This post written by me was first published here on the blog of renowned writer and atheist Taslima Nasrin. Thank you Taslima!
How I became an atheist?
Actually I do not remember much about my Theist life.
Was I ever a Theist?
I was born into an upper caste Hindu family in Kerala, in south India. My family was not very religious, and routine visits to temples and special offerings to gods to get something done were rare. My parents did ask me to pray to gods, and I must have done that till I reached the age of 14-15. But my overall impression was in reality my parents did not believe in a typical Theist god, who controls everything in your life. They encouraged us children to work hard in school , and made us think that its your work that counts more than your offerings/prayers to gods. We celebrated the usual Malayali festivals like Vishu, Onam and Pooja.
My earliest introduction to Hinduism was through Mahabharatha and Ramayana , the mega Hindu (Indian) epics. I liked the Mahabharatha very much because it was a gripping tale with so much variety of characters and sub plots. My mother encouraged me to read alternate view points about the epics in which the ‘good’ guys like Pandavas and Rama were not that good and the ‘bad’ guys like Kauravas and Ravana clan were not that bad.
Gods like Rama , who readily sends his wife to the forest, because there was a doubt about her chastity,and the cunning Krishna with 16008 wives never deserved worship from me.
Curious about Hinduism, I read some selected verses from its holy grail, the Vedas.
Vedas probably were created between 1500 and 500 BC. They are a collections of hymns of Aryans, a clan of pastoralists. Rig Veda is considered the oldest. Vedic literature was preserved for hundreds of years by reciting and remembering orally before it was written in Sanskrit, the language of the Aryans.The Vedic hymns are mostly verses recited in praise of Aryan gods, which they called devas.At the sacrifices where Rig Veda hymns were recited, the devas were invited to come and sit around the sacrificial fire, to receive the hospitality of the Aryans who sacrificed animals in their honour.
Apart from verses praising gods, Rig Veda also has verses which are used to ensure the social inequality of the society.
Here is an example from Purushsooktham from Rigveda 10.90 about creation of humans and caste system.
11.1: What did the Purusha (i.e. Virat) hold within Him? How many parts were assigned in His Huge Form?
11.2: What was His Mouth? What was His Arms? What was His Thighs? And what was His Feet?
12.1: The Brahmanas were His Mouth, the Kshatriyas became His Arms,
12.2: The Vaishyas were His Thighs, and from His pair of Feet were born the Shudras.
I can’t see how some one can believe in such stupidities about origin of human beings. We can easily see through it as a vain attempt to justify and perpetuate cruel caste system.
Then I turned to Bhagavad Gita, the book some Hindus consider as The Holy book. There also I could not find anything inspiring. It is just a collection repetitive, incoherent and many a time self contradictory verses.
The whole Hindu system of beliefs looked very shady. I had no difficulty in realising that a religion which wholly supports the oppressive caste system and Patriarchy is a sham.
By the time I was 15, I started standing outside when our family visited temples. Still I used to take part in religious family rituals, so as not to offend the elders. When some one smeared sandal paste on my forehead, I used to clean it off as soon as possible!
My feeling initially was all those who believe in gods were weak minded and could not survive without god belief. So I never questioned their beliefs , though I never allowed them to impose it on me.
Later, in last few years , I realised that no one needs a god-belief , and such a belief is so prevalent because of childhood conditioning. Propagation of reason and rational thinking can help in de-conditioning. I realised it is ok sometimes to offend family elders so that one can drive your point of view of logic and reason forcefully.
Humans created god myths as an explanation for the things that they could not explain. Religions were created by the powerful to retain control on others using god myth. As more and more things are being explained by Science, the space for gods are shrinking fast. There may be still a lot of things which we cannot explain, but that does not mean we should invent an illogical answer of god for the gaps in our knowledge.
The way things are progressing, atheism may one day become the default position of all human beings. The question of why some one became an atheist will become irrelevant, and the more logical question will be for the theist to explain why some one believes in a myth without any evidence.
When they achieve some thing, Theists say “by god’s grace”.
Is it not strange that Theists praise the god when things go their way, but do not blame him, but just curse their ill luck when they are the victim? Or are they actually pointing out to the luck they had by praising god? So god=luck?
Do those theists who kill & rape also say “by god’s grace”?
What about their victims? Should they believe that God is angry with them?
I still can’t believe it, but it happened. I could participate in a live BBC TV debate, being aired for a World wide audience.
It all started with a tweet. On July 4 th when the official announcement about Higgs boson particle discovery was made public, the twitter was buzzing with ‘God’ particle tweets. I was irritated at the term ‘God’ particle. So I tweeted like this.
@Charakan:Calling #Higgsboson particle the ‘God’ particle is mischievous and an insult to Science
@Charakan: Any journalist/journal calling #HiggsBoson particle, ‘God’ particle should be sued for defamation of Science.
With in few minutes I was asked this.
