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Do You Really Need Religion To Tell You Right From Wrong?

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By Nishtha Relan:

[An Agnostic’s Prayer:] “O Lord – if there is a Lord- save my soul – if I have a soul. Amen.
– Ernest Renan


When a friend dragged me to go watch the movie ‘OMG: Oh My God!’ I had thought I was in for a load of crappy ideological lectures. However, I found myself nodding and betting on, and validating Kanji Bhai’s arguments with all those instances that I cannot help referring to while talking to my overtly religious aunts and uncles. And, of course, my friend gave me a smug smile for having established his worth again, while we discussed the magnificent and grand stories of the Gods in Hindu, and then the tenets of Christian mythology. And I realized, that unlike Paresh Rawal’s character, I won’t have a guide in this debate, not in this society.

We have changed, haven’t we? We think, we ask. The hot debate of Science vs. Religion has grown hotter, with the idea of atheism and agnosticism infiltrating our minds at maturity. We see morality for what it is – a potent method of controlling the masses. We know that the crude demarcation of black and white hides many shades of grey. We are beginning to accept subjectivity of thought. The social media has helped us to realize that there are more people who scoff at the idea that God will shower on us a flower to symbolize acceptance of our prayers. And some of us simply find it cool to be atheists. So Rad, man! What is it that has made us, the youth, the Generation Now, come out of the cocoon of the teachings of our parents regarding our beliefs and religion and made us voice our doubts? “Did God invent us, or did we invent God?” (Eddie Izzard)


Of course, it is the times, and the rational clairvoyance that comes with observing the degeneracy and the extent of corruption in our society, and the ingenious mind-washing of human minds. We have seen riots, blasts, tragedies, and the division of lands on the basis of religious beliefs, always accompanied by brutal bloodshed. We have cried out at the political parties fighting over idols and temples, when they should be working for justice and sustenance. We have seen our parents believe in outrageous religious practices, and their stubborn will to listen to our arguments. We have seen casteism, racism, misogyny, and patriarchal domination take hold in our society with religious propaganda. We can no longer stand Francis Bacon’s ideas. More importantly, we see how being evil comes naturally to humans. We agree with comedians like George Carlin and Eddie Izzard, when they ask us to believe in humans.

“Good people can do good and bad people can do evil. But for good people to do evil – that takes religion.”
– Steven Weinberg

The Indian constitution doesn’t even recognize Atheism as a possible choice, despite there being a Nastik school of thought since ancient times. And it isn’t easy to be an agnostic or an atheist in India. Our parents will pray constantly to the Lord to make us sane again, they will take us to religious places hoping we will see why God obviously exists! Our relatives will debate with us over your lack of belief, and then call us ‘bigde hue’ stubborn brats. And we may give in to the pressure, remain silent, or resilient, or we may keep voicing our ideas louder. The world around us will keep moving at its own pace.

I hope the atheists don’t get as violent as the fanatics, though. That would mess up the mess further. In any case, more common sense to the humans!

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  1. shekhars271991

    do you really think religion does no good. well lets start by giving a look at the crowds. can we educate them all now? as you may guess the answer is no, may be in 10 years or 50 but now the answer is NO. so what will happen if we have no god? they will all lose fear and we will see more bloodshed then compared to what we see now. and even talking about the educated crowd of the world, at every calamity even the atheists and agnostics turn to god to pray, at least when they have nothing else to do! so even if God does not exists, just a true belief in him-something non existent- can save lives and lead to a betterment in the quality of living.

    1. Raj

      That’s delusional. And even if people lose faith in god ( which they should ) people will not lose faith in humans. People like to be treated in a certain way and tend to treat those people too in the same way.
      More bloodshed? The countries that are largely non-religious like France and Sweden are among the peaceful ones. And a lot of bloodshed has been done by humans in the name of god. Why wouldn’t they? Most gods themselves do so much bloodshed in their own stories.
      And even if atheists pray during calamities, does it work? When has prayer worked in real life ?

