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Atheism, Morality

My religious views

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I am against organized religion. Have been for ages, even before I knew what it was exactly I was against. The whole idea of certain specific rites to be performed and certain ideas to be held sacrosanct over and above us mere mortals even if it was proved time and time again that those views were false made me very uncomfortable. Having been brought up as a Hindu, I was always taught to respect all religions as they were all a way to god or nirvana or whatever. But then I’d read about some of the things believers in various organized religions had done in the name of their faith, and I’d struggle to comprehend it. How was it that beliefs that were supposed to bring you close to mental peace and god could turn man into violent barbarous animals? The Inquisition, the treatment of the Native tribes in the American continents, the persecution of the Jews, the Crusades with the innumerable atrocities committed by both sides, the terrorism in Punjab and now Islamic terror all over the world apparently; the list went on and on and I was always finding something more vile and evil done by someone or some group in the name of his/their faith. It’s not as if Hinduism was free of blame, but most of its ills had a more societal than religious sanction, and that is why at least some of its evils were eradicated to a greater or lesser extent.

My purpose in examining this question back then and now was not to vilify any religion or group, that would serve no purpose. What I wanted to work out was why people were committing these heinous acts, such that they otherwise would find abhorrent to the highest degree. I looked at religion as the culprit. I saw how it could whip up sentiment to such a degree that normally mild-mannered persons turned into bloodthirsty savages. More than self, family, nation, class, more than anything else, religion could ask for the highest sacrifice in the name of danger to its existence. I remember it being remarked about how Indians took all sorts of abuse from the British East India Company but balked when their religious principles were being compromised. So what is it about religion?

Religion has a number of things going in its favour. Firstly, it panders to our deepest fear, the fear of death. The final unknown. The one great mystery. We all at some point or the other think of death and wonder what, if anything, lies beyond that last, ragged breath. And voila! Religion provides us with an answer. Heaven, paradise, jannat, swarg, call it what you will. It is the ultimate panacea, a place where all your desires will be met and all you want will come true. It is the culmination of all your dreams and desires. Eternal bliss is what religion offers after the pain of death. But, there is a catch! Depending on which religion you belong to, you have to obey certain rules, guidelines, laws, and commandments to qualify for that heaven. All you need to do is to follow these blindly and everlasting happiness will be yours. Nothing atheism could offer could even get near this! And of course, to avoid shifts to other religion, disbelief in your particular god is the greatest sin. The one unforgivable cardinal sin, which will damn you to the unimaginable tortures of hell forever. Quite a strong hold, I must say! On the one hand you have death with all its associated fears and on the other paradisiacal redemption. Quite an easy choice.

Then there is the hope religion offers even while you’re alive, of an omnipotent god who watches over you and keeps you safe from all harm. Not a very well thought out plan if you think about it, but religion has amended this principle over the ages to keep in time with the changing mores of the age. Whenever you feel bereft and all alone and helpless, religion is there to offer you a shoulder. It comes with a price but at that moment, you grab at whatever you find. Quite a few born-again religious converts talk about this magical succour they got from religion when they were at their lowest ebb. Of course, if they thought about it, anything that remotely offered a prop to them at that time would have been grasped at with both hands. But through all your perils and pitfalls, your unconscious errors and conscious sins, there’s a great hope in the idea that someone’s got your back, and someone as powerful as god at that!

The more I thought of it, the clearer it became. Every religion started out as a means of making man happier in his surroundings, at peace with himself and his circumstances and actions. Then later, it started making man feel guilty for all the same things. Every pleasure became a sin, a crime man had to atone for, and since he was continuously doing the same things, he had to atone again and again. So keeping man guilty and promising him freedom from recompense for the actions that made him guilty became another reason for religion’s hold on us.

Then there is the permanency religion offers man. In a world where everything changes, now at an ever increasing pace, we often find ourselves adrift, rootless, floating from one rock to another, trying to find something solid enough to lay roots in. There has to be something fixed and stable for man to stand on and look at the world from. This is another void religion fills quite efficiently. It provides its own version of the ‘eternal truth’ and asks us to take those words as the ‘word of god’, immutable and unchanging. Desolate and rootless, we hang on to this word, another last straw that religion gives a drowning man. But, the problem arises when the world changes and the rules laid down by the god of a particular religion don’t make sense anymore. That would seem a dilemma, but religion rolls over it like a juggernaut. To admit a mistake or to make a change in any religious doctrine would mean an automatic acceptance of the mutability and hence impermanence of god’s laws. So religion refuses to see the light and holds out against any and all scientific and most if not all social challenge. And there lies the root of religious fundamentalism. It has to define itself within hard rigid lines and thereby demarcate the insiders and outsiders clearly. The stronger the delineation, the greater is the divide, and the more the antagonism. So, the Abrahamic religions, with their strong sense of self and non-self make for more fundamentalist positions. Religion gives man a sense of exclusiveness and a feeling of being better than a fellow human being, and that contempt only leads to animosity and hostility. With a religion teaching that, can war, destruction and terror be far behind?

