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How Studying The History Of Religion Has Brought Me To The Brink Of Atheism

More from Mayurpankhi Choudhury

By Mayurpankhi Choudhury

Recently, I have noticed that to be a secular Hindu it is imperative that you question your own faith and blatantly side with the other. The problem with me is that I don’t stop with questioning my faith. I question the others’ as well.

The Lie Of Hindu Gods

I am a student of history and being so has brought me to the brink of atheism. I have seen how man, to fulfil his own desires, often political, invented and used and sometimes even destroyed religion. I have seen how to extend their political domain rulers sent Brahmins to the remote areas of northeast to bring tantric tribes under their rule.

hindu gods
Primary gods in Hinduism today like Kali, Durga, Shiva don’t even have their origin in Brahmanical Hinduism. They were tantric gods that were incorporated within the Brahmanical fold to widen their audience and at the same time integrate the tribes as shudras within the caste hierarchy and extract labour. The Hindu Gods that we worship today weren’t even “Hindu” to begin with!

The Façade Of Religious Pride

The 1992 Gujarat riots started with an idea, build Lord Ram’s temple in Ayodhya. Who says Ram was born in Ayodhya? The Ramayana, history says. And who wrote the Ramayana? Valmiki, history says. Or does it? History says that “the great Indian epics” like Ramayana and Mahabharata are too dynamic and vast to have a single author. Dating based on the literary style of writing and inherent contradictions across passages stand as a testimony. There are certain versions of Ramayana which state that Ram and Sita were in fact siblings!

In the documentary “Ram Ke Naam” director Anand Patwardhan shrewdly exposes the façade of religious pride. Neither the vandals who proposed to be “protectors of the Hindus” nor the sagacious priests were able to provide a satisfactory answer to the simple question “When was Ram born?” One can see the cruel manifestations of religious incitements by political leaders. They were fighting for a “God” whose origin was uncertain.

Mention Of War In Religion

Hindu radicals are just a few steps behind their counterparts – the Muslim radicals. Manipulation of Islamic verses to garner wide scale acceptance of violence is not unheard of especially by the kuffars “the infidels in the west“. Islam has always preached the formation of a formal state structure with a monarch as the head. Majority of the western historians consider Islam to be furthering its religious ideologies by expanding their state, sometimes even by force. It’s a fact that certain passages in the holy book of the most widespread religion in the world mentions “jihad” or religious war in the name of Allah, the benevolent. The Quran has certain loopholes which the radicals exploit freely to provoke religious hatred. Similar is the case with Hindu radicals. During the Gujrat riots, Hindus were provoked to practice violence by their leaders who outrageously cited examples from the Mahabharata stating how the gods went to war to eradicate evil.

The Virtue Of Being A North-Easterner

I hail from the north-eastern state of Assam and after arriving in Delhi to study; I was shocked to see that religion was actually an issue in mainland India. We are Assamese back home – that is our identity. Our ethnicity binds us together irrespective of the religion each of us follows; thanks to our tribal background. Immigration has always been a problem in the claw shaped state of Assam that borders the country of Bangladesh. The Congress government that had been in power for the last 15 years in the state turned a blind eye to the issue so they could sway their votes in their favour by bribing the immigrants with concessions.

The problem of scarcity of resources especially redistribution of land among the natives caused many bloody protests. The Congress kept mum while the locals suffered. Although Modi in his campaign had promised to enact the 1985 Assam Accord and send back the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, after coming to power BJP proposed that they allow the Hindu immigrants to stay while the Muslim immigrants will be asked to return back. This caused a state wide outrage and AASU (All Assam Students Union), demanded that all illegal immigrants be sent back to their home country irrespective of their faith.

Dumbing Down Of History

Religion is a sacred and untouchable topic in India. Don’t question your faith or else you’re a traitor. Don’t question the others’ or else you’re a communal. They say, “Seek and ye shall find“. But it turns out people don’t want to seek the truth. As the face of power politics in the Centre changes, the face of history textbooks will too it seems. Distorted religious facts have already entered the school textbooks and it’s not long before it seeps into the young minds too. As the former member secretary of Indian Council of Historical Research, Gopinath Ravindran has expressed his concern at “the dumbing down of history“; I as a student fear the same.

You must be to comment.
  1. B

    At the time of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) Muslims were being harassed, tortured, and persecuted in Makkah. After 13 years of struggle against the barbarians in Makkah, Muslims escaped to Madina with their wives and children. The verses about killing were revealed in the battlefield when Muslims could no longer put up with the barbarism perpetrated on them, their wives and children. The Holy Quran was not revealed in one day, it was revealed a few verses at a time, in different circumstances and situations.

    Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. How many reversions are taking place with the sword? Islam is a beautiful and peaceful religion, and just because you happened to misinterpret it doesn’t change anything. There is no evidence in Islamic history that forceful conversions took place. Many distinguished Western historians have attested this fact – foremost among whom is Sir Thomas W. Arnold in his book, “The Preaching of Islam”. Marshall G. Hodgson in his book, “The Venture of Islam”, Albert Hourani in his book, “A History of the Arab People”, Ira Lapidus in his book, “History of Islamic Societies”, L.S. Starorianos in his book, “A Global History, the Human Heritage” and many others.

    Islam lays a huge amount of importance to human life, so much as that the Holy Quran says:

    “…if anyone kills a person it is as though he has killed the whole of humanity, and if anyone saved a life, it is as though he saved the whole of humanity.”

    1. According to the Bible, a woman is the original sinner ie. Eve eating from the forbidden tree (Genesis 2:4-3:24). According to the Quran, both Adam and Eve are responsible. (Qur’an 7:19-25)

    2. The Bible says “The birth of a daughter is a loss” (Ecclesiasticus 22:3). The Quran says both are an equal blessing (Quran 42:49)

    3. The Bible forbids women from speaking in church {I Corinthians 14:34-35}. The Quran says women can argue with the Prophet (58:1)

    4. In the Bible, divorced women are labelled as adulteresses, while men are not (Matthew 5:31-32). The Quran does not have Biblical double standards ( Quran 30:21)

    5. In The Bible, widows and sisters do not inherit any property or wealth, only men do (Numbers 27:1-11) The Quran abolished this ( Qur’an 4:22)

    6. The Bible allows multiple wives (I Kings 11:3) In the Quran, Allah SWT limits the number to 4, only under certain situations and prefers you marry only one (Qur’an 4:3) The Quran gives women the right to choose who to marry.

    7. If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives” (Deuteronomy 22:28-30) Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) says (Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book
    86, Number 101) Narrated by Hazrat Aisha (RA): “It is essential to have the consent of a virgin (for marriage).”

    8. The Bible also asks women to wear veils as in Islam {I Corinthians 11:3-10}, but the veil is used for various propaganda by the U.S. media.

    9. Women were given rights to vote less than a 100 years ago in the U.S., while the Quran (42:38) gave
    women voting rights almost 1,500 years ago.

  2. B

    Extremism exists among every religion and community, but the western media selectively highlights Islamic extremism to malign the image of Muslims and Islam. This is the same media which selectively publishes news and pays a fortune to manipulate it. Otherwise why is there nothing on the over 400,000 Muslims displaced in Central African Republic, genocide of Burmese Muslims is not covered by the media, the United States killing 2 million Iraqis was not news, Obama droning innocent children in Pakistan was not highlighted by the media, United States slaughtered Muslims in Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon Pakistan, Somalia, Panama, Palestine and it was not news. Where is international media when the U.S. kills Muslims, sheds their blood, rapes their women, takes their land, mocks their religion, destroys their livelihood, and slaughters their children? The U.S. murders innocent children in Islamic countries and no one raises an eyebrow. There are no televised discussions. No one mourns. It does not make headlines. It is not news.

    https://youtu.be/3DOgWuGYGeo

  3. B

    Article by John Pilger:

    For centuries now, Christian nations have been busy beating up one Muslim nation or another. In the Middle Ages they came as crusaders. Then they colonized many Muslim countries and tried to destroy their cultures and religion. During their struggle for independence some Muslims had to suffer terrible violence. The French killed about a million Muslims in Algeria because they wanted independence. In Lebanon, when Christians were in the majority there was war, but when Muslims became the majority there was peace except in the South of the country where Christians helped a foreign enemy against their own countrymen.

    What will the Christian be if the tables were turned and their lands were first colonized by Muslims and then bombed or maligned or ethnically cleansed? If the past is any guide, the answer is clear: There will be a vicious reaction and given the chance an attempt at almost total destruction of the Muslims. For in Spain Muslims lived for about 850 years as rulers. They lived with Jews and Christians for the most part in a spirit of tolerance and cooperation in promoting science and culture to the point that their work prepared for the modern scientific revolution with all its benefits for mankind. But the moment Muslims became weaker, the hate in the Christian heart came out with a vengeance. Muslims were either killed, converted, or forced to leave Spain and their heritage was as fully destroyed as was humanly possible. Before Palestine and Kosovo, there was Spain.

