Beliefs, Religion and Reason – A perspective of Hindu Atheist

July 8, 2009

India and Gays

Filed under: Lifestyle — Aniket @ 12:46 pm
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I did not know how to react to the news item when I read it first.

In a landmark judgment, the Delhi High Court on Thursday struck down the provision of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalised consensual sexual acts of adults in private, holding that it violated the fundamental right of life and liberty and the right to equality as guaranteed in the Constitution.

So Indian law dictates terms on who you should sleep with? So gays were not even allowed to have sex in India? India really needs substantive social reforms ahead of any economic reforms I guess.

Well, this is a small but important step in the direction of gay rights. I am not sure, how many more light years away India is from legalizing Gay Marriages? I was really curious if any other country’s law punishes your sex life unless you are under contractual agreement of matrimony and found this.

I believe law needs to draw a clear line between crime and sin. Sin is perceived social, religious or ethical misbehavior, crime is violation of human rights. As long as there is no violation of human rights involved, it can not be a crime.

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May 15, 2009

Spiritual but not religious

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aniket @ 5:18 am
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I have seen many people using this expression – ‘I am spiritual, but I am not religious’. I used to say that about me too. But I don’t think I’d fully understood what it means and I still don’t. It is just one of those intelligent sounding sexy expressions. I’d love to hear if someone can tell me the real difference between the two.

To me it is like saying – 
I am not superstitious like some rural construction worker, I do not perform all the rituals blindly the way prescribed by the books, but I thoroughly believe in religion and wholeheartedly worship (or fear?) god.
I do not paint my body with colorful powders and ashes, but I prefer to a carry a signature of my belief on my forehead in rather aesthetic way.
I do not listen to mythological dumb folklore stories, but I am generally overwhelmed by the talk of some suave sadhubaba, living in five star aashrama having commode toilets and A/C meditation halls, preaching banal discourses on life, sufferings, happiness, austerity and pseudo-science of metaphysics.
I do not participate in religious processions where people are coarsely singing religious hymns, beating the drums to add to the cacophony and wildly dancing on that tune half drunk, half naked. But I proudly carry the CDs of stotras, bhajans, prayers, mantras in my car and occasionally listen to them as a mark of my spirituality.

So if that is spirituality, then is it just not an uptight, upscale, presumptuous version of gross religiosity?

February 25, 2009

Belief

Filed under: beliefs — Aniket @ 8:53 pm
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“So you say you believe in Science?”
“Yes.”
“Do you trust Science?”
“Yes.”
“Do you have faith in Science?”
“Yes.”
“Do you have *belief* in Science?”
“Yes.”
“.. and I have belief in religion, faith in God. What’s the difference? We are same.”
“Umm …”
“So is there any difference?”
“Yes.”
“What difference? I think both of us have blind faith in something.”
“I believe in the process of Science – a well laid out process of research, inquiry, theory and evidence. Science debates the ideas, different viewpoints are considered, research reports are peer reviewed. Still science makes mistakes and science corrects itself. It is a continuous process of self -improvement. Science evolves.”
“But *you* do not test those theories, *you* do not verify evidence. You faith is just as blind as mine, isn’t it?”
“No. Even though I haven’t verified the evidence of each and every scientific theory, I know someone has. I also know if I want to I can see the evidence myself, and based on my capacity to understand it I can verify each and every claim the theory makes. Can you say the same thing about religion? When religion has produced any evidence for any of its claims? When religion has discarded any of its old theories in light of new reality? How the faith in religion is same as faith in science? How? Why?”
” … ”
“We both believe in something, but that’s not just the same. It is exactly opposite.”

February 15, 2009

Method in madness

Filed under: Lifestyle — Aniket @ 2:53 pm
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Masses, myself included, need recognition, validation, acknowledgment for their mediocre capabilities
Masses, myself included, need sense of social belongingness, someone to care, something to share
Masses, myself included, need occupation for their mind, 24*7, 365 days a year, entire lifetime
Masses, myself included, need a forum to express their ordinary skills and talents
Masses, myself included, need escape from pain, a painkiller, a placebo
Masses, myself included, need purpose of life to make sense of it

Masses turn to religion
and I?

February 1, 2009

ISKCON and homosexuality

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aniket @ 10:08 pm
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It’s good to see a voice of reason and sanity coming out of ISKCON.

