Friday, June 19, 2009

Atheist : Be proud, Come out

I had never really understood the concept of Gay people "coming out" or "Gay Pride" until I "came out" as an Atheist and identified with "Atheist Pride".
I used to think both sexuality and religion were matters of personal concern and not something to be worn on the sleeve, but now my opinion is changed. The social stigma attached to both surely needs to be addressed. While I am neither qualified nor familiar to talk about the former, here's my 2 rupees worth on the latter.

Those who have been visiting my blog for some time might have noticed the scarlet A on my sidebar. For the benefit of the few reading this from a feed :
The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism

The scarlet A of the Dawkins' out campaign. The symbol of Atheist pride. So why do some Atheists feel ashamed to come out?

The biggest misconception Theists have about the Atheists is that all Atheists are immoral. When I first told a few religious people many years back that I didn't believe in God, I got quite a reaction from them. It's the same many reaction many people feel all over the world. They just assume, that a Godless person is automatically an immoral, disobedient person. The idea that an Atheist can be equally if not more kind, generous, altruistic is lost on the religious.

How can you be moral if you don't believe in someone who Judges you, they ask. Where do the Atheists draw their Morals from, if they disregard the religious scripture? The short answer to this would be that the Moral code has always existed in the society.. the Theists just needed to invent an invisible being for Authority.

Anyone who thinks Morals and ethics are standard and stagnant over time is simply fooling himself. They evolve just as surely as everything else in the world. All but a few Bible thumping religious zealots would follow every word written in the book. Who would stone to death a disobedient teenager just because the Bible says so? Who would kill a person who works on a Saturday because God commanded that none should work on the Sabbath? If every "word of God" were to be followed by the Christians, the population of the world could comfortably reside within the Vatican city.

And what about the Hindus? The Christians, for all their flaws can atleast claim a central and somewhat consistent scripture.. but Hindus have no such thing. That aside, would you seek morality from Maryada Purushottam Ram, the preserver of Dharma, who goes against Yuddh Dharma(rules of war) and kill a Vali while hiding? Or would you follow everything Krishna says to Arjuna about duty and go ahead in a figh to death with your kith and kin over land.

The point I am trying to make is that even the religious choose the good stuff over the bad/irrelevant stuff. Common sense and altruism direct the religious to differentiate the good and the bad anyway, so why should it be surprising that atheists could do the same?

The other major concern some atheists have about atheism is the word itself. They refuse to be labelled as atheists and instead use pretentious word like "Brights" or "Rationalists". The problem they have is one about identity. An atheist, by their definition is one who is Anti theist, and so they would not like their identity to be dependent on that of a Theist.

So here's an answer which might put their concerns away. I have read this bit somewhere over the internet and can't remember the source, or I would surely credit the person who came up with the following reasoning.

Atheism is not Theism with an A but rather Atheos with an ism.
The first definition put us as negating the theists. Which is to say,our belief system/philosophy is a negation of that of the theists..
Atheos means godless. The second definition, Atheos with an ism, makes an atheist as having a philosophy, which is simply godless. The lack of god is just one minor thing in their existence and not the whole point of it. This definition makes us have a separate identity as against a direct comparison with theists.

I prefer using definition 2. And as long as you identify yourself this way, you shouldn't have a problem calling yourself an Atheist.

So, be proud. Come out.
And check out the Out Campaign.


Doson said...

Loving this post esp. being a christian I like this line If every "word of God" were to be followed by the Christians, the population of the world could comfortably reside within the Vatican city.

haha never thought you are an atheist :P

harsha said...

@Doson //haha never thought you are an atheist :P//
Yeah.. right

rahul said...

I'm going to repeat myself when I say that genuine atheists know more about religion than many theists.

You seem to getting better at writing. Good professional job on this one

harsha said...

@rahul.. totally agree.. knowing more about religion is more often the reason, you start doubting the truth of it all in the first place.

[NpoWEr] said...

Ah, nice, nice. Loved it. Nice read.

MyTh said...

you're immoral

harsha said...

@npower thanks

is a
Ad Hominem

Christine Vyrnon said...

Great post, and good timing, in that it is Pride Week/end.
I've been looking for specific dates dedicated to the Atheist coming out campaign, but haven't found anything consistent. Plan to write about it soon.

harsha said...

@Christine that's interesting timing.. I didn't know that this was the pride week/end until now

_manGO_ said...