@AnnaAMCeesay: @Charakan hi I work for @BBC_WHYS – we’re discussing #higgs #boson in two hours time – are you interested in taking part? Thanks.
My reply was this.
@Charakan: @AnnaAMCeesay I am not an expert on #HiggsBoson particle. Just a medical doctor -:) thanks for t offer @bbc_whys
@AnnaAMCeesay: @Charakan we’re not looking for experts – just excited people! still interested?
@Charakan: @AnnaAMCeesay Radio show?
@AnnaAMCeesay: @Charakan yes – on BBC World Service Radio.
@AnnaAMCeesay: @Charakan if you can please follow me and send me your number via DM that would be great.
I gave my cell number and communications continued via phone and later via Skype.
Now I did not know much about this Higgs particle. Till then what I thought was boson is Boson, a scientist like Higgs!!!
I have less than 2 hours to learn some thing about it so as to participate in a debate….
And there was about 10 patients waiting..!
Fortunately my Pathologist wife was less busy that day. So I asked for her help.
“Why don’t you stop looking at those boring blood cells/Urine casts and do some thing more interesting? ”
“Like? ” She was curious.
“Learn and teach me about this discovery of the Century, Higgs-Boson particle in an hour so that I can become a ‘celebrity’ !
She was excited, not about the particle, but about her hubby becoming a celebrity.
So by the time I finished off ( not literally) the last patient, she was ready with a large amount of information. Thus I came to know it was supposed to be the Goddamn particle, the always elusive one. But a mischievous editor changed it to God particle. I could make out that it has some thing to do with particles developing mass. It also provides it seemed, an opportunity to know more about how universe was formed.
Time for the show to start had come and gone, but my phone and skype was silent. Was this a hoax?
Suddenly the phone rang.
We are at the end of the show. Please join.
Now I could hear some one announcing my arrival there and started asking questions like ‘Why you are excited about this etc…. I was suddenly at loss of words and mumbled some thing. My wife was writing some thing on a paper and showing it to me, but I was so nervous and could not read it. I was not able to do a good job. Soon they thanked me and that was the end.
But it was not the end. On July 6 th as I was driving to my Hospital for my evening op, the phone rang. This time it was the producer of BBC tv program ‘World have your say” .
“Will you be able to take part in our TV program on Higgs boson going on air in 3 hrs 45 mts time?
This time I did not hesitate to say yes.
“we will have a skype link check in 3 hours time”.
At the hospital the waiting area was full. Will I be able to make it?
“Will see only patients with prior appointments, no walk in patients”, I told the guy at the reception.
In around 2 1/2 hours I was able to finish my work and reach in time for the link check.
With help of my daughter I set up the hardware while my wife gave me added points to talk about. After few attempts link check succeeded.
Will it be an ask the expert format or a debate on impact of Higgs boson discovery on God/religion? I had no idea.
“We are going on air now. Please be ready” .
The TV was on but it was around 30 seconds slower than what I could hear through skype.
Every 5 minutes they would remind me I will be on soon. Half the program was over. Have they decided not to use me? I felt good that I did not tell anyone that I am going to be there on the BBC TV.
I asked my daughter to give me some water.
“Now you will be on” and the anchor started introducing me and there I was live on BBC TV.
Even after a day, I am not able to really believe it happened. But it did and here is the evidence.
The other day I was discussing about God/Religion with my theist friend. He was arguing that if every one become atheists the World will become a very Selfish World.
Is that correct? Is the World or the Organisms residing in the World not selfish (or less selfish) because of their Beliefs in supernatural God?
I do not think so.
Doing good things to others just because you are afraid of ‘God”s punishment and to attain ‘heaven ‘ can be considered as one of the most selfish of all acts.
But still some people will say even if done for a selfish purpose, it is good.
I agree that people doing good things to others is good. But is it really because of God/religion? Is it because of unselfishness?
Non believers also do good things to others. What is the explanation for their noble acts?
In my opinion all living organisms in this World are selfish. All of them are seeking their own happiness. Happiness is a certain state of our Brain. We try to attain that state constantly.When we reach that state we automatically try to share our mood with others. Our body is hard wired to share ( or let others know) our emotions. That is why we smile/laugh when we are happy and cry when we are sad. Other wise there is no purpose for smile/tears.
When some one smile or laugh in front of you, automatically you tend to smile or laugh. Mirror neurones in our Brain are responsible for this behaviour. Thus happiness becomes infectious. Sorrow is also infectious like this.
When we help others we are trying to make others happy (smile/laugh). Their happiness in turn make us happy. So the primary purpose of doing good things to others is to make us happy, a very selfish motive.
This selfishness is a very good thing and has nothing to do with God/religion.
Should parents force their children to follow their brand of Religion and God? On the other hand should parents force them to be an Atheist?
May be the just way is to explain to them about God/religion and Atheism. Encourage them to question everything including your own belief/non-belief. Give them books to read which explains the essence of religion and free thinking.
Let them choose their own path at their own time.