The Scientific Indian

Fanatically irreligious?

A reader posted a comment suggesting that I was fanaticaly irreligious. He said,

“I am not sure why you have such a fanatic view against religion. It is man’s interpretation of it that has caused religion to be a cause of conflict. The concept itself does not have any reason for the conflict.”

and went on to make the customary statement about my maturity and sense of direction. The question is an important one so let me wade through my thoughts to expose my immaturity and lack of direction to a even wider audience. Feel free to counsel me.

The first of the guiding thoughts that I use while fumbling about is the one on hope. This thought, of course, is the crude version of the rich and wonderful humanistic ideas. Whatever is one’s degree of refinement, rational thought is more empowering and hope-giving than blind faith and religion.

The second of the guiding thoughts is intellectual honesty. Personal honesty and societal honesty. Societal honesty because we are all stakeholders in the society and we are responsible for what our society is now and what it will become in future. Honesty is not a virtue. It is the way forward. To live is to keep moving forward in our understanding. I have stated my thoughts on understanding earlier. This thought, once again, is nothing new. It is called Science.

The third guiding thought is to enjoy life. It is glorious to be alive. Spending my life as a hopeless faithful when evidence of the contrary is staring in my face is just plain nuts. This thought, of course, isn’t new. I don’t know what it’s called in learned circles so I can’t give you a pedia link for it.

Anyway, to summarize, all the above is my version of a common man’s philosophy of life. Even if I push it, it still falls a long way short of fanaticism, IMHO. We don’t have to be scientists or philosophers to appreciate the simple truths. We just need to be hopeful, intellectually honest and have a zest for life.

Comments

  1. #1 The Ridger
    December 18, 2006

    If the concept of religion includes “Believe what you are told to believe, without questioning, even when the evidence is against it”, then I’m sorry to tell him that the concept does in fact have “reason for the conflict”.

  2. #2 writerdd
    December 18, 2006

    I used to be a born again Chrsitian. It was about 12 years ago that I realized I no longer believed in the existence of God or anything supernatural. For years, that’s all there was to it. I was not interested in religion at all. But now I am anti-religious, primarily because of the political BS of the religious right, trying to shove their religion and dogma and juvenile black-and-white morality down the rest of our throats. If they had kept their religion private as it should be, then I would not be publicly speaking out against religion. But they had to try to control everyone else, and I just won’t put up with that. So that’s my story, for whoever might be interested.

  3. #3 Christopher
    December 18, 2006

    I share your reasons religious irreverence;

    I wonder if your notion of a “hopeless faithful” might not be miscontrued by people of faith to imply that they lack hope. Indeed, they have a great deal of (misplaced, IMHO) hope.

    On the third guiding thought – I think that a healthy dose of joy-for-life is part of what makes a good scientist. In words far more eloquent than I could ever come up with, scientists throughout history have painted the universe around them with joyful appreciation. One of the most thoroughly happy-to-be-alive-and-get-to-look-up-at-the-stars scientists that I can think of, Carl Sagan, was particularly good at conveying just how fortunate we are.

  4. #4 Dineshbabu
    December 18, 2006

    What is your opinion on Love, affection, Emotions, sentiments etc.? Is it just because Human body secretes those hormones or is it because our mind initiates it that Human body secretes those hormones following our thought. Do you see it as just science or something else?

    Curious question: Why does charity happen a lot at religious institutions? which is probably one of the most humanely things to do. I am not aware of an athiest group that do this , may be there is but I just don’t know. If you have an opinion, can you lighten us up on this?

    A opinion post on this will be appreciated.

    As long as you don’t go door to door as an athiest missionary try to stuff people with your ideas, I guess you are not a fanatic.

  5. #5 Sunil
    December 18, 2006

    Dineshbabu……three of the four “greatest” (at least in total monetary terms) philanthropists of the last and present century were/are agnostics/athiests. They are Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Andrew Carnegie.

    And there may or may not be “athiest” groups that do charity….but there are a huge number of fantastic groups that do wonderful work without bringing god or religion in to it. Start with Doctors without Borders.

    And they do it because they want to make a difference…and not because they want to go to heaven or are scared of hell.

