Pseudoscience & Religion

Where infidels don’t scream…

I’ve often been told by friends or family that the way in which I decide to express my dissent about religion, affecting society is quite detrimental. There is much profanity, there is much name-calling and accusations and unpleasant things that I bring up which portrays every religious individual, including the moderate who hardly practice any of the rituals, in bad light. While everything I have been told about my approach may be valid, I also find it unfair that as an non-religious individual I get to be critiqued so much whereas the same does not necessarily apply to the religious, regardless of what faction of religious an entity one is, be it an everyday right winger, a moderate, an agnostic or a conservative.

I’m going to try and explain myself in simple words, in order to justify what I do and why I believe I need to do it. Before we even get started, there are some nonsensical absolutes that we need to get rid of from the platform of discussion in order for this article to make sense.

1. Not every religious person is a fool and/or a devious person.

2. Not every atheist/agnostic individual is an angel, either.

3. The manuals of religious practices or say the scriptures do lay down some rules which are standard guidelines for morality. (Although they may not necessarily be objective all of the time)

Having established this as a baseline assumption, let’s investigate why atheists are for most parts looked at as, angry and unpleasant people when it comes to religious ideologies in society.

1. Religion as an idea is an absolute. It claims infallibility. There is a problem with any idea, be it political or otherwise claiming infallibility. Extra-Ordinary claims require extra-ordinary evidence.

2. Criticism of religion is criminalized in most countries across the world. Blasphemy laws exist in a lot of developing nations, including our own, India.

3. Modern ideas/movements like race equality, feminism, LGBT rights are all incompatible with almost every other theistic doctrine out there in the world, with rare exceptions, every now and then.

Essentially, you have a system which assumes the framework for morality to be proprietary to its presence and influence. However when you investigate the details of it, it does not hold up to its claims of superiority. When this is questioned or critiqued, the ideology shields itself by claiming persecution of that idea is a persecution, in total, which it clearly is not.

Let me elaborate with an example from the late George Carlin…

1. Contraception and birth control are illegal since god made sex for creating new life. It is not for us to stop creating new life and use it for pleasure alone, which is evil.

2. Naturally speaking, by this very same logic queers should be allowed to participate in sexual activity because they are the only section of people who cannot have an abortion (excluding lesbians for the moment, who may use artificial insemination) but they are not because sex with the same gender is illegal so their lifestyle is illegal as well. The strongest lobby who can never have an abortion, even if they wanted to do not seem to be natural allies to the idea of pro-life proponents.

In the above example, by definition you can see how a particular set of individuals who naturally fit into the requirements of a religious ideology, are still discriminated because another idea contradicts it. Yet when we question this using this very same logic, everyone is up in arms about how tradition and culture should not be changed or questioned.

Again, the argument from culture is another distraction. More often, specifically when it comes to Hinduism I hear this all of the time.

“In India, religion and culture is intertwined. More often it is a cultural thing and not necessarily a religious thing, so you cannot accuse religion for everything since it’s a cultural thing. Culture should be preserved and cannot be discriminated against since it defines us as the unique individuals we are and forms our identity”

The only part I agree with in this whole premise is the “culture defines us as the unique individuals we are and forms our identity” part, to a large extent. However, just because it is cultural a practice, it does not mean that practices should be held with utmost respect. A classic example is the celebration of the “Raksha Bandhan” in India. Many of my friends called me out for branding Raksha Bandhan as mostly a Hindu religious festival and advised me that it was more of a Cultural thing since most people in India celebrate it. Considering the holy thread has a significance in the Hindu religion and it re-instates the brother/sisterly bond which also emphasizes on women being weak and needing protection, which is also in line with the Hindu dharma, I refused to accept it being any sort of a secular ritual that was purely cultural in nature. Discounting all the evidence in Hindu religious history (mythology) that shows otherwise and blatantly accept Raksha Bandhan having nothing to do with Hinduism, even then such a practice of “protecting women” cannot be justified since it has its roots firmly engrained in patriarchy.

"Til we believe" Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dilipm/4970145337/

“Til we believe”. Copyright belongs to the photographer. Click on image for source.

