We Become Atheists 


Saraswarthi and Gora 
by Gora 
(second of two files)
   


We Become Atheists by Gora

Chapter XI. Political Action 

Early atheist programs were similar to Gandhi's Constructive work. While the Constructive program of Gandhi was linked with the political fight of the Congress and had therefore a nation wide significance, our work of adult education or village sanitation or removal of untouchability or women's liberation was intensively confined to a few villages. In a way, it was even non-political, as we had not proceeded sufficiently far to come into touch with or to clash with political authority. We moved in the thin margin outside the direct authority of the government. But as our work widened, we did clash with the conservative and capitalist ways of the government, and we found the need of political action. Political action becomes indispensable in the modern age if social work should be free and broad. Gandhi told Ramaswamy, an atheist, that he (Gandhi) was not a politician. He was essentially a man of religion and a social reformer, and to the extent political factors have come in his way he had been unwillingly drawn into political sphere. (An Atheist with Gandhi -- page 28). 

Despite the fact that our social work in Mudunur village was intensive, it was not so abiding as we wished. No doubt, Mudunur Suryam became a successful Insurance agent, Nagulapalli Sitaramaiah became a social worker of repute and Kalapala Suryam became a legislator. They are all the products of the adult school and active participants in the work at Mudunur. Also untouchability is relaxed there to a great extent. But in the very village which was know to be "the godless village" and in which 142 classified themselves as atheists in 1941 census, religious ceremonies are reappearing. Evidently social work without political legislation loses strength. The same is the experience with the several constructive activities of Gandhi during the fight for freedom. The lasting contribution of the Congress movement is the political freedom of India but not social change by constructive work. Of course, political work without constructive work is blind; at the same time, the results of constructive work without political action are shortlived. So we added political action to social work and continued social work along with political action. 

Our active politics started when we participated in the Quit India movement in 1942. As we continued political action, our politics have grown differently from the power politics in vogue. The difference is partly due to the atheist outlook and partly to our acquaintance with the Gandhian method. The principal feature of power politics is the capture of the authority of the government by fair or by foul means. The desire to capture power raises competition for power among those who have the desire. Competition leads to formation of political parties and rivalries among the parties make the means of capturing power more foul than fair. Party machinations and corruptive ways and the many evils to which present democracies are subject flow from power politics. 

The real purpose of politics is to solve people's problems by means of governmental legislation. Constructive program is the non-political method of solving people's problems. Sarvodaya is non-political in that sense. But in the modern age when problems are complex and social relations are wide, constructive work is not able to cope up with the demands of people's needs. Therefore, we require politics that is legislation, to solve our problems. But we find politics also failing to solve the problems satisfactorily on account of the competition for power entering into politics. Therefore, unless politics are cleared of the mania for power, politics cannot fulfill its real purpose of solving people's problems. That is, those who hold the reins of governmental authority should be people-minded and not power-minded. But to suppose that lust for power is inherent in the very institutions of government on account of its centralized authority and revenues, and to recommend non-political methods for solution of people's problems especially when non-political methods are inadequate to deal with the problems of stage of civilizational progress, are born of a feeling of frustration. Therefore, to be practical a way must be found to turn power-politics into real politics, that would make persons in authority people-minded instead of power-minded. 

Gandhi proposed the method of decentralization of the basic units of administration so that the people get into direct touch with their representatives. The direct touch enables people to control their representatives in authority and to check their slipping into greed for power, because people stand to lose by such a wrong. Even in self defense against the evil of power mania, people should prevent legislators from abuse of power. But effective check is possible only when units of administration are sufficiently decentralized to keep legislators in close tough with people. If Gandhi got into the seat of power on India winning freedom, or if Jawaharlal Nehru followed the Gandhian way, India would have had politics instead power politics. Both did not happen. Gandhi was assassinated and Nehru held the power that preserved the imperialist ways of centralized authority. 

India has been politically free since 1947, but is in the grip of power politics rather than in the dawn of real politics. What program shall we, the atheists, take up to clear the present politics of power mania? Decentralization is indeed desirable. But it is not a feasible proposition for us as individual citizens in a democracy. It can be done only after we get into seats of power. Even Vinoba with all his prestige, mighty effort of foot march throughout India, and huge following, could not get administration decentralized effectively, though that was his avowed purpose. Some of us were with him in the Sarvodaya movement, as it was known. I wrote a book Why Gram-Raj by name printed by the Sarvodaya publications. Its theme is the need of decentralization of the basic units of administration. To start the work from where we are, we took to the programs of partylessness and pomplessness of legislators. The progress of atheist political action consisted in formulation and practice of items of partylessness and pomplessness. Nevertheless, we keep close to constructive work also. 

In 1946, I was invited to the camp of Kasturiba Memorial Trust at Borivilli, Bombay. Mridula Sarabhai was the Secretary of the Trust. She was quite rational. She asked me to speak on superstitions. Naturally, I referred to the need of atheism to fight superstitions. There was a protest against the mention of atheism in a camp which was run under the aegis of Gandhism. Also Mridula dropped the item of prayer from the timetable of the camp. The protest was carried to Gandhi. He did not take a serious notice of it. He suggested that prayer might be arranged for those who need it. Gandhians were more "godly" than Gandhi. 

Next year Mridula Sarabhai became a Secretary of the All India Congress Committee along with Kheskar. Sadiq Ali was the Office Secretary. I was taken in as the Organizer, first at Allahabad,. and then at Delhi Camp office. Gandhi was staying in the Bhangi Colony on Panchkuan Road among sweepers. I was going there pretty frequently. I noticed the difference between the slum dwellings of sweepers where Gandhi lived and the posh mansions of the cabinet ministers who held the posts in the caretaker government under the prime ministership of Jawaharlal Nehru in the name of Gandhi. Obviously the principles of Gandhism and its austerity began to be sidetracked. 

Saraswati was with me for some time. We were invited to lunch by Mohammad Rahamtullah Khan, the president of the Delhi Congress Committee. He was very elderly and considerate. According to his custom, he served beef as a dish at the meal. Saraswati and I are vegetarians by the caste habit which we acquired in childhood. When we discarded caste and religious association, we revised food habits also that are linked up with caste distinctions. But normally we remained vegetarian. At that time we ate a bit of beef to show that we are not sentimentally vegetarian hidebound by caste habits and religious feelings. We asked Md. Rahamtullah Khan whether he would eat pork. Pork is a religious taboo to Muslims as beef is to Hindu castes. Rahamtulla Khan saw the point in our question. He rose above the levels of religious difference and told us with dignity, "Yes, I should, when it is served to me." Of course we did not have a dish of pork ready at hand. But his reply left an impression on us and suggested an objective program for effacing Hindu-Muslim differences. Twenty five years later we conducted the program of beef and pork eating in the face of opposition from conventional religionists. The incident at Md. Rahamtulla Khan's house formed the basis for an organized and extensive program in 1972. 


