June 19th, 2008

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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