Atheist Centre 1940-1990 Golden Jubilee
International Conference Souvenir
Vijayawada, February 3, 4, and 5, 1990
[OCR, HTML, editing, by Cliff Walker]

Gora -- the Indian Phenomenon
Positive Atheism
Devendra Kumar
Former Vice-Chancellor, Gandhigram Rural University

When the Atheist Centre founded by Shri Gora completes half a century of its dynamic role, it is in the fitness of things to understand the evolution of the philosophy of its founder. He was born in a traditionally religious family. The times were such that a renaissance was taking place in the socio-economic, political structure of the country. The reformers were fighting against age-old oppressive customs and unscientific and inhuman systems which denigrated and differentiated between humans and humans. Gora was influenced by the new wave and his making was such that whatever he felt right he tried to act according to it. Being a scientist by training and profession, an academic by logic and study and an activist in whose life the thoughts, speech and actions were integrated. Gora was never satisfied by the role of an adapter to the circumstances in which he found himself and which would have given him, like the common run of people, security, status and material prosperity. He was an evolver by nature, one who instead of adapting oneself to the system worked to bring about changes in the oppressive and unjust structures. All this he did as to be of benefit not to himself but to the community as a whole. However, as always happens, the evolvers who fight against the environment are also opposed by the status-quoists or adapters for the sake of whom the evolver works. This took place in the life of Shri Gora in full measure.

The truth as he saw it and for the victory of which he immediately threw his weight brought him great sufferings, social ostracism and economic deprivations, but all these he took in his own stride. He never felt any reaction against those who opposed him in his ideas of equality, justice and freedom to all and in all dimensions of life. The fire through which he passed strengthened his resolve and gave power and strength to the ideas he practised and preached. There have been philosophers and thinkers in the past as well there are in the present and will be there in the future, who have developed concepts that are clear and whose application could bring about basic changes for the good of humanity, but the impact such philosophies and theses have made on the times has been very very limited. This, however, did not happen with Gora. The reason was that it is not the ideas or causes by themselves that influence people and motivate them to action in implementing them but it is the price paid in terms of self-suffering and sacrifice by the proponents and reformers who work for it. An analogy (albeit from the violent sector) would suffice to make the point clear. The cartridge of a gun has two components, the lead balls or pellets which are to hit the target and the gun powder or explosive which gives them the speed and power to hit. The lead pellets are the ideas, concepts or philosophies which you would like to make impact on the society. These may be very sound, perfect and logical, yet by themselves they have no power of impact. They can be informed to the people but cannot impel people to act. But when the self-sacrifice and suffering undertaken to put the same into practice is there behind these ideals, the former acts as the explosive force and the extent of the impact will depend upon the quality and quantity of the former. It is true that great ideas have their intrinsic capacity to change the world but this change they bring about is done through individuals who having imbibed the ideal put behind it the power of their sacrifice. This dynamic power of the individual to bring about change is seen in Goraji's life as it is seen in that of his master Mahatma Gandhi.

According to Gora's perception of atheism as a godless universe, -- an order where the need to conceive of an all-powerful omnipotent entity which is supposed to be the creator, sustainer and destroyer of all life and matter -- is not found acceptable where all actions and reactions are governed by the logic of physical laws in the outer world and psychological factors in the inner world of man's life. The need of mysterious godhood to explain the unknown is not necessary. What cannot be presently understood or explained by human intelligence need not be attributed to the mystery of the Divine but regarded as an unexplored area yet to be brought under the purview of human understanding. According to him, morality and religion are not to be equated because, whereas morality is the civilized way of human action, in relation to the other members or components of the environment one lives in, religion is the relation of the individual towards an untangible unknown in the name of which actions are undertaken, attitudes developed and values created. These may have been necessary at a particular time of human development but with changes in knowledge and circumstances, most of the static order in the name of divine loses its relevance and sanctity. Rigidity of concepts in the name of religion not only fossilizes and inhibits further growth towards truth, they also create a divide between the believers and non-believers, apart from sanctifying some of the unjust practices of the past. Gora, therefore, found the forms of religions as an impediment to human progress and, hence, discarded it.

The integrated world view that he nurtured was that of supremacy of individual freedom and equality for all in the society. He believed in all human beings being equal economically, socially and politically for all of which he worked in various programmes and initiated new movements. The essence of all these activities he found in the principle of equidistribution of power in all the above three dimensions viz., economic, social and, political. One or a few being 'more equal than the others' was not acceptable to him. Now this very principle when applied to all the creation brought him to the logical conclusion that there could not be one omnipotent and omnipresent ruler to manage the universe. There too the principle to decentralization should prevail. In decentralized order all the creatures of the creation are to be endowed with that power, not one entity like a king. In this way Gora's total philosophy of a just and decentralized order made him come to the conclusions of what he termed as 'Positive Atheism'.

In the end, it would be right to stress that like Gandhiji Gora too did not leave any 'ism' -- a crystallized rigid conclusion once derived and valid for all time. As a seeker of truth and scientific explorer he gave us a methodology of logical thinking and commensurate action. If we follow this on as Atheist Centre seeks to do, the frontiers of atheism will continue to widen and the words derive newer depths and meaning. May this process continue in the coming century and may the Atheist Centre celebrate many more Jubilees and Centenaries.