I was interviewed by a good friend for her final thesis on religious belief. I was amused by this request and if I recall correctly it was one of the few times where I eagerly looked forward to answering. I have always been a disgruntled writer as I was rejected more times than I can recall to be published in a paper or even a school magazine.
So the whole premise of the blog was a personal affront to years of cumulative rejection. I guess, I have survived the attention cycle and my insecurity has faded over the years through the medium of this blog. I am sharing the excerpts of the interview below.
1. What would you say your current religious orientation is? (atheist, agnostic, spiritual, etc.?)
A: I consider myself as an Atheist
2. What was your former faith?
A: My former faith was Hinduism
3. How religious/spiritual would you say you were before you left your faith?
A: I observed that I was religious only when it came to my parent’s health, results of my exams and fortunes of the football club I support. I wasn’t very sincere with my religiousness.
4. Were your beliefs in that faith were only due to you being born into it, or were they also, in part, reinforced by a conscious effort and independent thinking/research on your part?
A: I derived my faith from my parents and I found that it made them comfortable and strong when the times were tough. Through a conscious effort of thinking I found that most of my friends were kind and just and being religious just happened to be one of their attributes. I couldn’t find a direct correlation between religiosity and morality.
5. Have you ever questioned or had doubts about your faith and then reconciled them, and kept believing, before you left your religion? Can you expand any more upon this?
A: I have always had doubts about believing something without questioning. I would say Hinduism is more receptive to doubts as it is a polytheistic religion, my folks would often change their gods if they found one of them fared better than the other. I found that belief has a placebo effect on people. I found that religions have a negative impact over the course of years as they have always been at loggerheads with science when it disagreed with them. Most religions practice human rights violation and are often not kind to women. And I disagreed when religions claim absolute monopoly over morality. The final nail in the coffin was when religions became a barrier to having a conversation about climate change, slavery and peace.
6. How old were you when you officially knew that you no longer believed in your (now ex) religion?
A: I was 22 when I believe I lost complete faith in the concept of God or religion.
7. Can you describe the thought process that led you to this conclusion? (Ex: Were there any specific teachings/beliefs that you disagreed with, that drove along this “process of disbelieving?” Any particular sources that helped reassure you that your new beliefs were sound and had merit?)
A: My thought process was scientific and I was more convinced the idea that you should always question things before you believe in them. Theories had to be proven, peer reviewed and tested in challenging conditions before being accepted. I read the biographies of scientists when I was younger such as Marie Curie, Nicholas Tesla, Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein and Issac Newton to name a few.
I found most religions to be quasi pyramid schemes which fed on misinformation, blind faith and hunger to dominate politics. I was repulsed by religions who mistreated or exiled people who questioned their faith. I wanted to see, if I too shared the sentiment of people who feel the same way and I read works of Carl Sagan, Issac Asimov, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard
Dawkins, Ayan Ali Hirsi and George Carlin to name a few.
8. Was the emotional impact of this on your life at that time? (Ex: Was it traumatic or alienating?)
A: I would say the impact was alienating, initially it filled me with hate for the people who bullied and shoved religion down the throats of others. But I soon realized that the faith was at fault and most people deserve to be treated with kindness whether they deserve it or not. My parents still disagree with my choice but choose to be mute spectators observing and hoping I embrace religion someday.
9. Did your other siblings or relatives have similar beliefs? Were you able to talk to them, or anyone else about this?
A: Most of my family is religious in one way or another, but they keep such things personal and bring it only during festivals. I was able to talk to most of them about my digression from belief. They were a little amused and that is about it, I wouldn’t be lying if I wanted their reactions to be more controversial and dramatic.
10. Do your parents know about your loss faith? If no, do you want them to know? If yes, what has kept you from telling them?
A: Yes they do.
11. Is your lack of believing in your former religion impacting you today? If yes, how? If it’s negatively impacting you in anyway, if you could, would you go back to believing and forget about any doubts you have now?
A: The only observable impact so far has been social, even now when I attend any religious festivals with my family or friends, I feel I lack their enthusiasm as I fail to absorb the kind of joy that faith brings to them.
12. Do you have any regrets about it? Do you wish you had realized it sooner?
A: No, I do not have any regrets about it. I am happy with my choice.
13. Do you have any other miscellaneous comments about this, what you’ve experienced, religion, beliefs, etc?
A: I feel there is a huge gap of understanding between atheists and deists. Atheists have been prosecuted for ages in the name of heresy, controversy and apostasy. I don’t feel that I share a sense of community with fellow atheists, as I find that their lack of belief is just another attribute of their personality. I don’t feel uncomfortable or encumbered when I spend time with my religious friends as long as they don’t make me feel guilty for not being a believer.
I feel as long as you choose to exercise your faith within your community or private space it is perfectly fine. But to expect everyone to agree with your faith is unfair and unjustified.
14. So all in all, what advice would you give, from your experience, to someone else who may find themselves in the position you were back when you started along the path of “losing your faith?”
A: I feel every human being has a right to rationale and thought and must be allowed to conduct it without any social or religious duress. I feel children should not be scared into belief or threatened with excommunication. And people who lose faith should not pay the cost of living in social anonymity.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I would suggest people to study logic and reason as a pre-requisite before investing emotionally into any belief. Losing one’s faith can have several social repercussions. And I can understand that it might even drive some people into trauma or rage. As we feel we have been lied to and bullied just for exercising reason. I often see so called atheists “trolling” other people’s belief by mocking them. No matter what the choice, I feel we should be kind to one another irrespective of our faith or lack of it. The world is a far worse place than we think it is and we are going to be around only for a few years. Investing that time in love and community is far more rewarding than fighting to save a seat in heaven.