@MyTh ...where the hell did morality come into all this ... i thought it was about being theist or not ... though i agree with you ... HE IS IMMORAL ...

i have a doubt though ... is there anything like temporary / need based theism :P

harsha said...

@mango :O another cheapshot..
and yes, there is something like temporary/need based atheism.. the kind followed by over 80% of the student population
say a prayer before an exam, or visit a temple on the day of results.. and be aloof to God all year long

Oscar Gecko said...

I like this post.

If you are an Atheist, be proud. It isn't a bad name... it is a belief. (Or lack of.)

Well said.

YogaforCynics said...

Yeah, self-righteous religious folks love coming out with the Dostoyevsky line "without God, nothing is forbidden." Looking at the behavior of fundamentalists around the world, though, I think it's more accurate to say "for those who think God is on their side, nothing is forbidden."

John said...

Good for yourself and be happy. I like that.

Trance Gemini said...

Very well written and clear, Harsha.

And congratulations with "coming out"!

Most of the people who know me know that I'm an atheist.

I do tend to keep it private in the work place though since I lasted a month in a job because my Boss was a Fundy Christian and didn't like it much when I said I was an atheist.

Nothing Profound said...

Congratulations on coming out! I can see it's an important step for you and means a lot. Something truly self-defining. Where I live we're mostly atheists and one hears very little talk about religion. It's mostly politics and personal matters. In fact it wasn't until I joined BC forums that I got re-introduced to religious controversies. I'm very tolerant myself and have no bones to pick with people who believe in God. I like what Thomas Jefferson said: "What harm does it do me if my neighbor believes in twenty gods or no God."

Rohini said...

Interesting read. I've been getting these surprised reactions from people when I tell them I don't believe in God. Like not just old people, but even people my age(23)!!! I dont get their shock, but I like the way you explain it. Maybe should just send them this link...

NT77 said...

Great post, Harsha. Where I live (The US State of Texas) there are a lot a Christians who are quite fanatical about their religion. This area is known as the "Bible Belt." Consequently, I've been afraid to "come out of the 'religious' closet," as, like you said, people think atheists are godless, hence evil. Since I haven't gone public with it, I use my blog and the BC discussions as an outlet.

But I like your definition (atheos + ism), giving us a purpose. Hopefully it'll give me the courage to stand up for my belief and take pride in it.

Thank you.

Shankha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shankha said...

This post is great.

About the incident of Ram and of Krishna, the explanation may be like this.
1. Ram - even if he existed on earth, has been portrayed as a "Human being". So, "to err" is human, and there is no point in believing that, whatever he did (as portrayed) in Ramayana is correct, and to be followed.
2. Gita - The words of Krishna is really good at saying about the "right" things to do when all your kith and kin are doing wrong. Take for an example, a bride is being burnt by her in-laws. You are one of them. Should you not try to go against all your relatives and be on the side of "Good".

I am not a stern believer of "God" rather I believe, people, be Theist - Atheist - should believe in "Good" ... try to do "Good" rather than wasting time in fighting for "God".


harsha said...


about Ram..
If Ram is considered a normal human being, I got no problem.. my point was specifically to those who consider him a perfect Man(if not Divine).. such acts are definitely unbecoming of a perfect human being..

about Krishna..
the example I gave was not about kith and kin doing wrong.. It was a war over land.. nothing more, nothing less..
Sati is as different to war over land as chalk and cheese

Environmental Extremist said...

Wonderful post. To be an atheist you gotta be an expert on religions.

Anonymous said...

Religion is something very hard to discuss, as faith being important but each one can have very different point of views.

Amiya said...

Awesome post...I find it hard to digest when people say they believe in God and those who don't are immoral. What I see in reality is exactly opposite - if one really believes in God then why do we have corruption, murders, rapes and what not - how can a believer do that? I have a feeling religion was devised by intelligent people to keep the rest of (animal) mankind in control.

Anusia said...

Thats the way a person thould think. Good and keep up the spirit.

sudhakar said...

insects are eaten by frog, frog is eaten by snake, snake is eaten by mongoose, it is eaten by jackal, it is eaten by tiger(?) nature we do not see any place for moral and ethics. Then why should we follow? The answer can never be given unless it is accepted, the atma is same for all. This 1 undivided (contrary to what we feel - we are different from each other) experience is called God. Then only it makes sense to follow ethics .... so say saastraas.

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