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← India: atheism in the land of a thousand gods

India: atheism in the land of a thousand gods - Comments

SuedeStonn's Avatar Comment 1 by SuedeStonn

I hate to say it, but the only thing the dude can do is get the hell outta that country. I don't know of any religion free countries but at least in other countries you don't have to worry about getting tossed in the slammer or whipped (spanked, thats a laugh... talk about sugar-coating it) for going against a religion or just plain ignoring it. Good luck to you if you decide to stay.

non est deus

Sun, 12 Jun 2011 18:50:27 UTC | #637657

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 2 by drumdaddy

You would think that multi-armed elephant gods are too outlandish to ever revere, but there is no bar low enough for the brainwashed. I think I'll chill out and go walk on water to cool my feet.

Sun, 12 Jun 2011 18:56:57 UTC | #637659

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 3 by Jos Gibbons

I have to commend those trying to effect a more vocal atheism in India. It'll do a tremendous amount of good it if works, and not just for atheist Indians, but for Indians in general. I was fascinated by the teaching vs business example in this article since it's interesting to think that, in a religious setting where people feel further compulsions (e.g. feeling compelled to choose vocations their parents recommend), they feel proportionally greater benefits in irreligiosity. The religion-atheism distinction his more nuanced in its sociology than a one-culture perspective might lead us to expect.

Now I've heard it said at least one of the major forms of Hindu thought is atheistic, in which case we'd need to factor that into how we analyse the Indian situation; for example, atheists who claim no religion would be in a very different position from Hindus who concede to being atheistic. But I'd appreciate if anyone who is either Indian or familiar with the situation in India first-hand $ could give us a low-down on just how common such a version of Hinduism really is. Is it, for example, something British Hindus I've met fall back on to defend their religion, but which in truth doesn't reflect how Hindus typically feel when they're a majority in a nation? (For comparison, British Muslims in my experience don't think of their religion as making the same demands Muslims in the Middle East typically imagine.)

$ A scientific or statistical analysis on the matter would if anything be even better, I suppose.

Sun, 12 Jun 2011 22:17:47 UTC | #637705

ai1888's Avatar Comment 4 by ai1888

Read this article , and you will get an idea of what atheist Hindus are all about. And no, its not as common as people would imagine it to be.

Comment 3 by Jos Gibbons :

I have to commend those trying to effect a more vocal atheism in India. It'll do a tremendous amount of good it if works, and not just for atheist Indians, but for Indians in general. I was fascinated by the teaching vs business example in this article since it's interesting to think that, in a religious setting where people feel further compulsions (e.g. feeling compelled to choose vocations their parents recommend), they feel proportionally greater benefits in irreligiosity. The religion-atheism distinction his more nuanced in its sociology than a one-culture perspective might lead us to expect.

Now I've heard it said at least one of the major forms of Hindu thought is atheistic, in which case we'd need to factor that into how we analyse the Indian situation; for example, atheists who claim no religion would be in a very different position from Hindus who concede to being atheistic. But I'd appreciate if anyone who is either Indian or familiar with the situation in India first-hand $ could give us a low-down on just how common such a version of Hinduism really is. Is it, for example, something British Hindus I've met fall back on to defend their religion, but which in truth doesn't reflect how Hindus typically feel when they're a majority in a nation? (For comparison, British Muslims in my experience don't think of their religion as making the same demands Muslims in the Middle East typically imagine.)

$ A scientific or statistical analysis on the matter would if anything be even better, I suppose.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 00:44:21 UTC | #637744

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 5 by Carl Sai Baba

every day the teacher forced him to meditate while imagining the guru's benevolent hand resting on his head

I have heard that this was one of Sathya's favorite positions.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 02:07:29 UTC | #637757

Metamag's Avatar Comment 6 by Metamag

This is unbelievable, an actual video exists which clearly demonstrates that Sai Baba just used plain old magic tricks which a child can learn and buy from a store, yet here we are, millions of people elevating him to a god.

The stupidity of the human ape is overwhelming.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 04:10:49 UTC | #637772

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 7 by Vicktor

Comment 3 by Jos Gibbons

(For comparison, British Muslims in my experience don't think of their religion as making the same demands Muslims in the Middle East typically imagine.)