Giridhari Das, an ISKCON preacher in Brazil, in his blogpost here ,raises a critical question of dealing with homosexuality in ISKCON movement by recounting an incidence in brasilia, Brazil.
He says, (emphasis mine)

During my touring of Brazil I came across the following administrative situation: an initiated devotee who had graduated from our 9 month Bhakti-shastri Seminary had been giving classes at the temple, and also teaching a bhakti-shastri course to the other devotees. She had been doing that for some time, to the satisfaction of the leaders and congregation. Then she decided to move in with her girlfriend and they signed some paperwork between themselves, making it as close to a legal marriage as they could. The other girl also became a devotee by her influence.

So, a female-female devotee couple was formed. Because she did not hide the situation, the local leaders became disturbed. They then banned her from giving further classes and canceled her bhakti-shastri course to the local congregation.

(At the same time, in this same congregation, a male initiated devotee is living with a bhaktin, and they are not married. He not only teaches the bhakti-shastri course, but also cooks for the congregation.)

That’s typically how you expect religion to respond and ISKCON is as fundamentalist as an organization would get. (besides .. is that what people come to temple for? to find a mate for themselves?Holy molly! that’s some dating service you are running there.. well, after all, I guess Lord Krishna inspires that naturally)

He further says,

The general question I raised when discussing the issue with the local leaders, and for which they could not give me a satisfactory reply, is whether it is fair to ban someone from doing some kind of service on the basis of how they were born.

Why? I guess there are probably gazillion question which they don’t have satisfying answers for. In fact, the only reply you get in ISKCON is – It’s all written in scriptures by God himself.
he then goes on to recount his argument with temple authorities and concludes the post by saying,

It seems to me that IF it is the case that homosexuals are BORN homosexuals (and as far as I am aware, science strongly supports this claim), then ISKCON must deal with this ethical issue urgently, lest we be guilty of the grossest kind of prejudice – that based on the way a person is born, regardless of his possessing all other qualifications.

Okay. Two things sir. First, did you just say science? Religious authorities are way more knowledgeable and superior to science – well, at least in the view of ISKCON. You should have known that. Second, there are million things that science says and ISKCON (or any other religious fundamentalist crook for that matter) doesn’t accept, why do you expect them to make a concession in this case?

I still wish to thank Giridhari Das for expressing voice of reason – some glimpses of sanity and reason from otherwise arid land of banal hypocrisy.

January 7, 2009

Why NO to religion?

Filed under: beliefs — Aniket @ 12:11 am
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Organized Religion is perhaps the longest surviving institution in human history. But in its entirety, it is just that – very very old. It so old and out of touch with modern day human society that there is a definite case to end it completely. People, perhaps, do not need religion. They have never lived without one before and hence, do not know how beautiful and fulfilling a religuless life could be.

But if religion has survived so long, there must have been something really great about it.
So why no to a religion?

The premise of a religion

The fallacy of religion starts with its premise. The primary purpose for religion to come into existence, may be, was to lead a person to the path of salvation. Some thousands of years ago bunch of our ancestors were fishing on the river bank when one of them came up with very intriguing questions like who are we, where do we come from, where do we go from here? Well, this set the crystal ball rolling and religion came into existence exactly to answer the questions about meaning and purpose of life. Now some of you heretics might ask what was the need to speculate over such worthless stuffed questions when you are indulged in something as relaxing as fishing, but at that time they thought it’s just not enough to know that everybody comes out of you-know-from-where, it is equally important to know how do you get in there in first place.

I don’t have so much of a problem with asking such questions. But the method religion used to answer these questions was highly questionable. Religion did exactly what religious and spiritual thugs are good at. Since religion did not know the answers, religion made the stuff up. So folks, this is how the religion began – as a giant lie that many people decided to believe in. Ever since, religion is running its con shop for thousands of years now. The premise of religion is a giant lie and religion has prospered so far fooling people with false promises and forcing its version of morality on masses, choking the voice of reason and doubt.

Hence, the first question we need to ask ourselves is, should we continue to let superstition and ignorance called religion inhabit the world at such a large scale just because many people believe it to be true? or should we work towards dispelling the myths and lead the humanity towards more rational and truthful society? Are we going to let the world believe earth is flat because it offends them if you say it isn’t?

The dogmatic foundation of every religion, in itself, is reason enough to say NO to religion.

The promise of a religion

Nothing impedes growth as much as living in the state of denial. Here I guess I should concede that perhaps religion, by way of its false promise of better afterlife and special personal attention of god, relieves people of their pain and suffering. But wait a minute, really?

