Where’s Your God Now?
Or what it means to be an atheist and what it ain’t.
Hear hear. Announcement time.
I ..er.. am an ..er.. atheist.
Drum-rolls please. Oh wait, you already knew that!
So Why? (a.k.a Prelude)
For a while, It had been my greatest fear that my atheism is just me taking my “being atypical in every way possible” a little too far.
Thankfully, Now I know better. Although, for what it’s worth, It might have even begun that way.
Not that it matters, anyway.
Or perhaps it were the oft-told stories of my Grandma when I was a kid, about Ramayana and Mahabharata and the like, that pushed me.
Either she was a bad story-teller or I was a very perceptive kid, but these stories always struck me as weird.
It seemed to me that the Gods, however bad, always get a free pass, but a demon or a demon-turned-human always deserves to pay for his “bad” deeds, almost always with his life. Never mind how good he had been or what had been his story.
Case in point – Ravana.
Always portrayed as a monster and an embodiment of pure evil, He deserved to die for abducting a God’s wife.
It shouldn’t matter that he treated her well, waited for her consent to wed her or didn’t so much as lay a finger on Sita or the fact that he had worked really hard to acquire God-like powers despite being born a mortal human being.
He was not born a God and he erred, Therefore he deserves what was coming.
I think I see how we share this emotion now. We are all indoctrinated to think that the Gods are rather personal to us.
He hears us, helps us and whatnot.
So naturally when a demon abducts a God’s wife, It’s considered rather personal and we empathize.
And to further drive home the point, Consider Ahalya
Notice how Indra disguises himself as Gauthama rishi and proceeds to fornicate with Ahalya (or rape, depending on whatever version you subscribe to) and apparently suffers the worst punishment of all – A curse from the all-powerful Gauthama himself (Yeah, That was sarcasm), to have Indra castrated.
Strange how that was the last we heard of that. Nobody knows if the curse really worked or if Indra managed to redeem his testicles back.
So while Indra gets to survive, Ravana has people pissing on his grave.
Seems perfectly fair to me. (Cue the sarcasm sign)
Now I know there are apologists to Indra. I’ll have them know if they should take up an argument with me, I’ll play the Devil’s Advocate (Demon’s advocate?!) for Ravana, literally.
The theme seems to recur ad infinitum in almost every mythological story.
And it all seemed rather unfair to me.
So, I once asked my Grandma – Why is Ravana considered evil despite being “nice” to Sita, while people like Indra and Shani (a God devoted to giving you a bad time because he apparently has anger issues) are still gods and worthy of worship?
She went on a totally different tangent about how she always knew I was evil. It seems, There were huge rains and thunderstorms the night I was born.
So apparently, I am part Frankenstein. Go figure.
Atleast, Something good came off the whole thing; I no longer had to listen to her ramblings.
Anyhow, in the days to come, I came to terms with the fact that everything depends on your birth (where, how and as what) and that if you don’t luck out on that, you are pretty much screwed.
Albeit, many a times, I had spent wondering/fantasizing what if I was actually born a God and didn’t know what my power was.
Okay, So I may have not been a very smart kid, after all.
But it didn’t help ease my mind.
The notion that everything you are and all that you ever will be, depends on something you can’t even control, is much too depressing.
A rather impressive quote – The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. comes to mind.
So, At high school, I took my research to the next logical level – Spirituality.
But the more I read about the Ramana Maharshi and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the likes, the more it seemed to drive the point home about how helpless you really are if you aren’t at the right place at the right time.
You don’t get to be a God, You don’t get to be enlightened, You don’t attain higher consciousness.
You live for a while and then you are just born again and again unless you “improve your performance” (which you cannot if you aren’t born special).
So you are caught between not enjoying the one life you really have, because you are left wondering what horrible deeds caused you to be born again, and devoting yourself more and more to useless rituals in the hope that you attain Nirvana, eventually.
I learnt to come to terms with that notion for a little while.
Although, deep inside, None of these made a lot of sense to me. (Although, I was humble enough to think it probably might have to do with the fact that me not being the smartest cookie when it came to spirituality and god-stuff)
Yet, I, for one, was hard-pressed on celebrating life rather than “celibating” it. (I know it’s not a real word and it doesn’t even make sense, but a little poetic license, please?!)
Even if it wasn’t the right thing to do!
And then somewhere following my graduation, I guess I stumbled on to /r/atheism and listened to Richard Dawkins, George Carlin, Hitchens and James Randi talk and a few pearls like this one: If triangles had a god it would have three sides.’ – de Montesquieu.