We Become Atheists by Gora

Chapter XII. Between Gandhi and Marx 

Nehru was not faithful to Gandhi as Lenin was to Marx. Nehru had immense love and respect for Gandhi. That was sentimental. He did not consider the Gandhian discipline of austerity feasible or desirable in independent India. As Prime Minister of the caretaker government till the August 15, 1947, Nehru was visiting Gandhi who was residing in the slum of the sweepers. But he was himself living in ministerial mansions of the British imperial regime. He paid little heed to Gandhi's advice to Governors, ministers and legislators to deem themselves as servants of people and to live a way of life close to the common man of India who is poverty stricken. Gandhi did not simply say this but lived that way of life in a hut at Sevagram Ashram and in the slums at Delhi. Neither Nehru nor "Gandhians" appreciated the need of austerity to deserve the respect of the mass of people for the laws they make. 

In contrast to Nehru, stood Lenin. On becoming the Secretary of the Communist party he refused the increase in his salary. Noteworthy still was his conduct, when he shifted to Gorky Hill to take rest. There was the mansion of the commander-in-chief of the Czar who had fled after the revolution. Lenin stayed not in the mansion, but in the servant's quarter. My admiration for him grew a thousand fold when I saw the servants quarter by the side of the big mansion when I visited Moscow in 1974. At once in my mind's eye Gandhi's hut in Sevagram appeared side by side with the servant's quarter where Lenin lived. Both stood in terrible contrast with the Teen Murthi Bhavan in which Nehru lived, the palatial mansion of the commander-in-chief of the British army in India. Lenin lived in the servant's quarter of the mansion; Nehru lived in the mansion itself. The difference indicated the difference in their faithfulness to the ideology they professed. 

Inspired by Lenin's simplicity, the rank and file of the Communist party all over the world lived close to the common people. Following Nehru, Gandhians deviated from the Gandhian principles. 

After the Quit India movement, my close colleague, Tummala Challayya, was disillusioned with Gandhian ideology which could not inspire Gandhians with simplicity. He was twice in prison in Quit India movement, and an ardent Gandhian at first. Later, he moved towards the Communist Party, and persuaded some others too to join the Party. He and Yellamanchili Ramakrishnayya followed the path of communism, went under ground and Ramakrishnayya was shot dead in an encounter with police. Chellayya narrowly escaped capital punishment. 

Chellayya persuaded me at that time to join the Communist Party. The marked difference between the simplicity of Communist workers and the pompous ostentation of Congressmen was his irrefutable argument. I looked at Gandhism and Marxism in their wider perspective, of theoretical implications and practical programs. Principles of dialectical materialism and their application to human history basically deny freewill to the individual. This goes against the atheist assertion of the freewill. In practice, the Marxian ideology would necessitate secrecy and underground life in the attempt to organize for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat or of its champion, the Communist Party. I am averse to secrecy. While I disapproved the pomp of congressmen. I could not accept the implications of Marxism. I felt that both Gandhism and Marxism had good parts and both of them needed atheist correction for clearing them of faults. I explained this in my book "Positive Atheism." We carried on the atheist work on political and constructive fronts, without getting into the streams of the Congress or of the Communist Party. 

Gandhi was assassinated on the January 30 1948. He had to lay down his life because his followers would not listen to him. His solution to the Hindu-Muslim problem was to give Jinnah, the Muslim leader, a blank check to form the government of undivided India. He said that it was firstly wrong to think in terms of Hindu citizens and Muslim citizens, instead of thinking in terms of Indian secular citizenship; and that secondly, even if religious distinctions were granted, Hindus were in two thirds majority in numbers and could easily be liberal to their Muslim brethren, though they were found to be stubborn. Love of power blinded reason. The Congress High Command agreed to the division to avoid the colossal bloodbath. India was divided on August 15, 1947. Gandhi's protest took the non-violent from of working for communal harmony. His voice was drowned in communal frenzy and a Hindu shot down a "Sanatana Hindu," who was simply a human. 

After Gandhi's assassination, I severed connection with the Congress and proceeded along the atheist path in all aspects of life, as I conceived them. 

We shifted from Mudunur to Patamata as the latter is on the roadside with better communications being a suburb of Vijayawada town. On the day we left Mudunur, there was a farewell function. A purse of collections was presented to us and friends helped us to shift the huts from Mudunur to Patamata. The seven years' stay at Mudunur and the reminiscences of activities there have fostered, bonds of lasting relationship. Paturi Nagabhushanam, the Secretary of the Library movement, secured for us a plot of land at Patamata to put up our sheds. We called that place also atheist center and conducted adult education classes in the untouchable slum by our side. The landlord, Govindarajulu Venkateswara Rao, and his brothers, though congressmen, objected to our association with untouchables since it would disturb the peasant-labour relations in the area. But we continued our programs. They obtained an ex-parte legal decree for our eviction. Chennupati Ramakotaiah, the head of the village, sympathized with the clash of my ways with the existing social setup and invited me to his land in another part of Patamata. The present Atheist Center, has been there since 1948. 

Better communications at Patamata facilitated widening of engagements. I participated in several library and adult education conferences organized by Paturi Nagabhushanam who had devoted his life to library movement. He took part in the freedom struggle of 1930-32 and is an enthusiastic Gandhite. He appreciated my condition that wherever I go for a conference, my lodge and food should be arranged in the untouchable slum. A notable incident happened at the Alampur conference. The local organizers who generally treated untouchables as manual laborers and disliked close association with them, did not make the arrangements satisfactorily as promised. At a late hour, Nagabhushanam personally attended to the matter and several delegates to the conference came to the slum and shared the meal they arranged. It was a unique event in those parts and it served to awaken new social consciousness. The most distinguished guest of the function was Gadicherla Hari Sarvothama Rao, another freedom fighter of radical views. He walked to the slum for participation in the meal, in spite of his advanced age. 

Similar incidents happened at a village in Cuddapah District and at Vallabhapuram in Guntur District. Each incident gained fresh friends to us who came forward with sacrifice of caste privileges and worked for equal social respect. 

The conference put me in touch with Ayyanki Venkata Ramanaiah, Venkata Rama Naidu, Putumbaka Sreeramulu, Roche Victoria, Korukonda Subbaraju and several elite of Andhra Pradesh. 

Atheism extended its frontiers through programs of action. 


We Become Atheists by Gora

Chapter XIII. Economic Equality 

Economic problem is the most important one in human affairs. There are cases when men and women stake their life for honor and liberty. Wars and suicides have no place in human life unless there are values considered more worthy than food and comfort. Yet, in day-to-day life food is very important. Those for whom food is assured progress in fields of art and technology is more rapid than those who have to search for or fight for food. The backwardness of Asian and African countries is primarily due to their lack of social security. Further, modern age recognizes the equality of all humans. Therefore, to have social security evenly distributed among all people yields better results in development of human affairs than when its availability differs with advantages in competition. Evidently, socialist countries enjoy greater peace and progress than countries under capitalist economy, though both have social security. Hence economic equality is the cry of the day. 

