This page contains a brief account of the Nirmukta organization and its overall mission. Please see our organisational objectives on the Nirmukta About page.
Nirmukta is an organization dedicated to promoting Science, Freethought and Secular Humanism in India. It was founded as a website in 2008, and since then its online presence has grown into three websites: the main parent site at nirmukta.com, the community forums at nirmukta.net and Nirmukta’s Atheist activism arm, indianatheists.com. Today, Nirmukta is a national organization with regional groups in 5 major Indian cities and plenty of initiative for founding many more all over the country, and bringing about much needed social and political change in India.
Apart from these, Nirmukta operates numerous social media portals on facebook and elsewhere.
We are run by a diverse and growing group of Indians across many professions and on different continents. Our team includes web designers, graphic designers, software engineers, social scientists, scientists, journalists, students, businesspersons, and most importantly, activists who have an impressive track-record of field work. We have, in just the last 3 years, brought together hundreds of individuals from across regions and classes to pledge support for the cause.
Nirmukta today acts as an intermediary between the scientific community and the international skeptic/Freethought movement on the one hand and the on-ground activism in India’s urban and rural areas on the other. We follow the leading science magazines and atheist blogs and encourage commentary on science and religion between members of our many groups online. Not only are we constantly promoting and celebrating the wonders of science and the natural universe that it reveals to us, but we revel in the process of scientific and rational investigation of ideas in itself!
A Freethinker is someone who subscribes to science and reason, and discards means such as religion, tradition and authority as ways of discerning the truth. a Freethinker subscribes to science, reason and critical thinking, and discards means such as faith, authority, revelation and tradition as ways of discerning truth.
The word ‘Freethinker’ is explanatory of what we DO believe in (reason, logic, science, humanistic values etc.,) as opposed to simply what we DO NOT believe in (god, superstition, pseudoscience, religion etc), while it implicitly rejects the latter.
It is important to stress that Freethought in a cultural sense is a positive belief system, not a negative one. One of the best ways to represent what Freethinkers subscribe to is to refer to the following vision of Carl Sagan’s:
The rejection of religion is a core principle of Nirmukta. This idea is also a core principle of Indian Atheists, Nirmukta’s atheism outreach and activism arm.
While there may be certain beneficial qualities in the beliefs and practices of mainstream religions, there are none that cannot be replaced with reason and compassion. While there may be some good that can be achieved by dealing with moderate believers, there are plenty of other groups, both religious and secular ones, that are involved in having these conversations.
Nirmukta and Indian Atheists are opposed to religion in all its forms. At Nirmukta however, we are careful to make a distinction between ideas and people. Religions are comprised of ideas, and as with all ideas that Freethinkers deal with, must be scrutinized and dismissed if found wanting. People, however, have thoughts, desires, foresight and the ability to feel compassion, kindness, pain, sadness and empathy, and so must be treated on a different footing. Simply put, people deserve respect, ideas do not. This simple distinction is lost on many people, both religious and otherwise. Our position at Nirmukta is extremely nuanced, given that we are anti-religion, but pro-people of all kinds. We are not anti-Muslim, but are anti-Islam. We are not anti-Hindu, but are anti-Hinduism, and therefore by default anti-caste system. The same goes for Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and all other organized belief systems that seek the protectionist status accorded to this idea we call “religion”.
Nirmukta has contributed to the OUT Campaign, a project of the Richard Dawkins Foundation, encouraging Atheists to come out and declare their non-belief by organizing to translate the declaration of the campaign into 6 Indian languages, adding up to more than 600 million native speakers worldwide:
We have also produced and contributed two videos to the OUT Campaign, both of which showcase famous and influential Indian Atheists:
This was posted on RichardDawkins.net, here: http://richarddawkins.net/videos/549256-tribute-to-indian-atheists-parts-i-and-ii-video
Nirmukta is a participating website on the RDF’s Non Believers Giving Aid program.
Secular Humanism incorporates principles of Freethought, like naturalism and critical thinking, into a “life stance” of how we should live – it promotes human values, ethics and social justice. Here are some of these humanistic principles, from the article What is Secular Humanism? by the Council for Secular Humanism:
- A primary concern with fulfillment, growth, and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
- A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
- A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
- A conviction that with reason, an open marketplace of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.
Nirmukta supports social justice movements like feminism, LGBTQ rights, and the rights of people with disabilities. We are explicitly against the caste system and against racism. It should be noted that we do not arrive at these positions because of dogma; we arrive at them via reason. We consider it our duty to help build a just society founded on ethical reasoning.
Nirmukta and our Atheist activism arm, Indian Atheists, have been working hard to organize regional groups in all the major cities of the country. Since we began this project in November 2010, we have successfully organized a number of meets in five major cities: Pune, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Chennai and have also conducted seminars/workshops in Bengaluru and in Chennai. We have growing groups in Hyderabad, Kochi and Kolkota as well. We will not stop until we have representation in every major city and in all regions of India.