    2. shekhars271991

      well yes!! a lot has happened on just believe in god, if you just believe that someone is gonna save you from a calamity, sometimes you survive for a far longer period than you do without any hope! this believes gives life saving hope! people have live far longer till be saved by someone by just believing that god will descend from the heavens and save them!

    3. Raj

      But that’s a minor benefit (if at all benefit). Think of the vast damage it has done. Scientific progress was shackled, society stratified, people killed and burned in the name of god , entire populations being wiped out for believing in the wrong god.

    4. shekhars271991

      large populations of the world have been wiped by far simpler causes than “not worshiping the right god”, lets say like not being in the right country, not having the correct political outlook, hell, not loving the “right” person! the world is not perfect, neither can it be. religion makes it a shade better than it is. gives reason to live to a lot of people!

    5. Raj

      Still didn’t get you. Religion(in its different forms. Even nationalism is a religion in which the country is god) has caused vast arbitrary divisions among humans and caused a lot of hate an violence. Sure there is some love for the fellow religion person but an equal amount of hate for someone who is not. Yes people do make silly statements like god is one and all religions are the same, but that is certainly not the case.
      Also Santa Claus makes a child happy. But how would you react to a 30 year old who believes in Santa Claus?

    6. shekhars271991

      first question : so then what do you want, a world with no religion? a world with no no country!( as according to you nationalism is a form of religion) do you know what kind of repercussions a world without countries will pose. ask the management gurus.
      secondly, what if believing in Santa Claus makes a 30 year old happy? its not about what is true and what is not its only about living a happy life, even if it means living a complete lie.

    7. Raj

      I want no religions and no nationalism, not necessarily no countries. Countries can or can not exist, that’s different. Ideally I would like to see countries but with very limited and small Govt.s

      And the day where no countries are there may not be that far. Once humans become a space-faring species and make first contact, it is unlikely we will have countries. But all that is speculative.

      Yes you are right if people believe in Santa Claus and it makes them happy then though it is delusional, I would still tolerate it. But I would certainly not tolerate if that person forced me to believe in Santa Claus or got the Govt. to give him special privileges for his beliefs or if he threatened me for laughing at his stupid beliefs.

    8. shekhars271991

      ideally i would like to have only happiness and good people in the world but ideas of ideology seldom come true.

      if someone forces you to believe in Santa or someone gives some special privileges for believing in Santa than its the fault, i think, of ‘that someone’, of that government, not Santa! Santa, or religion in its core self was made to give happiness and reason to live at times of tragedy, if someone manipulates it to suit it to their way it is his fault and the fault of the others who gave him the power.

    9. Raj

      Yes since I neither believe in Santa nor god, it makes no sense to blame Santa or god. But religion is a man-made construct, made by people for social and political control. Religion is definitely to be blamed along with the conduct of religious people.

  2. Nishtha Relan

    Come now! That was the whole point! Hope is never equal to a miracle, Shekhar. I get that religion has somewhere brought us together, in a very superficial way. But ‘educated’ us? According to whose preaching? In which aspect? With what belief? All religions are a part of such systematic propaganda, albeit not in cooperation with each other, that we are blinded by their influence. Hope, togetherness, all that is fine. But to what end? Communal violence? Every religion has taught us certain stereotypes, and tried to deluded us. And all of us need something to hold on to, otherwise it would be such a bleak world!
    In our very own Katha books for numerous random fasting days, you will find threats of leprosy for those who do not fast on certain days. I read it and I didn’t know, as a child, if the God was then worth fasting for.

    Here, I just meant to do was to advocate a more understanding attitude TOWARDS ATHEISTS, seeing how they are judged and looked down upon. The whole debate over religion will obviously be, forever, a subjective issue, an open ended debate. If it didn’t harm us in a ridiculously terrible way, why would we try to belittle something that so many people blindly hold on to?

    1. shekhars271991

      fear is the most powerful motivator of all times, our ancestors, the ones who made the rule book called religion knew this fact much better than we know it now. we all know that fasting cleanses the human body, medically talking. now set out and find any religion that does not preach fasting, be it by hook( you will find god, or you will get his blessings if you fast) or be it by crook ( you will end up having leprosy in the end if you don’t!) you wont find any. be it Islam( the moth of ‘Ramadaan’ which as a matter of fact is going on now) or be it Hinduism. i think if good comes the the uneducated crowd which follows “true” religion then what is wrong with it!

