My first atheist post

Consider the 3 conversations

Conversation #1

Person 1:             Hey, I just came back from my Thirupathi pilgrimage. Please do take prasadam. I guess you are a Christian and are not allowed to have prasadam?

Person2:              Yes, the Bible expressly forbids. Sorry.

Person1:              No problem at all.

Person2:              I hope you had a great time.

Person1:              I did. Thanks.

Conversation #2

Person 1:             Hey, I just came back from my Thirupathi pilgrimage. Please do take prasadam. I guess you are a Christian and are not allowed to have prasadam?

Person2:              Well, the Bible does expressly forbid us Christians. But I do make an exception for ladoos.

Person1:              Rules are meant to be broken or at least bent. <Wink Wink>

Person2:              Ha, ha. True.

Person1:              You are very broadminded and accommodating.

Person 2:             Thank you. I hope you had a great time.

Person1:              I did. Thanks.

 

Conversation #3

Person 1:             Hey, I just came back from my Thirupathi pilgrimage. Please do take prasadam. I guess you are a Christian and are not allowed to have prasadam?

Person2:              Well, the Bible expressly forbids Christians. But I turned became an atheist a few years back so that doesn’t apply to me.

Person1:              Oh…..hmmm…..interesting

Person 2:             Nice Ladoo.

Person1:              hmmmm.

Person 2:             I hope you had a great time.

Person1:              hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Bye.

The above have, of course, been merely paraphrased from the general attitude I generally encounter when I identify with atheism. But the tone is very true. I never attempt to discuss this over prasadam or after the death of a loved one or do anything insensitive. I only mention this when I am asked specific questions about my faith. I am asked about thali sentiments and rituals and sometimes I have to mention that my beliefs is NOT what is held by an average Christian and so I do mention it.

But why do people think so badly about atheists? We aren’t the ones blowing buildings up. We don’t bother you.

Yes, if you sit and question us, we will use terms like delusion and cognitive dissonance to describe beliefs close to your heart. But then again EVERY PERSON who is not in the same religion or denomination or caste as you are does think you are deluded. That is a given. So why isolate atheists for this silent treatment? Why is it mandatory that we believe in some God even if it is not your God? What difference will it make?

Religion will never die away, but atheism is not a stance for quirky rebels anymore. It is growing fast in recent times. We can’t always pretend to believe what we don’t believe just because you’d be offended. Maybe it is time that religious folks re-think about their attitude towards the irreligious.

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8 thoughts on “My first atheist post

  1. Very thoughtful words, Rahini.

    I have had a very rocky relationship with religion, ritualism and theism. I still don’t know where I truly stand on this spectrum (if I could call it that). I do spend a couple of minutes every day in my prayer room praying sincerely for the well-being of people around me and I feel a sense of comfort. I don’t pray for myself anymore not because I am a selfless angel but because I honestly don’t feel any sense of comfort or security when I do that. But there are times when I pray for my loved ones for health reasons – two recent examples being my Dad’s angioplasty and when my Aunt was in the hospital. Dad is fine. Aunt is no more. I felt relieved about Dad. I was indignant when Chithi passed away. I honestly don’t know how to handle my own religious feelings when I feel let down as much as I don’t know how to react – in the context of attributing things to a supreme power – when things go well. I don’t know how much of success or failure I should attribute to effort / hard work / skill / lluck / effort / medicine / God…instead of apportioning it, I just tell myself that it’s fine to pray if it gives someone the secure vibe of a supreme power up above…if not, that’s fine too…to each her own…

    The last lines that I wrote in my tribute to my Aunt sum up my ambivalent feelings on this issue:

    “But now that reality has struck me and my family a mighty blow, I am left with a comment and a question for the Almighty. The comment is that I thank the Lord for blessing me with a person who, in every waking moment of her life, showed me and the rest of the people in her small world, what genuineness of emotion, thoughtfulness and generosity truly meant. The question that I have is, if God created Shoba and blessed her with such a generous spirit, why did God not have the generosity to give her a longer, healthier life? It is a question that I will never ever find the answer to. Nor do I want to because I will not have the heart to accept anything for an answer.”

