THE NEED OF ATHEISM
VIJAYAWADA -- 520006 India
THE NEED OF ATHEISM
by Gora (1902 -- 1975)
Copyright: ATHEIST CENTRE
First Edition: Oct. 1980
Second Edition: Sep. 1991
Price: Rs. 10-00
One U.S. Dollar.
Published by: ATHEIST CENTRE Vijayawada -- 520 006 India.
Printed at: INSAAN PRINTERS Benz Centre, Vijayawada -- 520 006.
Gora propagated atheism as a positive way of life. He toured extensively in India and went round the world in 1970 and again in 1974.
He undertook many practical programmes to fight against social, economic and political inequalities and injustices. He conducted satyagraha campaigns before and after Independence and went to gaol many a time. As a social revolutionary, he took up programmes for the eradication of caste and untouchability and fought against superstitions and blind beliefs. Gora's life was a saga of struggle for the propagation of atheism.
Gora was a prolific writer. He wrote extensively in Telugu and English on atheism for more than four decades. In this book we are publishing a collection of his articles written in The Atheist, between 1969-75. They deal with diverse aspects.
Atheist Centre intends to publish the select writings of Gora in English and Telugu. Already more than twenty books have been published. With the cooperation and support of innumerable friends, we wish to publish all other writings soon.
Atheism Means Moral Freedom
Atheism asserts the independence of the individual. It denies the existence of a power, natural or supernatural, which determines human life. For a long time, people have been supposing that their lives are determined by god, fate or natural law. But the daily experience of free will, disproves the existence of any determining factor.
Yet people have believed in the existence of a god etc., on account of their slave-mindedness. Slave-mind seeks a prop, and an early prop it took to was a notion of god. Slave-mindedness came to be known as "theism" and its opposite as "atheism". Positively, atheism means the experience of free will which is the opposite of slave-mind.
The belief in the existence of god is followed by the associated beliefs in the existence of soul, of other worlds and of rebirth. Atheism exposes all these beliefs as false.
The old philosophies, politics, economics, ethics and aesthetics were influenced by the slave-mindedness of theism. Now atheism reinterprets them in the light of free will.
Theism postulated a creator or a metaphysical reality and subordinated human life to it. But atheism reveals the fact that a concept of a creator or of an ultimate reality is just man's understanding of the phenomena around him. Man is the creator of the notion of creation and he is the author of the proposition of ultimate reality. There is no universe as entity. Universe is a product of man's understanding. It is what man thinks it is. The difference between theistic and atheistic understanding is the difference between going from universe to man and going from man to universe. If we go from universe to man then man's life becomes part of the universe, and as such it is subordinate to it. On the other hand, if we proceed from man to universe then man becomes supreme and the concept of universe is but an understanding of man. The former is an expression of slavish subordination and the latter expresses man's freedom of understanding.
The inferences of creation and the metaphysical methods of ontology and teleology are processes of human understanding under the influence of slave-mind. The metaphysical understanding postulated a reality which is superior to the human being and there by subordinated human life to an ultimate reality. This satisfied the slave-mind. But atheistic metaphysics uses the same methods as tools of understanding. To the atheists, causation is not a compelling process but a degree of probability whose validity increases with the proximity to the event and with the insight of the seeker. An anticipation of tomorrow is more probable than one of ten days hence or of an anticipation of a more distant future.
Social and Political Understanding
Likewise, atheism knows that society is the common understanding between the different members. The common understanding may be increased or decreased at the will of each person. Further, there is individuality of each member beyond the common understanding. So society is a part of man's whole understanding. Thus society is subordinate to man, but man is not subordinate to society. Society is that part of the individual which he contributes to common understanding with fellow men.
A citizen's elation to his government is similar to a member's relation to his society. A government derives authority from the respect which citizens give to the law of state and a government collects revenues from the taxes which citizens pay. If a considerable section of the people lose respect for law or pay no taxes, any government is bound to collapse. So the people are the masters and government is only their creation. The superiority of a citizen over the government is more patent in democracy where a government is formed by the votes which citizens cast. So atheistic politics treats people as masters and the heads of state, kings, presidents or ministers as servants of the people. Atheistic politics maintains the freedom of the citizen. This is the opposite of the theistic politics which claim sovereignty for the state and calls for the obedience of the people.
Marxist doctrine was theistic in a sense when it subordinated the individual consciousness to the social consciousness and to property relations. Atheism, on the other hand considers civilization to be the progressive control of material farces by human skill, which is supreme in every situation.
