“Are you an atheist? Man, so you guys don’t believe in anything?”
If you are an atheist, it is highly unlikely that you haven’t come across this ‘profound’ question at least once a day. Such is the appalling disbelief among people that they find it hard to digest the idea of this presumed ‘nothing’. Just because I don’t find the need to look up to the skies and chant hymns in the hope of a miracle doesn’t necessarily suggest that I have nothing to look forward to. It is quite the opposite, I do have certain beliefs and ideas; it is just that I don’t find them in fabrications of yore. I am aware of the blasphemy I am spewing at the Lord and his wrath might befall me; I’ll take my chances.
Let me premise by stating that I have no qualms towards people of belief. Most of whom I have met have been interesting and profound in every way. My parents, my friends and many such chance acquaintances have not only engaged in passionate debates but also helped me in having an alternate viewpoint. I don’t have any such issues with the millions that do believe. It has not appealed to me and that is that. My problem lies with the people who cannot stand the alternate viewpoint, the people who simply cannot understand the atheist voice. Solely based on the fact that it contradicts, with valid proofs, the existence of an overlord in the heavens. The atheist movements since the dawn of reason have been met with an iron fist. In that, such thoughts and ideas have been bound and curtailed to even consider interaction with the world. In principle, the thought of having faith or believing in some fantastic delusion is nothing but preposterous to the wonder that is nature. The fact that it is okay to believe in the teachings of a saint, prophet or ‘teacher’ who may or may not have existed long ago is nothing but amazing. The fall of reason and the acceptance of ignorance purely on the fact that ‘we have been told so’ is not the ideal we must imbibe in the generations to come.
The reasoning here is simple. If a child were to be born into a family where the idea of religion, God and supernatural beings (angels, demons, spirits and the like) were absent; it is highly unlikely that such an epidemic would spread. Most of our religious ideals and pseudo-morality arises from the fact that ‘we have been told so’. If one were to remove the factor of God, there would be an absence of such intellectual turmoil. The absence of a religion in its essence is nothing but a pursuit of reason and truth. In the core readings of most religious texts, keeping aside the ones that promulgate religious authoritarianism, is open to interpretations. Just because we have been taught and urged to think of these texts in a particular manner we fear and love God in all his glory.
Being an atheist in India is close to dangerous. Though there are many rationalists who are out there fighting a losing fight, there are many who remain closeted. For reasons ranging from fear of retribution by the religious groups, family and society at large, we prefer to keep our principles hidden for this illusion of ‘peace’. Is it really peaceful when a part of the society feels stifled to start a conversation against a mammoth like religion? Though there have been million attempts, they are all but futile considering the fact that religion is an epidemic that has gripped the jugular of the Indian societal fabric. Doubt, skepticism or curiosity of any sort, is essentially claimed to be detrimental to the ‘Indian lifestyle’. Are we that feeble a culture? Are we so pathetically weak that the whole existence of such a vibrant civilisation such as ours would crumble? These are but rhetoric and we (atheists) as a community have been living in rhetoric collecting dust.
These are troubling times in India. Though we are surging ahead globally in recognition and significance as an economic force, we are stuck in the rut of conservatism and dogma. Like most parts of the world we are under the throes of god-men and wannabe god-women alike. We are surely a victim of ignorance and we seem to have no shame in emphatically embracing it at times. The common grievance being that atheists as a community have no regard for the good work that these various missionaries promote and carry out. Well though I am certain of these goodwill hunts that they chance upon, these missionaries have surely been vital at times. But that does not erase the pandemonium and ruckus that is created in the name of religion and its leaders. One does not find relief over a piece of cloth when one’s house burns down in its place. These ignorant misgivings has been and will continue to be the failings of a gullible mind. Humans love to play the victim and the love for an all-conquering being is nothing but our attempt as mortals to look for an anchor in crisis.
There is hope in the fact that there are still many like me. There are many who doubt and question the nature of religion and its teachings. People who ask too much and that is what we must strive for. There is always a tangible reasons in the ‘miracles’ of this universe and our capacity as a species should not be credited to some fantasy or propaganda.
May God help you in your path towards godlessness.