Countries that have adopted the Marxian ideology have a materialist awakening and they have definitely achieved economic equality now. But their achievement is subject to political dictatorship, which curbs individual freedom. The problem before atheists is to find out a method by which economic equality is achieved while preserving the freedom of the individual. That is, taking democracy and socialism together. 

Because no country has so far achieved socialism democratically, the common belief is that Marxism alone stands for socialism, while democracy supports capitalism. But we find Gandhi attempted at achieving socialism democratically. The thirteenth item of his Constructive Program is to work for Economic Equality. Of course, the method proposed for achieving economic equality is trusteeship. And Trusteeship is too good to be real. The Sarvodaya movement which gave trusteeship the best trial has failed in the final achievement. Therefore, while Marxism is well known by its achievement of socialism, the thirteenth item of Gandhian program is either little known by the lack of achievement or where it is known it is discredited by its trusteeship principal which is both non political and utopian. Nevertheless, the indication of possibility of achieving socialism democratically is found in the thirteenth item of the Constructive Program of Gandhi. It is this possibility that attracts atheists. They feel that if democratic political method is adopted instead of trusteeship, it is possible to achieve economic equality without disturbing the freedom of the individual. 

The correction needed in this context is to drive democracy towards legislations in favor of economic equality and atheists feel that democracy can be driven in that direction when it is rendered partyless and pompless. With this plan, atheists held the Conference of Gandhi Sangh at Gudivada at first. The name of Gandhi was taken in order to emphasize that not only Marx but Gandhi also talked of economic equality. The conference highlighted the thirteenth item of the Constructive Program. The organizers of the conference were Mudedla Ramarao and K. Bhujanga Bhushana Rao who were freedom fighters. S. Ramanathan, President of the All India Rationalist Association and S. Jagannathan were among the guests from Madras who contributed to the discussion. Kodati Narayan Rao from Hyderabad helped us give shape to the resolution. The success of the conference was due to the cooperative effort of several persons who were interested in evolving a democratic method for achieving economic equality. 

The same work is carried on later when we formed Arthik Samatha Mandal (Association for the achievement of economic equality) at Wardha under the presidentship of J.C. Kumarappa. I was the secretary, D.J. Hathekar, T.K. Bang, Suresh Ram and Vasant Nargolkar were on the committee. We resolved that democracy should be rid of party and pomp in order to think in terms of achieving economic equality. 

For spreading atheist ideas and programs of work, we wanted to start a journal. A small printing press with a treadle came in handy. Lavanam underwent training in press work at Madras with Shramajeevi Acharya. At Patamata we started the press. My children Vijayam, Samaram, Mythri, Vidya and several coworkers from Patamata village worked in the press. I edited the Telugu weekly, Sangham, (Society) in whose columns we discussed the atheist ideology and plan of action. The press was bought out of public donation and the journal was run on public sympathy. After running it for five years, we changed the name to Arthik Samata (Economic Equality), under the editorship of Lavanam. The change of name was in tune with our emphasis on economic problems. When our press became too rickety to print, C. Rangappa of Proddatur printed our journal in his Sarathy Press. He printed some books of atheism too and helped our work. 

Besides the two journals in Telugu, Sangham and Arthik Samata, we ran a Hindi monthly, Insaan (means a human being) for a few years, to gain contact with the Hindi States of the North. Now we have the English monthly journal, The Atheist, which has world wide circulation in atheist circles. For a year Lavanam was at Kakinada with C.V.K. Rao, assisting the editing of Sarathi which adopted the ideology of economic equality. 

Though we were busy with press, journal and spread of atheist thought, we did not lose sight of constructive work. Being adjacent to the town, the constructive work at Patamata was different from the work at Mudunur. While unemployment and poverty are general problems concentrated in urban areas in developing countries with no social security, the specific problem with which we were confronted was the eviction of hut-dwellers who are untouchables, from the place they were living on. The reason for the eviction was either the needs of town planning or the ownership of the land by a rich man. Such a question came to us where 48 huts were involved. I approached the municipal authorities and the state government to provide the evicted persons with alternative house sites for the huts. They pleaded lack of provision in the budget for the help. My wife and I took a straight course. We helped the evicted hutsmen to occupy a wide and unused road margin. The municipal authorities objected to the occupation as it was illegal. Our simple answer was that the occupation was moral. Where there is discord between legality and morality, legality should be opposed and morality should be upheld. Law is for man. If law hurts man's life, law must be changed and man should be allowed to live. The straight and open vindication of our stand, let the poor people live on there. The stand we took involved the affected people in the contention and they now stand on their legs with confidence. They feel strong because they are in the right. 

My children have grown with the humanist outlook. Their marital alliances disregarded caste distinctions. The daughter of Nara, an atheist married a muslim on principle. My son Lavanam, married an "untouchable" and this was the second marriage that was performed at Sevagram on atheist principles with no mention of god. The first was the marriage of my daughter Manorama with Arjunarao. 

As the children grew up and were qualified educationally by private study or by regular collegiate education, we had to find work for them. They did not want salaried jobs. So my second daughter Mythri and Hemalata Lavanam started a private children school at the atheist center, Patamata. It was named Vasavya school. Vasavya is a word coined with the first letters of three words in Telugu, Vastavikata (sense of reality), Sanghadrusti (sociability), and Vyaktityam (individuality) -- the three qualities that atheism cherishes. The children of Vasavya school were required to drop caste appellations of their names. The school enlisted the cooperation of the parents of students and educated the homes indirectly. It was an enjoyable experience. 


We Become Atheists by Gora

Chapter XIV. Direct Action 

The feeling of freedom is the principal feature of atheism. It makes atheists masters of every situation. Being masters they cannot complain. With a sense of responsibility, and direct action, they have to redress whatever they find unjust. 

Direct action is the same as Gandhi's Satyagraha. When Gandhi said that living faith in god was necessary for a Satyagrahi, he spoke in common conventional language. In spirit and practice, Satyagraha and atheistic direct action are alike in as much as both should insist upon the right and oppose the wrong. 

Direct action has two advantages. It sets right a wrong. Also it disciplines the activist. Our action against ornamental flower plants illustrated the double advantage. We felt that as long as there is scarcity of food any where, it is anti social to use land, water, manure, time interest or energy for growing non edibles. From the point of view of social responsibility the color of tomato or the shape of cabbage is more pleasing to the eyes then nonedible salvia or pansy. So, after due notice to the concerned authorities, some of us planned in 1968 to replace ornamental plants with edibles in the public garden at Hyderabad. T. Ramarao who is not avowedly an atheist, liked the plan. Before he participated in the operation, he pulled out chrysanthemums from the pots of his garden and put in coriander there. By practice and sacrifice he inspired others to do likewise. It spoke of the honesty of his purpose and added dignity to our work, with the result that several passers by on the road joined us sympathetically in replacing flower plants with edibles, in the garden that evening. The police imprisoned us on the charge of destroying public garden. But the moral value of our programs was so forceful that on rethinking, the government had to withdraw the case against us unconditionally after a month. 

