By Saurin Parikh
(Written on 21st February 2009)
Saurin Parikh in conversation with Saurin Parikh…
No, because I don’t believe in organised religion and the images of god that every religion has created for itself.
Why don’t I believe in religion?
I feel that religion is the reason behind most of the problems faced by the world today. Had there been no religion, there would be no differences, no castes, and no biases. Had there been no religion, people would be differentiated by their abilities, capabilities and intelligence. But because there are so many religions, people’s acumen and intellect have become secondary.
And then there is the issue of peace and war. Religion has made people intolerant towards one another. Riots, terrorism, moral policing, political manipulation, social discrimination, these are the banes of society and they originate from religion.
How can you say that? Religions advocate peace, not war.
Yes, religions do advocate peace. And all religions advocate peace, but is there any peace around us? To a large extent, Muslims are perceived to be the most aggressive, if not violent most violent. But are Hindus any better? If terrorists are Muslims, then self-proclaimed moral polices are Hindus.
But isn’t it wrong to stereotype the entire religion because of a few bad elements?
I am not doing that, but everyone else is. A few people (we still don’t know for sure which religion they belonged to) burned down a train compartment in Godhra. What followed was an assumption that Muslims did that, which led to the Gujarat riots of 2002. Even if those miscreants were Muslims, weren’t Hindus wrong in fighting, killing and burning every Muslim they could find? Wasn’t that stereotyping? The men behind the recent terrorist attacks have been Muslims, but aren’t Hindus wrong in proclaiming that every Muslim should be ousted from India? Isn’t that stereotyping?
At the same time, a Hindu political group was behind the pub incidents in Mangalore. Who gave them the right to stop women from visiting pubs? Who gave them the right to curb Valentine’s Day celebrations? In their minds, the religion they follow gave them that right.
But we all agree that what they did was wrong?
But did anyone try to stop them from doing this wrong? The media persons who were following the poor women with their cameras didn’t do anything. Only one of the many people in that vicinity did something, but he was outnumbered and beaten up. What did the government do? What did the citizens of Karnataka do?
But what can anyone do?
I don’t know. I don’t know what I would have done myself. I am not sure if I would have fought back. But that’s not my point here. My point is that there would have been no pub attacks, no moral policing, no terrorist attacks and no riots if there were no religion; or at least if each religion respected and showed tolerance towards the other.
I don’t want to be a Hindu, nor a Muslim, nor a Christian, nor a Sikh, nor a follower of any other religion. I was born a Hindu, but I have chosen to become non-religious. And the reasons behind that are more that the peace and war issue we just discussed.
I genuinely don’t believe that there is a God or a Superpower up above us, residing somewhere in the skies and controlling our lives from up there. When we are children, our parents teach us that there is only one god and the god treats everyone equally. But then we grow up to learn that there are many gods, each religion has its own god and in fact, Hinduism itself has numerous gods and not everyone is treated as an equal. How can there be so many gods? If there are so many gods then do they also fight amongst themselves like we do? Do they compete against one another? The obvious answer to these questions is no. And for me, the even more obvious answer is that there is no god.
Then who created us? Who created the earth, the solar system, the various species? Who controls us? Who decides our fate?
In the mix of everything that comprises the solar system, I am too small to answer that. In fact, no human can answer that. I don’t know who created us and everything around us, but I do know that our gods didn’t create it all, simply because, we are the ones who created our gods and our religions.
The first form of life on earth wasn’t in the form of human beings. Life, as an entity, went through various phases over centuries to evolve into human beings. There was no religion attached to the first humans on earth. Humans started to chart their territories and define a particular place as their owns. Then over time, religions were formed and gods were created. Hence, gods didn’t create us, we created gods because we didn’t know where we had come from. The closest answer to who created us would be that seeds of our creation were sown in the form of micro-organism and we evolved from there.
Coming to the question of control and fate, I believe that we ourselves control ourselves. Our actions decide our fate. There is no god charting our lives, we do it ourselves. There is no god pushing us into trouble or pulling us out of trouble, we do it ourselves.
The other thing I believe is that every human being on earth is connected to one another. With some, you have a strong connection and with others, the connection is weak. But there is a connection. Your actions will influence and affect not only you, but many others, even people you don’t know. And similarly, other’s actions affect you.
So what is wrong with that?
There would have been nothing wrong with that had there been just one god. But there are many gods and many religions behind these gods and that is where it all becomes unbelievable for me.
So you are an atheist?
Yes. I don’t believe in god, which makes me an atheist.
I don’t believe in god because I don’t believe in submission. I don’t submit myself before anyone or anything. I have fears, but I believe in conquering them myself. Superstitions of various kinds originate from religion and I find them silly. Just because something has been going on for ages doesn’t mean that it is right. Every human being has a brain and the power to think and question, but because of our busy lives and apathetic nature, we don’t think or question, we just follow what everyone else is doing. I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to follow a religion because religion has been around for ages and people have been following it and there is no harm in it. I would rather believe in myself. I believe that I have the power within myself to achieve what I want and find a solution to any problem that I am facing.
And even beyond that, I am an atheist because I don’t feel the need to pray. Many people have told me that they don’t pray to ask for things, they pray because they find peace in prayers. But I don’t need to find peace; I am at peace by myself. If you are agitated or angry or frustrated, you pray to god and feel peaceful. If I am in such a situation, I talk to my own self and find peace. I don’t feel the need to go elsewhere.
Any more questions?
[Saurin Parikh runs the popular website Review Catalogue.]