Man the Master
By and large atheism looks upon man as a master of all situations, which is the opposite of the theistic stand wherein man is deemed to be a slave of god, fate, government, custom or circumstances. When people feel themselves masters, they rise to act to achieve. Thus atheism releases the immense human power that lay fettered by the theistic faith that man was not free but a slave of god or circumstances. The indolence of the honest theist afforded a handle for cheats to exploit gullibility and to amass wealth and power. Wide inequalities cropped up in the theistic way of life with the honest man at the bottom and the crooks at the top. No police force or military power can consign millions of people through hundreds of generations to humiliating untouchability, grinding poverty or political slavery, except by the willing surrender of the people when they feel they are not free.
Atheism remedies the wrong. When people feel free, they resent downtroddenness. They rise against inequalities. All free people live equally, because they belong to the same kind. Indeed the establishment of equality is the test of atheism.
Atheism as a Corrective
Marxism and Gandhism also have equality for their objective, but so far both have achieved only partial success because both have fatted to adopt atheism. Marxism has recourse to political dictatorship for achieving economic equality. Gandhism played into the hands of reactionary elements, because Gandhi used theistic language to explain atheistic methods. Despite their honest efforts neither of them could awaken the mass of mankind from their habitual apathy and indolence, because they did not openly preach atheism. So some kind of dictatorship has become necessary for them. Open atheism cures these evils.
Prophets like Jesus and Mohammad also were more atheistic than their contemporaries. The atheistic content in their teachings roused the masses to rebel against dishonesty and downtroddenness. But the remnants of theistic beliefs in their teachings allowed scope for reaction and corruption to rise again. Therefore the progress of civilization has not been straight and rapid so far. Side by side with eminent ethical teachings and glorious philanthropic work, we have war and prejudice. Side by side with the highest technological achievements, we have gross superstition. This contradiction is due to the mixture of habitual theistic beliefs and progressive atheistic tendencies in our life. Only avowed atheism could avoid the evils and make ethical and technological progress straight and rapid.
Indeed the individual is a source of all endeavour. He has to shoulder the whole responsibility for his actions. Only when he takes that responsibility does he learn from experience, but the theistic faith tempted him to shrove the responsibility for the results of his actions on god fate or circumstances. The shirking of responsibility has not enabled man to grow wiser than he was in ages past. Otherwise there would not have been untouchability, poverty and war in modern civilization.
The freedom of individual is not absolute but is tempered by moral obligations. The freedom of one should not impede the freedom of another. This consideration of one's fellow man makes it necessary for freedom to be moral freedom. If morality is not observed through self-discipline, it will have to be imposed by social pressure. This is the basis of the Gandhian principle of satyagraha.
On account of the importance of the individual endeavour in building up civilization, constructive work seems to play an important role, but its results are limited in their scope because social relations are growing wide and complex day by day. Hence civilization has forged the institution of government to reach all aspects of social relations. Just as a microphone is used to address big gatherings, a government should be used to deal with a wide and complex social relationship with comfort. The use of government is called politics and politics is the need of modern civilization. The character of civilization, however, renders a government unwieldy unless people control the government with political consciousness. But theistic faith divided the attention of the people between god and government and weakened people's control over their government. Consequently a few professional politicians enjoyed a large share of the advantages of a government, while the mass of people paid the taxes end received little in return. They cursed stars and sat helplessly silent.
In this plight, call for non-political activity is a cry of despair, unless the call is accompanied by a programme of non-co-operation and non-payment of taxes, which condemns institution of government altogether and relies upon constructive work only. Otherwise, a nonpolitical worker in the present setup is line a foolish master who pays the servants but does the work himself. On the other hand, the appropriate call should be for an increase se in political consciousness and activity. Decentralisation of government administration into handy basic units of self-government and their progressive federation, tier by tier, into a world government with wider but fewer powers, will help people's control over government. Nevertheless the political outlook is imperative in modern civilization.
Along with decentralization, partylessness makes democracy belong to the people more than the old sectarian and aristocratic ways could.
Despite the need for politics, atheists are not blind to the role of voluntary activity in domestic and neighbourly relations. The spread of scientific education with a view to dispelling superstition, replacement of ornamental and commercial gardens with food crops until there is no scarcity of food anywhere in the world, encouragement of inter-dining and inter-marriages to pull down communal and racial isolation, and a revision of marital customs. In order to remove the handicaps to which women's motherhood is subject, are some of the items of the constructive programme which are complementary to political action. Constructive work is a good training to develop an individual into a conscious citizen who can control his government confidently.
