Is Atheism Accepted In Hinduism?

There is a trope that we ex-Hindus come across very frequently when we tell people that we are atheists – “Atheism is accepted in Hinduism”. The implication is that us atheists should just shut up about tolerant Hinduism already and concentrate on the intolerant Abrahamic religions. However trope is only partially true. Atheism is accepted but in the sense that you aren’t going to be socially ostracized for professing a non-belief in god. But that is all. Try to go beyond dictionary atheism and practice the values that are derived from your atheism, and you’ll see why.

If you say that you don’t want to accompany your family on the trip to that temple, you’ll be asked why you’re being such a spoilsport. You’ll be asked “what’s the big deal”?

You want to marry out of caste, especially from a lower caste? “You are going to bring disgrace upon this family”. Cue the sulking and refusal to talk for weeks, months or even years.

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Analysing Arguments: Two Articles on the Death Penalty

“Analysing Arguments” is going to be an ongoing series of posts which analyse arguments found in the news and online media. Some good background material for this is Coursera’s enormously popular course Think Again: How to Reason and Argue, and the book Understanding Arguments: An Introduction to Informal Logic. You might also find the primer How to Argue Online useful. Note: the above course is scheduled for its next run on August 26 2013. We highly recommend signing up – it’s a life-changer, even if you’re already familiar with logical fallacies.


In this first installment of the series, I’m going to look at two recent articles against the death penalty. The first is by Member of Parliament Kanimozhi, and the second is by American lawyer Alan Dershowitz. Both arguments are justifications: they attempt to give good reasons for believing certain conclusions. They are also moral arguments – their conclusions are propositions of value, and so their premises are a mix of propositions of fact and of value.

An electric chair. (Image via Wikimedia Commons; public domain.)

An electric chair. (Image via Wikimedia Commons; public domain.)

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Come one come all to California Pizza Kitchen! No not you in the wheelchair.

The American pizza chain California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) opened last year in Bangalore, and here is a picture of the restaurant (the description is in the text below):

California Pizza Kitchen in Bangalore, India

The restaurant has a long glass facade revealing the tables inside, and the entire thing is raised about a foot and a half off ground level. Outside the facade is a parking area, and on the far end is the entrance, which you have to climb three steps to reach. If you’re familiar with disability rights activism and universal design, you will immediately have noticed that there is no ramp.

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“Brahmins Only” Housing

This advertisement for a “Brahmins Only” housing project appeared in a newspaper in April:

Advertisement for "Brahmins only" housing project in Bangalore

The ad in the image shows a aerial photograph of “Shankara Agraharam… the Vedic Village” and lists its various amenities, like “Temple complex”, “Goshala”, “Ayurvedic Hospital” etc. On top, in large print, it says “RESIDENTIAL PLOTS FOR SALE – BRAHMINS ONLY”. And at the bottom of the ad is the description “An Exclusive Brahmin Community Township”. The ad appeared in the Bangalore edition of The Hindu, April 11 2013.

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Why Your Daughter’s Marriage Shouldn’t Be Your Biggest Dream For Her

“When are you going to start saving? Don’t forget there’s a girl growing up in the house..”, countless wives have been reminding their husbands in Indian households and sometimes on TV screens. Parents in the country place too much emphasis on marriage. And if you’re a girl, this gets doubled. The moment the doctor announces the gender, the planning starts, the saving starts. And more importantly, the worrying.

Because of the pervasive dowry system that devours most families by attaching itself to destructive notions of what constitute status, honor and respect, this directly affects the family’s management of financial resources and how girls are brought up. An unmarried daughter becomes a burden to be removed which in turn subjects her to differential treatment. Giving your daughter’s marriage utmost importance means everything you do for her is ultimately influenced by this concern. You either don’t educate her beyond a basic level because you don’t have enough money to spend on both (and clearly you’ve decided marriage is to be given the bigger priority), or you educate her (often according to your own wishes rather than hers) with the prospect of fetching a well qualified groom so that she can be ‘sent off’ to a ‘respectable’ home.

 Studio portrait of three children wearing jewellery, at Madras in Tamil Nadu, taken in c. 1870 The young girl on the left is wearing the half-sari which is the traditional dress of adolescent girls in the South Indian states. The girl in the centre of the photograph is wearing the jewelled head-dress traditionally worn at marriage ceremonies or at 'rites of passage' ceremonies performed when a girl reaches puberty. source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Group_of_Tamil_girls.jpg

Studio portrait of three children wearing jewellery, at Madras in Tamil Nadu, taken in c. 1870 The young girl on the left is wearing the half-sari which is the traditional dress of adolescent girls in the South Indian states. The girl in the centre of the photograph is wearing the jewelled head-dress traditionally worn at marriage ceremonies or at ‘rites of passage’ ceremonies performed when a girl reaches puberty.
source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/

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A White Mark

I waz whitemailed
By a white witch,
Wid white magic
An white lies,
Branded by a white sheep
I slaved as a whitesmith
Near a white spot
Where I suffered whitewater fever.
Whitelisted as a whiteleg
I waz in de white book
As a master of white art,
It waz like white death.

People called me white jack
Some hailed me as a white wog,
So I joined de white watch
Trained as a white guard
Lived off the white economy.
Caught and beaten by de whiteshirts
I waz condemned to a white mass,
Don’t worry,
I shall be writing to de Black House.

- White Comedy by Benjamin Zephaniah

This poem by the British poet Benjamin Zephaniah “flips the script” on the words white and black, making the reader think about how those terms are used in the English language. In some cases white is used to denote good and black bad: white magic vs. black magic; blackleg is a derogatory term for a strike-breaker; blackguard is a criminal or someone of low status; black mass is a sacrilegious mass; black death apparently referred to the terror of the plague and not its symptoms. Others do not denote good or bad and are simply descriptive: blackwater fever is a malarial fever which turns a patient’s urine black, and the black watch is a Scottish military regiment which wears dark uniforms. I love that jarring last line, because it never occurred to me to wonder if any country would have a black house as their leader’s home.

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Hello!

Hello! It’s great to be here and our sincere thanks to Ed and the FTB team for having us on board.

A quick introduction to Nirmukta: Nirmukta is an organization which promotes science, freethought and secular humanism in India. It was founded as a website by Ajita Kamal in 2008, and since then its online presence has grown into three websites: the main parent site at nirmukta.com, the community forum at nirmukta.net and Nirmukta’s atheist activism arm, indianatheists.org. We have formed regional groups in several Indian cities as well; the objective of these groups is to mobilise local on-ground activism (like Hug an Atheist Day just the other day). Nirmukta also operates numerous social media groups on Facebook. This includes the popular Indian Atheists page, one of the largest gatherings of atheists in India. For more about our goals and values, please see What is Nirmukta and What Do We Plan to Do? or watch this short Introduction to Nirmukta on Youtube.

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