Our direct action was largely against the pompous extravagance of the heads of the State. Political power is a potent factor in regulating lives of the people. On winning political freedom of India, we expected the persons wielding political power to think and work for the welfare of all people. But those who were elected to seats of power, misused authority for selfish gains and used the revenues of the government more for personal comforts and pride of pomp than for people's welfare. So, we directed our action against the pompous extravagances of heads of the State. 

Elected legislators could abuse power since people were not vigilant enough to check the excesses of their representatives. Accustomed to feel subservient to their notion of god, common people obeyed their governments too, instead of controlling them and preventing lapses. Atheists re-educate the people to tell them that they are the masters of their government, as democracy requires them to be. Involvement in the programs of direct action is the best method of education. Heads of State do need special facilities for the performance of their special functions. But personal pomp is certainly an abuse of authority and disdain of people. They travel in first class and live in luxurious mansions, while common people are packed in third class compartments and are restricted to huts in slums. At one time, we insisted on the ministers of the state too traveling in third class in sympathy with the condition of common people whom they profess to serve. At the railway station, we prevented them from getting into first class compartments. 

Chundi Veeraswamy, who earns out his livelihood barber, was a great activist in the program. He could see the injustice in comparison with his hard labor everyday. We were often kept out by the police till the train left. However, P.V.G. Raju, and T. Viswanatham when they were ministers traveled in third class sometimes in sympathy with our demand. M.V. Krishna Rao, another minister travels in omnibus along with common people, a big change in the prevailing customs in India. Tanguturi Prakasam, an elderly gentleman, too traveled in third class on principle when he was the state minister for revenue. 

One minister's reaction was strange. When I persuaded him to travel in third class, his ministerial dignity, false as it was, was hurt. He slighted me with "Who are you?" Straight I replied, "I am your master." The right of democracy struck him hard. He withdrew behind the cordon of police. 

Rajendra Prasad was a close associate of Gandhi. He became the first President of the Republic of India. In a special interview, I requested him, "The best place for the President of India is the slum were Gandhi lived. I won't press that demand now. Please visit the slum wherever you go. Slum dwellers also are citizens of India. Placed as you are, they cannot easily approach you. "He was too honest to deny my request. He could not agree either, on account of the form and pomp that surrounded him, and parried the question. 

I repeated the request with Chandulal Trivedi, when he was the Governor of Andhra State. He could receive addresses from clubs and corporations, but he should visit the slums also. Twice we staged black-flag demonstrations when he paid no heed. Popular sympathy grew in our favor. Third time he yielded. He visited slums wherever he went thereafter and attended to their needs. My wife, Saraswati, and Andraiah played notable roles in those direct actions. 

We pressed upon Sanjiva Reddy and Brahmanda Reddy, when they were Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh to shift from their palatial mansions to more modest abodes, closer to the common people. I had a long discussion with Kamaraj Nadar on the point when he was the President of the Congress Party. In 1961-62 fourteen of us, including Saraswati and Lavanam, started on a foot march from Sevagram Ashram to Delhi. It was 1,100 miles long and took 99 days. It was a protest march against the pompous extravagance and party affiliation of the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. At every camp on the march and on the way too, we were meeting people, addressing meetings and explaining that, in democracy people are masters and ministers are servants. By the time we reached Delhi, we were 38 from different States of India. We wrote repeatedly to the Prime Minister, the first representative of the people. We requested him to set an example to the people as the "heir of Gandhi." He was silent. At Delhi we blocked the entrance of his official residence, Teen Murthi, as direct protest. He called for us to talk the next day. Mahavir Bhai and I met him. He said he would gladly respond to the demand, if the public is sufficiently awakened to the principles of partylessness and pomplessness. We said that a gesture from him would rouse the people to democratic consciousness. At present democratic practices move in a vicious circle shifting responsibilities of change from government to people and people to government. I found the members of Communist Party no better in their response. Their members in legislatures draw the same salaries and allowances as those whom they call bourgeoisie. They say that circumstances should change for persons to change. How do circumstances change? Certainly by the effort of some individuals. Lenin did not wait for the whole bourgeoisie to lose the class character before he lived in the servant's quarter in Gorki Hill. 

Nevertheless, four legislators of the Andhra Legislature elected a voluntary cut in their salaries and allowances to be honest to their representation of people's interests. They were C.V.K. Rao, Vavilala Gopalakrishnayya, M.V. Subbareddi and Koarapati Pattabhi Ramaiah. Another aspect of direct action is seeking elections. 


We Become Atheists by Gora

Chapter XV. Seeking Election

One-adult-one-vote is the outstanding character of democracy. The equality of voting franchise ought to lead to equality of economic opportunity and equality of social respect among people through appropriate legislation. But democracies have not so far succeeded in establishing equality, despite the equality of voting franchise. What is the reason? Atheists have thought over the problem with an open mind. They have tried to find out where and how democracy is sabotaged in the fair purpose of achieving equality. 

One of the reasons for failure of democracy is the centralization of administration which removes the representative away from the easy control of people. Then the representative can abuse the powers of his position and fall into the temptation of personal comfort. The programs of direct action have been attempts to control the legislators and to compel them to shed pomp as far as possible under the conditions of centralized administration. 

The second method is seeking election by those who are inspired with the desire to establish equality democratically. If they get elected, they can try to introduce legislation to cut down pomp and to decentralize administration. But there is a hurdle in the way of seeking election. Political parties have crept into the democratic machinery and have virtually captured the election platforms. Parties set up their candidates, and scare away non-party candidates from seeking election. Nor are the party candidates useful for the purpose of democracy. The competition among political parties for getting elected by hook or by crook, fouls the election machinery. They collect huge funds, bribe and corrupt voters, bug and blackmail opponents. After election their attention is more absorbed in strengthening their positions by pulling the legs of opponents than working for the welfare of the people. The way of democracy that is sidetracked by political parties is called power politics in contrast with the people's politics of real democracy. Atheists are confronted with this ugly conditions of power politics when they seek election. Atheists know that there is no mention at all of parties in democratic constitutions. Even if there is any provision it could be amended, in view of the harm that political parties do to people's interests. In the face of the conventions of power politics atheists feet bold to seek election as non-party candidates. 

I sought election to Parliament in the first general election in India in 1952. Reve stood for the State Assembly from Suryapet Constituency. Though people were habituated to power politics and they were in the grips of political parties, I found it easy to put across the purpose of democracy to the people. I held street corner meetings, contacted the people straight and held open dialogues. I did not succeed at the polls, but certainly I succeeded in opening a new path to lead towards people's politics out of power politics. It was a partyless movement. 

