For those close to me, or for that matter not so close to me, it has been clear for some time that I am severely lacking in faith. It would not be fair to say that I was a skeptic for many years. In all honesty, it has been less than two years that I rejected religion in all its forms.
What is my outlook towards the existence of God or Gods one might ask. I will not be so arrogant as to say that I know with complete certainty that God does not exist. All I would say is that since there is no evidence for his existence, he does not exist. But this does not mean that I have a closed mind (ironic that atheists are the ones accused of being close minded). It means that if, and it’s a long shot, if someone shows me irrefutable evidence that God exists, I will accept his existence. To quote Christopher Hitchens, “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
For all intents and purposes, I describe myself as an agnostic atheist. Why not just an atheist? Because no one who puts scientific inquiry above everything else should be arrogant enough to rule out something outright. However, as it stands, there is about as much evidence for the existence of God as there is for the pink unicorn. So I use the term atheist rather loosely.
Why am I an atheist? If we think about it, aren’t we all born atheists? Whether the concept of tabula rasa is accurate or not has not been proved but it is reasonable to state that our perceptions of spirituality and religion are shaped by external influences. You do not always make a conscious choice to believe in something when you are young. A child of Hindu parents will be brought up to practice Hinduism and the same holds true for a child born to parents of every other religion. To be completely honest, isn’t this anything more than passive brainwashing?
What is the harm in doing this one might ask. One might argue that this brainwashing does not harm the child in any way. Perhaps not. But if you can be brainwashed into believing that there exists a God who loves you but will punish you if you don’t pray to him daily, you can also be brainwashed into believing that God will punish you for not taking someone else’s life. But I agree that this is an extreme example.
And how does one know which God to worship? As Richard Dawkins puts it, “We are all Atheists about most of the Gods there ever were. Some just go one God further.”
This however does not mean I want to destroy religion. What I would like to destroy is lack of reason. A blind faith in something that harms others. I respect the right of EVERY person who believe in what he or she wants to believe. I will fight for the rights of the most religious person to believe that the world was created in 7 days and 6000 years ago. But while I respect the right to have a belief, I am not obliged to respect that belief itself. So while you are free to have faith in what a book written 2000 years ago says, if you try to incorporate those beliefs while taking decisions that affect me, I will take objection to it.
The universe holds several splendors, some of which we have not even imagined. Is it not satisfying when we realize a little each day about how it works? What religion offers is an illusion of certainty. It says with certainty that it knows why we are here, how we came to be and where we will go after we die. But it is this religion which once said with certainty that the Earth was at the center of the Universe. It is religion that made Gods of meteors and demons of eclipses. Religion that equated earthquakes with God’s wrath and tempests with his breath. But the spirit of inquiry has proved all these “certainties” false. In the immortal words of Neil deGrasse Tyson, “God is nothing more than an ever receding pocket of ignorance.”
We all strive to find meaning in this world. We all would like to know what our place in this universe is. Religion can make you believe that there is someone up there looking out for you. But I find solace in the fact that while we do not know everything, we, as a species, will never give up trying. We will never rest till we find our answers. And if our hypotheses are proved false, we will start again from the beginning with an open mind. It is this attitude that makes me happy that I exist right here, right now, unfettered and free of what my less knowledgeable forefathers held to be true.