Let the atheists understand the implications of positive atheism and formulate political and constructive programmes and help establish equality.
(Keynote speech at the Indian Atheist Conference at Vijayawada on 11th January, 1970)
What Is Atheism?
Atheism is the opposite of theism. What, then is theism? Theism means belief in the existence of god. But what is god? The form of god has changed considerably from the primitive, solid fetish to a metaphysical concept of the ultimate reality. Though the forms of god have varied widely, all the types have one characteristic, in common, namely that god is superior to man. So, in relation to the god of his belief, a believer places himself in a position of inferiority. The prayer, 'Thy will be done', expresses the believer's feeling of surrender and subordination to god.
God Is a Falsehood
Does a god of any type exist at all? No. If there were a god which dispenses man's life not to speak of other phenomena, then all our plans and endeavours, our moral being and hopes of improvement lose meaning. But hope, plan, initiative, choice and effort are realities of every day experience. Their reality proves the existence of freewill. Because freewill exists, god does not exist and the concept of an almighty god is clearly an absurdity.
Why, then, have so many men believed in the existence of god so long? Belief in the existence of god is only an expression of man's slave-mind. Slave mind seeks a prop and an easy prop on which the slave mind rested was a concept of god. Hence in terms of the first prop, namely god, then expressions of the slave-mind came to be known as theism. Later on, as men grew rational, not only the solid idol but any form of god, either, as a benevolent being or as the ultimate reality, was exposed to be mere myth or an inference of formal logic.
When the foundations of early theism, which were based upon faith in the existence of god, were thus shaken by rationalist thought, people in whom slave-mind dominated, had to go in for props other than god. The new props are a government, an economic order, a social custom, a view of cosmic rhythm, belief in natural order, materialism and the like. The modern man depends upon the modern props as slavishly as his forefathers depended upon divine mercy and god's blessings. He submits to totalitarian authority, chauvinism, casteism, racism, capitalism, dogma and materialism no less than the devotees bowed down to their gods. Thus the modern man is a godless theist.
By and large theism is the manifestation of the slave-mind of man. The feeling of subordination is the same, whether it is to a god, to a government, to a custom, to an institution, on, to a system or to a dogma.
Freewill is as natural to a man as slave-mind is. But in the early ages when real knowledge was meagre and social security was weak, slave-mind dominated man's life and so primitive people were largely theistic. Nevertheless real achievement has always resulted from free initiative and active effort rather than from passive submission. Therefore freewill did function from early times too, though its voice was drowned in the din of theistic professions.
As freewill is the opposite of slave-mind the expression of freedom is recognised as atheism or the opposite of theism. Though 'atheism' is negative in form, it is positive in content. Positively it means the expression of man's freewill. It is usual in etymology to connote the meaning of a concept as the opposite of its opposite, especially when the latter is more popular. Such are the words like 'fearless' and 'nonviolence' for 'boldness' and 'love.' 'Atheism' is a word of that kind. It is negative in form, but positive in content. Atheism means freewill.
The Rise of Atheism
Theism and atheism represent two aspects of the same human life. Whereas theism is the manifestation of man's slave-mind, mind, atheism is the manifestation of his freewill. Because both slave-mind and freewill occur in man's mental make-up, just as love and hate occur together, a man is both theistic and atheistic in parts. But progress of civilization requires people's effort and initiative, which are products of freewill and self-confidence. Therefore atheism has always represented the he progressive forces of civilization. Socrates, Buddha, Jesus, Mohommad, Marx and Gandhi whom succeeding generations revered as prophets of eras of progress, were regarded by their contemporaries as heretics, if not altogether as atheists. The atheistic content of their teachings set more men free and contributed to the progress of civilization, In fact, the march of civilization has followed the rise of atheism.
In the modern age, atheism is found prominent in every aspect of human life. Scientific outlook is pushing out superstitious belief. Democracy allows more freedom to citizens than monarchies do. The downtrodden are resenting imperialistic and aristocratic dominations. Casteism and racism stand discredited in the form of world opinion and cries for freedom are heard all round.
Yet the growth of atheism is hampered by hoary, theistic habits. Conventional belief in god, however formal, prevents the full expression of man's freewill, self-confidence and active enterprise. The habit of allegiance to kings enslaves cf. citizens to elected ministers also. The conflict between theistic habit and atheistic needs is the cause of cant, corruption and discontent. Only avowed adoption of atheism frees people wholly from the oppressive influences of superstition, servility, capitalism and discrimination.
