I am an atheist. I don’t believe in the concept of god or anyone up there in the sky, who keeps record of what I do and don’t, in order to judge me. We all have been conditioned by our families to believe in a certain religion and a particularÂ God. What religion one happens to follow depends on which part of the world one was born into. I was born in a South Indian Hindu family. Thus, I was raised as a Hindu.
My family believed in Hinduism at the time of my birth. My mother used to be a lot more religious then. My dad, on the other hand, battled with conflicting ideologies. I grew up watching him chant Hindu prayers on a daily basis to please his god. I also watched him read and expose himself to atheist literature and science. He is now an atheist. My parents never force fed me their beliefs. I was encouraged to ask questions and seek answers.
As I asked questions, I found answers, and as I found answers, I had new questions. It was during my teenage that I let myself unlearn the religious teachings that my family and the society had thrust upon me and I let myself choose. Then, the transformation began. I started seeing things more clearly. It was as if my vision was corrected. I dared to leave behind my fears of offending my imaginary friend (read God), and got rid of the religious mental conditioning.
I became sensitive to the numerous social injustices that are part and parcel of every religion. Initially, I became aware of the social inequality of the caste system in Hinduism and the various forms of patriarchal subjugation that were disguised as customs and culture, intertwined with religion. I only had to look with an open mind to see that organised religion was merely a tool to control the masses, and delude them into giving up their reasoning capacity to stop them from questioning the supposedly ‘sacred’ authority. Most of the past and present wars of the world have had religion as their causes. Most of the world’s riots have been ethnic cleansing based on religion. Organised religion, though most would argue that it encourages the spirit of community, has only divided human beings, rather than uniting them.
Once the belief in the system of organised religion was shattered, it wasn’t long before my belief in the concept of God was lost too. Becoming an atheist has been the most liberating experience I’ve ever had in my life. It happened slowly and steadily.
My transformation had several phases. I first became an agnostic. Then, a ‘closet atheist’,Â because I was not comfortable with announcing myself as an atheist. Later, I became a full fledged atheist, and now, I am a confident rationalist.
Nowadays, I prefer the word rationalist to the word atheist. I don’t particularly like theism being perceived as the normal state of things and atheism as a variation from the normal. So, I choose to call myself a rationalist–someone who considers reason and logic as the chief source and test of knowledge.
Ever since I dared to step out and take charge of my life, I have been very self assured and confident. I am a firm believer in honesty, and atheism has helped me in all means to be honest to myself and the world around me. I now know that I build my own life, brick by brick, and everyone around me helps me in every step of it. So, I gladly take the responsibility to keep myself and the ones around me happy. I am a lot more compassionate, now that I don’t equate another person’s suffering to their karma or assume animals and plants to be lesser beings than humans.
I have met a lot of religious people who think that all atheists will become theists in their old age or at times of crisis. They simply assume that atheism is a fashion statement that we cannot afford tough times. But, the truth is, most of us atheists were theists in the past. We’re atheists now because we grew up to rely on logic rather than blind faith. I have also met people who call themselves atheists because they were angry with ‘God’. Now, if you thought there was a God, and that God did not give you something that you wished for, then you can’t call yourself an atheist just to make that God jealous. Atheism is refusing to accept the concept of God as there is no evidence otherwise.
As far as our lives are concerned, what really matters is how happily we live and how much happiness we give to the fellow living beings. Apart from that, nothing else matters. Ask questions, and seek answers. If you realise that you were wrong, please don’t hesitate to admit it and change your mind. Unlearn in order to learn, and evolve. Life isn’t worth living if we were to be stuck in one spot. So, do yourself a favour and dare to take charge of your lives. I am sure you won’t regret it.