That’s when it really dawned on me.
And here I am.
So What does it all mean?
Nothing at all. Really!
It doesn’t mean I am suddenly a different person.
It doesn’t mean my perception of *everything* has changed overnight.
It doesn’t mean I suddenly became cynical and bitter.
And it certainly doesn’t mean I have suddenly donned an ‘Holier-than-thou’ attitude towards everyone.
Being an atheist just means that I have found out something that I believed in, turned out to be wrong.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Perhaps an analogy would help put things in perspective.
When I was in high school, I traveled by bus.
And I used to think that anytime you arrive at a traffic signal that was green, you pretty much get a pass-through at the next signal too and the one following that, as well.
But one day, I realized something. That it was stupid of me to think that.
Because whether the signal was already green or red doesn’t matter at all because the bus always leave at green.
But knowing that I was wrong on this account didn’t change my life in any any way.
Admittedly, It made me feel a little stupid.
But that was that.
Yet, Most people seem to be easily offended when you say are an atheist but think an ‘agnostic’ is somewhat less aggressive.
I guess it’s okay for them so long as you believe in some higher power, who or whatever that might be.
Infact, Bubbie takes this to a whole new level.
According to her, You don’t choose a God. The Gods choose you.
So if you are born a Hindu, You die a Hindu. No exceptions.
It doesn’t matter whether you choose to worship a God or not.
Infact, She might just have coined a new term – Hindu Atheist.
But She’s still better than most other people.
Because to her, So long as you live a good life, It doesn’t matter whether you worship everyday or not, follow religious rituals or not.
None of these matter so long as you are a good person.
And that’s the closest she can get, to being a ‘secular humanist’.
So props to her.
Nonetheless, I still enjoy going to temples.
Mostly because I find them peaceful. And sometimes, for the babes that frequent.
Okay, I lied. Mostly for the babes. 😉
But it’s not just the local temples. I often go visiting temples far and beyond.
However, a few people are quick to ask why and what purpose does it serve?
Well, They should probably ask themselves the same questions the next time they visit a museum.
Do they expect the pieces to come alive?
One other thing that gets on my nerves, A lot of people assume you have to be open-minded about *everything* just because you are an atheist.
For a long time, I used to think that too.
Then I realized I didn’t have to.
Shamy and Putti often toy with me around this by getting me to argue about spirituality, particularly about the concept of souls.
But i am a rather close-minded bastard when it comes to arguments. A sore loser who doesn’t like to lose many.
So, I play a Devil’s Advocate often times just so I win. (Incase you thought I didn’t know how to use the phrase! 😛)
It ain’t always about the truth, Dummy. (a.k.a Conclusion)
Because let’s face it.
Not all truths are comfortable ones.
It’s okay to create alternative realities as long as you understand they are just that – alternate realities.
For a long while, I tried really hard to subscribe to a world view as it really is.
Per this Douglas Adam’s quote –
Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?
But I guess sometimes you need to escape the Dystopian reality.
So, I guess it’s okay to believe in whatever you want if it makes you feel good about yourself.
And I suppose it’s equally important to not look down upon someone just because they believe in something that you know is wrong.
Why? Here’s why –
1. Because a lot of us believe in other stupid things anyway.
2. To a lot of people, religion is an alternate reality that makes their life seem less painful.
3. It’s kind of a dick thing to go around telling people that everything they believed their whole life is a lie.
Because it ain’t always about the truth.
Everybody has their share of uncomfortable truths.
While I can tell my religious family/friends their religion is stupid and a lie, They could very well tell me that I am a sorry pathetic shell of a man and I will never find true love again and die forever-alone.
Both unequivocal truths.
But they wouldn’t do that. Because they are bigger than that.
So, Neither would I.
Does that mean there is no line to be drawn?
Sure there is.
You see, You can believe in Star Wars and think Darth Vader can kick Lord Voldemort’s ass.
I could very well disagree with that and offer to fight you for that.
You and I could really be extremist nutheads and take out each others’ peoples too, while we are at it.
But then, We should be labeled as lunatics and be thrown into sanitariums and rightfully so.
Alternately, If I really think Lord Voldemort is “awesomer” than Darth Vader, then wouldn’t it be a lot more entertaining and do a lot more good to grab some popcorn and see *them* fighting it out than us mere mortals trying to settle it?
So, That’s a fairly well-reasoned argument but why the sensationalist title, You ask?
I might be a man of reason when it comes to God, But nobody said anything about me not being a drama queen, Did anyone? 😉