I was born in a typical Hindu family, brought up in an orthodox manner as is the custom in most parts of Southern India, learnt some of the hymns from the holy books by heart; wore the Srivaishnava Urdhva Pundra (or Sricharana) Tilaka everyday to school (for which I was ridiculed by my friends inside and outside the premises). Prayed for nearly 14 years until nothing, that I expected, happened. So was life; so did I spend half of my life living like a ram in a herd.
The Addled Child: In my 14th year, it occurred to me that when science could explain almost everything, why doesn’t it explain the existence of God? Well, that wasn’t the first time that I encountered Atheism. My first mutiny against ‘religion’ was 5 years before; it was the twelfth day of September 2001. I was getting ready to go to school when the news channels started flashing images and video snippets of people crying and lamenting; of dust and rubble; of buildings collapsing; people running hither and thither. My mother was tying my shoelaces.
‘What is that?’ I asked my mother.
‘You’re late already, stop watching the telly and leave’ she said.
Later that evening, I asked my mother about the news that was telecasted in the morning.
‘Amma, who destroyed those buildings?’ I asked (at 9 years old, I was quite not sufficiently equipped to understand the proceedings of the world you see).
‘They are Terrorists.’ she said, ‘They destroyed the buildings’. She also told me about this terrorist, Osama bin Laden (although she didn’t know much about him or the terrorist organisation run by him). It was hard for me to understand the reason. Many questions haunted me thenceforth; Why would anyone destroy such wonderful buildings? Why are the Americans being hated so much? Why’s there a political, social, and cultural unrest throughout the old world (which has extended into the new)?
Not until 2 years later that I realised that the act of terrorism was based on a religious discord and it had been that way for nearly a millennium before this. Terrorism, in the middle east, is not a religion, but it is striving to protect a more fundamental concept of Islam; to serve the purpose of the God (Jihad). Is it worth the death and destruction that it has been causing? All this for a God who has only been part of a book for over one and a half millennia. The Crusades or Jihad to the Christian and the Muslim worlds has had a long history of struggle and destruction even though the two religions, at the core, strive to be righteous and good, they are hardly able to be at peace.
From thence, I was on a collision course with God over traditional belief system. He could’ve averted the massacre, but he let it happen. Is God worth dying for? It certainly needs some careful deliberation.
An Affectionate Advice: One day, in my 14th year, I met a man whose name has eluded my memory. I was going home in a bus when he started a quick conversation with me.
‘What is the mark that you’re wearing on your forehead, young man?’ he asked.
‘It is a symbol of my faith, Sir’ said I.
‘Do you know the meaning of it? I don’t see many people branding themselves nowadays’
‘I’m afraid I don’t’ I said.
‘Well, you must know what you do’ he said ‘Why would you wear something that you’re not aware of? You’re a pious man!, I grant you that’ and gently patted my back.
‘Are you, Sir?’ I asked him ‘I mean, are you pious?’
‘I’m true to all the faiths’ he said.
‘Does it also imply that you’re not true to any?’ I said.
‘Not exactly. You see, I’m a Doctor and the dogmas of my profession show no proof of any divine intervention. Still, the process is somewhat imprinted in the rudimentary gene pattern of all lives. Impressive, isn’t it?’ he smiled ‘Does this make me pious? I really don’t know’
‘Alright then’ he got up and sighed ‘I’ve got to leave you to it. See you around!’
‘Faith is only a matter of personal preference, we made it up long before the first human walked the earth. Choose wisely!’ he said and waved me goodbye.
This made a huge impact on me. From then on, I stopped everything that I was doing to please God or walk the spiritual way. In the religion that I was born, Idol worship, Reincarnation, Karma among others are blind faith. It is sometimes hypocritical when family members use religion as a justification to make you do what they want you to do. Being an Atheist myself, I found it hard to comprehend the practices and reasoning that my religion provided me.
Like most Atheists, I’m not the one who refuses to read a religious doctrine; I just read too many. The world from an Atheist’s point of view is fantastically weird and simple. You feel alone in a vast group of believers. It was all fair and nice in the beginning when I had a good idea of God and thought he would be extremely helpful to my needs (praying wasn’t that hard after all). However, things changed profoundly over the last few years. Getting deeper into the concept makes you rethink the fundamentals of what you follow; makes you question everything, makes you think like a Maverick! It is better to find your own answers and make an educated decision than to intentionally remain uneducated and make a fearful one.
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?” – Epicurus
– Immortal Chiron