    Above, I have mentioned only what the Christian nations have been doing or are doing to the Muslims. But when we look at what they have done to each other or to other people any validity in their claim of being people of love and peace vanishes. The horrible treatment of the heretics and witches in the Middle Ages probably inspired the tyrants of later centuries. The native peoples of the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand bear a tragic witness to what Christian nations can do to other nations and with the blessings and assistance of Christian churches. In this century alone the Western nations have fought two world wars with tens of millions dead and untold misery for the living. For each victory in these two wars the church bells rang in the victorious countries.

    https://youtu.be/Sj7VDMJZB_s

  4. Shaurya

    My dear whatever,to correct you,the term you used to start your so long thesis over religion was “Hindu”,and you quoted that gods that we “hindus” follow weren’t hindu. You are absolutely right,but the fact is the term “hindu” came into existence long after our gods left the earth. This term was first used by arabs for the people who lived across the river “Sindh”. Thus there was nothing like “hindu” when the gods were present in material form in this mother earth. And even doubting over historical knowledge,let me remind you the histories that we read today are also man made,and indeed man is not a god. Hence,all writings can’t be justified totally.
    (Sorry for typo)

  5. Sandeep

    Ms. Choudhury, your article though short made an interesting reading. I too have been studying religion from a historical and social perspective and while it has led me to question the way religion is practiced today across the world, it has not made me an atheist. On the contrary my belief in religion has gone up a few notches and I am what is known as Agnostic. Someone who is sure of either existence or non-existence of god.

    You made an interesting comment on some of the Gods that are currently considered “Hindu” are actually Tantrik gods and were included in Hinduism to cater or pander to a larger audience. I am not qualified enough to make a comment on the authenticity of your observation but does it not goes to prove that religion can be inclusive? The reason for such inclusion could be control over the then tribal population but is inclusive nevertheless and has the ability to seamlessly weave different beliefs into a single story. I would also like to bring to your notice the story of Sai Baba of Shirdi who as per historical accounts a Sufi but is now revered as god!

    The actual date of Ram’s birth or any other “avatar” does not resonate well with belief and divinity so a very difficult question to answer and as you are a student of History you would also agree with what Napoleon said “History is what all historians agreed happened”. Specially true for ancient history.

    I would suggest that you read writings of Erich Von Daniken. He and his fellow believers have an interesting take on God and Divinity. Not sure I agree with all that they say but it helps to understand various points of views and an open mind.

    Finally I do understand why you may have zero belief in religion. I have read works of Christopher Hitchens , Richard Dawkins & Sam Harris and I observed a common theme. Their opposition to religion has been that it has been used to fool people and control them and has been a reason for conflict and pain. I fully agree with their point of view but I have an alternate opinion that I want to share. Religion, in my mind, provides peace and solace to people (or it should be) and provide a generic moral path for people to be “good”. However human nature is to control and religion becomes an effective tool to that effect. People have been controlled throughout human history through various means, including threat of physical harm, starvation, ideology and religion. You do not need religion to control people, it is just another tool.

    To conclude it is not religion that is wrong but our way of practicing it. You do not need religion to be a good human but being religious does not necessarily makes you bad either.

    I hope you find my comment interesting and gives you another perspective or you can dismiss them as a ramblings of a 40+ year old man :-). The idea was not to convert you but to just provide another point of view.

    All the best.

    Sandeep

  6. S Das

    The article seemed to be interesting at starting until I read the whole part. It would have been better with factoids and references to historians’ works etc. Only current Hindu extremist bashing was not what people will look for as par the heading.

  7. AtheistHere

    According to my knowledge , jihad means survival not religious war.

    1. MajorBS

      That makes your knowledge really founded on fantasies

  8. MajorBS

    I am so thankful to the author for taking the time to write about the ridiculousness of religion. I am an ex muslim and an atheist. I found out that, believing there is no god and there is no life after death made me look at life a lot differently. I decided to lead a healthier life and value it more unlike what some religion teaches about it. (That this life is just a test). The mere coincidence of chemical reactions and organic evolution that resulted in our existence itself warrants us to value life and take every measure to preserve it and sustain it wherever possible. That is also called the idea of humanism

  9. eenok

    if you’re a student of history and you’re only on the brink of atheism, you’re not yet doing it right

  10. Avinesh Saini

    I never had to study religion in detail to become an atheist.