It is no secret that religious and superstitious groups worldwide have adopted efficient organizational platforms to spread their ideology. But a few freethought groups have kept up, and have helped overcome the efforts of the majority of these religion-based bodies’ attempts to suppress reason. Nirmukta is modeling itself on groups like the Center for Inquiry (CFI) in the United States, which has special consultative status under the UN Economic and Social Council (http://www.centerforinquiry.net/unitednations ).The CFI has a number of regional branches in the US and Canada. All regional groups use the format CFI <City> for their group names. They all have a common logo and they all work together under an efficient management structure. All the CFI regional groups are bound by their atheism as well as their commitment to science and reason.
In a similar vein, all the individual regional groups of Nirmukta will follow a common name format and basic logo design as the others, but will be clearly differentiated from each other by the city name and slogan that appears in the logo. As decided by a general poll, the regional groups will all have the format “<City> Freethinkers”. Each city group is to benefit from paid office bearers, monetary contributions, national publicity, organizational help, cross-group activism etc, only by working under the umbrella of Nirmukta, and adhering to the standards of the national organization. Establishing quality standards is very important for an organization of this sort, especially if we are to match our ideals with our actions, and perhaps someday have our own representation at the UN!
Nirmukta as a non-profit organization can only thrive on the activism of its members. The coordinators of Nirmukta are from the different regional groups of Nirmukta, making our organization a representative democracy. The Nirmukta management will never force anyone to do anything against his/her wishes. All major decisions concerning the national organization will be made by an official elected board, led by management staff comprised of a president and a secretary (additional management staff will be added as we grow), in association with the coordinators from all the regional groups.
All decisions regarding the day-to-day operations, regional events and happenings at the city level will be made by the particular regional group members concerned, with no interference from anyone else. Only those decisions that involve the national body, and those that affect the official standing and proper functioning of the national organization, will be made by all cities/regions together.
What does Nirmukta plan to do?
Our general objectives are listed on our About page. On a more practical level, here are two specific areas in which Nirmukta hopes to make much-needed tangible change:
A: EDUCATION AND GENERATING AWARENESS:
We at Nirmukta realize that in the long term the most effective strategy towards eliminating much of these religious as well as social and political problems related to superstition and pseudoscience in India is ensuring that we have an informed electorate capable of making rational decisions. Towards this end we envision many specific developments. Here are just a few of them:
ii. Science summer camps for children and young adults, modeled on Camp Quest (US and UK) and others like it.
ii. Skepticism and science groups for students – both online and in real life (for schools, as well as children who don’t go to school, etc.). Some day in the near future we will begin organizing clubs and groups centered around promoting Freethought and Secular Humanism in the colleges, universities and possibly even high-schools of India.
iii. Promoting Atheism. This includes showing and proving how atheists are not “evil” as described by religions, but we are progressive, reasonable, peaceful people. This will include organizing billboard campaigns like they have in the West, as well as other community-engaging activities.
iv. Making documentaries and films, recording and distributing interviews with scientists and other educational programing.
v. Creating a Freethought media network, which will include websites, social media, television and print media.
vi. Creating a database of Indian pseudosciences, frauds and superstitions, with comments and explanations for each.
B: COMMUNITY BUILDING:
One of religion’s most prevailing characteristics is its ability to hold people together socially. If religion is to be tackled and its influence over our society challenged, we will have to get involved in community building of Atheists and the irreligious. This will include:
i. Holding monthly meets. Some of these meets will include just getting together for fun, in order to give the opportunity for closet atheists to socialize in non-religious crowds. This can be like “Skeptics in the Pub” meets that happen in the US, UK, Canada and Australia, for example.
ii. Holding conferences, debates, discussions, etc to talk about scientific, philosophical and other issues.
iii. Celebration of non-religious and secular festivals, and building reason-based cultural celebrations as alternatives to the religious ones.
iv. Creating support networks for Atheists and Freethinkers.
v. Organizing cleanliness and anti-corruption drives, blood donation drives etc., in various cities which, among other things, will show the world how atheists can be progressive members of society.
vi. Informally getting together, visiting places such as museums, planetariums, etc., and developing meaningful and lasting friendships with other Freethinkers.
(Note: In both the above categories we have only mentioned a few of the possibilities. In addition, there are various other general objectives that do not fall within these two categories)
Nirmukta, being a national organization, will have the resources to conduct a great many programmes on the national and international stage. There is much important work to be done in the immediate future, both on the national level as well as in each of the regional groups, before we can begin to plan and execute long-term projects. There are many Indians who share our general objectives, and we will surely grow to be powerful advocates for reason on the national stage, and a voice that will be heard by many around the world. We hope that you will all join us in both the activism work and in the rollicking fun times ahead, as we come together to promote Freethought and Secular Humanism in India.
If you would like to volunteer or simply get in touch, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.