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The age old explanation of Atheism

What is with Atheists and their need to defend/ explain their position wrt to Believers, and Agnostics?

When I read a collection of essays by Douglas Adams, I found many he wrote about Atheism; and though his stand was logical and not explanatory or defensive, and in many cases dealt with interviews or requests thrust upon him, I still found it unsettling to have essays dedicated on explaining Atheism as opposed to Agnosticism and why it suits him. Tiring, actually, after a point.

Today, I came across the article by Amit Verma (India Uncut), where he talks about the same thing. Though the context is different and more moving (and truthful at unexpected moments), it struck me with a vague feeling of Deja Vu- only to realise it resembled the gist of Douglas Adams.
And I remember Adams because he is one of the better known authors who wrote a lot about it.

They all talk about what atheism actually is. "Not a belief in no God, but a belief that there is no God". OK, OK I get that. I also get that your aim in life is to educate people who have had the (mis)fortune not to read anything on the same topic till date. All the 6 billion plus humans need to be made aware of what real atheism is, and even if there is some overlapping in the media, you are ensuring more people become aware of it.

Or maybe, its a pet subject to write about. Like avid Christians will write about Christ and Muslims about Allah/ prophet M, you need to write about there being no God.

Or maybe you feel unique. This is the one thing that makes you feel special and unique and shows off your "different" point of view. I like this. Mainly because I have found atheism arise in households and cultures smitten by the idea of existence of God. The rebel nature of a member of the family to not abide by some asinine religious requirement labels him as a child, and soon after as an Atheist. In more temperate conditions, s/he may have been agnostic, or religious for all we know!

Afterall, what is religion? When you actually come down to it, its about a belief system which matches the rest of the social circle you interact in. Unless you are Madonna.(har. har.) A Bengali worships Durga not because s/he thought about it but because the celebration on a yearly basis is a cultural get together which brings the whole family and society together. A Bengali unexposed to Durga Puja wont really see the significance and might be a Vaishnav (as so many are). Same with all other religions.
I know of a person who found the element of Burqa exciting. She thus wanted to become a Muslim, and read the Koran etc. It did help that her parents were not very attentive towarsd her since childhood and turning to Islam made them think about their only daughter for a while. A rebel with a cause?

I will cut short the story here. All I say is, if you are an atheist, you are not alone. Most of the worlds population are Agnostics.
Religion is just a way of life and they could not care less, really, which God it is to whom they pray. A Protestant will go to a Catholic church when there is no alternative in the city. 'At least its a church', they think. A Hindu will go to any temple - Shiva, Kali, Durga, Vishnu... its a temple. And going to the Church/ Temple is more about a habit, a request by a person close to you, or a social engagement, than an inner calling to communicate with God. That develops much later, and again, by social conditioning in initial stages.
The 'daily prayer ritual' is also more about getting your thoughts together towards a certain need, or satisfaction of it, and a habit since childhood, than about talking to or thanking God.

If you are an atheist you will not attend the yearly cultural celebration(s) of where you live. Patriotism is also a sort of religion, if you are a fanatic about it. You will not have funeral rites, and you will personally figure out how to dispose of your body once you die - but that would be about it.

I believe almost everyone is an Agnostic, if not a theist. Everyone has a portion which has a belief and doubt over the existence of a higher authority - form unknown. Some make Physics their God, and some make Chemistry. Others go with conventional Super Heroes in the form of Jesus/ Mohammed/ Krishna/ Ram etc. And they do it mostly because their family/ their surroundings do so.

You know what they call people who try to tell you about their religion. The ones who send you free religious stuff.
You also know those who are from different religions and don't mention a thing about what they do - till asked personally.
Being an Atheist is a personal choice and belief. Keep it so, till someone asks, and then answer personally. You are not unique in being one or understanding its true meaning.

