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?

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?

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.

Religious Intolerance?

tolerance

If you ask religious people why religion is good, the first thing they tell you is that religion teaches tolerance.

What a shame! The reality is quite opposite.

Religious people think that it is their birthright to be offended. If Salman Rushdie writes a novel, they get offended.  When MF Hussain makes paintings or some newspaper publishes cartoons, they get hurt. Kamal Haasan makes a movie in which a terrorist is reading a holy book and people get hurt without even watching it. Did any of those protesting people really read the book or try and understanding Hussain’s art or made sense of the cartoons or Haasan’s movie with tolerance? The answer is a resounding No. Then where does the hurt come from? Is it genuine or assumed?

To come back to the point of tolerance, I am convinced that religion does not teach any tolerance at all. At least, we do not see any real examples of tolerance being practiced by any religious groups. What it really teaches is to burn, ban, threaten, torture, and exterminate anything and anyone they do not like. If their feelings are really hurt by some book, they can simply choose to not read it. For instance, what is written in some portions of some scriptures really offends my intelligence and feeling of secularism, and some of the things the religious leaders say and do really bothers me a lot and I do not agree with most of what they say. Most of the movies make fun of non-believers and none of them touches the possibility of atheism being one more point of view. But I and other non-believers (or liberals as some might call us) do not get offended and threaten religious people in return. We do not burn scriptures or threaten godmen to be silent. We do not desecrate temples and mosques or call for the beheading of secularists who convert to some religion. We simply choose to ignore such texts and people and mind our own business.

We never force others away from following whatever books or people they want to. Why? Because we acknowledge that everybody has the choice. That is the most logical and tolerant view. But for the religious fraternity, even if someone else reads a book by someone they dislike, it offends them. How unbelievable! My reading a novel somehow magically hurts someone else? Incredible!

Tolerance means giving others the space and the right to say, read or write whatever they want to regardless of one’s own opinion on the matter. One doesn’t have to accept or even respect the beliefs of others in order to be tolerant. One just has to accept that everybody has rights and we should agree to disagree.

Upon being offended, the first thing believers do is threaten havoc and violent clashes if what they demand is not fulfilled. Is that tolerance or intolerance? I think the believer’s version of tolerance ultimately means this: We will do the nice thing of tolerating you and your freedom of expression only as long as you say what we approve of, but the moment you say something we do not like, we would be forced to get appallingly violent.

So, as long as someone is saying and doing what only the religious fraternity likes, where is the question of tolerance in that?

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

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