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The god confusion - Comments

Bala's Avatar Comment 1 by Bala

“For an ordinary believer, it’s just faith,” Meera Nanda told me. “They don’t need to explain it. But there’s a certain class of people coming up that need to justify their faith, who need to somehow intellectually put into words why they believe. It’s more of a disease of educated people.” In other words, the same graduates who seem to be turning to religion in their droves are the ones who are trying to rationalise it. These educated Hindus aren’t just religious; they’re desperately religious.

Worrying and true. And this isn't just educated young people trying to reconcile their religion with science. Right wing Hindu academics even tried to fake archeological evidence in order to prove Hinduism predates the Indus Valley civilisation. ('Horseplay in Harappa', Frontline, 17 (13 Oct, 2000)).

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 16:20:18 UTC | #598366

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 2 by Jos Gibbons

I’m not debunking Saini’s article, but my comment on it is formatted in much the same way as those which do debunk other articles.

In trying to make religion sound more logical and scientific, are educated Indians actually having a crisis of faith?

It’s an interesting hypothesis. But we’ve seen followers of the Abrahamic faiths trying to give the impression their religion’s claims are scientifically valid for a long time. Creationists are not, in my estimation, in an en masse crisis of faith. People like William Lane Craig go to great eloquent lengths to “prove” the scientific character of their beliefs for the purposes of convincing themselves, not others.

The constitution includes a call for citizens to “develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of enquiry and reform”.

That’s excellent news. However, can we have any more confidence in its being obeyed than in the case of America’s secularism as contained in its Article VI & first amendment?

The numbers we use today and algebra were both popularised here

Our numerals are often called Arabic, and “algebra” comes from an Arabic word. I don’t seek to contradict Saini, and am aware the “Arabic numerals” are slight modifications of earlier Indian ones. However, I’d be interested to know what we might call algebra if we used, for example, a Hindi word as etymology rather than an Arabic one. No doubt someone on this website knows more about India’s languages than me: any ideas?

They want to accept everything that is in modern science and say this was there in our ancient texts. They want sanction from science.

I may have to disagree with Edamaruku, if by “sanction” he means permission (perhaps he doesn’t and I am misunderstanding him). As I said before, claiming a scientific idea occurs in an earlier religious text is hardly a new thing. Only last week Richard Dawkins posted here a link to an excellent YouTube account which debunks literally dozens of attempts to credit the Koran with various scientific ideas. I don’t think anyone does these things to justify for their own sake their right to believe certain things; I think it’s intended to influence others. If that is what Edamaruku meant he has my apologies.

atheists have a tough time in India.

This is a fascinating prospect because I am frequently told by the Hindus I meet that, of the 4 principal strands of Hinduism, one is explicitly and strongly atheistic. Since Hinduism is the major religion of India, and has been so for almost all of its millennia–long recorded history, it seems surprising – unless the Hindus who have made this claim were being disingenuous in what they said – an entire kind of Hinduism is as poorly received in India as atheism is in the United States. I suspect that, in this context and/or the one in which it was stated earlier fewer than 10 % of Indians are atheists, Indian Hindus aren’t considered “atheist” even when they are.

Not only is atheism a rejection of god, it’s a rejection of a way of life.

Again, what about the alleged atheist brand of atheism? (Well, I suppose it could be the least popular of the 4.)

A fear of a nation losing its faith

If so, it’s a fear not rooted in reality.

Non-believers can sometimes fail to understand just how difficult it is to abandon religion.

Presumably not including those who did.

The question is whether we’ll end up with an India that is less religious and superstitious. History suggests that we will.

What does Saini mean by this? Perhaps that many nations have done it? India has surprised us so far, of course.

There may be only 100,000 supporters of the Indian Rationalist Association now, but in the 1980s there were fewer than a thousand.

No doubt the internet helped there. It’s difficult to know, however, how many people will constitute saturation.

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 16:39:11 UTC | #598374

Bribase's Avatar Comment 3 by Bribase

Great article.