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
19th Jun, 2008 14:06 (UTC)
One other thing I've noticed..
The need to flaunt one's atheism, or to take to it as a form of rebellion seems to be more prevalent among followers of the Abrahamic religions. And it's understandable-given the literal interpretation and strict rules that come into the picture.
Hinduism on the other hand embraces even atheism as a school of thought. And by its very 'do your own thing' flexible and assimilative nature, an atheist need not feel threatened by religious beliefs and practices.
For eg,many of the festivals are now celebrated more as Indian festivals than with specific religious connotations.
There are aggressive atheists too-some of whom feel it is their duty to 'educate' mankind about the evils of religion and so on. Again-these come from a Judeo-Christian background.
The majority of self professed atheists in India would never feel such a need.
20th Jun, 2008 05:37 (UTC)
Re: One other thing I've noticed..
True. But you also see it in some Hindus. Mainly in families (grandparents included) which take strong belief in Gods and going to temple at the drop of a hat and praying till death (figuratively at least).

South Indian families especially it seems (its just that I know of some Tams and Telegus who take such stance. Im sure there are north, east and west Indians as well. %age seems lower) drive their young ones towards atheism with their "be a believer or else you are weird" stance.

As a logical follower of Hinduism I agree, but then Hindus who take it to extremes and follow the rules more than the philosophy (which Hinduism really is), are also susceptible to being 'rebel atheists'.

Take the India Uncut author for instance. (though he did declare himself a semi-agnostic in end)
20th Jun, 2008 06:26 (UTC)
Re: One other thing I've noticed..
That's one of the drawbacks of Hinduism- many people miss the forest for the trees when they over focus on rituals. I remember as a kid being told 'because I said so!' or 'shut up and pray' or whatever in reply to my questions about certain practices.
So it's quite possible for say, a shopkeeper, to devoutly worship Goddess Lakshmi, and yet maintain 2 sets of accounts, one for himself and a doctored set to show the taxman! And not feel any sense of hypocrisy by his actions.
Yes, since we are not required to do anything or read holy books, there are very few people who have actually sat and read the Vedas or Upanishads or the Gita or what have you, unless they're academic scholars.
It is possible today-for an educated person to sit and read any of these to ascertain the 'significance' of certain rituals. But even doing that doesn't mean I'm going to suddenly turn over a new leaf and start observing them.

Since I follow the 'cut the cackle' principle in everything in life, here's what I propose, at least for those who believe in god:
As per Hindu philosophy, God is everywhere including within oneself. So keep your faith internal, worship yourself(!) if need be, and by extension this renders all rituals and things superfluous. Reformers like Dayanand Saraswati have also expounded on a return to the Vedas and spurning of all such rituals. So QED!!
19th Jun, 2008 15:04 (UTC)
a few thoughts
Rexzilla, has stated an important facet, which i wanted to bring up, i.e that the hindu way of life embraces even atheism and agnosticism, and does not put pressure to believe a certain way.The far eastern religions also similarly take atheists in their stride, though this could be natural given their Hindu origins.
The problem arises with the more fundamental arms of the Islamic, Judaic and the catholic religions, where a non belief in god, is ascendant to heresy. And hence atheism is elevated to sin.
Atheism also comes across as a total distaste for all faith, whereas agnosticism still allows you to have faith.

P.S: Good post!, made me think! :)

20th Jun, 2008 05:41 (UTC)
Re: a few thoughts
About non-prophet religions and Atheism, see reply to Rex's post. I agree though that occurrences are more in prophet-based, strong rule-based ones.

I agree about the faith bit - but thats what God is - having faith. And a theist can be for any religion, similarly agnostic can be for any (usually, they don't care which) while like you said, atheists' faith, belief, and thus retribution, is a complete zero.

PS - Thanks :)
20th Jun, 2008 12:49 (UTC)
i think -
Liked the starting line! "Whats with.. ! " I think the basic mentality behind
this behavior is that its the " Uppy " thing in their eyes. Almost all atheist are well educated and part of a crowd we see in " Seva Cafe " . Ok, may be not almost all but majority I would say.
They have a need to highlight the fact that they are a part of that small group of ppl, it makes them feel different and also contributes to the 5th need in Maslow's Pyramid!
well, thats what I think and this contributes to My 5th need of the pyramid.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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