M.N. Roy also propounded the theory of partyless democracy earlier. Consistently he dissolved his party and encouraged the members. to lead the partyless movement. A.G.K. Murty of Tenali was a protagonist of the cause. He gave his full support to me. Later when I sought election to the State Assembly again in 1967, his. colleague M.V. Ramamurthy stood for the Parliament election. In 1972 elections the number of candidates to seek election from partyless platform increased. B. Venugopal from Repalle, Parachuri Venkataratnam from Kuchinapudi, K. Muralidhararao from Nallagonda, S. Narasimhulu from Cuddapah and Lavanam from Vijayawada were among the candidates. 

With the help of Mahadev Singh, S.R.L. Devi and Vandemataram Ramachandrarao, we held a conference of Partyless Democracy at Hyderabad in 1960. Jayaprakash Narayan inaugurated the conference. Some principles were highlighted at the conference. We said that candidates from partyless platform should considerably cut down election expenses, because they were the main source of corruption. Those who spend money at the election will be tempted to recover the money by illicit means after the election. Secondly, the opposition should be free and fluid, instead of being bloc and whip bound. Opposition is effective only when it is free. It can then be constructive too depending on the merits of the issue instead of opposing for the sake of opposition which is unworthy of the dignity of a legislator. When opposition is free, the cabinet of ministers accepts the decision of the House by a majority of free votes, even though it may mean amendment or rejection of a cabinet proposal. In such a state of partylessness the leader of the House is elected by the whole House by the method of eliminating.those who get the least number of votes each time and repeating election. It is the power politics where parties vie with one another that call elections a "contest" meaning a kind of rivalry between the different candidates. In the partyless approach, we seek election but contest with none. 

We held a series of talks, seminars and study classes in towns and rural parts on partyless democracy. I toured the country extensively in the month of April, May and June 1962 addressing meetings on partyless and pompless democracy. A week long worker's camp was held at Ghaziabad, near Delhi in early 1962. 

Conferences on Partyless Democracy were organized successfully in August 1961 at Hubli; in June 1962 at Calcutta; in October 1968 at Bangalore and in February 1975 at Warangal. The discussions on partyless democracy clarified two features as principal changes from power politics. First, seeking election is as much a right of the citizen in democracy as casting vote. Party politics set up party candidates at elections and practically shut out others from the privilege. Partyless platform breaks the self arrogated monopoly of political parties and encourages any number of candidates to seek election in a constituency. Out of the several candidates, voters choose those who commend themselves by their history of service, integrity of conduct and ability to represent people. The wide scope cuts across caste and communal bias and presents alternatives to the yes men of parties. Not the promise of a showy manifesto but the objective to legislate for establishing economic equality and social justice becomes prominent. Secondly, an elected member will serve his full term. The mischief of power politics which asks a member of the rival party to resign every time will be replaced by the healthy convention of checking the lapses of a legislator by pressures of direct action. The extra expenditure of by-elections will be avoided and the funds will be usefully diverted to promote people's welfare. The party politics which reduce a citizen's rights only to casting votes periodically will be activated by the principle that the right of a citizen in democracy is also to see that his representatives do their duty. Democracy strengthens through people's participation. Decentralization of the units of administration certainly facilitates people's participation. But partylessness is the first state from power politics to decentralization. 

Besides Radical Humanists of Royist ideology and Jayaprakash Narayan, members of Sarvodaya are committed to the principle of partylessness. So, I joined Sarvodaya a year after it started in 1951. I spoke freely about partyless programs from Sarvodaya platforms. We held the conference of Partyless Democracy at Raipur. Vishnu Sran, Tiwary and several friends helped its spread, with the name of Satyagraha Samaj. 

But Sarvodaya largely is non political in its activities. Therefore, though it agreed to partyless democracy in principle, it discouraged active programs in that direction. The conference on partyless democracy at Raipur, the Sevagram-Delhi March in 1961 were opposed by Sarvodaya office bearers as being political, though members like Thakurdas Bang, Ganesh Prasad Naik, Mahavir Bhai, Lokendra Bhai and Hemdev Sharma actively supported and participated in programs of partyless democracy. 

Shri Shivamurty Swamy, member of Parliament from Raichur, Karnataka, is an ardent supporter of Partyless Democracy. He introduced a non-official bill in Parliament laying it down that the Prime Minister should be elected by the whole House, giving up the convention of appointing the leader of the majority party as the prime minister. Sivamurty Swamy held a conference at Hubli to which Mahavir Bhai, S.R. Subrahmaniam, Lavanam and I were invited. 

Partyless democracy which emerged as the political program of atheism by and large gathered wide support. 


We Become Atheists by Gora

Chapter XVI. Are They Outrageous?

Atheist mind is open. Every time it practically writes on a clean slate. All revolutions do it. Atheism is revolutionary. Atheists respect old values in so far as they are useful to present times. Atheists do not hesitate to drop such old values that do not bear the march of progress. The only two values that abide with atheists are the objective of equality of all humans and the method of openness. Equality and openness are indispensable social needs. Put to the test of equality and openness, we find most of our old values require revision or even rejection. Thinking and working along these lines, I was confronted with special situations, whose solution from the atheist standards seemed ordinary to me, while they looked outrageous to others till they understood me. 

The first one related to the social status of unmarried mothers. In India girls are married early. Till 1935 when Child Marriage Restraint Act was passed, marriages were mostly pre-puberty. Therefore, motherhood is shielded by the condition of marriage and unwed motherhood does not arise except in the case of widows who are not remarried. So by old social custom unwed motherhood is regarded a heinous crime on the part of the woman. Unwed mothers either resort to abortion stealthily, or commit suicide. 

The first case of an unwed mother we came across was at Mudunur, sometime in 1946. She was a Brahmin widow. Her head was shaven, as it is the custom with widows of some castes, including Brahmins. She belonged to an adjacent village. She was about 25 years of age. When her pregnancy came to be evident, she was discarded by the village and the helpless woman stayed alone on the tank bund at a distance. When the case came to our notice, my wife and I called her to the Atheist Center at Mudunur and offered her all assistance of food, shelter, maternity home and post-natal care. As friends of Mudunur were atheistically minded, they agreed with me and came forward with material help. 

The woman was happy at first at our offer. But when she found out that at the atheist center we live without caste distinctions, she being a brahmin, refused food at our hands, and left us. She delivered in a hospital. The experience made us aware both of the condition of unwed mothers and of the sentiment of caste. 

I wrote news articles on the social injustice to unwed mothers. For the same act, man is left free as he can escape while woman is punished. Should special hardship be imposed on women on account of the difference in sex? It is as unfair as the discrimination due to color of the skin in racial differences. 

