I come from a Hindu Brahmin family and have had a moderately religious upbringing. As a kid I remember praying to god daily after having a bath, and here pops up the very first question I used to ask as kid….why should I pray only after having a bath? Why can’t I pray before even brushing my teeth? or immediately after I come back from play when I’m sweating and muddy? I remember doing ‘sandhya vandana‘ after my ‘upanayanam‘ once or twice. To this day I do not know what ‘gayatri mantra‘ means and why women are not supposed to chant it. And if women are not supposed to chant it how is it that T-Series makes a killing out of it by making Anuradha Paudwal sing it?
I’m thankful to my parents that they didn’t thrust their religious beliefs on me, didn’t force me to pray daily, perform pooja and other rituals which have little meaning. Not that they are atheists- they’d tell me to believe in god, ask me to say the bare minimum prayers occasionally, be present during ‘aartis‘, perform ‘abhishekhas‘ and other such harmless things. They also instilled in me a great sense of character, discipline, independence, morals, ethics and many other characteristics which cannot be covered even in an entire different post altogether. I love them and feel lucky to have them as my parents. But, is good upbringing tightly coupled with being religious? Do we really need religion and god to be good?
As I grew into my teens, and until my engineering I should say, I used to pray rarely and respect god. It was just one of those things I could take time out for easily, but I never really gave it a serious thought and the belief in god was not strong. I always thought of rituals being illogical and having no meaning, but was of the opinion that religion gave us a sense of right and wrong, taught us morals and ethics through the various vedas, puranas and epics. I thought that as long as religion doesn’t preach intolerance and violence, its a good thing to have. I was an agnostic. But one day my cousin showed me this video called ‘Root of all evil‘ by Richard Dawkins (embedded below) and that video had me thinking about the truth-value of god. It made me realise that the connection of morals, ethics, values and way-of-life to god and religion was absurd. I could lead a perfectly healthy, guilt-free, purposeful life without god. I could do away with god and be a person with good character, a person who takes responsibility for his actions, knows what is right and wrong given the circumstances, has ethics, morals, values and a sense of direction in my life.
I have started reading a little on evolution, evolutionary psychology and have been fascinated by concepts like natural selection, kin selection, reciprocal altruism and the formation of social hierarchy among humans. I can appreciate human freewill and consciousness in world without god. I think that the theory of evolution is far more convincing than the god hypothesis. It makes a lot of sense and makes me a more responsible person, instead of just accepting things the way they are because god ‘wants’ it that way and I deserve it because of my karma. I hope people come out of their comfort zone of belief in god and realise that the god hypothesis has no truth value.
(Kedar Kulkarni is a computer programmer who blogs at http://kulkarnikedar.blogspot.com/)