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ATHEISM Questions and Answers (3/3)

Even if you don't believe in the existence of God, I suppose you don't disbelieve in the existence of the soul.

The concept of soul is as much a falsehood as god is. Primitive people conceived the idea of god to explain the meaning of wind, rain, sun and other phenomena. They understood them as creations of god. Earlier each phenomenon was supposed to be inhabited by a spirit of human form and feeling. The notion of soul came in to explain dreams and death. Primitive people understood dreams as the rambles of a detachable part of the body, called soul, in strange lands. They thought that the soul returned to the body on awakening from sleep. The non-return of the soul to its body was deemed as death. The respect for the disembodied soul constituted ancestral worship which formed a part of primitive religious faith. Faith in the existence of god and of the soul together provided easy explanations for all phenomena and silenced the restless inquisitiveness of ignorant people. Growth of scientific knowledge understands phenomena including birth, consciousness, dream and death in a different way which needs no belief in god or in soul. Yet the belief had remained because codes of morals were based on it. There is a lurking fear that this basis for moral conduct is disturbed if the faith is given up. Hence frantic efforts are made in modern times to maintain the faith in god and in soul through metaphysical sophistry and through threats of persecution. In spite of the primitive uses of explaining away the meaning of phenomena and providing a sanction of moral conduct, the faith in god and soul corrupted life in the long run, since god and soul are fundamentally false. The immense ignorance of the vast masses of people end the wide inequalities among them are direct results of the theistic faith. Therefore if knowledge should be real and morality should be sound, the faith in god and soul should be replaced by scientific method and social obligation for acquiring knowledge and sustaining morality respectively. The change entails a revolution in the outlook and in the ways of life. But, the revolution is necessary to save mankind from superstition, fanaticism, war, Prejudice and poverty which we have inherited through ages of faith in god and soul
What is secularism and what is its relation to politics?

Secularism is evaluation of things and events in terms of what is seen and known in the world we live in. It is opposed to considerations of the other-world like heavenly bliss, rebirth of souls and divine decree, which go by the name of spirituality. Spirituality is a belief, but secularism is real and tangible. Politics is wholly secular. Politics means solving people's problems through a government. The institution of government is maintained by the taxes which people pay and by the co-operation which people give. If a government functions properly, people can have their problems of food, comfort or security solved easily. Indeed that is the purpose which a government should fulfill. A government would discharge its duties well if it were allowed to be secular. But the interference of religious belief and spiritual considerations with the functions of a government, foils the purpose. When people's attention is divided between god and government, they are more habituated to raise their hands in prayer to god for food and peace than to hold the ways of their government responsible for unemployment and insecurity. Professional politicians slyly divert the attention of the people from politics to religion in order to avoid the popular gaze on their personal gains. This is a deliberate mischief. People are thus deceived. Therefore people derive full benefit from their governments only when they and their governments become wholly secular. Positive secularism is not tolerance of all religions, but it is the total denial of religious beliefs: it is the emergence of homogeneous human outlook which is based upon verifiable facts of life. Theories there can be, but they should be subject to scrutiny and question in terms of experiences here and now. Such secular outlook is the urgent need of India in which different religious faiths still claim people's allegiance and often cloud their political obligations. India was divided on the basis of religious faiths and public peace is disturbed by conflicts between religious groups. Secularism bypasses religious differences and treats all individuals as citizens who are equal before the law of the state. While political secularism, which allows religious belief to be treated as a personal affair, can serve as a compromising formula for immediate peace and order, straight propaganda of atheism will make secularism secure at all levels.
Spirituality is the basis of moral conduct. How is it then possible for anyone to be moral without belief in god, hell and heaven?

To evaluate whether spirituality is necessary for moral conduct, we should devise a test for morality. Non-killing is moral for a civilian but killing the enemy is the ethics of a soldier. Monogamy is a moral principle enjoyed by Christians, but Muslims resent interference with their right to be polygamous. Truthfulness is a commonly accepted axiom of morality, but governments administer the oath of secrecy on their officers. While moral values thus differ with custom and expediency, there should still be a standard for all humans. And that is the recognition of equality of all humans. Therefore, ethics of all religions and constitutions of governments proclaim equality as their pious objective. Judged by the test of equality, the workings of religious belief through long ages of past history and the professions of spirituality have but failed to achieve equality. On the contrary, religious belief has justified existence of inequality on the plea of divine pleasure. Hindu faith attributes inequalities to the deeds of past birth. While primitive people with simple thoughts lived equal, organised religious belief of 'civilized' life raised inequalities by suppressing free thought and free action and wickedly reconciled the faithful to their miserable lot by holding out the promise of heavenly bliss in after-life. So it is wrong to suppose that spirituality and belief in god would promote morality. Besides, attempts at raising moral standards were deemed irreligious, blasphemous, heretical or even atheistic by their contemporaries. Persecutions of prophets and their followers in every age are illustrations of the conservatism of religious belief. The reason for the failure of religious belief to sustain morality is obvious. Of course, the honest objective of religious faith is to make man moral through hope of heaven and fear of hell. But god, heaven, hell and rebirth, being falsehoods, could be easily exploited by the clever people while the meek laity lay downtrodden. The same is the defect of all spiritual values. Their intangibility is their weakness. They hold out big promise -- but prove false in fulfilment. How long can people live in the hope of heaven after life, while the present is miserable especially in comparison with pomp and comfort of dishonest fellows? The present is real. So honest believers also are tempted to go dishonest and to reap immediate gains. Thus, instead of promoting morality, religious faith encouraged dishonesty and inequality. Real morality is possible when the sanctions for morality are also tangible and real. Therefore, atheism shifts the basis of morality from faith in god to obligations of social living. Moral conduct is not a passport to heaven; it is social necessity. As we are all humans, belonging to the same species, we should live equal. Any attempt to transgress the obligation should be checked and punished here and now by fellow-humans. The immorality of one injures the happiness of others involved in a social association. Therefore the checks on immorality are also social needs. There is no postponement of the punishment to the imaginary fires of hell or to fanciful faith in divine retribution. Whether people can be so conscious of social obligations as to check immorality here and now, is a doubt that rises in the minds of people who are accustomed to religious faith. Because morality is a social necessity, the moment faith in god is banished, man's gaze turns from god to man and he becomes socially conscious. Religious belief prevented the growth of a sense of realism. But atheism at once makes man realistic and alive to the needs of morality. Atheism alone is the surest way to morality. Those who oppose atheism in any form betray their vested interests in inequality of some kind of other.
You may object to faith in the existence of god outside you. But what objection have you to call that power god which makes you and me talk, walk, eat, think and work? God is the power within us?

