The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins

Given the normal Hindu upbringing that I had, I had grown up hearing and knowing about all the innumerable gods we have. Then, my education in a convent school for a few years of my life exposed me to the Christianity as well and a couple of my friends as well as family friends being muslim showed me that way of thinking too. In short, I knew about 3 religions and how they functioned. I loved the mythology. I loved the stories of Gods – more like superhuman beings. There wasn’t much I questioned early in life. It is when I came in higher class in school – around class X or so..that I started reasoning for myself and found many incompatibilities. It was just flabbergasting to believe what mythologies were saying and what science had actually proved. It did not go together and that is when in the hearts of my hearts I accepted that God – be it any religion – was a superhuman character in an elaborate plotline with earth as center.

The book asserts as much and tries to argue rationally. Dawkins is a charming speaker and a gifted writer and he is very passionate about the subject. It is indeed a touchy topic and he starts by pointing out how religion gains much more immunity than anything else (in terms of offence).

I came across Dawkins and his quest for Atheism when I was in college – 2nd year I think. I have been thoroughly convinced since then, of course but reading this book was just a reassertion of the fact that if one begins to see the world through scientific lens and tries to accept the unknown/fuzziness as such , which is as yet unknown, rather than devising supernatural story plots, there would be so much more beauty to be seen!

Rationality is a gift we all have but the choice to use it is what makes a difference. Sadly, most of us choose to believe in something which is incompatible with rationality, science and evidence.

If you want to give even an iota of a chance to see the argument for not believing in a supernatural – This is the book.


Thinking Atheism

I call myself an atheist. I believe that there is no creator all powerful, mighty, omniscient and omnipresent to look over our actions. I believe in the theory of evolution and all the discredit to the religion that comes with it. However, having said that, I can understand why would an institution like religion would be created: to impart moral values, to bind people in a sense of brotherhood, to make them fear for things that are wrong. Why this was done in the 17th-18th century and earlier is easy to see but not so easy to see that why is it important today when we have so much scientific knowledge at our hand. The defenders of the religion say that the fear of punishment by god (by going to hell in monotheistic religions and reincarnation as a lesser being in hinduism, for example) prevents people from doing wrong things. Is that true? Is moral behaviour tied to a sense of fear and damnation. Can we not be nice to each other if there is not an adverse result for being mean? Does this mean that on a basic level human being is a bad creature rather than good and has to be subverted with the fear of punishment? 

I can also raise the question that : is not this fear of punishment and deep sense of loyalty to some unexplained thing/being/phenomena causing the followers to do unimaginably terrible things? Blowing up people, waging wars, killing thousands and millions in the name of religion, destroying homes and families. I could see that this logic of preventing people from doing wrong has turned on its head in this case. 

Put all contentions from an atheistic viewpoint aside. Let me for a moment pretend to accept religion as it is today. When did it start?? Where does it come from?? Who started it and why? If God is the all powerful and he created everything, why did he create a being who could recognize him and praise him and be his servant at the very end? What about animals? Are they religious too? What about the different faiths and gods? How do we make a compatibility between the observed scientific phenomena and this concept of being created by a god? I mean there are so many questions that confound me and the answer that I get for them is : take a leap of faith. Well, I suppose I am not a good high jumper. My faith does not go there. So, I choose to be an atheist.

This is of course a topic which is being very hotly debated these days. More so, after the recent acts of terrorism in the name of religion. I have been pretty interested in it for quite a while now and although my knowledge about theology etc is not very great, I understand what the basis is. And starting from the first principles itself, it makes me very doubtful . As for the question of morality goes, I think that it is innate in a human being. Some people are wicked and they will be so, religion or no religion. I take for example myself. In many examples demonstarting very clearly, I have found myself more moral than people who are deeply or normally religious. 

* I wanted to write a really coherent and organized post about this but then there is not much time with me so this is a quick draft which I hope to improve further.

**Have been watching a lot of Dawkins’ material and also the BBC Atheism Tapes. Have also been thinking about this for a long long time. Planning to do a post on Hinduism as a religion because what I really believe is that more than being a religion, Hinduism is a way of life and a philosophy of thinking and is ultra rich. To do that post, I think I will have to wait for at least 5 more years. One very interesting thing which Prof. Weinberg said about Hinduism is that there is no theory here with which he could engage in a debate. He says that creation is not a major focus, way of living is. And, I agree. But it is also concerned a lot about afterlife and reincarnation. How does that fit in? These are some quetsions which hound me and I am sure have been studied thoroughly but I have not come across any such material yet. As I said, I think that in 5 years, I will have covered a lot more ground in this respect.