As atheism spreads and people feel free, equality prevails among them. Equality among people is fair and proper, because all men resemble in strength and structure. There is not that natural difference between man and man as there is between a lion and a lamb. Further the effects of variations in taste and talent can be smoothened through education and sympathetic accommodation. Though equality among people is thus desirable and possible, inequalities have cropped up since theistic beliefs suppressed the freewill in sections of people. Exploitation and enslavement of fellow man are not possible, unless the feeling of freedom is suppressed in some people. Atheism releases the freewill and renders oppression and inequality impossible any longer. Then equality in every aspect of life becomes the order of the atheistic way of life.
In social relations freedom of the individual cannot mean lewd license. For the laxity of one treads upon the freedom of another. Under the theistic order of life, a few could be licentious, since others were slavish. Slaves make tyrants of fellowman. But when all feel free, no one will permit his freedom to be impaired by another. So adjustments among free people impose moral obligations on everyone and develop checks and counter checks against lewdness in social relations. Obviously the freedom of atheism is moral freedom. Every atheist is obliged to be moral, either through self-discipline or through social control. Atheists are free but free only to be moral. Thus freedom, equality and morality go together in the atheistic way of life.
The Atheist [magazine] examines all aspects of man's life -- political, economic, ethical, cultural, technological and philosophical -- with a view to promoting freedom, equality and morality in everyone of them. Now, we shall have to visualise the shape of a government in which citizens feel free and then work up to change the present form of politics into that new form. Likewise we shall have to picture to ourselves the form of a social order of economic relations, of philosophical systems, of technological methods and of sense of beauty in which free will dominates the lives of people. Whatever may be the difference in detail of the several pictures, the common character of the atheistic forms of institutions and systems will be the promotion of equality and morality among ail people. In as much as political authority is the most powerful factor at present in regulating our social relations, partylessness and pomplessness of democracy is obviously the first step towards transformation to the atheistic way of life.
13th February 1969
Man and God
On reading THE ATHEIST, Shri Nandakumar Baghel expresses the following doubts in the Course of a long letter ...
Though mankind has been believing in the existence of god from early periods of civilization and though eminent devotees have. spent most of their life in the quest of spirituality, how is it that the idea of god is still vague? Even the landing on the moon has neither dispelled nor explained the belief in god. We may dismiss the faith in the existence of god which is outside man. But can we accept the principle of 'Adwaita' which regards god and man as one and same?
The search for god fails because there is no god at all. Spiritual inquiry is like the inquiry into the taste of water, in a mirage, or like the test of strength of a fabled monster. Search for that which is absent is bound to be full of vagueness, contradictions and baseless assumptions.
In fact, belief in the existence of god is but the expression of man's slave-mind. A slave feels too timid to stand on his feet. He seeks a prop. One of the props that has been popular since early ages is faith in god. The believers suppose that god is something superior to them. They pray to god for shelter and support. There is no god to answer the prayers. Yet the believers deceive themselves in the belief of response to prayers. The delusion seems sweet and comfortable to the slave-mind. As long as the slave-mind dominates human affairs, mankind clings to the belief in god.
Rational outlook and scientific enquiry are as natural to man as slave-mind is. They breed realism and yield tangible results, unlike the self deception of the slave-mind.
Therefore in the course of civilization, scientific development came up side by side with spiritual beliefs. Science, being real, should have banished spirituality which is false. But old habits die hard. So even after the scientific achievement of landing on the moon, religious beliefs linger as conventions. Though the beliefs are reduced to formalities in the modern age, they do waste our time and strain our sense of honesty. An honest believer in god is led into the indolence of slavery. Effort and initiative, on other hand, appear dishonest to belief in an almighty god. Thus the tradition of belief in god in the modern world either curbs initiative or encourages dishonesty. The results of both are bad. Therefore avowed acceptance of atheism is the need of the times.
Evolution of God
History records a series of compromises between the demands of rationalism and the deep rooted sentiments of religious belief. Because the rational way of life is fair and real, every adjustment ended in the loosening of the belief and in the advancement of rationalism step by step. A tangible result of the conquests of rationalism is the progressive attenuation of the form of god. So the crude fetish and the solid idol of primitive belief have reformed into the ethical ideals of justice, love and peace. Gandhi called, 'God is Truth,' and later changed it into 'Truth is God.' In the realms of metaphysical thought, god is equated with the first cause, with the ultimata reality, with the being and the becoming and with the natural law. Adwaita (non-dualistic philosophy) represents an extreme position of metaphysical speculation.