This is because these British Muslims (unlike those you typically find sitting in British mosques, for instance) are essentially agnostic or closet atheists. There is absolutely no "reinterpreting" of say, the five pillars of Islam, which includes perhaps most significantly, their burdensome daily prayers. If they are not performing them as required by every recognized sect of Islam, you can be pretty sure they are not Muslim and know it - but for some reason they value the Muslim identity even in Britain so they still "practice" Islam, but differently. I don't think the case with Hindus is all that much different.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 04:29:24 UTC | #637778

Troll/'s Avatar Comment 8 by Troll/

Removed by moderator

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 04:52:33 UTC | #637784

Pulkit's Avatar Comment 9 by Pulkit

I'm from India, and brainwashed is exactly the right adjective to describe what most people here are like. Imagine what would happen if someone in today's USA, or Arab countries claimed to be God. People would laugh at him and if he went any ahead, there would be great protests against him and he would probably be stoned in countries with Muslim majority. Now take the case of India, There are thousadns of babas here, self-acclaimed godmen. One such example is Sathya Sai Baba, who claimed to be the reincarnation of another baba of the last century and also said that he is a God. And guess what was Indians' response? They started worshiping him ! All you need to become a baba is wear safron robes, talk about drivel (read spirituality and religion) and claim to be a god. Even the poverty-stricken Indians would give you bundles of money and richer ones will adorn you with gold. Why do the poor ones give their money to already billionaire trickster baba? In the absurd hopes that they will be payed back one day, that by worshiping such pathetic disgraces to humanity, they will be blessed one day and live a happy life. TO call that a delusion would be an understatement. These people are insane.

Another popular case is of Ramdev Baba and what he claimed might quial your hearts, so be wary before reading ahead. He says that homosexuality is sick and if all the homosexuals are sent to him, he can 'cure' them by breathing and Yoga. However, he goes ahead and says that modern medicine is futile and should be banned from India, with only Ayurvedic ones to cure everything. He can cure cancer and Aids and anything, it's so easy that he is surprised that the West hasn't come up with the solution yet. And what is the solution? Take up his expensive membership and fucking breathe with him. You will be cured of cancer. And the most ridiculous of his claims - I will live 150-200 years. After all these pathetic claims, he has millions of followers. Yes, millions of ignorant followers whose existence is a matter of shame for every thinking person. And the irony is that he is currently in a hospital (150 already?) in a critical condition, surviving on modern medicines. Where did his ayurvedic gyan and breathing go? To hell!

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 07:51:30 UTC | #637821

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 10 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #637744 by ai1888

Thanks.

Comment #637778 by Vicktor

My encounters haven't been with such lapsed individuals; their prayers were regular as per the scriptures. But they lacked the sort of Islamist commitments so many of us fear in the West.

Comment #637821 by Pulkit

Thanks for your perspective.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 07:54:10 UTC | #637822

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 11 by Vicktor

I think the human propensity to worship gods, other people, animals, trees, stars etc. merits further investigation. Why, exactly, do most people believe that worshiping helps and that not doing so incurs wrath? Even faking it, many times, is apparently good enough - the important thing is that you do it all the same and be seen by others doing it. Are there any good books on the subject?

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 08:12:44 UTC | #637828

Pulkit's Avatar Comment 12 by Pulkit

Vicktor

The simple reason, in my opinion, behind that is the helplessness of humans. Many of them can't do anything about their lives themselves, and they know it. But what about others? The only others who give a damn are Gods (or animals, trees, stars, etc, as you say) So the easiest way out of their problems is self-deception which appears to be easily carried out, into believing that someone cares about them and will solve all their problems, magically. Magically, because they know it perfectly well that there is no other way for people to help them (even if there might be, but their ignorance restrains that possibility) than with magic. And the only way the others (imaginary or non-living beings, or those who pretend to care to get respect and money) would help them supernaturally is if they worship them and have unquestionable faith in their powers.

So worshiping is a form of extreme escapism and cowardice, I would say, when you can't face the harsh truth, i.e. reality.

That's why worshiping is directly proportional with the trouble you are in (few care to worship and remember their gods when they are fairly happy) and somewhat inversely proportional with wealth (the poorest countries have the highest belief in god, because poverty leads to more troubles. Example - most African countries.)

That's just my opinion and I've 'faith' that there is a scientific explanation as well.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 08:36:36 UTC | #637841

PERSON's Avatar Comment 13 by PERSON

Comment 1 by SuedeStonn

Well, you may not care about his country, but I guess he does. With thinking like yours ("run away!"), the UK would still be ruled by Rome.