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About hbhatnagar

I need to fill this up with much better content than I had populated it with earlier. Why I write a blog maybe? I started blogging in 2009 or thereabouts. I was a newly turned atheist and wanted to converse with others of the same persuasion. We're not exactly a big population group in India! It didn't go very well and I sort of lost interest, posting a few things now and then. I got a lot more regular over the last few months and have been posting almost daily since February '15. There were many reasons why I gradually became more regular in posting, but one way or the other, here I am! So this blog has taken shape, being at different points in time my showcase, my comedy club, my art gallery, my book club, my therapist, my close friend, my innermost self....but always my little corner of the world. You are all welcome to visit and I hope you stay awhile! A few points about me because I don't want to lead anyone on(and trust me this does become an issue more often than I'd care to admit). I'm Indian, the brown-skinned variety; if race, ethnicity or skin colour is an issue, you don't have to get to know me any more than what you see on my blog. I'm 40, so if age is an issue, please be informed accordingly. I was a doctor, an ophthalmic surgeon for 10 years before I quit practice.

Discussion

7 thoughts on “My religious views

  1. Oh My God can one love something so much and yet disagree with it totally…please pardon me but i have some holes i want to poke but i do love the curiosity and if it helps i too do not believe in any one organised religion ok let me start….i hope you don’t mind that i quote you word for word.
    “But then I’d read about some of the things believers in various organized religions had done in the name of their faith, and I’d struggle to comprehend it. How was it that beliefs that were supposed to bring you close to mental peace and god could turn man into violent barbarous animals?”
    In this sentence you act as though religion has no good accredited to it and quite frankly why do you even blame religion this is a matter of people bad and good religion is just a neutral tool, you can use it to save orphans like Mother Teresa or kill people in the name of a holy war or whatever.Religion is just a guide you are the one who ultimately picks its direction blame the people not the religion.

    “religion could ask for the highest sacrifice in the name of danger to its existence”
    come on since when was asking for sacrifice such a bad thing and any kind of dogma does the same.Haven’t scientists died in the name of science? Whats wrong with that and again religion is not to blame even if it asks for this sacrifice you can always say no or there could even be a misinterpretation sometimes religion doesn’t ask for the sacrifice people sometimes make mistakes and give even that which isn’t given.

    “Depending on which religion you belong to, you have to obey certain rules, guidelines, laws, and commandments to qualify for that heaven”
    why do you sound like religion asks us to do such bad things some of these rules we are to obey are good for us why are you turning it into something so ugly, whats so wrong in following a rule that says you should not kill?
    And if you find certain rules absurd or wrong you are not forced, you have free will just choose the right thing.

    ” of an omnipotent god who watches over you and keeps you safe from all harm.”
    ok this is such an overstatement, most religions’ deities usually don’t offer protection against all harm in fact all they offer is that you will be happy if you do what is prescribed and that everything will be ok not safe, in fact most religions acknowledge the fact that bad things will and can happen.But i really don’t even know why its hard for you to believe the part that something/one or some great unknown is watching over you i mean we are all constantly in danger but this danger doesn’t come to us always now does it?

    “Then later, it started making man feel guilty for all the same things. Every pleasure became a sin, a crime man had to atone for”
    ok here i feel that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what religion preaches, most religions celebrate pleasure e.g kama sutra they just don’t advise it in excess or in perverted fashions like pedophilia .

    “To admit a mistake or to make a change in any religious doctrine would mean an automatic acceptance of the mutability and hence impermanence of god’s laws.”
    Not really admitting a mistake could just mean that the teachers of the religion had misunderstood, religion though i do think is created by a Higher Being you must remember that it is practiced by faulty humans and we can make mistakes but that doesn’t impinge on the religion itself.Its like if for years teachers taught that 2+6=99 when we discover the problem it doesnt mean that math has all of a sudden lost its mutability or that math had a problem, this kind of mistake is all about the faultiness of the mathematician not the math.right?

    I think this was more of a venting on bad experiences you’ve had with religion you managed to list all the bad things you can find about religion but if you truly are impartial you ought to also consider the good it has done before you write it off completely.That would be a more accurate analysis.

    i really did like this piece.

