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?

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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?

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.

Blessings from God Via Facebook

Is it just me or does anyone else think it equally absurd that there are apps on Facebook that pretend to send you blessings from a God of your choice? I mean, look at the picture below and tell me how does Sai Baba (who lived like a zillion years alo) send blessings to families of people who subscribe to his app on FB?

Sai1

Not only that, if you go ahead and click on any link from this notification, it forwards you to a page where Sai Baba – and this is what I find most incredible – actually asks your persmission to access your public profile!!!

Sai2

Now now, some will tell me that I shouldn’t make fun of people’s religious sentiments and beliefs and that everybody has a right to look like a fool, blah blah blah. But hey.. look I am just saying that I find it absolutely amusing that a God is trying to connect to me (Ok, not me but SOMEONE) via Facebook. And that he needs my permission to access their public profile?

Well, just really ticks me off everytime I see it.

Well then, I am sure a lot of people will hate me for writing this, because some do not have a sense of humor, but you’ve got to give me this – that seeing on your News Feeds that a certain someone has just received blessings from a God via facebook is actually funny.

Imagine my timeline showing that I received a Law of Nature from Einstein today. Most people would look at that piece of news and say… Duh!

Lord Shiva’s New Avatar: A Pumpkin!

Pumpkins

Just this morning, I opened a news site and this is what I found.

A pumpkin wholesaler in Bokaro found an unusually large pumpkin in his stock, one unlike any he had ever seen before. What conclusion did he draw (as if there was a need for a conclusion)? Large pumpkin, oval shape.. what else is oval shaped? Shivalinga. That belongs to? Lord Shiva. Hence, the pumpkin is an avatar of Lord Shiva. See? It’s that simple. That is how you go from not knowing to knowing certainly. (Sherlock Holmes would be proud of that science of deduction).

Well, the man worshiped the pumpkin and offered it sweets, which I am positive the pumpkin refused to eat.

The news of the divine pumpkin spread like wildfire and people are flocking to the town to get a glimpse of it. Someone offered to buy the pumpkin for Rupees 5001, but the man refused to sell. After consulting with a priest, it has been decided that the pumpkin will be worshiped for a few days after which it will be cut open and distributed to devotees as prasad.

There is nothing new and noteworthy in this piece of news. It happens everyday in places where education and enlightenment has failed to reach. But what I really do want to point out in this blog is that never on such occasions has a priest or a religious group ever come forward to say that not everything that one suspects to be divine may be so. They always agree with each other! Whatever bullshit one may think up, the clergies will never ever deny it.

Why would a god come down as a pumpkin? Is it because he wants to mess with people’s minds? Or will people believe just about anything under the sun if anyone relates it to religion? Why no skepticism at all?

Is belief a blanket phenomenon that makes you believe “everything” unquestioningly? I mean, tomorrow if I start jumping up and down saying another Lord XYZ came in my dream and told me he is coming as a Pizza the next day, will the same people believe me and start ripping pizza joints all over the country?

I really would like to see at least one priest come out and say the pumpkin is not Lord Shiva because there is no reason why the god must come down as a pumpkin. A giant fruit is just that – a giant fruit.

Come on guys, have I overreacted? Don’t people take their beliefs so seriously as to make them look stupid? Isn’t unquestioning belief a double edged sword that undermines that which it claims to uphold?

Imagine, a dogmatic physicist claiming that since such a giant fruit has never been seen before, it must have come through a wormhole from another parallel universe?

Arguing with an Irrational Creationist

creationism

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:

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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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