There's an important part of the context missing: the rise of the new Hindu fundamentalism

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 08:38:12 UTC | #637842

josephor's Avatar Comment 14 by josephor

Like their superstitious neighbors they have nuclear weapons.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 10:19:44 UTC | #637866

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 15 by Marc Country

Sadly, Hindu repression does not stay contained within the home country.

http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=3c689af5-7e85-475a-96b3-8ef740b431b2&sponsor=

I know from personal experience...

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 12:06:00 UTC | #637893

sandman67's Avatar Comment 16 by sandman67

@ Comment 1 by SuedeStonn

Yeah right.... thats it. They should just leave....and then the situation just perpetuates itself on and on. Clever move.

You effect change by changing the country from within.

@ Comment 14 by josephor

The country with the largest nuke arsenal is the USA...primary home to every stripe of ugly millenialism and literalist endtimes idiocy on the planet. Are you suggesting that nukes and fundy faithfulness are a bad idea? Best start with the main offenders then. Also throw into your phone list Israel and Pakistan, and in a year or two the real threat that will be Iran.

now...back to the OP

what I find most disturbing about the current situation in India is the apparent return of the oldtimes Kali worship involving human sacrifice. There have been a number of news stories about cases cropping up out in the outlier provinces. Seems the Thuggee have returned. Suttee also seems to be happening again in the same areas....Sleeman must be spinning in his grave

As the article points out (in teh full version) the image of peaceful Hindu faith is a false one. The country is riven by outbreaks of religiosity and religious rioting. It needs to be stamped out good and hard.

I say good luck to these guys....its good to see the movement spreading.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 12:18:48 UTC | #637897

iamvik's Avatar Comment 17 by iamvik

I was born in India have lived there for most of my adult life. I am also an atheist and a vocal one at that - never had to face anything other than astonishment from others or mild rebuke from my family elders. I guess it must be something to do with the educated, urban background I was part of.

But Hinduism per se does not have an established notion of considering people as heretic and punishing them for it. The kind of reception you get for your (ungodly) beliefs depends upon the kind of environment you are in. In some very rigidly religious family/community a father may feel compelled enough to renounce his first born, an on others he will merely smile indulgently. You could be perceived as evil, or merely a fool. Painting a society/country of more than a billion people with one swift broad brush-stroke is going to achieve nothing.

@drumdaddy: The concept of a multi-armed elephant god is not so outlandish. The problem starts with the concept of got itself. If god is all powerful and created this wonderful world, then you think growing a few extra pairs of arms for himself would be beyond him? Is it more outlandish than dying on a cross and coming back from the dead?

@sandman67: Every society has its lunatic fringes, and with a billion people, even a small proportion runs into thousands. The practices you have cited like Kali worship with human sacrifice, Suttee (Sati) and Thugee happen once in a blue moon. And the trend is declining not increasing, so no need to read too much in it. Just as a few blacks roughed up by some rednecks do not announce imminent return of slavery in the US. All these should not happen, but it does. And thankfully, happens in isolation.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 14:05:39 UTC | #637924

Seashore's Avatar Comment 18 by Seashore

And even as political groups routinely use religion to stoke hatred and provoke deadly riots, the constitution and the law seem bent on intertwining — rather than separating — religion and the state.

This problem also exists in the U.S. Some political groups using religion and some religions using political groups. They are both willing to twist and pollute the system for their own gains.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 15:28:53 UTC | #637960

RSingh's Avatar Comment 19 by RSingh

I used to be a religious man during 2001-03. At IISc campus, a priest from ISKON Bangalore would come to campus, recite Geeta and it would end with eating delicious prasadam brought by the priest. At the same time, I was skeptic enough to read Bertrand Russel (why I am not a Christian) and alike.

Since Feb 2006, I am living in UK and thanks to Professor Dawkins (and others like Hitchens), I am a staunch atheist now! I have let my family, friends and relatives know it....No big issue...Everyone listened...those who tried arguing with me, be it senior people than myself, were humiliated with logic. Majority of my friends in UK with Indian Hindu background are atheist to the core. I confess my lack of belief everywhere (applications, social meeting or interviews)....At this point of time, I simply dont care how one perceives my lack of belief.

I for one am surprised how a typical Hindu family is coming into way of these atheist. I think, they need to be daring...No one is going to chase them for their life in India for their lack of belief.

I was, in part, inspired by the 'OUT' campaign as well.

