12 December, 2011

why i am not an atheist

my parents' faith
i was always very sceptical about faith, but in my childhood, i did not know better. also, it seemed to work for my parents, and i did not question what i was being taught. one more reason i was ‘religious’ was because the flavour of religion i was being taught by my parents and schoolteachers was very moderate. be tolerant, love everyone, do no harm. that kind of stuff. didn’t seem to hurt to believe

my imaginary friend strongest!
then, i started to read, and think for myself and talk to people. i also began to see the roots of the evil i saw around myself, whether it was the blood-stained past i, as an indian passport holder, have, or the murderous riots i witnessed first-hand in delhi and then in mumbai, or the pure, irrational hatred of man against man that was based on nothing else but the direction in which he chooses to bend or the food he eats or avoids or the dress he wears. i also saw the rabidity in forcing co-religionists to adhere and the ridicule towards other-religionists. i saw the origins of the caste system and the practice of ‘honour’ killings. i saw the fraud perpetrated by ‘godmen’ and the blind faith people have in them…and i saw the babri masjid being demolished in 1992, the bombs, the killings and the speeches…the hate. and i gave up religion

different names, same game
however, something else happened in the same time. as i became more and more anti-religion, i also saw other things that i had not noticed before: astrology, numerology, palmistry, homoeopathy, vastushastra, feng shui, reiki, aura therapy and all the rest of it. i realised that i thought them amusing, but eventually started to understand that they actually were harming me and the society i (and my loved ones) chose to live in. i started to speak out. i read more, debated more and built arguments for myself first, and then for others, as to why we must question everything

and one day, i got into an argument with someone about religion…and i realised that i am not an atheist, or at least, not JUST as atheist

russell's teapot? it exists!
to be honest, to declare one to not believe in any one particular thing or belief is really giving that belief way too much importance. though religion is important in the sense that it (and its practice by others) affects my life directly and indirectly, i also do not believe in superman. and i do not believe in the flying tea-pot. and i do not believe in fairies. so, in that sense, i am an a-supermanist, an a-teapotist, an a-faireist. how many things do i have to declare that i do not believe in? that raises the question: am i defined by what i do NOT believe in or by what i, in fact, DO? my identity cannot be a factor of who i am not! it must define and identify who i am. this post is a move towards just such a clarification of my own identity to those who care to know

so, if i am not an atheist, how do i see myself? i prefer to call myself a rationalist. it is a more positive identity than being a non-believer in god. as a rationalist, everything i do now makes sense, even things i do not believe in. i now see no need to tell others whether i believe in sorcery or witchcraft if not god, or if i believe in the satan, or if i believe in ‘some power’ (you’d be surprised how many of us in india are confronted by this: “you have to agree that there is SOME power that controls everything. you call it science. we call it god”!!) or if i believe ‘at least’ in spirituality (theists are very concerned about someone who questions EVERYTHING and does not believe in ANYTHING at face value. they cannot fathom how such a person can exist!).

am i moral? you bet! and with better reasons

my being a rationalist answers all questions, and more importantly, puts me at ease…and at peace, knowing that my own identity is not a reflection of something negative about me, but a manifestation of my positivism

it also defines everything else about me, and answers all questions, from my political beliefs to my medical preferences. the only thing it leaves out is art and relationships...and i think that is what makes me human. so, i guess, i'll let the only parts of myself i allow to be irrational (art and relationship) be that way, till i can find something better to explain them with :-). but otherwise, for almost everything else, my being a rationalist explains all
well,what are you waiting for?

so, once again, for those who missed the point: i am NOT SIMPLY an atheist, i am a RATIONALIST. so there!