Paradox Paradise

Would you still call it nonsense, if sense exchanges its meaning with nonsense?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

God save goddamn atheists!

Of late, many Buddhas have been laughing. Laughing all the way to their banks. It’s of course a pleasant change. Atheism, today, is a very profitable, and thus successful, and thus desirable, business. Hemant Mehta, who authored the recent fly-of-the-stands I Sold My Soul on eBay, is one such blessed atheist. He claims to be a very friendly atheist; so friendly that he’s happy giving speeches even at churches. If they are willing to pay, that is. You can read him without paying a penny at Friendly Atheist and eBay Atheist.

I’m an atheist only as much as I’m a Christian, and that would probably categorise myself to be called a Hindu. Thank God! Atheists are only atheists! One fornicating atheist can differ in his or her reasoning from another, and still be saved from burning for eternity in hell. For that reason I’m free to agree or disagree with JP, who writes in Criminalenglish. He had posted an interesting read on the subject sometime back, which has some questions listed by Hemant Mehta, with JP’s own answers to them. These are questions that are commonly asked to atheists by the naturally sceptical theists. Theists, against popular belief, always look for rational answers. Well, not always, but for sure, always from atheists. Here are their logical questions rooted in Christian theology, and my not-so-very-logical answers rooted in a Christian upbringing.

Why do you not believe in God?
More or less for the similar reasons why I don’t listen to Britney Hilton or watch Bollywood movies. I don’t enjoy it; and I don’t feel it’s necessary. Call my answer a glib. Britney is not God, you might say. Thank God for that! I’m too kinda friendly sort to theists. Whenever one of those evangelic believers sincerely starts feeling sad for my soul, I reassure them with their own words. There’s nothing rational about faith. It’s God’s grace. You either have it, or you don’t. And if you are really worried about my rotten soul, please run to the next church, fall on you knees, and tell the God to courier one big piece of grace as soon as possible to my address. You will have to pay in hard cash at the Church; I don’t think they have started accepting credit cards.

If you want a theological reasoning, I can give you one. A very Christian one. I have my answer in Mathew 19:16-19. When a man came and asked Jesus, what should he do to have eternal life, he was asked to follow the Commandments. The man asked which commandments; and Jesus deliberately omitted the first three of them. The only three that has anything to do with God and Humans. The first three commandments tell that there’s only one god, and every one should believe only that god. Take your pick. Believe in your Bible, or believe in your God.

Where do your morals come from?

Thank you for assuming that I have some. I’m not a nihilist. The cardinal sins are my fundamental virtues. Lust help me to see beauty in every woman. Gluttony enhances my sensual pleasures. Greed differentiates living and surviving for me. Sloth saves me from the insecurities of the rat race. Wrath keeps the fire in me burning. Envy gives reasons for me to grow and look forward. Pride breaths life into me. Now, how did I realise that these are virtues, and not sins? Use your head, and you might find out.

What is the meaning of life?

Currently there are over 6 billion meanings that are strutting around. Some are similar, but never the same. You are free to choose what suits you. Life is existentialist.

Is atheism a religion?

What’s that you call a religion? A set of canonical, irrational laws? A group of meaningless rituals? A parasitical clergy? A huge mass blindly follows an irrational way of living? In those terms, atheism has a long way to go to qualify itself as a religion. Atheism is almost as old, or even older than, theism. There were well established atheist schools of thought that denied the existence of a creationist God as early as in 500 BC in India. There was even the classification of atheists who believed in the scriptures and those who don’t. Samkhya and Mimasma sects of Astika school and Buddhism, Jainism, and Charvaka sect of Nastika school of thought. Even the theists were rational sceptics. “You should reject an illogical task like a straw even if the order comes from Bhrahma,” said Brahspati, one of the authors of Rig Veda. Regard only that which is an object of perception, and cast behind your back whatever is beyond the reach of your senses,” wrote Maharshi Valmiki in Ramayana. The rationalist philosophy, unlike what Christians believe, is a few centuries older than Plato. And there were people who debated about enlightenment, a few millennia before Emmanuel Kant gather up the courage to ask, “What is enlightenment?

If you don’t pray, what do you do during troubling times?