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 16:48:32 UTC | #598384

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 4 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

I look forward to seeing that camel piss powered wedding cake fly! It will certainly cause a stir at the Farnborough Air Show.

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 17:06:44 UTC | #598397

neil pharr's Avatar Comment 5 by neil pharr

India is a land of fakes like the street performers (Sahdus).

There is a proof of God offered in the modern Ananda Sutram (thread of bliss) It goes like this:

Maybe the word “God” should be a joke. G = generator, O = operator & D = destroyer (that withdraws the created being from the phenomenal world to it Noumenal Cause). The Infinite is theoretical. How could it be measured with finite instruments? However, there is an evidential proof that “GOD” exist and it is based on scientific observations – not direct a measurement by a single infinite instrument. It requires a new scientific theory that includes all three factors: 1. matter, 2. energy & 3. consciousness. Cosmology and Biology can be used to prove of the Existence of Cosmic Consciousness in the following way: (I) The physical Universe (excluding life) is observed as having a beginning in primal energy/matter and follows a path leading to all the elements and their formations in gaseous, liquid and solid form. Solid form is the last state formed in time. Hydrogen gas is, of course, the first state of elemental matter. At the present time all states exist from the simplest plasma to the most dense matter of collapsed stars, granite of planets, etc. (II) (II) The biological world (mainly confided to biospheres of planets, moons, etc.) is a biological process that begins with the simplest expression of biochemistry and ends with highly evolved beings (for example, humans on Earth). The future of life includes a continuing expansion of mental development. Of course, from viruses to hominids, life is always varied and does adapt to niche, but the innate tendency in evolution for the development of higher consciousness has been over looked in favor of adaptation and behaviorist views. Adaptation to niche may not be sufficient to explain the development of mind. Science has yet to recognize that there is a “contraction” of energy “stuff” and an expansion of mind in the formation of the universe. [A new theory in science should be formulated to explain this phenomenon. Such a theory may state that there is a centripetal movement leading to crudified states of energy/matter and a centrifugal movement leading to mind being born out of matter and that mind continues to evolve to a higher or clearer reflection of an unknown factor which my be Cosmic Consciousness or God (as the deluded like to call it). I would recommend thinking of a centrifugal movement as a crudi-fication of original nuclear consciousness and the centrifugal movement as a subtle-fication if of the previously crudified consiousness. The central nucleus of such movements are ‘around’ the Noumenal Cause] In summary: The Proof is in the waxing and waning effects detected in Cosmology and Biology.

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 18:52:49 UTC | #598444

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 6 by Mr DArcy

Does anyone know how McDonalds are doing in India? !/4 pound chesseburger made with cobra meat? Err - no thanks!

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 20:35:20 UTC | #598474

njwong's Avatar Comment 7 by njwong

You can check out their menu here:

Instead of Big Mac, they have McVeggie. They don't have beef in their menu.

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 21:36:16 UTC | #598497

there is atheis in Bali's Avatar Comment 8 by there is atheis in Bali

When those information about science and religion are compatible spread out to Bali from India, i see the same trend happening over here now. More and more people try to justify their faith through science.

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 21:38:02 UTC | #598498


Having experienced New Delhi traffic firsthand, I must admit living there might just persuade me to give up reason and believe in as many gods and goddesses as possible. And launching contraptions that run on camel urine into the air probably won't improve travel safety much.

More seriously, I've discussed scientific topics such as humans and apes having common ancestors with educated Hindu friends and some of them responded with the same, oh, brassy resistance creationist Christians are known for. They would have none of it, and refused to reconcile this singular opposition with an otherwise science-friendly outlook.

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 22:20:37 UTC | #598512

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 10 by Vicktor

Like most Muslims, most Hindus probably practice their religion and take it quite seriously (by extension, this also affects those brought up in such environments). Therein lies the problem. Anything you have invested significantly in, you are unlikely to give up easily (or ever). It may be better, psychologically, just to go on living the lie (and keep investing, if not more). As an analogy, how many of us (even as atheists) would be able to accept being told that every cent of our life savings was just fake money and worth nothing? Time to start over, they simply tell us. A little hard to swallow, to say the least.