Later, I found Radha Kishan Home at Hyderabad, run by Mr. and Mrs. Dage, gave shelter to unwed mothers, but they strictly kept their identity secret. Such treatment affords relief in individual cases, but does not solve the problem socially. I was enthused when I found that the Constitution of USSR, and that of People's China give to unwed mothers the same status as other mothers. 

In 1970 and again in 1974, when I visited USA and Europe, I was glad to find that there were institutions to take care of unwed mothers. As the institution of family itself is cracking in Europe and USA and as marital alliance is going out of fashion, the way of becoming a mother does not matter much there. Yet, the old custom of disrespecting unwed mother has not yet been deliberately set aside, though the sting is lost. 

In 1951 my second daughter, Mythri, became an unwed mother. As the boy was married, the question of her marriage with the boy did not arise. As atheists, Saraswati and I wanted to face the problem openly. Dr. Achamamba came out with her full support to us. She offered to delivery, pre and post-natal care. As I was wholly depending on public subscription for our food and work, I needed support in this open solution of a problem which was shrouded in secrecy so long. 

I made known the fact to some of my friends by words of mouth and by written letter. Some friends thought that my frankness was foolhardy. A friend went to the extent of addressing some common friends condemning the condition of my daughter and deprecating the atheist way of life, in view of this incident. 

But openness paid me well. While a few old friends dropped out, many more new friends came in support. Gandhi was no more by that time. But Kishorelal Mushruwala, who wrote the introduction to my book, An Atheist With Gandhi, appreciated my stand. 

Mythri was delivered of a daughter. She married Jonnalagadda Ramalingayya and has three more children. She acquired academic qualifications and plans to start a home for women where problems can be solved openly raising the dignity of women to be equal to men. Sex should not make a difference in social status as racial traits ought not to. 

The second event that raised a furor of protest was openly eating Beef and Pork. Among Christians no meat is a taboo. But pork eating is forbidden for Muslims and beef is for Hindus religiously. To disown religious sentiments into which many people are born, we thought everyone ought to eat tiny bits of beef and pork together openly. Saraswati and I and our children are normally vegetarians. As diet habits are associated with caste and religious distinctions in India, we have no objection to eat a bit of any meat openly. At Delhi, Saraswati and I had eaten beef with Rahamtulla Khan as mentioned before. Our atheist friends liked the program and so we proposed the function of eating tiny bits of beef and pork openly with bread or rice from 4 to 5 p.m. on Indian Independence Day August 15, 1972 at Atheist Center, Patamata. There were no special invitations, but anybody was welcome to witness or to participate in the function. The announcement of the function looked outrageous to Hindu and Muslim beliefs. But beef and pork eating clears the mind of religious bias and breeds human outlook. Without understanding the objective of the function, Sankaracharya of Puri, a high priest of Hindus, who was then camping at Hyderabad, issued a statement protesting against the function. I replied that I was not a Hindu but a human, and so his protest was misdirected. I invited him to the function, if he liked to transcend a denominational belief and grow human. Sankaracharya, with vested interests in Hindu sectarianism, rallied a protest with hundreds of religious people. It became a law and order problem. Police force was called into action. Amidst wide protest, 136 marched in a queue, noted down their names and addresses and participated in the function of Beef and Pork eating that day according to the schedule. 

To us beef and pork eating looked a simple social obligation that sheds sectarian associations, but to others it looked an outrage against religious practices. 

The function was repeated by the Atheist Association at Visakhapatnam and at Vellore by Senthamizhko. At Coimbatore R. Kasturi arranged a beef and pork lunch on a wide scale to more than 800 guests. Periayar E.V. Ramaswami participated in the function which was inaugurated by Saraswati. E.V.R. was a fighter all through his public life against religious belief and caste distinctions. His presence at that ripe old age of 95, lent special significance to the function at Coimbatore. 

Abraham who organized the function at Madras limited the number of guests to 13 to break the Christian superstition in that number. C.S. Murthy, K. Rangasai and Janardhanam and Paul were among the participants that day. 

At Suryapet Kana organized the function in the face of Hindu protest and at Gudivada too the function was well attended by men women. Manorama, the widow of Sobhanarao, my early atheist associate and Sanskrit scholar, took particular care to participate in the function. The details of the several functions were published in the columns of The Atheist. 

The incidents with unmarried mothers and with beef and pork eating were events of special significance for the Atheist movement, as they shook religious faith and custom at the roots. No wonder, they attracted attention. From atheist point of view they are ordinary disciplines of social conduct, but from the point of view of old values of custom and faith they looked outrageous. In course of time, the objectives will be understood and the prejudices will wear off. 


We Become Atheists by Gora

Chapter XVII. Spread of Atheism

Atheism is not new. For a long time it was used as a term of abuse. Nevertheless, every prophet was persecuted by his contemporaries for blasphemy, apostasy or heresy, if not altogether for atheism. Obviously, atheism contains the element of progress and basic change. Therefore, in the last century Charles Bradlaugh of England projected the idea of atheism more openly and Robert Ingersoll of U.S.A. called himself an agnostic but spread atheistic ideas through speeches and writings. In India, Periyar E.V. Ramaswami and his followers called themselves atheists, though they did not use the words as such on platforms. They preferred to negotiate in the name of Rationalism. In fact, many people with atheistic leanings use the terms rationalism, humanism, or free thought instead. Our speciality consisted in using the term atheism openly and in giving it a positive content and in evolving social and economic and specially political programs of action for atheism. 

Since 1949, our periodicals, Sangham, Arthik Samata in Telugu, Insaan in Hindi and The Atheist in English have served to spread and explain the ideology and programs of atheistic thought and action. So several friends and sympathizers, directly or indirectly, adopted atheist ways. Kana at Suryapet and Nara at Nuzvid and Venugopal at Repalle started atheist centers, and took up the programs of the atheist center at Patamata, including its political aspect. But others adopted the social and cultural programs and some called themselves non-political. 

The Atheist Society Or India which Jayagopal, the editor of the English Journal, The Age of Atheism, started independently at Visakhapatnam conducted the Beef and Pork function, and burned religious scriptures openly. He takes a variety of bold programs with rationalist thought but they call their center non-political. 

Similarly, J. Veeraswamy and a band of workers at Hyderabad in particular, and all over Andhra Pradesh in general, take up the program of eradicating caste differences. They actively encourage inter caste marriages and help change of names from conventional religious and caste association to nonconformist forms. Kana and Nara are examples of nonconformism. A legislator with the name M. V. Subbareddi, reddi being the application of a caste, changed his name to Gamago. Yet the Caste Eradication Association calls itself non-political, and turns out excellent work in its own sphere. 

Vidya and Seshagirirao who are members of the Congress party, consistently discard flower garlands and use fruits for reception in sympathy with the direct action program of replacing ornamental flower plants with edibles. M.V. Krishnarao, a minister of Andhra Pradesh also rejects flower garlands and receives only fruits instead. 