If you pray hard, you won’t miss the bus, and the boat. When I was younger, that’s when I was in school; I was a very pious theist. For six years I defied the universal law – children walk to school and run back home. The distance to my school was about 800 meters, and situates over a hill that looked steeper than Everest in those days. All of 183 steps to the courtyard. The regular school assembly started at 9:50 and ended at 10:10. The teacher arrived in the class, if he also is not late for school, at 10:13, giving you three crucial minutes to sneak in. And I used to, very promptly, leave for school at exactly 9:57, with a bag that weighed about 3-4 Kg. En route, there were four dog-points where unchained dogs waited. One has to slow down, not to invoke the wrath of the holy canines, even if he’s trying to break the record of 24 Remember, o gracious Virgin Marys in 7 minutes. Praise thy lord! The dogs, and the teachers, never barked at me on a single day for 6 years! The dear Lord was also manipulating the question papers and already written answer sheets for these 6 years, for a charge of one rupee per paper, and five for a really badly attempted one. Let me testify once again that it had worked perfectly. But later, I figured out it would be a great kindness, if I give enough respect to my efforts. I really don’t think 24 Remember, o gracious Virgin Marys in 7 minutes would have teleported me, or God had changed the printed questions or written down answers. Now, I pray to give me back my money.

Should atheists be trying to convince others to stop believing in God?

Those who has strong sense of social responsibility, and genuinely worried about the exploits of religion should. As for myself, I believe strongly in individual responsibility.

Weren’t some of the worst atrocities in the 20th century committed by atheists?

Yes. Just some, though. Most of the atrocities were committed by committed believers. Mussolini was almost a good Christian by the time he was the dictator. Hitler too by no means was an atheist. Neither is George W. Bush. Or Shimon Peres. Or Osama Bin Laden. And why specifically 20th century? May be to avoid the discussion on Crusades and Inquisitions and the Churches’ whole-hearted support to colonisation, I think.

How could billions of people be wrong when it comes to belief in God?

That’s a very democratic way of trying to win the argument. And reason to believe Christianity is the right religion as of now. It’s not a question of majority, and even if it is, the theists are at the losing end. Because, I believe no one really believes in God, whichever religion they belong to. Believers support the rituals in the mere hope of that might help, and for the lack of balls to take any risk in life without it. If you disagree, show me one person, ever lived or living, who followed every word of the scriptures of his or her religion as it is written.

Why does the universe exist?

Now, don’t expect every atheist to be an evolutionary physicist. It was there thirty years back, and I hope it’ll be there for another 30 years. That’s more than I could ask for.

How did life originate?

Mine? My daddy and mommy copulated, I think. An amoeba just heard the question and you got it into splits. Whether it was the chicken or the egg first originated, neither would sing hallelujah, for sure.

Is all religion harmful?

Is the kitchen knife in the hands of a rapist harmful?

What’s so bad about religious moderates?

Are opportunism, hypocrisy, and passiveness to exploitation also taught as great religious values?

Is there anything redeeming about religion?

Yes. Some believers do get enlightenment, open their eyes and might start using their heads before maggots start feasting on their brains. All the egalitarian philosophies are rooted in religious values and talks against the fallacies.

What if you’re wrong about God (and He does exist)?

In that case, She will have one less person lamenting to her.

Shouldn’t all religious beliefs be respected?

Of course. But not without including all the contradictions. Once you are managed to do that with a sensible head, that might make enough sense to give up almost all the beliefs.

Are atheists smarter than theists?

I think so. No atheist will be sceptical enough to ask, ‘Are theists smarter than atheists?’

How do you deal with the historical Jesus if you don’t believe in his divinity?

You mean, Biblical, I guess. Well, I like that guy a lot. When asked to turn stones into bread, he said, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’ (Mathew 4:4). And when asked to turn water into wine, he said, ‘Fill all the pots with water’ (John 2:7). How can I not like him? He also said, ‘the Sabbath is made for man, and not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27). Isn’t this philosophy any less existentialist?

Would the world be better off without any religion?

To me, it would mean no more festivals! No poorams and utsavams. No pooja holidays. No Christmas. No long weekend on Easter. (Now you know, why they call it the day Christ was crucified a Good Friday.) I’ll better opt to have all religions and it’s stupid believers around.