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  2. Uma says:

    Yes this is my pet peeve as well. Non-believers are ok with believers but vice versa is not true. I live in the US and in the few weeks that I visit India, if I voice my opinions, I will be ostracized. I am not an atheist but don’t really believe that I have to follow rituals to be spiritual. Hopefully one day I will be able to have an open conversation sans any drama with my family regarding my beliefs.

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  3. Sorry for the really late reply. I thought I already have replied.

    I have this definition that anyone who isn’t into the major religions are in a way atheists. I hear the official name for the irreligious is “None” as given in the forms where we tick the right option. That name sucks.

    Many of my friends identify with agnostics and I believe their stance is similar if not the same.

    Ram, I quite identify with your current stance of praying for others and not for oneself. I used to feel selfish for praying for myself as basically I am a lucky person who has all that she could wish for in plenty. I did pray for the health of my child during my pregnancy as I had not fully de-converted. I just did not give sufficient thought to it.

    Reading answers in Quora and other forums is what tipped the scales. The atheists always had an attitude that I could relate to. The religious seemed more outlandish. Particularly, as a devoted nature enthusiast I found the fact that most Christians and Muslims deny evolution and even stop children from learning evolution is school quite a deal breaker. The outlandish claims about Noah’s ark and dinosaurs are enough to put anyone away.

    It seemed to help that as Christianity is popular in the western world, I could dip myself in many discussions on the topic. Soon indifference stopped being an option. I got very interested in the topic in the beginning of this year.

    Frankly it eats my time. But what can one do? Obsessions don’t accept our dictates and just leave us. So.

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  4. Balu says:

    But why do people think so badly about atheists?
    – May be because everyone has an implicit hierarchy in their minds about every subject. For example, Karnataka vs Tamil Nadu fights over Kaveri happens very often in India(check Sathyaraj controversy right now) but still most people in both the states will probably support the other state and oppose north indian states as a whole when such a conflict arises. In fact, atheists are likely to do the same. We would naturally support agnostics over theists since they are closer to our belief system(even though agnostics aren’t obviously atheists). So even if a Hindu doesn’t believe in Bible, he is likely to feel positive about someone who believes in higher power, even if it is a different higher power than a person who believes in no higher power.

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  5. Balu,

    Thank you for your comment. I attribute this hostility to not thinking the point through and not having faced enough atheists. Theoretically Hinduism is an exception but the Abrahamic religions have hostility towards other religions pretty much built into their texts. So implicit hierarchy should hardly be putting Atheists last.

    We were taught from school that we ought to respect other religions but we are never taught that people who don’t believe in Gods exist and that is ok too. We naturally meet an adult relative or two who’d be slightly open about their lack of faith, but mostly we just don’t spend time thinking about atheists until we become one.

    If we don’t compel Christians to eat prasadam. If we don’t ridicule Hindus for their thayathu or Muslim women for their hijab, then it goes without saying that religious people should have the sensitivity to not say, say, “I’ll pray for you” to an atheist. Sure, they mean well but why should atheists always be the quiet ones who’d let sarcastic prayer offers slide?

    Naturally, I am not talking of those who (incorrectly) believe that atheists should be stoned to death. I am talking about the politically correct world where you’d never comment on someone else’s caste or religion or physicality or sexual orientation.

    Some people think “I am an atheist” is code for “My own religion didn’t work for me and am looking for another one”. It is nothing of that sort, no? 🙂

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  6. Good one Rahini…I’m yet to come out of the closet in that aspect 😦 I think the main reason they avoid atheists are because most of them criticize their rituals, beliefs etc. But what is the problem with those who give them space? I call myself agnostic….but I can feel I’m slowly moving towards the atheistic spectrum.

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  7. When someone says they are moving towards the atheist spectrum it feels like a personal victory even if I never had anything to do with it.

    Thank you for you comment Swarna

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