Discussion by: kevinkuriakose
I’m 21 and I study architecture at the University of Edinburgh, and I love to draw but I’m not too keen on writing. Anyway I’ll give it a go.
Coming to the UK to study architecture, and meeting new people has made me realise how poisonous religion is to science, reason and humanity. It was here in the UK that I first heard of creationists. The first time I heard this I thought it was joke. I remember saying ‘how stupid do people have to be to actually believe in creationism and reject evolution?’ only to realise there were a few creationists on my very course who baulked at the very notion of evolution.
How is it possible that, in a country as developed as the UK, people still cling to outdated notions of creationism as described in the bible? Well I have to hand it to creationists. They helped me realise the extent and damage of brainwashing, indoctrination and the importance of secularism.
When I was 6 or 7 my grandfather handed me the King James Bible to read. He asked me to read the book and tell me how absurd I thought it was. A diehard communist and atheist he taught me the saying of Marx, ‘Die Religion…ist das Opium des Volkeshe’ and opened my eyes to science, and the importance of critical thinking. No offence to anyone but he asked me to think why anyone would believe in a Bronze Age text written by a bunch of genocidal, pillaging Jews and be absolutely convinced that it was the word of God. He told me there would be nothing after death and I found this easy to accept for it meant that there was everything to live for.
Since he passed away, I never gave much thought to atheism, or religion which might seem surprising as I grew up in India, a very religious country. I was born and raised in a diverse and beautiful country and was content on not discussing religious views. My father is a deist and my mother an agnostic and I thought this was all very normal. I thought all my friends and family were the same. I went to a secular school and no one talked about religion or god. We did discuss culture, tradition and our heritage but the question of religion or god was never raised. I actually thought no one believed in god and we only clung to it in the name of tradition. It didn’t take me long to realise how wrong I was.
I truly realised the extent of indoctrination that happens in India when I was asked to document a Vedic institution, a gurukul, a school for the teachings of Vedas in Thrissur, Kerala. It was reserved for only the highest caste, the namboothiris of Kerala, for only they were pure and high born enough to learn and recite these chants. The kids there were lovely and intelligent but were convinced I was worshipping the wrong gods. When I told them that I believed in no deities, they were shocked and they tried to tell me that the only reason I exist is because of god and my existence is proof enough that a supernatural overlord exists to watch over us. They were also convinced that it was actions and beliefs such as mine that got people born into lower castes to be ruled over by the higher ones. How could I expect to be born again in higher caste in my next life if I don’t believe in the right god?
I have been blessed with a secular upbringing and I hope other Indians will come forward and discuss how important science, critical thinking and reasoning is important in educating India. We are a growing population and a growing force in the world and I think it’s important to encourage free thinkers in our country. We need to create awareness and provide secular education or our country could be torn apart by the plague that is fundamentalism and all that it brings with it, intolerance, discrimination, honour killings, and gang rapes? Is that what we want India to be associated with?
Will there ever come a time when I can put ‘no religion’ when someone comes to take the census? How hard is it for young Indians to ‘come out’ as atheists? I wish more Indians would could come forward as atheists without any fear of isolation or persecution. Should we just stick with religion because its tradition? Am I naïve in presuming that tradition and culture can be preserved without religion, in a secular environment?