Adwaita postulates Brahma as the ultimate reality of existence. Everything with form, name and function is supposed to emerge from it and to dissolve to it. So the adwaitic principles of 'man is god', or 'this is that', simply describe and reiterate the fundamental assumption that Brahma is the basic reality and everything is made up of it. 'Man is god' means that man is made up of the same spirit or substance of which god is made. It is like a wave being described as 'the wave is the ocean' because the wave consists of the same water of which the ocean is made.
Whether god is conceived in the form of an idol, or of the ideal love and peace, or of truth, or of Brahma, the relation between the believer and his god is not changed. The believer remains subordinate to that god which is deemed almighty. In the case of adwaita too the subordination subsists, since the individual is regarded as part of Brahma. The adwaitic dictum of 'I am god' has the same import as truth of 'the wave is the ocean'. Of course, the wave as well as the ocean are composed of the same material, namely the water; but the wave is only a part of the ocean and therefore it is subordinate to nature of the ocean. Thus 'I am god', and 'the wave is the ocean' are half-truths instead of whole-truth. Adwaita maintains the inferior position of man in relation to Brahma and expresses the slave-mind, as any other theistic belief does. As far as the slave-mind is concerned adwaita is no improvement upon idolatry, except that idolatry is grossly crude and adwaita is subtly logical.
Real and Objective
Karl Marx dispensed with the notion of god. But he installed matter in the place of god. He made man a creature of material circumstances just as religious belief regards man a creation of god. Masters change but man remains the same slave of an imaginary god or of material circumstances. Nevertheless the change is significant in so far as god is a figment of fancy whereas circumstances are real and objective.
Man needs no longer feel a slave in the modern age. The development of scientific knowledge and technological progress have equipped him with confidence and strength when he can feel the master of his life rather than the timid and the ignorant slave. Yet he betrays the habits of slave-mind when he bows down to his government, to social custom or to an economic order. Man is redeemed from the shackles of slavery, if he avowedly accepts atheism.
Atheism asserts man's free will and enables him to form, to control and to command his philosophies, his government, his customs and his material and economic circumstances. After all, man is the author of his ideas and the founder of his institutions. They are at his beck and call, if only he wills. He can make, mend or end any of his philosophies, institutions and systems according to his will and pleasure. Man is the master. Nothing but his slave-mind enslaves him to his creations like god, government or circumstances. They obey his behests when he feels the master.
So atheistic knowledge and atheistic assertions dispel vagueness and solve political, economic and end social problems.
Let man feel the master and then the world is at his command.
16 August, 1969
A booklet of 14 pages is published about the Balayogi. According to the account given in the booklet, the Balayogi was born in 1930. As a boy he tended cattle and at the age of sixteen entered into a trance through religious meditation. The unusual condition of the trance and the setting of religiosity attracted a stream of visitors to the boy. In the course of three years a separate shed was put up for him. It is claimed that he entered into the shed unnoticed by others. He continues to be in that shed whose doors are said to close automatically. It is believed that a curse will descend on anybody who attempts to open the doors by force. However, once a year the doors open and the Balayogi appears to public gaze from 4 a.m. to 12 midnight on that particular day. February 16th 1969 was one such day. Wide publicity is given to the Balayogi through press and propaganda and thousands of persons gather to gain a view of the Balayogi on the appointed day every year.
The original name of the boy was Subba Rao. Balayogi means 'a young saint' and people recognize him by that name.
That the book is published by a member of the State Legislative Assembly and that the names of a qualified engineer and the principal of a college are associated with it do not vouch for the truth of the claims made in it. To be a truth, a claim should be verified by observable facts. In the case of the Balayogi, one fact is verifiable. It is said that he who forces open the door of the shed of the Balayogi will be subject to a curse. I was told that the form of the curse was the breaking of the head of the doer. It is indeed an observable fact.
So in the interests of truth, I went to the place of the Balayogi in 1950. The place is Mummidivaram, Amalapur Taluka, East Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh. The shed in which the Balayogi resided was situated within an extensive compound which was enclosed by a wall. The gate to the compound was locked up.
I purposely went there on a day which was not the appointed day for the doors of the shed to be open. So I approached the trustees of the Balayogi institution for permission to enter the compound and to force open the door of the shed of the Balayogi at my own risk in broad daylight in the presence of a public gathering. The permission was refused. But my challenge stands. If public opinion gathers strength in the interests of verifying the truth of the claim advanced on behalf of the Balayogi. the trustees can be constrained to submit their claim to the test of truth.
