The Hindu Atheist, four years on

11 12 2011

Sam Harris on Atheism - Ripped off from LOLgod

I have not done a single post on atheism yet though its been a few months. My old blog had a fair bit of interesting writings and I’m amused that it gets so many hits even though I have stopped writing there. My classic What the Hell is a Hindu Atheist recently got an angry comment so I’m quite happy. A couple of people keep arguing about the nature of the Hindu Atheist Label which I’ve talked about. I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend while walking through the nightlife district here. I had to condense four years of atheism into a fifteen minute conversation. Here’s the gist of it.

1. The reason. I know some Atheists are atheists because they’ve seen a lot of suffering, which contradicts their ideal of an omni-benevolent deity. On my part though, it was a combination of becoming gradually, but increasingly sceptical of the religious worldview I held and that of others. It helped that I had been doing magic tricks for a few years and had a grasp of how self-deception works.  It also helped that the environment I was brought up in encouraged some amount of critical thinking and emphasised a “personal experience” of truth in opposition to simply believing. It was sort of a gradual process where my views shifted to accommodate new found reasoning. Which leads me to the next point.

2. Death. There came a terrifying moment one day in 2007 when I was lying in bed. I was thinking perhaps about what I was going to do in the future and my mind jumped to the topic of well what happens after death (distant future?). It was scary because I wrongly believed that if there was nothing after death, then life was meaningless. It’s a deeply ingrained assumption in many people. In fact, during my course at an Ashram in India, the monk at the pulpit said something along similar lines. It’s a flawed assumption and it took some re-adjusting to overcome it. Seeing death around me and in the hospital gave me clarity and I hope to write about it soon.

3. Morality. What also bordered on the disturbing was how I (for a while) and others suddenly assumed I had no moral compass. It is undoubtedly clear that now you do not have someone telling you what is right and wrong, which means that you have to figure it out what is right and wrong. Most people take this to mean that you are free to do anything but more often, you are afraid to do something wrong and perhaps hurt someone so you tend to be cautious. The solution lies in figuring out where exactly morality comes from. It appears to come from a deity or from scriptures but what I realised was, take away the theism and a fair bit of it still makes sense. Which begs the question, is something good because god says so or does god say so because it’s good. For us, the answer is quite clear. Morality is basically a bunch of values that guide our transactions with people or agents around us to ensure some kind of common welfare. The devil though, is in the details.

4. Image. Honestly, I may never know how other people take this. My folks went from shock to understanding, but these days I get the impression that they do not fathom the true impact of this shift. I know people who make snap judgments about me, then realise that they are to an extent, on my side. I figure that there will be tons of people who come to certain conclusions, not just about me, but non-believers in general. They may never really get to know us. On my part, I understand that even believers come in many flavours and try not to lump all of them under a monolithic label like Muslim or Christian.

There are a lot of interesting things an non-believer would have to say about current affairs. Although my current affairs right now consists mostly of catching up with sleep, I did write about Burn a Qur’an Day last year. I should write more.

 

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