  11. ersingh

    Copy and paste this on ALL muslim stories! Flood them with the truth!
    The Shoe Bomber was a Muslim
    The Beltway Snipers were Muslims
    The Fort Hood Shooter was a Muslim
    The underwear Bomber was a Muslim
    The U-S.S. Cole Bombers were Muslims
    The Madrid Train Bombers were Muslims
    The Bafi Nightclub Bombers were Muslims
    The London Subway Bombers were Muslims
    The Moscow Theatre Attackers were Muslims
    The Boston Marathon Bombers were Muslims
    The Pan-Am flight #93 Bombers were Muslims
    The Air France Entebbe Hijackers were Muslims
    The Iranian Embassy Takeover, was by Muslims
    The Beirut U.S. Embassy bombers were Muslims
    The Libyan U.S. Embassy Attack was by Musiims
    The Buenos Aires Suicide Bombers were Muslims
    The Israeli Olympic Team Attackers were Muslims
    The Kenyan U.S, Embassy Bombers were Muslims
    The Saudi, Khobar Towers Bombers were Muslims
    The Beirut Marine Barracks bombers were Muslims
    The Besian Russian School Attackers were Muslims
    The first World Trade Center Bombers were Muslims
    The Bombay & Mumbai India Attackers were Muslims
    The Achille Lauro Cruise Ship Hijackers were Muslims
    The September 11th 2001 Airline Hijackers were Muslims’
    Think of it:
    Buddhists living with Hindus = No Problem
    Hindus living with Christians = No Problem
    Hindus living with Jews = No Problem
    Christians living with Shintos = No Problem
    Shintos living with Confucians = No Problem
    Confusians living with Baha’is = No Problem
    Baha’is living with Jews = No Problem
    Jews living with Atheists = No Problem
    Atheists living with Buddhists = No Problem
    Buddhists living with Sikhs = No Problem
    Sikhs living with Hindus = No Problem
    Hindus living with Baha’is = No Problem
    Baha’is living with Christians = No Problem
    Christians living with Jews = No Problem
    Jews living with Buddhists = No Problem
    Buddhists living with Shintos = No Problem
    Shintos living with Atheists = No Problem
    Atheists living with Confucians = No Problem
    Confusians living with Hindus = No Problem
    Muslims living with Hindus = Problem
    Muslims living with Buddhists = Problem
    Muslims living with Christians = Problem
    Muslims living with Jews = Problem
    Muslims living with Sikhs = Problem
    Muslims living with Baha’is = Problem
    Muslims living with Shintos = Problem
    Muslims living with Atheists = Problem
    MUSLIMS LIVING WITH MUSLIMS = BIG PROBLEM
    **********SO THIS LEAD TO *****************
    They’re not happy in Gaza
    They’re not happy in Egypt
    They’re not happy in Libya
    They’re not happy in Morocco
    They’re not happy in Iran
    They’re not happy in Iraq
    They’re not happy in Yemen
    They’re not happy in Afghanistan
    They’re not happy in Pakistan
    They’re not happy in Syria
    They’re not happy in Lebanon
    They’re not happy in Nigeria
    They’re not happy in Kenya
    They’re not happy in Sudan
    ******** So, where are they happy? **********
    They’re happy in Australia
    They’re happy in England
    They’re happy in Belgium
    They’re happy in France
    They’re happy in Italy
    They’re happy in Germany
    They’re happy in Sweden
    They’re happy in the USA & Canada
    They’re happy in India
    They’re happy in almost every country that is not Islamic! And who do they blame? Not Islam… Not their leadership… Not themselves… THEY BLAME THE COUNTRIES THEY ARE HAPPY IN!! And they want to change the countries they’re happy in, to be like the countries they came from where they were unhappy and finally they will be get hammered
    !!!!
    Islamic Jihad: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    ISIS: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Al-Qaeda: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Taliban: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Hamas: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Hezbollah: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Boko Haram: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Al-Nusra: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Abu Sayyaf: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Al-Badr: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Muslim Brotherhood: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Lashkar-e-Taiba: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Palestine Liberation Front: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Ansaru: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Jemaah Islamiyah: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    Abdullah Azzam Brigades: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
    AND A LOT MORE!!!!!!!
    Think about it…….. frown emoticon 20 signs that psychopath Muslims do:
    1] Kill any one who insults Islam or Moham-mad. (Koran.33;57-61).
    2) Kill all Muslims who leave Islam. (Koran.2;217/4;89/Bukhari.9;84-57).
    3) Koran can not be doubted. (Koran.2;1).
    4) Islam is the only acceptable religion. (Koran.3;85).
    5) Muslims must fight (jihad) to non-Muslims, even if they don’t want to. (Koran.2;216).
    6) We the non-Muslims are pigs and apes. (Koran. 2;62-65/Koran.5;59-60/Koran.7;166).
    7) We the non-Muslims cannot be friends with Muslims. (Koran.5;51).
    😎 We the non-Muslims sworn enemies of Muslims and Islam. (Koran.4;101).
    9) We the non-Muslims can be raped as sex slave. (Koran.4;3 & 24/5;89/23;5/33;50/58;3/70;30).
    10) We the non-Muslims the vilest of creatures deserving no mercy. (Koran.98;6).
    11) Muslim must terrorized us (non-Muslims). (Koran.8;12 &59-60/ Bukhar

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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