Many of my friends also advised me that people do not dig so deep into Raksha Bandhan the way I do and just do what they do to have fun. Agreed but then that gives it no privilege from being critiqued. Ideas are at the core of our civilization. Ideas have shaped our race (biological race = homo sapiens) from day one. It’s an obvious fact that all ideas are not equal. Some ideas are worthy of consideration and many are worthy or practice and some have no place in our society. Ideas like the supremacy of the Germans or the inferiority of the Jews or the Dalits or African people are all now without contest, considered garbage. Should I have been living in the 18th century, the very idea of expressing myself, against religion would have been enough grounds to kill me and my entire kith and kin as we may know it. History is well documented in this regard and we all know what happened to Galileo for merely stating the obvious.

Holding the idea that the opponents of a system that lacks credibility, in backing up their claims with evidence, should somehow not be vociferous in their critique of the former is nothing but plain discrimination or to put it politely, deploying double standards. It is the same thought process that also critiques the feminist movement for being vociferous about the systematic discrimination of women in society, mostly aided and justified by well-founded religious superstitions. It is also the same double standard that criticizes gays, lesbians, transgender, transvestites and other sexual minorities for expressing themselves sexually in public space. I had an Indian friend once tell me, while we sat at Starbucks in a mall around Yishun, Singapore about how bankrupt Singapore was of morality and how he could do nothing a few days ago in McDonalds while he was with his son for breakfast and two girls were kissing and making out and nobody cared. He was disappointed that had it been India, those girls would have been taught a lesson.

I wondered why this individual travelled all the way, to a more secular country than India and complained about the rights other people had that he did not want for them in the first place, which he could have enjoyed right here living in India of course for a far lesser pay with an inferior quality of life. I often quote this incident because this friend is not an evil person or devious of intent. Neither does he want to willingly discriminate anybody like most people do. However, his religious framework tells him that people of a different sexual orientation are detrimental to society. Without ever questioning why it is so, he decided that for two women to kiss in public and make out was unacceptable. His complaint about the whole situation is an unconscious manifestation of homophobia which is generated and justified by a religious doctrine that claims infallibility and says it cannot be contested since it knows everything.

The same could be the situation when recollecting an incident while I was in 5th grade. I used to walk every day to attend Hindi classes and passed by Bunder Garden 1st street to avoid dogs on the 2nd street that get paranoid of people who walk weirdly, end up chasing them. One fine day, as I walked by, I saw a newlywed couple, get out of a car and their relatives welcomed them into the house. I have had this fascination for cars that have roses decorated on them with the “newly married” tag for a long time since my childhood. As I stood and stared at the car and the beautiful decoration of red roses on the white ambassador, I did not realize that the newlywed couple was directly walking towards me, passing by to get into their home.

People had apparently yelled out at me to get out of the way but I was completely immersed in my admiration of the beautifully decorated car. Suddenly all I knew was a “clang” sort of a sound that rang in my head and I was on the floor, books strewn all over the road in sludge of mud and sewer water and drenched in scum of the road. While I picked myself up, I realized a small pebble was missile-ed at my forehead and I was bleeding a bit. While a few people angrily yelled at the people in the house for acting like fools, I was advised as to why I was being so careless and thoughtless about standing in the way of a newlywed couple, when it is a known fact that disabled people or widows are a bad omen when kicking off good things. I accepted the explanation with no contests until later in my early 20’s, recollecting incidents like these led me to question the validity of morality based of a religious framework, specifically when people were not so comfortable to have one my aunts play a key role in weddings, family events because she was a widow.

When such situations are dealt out in front of you, the only option you as an individual are left to pursue is to resist and revolt. Revolutions happened in history mostly because civil discourse as an option is not offered to individuals contesting an idea or a condition. A classic example is the riots in China and how the army of the PRC suppresses it every other time, yet every other time riots do recur. It is again the same with our own Maoist insurgency issues. Protests, rebuttals and activism against an ideology cannot be attributed to discrimination. For one to claim discrimination and hurt sentiments, such sentiments or ideas should be fair and not be discriminative themselves against a set of individuals, which is being contested by the former.