    Like

    Posted by impostorpawn | 04/08/2015, 1:35 AM
    • First, let’s make a list of the good and bad done in the name of religion, just a rough count of people killed and saved in the name of religion. Second, religion isn’t neutral, read any religious text from the bible to the quran. Killing infidels, kafirs, mlechchas is sanctioned by all religions. Religion isn’t an absolute, it’s a human construct.
      Killing in the name of religion is what I had in mind. From Joshua to Mohammad, religious leaders ask people to kill in the name of whatever god they chose to believe in. Mother Teresa? Watch a documentary o her called “the dark angel” or something, then we’ll talk. The Dalai Lama? Go see museums in Ladakh of Tibetan artifacts, including musical instruments made from the bones of killed “enemies”. You think brainwashed people can say no? Read about the Princeton psychological studies, about Manson, about Pol Pot and so many others.
      Some of those rules are good? Name a few? It’s not crime to kill a Kafir, that’s a rule. It’s ok to cheat and lie to a kafir, that’s another. Kill all the Ammonites and the Jebusites, every man, child, old, cripple, cow, dag, cat, but leave the unmarried women alive so you can divide them among your army as spoils of war. That’s god’s command as well. Who says “thou shalt not kil?” At best it is limited to people of your faith, though even there, different sects are sanctioned by the same “god-given rules” to kill each other.
      Happy? By killing you as a child? Or giving you an incurable disease but not killing you outright? The examples would be endless, but even if you posit there was some beneficent god, that still won’t prove he/she exists. Believing the “person/thing” is hurting you for your own good is the most masochistic idea one could fixate upon.
      Religion isn’t created by a higher being. We just choose to believe that and blame people for misinterpretation when awful things form our own religious texts are forced into the debate. And you really think religion changes its ideas? The Catholic church still officially doesn’t believe in evolution. Biblical literalists still believe the earth in 6000 years old. The sharia is still regarded as the perfect legal system, which says it isn’t a crime for a husband to beat his wife.
      I haven’t had any bad experiences with religion, I was lucky enough to grow up among people who were broad-minded and humane. And I haven’t posted these article in a snit. I stand by what they say. I could keep giving examples of religious evil, but I think I’ll stop here.
      Read about religions, any religion and then see if you still hold to what you believe about them.
      I’ll look forward to your reply! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by hbhatnagar | 08/08/2015, 10:09 PM
      • i will take you up on your challenge and i will read up but i think you should too and not just reading atheist manifestos but really fact checking because some people just see what they want to see and personally i think most texts bashing religion are heavily biased and sometimes misconstructions, faith and religion are very complex things i dare say the primitive eye of an empirical scientist isn’t equipped to analyze such material.Anyway, In the beginning you said let’s make a list of all the good and bad things religion has done ,of which you didn’t do might i add.This is just a list of the bad ,i know you oppose but there is good that religion has done. And i wish you wouldn’t weigh up good and bad or people as if one life is equal to another or one good deed has the same opposite effect of one bad deed.Morality doesn’t work like physics and neither does it follow Newton’s laws.One good act will never equal one bad neither does one life equal another.This is never a matter of any kind of weighing scale.One good act surpasses one bad act by miles and miles.
        And i know a beneficent God as you called it doesn’t mean the ‘God’ exists but neither does it take away from the good that this ‘God’ has incited, right?
        And believing that something that hurts you is for your own good isn’t just masochistic, by that logic child birth is masochistic and i think you can agree that is the farthest thing for the truth.Something hurting you or having to sacrifice yourself for something is not delusional, crazy or masochistic at all.I’d die for my family in a heartbeat does that make me masochistic?
        Pain isn’t always a negative thing and humans are complex we aren’t like animals just looking to derive pleasure and avoid pain.we can be happy in instances of pain and pleasure and that is not a crazy thing its perfectly normal. Sometimes you need to struggle to learn the value of things, this isn’t a fairy world where we get everything we want and wish for don’t treat it as such.
        And yes i do think religions could be human constructs and because i know humans aren’t all bad from that i can infer that religions aren’t all bad too right? That is if religions truly are human constructs which i haven’t quite found concrete proof on.

        Like

        Posted by impostorpawn | 09/08/2015, 1:19 AM
      • I have read enough of religion and religious texts, including “divine writing”, from the Old testament to suras to some vedic texts as well. It’s not bashing, it’s just quoting. The eye of the scientist is as “primitive” or advanced as the eye of the fanatic, the brain is however a different matter. The bad of religion can fill pages of lists of genocides. Name one genocide in the name of science. Morality works exactly like that, or it ought to if it is supposed to work. So you’d rather focus on the good or the bad, depending on whether you wanted to feast or filet the subject?
        I am not even talking about the putative god here, he existence or nonexistence is the subject of many other posts. Even positing that he did exist, the only explanation for the existence of evil in a “god made” world is that humans are too stupid to comprehend the reasons behind god’s actions. He moves in mysterious ways indeed! Child birth is an accident of evolution and if the pain were such a great thing we wouldn’t be researching ways to make the pain more bearable. You might die for your family, you might think it’s the right thing to do. I wouldn’t, say, if your family were a family of drug lords or killers or hard-core criminals. If you still hold that dying for your family is right then we can’t fault anyone dying for any cause.
        As for how more “complex” we are compared to “animals” look into research on the issue, Not even new research, stuff written a couple of decades ago. The pleasure principle is paramount for all species, including us primates. Members of most mammalian species act the way we do and choose pain, but that is another point of genetics. You might die for your family, but how motivated would you be to die for some random people half-way across the globe? This isn’t a fairy world, I know that in spades, thank you very much. But don’t tell me that the pain is for my own good. Religion has been trampling on the less fortunate human beings for centuries with that same pap.
        Humans aren’t all bad, true enough. Ideas can be all bad though.
        You haven’t found concrete proof that religion is a human construct? Can it exist without humans believing in it? As proof look at the myriad religions that aren’t followed today!