What happens when we die?

“What do I care? Put me in an oil expeller and run the mill, if you want,” answered the wise Sri Narayana Guru, when asked how his body should be treated after his samadhi. “If a beast slain in the Jyothishtoma rite will itself go to heaven, why then does not the sacrificer forthwith offer his own father?” Asked Charvaka. If I they are going to do what I ask, I would ask them to turn my body into fine ash in an electric crematorium, and put it in a toilet and flush it proper. One has to live all his life amidst thick shit. And just by the time he starts to feel okay with it, you shouldn’t make him feel out of place. I just hope they won’t leave my body in a morgue full of necrophiliacs. Not because, I’ll suffer from agraphobia after death, but only because I’m hedonistic to the core.

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At Fri Aug 31, 12:00:00 pm, Blogger dharmabum said...

i'm not at all an atheist. not coz i have any strong religious values, but coz i intuitively feel the existence of something beyond what my senses perceive.

i like this post. lots of thinking, lots of food for thought.

correction - it is charvaka.

At Mon Sep 03, 01:39:00 am, Blogger Ridwan said...

As usual you have me reading close, thinking, laughing, remembering.

Great stuff Jubin George. I have not quite seen Christ and the religion(s) in these terms.

I spent a week or more with a friend who is a follower of Sai Baba not too far from where you live. Puttaparthi.

I am not a follower of his.

I was amazed at the construction around Sathya Sai Baba. At a Christmas address, he said he was God and that Jesus was his son.

Not too far from him was a Nigerian priest who had just talked about Jesus and his influence in his life.

Sai Baba nodded through the priests talk. Like he was showing us that he knew. He approved.

I don't want to step on toes, but it was a bit too much for me.

My friend is a follower and we argued and agreed to differ.

I spent 7 days in Puttaparthi and worked on my blog for hours until we returned to Bangalore.

I was tired by then. Tired of religion and posturing.

An old story ... and a retelling by one of the 6 billion.

Religion only has the meaning we attach. Outside of that ... it is meaningless.

Peace and struggle,

At Wed Sep 05, 01:57:00 pm, Blogger Jubin George said...

dharmabum: Your reasoning to believe in god reminds me of a statement from a Kurosawa movie. It was something like this, "If you are not scared of darkness, you lack imagination"

Once a very dear friend of mine told me, "if you believe in yourself, you are believing in God, whether or not you understand it" Personally, I have nothing against god, or people who believes in it.

And thanks a lot for pointing out the mistake. Will correct it right now.

Ridwan: I can't agree with you more. Religion is very personal, and subjective. And it's perfectly fine as long as it remains personal. But it's never been ONLY personal, and that has been, and is, a big trouble.

At Fri Sep 07, 12:47:00 pm, Blogger D said...

I'm a believer: I believe in myself. I don't believe in religion, but I believe in my God.

That, however, does not make this post any less interesting.

At Tue Sep 11, 04:51:00 pm, Blogger Jubin George said...

d: If you have a set of morals to live by, that can be counted as your religion. No one has the right to question that. When that moves from the personal level, it's a different matter all together - whether or not God exists.

At Sat Oct 06, 10:16:00 am, Anonymous dhanya said...

I wish people, and when I say people, I mean our so-called political religionists, if only they thought like you Jubin.

:) Well Written and well-quoted! :)

At Thu Nov 22, 05:00:00 pm, Blogger Gauri Gharpure said...

good post..

At Thu Nov 22, 05:06:00 pm, Blogger Gauri Gharpure said...

by atheist, do u not believe in God, or u dont believe in the orders of relgious codes and conducts which sprang out of the faith? By atheist, do u deny the existence of a labelled higher presence (be it christ, hanuman, shiva, or whtever names i can think of) and rather choose to relate to some abstract power, which u do not asscociate with any other so-called forms of prayer or religion?
I feel no one can be a perfect athiest, for i perceive theism to be simply a platform to put our worries, hopes or expectations on a higher, abstract level and get rid of the troubles we face for the time-being... it's more of an escape and comfort zone than anything else...


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