Vinoba Bhave, who started the Bhoodan movement and gave shape and substance to the Sarvodaya movement, toured Andhra Pradesh in 1955. My son, Lavanam, interpreted his Hindi speeches sentence by sentence into Telugu throughout the seven months of the tour. I was one of the organizers of the tour program. Vinoba regularly conducts prayers both in the morning and in the evening. He continued the practice at the meetings in the tour also. But in deference to the atheist ideology of Lavanam and myself, Vinoba kindly substituted the regular verses of prayer with five minutes of silence. He said that during those five minutes the audience, according to their wish, could severally meditate on god or think of social values of life like truthfulness, compassion and love. It was an accommodation of atheists in a common audience with respect to each others views. It was an act of recognition of the atheistic ideology. Vinoba visited the Atheist Center at Patamata, when he visited Vijayawada during the tour in 1955. Esteem for any ideology comes in the long run, not by its theoretical perfections but by the lovable conduct of its votaries. It is more so in the case of atheism, which has been a term of contempt so long. The contempt is the result of the propaganda of interests vested in exploitation of weaker sections. Yet, bias against it is a fact which atheists cannot ignore to take notice of. Gandhi warned me against this handicap and advised me to take another name in place of atheism. But when we chose to take the label of atheism, it is incumbent on atheists to be doubly wary of their own conduct. A notable achievement in this direction goes to the credit of Madhu. He is a young man who has taken to atheism. He acquitted himself so well in social relations, that his villagers chose him to be the president of the village committee, against the rich and powerful man of the place who held the post for two terms already. The machinations of the rich man could not unseat Madhu by virtue of his sheer spotless character. 

Lavanam and Mrs. Lavanam successfully conduct an experiment in reclaiming criminals at Stuartpuram (Gauntur District) and they withstand the threats of vested interests in the crimes, on account of their straight forwardness. J. Vengala Rao, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, has extended his moral support to it. 

The work at the atheist center gained publicity abroad by the visits of foreign visitors to atheist center. I was invited to the Congress of the International Humanist and Ethical Union at Boston, U.S.A. in 1970 and for the next Congress at Amsterdam in 1974. In that context I had the opportunity to tour Europe, America, Australia and other countries in Asia. At that time I visited Madalyn Murray O'Hair at Austin, Texas. She is well known for her successful struggle to end prayer and the Bible reading in Public Schools. With the slogan of "Tax the Church," she started the Society of Separationists (SOS). As a result of exchange of views between us in 1970 she started the American Atheist Center at Texas. 

Likewise, when I visited Adelaide, Laurence Bullock was the Secretary of the Rationalist Association of South Australia. The Association considered it appropriate to change the name of their Association to the Atheist Society of Australia. Thus, rationalist and humanist societies are preferring the name of atheism, which they deem more appropriate to describe their attitude. 

Whatever be the name, the International Humanist and Ethical Congress as well as Rationalist and Humanist Associations all over the world gave me a free platform for talking on atheism. Moreover, the platforms of Quaker groups everywhere, invited me for discussions on atheism. Thus atheism is no longer a condemned label. The conduct of atheists has salvaged it from the depths of slander. The name is getting the respect that is its own and has been denied to it so long. 

We conducted the Atheist Meet in l970 at Patamata and the World Atheist Meet there again in 1972. Madalyn Murray O'Hair was to preside over it, but she could not go to India on account of visa trouble. At the World Atheist Meet, R. Kasturi of Coimbatore released my book Positive Atheism. Margarat Reish and Edwin Lindseen were the two delegates from USA to the World Atheist Meet. Details of the report about the World Atheist Meet were published in The Atheist. 


We Become Atheists by Gora

Chapter XVIII. Atheist Centers

When Saraswati and I went to Gandhi in 1944, we had eight children. Now we have nine and nineteen grand children, including three great grand children. Gandhi was surprised how we managed that big family without private property. He had not seen any of the kind so far. The speciality, if any, is due to our atheistic outlook. 

Atheism understands that all distinctions between one person and another are of our own making. Distinctions of caste, religion and culture exist so long as we accept them. We can change them whenever we desire. One belongs to a caste because he accepts and declares it. There are cases where at strange place persons have taken the label of the caste which is convenient there. National differences change with frontiers. Classes go when property relations are changed. Even racial traits blur with blood mixture. When they exist, they are not related to attainment of talent or exercise of intelligence. Family relationship also is one of the kind. 

The institution of family grows out of the custom of marriage in man woman relationship. If there is promiscuity, clans and groups or wider human societies may form. But relationships like brother sister, father mother, son-daughter, aunt-uncle, husband-wife will disappear. All people move as friends. 

Whether the institutions of marriage and family will ever go out of use is a hypothetical question. Care of children, affectionate attention and emotional satisfaction of a sense of belonging are advantages and they outweigh the snobbery of paternalism and predisposition of kinship which accompany family ties. Guarantee of social security by the government and, especially, socialization of property loosened family loyalties to a large extent. Yet, family remained for its own reasons. Now, the question before the atheists is not whether family should remain or go, but whether family relationships should be safer than friendly relationships? Are not family relationships as artificial as religious brotherhood, national fellowship, cultural bond, racial alliance or class camaraderie, deserving no special consideration? 

To the atheist mind all persons seemed the same without difference between members of the family and friends of atheism. Hence, at the atheist centers, we all moved equal. The members of the family are dear to us not by sanguinity but by their devotion to and participation in atheist programs. The success of the conversion of members of family into workers of atheism is seen by the generous help we received from the public for the upkeep of atheist centers. They little complain of my large family. On the contrary, they complimented me on having a good band of workers in my family. In this context I should make special mention of S.N. Agarwal and Bjorn Merker. 

S.N. Agarwat was the Managing Director of Dholpur Glass Works. He visited our center at Patamata and was pleased with the way my daughter Mythri and my daughter-in-law Hemalata were running the school for children, Vasavya Vidyalaya, with the assistance of Shri Rajyam Patnaik. He was impressed with the team spirit of the workers and attachment of the students to the teachers alike. He donated the glassware from his factory sufficient both to equip a laboratory to teach the children and to conduct periodical science exhibitions, especially to explain superstitions scientifically and to dispel faith in them. One exhibition was opened by Agarwal himself and another by Dr. C.D. Deshmukh and Durgabai Deshmukh. Balchand Mohta of Calcutta helped us with donation of money and material. 

Bjorn Merker is a boy from Sweden who came to India to do alternative civil service to compulsory military training in Sweden. He was at the Atheist Center for seven months. He identified himself so intimately with the programs of the Center that he recommended atheist center to his parents for help. Dr. Helmot and Mrs. Ulla Merker kindly sent us contributions every month out of their salaries and helped us partly to maintain the center and mostly to carry on the work in slums. They were my standing hosts in Sweden when I visited Europe in 1970 and again in 1974. Dr. Marla and Irma were similarly helpful to us in West Germany. 

