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What Made A Young Man Give Up The Faith He Held So Dear?

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By Sahitya Poonacha:

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Atheism for its being an irreligious and God-refusing system of belief, more appropriately disbelief, has garnered much trepidation and also judgement from the general public. But what one doesn’t count as an important aspect of Atheism is understanding the transformation to atheism as a realization, or process. Accused for its irreligiosity and condemned for its refusal to believe in God, society sometimes comes down with an axe on atheists.

An atheist I know found that atheism was a slow transformation as a snake sheds its old skin. Awareness triggered curiosity and there the journey began. It was a gradual process of learning and exploring the strands of thought that had hardly ever occurred to him before. He called it a personal realization. Introspection often causes some of the most intense debates our minds can engage in. This realization for him came during his teens, the crucial juncture where a crisis of identity afflicts all, the only cure for which is to pick a group or rather, a crowd.

For a seventeen-year-old religion becomes an important decision, especially for those living today where religion is often seen as a cause for conflict or a dogma. Possibly more than half the people in the world could be called closet Agnostics. The atheist I am tracing the journey of though was a religious boy, rather on the extreme end of it, who extensively read religious philosophy and had a strong belief, or an induced belief, in religion. He recounted how he read all the holy scriptures, went to temples and prayed to God dedicatedly, and none of this under the influence of his parents or extended family.

But very soon he began to see cracks in the large manmade construction of religion. If traced back in History, religion is broadly created through discourse and dialogue between human beings looking for a way to explain the workings of a world and a reason for human existence as it is. When his sister fell seriously ill, the family took her to men of religion and performed poojas at various temples. Still a teenager at the time, he observed the entire episode, taking in everything and processing it for what it was. When he saw that it was not the prayers but medicine and science that cured her, it shook the foundations of his religiosity. Despite the doubts that started arising slowly, he still firmly refused to lose faith in religion.

Reading never fails to make one question the order of things. When he began looking through history and literature, he found that his reasons for keeping faith in religion were largely inadequate. Repeatedly coming across references to religion being used as a political tool and the kind of deep-rooted hold that it had in society, he became increasingly wary of it. At the same time a friend of his was also dabbling in Atheism, and the path of an atheist was suddenly not so inaccessible to him anymore. He was introduced to the opinions and the arguments of famous atheists such as Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Watching these men deconstructed the idea for him, they succeeded in convincing him too.

He started out Agnostic, he concedes. In the initial phase, he was looking at religion as the virus and not God as such. It was his family, he said, that allowed flexibility in his intellectual ponderings giving him the space to come to his own conclusion on the matter. “Without my being sure how could I convince them?” he asked. He did give up the quest for a while, with his education coming in the way and his attention being diverted to his examinations. He even admits that regardless of his quest he did resort to ‘praying to God’ before his exams.

He stresses that Richard Dawkins destroyed God for him and that Charvak’s argument that there is no god only causality brought him to his turning point. He calls Atheism a science, and he said that a catalyst for his transformation into an atheist was the physics course he took in college as one of his papers for the first semester. “God took a lot of time to get over,” he said and insisted that it was the idea of fighting irrationality with rationality that really puts believers in God and atheists at loggerheads.

He believes that it is this belief in God that causes chaos in society, and insists that mixing of religion with identity, putting people against each other is what the real problem is. Atheism bore a sound structure for him, that other socio-cultural identities didn’t and, therefore, he took cover under Atheism. But at no point does he believe that Atheists form a homogenous group. In this sense, he points to the different atheists that exist; the immoral atheists who would be a threat to society, the indifferent atheists who see atheism as just something that keeps them away from working to alleviate problems afflicting society, the soft and calm ones who rationalize about it but will not enforce it, and the atheists who preach to propagate the idea of atheism in a proselytising manner.

He calls being an atheist “scary but fun.” Some might dispute the fun part of it. But his coming to the realization didn’t necessarily mean the end of the journey. He received various reactions from his family and even others in society and that’s where an atheist encounters the stigma of being an atheist or choosing to be one. To many he was an ‘idiot’ or ‘stupid’. Others told him he, “won’t go to heaven,” and that what he believed was a ‘fad’. Some of these were his own relatives. He is thankful though to never have faced any exceedingly violent reactions. His father had given him the freedom to choose his own path and his mother, he says, allowed him to believe what he wanted as both his parents raised him as a free-thinker. He jokingly adds that the only question his aunt had was, “How?” Another relative of his told him that now there would be nobody to blame his actions on, or take credit for it. College to him appears to be a liberal space that encouraged his questioning and accepted his individuality. But the reaction that frustrates him the most tends to be, “All your arguments make perfect sense, but, I will still believe in God.”

