Help a Library in Pakistan

This is an opportunity to do something cool. I was contacted recently by a library in a predominately Hindu region of Pakistan, asking if I’d be so kind as to send them some free copies of my books (which they even knew and requested by name). My books. Books with titles like Sense and Goodness without God and Why I Am Not a Christian. They had no problem with receiving atheist literature, and even wanted some. I asked them about their safety in receiving it, and they reported that they are in a more liberal district, largely Hindu, and were quite happy to receive literature from all points of view.

I researched them and found several others had obliged and were glad of the results, including Naomi Wolf and Tony Buzan (follow both links to learn more about the library and its aims and goals and tribulations). They are driving a literacy program in the region and undertaking other educational initiatives. Though they are Hindu, they are clearly ecumenical in the kind of literature they are willing to make available. So I sent them some of my books. And asked if they’d like me to ask my readers for more. They said yes.

This is their original letter to me, similar to what they sent a lot of other authors and organizations, seeking what they can (I’m sure they expected a lot of these requests to be a long shot):

With profound regards we humbly request you that we are a voluntary organization which sets up work in Indus Valley Sindh, the southern part of Pakistan our project is to help and facilitate a libraries program in Sindh, with the name of “Mother of Civilization Library” … [And need books] due to lack of resources and fundamental facilities of libraries, and … [a] big catastrophe of supper flood which hit the large part of population of this province in which all educational institutions and libraries infrastructure has been destroyed.

Your donations of books can do much to stimulate and encourage the growth of learning, especially among the young generation of Sindh about it. Therefore we appeal your great institution to make a little contribution of … books on compassionate and humanitarian ground; the result would be the placement of new books (or equivalent educational materials) into the library for needy and destitute students.

Hope you will consider our humble supplication with the glance of appreciation and make small numbers of books donation for this libraries program. In case, you wish to know more about our libraries program and various facets associated with it, please free to contact our office on all the days.

Thanking you.

Yours Sincerely

Rashid Anees Magsi

Project Manager

This is the letter of response I included with my shipment:

Mother of Civilization Library

Sobho Khan Magsi

Radhan Station, Dadu

Sindh Province, 76310

Pakistan

Phone: 009-2300-360-9982

 

Greetings! I Enclosed are one or more copies of my books Why I Am Not a Christian, Not the Impossible Faith, Proving History, and Sense and Goodness without God, plus one copy of The End of Christianity, which has many valuable chapters, some by me. I no longer have any copies of its prequel, The Christian Delusion, but hopefully someday you can acquire a copy to add to your collection.

I think you are doing a brave and valuable thing, and I am happy to help you promote knowledge and learning, religious freedom, and the exchange of information and ideas.

I wish all good fortune to your library project and for your own safety and success as well as that of everyone involved.

Be well and enlighten many!

 

Richard Carrier

California

United States of America

If you are able and interested in sending them some books, use their address above in my letter of reply.

I asked what they were looking for in general, and it’s the same as you can imagine any library wants: stuff on science, philosophy, history, how-to books. Presumably some educational children’s books. They didn’t mention fiction, and I imagine fiction might be problematic, for various reasons. But if you stick to good educational materials you can’t go wrong. Obviously used books in good condition will be fine.

Just think, you can get rid of some books in your home library that you like but don’t need anymore, or ship things to them direct from Amazon (presumably; I haven’t checked if Amazon can do that). Just don’t send them stuff you think sucks. You’ll want to send them the best, most readable, informative works on various subjects, or any good book or textbook on a subject. It costs a significant bit of money to ship to Pakistan, and it takes time out of your day to pack books and go to the post office to have them sent. But it was doable. There are places in the world I often assume just aren’t getting things like this, and I could afford the money and time to remedy that in at least this one case. Maybe you can, too. If so, go for it!

P.S. If anyone has a spare copy of The Christian Delusion to send them, I’d appreciate that. Then they’d have the complete set.

 

Hindus Rising: Meera Nanda and “The God Market”

We need to be ready to confront Hinduism. And here’s why: India is on track to become a significant world power within thirty years, and Hindu nationalism is on the rise there, not in decline. There are even well-funded efforts now to spread Hinduism into other countries. Hindu nationalism, Hindu supremacism, Hindu fundamentalism, Hindu terrorism, and Hindu evangelism are terms once thought to be oxymoronic but now are a reality. It’s not an urgent threat in America, to be sure (Hinduism’s numbers and influence are microscopic compared to the more pressing problems created by conservative and mainstream Christianity; and, among external threats, Islam), but the power and influence of India, economically and politically, is of growing significance, and its policies are increasingly influenced by Hinduism. We’d do well to keep our eye on it.

There is another reason to pay attention. The secularization thesis is in trouble lately. It turns out, the idea that modernization inevitably increases secularization (and a corresponding decline of religion) is false. It has been based on the rather exceptional examples of Europe, Japan, Canada, and Australia (and now, only very recently, the U.S., which for the first time is showing the start of similar demographic trends). The rest of the world is going the other direction, with increasing (albeit changing) religiosity, hand-in-hand with increased modernization and industrialization. This is the danger of focusing only on the first world as if it were normative. When we look at India, for example, we see many very important parallels with the path of religion in the U.S. (up until now), but also many important differences. Any theory of secularization (how inevitable it is, or how to advance it) must be based on the evidence available from other religious and cultural contexts. India is an ideal example of that.

I would not have said or thought any of the above had I not been lucky enough to be asked to read and blurb the American edition of Meera Nanda’s book The God Market: How Globalization Is Making India More Hindu (2011, revised edition with a new introduction; originally published in India in 2009). Meera Nanda is a noted philosopher of science in India who (ironically, given that she’s an atheist) was a recipient of a John Templeton Foundation Fellowship to research and write on secularization in India (or more precisely, on the reception of scientific thinking in India, what Indians call “scientific temper,” set forth as a national goal in India’s constitution). Her main project (which will be published as Tryst with Destiny: Scientific Temper and Secularization in India) is near completion. But she realized she could not develop that without first publishing her preliminary findings on the state of secularism in India, as her findings were overturning the apple cart of traditional secularization theories, and as a patriotic Indian and champion of science and reason she is greatly concerned about this.

I provided the publisher with this official reaction to her book, which you will now find gracing its back cover: [Read more…]