The concept of god is definite with two attributes, namely, god is something which is superior to man and which determines man's life, not to speak of other phenomena. Unless god is ascribed these two qualities, man would not have cared to think of god and much less to pray, to worship, to build temples, or to devote one's life in meditation with the hope of attaining salvation. The acts of prayer, worship and meditation become meaningless, as soon as god is equated with 'power within us'. If the questioner is prepared to condemn prayer, worship and meditation, and honestly regard sod as 'the power within us', it is indeed a big stride from superstitious faith to rational understanding. Yet it is unacceptable from the atheistic point of view. The acceptance of the existence of that power which makes man live, denies freedom to the free will since free will becomes a derivative of that power and therefore dependent upon it. But the experience of freedom is reality. So the existence of that 'power within us' is false. If, on the other hand that power means free will itself, there is no need to call free will by another name and confuse understanding in the long run. Another difficulty crops up if free will is called the divine power. Free will dies with the individual. Then should we suppose that divinity also dies with the individual? The admission is an awkward corner of theistic belief. Therefore theists escape the difficulty by supposing that man's life is but the becoming of a basic being. This supposition contradicts the first part of the question that the existence of god outside man may be objected to. So instead of attempting covertly to prove god as truth by sly arguments and dubious equations, it would be fair to theists to consider god as an object of faith with its own advantages. Atheism presents the other side of the picture and considers the exercise of free will and pursuit of truthful knowledge more useful for the expression of human personality and for the development of moral values than the anchor of faith. The present stage of biological and psychological investigation is unable to explain how exactly a man thinks and works. But that aces not warrant the assumption of the existence of a power within man which makes him work and live. On the contrary, it is more conducive to growth and progress if the mind is kept open for the acquisition of further real knowledge than to close it with an easy faith.
What is your opinion of hypnotism and thought reading? Is it possible for one to know what is in the mind of another by means of yoga or by any other practice?

Big claims are advanced for hypnotism, both as feats of magic and as means of therapy. Hypnotism is supposed to induce sleep in the subjects and produce a state of trance in which the subject is highly susceptible to suggestions from the operator. I have seem performances of hypnotism as parts of magic shows. In order to have a personal experience and to test the claims of hypnotism, I offered myself to be hypnotised. But I was not accepted as a subject since, I was told, my mind was resistant and stubborn. Therefore I am of opinion that hypnotism means imposing a strong suggestion on weak minds. In that manner it can bring hope to a person who feels frustrated or give decision to a mind which is vacillating. This is the basis of psychotherapy. At the same time, it can baffle a weak mind by suggesting a doubt, a ruse to disturb friendly relations. The inducement of sleep in the subject may be a part of the submission to suggestion, similar to the influence of lullaby in the case of children. Further, the soothing touches of parts of face, particularly the eyes, along with the suggestion, "You are falling asleep!," can coax weak subjects into slumber. In regard to thought reading, I cannot vouch for its veracity. I think there is more trick than truth in the claim. I went to verify the claim of thought-reading too. I wrote the botanical name of a plant on a slip of paper, put it in my pocket and requested the though-reader to reveal the contents of the slip. He failed miserably. Despite the test, I keep an open mind in the matter and others do well to convince themselves of the validity of the claims with objective tests rather than go by hearsay. Another evidence against thought reading is its place in public utilities. If there were substance in the claims of thought-reading or Yoga, the Intelligence Department of governments would have easily employed the method to gain information from criminals, especially war-criminals. When government draw assistance from scientists and experts in every field, they cannot miss such a valuable opportunity to know the minds of others through thought-reading or Yoga. The strategy of war or diplomacy can no longer be a close preserve, if thought-reading were possible. By and large, hypnotism and thought reading are tricks of trade to beguile gullibles. Until objective proofs in their support are commonly available, their claims seem to be unduly exaggerated.

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