        Liked by 1 person

        Posted by hbhatnagar | 09/08/2015, 7:02 AM
      • ok so lets say you have many religious texts including the ‘divine writings’ but why do you think you are so infallible?
        I mean it is possible that you did not understand them right? or is that not possible.
        And i kind of think fertilization of eggs just for the purpose of stem cell research harvesting from embryos does qualify as genocide in the name of science and that has happened. But that’s that.
        Again the question of the infallibility you impose on yourself and mankind why?
        why is the possibility that there are things we can not comprehend so difficult for you to handle.You’re like a blind man who says if i can’t see it then it doesn’t exist what if you really are blind?
        There are so many things we don’t understand simply because we don’t why is this particular case of the existence of God such an exception for you? Honestly i think this is a bad case in overestimation of self and overconfidence in science.And i am not saying that i’m right because i know there is always a possibility of making a mistake but what exactly makes you or humans so ‘clever’ that even the thought that you (we) might not be capable of understanding something seems so preposterous to you?
        And you know what, maybe i haven’t read enough of all the studies in the last decade about the Freud or heck maybe i didn’t understand but honestly humans aren’t as hedonistic as you think. I read this book by Victor Frankl a psychologist who was a Jewish captive during the holocaust and he said with first hand information the pleasure principle really doesn’t hold as a general rule of thumb (especially in the controlled circumstances he was in when he was in the concentration camps when it was paramount as you called it to seek pleasure and avoid pain but still others engaged in behavior that prescribed the absolute opposite) and that’s the thing about human studies just because something holds in your control group doesn’t mean you have to impose it on the rest of us, like i said humans are way complex and we differ.
        And i never said childbirth is great i said pain has its purpose and just because we are researching how to mitigate it doesn’t mean pain doesn’t serve a purpose although i never knew that childbirth pain is an accident of evolution but i’ll read up on that too. And i never said pain is for your own good i just said it has a purpose some of the pain we have gone through really shapes us and makes us the appreciate things more but if you honestly think all the pain you have gone through is useless to you that’s fine but again don’t generalize it because i have benefited from my pain and i wouldn’t want it taken away or to not have gone through it.
        And then again i don’t know why according to you if my family are drug lords they don’t deserve my sacrifice? I don’t think it matters what they do if i wanted to save them because i love them what does their bad acts have to do with anything?Or is it only logical to save ‘good’ people, is that it?
        And for your last q the q can religion exist without humans believing in it is not one i can answer i’m sorry. I think you probably wanted me to concur because if a religion has died(if you can even say that)then it’s because humans don’t follow it anymore but i think that’s a faulty conclusion because just because we’ve only ever seen religion followed by humans doesn’t mean humans are the sole origin and sustenance for it.This brings me back to the q of infallibility you can only get to that conclusion if you really think of yourself to be infallible and only consider humans when talking about religion which might not the case. Reality is so much bigger than what our eyes can see and what our machines can record and i am not saying that we are eternally dumb and can’t progress or shouldn’t even try to but rather with all that we know and have we should also consider that there is so much that we indeed do not know and might never know doesn’t make it lose its existence and with everything you say you should keep that in mind, that’s all. There is always the possibility no matter how slight that religion isn’t only a human enterprise or isn’t there?
        Let me analogize this lately i have been reading some recent breakthrough proofs on some mathematical conjectures and no i am not the sharpest tool in the shed so its taking a while but what i did get from it is that just because a problem hasn’t been solved yet doesn’t mean there is no solution and sometimes you don’t have all the information so you cant make these executive conclusions and in that last q that you asked especially i think i do not have all the information.
        I am truly sorry about this long reply ill try shortening next time. Good day.

        Like

        Posted by impostorpawn | 09/08/2015, 7:31 PM
  2. What an amazing post! Very well thought out. I may link to this, if that’s alright.

    Like

    Posted by Nate | 26/09/2011, 11:30 PM

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