I’m glad atheism is just frowned upon in India, unlike in the USA where atheists are considered treacherous, immoral and deceitful people with no goals in life. I speak of only these two countries for a simple reason. One is the self proclaimed “greatest country on earth” and the other is my country.

The political decisions in two of the biggest democracies in the world are strongly governed by religious views. George Bush actually said that Jesus spoke to him and told him to start the war on terror in Iraq. Many times religious views have come in the way of common sense, practicality and even morals. For instance, the Bush administration classified sex education as against the Bible and schools were told to teach only abstinence. The result? More teen pregnancies in the states that practiced the abstinence-only teaching compared to the states where a more logical outlook was preferred.

Consider another controversial topic; euthanasia. It is illegal in most of the countries across the world. Why? Apparently it is immoral because God is against killing people. What is immoral is putting a person like Terri Schiavo, who had been in a vegetative state for years, through such terrible pain while keeping her alive with the help of machines. I’m not for killing people but in the extreme cases keeping them alive is so much worse for everyone around.

In India, today, religion and God go hand in hand with everything else. “Pujas” are done for everything; new job, new house, birthdays, funerals. There’s nothing wrong in it, of course. However, if the same money is used for just causes, it would make a significant difference. There are certain organizations, which in the name of “Moral policing” or “Custodians of Indian culture” do despicable things like dragging and beating people who were peacefully enjoying a drink at a pub. Come again, HOW is this moral? Furthermore, just how is it even remotely justified that our government is condoning such actions and not taking any measures against these organizations?

In all this madness, if a person believes religions aren’t of much use and that God doesn’t exist, he/she becomes the immoral one. At least these people don’t go around enforcing their views on others! The non-believers usually don’t seek to turn any believers into them, and they are by no means any more immoral than the theists. Sometimes the theists are the ones who are the epitome of immorality. A certain pontiff of the Kanchi mutt is a good example. We’ve heard of terrorists being religiously motivated. Ever heard of an atheist terrorist? Is it just me or are there very few atheist politicians? Right to practice any Religion is a Fundamental Right according to our constitution and it gives a person the right to practice and promote any religious views peacefully. So, amidst all the religious confusion and brainwashing, why is practising ‘no religion’ considered a sin (or in some churches, “an act of heresy”)? It is by no means against the Indian Culture. The ancient Indian scripts have made many references to atheism. Quoting Nobel laureate Amartya Sen:

“In some ways people had got used to the idea that India was spiritual and religion-oriented. That gave a leg up to the religious interpretation of India, despite the fact that Sanskrit had a larger atheistic literature than what exists in any other classical language. Even within the Hindu tradition, there are many people who were atheist. Madhava Acharya, the remarkable 14th century philosopher, wrote this rather great book called Sarvadarshansamgraha, which discussed all the religious schools of thought within the Hindu structure. The first chapter is “Atheism” – a very strong presentation of the argument in favor of atheism and materialism.”

Religions were created ages ago to unite people under a common belief. They are certainly doing the exact opposite today. The simple fact is that on the larger scale, there is no bigger threat to the world than religion. Bill Maher, in one of his stand-ups, said, “Technically, atheists form a religious and cultural minority.” That makes a particularly strong statement even here, considering the current quota hogwash going on in our country. Again, I’m just glad atheism isn’t such a big deal in India. On a lighter note, I’ll finish with one of the most hilarious quotes on atheism:

“To you I’m an atheist; to God, I’m the Loyal Opposition.” – Woody Allen