Religious Government Pretends
Starvation Is Not Happening
Angga

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Pra ... Dir..."
Subject: Re: God Free Youth
Date: Saturday, March 03, 2001 6:41 PM

This was the same complaint that Gora had when he spoke with Mohandas Gandhi. The Hindu religion caused people to think that starvation was their fate -- their destiny.

During what is called the "Long Interview," Bapu (Gandhi) had asked Gora:

"Now you tell me, why do you want atheism?"

Gora was struck by the personal tone of Bapu's question. It was not an academic question such as, "What is atheism?" or What is the use of atheism?" Gora reflected later that the question was very "Bapu-like," and that he poured out his heart to the Satyagrahi:

"I was in Calcutta last year. I saw the famine-stricken destitutes walking heavily on the pavements. Here and there some of them dropped dead in the streets. They died beside the marts and stalls which exhibited their sweets and fruits for sale. Suppose there was a hungry dog or a bull in the same situation. Would he die of hunger? No. Beat him, scold him, he would persist in his attempts to pounce upon the shop, somehow eat the sweets and fruits and satisfy his hunger. Why did not the destitute do the same? I do not think they were afraid of the policeman. The destitutes were there in hundreds and thousands. No concerted action was required of them. If a fraction of their number had fallen upon the shops, all the policemen in Calcutta put together could not have topped them. Even confinement in a gaol with its poor diet would have been preferable to death due to starvation. Why, then, the destitutes did not feel desperate and loot the shops? Were all the destitutes abject cowards without exception? Or had all of them such a high sense of civic responsibility as to be unwilling to disturb law and order? No. They were all simple, normal folk with no knowledge of civic rights and duties. Had they known their civic rights and duties in the least, there would have been no Bengal famine at all.

"Looking at the other side, were all the shop-keepers so cruel as to allow their fellow-men to die of dire hunger before their own eyes? No. On the other hand they shed tears of pity and contributed liberally and ran the gruel kitchens for the destitutes. They recited hymns of ethics every day.

"If the destitute is not cowardly and if the shopman is not cruel, why did so many people die of hunger? I think the reason is their philosophy of life.

"Both the destitute and the shop-keeper are votaries of the same philosophy of life. Each one said to himself: 'It is my fate, that is his fate; God made me like this, God made him like that.' On account of the commonness of their philosophy, there was no change in their relationship, though some ate their fill and many starved to death. The destitute's faith in that philosophy made his behaviour different from the animals.

"What I have said with regard to the Bengal famine applies also to the relationship between the untouchables and the caste Hindus, between the dark-skinned and the white-skinned. The same philosophy rules all these relationships.

"What is the result of following that philosophy of life? Man has become worse than the animal. Instead of living well, he is dying ill. His strength to resist evil is very much weakened. The pleasures of the few are built upon the bones of the many. This is really the unhappy fact in spite of our moral professions and pious wishes for the happiness of all humanity. This philosophy of life based upon belief in God and fate -- this theistic philosophy -- I hold responsible for defeating our efforts at ethical life and idealism. It cannot securely preserve the balance of unequal social relations any longer, because the pains of the flesh have begun to revolt against that philosophy. Hate and war are already replacing love and peace.

"I want ethics to rule and idealism to grow. That can be achieved only when belief in god and fate is done away with and consequently the theistic philosophy of life is changed. In positive terms, I want atheism, so that man shall cease to depend on god and stand firmly on his own legs. In such a man a healthy social outlook will grow, because atheism finds no justification for the economic and social inequalities between man and man. The inequalities have been kept so far by the acquiescence of the mass of theists rather than by any force of arms. When the belief in god goes and when man begins to stand on his own legs, all humanity becomes one and equal, because not only do men resemble much more than they differ but fellow-feeling smoothens the differences.

"I cannot remove god, if god were the truth. But it is not so. God is a falsehood conceived by man. Like many falsehoods, it was, in the past, useful to some extent. But like all falsehoods, it polluted life in the long run. So belief in god can go and it must go now in order to wash off corruption and to increase morality in mankind.

"I want atheism to make man self-confident and to establish social and economic equalities non-violently. Tell me, Bapu, where am I wrong?"

Bapuji patiently listened to Gora's long explanation. Then he sat up in the bed and slowly said:

"Yes, I see an ideal in your talk. I can neither say that my theism is right nor your atheism is wrong. We are seekers after truth. We change whenever we find ourselves in the wrong. I changed like that many times in my life. I see you are a worker. You are not a fanatic. You will change whenever you find yourself in the wrong. There is no harm as long as you are not fanatical. Whether you are in the right or I am in the right, results will prove. Then I may go your way or you may come my way; or both of us may go a third way. So go ahead with your work. I will help you, though your method is against mine."

Overwhelmed by Bapu's magnanimity, Gora requested:

"You are encouraging me, Bapu. I want to be warned of the possible pitfalls in my way, so that I may benefit by your wisdom and experience and minimize my mistakes."

Bapuji replied,

"It is not a mistake to commit a mistake, for no one commits a mistake knowing it to be one. But it is a mistake not to correct the mistake after knowing it to be one. If you are afraid of committing a mistake, you are afraid of doing anything at all. You will correct your mistakes whenever you find them."
     (From An Atheist with Gandhi.)

Unfortunately, Gandhi, like Dr. Martin Luther King, used the faith of the people as his vehicle to communicate his ideas to them. Because Gora was a friend of Gandhi and also a friend of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, Gora was able to get the resources to create a large network of charities (the first order of business, seeing to it that the people can eat). These charities also worked toward rehabilitation (the second order, seeing to it that the now-fed people can learn to tend to their own affairs). Along side if that, Gora's charities also sponsored programs to show the people the frauds involved in religion, and to help people overcome the social barriers which are based only on religious taboos (the ideological angle: since Gora saw religion as being the main barrier to human progress, he naturally taught the dangers of religion; other ideologies, such as Christianity, for example, see the lack of religion or the wrong religion as the main barrier, so they naturally teach Christianity; I see ideological fundamentalism -- religious, atheistic, and nationalistic -- to be the main barrier to progress, but I do not yet know how to attack fundamentalism without attacking religion and nationalism and some forms of atheism).

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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