Imagine a man who is sick of his painful life, tiresome daily travel to work, nagging family, annoying neighbors, hard struggle for mere existence. When he feels stifled, in search of some breathing space he turns to the temple. In his service to the god, he starts getting personal satisfaction. With the constant love-bombing of fellow temple goers, he feels like coming to life again. His religion makes him happy, no? So what’s going on here? This is typically how a painkiller medicine works on our body. Denial of pain is not eradicating pain, relief is very effective but very temporary. A person will be much better of living in reality and fighting his way out of it, than accepting his defeat and turning to god in state of denial. At least his continuous struggle to break free will lead him in the quest of better life helping his individual growth and collective growth of the entire society. Instead of turning to temple, if he gathers bit of a courage to listen to what his heart really wants, to discover new hobbies, to make new friends, to learn to enjoy the small things in life, he will live more fulfilled life. Struggle for existence can be painful, but results last forever. Denial relieves you of pain immediately, but only temporarily.

When people don’t turn to god to forget about their pain, they do it for unjustified material desires. It comes from the belief that god answers the prayers, which is other way of saying that god is partial and you get even the things that you do no deserve only if you pray. You don’t have to stand in the queue like other ordinary people, your application will be fast-tracked for your special association with god.

Religion, by way of its false promises, either makes people lazy or makes them lame.

The place of a religion in modern society

Many of us wouldn’t care a least bit about a religion, if it wasn’t for this reason. A religion is increasingly becoming the source of hatred and violence and taxing society at every nook and corner. In modern society, where people of different religions live together in the community, a cut-throat (literally) competition develops between their religious beliefs to overpower each other. Increasingly religion has become the source of social tension. Any religion, by way of its preachings, breeds a society which considers itself far superior to the other religions. Religion inculcates the notion that killing is okay when it is done to establish the rule of a particular religion or its culture. In past, various religions have incited rampant human rights violations and moreover, the criminal does not even feel guilty of his actions. Religion not only makes people do wrong things, it also makes them feel proud about it.

As American physicist Steven Weinberg said,
“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

I think it is time for us humans to be Homo Sapiens again. It’s been a while now we have been calling ourselves by various identities like Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jew, American, British, Indian, Asian, Euporean, African and what not.

So sayeth the Humanist …

December 8, 2008

Mumbai burns: Real Long-term Solution to jihadi terrorism

Filed under: Atheism,beliefs — Aniket @ 10:43 pm
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A lot has been said and written about terrorist attacks on Mumbai. Who is really to blame?

Spectrum of all religions, ranging from Hinduism to Islam, inculcates beliefs that range from spreading plain stupidity to being capable of creating hatred based violent societies. The real long-term solution to problems like jihadi terrorism is to tell every such religion – Drop dead!

November 30, 2008

Atheism, Darwinism and Vegetarianism

Filed under: Lifestyle — Aniket @ 9:28 pm
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Couple of weeks back in his Point of Inquiry podcast, Peter Singer put up a great case for vegetarianism from atheistic perspective. (Details here)

He argued the case on the basis of animal rights and attacked speciesism. The problem with meat eating is not just about taking lives of animals, it is also about subjecting the animals to cruelty and inhumane treatment. I never had any doubt in my mind that vegetarianism is higher form of ethical practice than meat eating and coming across this interview just made my vegetarian dinner more delicious. But I can understand why it could be difficult for other atheists to give up meat for ethical and humanist reason. I guess it is enough for secularists, humanists, atheists just to accept that vegan lifestyle is higher ethical standard and one should aspire to reach there, but he may be limited by his will power to do so.

Around a month back, i had written a post about vegetarianism and Hindus. Although, vegetarianism is ethically superior practice, if one follows vegetarianism only for hindu religious reason without any other rationale behind that, his vegetarianism is no more different than his blind following for other vacuous religious rituals.

Unlike Peter Singer, I was born in vegetarian family. I never ate meat until I came to question myself about my rationale for meat eating. When I could not reason the strict vegetarianism on any other rational ground, I decided to break the oath. I occasionally ate meat just to make a point to myself that I am really not a vegetarian for religious reasons. Today, I am back to being vegetarian as far as possible. I am not averse to meat eating occasionally or accidentally, but more than ninety percent of the time my diet is vegetarian.

It is important to be a vegan/vegetarian and also it is important to do so for right reasons.

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