The premise that moderates who are not vociferously in support of the fundamentalists neither opposing the detrimental ideas of discriminating people using a religious framework, should somehow be shielded from criticism is invalid. Science has taught us a thing or two about survival strategy. One of the lessons it teaches us is that of “Herd Immunity“. When enough number of people in a herd, are protected from a particular disease, it is not possible for the outbreak of that disease to infect the members of that herd in a large scale and thereby bring massive damage. Likewise, despite the fact that the faction of religious nuts are a very small in number (arguably) in most places around the world, their aggressive campaign and enforcement of their views and ideas is never contested by the majority of the moderates who want to live their everyday life and move on and couldn’t care more about what scripture says. Though directly not contributing to the violation of human rights, indirectly, moderates support the survival of extremists on a daily basis by way of inaction. There are more feminists holding displays and yelling on the streets today and there are more atheists suing religious organizations for unnecessarily infiltrating and distracting the society with bad ideas. There are more human rights activists today speaking out, despite the ramifications it has. There are more vegetarians and vegans who contest the validity of our meat consumption. There are more people questioning the illegal status of several recreational drugs like cannabis when there is evidence of no major harm and benefits of its usage.

Technology has helped us communicate faster and in a more reliable manner. Documentation has become easier. Mass communication has become easier and media has gone social. The number of PC users hitting Twitter and Facebook to get updates on current happenings has gone up compared to the same individuals who would have turned on their television set and would have taken for granted what news channels would have told them, about a decade ago. It is highly unlikely that feminists, human rights activists and secular humanists (a collective reference to a community that includes atheists, agnostics, skeptics etc.) are going to shut up or tone down.

Should you really need to stop them from expressing their ideas and undermining your religious agenda, it might as well be more effective to argue and justify why specific ideas like religion or cultural ideas, despite their credibility and reputation, being questionable are exempt from critique.

In the words of the famous Napoleon Bonaparte, “The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people!

About the author

The Infidel Preacher

I'm an Infidel and i preach blasphemy. I deny the holy spirit in all forms, except when im at the pub where i consume highly spirited things...

18 Comments

  • “the fact that the faction of religious nuts are a very small in number (arguably) in most places around the world, their aggressive campaign and enforcement of their views and ideas is never contested by the majority of the moderates who want to live their everyday life and move on and couldn’t care more about what scripture says”.

    This is highly true in india. The working masses never care about the worship or dharshan, It is a occasional formality to satisfy a priest or local head or his family members, since 60-80% of Indian village go for temple celebration once in a year. Except few place of worship in village almost all are tribal worship method like countless name of gods and countless worship place almost in the interior remote place, still I can say they are not belong to any religion including Hinduism, I think someone may write about this in nirmukta “How they become hindu”. If the working mass really in serious worship method and devoid the routine work, India has to stumble on its secret of survival in midst of world economic fall down. We are witnessing a continues campaign in the media of religious lies, which result in political faction on religious ground, a reality of system failure or weak democracy in india.

    The level of intellectualism must prevent a human from thinking irrationally and behave rationally, but how should we categorize the chinmaya, sri**3 etc….

  • What good has Godlessness done to people? It has created confusion and conflicts. Has it actually solved anything? According to Upansihads, God is nothing but an energy that is in all of us. And so is the antithesis, namely the Devil. These energies are there in all people. And by feeding the enrgy, it inceases in strength. The question is what energy would you rather increase? Would you like to become like God or go down the evolutionary scale?

    • Go down the evolutionary scale? Are you referring to Evolution through natural selection here? If you are then please understand that Natural Selection is about bettering life, not making it inferior. You are an example of this. You are healthier, smarter, faster than your ancestors were 500 years ago.

      Increase energy? What energy? Unless you can prove this “Energy” you are talking about can manifest itself while worshipping an entity like a Hindu god, you have not much grounds to claim energy and its benefits.

      Statistically, 2/3rd of the world is Christian + Islam who claim their god is the one true god. Have you considered that you have a higher probability of being wrong? If you are then you are going to be tortured in hell for eternity for worshipping the wrong god.

      Never mind. Please justify and elaborate what this “Energy” is. Lastly no. Your vedic scriptures provide in detailed descriptions of gods that take the form of a fish, a pig, a cow and all things under the roof. Please re-read the vedic literature and come back.

