My Journey to Atheism

(Via Kausik Datta)

I am a working scientist, though I am quite low in the pecking order, so to speak. I am a lowly post-doctoral researcher, with not much academic activity (or rather, activity, period!) outside of the lab for lack of time. But I do have a passion for science and scientific thought, and value science education tremendously.

I don't know if my story would sound familiar. Not too long ago, I was a believer. Perhaps you may have guessed from my name - I am an Indian, born to and raised by parents who practise the Hindu religion. But to them, the Hindu religion (I avoid the term 'Hinduism') was not at all about the kind of teeth-gnashing, attention-clamoring, mosque-destroying, intemperate, uncivil, hooliganism that has become the face of Hindu-ism in modern India. To them, it was a philosophy; a unifying theme of 'One God - many manifestations' - that easily included the God-heads of other religions of the world; a kind, understanding, all-embracing way of life, that taught temperance, the value of life and love, and worship through discharge of duties to the fellow human being. It was such a basic and deep understanding that they never stood on ceremonies and rituals. Growing up in this environment, I never really felt any clash between my spirituality and my science, because I felt that the two belonged to two completely different non-intersecting planes.

It was in the past ten to fifteen years or so, when the world situation began to change around me, that I acutely became aware of a disconnect. I saw people killing and being killed in the name of religion; I found a growing sentiment of 'my religion is the best; the rest are all hogwash'. I watched with horror religious observances taking such precedence in people's lives that they oftentimes forgot, or started ignoring, the basic, fundamental qualities that make us human, including logic and reason. I was shocked and amazed to see the so-called religious leaders tout faith as the panacea to all problems, when clearly blind, unreasoning faith was inciting more hatred and mindless violence in many parts of the world.

I thought, "This cannot be right! If there is a God who cares, this is not the kind of madness that should be pervading mankind!" It shook the foundations of my beliefs, and I started deconstructing religion with cold, hard logic. Soon it all came away unravelled to me; I found that religion had nothing to do with a higher power or divinity. Instead, it was fraught with the basest human inequities, craze for power, greed, lust, subjugation through fear and guilt. The rest was all myths built by humans around this core to give it a lasting aura of respectability and prestige. And this was not unique to any particular religion; all of them, Hinduism, Judea-Christianity, Islam, even lesser-known religions of the world, were full of hypocrisy and glaring inconsistencies. I understand that morality and ethics, in order to be viable guidelines for a way of life, did not really need the crutches of religion and observances; on their own, they could survive as eminently sound logical and reasonable practices to build a life around. It did not take me long thereafter, to renounce any contact with organized religions. It must have pained my parents; but they were gracious enough to leave me to my thoughts, rather than try to impose theirs on mine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What would you call yourself?
My parents had raised me a respecting Hindu girl, but i had moments in my life too when i thought about the possibility of no God or force. I don't know if i consider myself atheist or not.
I was hoping to find a term to call myself, just incase someone asks me who i am. I believe that people have to believe in themselves but also have morals of other religions such as Hinduism.