In India where there is no social security guaranteed by the government. the entire responsibility of bringing up children rests upon the parents. Incidentally, the children imbibe the outlook of the parents. So it was the case with my children too. But, if they disagreed with the ideas of the childhood, they could leave the home and stand on their feet. As all my children received good education with the help of the public, any of them could leave atheist centers and live their own way. In fact, my son in law, Ramalingaiah left the Atheist Center at Patamata, when he did not like our Partylessness. He lives by his homeopathic medical practice and other means. So far none of my children have chosen to leave the Atheist Center. They live in the Center as atheist workers. 

While a blood relative like Ramalingayya left atheist Center, we continue to enjoy the cooperation and identification of workers like Kana, Ramaswamy, Chellayya, Madhu, Rangarao, Nagayya, Gopalaswamy, B. Venugopal and several others at atheist centers at Mudunur, Patamata, Suryapet, Pedanemali, Repalle and Nuzvid. Bhanu is Madhu's brother. But he is devoted to Atheist center at Pedanemali more as an atheist worker than as the brother of Madhu, who is the person in charge of the center. 

Atheist centers with the ideology of equality of all humans work in the midst of people who are accustomed to sectarian customs. As in the case of every center with a progressive ideology those around us subconsciously try to exploit us, though they consciously help us too sometimes. Our ideological impact on them and their conventional exploitation of us are mutual. The final result every time depends on the strength and weakness of each side. 

In the case of simple families, leadership of an ideology often goes with relationship as with inheritance of private property and skill of profession. But in atheism, a worker is one who works, irrespective of the family relationship. The test of work is the sacrifice of personal tastes and comforts for the promotion of social welfare. Social value of the work takes precedence over personal talent and training. 


We Become Atheists by Gora

Chapter XIX. Future of Atheism

As atheists assert the freedom of the individual, they are more concerned with present programs for plans into the future more than with experiences of the past. What is good in the past readily comes into our present practice. Only that which is unsuitable or impracticable to present needs is left out. Moreover, too much thought over the past inhibits initiative and is not educative to progress of civilization. Situations change from time to time and call for fresh thought, plan and action. Religious scriptures do the greatest harm in this context because they claim infallibility and unswerving loyalty. They stem progress by smothering initiative and free thought. Any dogma, spiritualist or scientific, is equally inimical to progress. Therefore, those whom succeeding generations deem as prophets of eras of progress, were heretics of their own ages. They revised old scriptures and scrapped some of them. Revolutions demolish old ways and start afresh with new plans every time. In this way, atheism is the source of all innovation and progress. Old civilizations like those of Asia and Africa, are so much rooted in the past that they have become today a lumber of old and new mixed in disgusting disorder. They need atheism more urgently than other countries where a series of religious, cultural, materialist and industrial revolutions have broken away people from the old repeatedly, and have made them more progressive than people of the ancient civilizations. 

Though ancient civilizations need atheism more than modern ones, there is a general need of atheism for one important reason. The so-called developed nations indeed have achieved considerable progress technologically on account of their materialistic and scientific outlook. It is creditable so far. But the same developed nations have become exploiters of the weak people and have become warmongers all over the globe since they lack social outlook. Scientific skill in the hands of developed nations has come to mean the greatest threat to life. Scientific progress is used for the manufacture of lethal weapons, subtle and secret, with immense potentialities, allowing neither privacy nor safety; for anyone, including the one who wields the weapon. Suicide squads have come into vogue in military operations. 

Atheism is scientific. But its science is subject to social obligations to fellow humans. It changes the emphasis from simple science to social needs. If ancient civilizations are superstitious, modern civilizations are anti-social. Atheism has to set right the wrong on both sides to make them march together towards one humanity pulling down the artificial barriers of caste and religion, nation and race, class and culture. 

The ideal of one humanity is shared by the rationalists and humanists also. But they have not developed the machinery for its realization since they have taken a non-political stance. Politics is the dominating power in the modern age. To ignore it is to fear to strike. Gandhi's Constructive Program also was non-poliltical. His greatest achievement consisted in winning independence for India through political action by a non-violent method. Constructive work was an extreme form of non-violence, too good to be real. Under the guidance of Vinoba Bhave, the constructive work was given another vigorous trial under the name of Sarvodaya. The spectacular achievements at the start withered out in course of time, not because it lacked earnestness but because it was non political. After fifteen years of diligent effort, Jayaprakash Narayan found that Sarvodaya should take to political programs also. A big mass awakening; followed Narayan's reentry into active politics. Democracy has a charm in the modern age. But party system is its unworthy temptation. It has discredited Democracy. Frenzied zeal for one's own party and, then, indecent lust for the leadership of the party are at the base of the Watergate scandal and of the dictatorship in Bangla Desh and of the declaration of Emergency in India. Everything is in the name of democracy, but the content is partisan attitude, both for those in power and for those in opposition. Further, opposition is reduced to a mockery in party democracy. Unhealthy rivalry as fanatical as that between blind religious faiths rises from party attitudes. On account of the evils of the party system, honest politicians and the mass of people are not only losing love for democracy but turning their interests away from politics. The growth of non-political attitudes is the result of party politics in democracy. 

Non-politics is ineffective. Therefore, atheists as realists, rid democracy of parties and take to partyless democracy which is real and effective democracy. 

The future of atheism consists in establishing partyless democracy and achieving one equal humanity through it. National and racial differences vanish as real democracies federate at first for commonweal and then move towards one humanity and one wor1d. The United Nations Organization will have to convert itself into United People's Organization for the purpose. Atheist awakening rouses people all over the world into the feeling of mastership over their institutions and systems of life. The spread of the atheist outlook is hope of humanity to turn from war to peace, from slavery to freedom, from superstition to a sense of reality, from conflict to cooperation. 


We Become Atheists by Gora

The End

Gora suffered an attack of cerebral hemorrhage and died at once while addressing a public meeting on "Social Change in Rural India," held at Vijayawada on the evening of Saturday, July 26, 1975. 

Gora's death stunned every one as it was so sudden and shocking. Messages of condolence and sympathy poured in from all corners of the globe. Gora lived and died an atheist. He lives in all those who stand for reason, truth love and tolerance and raise their voice against superstition, blind dogma, racial discrimination and social and economic inequalities. His work will be carried forward unhesitatingly. 


We Become Atheists by Gora

About this Electronic Book 

This book is a text file made from the original book and proofread for accuracy with respect to the original book. Most British spellings have been converted to American English. Permission to transmit the book in electronic form was obtained by John Edwards, AOL John E45 from ATHEIST CENTRE Lavanam, Director Benz Circle Vijayawada, 520-010 India, Tel (091 866) 472-330. This text may be used unaltered in content in collections, CD ROM shareware and freeware offerings, and PDA versions. It may be used and distributed by Project Gutenberg and used, copied and distributed electronically for free. 




The spelling and punctuation was further modernized (slightly) by Cliff Walker in 1996