      • Where did I say that the Hindu God is supreme over the other ones? That would be the case if there were different Gods around, but that is not so. Contrary to what many people believe, there is one God in Hinduism. It is just that there are many forms, that each represent different attributes of the divine. And by energy I mean the energy from which all creatures have descended from- you can call it God, Supreme Conciousness, Universal Consciousness, or whatever term you choose. And by evolution, I mean the fact that we human beings have one thing that animals don’t- a choice. And that is what gives us the ability to ‘Lord over them’. As Humans, it is our responsibility to rise over the Animalistic tendency to follow Fixed Action Patterns, to make us closer to God’s image. After all, God created us in his image and likeness! And for your information, this concept of Kundalini or ‘serpent energy’ is not there only in Hinduism, but in the philosophy of diverse civilisations like the Gnostics, the Indian Tantra, the Chinese (their concept of Yin/Yang), and the Islandic Tribals (the Voodoo). And as far as Science is concerned, asctual Scientists have worked on this- David Bohm (who was Einstein’s assistant), Rupert Sheldrake, Bell, etc. Of course, no one would mention those names in this forum. Because it does not suit your agenda.

        • Evolution is not by choice. Evolution has very little to do with choice.

          “As Humans, it is our responsibility to rise over the Animalistic tendency to follow Fixed Action Patterns, to make us closer to God’s image” -> Complete bollocks. We are animals, we are smarter and better adapted to survive but rise over animalistic tendencies? That’s what education is for.

          All ancient civilizations assumed the existence of the supernatural. Modern civilization looked for evidence and found none. Unless you can prove the supernatural, you have no case.

          • There is nothing Supernatural in this world- only nature that we do not know. I did mention t you some names, who have actually worked on what was supposed to be ‘Supernatural’ at one time. As an example thought communication (at infinite speed) has been proved by Bell’s Theorem, something which ascended souls like the Rishis could do. Just no technology has been developed to exploit that Science doesn’t mean that it does not exist. And on the contrary, evolution is very much a matter of choice. It happens because the creature chooses to evolve (though the definition of choice is more complicated than what is conventionally accepted).

        • On a lighter note, the above remarks reminded me of this cartoon . That cartoon, though in jest, makes an important counterpoint against romanticizing the past using terms like ‘harmony with Nature’ and the ‘noble savage’, ignoring how advances in human well-being we take for granted today may not have been possible had we stuck religiously to the old ways.

          • Yes, your observation is quite correct. The average life expectancy at the turn of 20th century was 32 among Indians while at present it’s about 65, thanks to modern medicine and general improvement in hygiene. But we are still far from the Western standards.

      • One God is a misconception in Christian+Islam. It is called oneness of God. There is no any other power or entity other than the oneness. Everyone feels he/she is an entity and holds the “I” or “Iam”. That possession or feeling is an illusion. If you meditate you will come to know there is nothing called “I’m”. The only existence is God Almighty. Creation is a separateness feeling to keep moving and showing an illusionary world and cosmos. Once you realise this in mediation, your karmic cycle ends, and you are enlightened. In Islam, there is a word called “La illaha illAllah” which means there is nothing but he. It means he alone exists. Human ignorance has created forms for God, and made it into many Gods. He is formless, If by Forms, his forms are infinite. If we all are able to understand this reality, we all will reach the understanding of Adam, Jesus, Abrahim, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed.

        • Some of us prefer acknowledgment of full connectedness with Nature, rather than postulating oneness with an imagined supernatural entity, as a means to understand our place in the universe and define our attitudes towards each other. Imagining shared divine ancestry does not provide any advantages over what acknowledging our shared humanity can. This is borne out by historical instances which suggest that humanism succeeded to the extent that it was secular and was hindered to the extent that it remained religious.

    • Morality should be made of sterner stuff mate; not of vague words and gibberish-psychobabble but of sound reasoning and empathy.

    • Where to start?

      **God is energy and so is the devil**

      What kind of energy?

      **By feeding energy it increases in strength.**

      Who is doing the feeding? And what is the *it** that increases in strength?

  • Nice piece. The fact is that a lot of infidels are silent. There are several reasons for the silence. Intimidation by the religious right and blasphemy laws is one of the reason. But another reason is that the infidels out of courtesy to the religious person keep their unbelief under the wrap. I believe this is a bigger problem. So as Dawkins advocates we need more of an in your face atheism.

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