday that sum of all angles is 160 degrees, but very few people have more knowledge on this subject and so you must trust me.”

What if, at the end of each year at college, instead of having exams to test students’ knowledge, we could simply read their horoscopes to know how much they would score in each subject and then grade them accordingly? Wouldn’t it save a lot of time, effort and money on part of both the teachers and the students?

What if schools decide that instead of asking students what streams (like engineering, law, medical science, business, etc.) they wanted to specialize in, they simply read the horoscopes of each one and allot subjects accordingly? “Greg’s horoscope says doctor, Henry’s says Lawer, Patrick’s says he’s gonna have a short life so let’s just expel him.” Wouldn’t that be brilliant?

Why do we vote for governments every few years when we could easily just publish the horoscopes of every man in the country and then pick the best of those for the top job? Why don’t we let horoscopes decide which players are going to excel today and pick only them in the team?

Why hire judges and lawyers in courtrooms when the outcome can even be decided by the local astrologer by reading the horoscopes of the  aggrieved parties?

Let me tell you the answer to all these WHYs and the answer is that we don’t know anything for sure. We don’t know what is going to happen and that is the way the world is. It is depressing that we do not have satisfying answers to all our problems, we want to define why somethings happen while others don’t so that we can bring some sort of order to our lives.

We have no command over our futures and nobody knows anything for sure but being human means dreaming, aspiring, working hard, fighting the odds and if we take these elements out of our lives, then being human means nothing different from being just another animal.

In my conversations with believers, my point is never to convince them this astrology business is a fraud and hopeless. I know people, including me, have fear of the unknown and who am I to deny someone their right to feel better even if it means a little bit of superstition? And I also know that rational arguments will rarely convert a staunch believer. But what I always do say is that “You can never know for sure” and so when it comes to decisions of life and death, of someone’s happiness, dreams, aspirations of people that we care about, let us not be so cruel as to flaunt our arrogance of “knowing for sure” and forcing them to confirm to what a piece of paper with some boxes and numbers drawn on it says about them.

Let us be superstitious, but let us also draw a line between what is harmless superstition and what is harmful with life-altering and devastating consequences.

Because, if it is indeed true that everything that happens and is going to happen in this world is already written in some star charts, then doesn’t it make life, effort, love, hate, ambition, success, dreams and all human experiences pointless? Isn’t it demeaning to be told that all your dreams and efforts mean nothing just because your horoscope said something will not happen? And if the horoscope does fail, you dismiss the failure as a lack in completeness of knowledge of such a complex “science”?

Doesn’t it diminish the essence of being human whereas?

What do you think?

“There are two ways to view the stars: as they really are; and as we might wish them to be.” – Carl Sagan

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