At 5:30pm on the 25th of November, Nirmukta’s Delhi Freethinkers had a meeting at the Indian Coffee House in Central Delhi. It was held as scheduled on the last Sunday of the month. The meeting was attended by eleven freethinkers, while one other was unable to attend because of Moharram processions which had blocked the traffic in the area. The names of those who attended are (surnames withheld to protect privacy): Hammad, Kapil, Javed, Anuj, Ujjwal, Abida, Mohit, Srikanth, Siddharth, Fani and Sriram.
Although it wasn’t a part of the design, most of the conversation revolved around the Abrahamic religions of Islam, and to a lesser extent, Christianity and Judaism. This was in part because the presence of three ex-Muslim atheists in the meet gave us more insight on the Quran and on Islamic traditions. We also discussed the idea of the freedom of speech in depth.
The meet began with everyone giving a brief introduction of themselves, including the stories of their progression to freethought. Not everyone labelled themselves as atheists. Some called themselves secular humanists and others, “post-religious”.
The topics discussed were:
- The origin of religion, in particular Islam and Christianity.
- Islamic traditions of marriage around the world, in particular Uzbekistan and Turkey, where the traditions are very different from what is prevalent in the Arab world or even in India.
- Freedom of speech, in the context of India and elsewhere.
- Religion co-opting scientific breakthroughs (such as those related to the shape of earth, the position of earth in the solar system and the age of earth).
- Is it acceptable that atheists partake in religious festivals such as Diwali or Christmas? (The conclusion was ‘yes’, although for social and secular reasons).
- The concept of ‘Karma’.
Apart from this, we also agreed to buy science books for children in the age group of 10-12 and donate it to a library. Members would bring books during the next meet in December and then a few of us would hand it over to a school or orphanage when schools re-open in January.
The meet ended with this but a few of us stayed back and continued to chat for sometime soaking in the exhilaration of having found a friendly community of freethinkers. As we always say, meeting in the virtual world is good but meeting in the physical world is way better – so do join us in our future meets for meaningful discussions and more importantly to experience that rare ‘sense of belonging!’