The Delhi Freethinkers’ meet for March 2013 started at around 12:30 pm at Hauz Khas Village. The cheerful sun shining bright over our heads, eleven freethinkers were up and about. Enthusiasm was in the air and Freethinkers geared up to question some of the most archaic and unreasonable commonly held beliefs. The attendees were Siddharth, Himel, Lalit, Mohit, Ali, Dhanshree, Supriya, Sanatan, Hammad, Appu, Bai Fu. Ali amused us all by exclaiming how science transformed his life. I guess it was very relatable for all of us as we had experienced that at some point. An awakening of sorts, a new birth.
The attendees spoke about a myriad of issues starting with the various sub-sects within Hinduism – shaivism, vaishnavism etc. and their often mutually contradictory beliefs on creationism. This led to a discussion on the differences between monotheistic religions like Islam and Christianity and polytheistic multisect religions like Hinduism. There was also a brief discussion on the cultural origins of different social customs. We pondered about the origins of romanticism. And we discussed the various belief systems.
Someone brought up Osho and a brief discussion ensued. However the general consensus was that Osho was a master in the act of showmanship. His speeches are primarily clubbed together in a beautiful cacophony of high sounding words that mesmerize people, but doesn’t have a very solid meaning. Osho’s teachings also led to question of how the mind works. Himel wanted to know if things that are considered human traits like resourcefulness and bravery could be taught to people. Did we teach ourselves to be brave or was it a hereditary trait. Sanatan, who has worked as a scientist for Ranbaxy, mentioned that brain learns everything even the very basis things like pain is learned from experience and it is not genetic and the phrases like born musician or born intelligent are just overrated terms. The attendees took a moment to appreciate the awe-inspiring way in which our brain works and also discussed how evolution works.
We also spoke about some very real challenges faced by Indian atheists. Despite the Indian Constitution mentioning development of scientific temper, humanism and spirit of inquiry and reform as a fundamental duty [Article 51A(h)], Indian atheists have it tough. There is no legal representation but that is just the least of our problems. The majority of the issues are social in nature. It is considered inconceivable in the average middle class family that their offspring should refute the existence of an unchallengeable authority that has shaped a majority of their lives. But it’s also true as pointed out, that any authority that cannot be justified didn’t have a right to stand. At this point we also wondered why people didn’t question everything? What was it in the human that caused us to be more comfortable believing in a higher power than accepting the uncertainty that really governs our world. I guess the answer was right there. It was comfortable because taking accountability for your actions are scary. It is easier to believe that an omnipotent, omnibenevolent body stands ready to protect us.
Ideas were shared about how we can make our union more fruitful. Hammad suggested we make a video of what got us to question. What got us to to break the aforementioned chains and break free. He believed that if we make this interesting and fruitful enough, we would inspire more people to come out and seek the truth that we had found. His sentiment resonated through the other attendees and his views were promptly shared. People discussed the outreach of our programme. People were asked how they got to know about the Delhi Freethinkers movement. As expected Facebook emerged as a clear winner among all else.
In conclusion, the group signed off by discussing the differences of the methods of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. They are of course the lauded heros of the rationalist movement. However there was consensus about the fact that Hitchens’ views on war and capitalism were a bit polarized. With this the group dispersed having spent a magical time exploring the unspoken truths of the universe. This was after all the only stage for expression for so many of us.