  6. #6 selva
    December 19, 2006

    dinesh, an interview of Dawkins may throw some light on love, affection, etc in the light of rational thoughts. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyKqhvF-6tI (video in 3 parts)

    The question you ask usually stems from the assumption that love and affection cannot be studied scientifically. That’s not true. They can be studied scientifically and they are. I would certainly wish to keep learning the evolutionary reasons behind love, affection, etc. This would only increase my love and affection for, say, my family (because better understanding is never a bad thing, my second guiding thought). This might be mistakenly contrued as this ism. It’s not. My assertion is based on my understanding of free will and that’s a topic I am not yet familiar enough to discuss comfortably.

    Charity and religion aren’t twins. Religion has been co-opted by charitable feelings. Charity can stand alone and it does as Sunil points out above. If I ask a religious person whether they would carry on their charity even if they were not religious, I am certain the honest answer would be yes (Try it with someone you know. It’ll be fun.)

    Atheist missionary is an oxymoron.

  7. #7 Dineshbabu
    December 19, 2006

    Sunil/Selva, I didn’t know that Gates, Buffet and Carnegie are/were atheists. Whatever they have done/doing are phenomenal to our society. I am glad they are doing that.

    I saw one interview of Dawkins on youtube. There were 2 particular questions where he was not ready with a good answer. One was someone asking about what he would feel like if his daughter “separated” from him and the world for good. He only said he wouldn’t rejoice it, but didn’t speak out a rational answer for that. The other was when he defined Fundamentalism as the act of following one holy book. According to me, Fundamentalism is the act of sticking to a single idea, not being open to others and trying to shove down your ideas into others throats through violence or force and that idea includes “Atheism”. I can name several great people starting with Mahatma Gandhi who were religious and who were not fundamentalists as he portrays. I didn’t like his answers in these 2 situations. I don’t have the link, but you should be able to find it on youtube. I will also watch the one you have shown on the comment.

    The only thing I am afraid of is “Atheism” becoming another form of religion and causing more damage than healing. Do you remember Din-il-lahi (not sure of the spelling), Akbar tried to unite several religions. Gautama Buddha gave up Hinduism and became a monk who insisted on those doctrines of life. Instead of uniting people under that idea, it only created a new religion called Buddhism. According to me, to put an end to Religious hatred is to not adopt Atheism or any one religion for that matter, but to adopt tolerance and respect and perhaps privacy on people’s thoughts. That will do.

    I am sure your point of giving up religion and favouring Atheism is to support science and rational thoughts, but it will be more positive and have a greater impact if you just have science in your mind for the love of science and not because you had to choose science as an explanation, for you did not see the evidence of God’s existence. Honestly, you shouldn’t be worried about that. By saying this I am not trying to stop you from writing posts about Atheism, please do not mistake me, I am only pointing to what is good when you write to an audience who are not open minded. This is just my humble opinion. I am willing to take no or any other explanations that contradict my thoughts as an answer.

  8. #8 Sunil
    December 19, 2006

    Dineshbabu….to requote Selva’s concluding lines “Even if I push it, it still falls a long way short of fanaticism, IMHO. We don’t have to be scientists or philosophers to appreciate the simple truths. We just need to be hopeful, intellectually honest and have a zest for life.”

    this is not fanaticism. And how do you “prove” god? It is one of those things you can’t prove or disprove. What you can do though is keep god out of things which you can prove.

    And i’m not atheist. I’m not religious, and i’m not theist. But i’m more than open to someone convincing me that god exists

    Selva…..has a mind of his own, so has other ideas. 🙂

  9. #9 Dineshbabu
    December 20, 2006

    Sunil, I was not saying that Selva is a fanatic. I am not an atheist, I am probably a theist to an extent. But when I fall sick, I would rather go to a doctor first than pray God. I totally agree with Keep God out of things which you can prove.

    As for Scientific Indian, I am just seeing that for the past few posts, Selva has been posting rants on this topic. As a regular reader of his blog, I am expecting posts like “Microwaving a CD” or opinions on latest Nasa findings. That is where I meant, he shouldn’t worry about trying to prove/disprove God. It doesn’t matter. According to me it really doesn’t matter, if you derive pages of equations and prove God doesn’t exist. The only thing that results from such a thing is a cock fight between the two side. How can science improve the little things in our life, that is what I want.

  10. #10 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    December 20, 2006

    As long as you don’t go door to door as an athiest missionary try to stuff people with your ideas, I guess you are not a fanatic.

    Ah, I see that you’ve heard of John Safran.

    According to me, Fundamentalism is the act of sticking to a single idea, not being open to others and trying to shove down your ideas into others throats through violence or force and that idea includes “Atheism”.

    I’d prefer to stick to the dictionary definitions, and not redefine words to suit current purposes.

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