Doubting is not a bad thing he says, and adds laughing, that he would recommend Atheism as a lifestyle choice. To him, it’s enough if people start questioning and the realization will come on its own. The first step of just asking the question is more than enough. Atheism might seem like a popular movement or some sort of pagan ideology to some people, but atheism is liberating in itself and one can see why. Many important questions about religions remain unanswered and God as an answer to a question today would seem like a joke. Religion acts as a discipliner but, when it becomes a perpetrator of violence the only escape might be disbelief. In a world where various belief systems exist, a logical mind would agree that acceptance of disbelief as a system is only fair. But when has the world ever run solely on logic is the real question?

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  1. StupidAtheist.com

    “Atheism for its being an irreligious and God-refusing system of belief, more appropriately disbelief…”

    When we start with this faulty a premise, what follows is already rendered suspect.

    We do not “refuse” gods, any more than you might “refuse” Mahisha, the fierce buffalo demon.

    Atheism is not a belief system. It is the absence of belief for the proposition of god[s].

    We are willing to be convinced. Convince us…

  2. Guru

    We see Allah's signs in nature, its incredible beauty, His creation and the incredible precision with which the world runs. It would take a whole lifetime to understand one insect, such is Allah's power. Sun, moon, stars, flowers, fishes, birds, animals, the complicated human body, sky, trees – every creation points towards the Creator. We should be grateful to Him and worship him alone.

  3. Gerald Moore

    Atheism is not a “God-refusing system of belief” and one cannot just “recommend Atheism as a lifestyle choice.”

    Do people really have the ability to choose what they believe. The religious seem to think that we have control over what we believe or that belief is like an action. They see the atheist as morally responsible for choosing not to believe, as does the Christian god who will send us to hell if we choose badly. But can we really choose? Belief isn’t an action, like choosing to steal money. Atheism is simply a mind state where a person hasn’t heard what constitutes “good reasons,” to believe. People differ about what constitutes good reasons. Atheists think theists are credulous, believing all sorts of unjustified crap while dismissing reason and logic. Theists claim atheists are unjustifiably skeptical. Neither arbitrarily chose to believe or not believe. Their mind state is ultimately based upon how they have evaluated the evidence.

  4. Manoj Sharma

    Firstly let me put it this way, like how a conversation took place between the finest of minds on their contemporary; Shri Rabindranath Tagore and Sir Albert Einstein… Tagore:- Do you believe in God. Einstein:- We see the sky, the stars, the solar system etc., everything in a perfect order; would you not believe there should be some energy holding the universe together. Tagore:- Yeah, the same energy we call as God. This could sound like chalk and cheese but they both had the prudence to conjure

    1) Rational Atheist : In the modern times you cannot find a better example than Jiddu Krishnamoorthy, popularly known as JK.

    2) Preacher Atheist : Shri Rajneesh known as OSHO, wrecked havoc in many lives. Many celebrities right from hollywood joined his ashram at Oregon at US only to make merry not able to decide either way, probably to end up confirmed Agnostics. No credits taken away from Acharya Rajneesh for his genuine attempts to transform the social evil i.e, Exploitation. Exploitation in the name of God, first plant the seed of fear and it the most easily marketable commodity in this world.

    3) Immoral Atheist : Probably it would help to bring some social order with these kinds. As Mahatma Gandhi puts, “Fearlessness is the first requisite of Spirituality” and to be fearless one should not consciously dwell on wrong doings. If one makes close observation it is the people who have something to fear pretend to be more Religious.
    Having said that in my opine faith, rituals, dogmas and Spirituality are independent of each other, what is God to one is Energy to other and Spirit yet another. God or no God, the law of cause and effect never fails, during one’s life time and beyond which is also called Karmic concept (Ref: Many Mansions by Gina Cerminara, Edger Kacy book on Reincarnation).
    Bhagawan Buddha said nothing is lost in this Universe, matter is converted into energy and energy to matter; which the present day experts might well deny saying, “an adiabatic process cannot be fully reversible” when looked only in terms of calories or watts. Very much true in essence if one reads “From big bang to Black wholes” i.e, in the cosmic sense.

    In the contemporary world all the Devils have occupied the space on heaven and even if there were to be a God, he would have eloped else where; the best place to search would be with in and not on a space odassy…

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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.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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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.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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