Another case of this kind is the belief that Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparti in Anantapur District, produces trinkets of gold etc., from empty hands. The truth of the belief is verifiable by subjecting Satya Sai Baba to search and observation. But Satya Sai Baba has not submitted himself to the test of truthfulness.
No one is interested in knowing the truth of everything he comes across. Ordinarily he believes in things on the testimony of convention, information and conjecture. But if the truth of any belief is doubted or challenged, he should be prepared to subject his belief to the test of verification. Fighting shy of this test is the sign of superstition. The affairs of the Balayogi and Satya Sai Baba are in this respect mere superstitions in so far as they do not submit their claims to the test of verification.
Dangers of Superstition
Superstition does not permit realistic solution of problems. Men starve amidst the plenty of technological production, since, instead of investigating into the maldistribution of wealth, they pray to god for food. In spite of ethical sermons, men go to war and kill one another, because they are blinded by the superstitious belief in caste, creed, race and nation. The structure of these superstitions is built by the bricks of small superstitions like belief in the supernatural powers of Balayogi and Satya Sai Baba.
Ordinarily oddities and rarities attract attention. And certain monstrocities and abnormalities do occur in the things and events around us. Instead of looking upon them with fear and wonder or taking them as miracles, we should investigate into the causes and circumstances of their happening if at all we care to know any of them. Fear and wonder are primitive methods and do not become civilised persons. Savages wonder at thunder, lightning, eclipse, hysterics and lunatics and worship the phenomena with ritual and sacrifice. We betray the same primitive ignorance if, in the days of journey to the moon, we look with wonder on Balayogi or Satya Sai Baba.
Where superstition prevails, cheats exploit the gullibility of common people by presenting sleight-of-hand tricks, secret manipulations, chemical reactions and optical illusions as miracles. Charms and amulets constitute the black magic which defrauds people.
Power Politics and Superstition
Faith in god and the supernatural encourages superstition, blinds people to the realities of life and makes them an easy prey to exploitation and enslavement. Professional politicians promote pilgrimages in order to divert the attention of the people from political rights, so that the professional politicians and party leaders can play the game of power politics without question from the people. The frequent visits of Indian ministers to places like Tirupathi are part of the game of power politics. People get the training to discover the fraud in economic and political exploitation, if they shed the superstitious belief in 'miracles' nearer home and subject them to the test of truth and verification.
25 January 69
The Atheistic Solution
Inequality is the problem of modern civilization. Obviously, inequality among people in economic facility, social respect or in political power is unfair, when all men belong to the same kind. There is not that natural difference between man and man as between a lion and a lamb. Yet the difference between lords and labourers, between Brahmins and Pariahs, between masters and servants seems wider than the difference between lions and lambs. Also the variations in taste and talent are not correlated to the economic, social and political inequalities. Not all white men and Brahmins are intelligent nor 'untouchables' and coloured people are dull. Amdekars and Luther Kings falsified the claims of superiority based upon caste or colour. Even the difference in sex does not correspond to difference in the ability to achieve distinction. Joan of Arc, Jhansi Laxmi Bai, and Madame Curie, attained heights of excellence and exhibited prowess which stagger men in positions of power and opportunity. Thus the variations are equally spread out among all people and humanness consists in the sympathetic adjustment of the differences through love and education rather than in the exaggeration of the differences.
If equality among people is fair and proper how have these wide inequalities come about?
The theistic outlook is responsible for the prevalence of the inequalities. Theistic belief suppressed human initiative and free effort with the postulate that man is not free but that his life is conditioned by divine will, fate's decree, economic relations, material circumstances, historical necessity or by evolutionary process. Whatever may be the conditioning factor, the chief character of theistic belief is that man is not free to mould his life. By and large, theism stands for determinism. Theistic belief, therefore, surrenders man's life to god, government or circumstances and thereby renders it a matter of drift rather than one of active effort and purposive achievement.
The more honest theists are, the more indolent they become, due to the tendency to surrender to something deemed superior to them. The dishonest on the other hand, loudly profess faith in god and government, but they have their own secret ways of active greed for power, wealth and position. So in the theistic order of life, the honest lie downtrodden, due to the surrender of the initiative, while the dishonest achieve economic and political, advantages through underhanded but active methods. The dishonest rule, while the honest are no more useful in theistic civilization than as labourers in farms and factories, as mercenary soldiers in war and as voters in democracy.
