Pseudoscience & Religion

From an Agnostic to an Atheist

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/)

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=9002284641446868316

About the author

Kedar Kulkarni

7 Comments

  • I was wondering,
    How did your parents/relatives,et al.
    react when told them that you were an atheist?
    Did they accept it or become frustrated or angry?

    Because I’m 14 years old, and it sucks to be an atheist at that age.
    Because everyone thinks you have taken the “wrong path in life”….and they start reprimanding you on “Why you should believe in God”

    I have explained numerous times that Im not going to deviate from my studies,sports,etc. just because im an atheist…
    But they don’t really listen, they have a false perception that atheism is somehow connected to rockstars, drugs, and such. (Although i’ve pointed out numerous times that many famous people ….like Richard Dawkins, Frederick Nietzsche
    Bill gates, Bhagat Singh, were all atheists or agnostics.

    They don’t listen or accept that fact that im an atheist.
    I don’t want to keep on pretending that I “believe” in God.
    and im fed up with religion and the fallacy of God.

    Suggestions? Advice?
    It would be appreciated.

    • Hi,

      First of all, its just great to know that you have a rational and free- thinking mind at a young age. It amazes me and also makes me feel happy. So great going on that front!

      Now i’m going to tell you something that would surprise or make you think of me as a ‘casual’ atheist: I have not told my parents upfront that i’m an atheist. But before you make any conclusions let me explain why this is the case and also be give you some suggestions on how to go about being an atheist. As mentioned in my post, religion and rituals were never thrust on me and hence i was expected to be a part of it although not actively involved. My mom did her best to instill in me the idea of god. But that didnt stop me from questioning the rituals, the meaning of the mantras and exposing the irrelevance of these things in our life. I didnt think that telling my mom upfront about my atheism would be a great thing to do as it would deeply hurt her and trouble her very much. i believed that putting my atheist beliefs ahead of my mom’s health wouldnt be a wise thing to do. After all, i can surely question the rituals and religion but i cannot question the intension with which my mom does it. our parents sacrifice a lot in the process of our upbringing. they give their best to satisfy our needs which takes a toll on their wish list items. Hence i decided to take it step by step. Its a fine balancing act where you have to not hurt your parents and also maintain your own independent thinking. i kept questioning about every aspect of the religion and rituals while being a part of it. Sure enough, my parents didnt know why many things were done the way they were done. When you do this over a long period of time you are essentially ensuring a smooth transition of your parents mindset about your religious beliefs. So the day you actually go tell them that you’re an atheist, they already are half expecting it and it doesnt come to them as a rude shock. I believe that going ballistic about you being an atheist at an early stage is not advisable in the indian context for two reasons: 1) its not too fair on the parents who do a lot to nurture their kids and have certain expectations from them who in turn give them this rude shock out of the blue about something that is very close to their hearts: religion. If you’ve already done this, dont feel guilty about it. Things will smoothen out in future. Be a good son/ daughter to them, make them proud and it’ll all be normal again.
      2) you’re are not well equipped to take on as well established an idea as religion in a head-on collision. When this happens what might happen is that your atheistic beliefs would be completely suppressed and things could easily escalate into serious trouble like strained parent-child relationship.

      So even though i think you dont need adivice on this issue as you’re the best judge of your situation and seem to be rational, here are a few suggestions if u’d like:
      1) Keep questioning stuff in a polite manner so as to bring out the irrelevance/ stupidity of rituals and religion.
      2) Try giving rational explanations to things when to see reasons like ‘but it was what god wanted’, karma etc coming into picture.
      3) do not ever loose your cool over the atheist issue.
      4) bring out the positives of a leading a rational life on timely ocassions. For ex. when you watch the news and come across people peforming ‘yagnas to invoke rain gods’ tell them about the futility of such efforts, or in the how the world would be a better place without the religious fundamentalism which takes the lives of innocent people thru terrorism.
      5) Although its not totally connected, it would interest you to read about evolution, listen to talks by Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Jonathan Miller.
      6) try playing down the concept of god in a humorous manner. but make sure u dont offend your parents in doing so. (ex: poking fun at god’s busy schedule while pointing at poor dying of hunger and the bad guys making all the money in the world that they dont deserve.)

  • Hi, Random Atheist.

    Yes, it must suck being an atheist at 14, because no one would ever take you seriously. But it’s good to know you have a skeptic mind. I too “turned” atheist by the time I was 13-14. But I would suggest you to have an open mind and “discover” your atheism more before you can pronounce yourself an atheist.

    You will realize by the time you are 20-25 that your world-views will change many times over as you discover newer information and theories, and you apply them using your own developed sense of logic and reason.

    As to what I did when I was you age: I didn’t tell anyone I was an atheist as I feared they would not understand and I would further fall into an abyss where my parents would stop trusting me and respecting me.

    Here is my advice to you: Don’t tell people you are atheist! (until you are at least 18-20). Meanwhile, keep questioning your parents/society about silly religious practices, rituals and superstitions. Maybe they will realize that they have no answers and hence might understand that your skepticism is reasonable.

    Trust me, it’s terrible when your parents lose faith in you, regardless of how less you care if that happens. SO play along. Do the silly things they want you to. BUT KEEP QUESTIONING THEM. And more importantly, tell them the REAL reasons behind seemingly supernatural phenomenon (for example, you can tell them how prayer works: http://bigotblog.wordpress.com/2009/02/15/the-logic-and-statistics-of-prayer/ ).

    Do excuse me for leaving links on my comments.

    • One good way of making your parents and peers take your atheistic views seriously is to induce them to visit websites like nirmukta.com.

  • Kedar,
    I was wondering what reasons you may have for believing in free-will. Is it because of the thought that without such freedom from natural causes we cannot speak of moral responsibility?

Leave a Comment