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Saturday, October 18, 2008

From an Agnostic to an Atheist

I come from a hindu brahmin family and have had a moderately religious upbringing. As a kid I remember praying to god daily after having a bath, and here pops up the very first question I used to ask as kid....why should I pray only after having a bath? Why can't I pray before even brushing my teeth? or immediately after I come back from play when I'm sweating and muddy? I remember doing 'sandhya vandana' after my 'upanayanam' once or twice. To this day I do not know what 'gayatri mantra' means and why women are not supposed to chant it. And if women are not supposed to chant it how is it that T-Series makes a killing out of it by making Anuradha Paudwal sing it? I'm thankful to my parents that they didn't thrust their religious beliefs on me, didn't force me to pray daily, perform pooja and other rituals which have little meaning. Not that they are atheists, they'd tell me to believe in god, ask me to say the bare minimum prayers occasionally, be present during 'aartis', perform 'abhishekhas' and other such harmless things. They also instilled in me a great sense of character, discipline, independence, morals, ethics and many other characteristics which cannot be covered even in an entire different post altogether. I love them and feel lucky to have them as my parents.

But is good upbringing tightly coupled with being religious? Do we really need religion and god to be good? As I grew into my teens, and until my engineering I should say, I used to pray rarely and respect god. It was just one of those things I could take time out for easily but I never really gave it a serious thought and the belief in god was not strong. I always thought of rituals being illogical and having no meaning but was of the opinion that religion gave us a sense of right and wrong, taught us morals and ethics through the various vedas, puranas and epics. I thought as long as religion doesn't preach intolerance and violence, its a good thing to have. I was an agnostic. But one day my cousin showed me this video called 'Root of all evil' by Richard Dawkins and that video had me thinking about the truth value of god. It made me realise that the connection of morals, ethics, values and way of life to god and religion was absurd. I could lead a perfectly healthy, guilt-free, purposeful life without god. I could do away with god and be person with good character, a person who takes responsibility for his actions, knows what is right and wrong given the circumstances, has ethics, morals, values and a sense of direction in my life.

I have started reading a little on evolution, evolutionary psychology and have been fascinated by concepts like natural selection, kin selection, reciprocal altruism and the formation of social hierarchy among humans. I can appreciate human freewill and consciousness in world without god. I think that the theory of evolution is far more convincing than the god hypothesis. It makes a lot of sense and makes me a more responsible person, instead of just accepting things the way they are because god 'wants' it that way and I deserve it because of my karma. I hope people come out of their comfort zone of belief in god and realise that the god hypothesis has no truth value.

6 comments:

Pankaj Kulkarni said...

Good one, Kedar. Welcome to the enlightened club! Check out http://www.nirmukta.com for like minded Indians.

Cherish said...

When someone says "You cannot prove the existence of God," I want to ask, "How do you know? You just met me! How do you know what I can do?"

Alright!!!Now the question is,can anyone on the face of this earth prove that God does not exist? Kedar is not an atheist. He is what i would like to call a A Free Thinker A freethinker is one who thinks freely--one who is prepared to consider any possibility, and who determines which ideas are right or wrong by bringing reason to bear, according to a consistent set of rules such as the scientific method.

Another interesting thing to be noted here is isn't "belief in atheism (or science) still just an act of faith, like religion is?"

A study by the Freedom From Religion Foundation found that over 90% of the atheists who responded became atheists because religion did not work for them. They had found that religious beliefs were fundamentally incompatible with what they observed around them.

Atheists are not unbelievers through ignorance or denial; they are unbelievers through choice. The vast majority of them have spent time studying one or more religions, sometimes in very great depth. They have made a careful and considered decision to reject religious beliefs.

This decision may, of course, be an inevitable consequence of that individual's personality. For a naturally skeptical person, the choice of atheism is often the only one that makes sense, and hence the only choice that person can honestly make.

The word "deny" can be used to mean "fail to accept the truth of." In that sense only, atheists deny the existence of God. They are not "in denial," willfully ignoring evidence; nor do they necessarily positively assert the nonexistence of God.

All this said, what i personally feel is that God' existence does not need to be given a shape or a form.Nor does God have be to a He or a She.It is just faith and for it to survive one should not find the need to resort to relegious practises and customs.Definitely it's not a super power up in the skies who tells us to do good or bad.It is our up bringing and values,virtues nourished that contribute and make a person.

Then why believe or have faith in God is what comes to mind!I reach out to God when certain inexplainable things happen in my life,without the consideration of it being good or bad.Again,it's not just because i don't have an explanation.It's because i do believe that for God to exist,i don't need to see God,i don't need to be rewarded when i do something good or be punished when i do something bad.

Be it Theists or Atheists(strong or weak), one follows relegious practises while with their families or friends so that their sentiments aren't hurt.Some do it so as to be on the safer side of relegion and be guilt free.

So my point is,one should not believe in God because he/she is asked to do so.There is more to moral behavior than mindlessly following rules.

Even if you aren't persuaded to believe that God exists, my arguments may not be useless. It is reasonable to believe that the mountains are real and our memories are generally reliable and that other minds exist. It is reasonable to believe these things even though they cannot be proven. Maybe some argument for God's existence will persuade you that belief in God is reasonable.

God wants to be known. God created us with the intention that we would know God' existence. God has surrounded us with evidence and keeps the question of existence squarely before us.

Will talk much more about this.I am not done!!

kedar kulkarni said...

Well, there is not much to refute with what Cherish has to say as the points mentioned are contradictory in nature and tend to cancel each other out.
Let me also clarify before I begin that I am an atheist.
Cherish seems to seriously undermine the rationally and logically sound methodology of the scientific method when she relates belief in science to an act of faith. This notion is not correct. Science purely relies on reason and evidence to come up with an explanation of things (both tangible and intangible).
Cherish is totally helping the atheist cause when she says people are atheists by choice and their decision is careful and considered. Even if we take the skeptical personality argument (I'm assuming that skeptical personality is not being implied as a good thing by Cherish going by the tone of it), then how can 90% of the people have such a similar personality and react to the same situation in the same manner? The thing is that rational people are generally curious about things and are not satisfied with mystical explanations for phenomena. Hence the rational transition to atheism.
Cherish does agree that the concept of god is nothing but an act of faith, which implies there is no strong evidence, no scientific explanation for existence of god. An act of faith in god is like a crutch people like to hold on to even when it is not required. It is the faith that gives them support, consoles them in times of despair. But just because something is pleasing does not imply it is true. If that is the case then people should also sincerely start believing in unicorns, fairies, talking frogs and other characters from the fables small kids are entertained with.
I agree with Cherish that there are still things which are inexplicable and some can be attributed to the luck factor. Going by some of her lines Cherish seems to call god to what others would call luck.
Finally Cherish ends a decent comment (only on the basis of its English :)) with a rather lame argument that the existence of mountains, memory and other minds cannot be proven. Now without getting into the mind-body problem and the various philosophical interpretations of reality, I would like keeping things simple and hence feel that the last line of Cherish's arguments is not worth arguing.

The Kulkarni said...

My comment has nothing to do with this particular entry of yours.
I just saw your front page and found it absolutely hilarious that there's a five pointed star on the header section.
I thought that a person claiming to be an atheist would refrain from using a religious symbol right at the top of the page but apparently not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_%28symbol%29

Kedar Gadgil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kedar Gadgil said...

good on ya, mate! welcome (though a belated one) to the club :-)