Atheist Centre 1940-1990 Golden Jubilee
International Conference Souvenir
Vijayawada, February 3, 4, and 5, 1990
[OCR, HTML, editing, by Cliff Walker]
An Appreciation From Ireland
In November, 1980, I visited the Atheist Centre in Vijayawada for the first time. I arrived by a somewhat circuitous route, via Kathmandu, Delhi, Agra, Varanasiin short, the tourist trail. India had disappointed me. It was hot, it was uncomfortable, and it was full of young Westerners looking for religious experience. That was the last thing I wanted. I am interested in religion, all religion, but with detachment, for I was born and brought up as an Atheist. And the last thing I expected to find in India was an Atheist movement.
The aimlessness of my journey through India had left me tired and depressed but in Vijayawada I at last found a sense of purpose. I spent a few days settling in reading Gora's books and enjoying the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the Atheist Centre. For the first time, I began to feel at home in India. The family introduced me to the various aspects of their work; I visited their outlying projects, I attended inter-caste marriages and communal meals, I learnt how a printing press works. And soon I was deeply involved in the preparations for the 2nd World Atheist Conference. Those were busy days, of researching, writing, proofreading attending meetings. There was constant activity, people were coming and going and the press was never silent. And before we knew it, the Conference was upon us. The Atheist Centre was suddenly packed with people from all over the world, uniting for three days to celebrate a common philosophy.
At Atheist Centre I enjoyed the rarest experience of my life, I walked on fire along with Lavanam and others. Nothing happened to my feet. It was fantastic.
I also found at Atheist Centre the dictum of "high thinking and simple living" in action. I found a happy blend of individual liberty and social good there.
After that, I never felt like a stranger in India again I returned two years later, for a further year of travel and study, and I visited my Atheist friends and spent a few weeks with them. The Atheist Centre is a home from home, and it is great disappointment to me that family and financial considerations will prevent me from attending the Golden Jubilee this year.
I am currently living in the West of Ireland, one of the last bastions of Catholicism in the modern world. And yet, despite the high church attendance figures here, I firmly believe that Ireland is emerging into a post-religious society, for the younger generation, particularly in the larger cities, are no longer holding with the morals of their upbringing. They are irreligious, but they are not Atheist, not in the sense of the Vijayawada Atheists. Unfortunately, we in Western post-religious societies have no Gora to guide us into a spirit of positive Atheism, and our moral systems are deteriorating in the vacuum.
My best wishes for the success of the Golden Jubilee.