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 23:25:29 UTC | #598525

Harps's Avatar Comment 11 by Harps

I'm not sure about atheism being a "deadly position" in India. I travel to various parts of India quite often and have done so since I was a child and have never felt this to be the case for myself, and it's certainly not true when it comes to India's political leaders; sure they have to be culturally "Hinduized" and speak the language of "Hindustanis", but not be believers, for eg. Nehru, Vajpayee, and possibly Singh too, I don't think these guys were ever in danger because of their belief in god(s) or lack thereof.

Comment 10 by Vicktor :

Like most Muslims, most Hindus probably practice their religion and take it quite seriously

That has not been my experience at all and I'm in the company of Hindu's every day. I would say that most in the UK and many in India consider themselves Hindu by default, just in the same way many people in the UK tick the Christian box when the census comes round. I don't think most Hindu's give it much thought at all, they hold loose beliefs and get rewarded for them in the form of regular festivities involving lots of eating, drinking, general merriment, and the opportunity to engage with the opposite sex, so why rock the boat?!

Of course the picture is very different when it comes to the illiterate and semi literate communities.

As for the hillarious flying contraptions, it is true that my 85 year old Grandmother was taught as a child that such methods of transportation were available to the gods thousands of years ago, and that there is technology available that allows one to listen in to the actual voices of holy men of the past; apparently their voices are recorded in the wind or something!!! I LMFAO and then had to unweave that part of her rainbow.

Fri, 04 Mar 2011 01:37:11 UTC | #598556

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 12 by Vicktor

Comment 11 by Harps

That has not been my experience at all and I'm in the company of Hindu's every day. I would say that most in the UK and many in India consider themselves Hindu by default, just in the same way many people in the UK tick the Christian box when the census comes round. I don't think most Hindu's give it much thought at all, they hold loose beliefs and get rewarded for them in the form of regular festivities involving lots of eating, drinking, general merriment, and the opportunity to engage with the opposite sex, so why rock the boat?!

Then I guess it's just the Muslims. Hindus, after all, aren't required to pray 5 times a day.

Fri, 04 Mar 2011 06:49:17 UTC | #598599

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 13 by Vorlund

Watch the 'miracles' of the Guru Sai Baba at

You may wish to think how this holy man manages to attract millions of followers from india's upperclass with conjuring tricks so amatuerish and pathetic they would have confined Copperfield to the dole queue.

Humans are inclined by the hijacking of evolutionary cognitive adaptations, toward superstitious behaviour - see Andy Thompson's lectures also on youtube for a really good explanation.

Fri, 04 Mar 2011 09:06:15 UTC | #598623

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 14 by Nunbeliever

There is only one word to describe this phenomenon. Cargo cult science! The term Richard Feynman himseld coined. These people are "playing" science as it is some form of game. You can change and modify he rules to fit your current state of mind. They lack a true scientific spirit. They lack a true commitment to the truth. This once again shows how important it is for universities to teach more than scientific techniques. This is not purely an indian phenomenon. I personally know many university graduates who are good scientists in that sense that they can design and execute experiments and present their results in a coherent and rational manner. At the same time they seem to lack a deeper understanding of what science is and what the scientific method is all about, However competent researchers they might be in the everyday sense of the word they just don't seem to be capable of connecting the dots. Science to them is nothing but a job. They perform certain tasks and get their results. They do it in a correct way by the book. Still, something is as mentioned above lacking. A true commitment to the quest for truth. I would go so far as to say that science is a way of life. In my opinion you can't be a scientist from 9 to 5 and go to some temple and worship gods in the evening. Or obviously it is possible. But, I think that is to be seen as a failure. There is something wrong with our universities if people just learn scientific techniques without gaining deeper knowledge about the scientific method.

Fri, 04 Mar 2011 22:17:41 UTC | #598860