NOTE : My post about the London trip that i promised in my previous entry will be continued later so as to accommodate this post.
Why are we here? This is the question that any sane human being would like to see answered. I am invoking the sanity of human beings here just to allude to the fact that even in the 21st century, we are still surrounded by hypocrites, charlatans and preachers of falsehood that don’t want man to question, to know why he is here and what he is doing here. I would like to use this forum to give my views on the science versus religion debate and I am going to talk briefly about how and why it was a magnificent experience for me to transform myself from being an ‘agnostic’ (not a true agnostic as you will come to know by reading below) to an atheist.
Till a few months back, I was not being true to science. For a very long time now, I have been skeptical about religion. My questions about the various rituals and ceremonies that I had to grudgingly be part of were usually greeted with indifference and sometimes open mouthed horror. I was told to accept god on faith and here is where I had trouble with religion. While I always knew that God was not probably a very good explanation, I did not have the courage to talk about it and hid under the cloak of being an agnostic (a cloak under which a lot of my friends and close relatives stay hidden even now). Then, an atheist friend indirectly questioned my integrity towards science and I started thinking about it. I came across "The God Delusion" by Dr. Richard Dawkins and it was truly a momentous 19 continuous hours that I read it front to back. I started reading his other works and also books by the famous physicist Dr. Steven Weinberg and the transformation was complete. I am now an intellectually satisfied atheist but I am far from being a fundamentalist atheist. Give me logical evidence for the existence of god and also subject it to rigorous double blind experiments. If your God hypothesis is able to pass the experiment, then I will be the second person to start believing in your god, the first person being Dr. Richard Dawkins. All sane atheists that I know of are actually agnostic because we are just trying to tell that the existence or the non existence of God is like any other scientific hypothesis except for the fact that you have no evidence to actually prove the hypothesis. While religion asks you to accept things based on authority, the scientific approach promotes questioning and finding your answers and accepting them based on logic rather than based on fear or coercion.
Irrespective of the religion that you follow, the basic principle is the same: there is a supernatural being far more powerful than we can possibly imagine and perhaps that power had a hand in creating each one of us. This concept when propagated from the point of unqualified and untestable spiritual superiority, few people can actually question. Well, science has a problem with this. Our job as scientists and more importantly as curious human beings is to find out whether we actually need such an explanation. Scientists have demonstrated that every species that exist on this planet as of now have arisen out of a well documented process of slow and DIRECTED evolution termed evolution by natural selection (For the millionth time, Evolution by natural selection is not a random process so don’t ask me “OK so you think all of the things around us came by chance?”) and this is where I think we contradict ourselves by thinking we can be scientific and at the same time religious. If you are a strongly religious person, you expect thing s to be accepted based on faith and reason has no place in faith. If this is YOUR belief system, I am fine with it. On the other hand we are the skeptics who believe that logic and reasoning is required for any concept to be accepted as a fact and faith has no place in Science. If you think you are able to balance both well, you know who you are deceiving.
There is the age old argument that religion has morality written all over it. The religious argue that religion helps to build morality and character. I think we as a species are pathetic if our only source of being moral comes from the fear of punishment as laid out by books and arcane anecdotes. As Einstein (incidentally an atheist and not a true believer) said, if religion is the only reason we are moral, then our species is in a sorry state of affairs indeed. Ask yourself: will you stop being good if your religious book said you didn’t have to? If yes, then you are among the most immoral of all of living beings and you will go to ‘hell’ (assuming such a place exists) :)
Though I am an atheist, I still am a cultural Hindu. I firmly believe that religion has contributed very much to literature, architecture, poetry and music. Some of the best musical compositions have been religious. Our epics are also strongly rooted in religion. I am an ardent fan of the Bhagavad Geeta and I think it is one of the best self improvement books that man has ever written. Having said all that, I am also aware of that fact that all religions are based on untested and possibly ludicrous beliefs. Religion might have some inherent good but overall it has succeeded to do just the following: Divide people, Control people and Delude people. A few of my religious friends say I am proud to the point of being arrogant when it comes to science over religion. My answer to them is this: We provide you with evidence and ask you to interpret them for yourself and then come to a conclusion about the truth and you call us ARROGANT. Whereas YOU ask us to belive something just because your parents and their parents before them were taught to believe in something based purely on faith and without any evidence whatsoever . Are YOU not arrogant??