The inequalities are unfair, indeed. But the honest theists submit to what they consider inevitable and suffer poverty, slavery and indignity with the silent solace of belief in divine justice, heavenly bliss and ultimate values. But the pains of the flesh, here and now are often too severe to be allayed by hopes of the after-life bliss. Therefore the down-trodden have either to adopt the surreptitious methods of the dishonest and share advantages with them or they have to honestly rebel against the theistic beliefs and release themselves into free activity and achievement of comforts of everyday life. Those who set free themselves in this manner and helped others also to feel free, were regarded as heretics, if not altogether as atheists by contemporary conservatives. The heretics or the past are the prophets of the present generations. Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, Marx and Gandhi are outstanding examples of the prophet heretics. In the wake of their teachings not only more men became more free but the inequalities were reduced through honest work and love of neighbours.
So atheistic awakening is the honest solution for the removal of inequalities. When people feel free and free themselves from belief in the supremacy of god. government or circumstances, all people live equal too, because all men belong to the same kind. All cats move equal and all larks fly equal, so all men also should live equal, unless some men dupe themselves into the belief that they are not free, lose initiative and lie low. The death of the theistic faith is the way to revive initiative and to establish equality. Vigorous propaganda of atheism brings about the change.
Equality with Freedom
In the teeth of opposition by monarchists and accomplices, democracy achieved political equality through the principle of 'one man one vote'. It was fondly hoped that the political equality would lead to economic and social equalities too. It was possible also. If the people exercised their democratic right and compelled their representatives in governmental authority to legislate in favour of economic and social equality, inequalities would have been removed soon offer democratic regimes were formed. But that did not happen, because people remained in theistic faith. In spite of their voting franchise, they continued to think that their lives were ordained by god or were caused by circumstances. Unless people feel free and know that the inequalities can be reduced by governmental legislation and that they can pressurise the government to enact suitable laws and to implement them effectively, vote is empty and democracy is a sham. Theism defeats democracy. Therefore a fearless propaganda of atheism in order to awaken the masses to a sense of self-confidence is necessary for the success of democracy. Political equality of democracy will not lead to economic and social equalities without atheistic awareness among the people. Besides, impatience for economic equality will replace democracy with dictatorship. Dictatorship, no doubt, reduces economic inequalities, but it stifles individual freedom and raises political inequalities again. Political and economic equalities can go together only when people grow atheistic. So unreserved propaganda of atheism is necessary for the establishment of equality through democratic means.
May 21, 1970
The difference between theism end atheism is the difference between faith and truth. Human knowledge abounds in faiths on account of imagination and thereby allows scope for falseness.
Facts of perception by our five physical senses, naked or aided, are verifiable by all normal persons, There can be no difference on facts. But imagination sublimates facts into opinions which lack the objective existence of facts. An idea of the future is an example of opinions. While facts are known, opinions are held by faith.
An opinion is neither true nor false. It is a faith which may be shared by others at their own risk. But verification by further facts of life shifts opinions into truths and falsehoods. Truths are opinions which conform to further facts of experience; falsehoods contradict them Thus verification is the test of truthfulness and truthfulness is relative to facts of experience.
Hallucinations are personal truths. They are induced by drug, disease, intense expectation and forceful suggestion. They appear real to the subject. Visions and revelations of religious mystics are examples of hallucinations. Socially they are falsehoods, because they do not conform to the experience of others. Social truths should be socially verifiable and they help social communication and common understanding. In common parlance, by truths we mean social truths.
Unverified opinions are never truths. Philosophical absolutes, however perfected by epistemological methodology, and poetic fancies, how ever intuitively conceived, are mere opinions, inasmuch as they are unverifiable. They are faiths.
Religious understanding stops with faith. Science proceeds to truths through verification. Religion turns into superstition when it clings to falsehoods too with fanatical faith. Faith closes the mind until science opens it.
Concepts of god, soul, other worlds, after-life, rebirth, ultimate reality and natural law which form the basis of theism are faiths. Verification exposes their falseness. If there were an almighty god or an all pervasive basic being of which human life is a part, then life becomes predestined and freedom of the individual a myth. Without freedom there can be no plan and no endeavour, no responsibility and no morality. But plan and morality are realities of everyday experience, and so freedom of the individual is a reality too. The reality of the freedom proves the falseness of belief in the existence of an almighty god or of a basic being.
Why then have people believed in divine destiny and argued in favour of the basic being?
Human nature is ambivalent. The opposites of love and hate, slave-mind and sense of freedom coexist. Slave-mind seeks a prop. Analogical understanding, coupled with the needs of the slave-mind, imagined a god. Likewise the concept of soul was formed to explain dream and death. After-life and other-worlds were concomitant imaginations. They constituted theism which provided the prop, explained away phenomena easily and supplied a sanction for morality. However useful theistic faiths may be, they are falsehoods. They bred dependence, indolence, irresponsibility and ignorance and corrupted life. To fight these evils and to make life progressive and happy, the sense of freedom and truthfulness had to be aroused.