Hail Atheism!

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 15:54:31 UTC | #637968

Random Jerk's Avatar Comment 20 by Random Jerk

I'm an Indian living in the US for the last 5 years. Never been very religious, and I picked up on Atheism in the last year or so. I'm going to back India shortly and am excited to take on religious dogma of my home country. Although it is difficult for an Atheist in Indian society, its surely not as repressive as some of the Islamic societies are. No one takes religion too literally, nor does society run on religious law. But, religion and its baggage of superstition does play an important role in India. The only thing that bothers me is being pulled into obnoxious rituals, that you need to do for all important events in life, just for the sake of society and relatives, even though you hate them.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 16:23:48 UTC | #637977

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 21 by Steven Mading

Comment 11 by Vicktor :

I think the human propensity to worship gods, other people, animals, trees, stars etc. merits further investigation. Why, exactly, do most people believe that worshiping helps and that not doing so incurs wrath? Even faking it, many times, is apparently good enough - the important thing is that you do it all the same and be seen by others doing it. Are there any good books on the subject?

Also notice how our languages reflect this as well. When you attempt to construct a sentence in a fashion where you're talking about an event occurring without trying to imply it was done on purpose by some sentient agent, then it comes out in passive voice - the sentence construct in which the sentence has a verb, and an object, but not a subject. This is a really awkward grammar when used too much. The language itself seems to reflect that our ancestors had the attitude that events happening by deliberate actors is the normal way of thinking and other modes of thinking are weird exceptions (thus why passive voice is not the normal way of speaking.)

When you stop to think about it, passive voice should be very common. A lot more common than it is. It is far more honest to say "There is a thing happening but I'm not going to claim to know who or what caused it. I only know that this thing is happening."

Often pronouns are used to get around this. i.e. what you actually want to say is something along the lines of "raining occurring now", but what comes out of your mouth is "it is raining" because you need to create an artificial 'subject' for the sentence grammar, so you say "it" for the subject. Really? "it" is raining? What or who exactly, is doing the raining? Is "it" the cloud? Is "it" the sky? Is "it" the drops themselves? Well, it's none of those things really - it's just a placeholder used because our language forces us to think in terms of needing to specify the subject as the most important thing in the sentence and the few grammar constructs that leave it off come out sounding weird if used too much.

In other words, I agree that there seems to be a built-in need to always look for the do-er of an action, and it's so built in that it has actually creeped into our language itself, which is one of the reasons trying to describe evolution and make people "get it" is hard. You have a hard time even expressing the concept without resorting to linguistic forms that presume a "do-er" first.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 18:34:07 UTC | #638043

reebus's Avatar Comment 22 by reebus

If India can adopt an atheist movement, the country will definently become a force to be reckoned with. I always thought that religion and just silly superstition held the country up big time for ages, and laid waste to at least 1/2 the population in terms of developing potential and minds, and religion is very insidious with the negative feedback of it culturing con men, keeping people ignorant and promoting unethical businesses. It creeps into everything even government (well i guess thats true of a few other countries too :)). I don't make the distinction between Islam and Hinduism either, they are both corrupt parasitic and wasteful ideologies that result in immense violence and terrorism. But I find it very heartening to see the internet denting provincialism and giving the young options of thought. But it is true that the pressure on Indians is very strong to conform to religion including punishment and social. I've been there twice to visit relatives and I ran sharpish back to the UK where it is much easier to cultivate an independence! lol.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 20:41:48 UTC | #638108

skiles1's Avatar Comment 23 by skiles1

The reason why I left Christianity was that it seemed to me at many times to hold politically incorrect views. From time to time I would even catch a sermon wherein a reverend would proudly proclaim that God is not politically correct and I just couldn't see how anyone could follow something they know is politically incorrect, especially not when one has no proof that what one follows is even real. I tried Krishnaism after leaving the religion I was raised in. Maybe it was George Harrison, maybe it was Allen Ginsberg or Aldous Huxley, maybe it was the fact that (at the time) I was already a vegetarian, maybe it was because there was a Krishna temple nearby, but for some reason I bought a copy of the Bhagavadgita, read it, and started going to the temple on Sundays.

Sunday services were nice if you liked dancing (which I did not) and liked good music and vegetarian foods. But there was also the creepy life-size photo-realist's sculpture of Prabhupada, the idol worship, and passages in the Bhagavadgita that instruct one to only think about how Krishna can be, not about how he can't be (all the while no thought about how he can be proved his existence), and to top it off, reports from India about the suffering of women in Hindu society. So I reluctantly realized that it was nothing different than the religion I'd just left.

