[DISCLAIMER: My beliefs have no bearing on what follows]
When you wake up early morning and look out your window at the sunrise, it doesn’t matter if you see the Hand of God or realize that Earth finished an entire rotation and everything is ready to start afresh. That is one’s belief system or theism. Unlike the common notion that theism means believing in God, it means believing in a philosophy. To that affect, atheism is the absence of belief. That void, that people fill with religion and non believers fill with questions, an atheist leaves empty. A person is atheist if he is disabused of the notion of a superior being and has given up the religion or dogmas associated with it. This should in no way be confused with a lack of morality or conscience. The good and evil reside in the hearts of all people and both the believers and non believers may choose to act on something in either way. More than religion, the laws that govern our right and wrong decisions are decided by our upbringing.
Atheists are a minority in the world (I know some of you take a sigh of relief that there are not too many godless people running amuck). Humans, as a species, need or have created a need for something mysterious and more powerful than them to govern the universe. The questions that come to mind when you look up at the heavens and wonder are answered by simply saying there’s someone ‘out there’ who created all this. We need faith because we are quintessentially curious creatures and we don’t like unanswered questions hence we use Him as an answer to the incomprehensible. It’s probably too abstract a notion (more abstract than God itself) to think that maybe our collective thought has not yet matured enough to fathom the questions about the universe and we will eventually understand how to live without the divine intervention. Einstein said, “The supreme task of the physicist is to arrive at those elementary laws from which the Cosmos can be built up by pure deduction.” This is what we strive for. The question in our minds should be why we exist and not necessarily who put us here?
We are compassionate and passionate beings. It is not possible for someone suffering to go through life without faith. Not everyone can be Richard Dawkins or James Randi, known and practising atheists who refer to themselves as sceptics and encourage people to question everything before believing. They constantly ask people to think about the logical fallacies in certain aspects of a religion. James Randi said that he found The Wizard of Oz more interesting than the Bible because to him the idea that he should absolutely and without question believe in virgin birth (by Mary), or believe that a man (Jesus) could walk on water and raise the dead was a little too much.
If their ideas hurt the reader’s sensibilities I should draw attention to the prevalent persecution of secular thought. History has not been kind to atheists. In 1811, P.B. Shelly (all CBSE students would have heard his name because he composed Ode to the West Wind) whose ideals were unbound from the dictum of god, was expelled from Oxford because of the treatise he wrote called Necessity of Atheism. Moreover, he was denied the custody of his two children. This brings to light the hypocrisy of the people who preach kindness and believe in a ‘love thy neighbor’ philosophy. It does not say anywhere that ‘love thy neighbour but confirm his religion matches yours or not’.
The bias continues even in today’s more ‘tolerant’ society. Atheism may lead to imprisonment in 39 countries (and you’ll be staying in till God saves you, literally) and it might lead to your execution in 6 other countries. India is more or less a religious country or a secular state where a lot of religions survive quite harmoniously. According to a report by International Humanist and Ethical Union, the growing resistance and angst over atheists stem from the growing numbers of atheists themselves.
The discussion about God and men is as old as civilization itself probably. It is a ceaseless debate till the power to question ceases. So I want to end with a food for thought for the reader—In a country like India, where minority status is so sought after and has a lot perks, where in the admission forms to universities it is mandatory to attach your caste certificate, and where religion still defines your life style, how many people would give up their religion if atheists were given a minority status?