    2. Raj

      It is this same tendency to deride human freedom that you have expressed, which have led to dictatorships. They too believed it is moral to scare people into doing “the correct” thing. It was the exact same excuse given by the British to keep India under their rule.

    3. Nishtha Relan

      Precisely. What you think is good for the masses may not really be good for them, once they know what they really want. Why preach? Why not let the individual decide? I know you will say that religion offers a choice; you may or may not follow it, but in conjunction with the social pressure, it doesn’t, really. So that was the point. The freedom of choice, to each its own opinion.

    4. Raj

      @Nishtha : What is your position when it comes to lack of religion? Strong/Weak Atheist, Agnostic Atheist, Deist ?
      I am a Strong Agnostic Atheist

    5. Nishtha Relan

      See. I used to be a blind believer until I was jolted into consciousness one sudden day with the absurdity of it all. I guess I started thinking that day. So a brief phrase as an agnostic atheism led to a stronger inclination towards atheism. I am happy being a flesh and blood human, not wanting any idealism. That’s that.

      But even if I were not an atheist, I would still vouch for respect and rights for their own opinions.

    6. shekhars271991

      you guys are behaving just like the child who is always angry at his parents because he is not given his “freedom” of decision. but the parents know better, the child is not capable of his own decisions so they make it for him, for his own good, sometimes even by forcing him. they are parents, they love their child. same is the case here! there are a lot of people in this world who are not capable of their own decisions, and religion acting like parents make the decisions for them. what’s wrong here??

    7. Raj

      The thing that is wrong is that we are not children, we are adults who can and must think for themselves. Ignorance and stupidity can not be excuses to maintain the status quo. People must grow up and grow out of their fantasy world of fairies, Santa Claus etc.

      Such patronizing and condescending outlook can extend to women (“Oh she’s a woman, she’s not fit to vote”) , to lower caste(Oh you poor little fools, let me Mr. Upper Caste tell you how to achieve salvation) , to Indians as a whole (“We the British will uplift you poor deluded souls, let us rule you. No need for democracy, you are too stupid to vote ) etc. But all the above groups fight for their independence rather than being treated like children

    8. shekhars271991

      @nishita: don’t you think that your reply about your religious outlook is far too complicated!

    9. Raj

      @Nishtha : Nice to hear that!
      As for me, I never took any of the religious stories literally, even as a child. I don’t know how or why exactly but I knew that people have imagination and they write fiction to explain some point. I never believed that any of the gods actually existed. Probably because of my parents who were never very religious themselves.
      As I grew up, I started to understand the social and political implications of religion and that religion wasn’t a harmless fan-club. So I became an anti-religion agnostic atheist.

    10. shekhars271991

      no we you are not! may be you are grown up but the overall crowd is not!! by the way every kid thinks that he is grown up already!! so that’s the point my friend, try to broaden your mind a bit and think about it!

    11. Nishtha Relan

      Look who’s behaving like a kid now? *grins*
      See, I believe in the concept of ‘to each its own’. You get to keep your opinion, and we can keep ours. All I wanted to put forward was an idea for this particular scope, of being able to believe in whatever we want, or not believe at all.

      Now, no, we aren’t kids. Please, we are perfectly able to rationalise arguments. You think atheists are being stubborn? That’s it?! Man, don’t reduce this debate into such a simplistic allegation.

      And no, my response wasn’t meant to ‘look’ complicated. I can do better than that, really.

    12. Nishtha Relan

      My mom took all the stories and beliefs for granted. But clarity came to me with age and experience, thankfully.

      And Ashekhar271991, no. It is what it is, not complicated, and not very simplistic either.

  3. Deepak Patel

    Think about this:

    “First, through most of human history, people have chosen to intertwine religion with all their other activities, including, notably, how they are governed. This was “not because ambitious churchmen had ‘mixed up’ two essentially distinct activities”, she says, “but because people wanted to endow everything they did with significance”. – Karen Armstrong

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