There are no scriptures to assign prejudices and tell you not to think associated with atheism.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 22:06:04 UTC | #638148

josephor's Avatar Comment 24 by josephor

@Comment 16 by sandman67

The country with the largest nuke arsenal is the USA...primary home to every stripe of ugly millenialism and literalist endtimes idiocy on the planet. Are you suggesting that nukes and fundy faithfulness are a bad idea?

Of course it is a bad idea!

Best start with the main offenders then. Also throw into your phone list Israel and Pakistan, and in a year or two the real threat that will be Iran.

We were discussing India and not which is the most dangerous fundie with a nuke or two in reserve, I think it is you that is making all the assumptions here.

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 23:09:54 UTC | #638167

thatgingerscouser's Avatar Comment 25 by thatgingerscouser

I've met a surprising number of Ex-Hindu and Ex-Sikh atheists whilst travelling around India and none that I've met (so far) suffered anything like the trauma inflicted on Scientologists, Muslims, Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons who attempt to leave their brand of faith ie. none have been ostracised from their friends or families as a result of their disbelief.

Of course, this is totally anecdotal, but I feel a lot safer talking to people about my lack of faith in India than I do anywhere in the Middle East (or the Middle West of the USA).

All power to the Indian Atheists: they are India's best hope for building a fair, transparent and egalitarian country - because Vishnu knows it is none of those things at the moment.

Tue, 14 Jun 2011 05:28:20 UTC | #638263

Stevezar's Avatar Comment 26 by Stevezar

Comment 9 by Pulkit :

One such example is Sathya Sai Baba, who claimed to be the reincarnation of another baba of the last century and also said that he is a God.

I am guessing this is his favorite movie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zesHZze8s7M

Tue, 14 Jun 2011 07:21:00 UTC | #638290

NH King's Avatar Comment 27 by NH King

@ comment 1

1) Stay put just to irritate the fundies. Nothing brings them closer to aneurism than the knowledge that an atheist lives in their town and is speaking up about it. It's dangerous to provoke people so terrible detached from reality, but it must be done. Could I do it? Probably not. But I have a very high amount of respect for those that do. I cannot imagine the fear.

2) Run away to where? Where, exactly, is religion not actively trying to suppress free thought and scientific accuracy? Maybe some countries offer more protections to a free thinker, but many of the religious people there are still dangerously deluded time bombs. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the earth is a sphere in the middle of a universe of deadly hostility toward life. We have no place to run to. We need to stand our ground for just that reason. We need to, as humans interested in human rights, stand our ground and say, "we're right, you're wrong, so back the **** off." (By "right" I mean the fact that a secular society that regards religious affiliation with the same importance as sport team affiliation is healthier than a theocracy. As for being "right" that there is no god, who the hell cares once religion is chased from the public sphere? Religion doesn't deserve a quick, merciful death; let it die slowly and painfully, alone, in back alley ways and basements, drowning in it's own filth and decay.)

Tue, 14 Jun 2011 14:21:08 UTC | #638420

HarryKey's Avatar Comment 28 by HarryKey

I love India. I lived there for 5 years as a Bollwood actor - and their crazy spirituality is so deeply ingrained it's incredible.

This movement is necessary because there are so many atheists who are trapped there - a friend told me that it took him 30 years to pluck up the courage to tell his father that he was an atheist, only to hear his father say "So am I, but don't mention it to your grandfather"

Many are in similar situations, not believing the mythology but following the rituals for fear of being ostracized.

Good work, I'd love to help!

Tue, 14 Jun 2011 15:08:05 UTC | #638436

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 29 by Vicktor

Comment 28 by HarryKey

Many are in similar situations, not believing the mythology but following the rituals for fear of being ostracized.

Lucky for them they're not Muslim.

Tue, 14 Jun 2011 16:56:03 UTC | #638476

reebus's Avatar Comment 30 by reebus

Comment 29 by Vicktor :

Comment 28 by HarryKey

Many are in similar situations, not believing the mythology but following the rituals for fear of being ostracized.

Lucky for them they're not Muslim.

They didn't fair so well to be hindu either. Trust me lol.

Fri, 17 Jun 2011 07:38:42 UTC | #639496