An Atheist in India

I personally never took religions seriously. I had been an avid reader since I was young, and I read Bible as well when I was staying in UK. I simply treated the scriptures as I would treat any other work of fiction, and picked up the next book when I had finished reading it. It came as a genuine surprise to me when I interacted with people who actually took the scripture not only seriously but also literally.

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Hey guys! What’s up with y’all? I’m Aayush, here to a share experiences and give a bit of insight about life in India from an atheistic perspective.

The thing about India is that even though it is still a developing country, it’s actually ahead of some developed nations when it comes to secularism. The primary reason behind this is that majority of the population is Hindu. Unlike religions such as Islam and Christianity, Hinduism doesn’t have a history of attempting to spread itself through war. Don’t get me wrong, Hinduism has its fair share of problems, such as caste discrimination, child marriage, and such, but religious expansion through force isn’t one of them.

The religion has a place for atheists; you can be a ‘naastik’ or unbeliever in Hindu religion. Some people call themselves Hindu atheists, though I have absolutely no idea how that’s supposed to work. It’s probably people who have lost belief but are too afraid to leave their religion.

I haven’t encountered many discussions on religion in my 17 years in India. It’s not like a taboo subject per se, but people tend to keep it to themselves. Hindu religion does have a ton of deities, and it becomes difficult to keep a track of all of them. You gotta be careful or you might misplace a few. (That was a joke. I know. I’m terribly bad at them)

Most Hindus I’ve encountered aren’t religious. Unlike other religions, there isn’t a concept of permanent heaven and hell, but of reincarnation. Do good things, you become human. Do bad things and bam! A cockroach. There are supposed to be like seven lives, after which you sort of retire and take up rent in heaven or hell.

The good thing is that it doesn’t matter whether you believe in the gods or not. Your actions are judged and not your beliefs, which is sort of a refreshing change in organized religion.

The bad thing is that there are tons of things that you should do, though there’s nothing fixed as to how Heaven Points are allotted per action. For instance, you’re not supposed to cut your hair on certain days. Either you get heaven points every time you don’t cut your hair on those days, giving bald people extreme advantage or you lose points every time you do cut, again giving bald guys an advantage. This does explain why many of the Hindu priests are bald with only some hair intentionally left at the back of the head.

Religious discrimination isn’t common, though there are sometimes religious riots. I’d blame the riots partly due to bad blood between Hindus and Muslims following the Partition of India and Pakistan. Most of the time, people get along just fine, and science isn’t forced out of the classrooms.

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Evolution isn’t contested arbitrarily, and religion is kept out of classrooms. There are a bunch of laws stopping any religious teaching in schools owned by the state, and even in private schools, there is rarely any religious teaching.

We do have to stand up for the morning prayer which is kinda annoying, but not that big an issue.

I never had to go to any temple on a regular basis the way some Christians go to Church on Sundays. To be honest, life is kinda unaffected by my religious beliefs, largely because no one asks about them. I have a copy of Dawkins’ God Delusion lying on my shelf for all to see. My mom does believe in a superior force watching over and dad does pray daily, but I’ve never been pressurized towards religion. So yeah, with deep regrets, I admit my lack of problems as an atheist. There are a lot of problems as a middle class guy in a developing country, but I’d hate to bore you with them right now, especially since you’ve been so nice and tolerated me this long.

Over here religion is a subject people don’t ask about, because frankly, why would it matter to them? It’s a satisfactory attitude; one which I wouldn’t mind spreading.

 

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Thank you to thevacilando for contributing to my Insight guest posts, providing a glimpse into the lives of atheists around the world and an opportunity to connect with bloggers of a similar nature. If anyone would like to contribute theirs, feel free to comment or email me at sam@livingwithatheism.com

If anyone, atheist or otherwise would like to read more from Aayush and his purpose for life, click here.

Thank you for sharing your story!

 

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13 thoughts on “An Atheist in India

  • Aayush, thanks for sharing! Don’t feel bad for not having life problems caused by being an atheist–just because some of us do doesn’t mean we’re not glad that there are people like you that can be open about it. (I have to hide my copy of The God Delusion. 😛 )

    Sam, thank you so much for posting these insights! I love reading them! Keep up the good work!

      • I was raised fairly strictly religious, and I made very few friends outside of that religious circle. My wife shares my atheistic view, but as far as people I know in any physical sense besides that, no. My younger brother has some sort of archaic belief system involving ancient deities of nature or something; it is very strange. The rest of my family, and even most of the people I regularly interact with, are mainly Christian, with the rest of my siblings, my mother, and her entire side of the family being Roman Catholic, as I was raised. I interact extensively on Facebook, but generally try to keep those two parts of my life separate.

      • I guess this is where we have to be thankful for the internet, helping us find others of a similar nature when it would be so much harder in our communities. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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