Freedom is the opposite of the slave-mind and so it was recognised as "atheism." In positive terms, atheism represents the feeling of freedom and truthfulness. Vested interests in theism or slavery opposed the rise of atheism and persecuted atheists. Every prophet of freedom and truth was more atheistic than his contemporaries. Moses, Socrates, Jesus, Mohammad, Marx and Gandhi are notable examples.
Growth of Freedom
The rise of freedom does not stop with fighting faith in the existence of god. It fights every curb on the expression of the freedom and truthfulness. In the modern age, it fights political dictatorship, economic capitalism, social traditionalism, philosophical determinism, and forms of centralization which belittle the individual. The modern shackles do not postulate a god or after-life. Nevertheless they smother individual freedom as severely as religious belief does.
Whereas theistic philosophy mistakes faiths for truths; atheistic truths, atheistic philosophy distinguishes between faiths and truths. Atheism respects faiths, but keeps an open mind to reject disproved faiths and to accept proven truths.
When individuals feel free, we live equal, because we belong to the same kind and resemble in structure, strength and talent. Inequalities cropped up, since the freedom of some has been suppressed by belief in destiny and determinism. Atheism dispels the illusions and releases the freedom in all individuals and thereby establishes equality.
Atheism ensures morality. Morality is a social necessity. The immorality of one disturbs the happiness of another in social relations. So checks and counter-checks maintain morality.
Atheists are masters of their systems and institutions. They are free. They change their systems and institutions in consonance with new thoughts, new truths and new situations. Openness of mind and conduct is sufficient guarantee against falseness and fanaticism.
We seldom feel human. We are accustomed to taking a sectarian label of caste, religious, race, national or class distinction. It is natural for the sectarian attitude to love those with the same label more than others. Consequently we fight for our labels and quarrel with neighbours.
We cannot escape the situation, however sad it is, if caste, religion, nationality, race and class were real. But second thoughts reveal their falseness. We are all born humans. Colour of the skin and structure of the hair neither condemn any one to apartheid nor entitle him to social respect and economic advantage. Talents are evenly distributed strong all people. But the extant systems of life indoctrinate us into a caste, a religious belief, a race prejudice or into a national pride. We are taught to believe that we are different from others. We have suffered the results of the sectarian education from untouchability and communal strife in India, from colour bar in America, from Christian-Muslim clash in Phillippines, from Catholic-Protestant differences in Ireland and from apartheid in Africa. Above the social distinctions, the ugliest distinction in the present age is nationality. It is sanctioned by political Constitutions and it is protected by military powers. Differences between nation states at once plunge the populations on both sides into bloody wars.
What, after all, are these systems and institutions which divide us and sow strife among us? They are of our making. They stand as long as we believe in them. The moment we change our mind they vanish without regrets. Every treaty of peace draws and re-draws frontiers between nation-states. Every revolution gives new shapes to economic orders and social customs. Experience proves that man is the master of his systems. Only a free mind is needed to change the systems that stand in the way of peace and progress. Therefore, let us rethink. Let us discard sectarian labels and become human again, A wholesale proselytism into humanness is the urgent need of this civilisation.
Truth Is Simple
This is not an over simplification of a complex problem. Truth is always simple. We are born human, let us live as humans. Intellectual casuistry abets vested interests in war and strife and confounds us out of humanness. Yet stray individuals and small groups are already struggling to be human. They resist war, they cross national frontiers without visas, they trespass restrictions of apartheid, they poohpooh racial distinctions.
Humanism is not a coalescence of different sects; it is the assertion of the homogeneity of all humanity. There are neither Hindus, Muslims, Christians nor Jews; all are humans. There are neither Russians nor Chinese; all are humans. There are neither the rich nor the poor; all are humans. There are neither the white nor the black; ail are humans. There should be wholesale proselytism into humans. Just as the habits and ways of life change when a Hindu becomes a Christian or when a capitalist becomes a socialist; our habits and systems change when we convert ourselves into humans. We live equal. Change the mind and our systems change at once. That is how revolutions take place.
Atheists are out for the revolution. Atheism frees the mind of the illusions of control by divine destiny, by causal determinism or by material circumstances. A free man not only sees the injustices of sectarian attitudes, but feels free to re-order the systems that have perpetuated the injustices. The more the number of atheists, the quicker the change.
September 25, 1971