Why and how a Hindu Brahmin became an atheist.

  • Arun Njanappilly Madhavan is a medical doctor living in Kerala, India. He is an atheist. We hear a lot why Christians or Jews or Muslims become atheists, but we do not hear much about Hindus, why a Hindu becomes an atheist. I requested Arun Madhavan to write about his story for my blog. The busy doctor kindly wrote why he became an atheist. His twitter account is @charakan.

    ‘How I became an atheist?

    Actually I do not remember much about my Theist life.
    Was I ever a Theist?
    Probably yes.
    I was born into an upper caste Hindu family in Kerala, in south India. My family was not very religious, and routine visits to temples and special offerings to gods to get something done were rare. My parents did ask me to pray to gods, and I must have done that till I reached the age of 14-15. But my overall impression was my parents did not really believe in a typical Theist god, who controls everything in your life. They encouraged us children to work hard in school , and made us think that its your work that counts more than your offerings/prayers to gods. We celebrated the usual Malayali festivals like Vishu, Onam and Pooja.
    My earliest introduction to Hinduism was through Mahabharatha and Ramayana , the big Hindu (Indian) epics. I liked the Mahabharatha very much because it was a gripping tale with huge variety of characters, umpteen number of sub plots and a mega scale. My mother encouraged me to read alternate view points about the epics in which the ‘good’ guys like Pandavas and Rama were not that good and the ‘bad’ guys like Kauravas and Ravana clan were not that bad.
    Gods like Rama , who readily sends his wife to the forest, because there was a doubt about her chastity,and cunning Krishna with 16008 wives never deserved worship from me.

    Curious about Hinduism, I read some selected verses from its holy grail, the Vedas.
    Vedas probably were created between 1500 and 500 BC. They are a collections of hymns of Aryans, a clan of pastoralists. Rig Veda is considered the oldest. Vedic literature was preserved for hundreds of years by reciting and remembering orally before it was written in Sanskrit, the language of the Aryans.The Vedic hymns are mostly verses recited in praise of Aryan gods, which they called devas.At the sacrifices where Rig Veda hymns were recited, the devas were invited to come and sit around the sacrificial fire, to receive the hospitality of the Aryans who sacrificed animals in their honour.

    Apart from verses praising gods, Rig Veda also has verses which are used to ensure the social inequality of the society.
    Here is an example from Purushsooktham from Rigveda 10.90 about creation of humans and caste system.
    11.1: What did the Purusha (i.e. Virat) hold within Him? How many parts were assigned in His Huge Form?
    11.2: What was His Mouth? What was His Arms? What was His Thighs? And what was His Feet?
    12.1: The Brahmanas were His Mouth, the Kshatriyas became His Arms,
    12.2: The Vaishyas were His Thighs, and from His pair of Feet were born the Shudras.

    I can’t see how some one can believe in such stupidities about origin of human beings. We can easily see through it as a vain attempt to justify and perpetuate cruel caste system.

    Then I turned to Bhagavad Gita, the book some Hindus consider as The Holy book. There also I could not find anything inspiring. It is just a collection repetitive, incoherent and many a time self contradictory verses.

    The whole Hindu system of beliefs looked very shady. I had no difficulty in realising that a religion which wholly supports the oppressive caste system and Patriarchy is a sham.

    By the time I was 15, I started standing outside when our family visited temples. Still I used to take part in religious family rituals, so as not to offend the elders. When some one smeared sandal paste on my forehead, I used to clean it off as soon as possible!

    My feeling initially was all those who believe in gods were weak minded and could not survive without god belief. So I never questioned their beliefs , though I never allowed them to impose it on me.
    Later, in last few years , I realised that no one needs a god-belief , and such a belief is so prevalent because of childhood conditioning. Propagation of reason and rational thinking can help in de-conditioning. I realised it is ok to offend family elders so that one can drive your point of view of logic and reason forcefully.

    Humans created god myths as an explanation for the things that they could not explain. Religions were created by the powerful to retain control on others using god myth. As more and more things are being explained by Science, the space for gods are shrinking fast. There may be still a lot of things which we cannot explain, but that does not mean we should invent an illogical answer of god for the gaps in our knowledge.

    The way things are progressing, atheism may become the default position of all human beings. The question of why some one became an atheist may be irrelevant soon. Then the more logical question will be for the theist to explain why some one believes in a myth without any evidence.’

  • Not celebrating Christmas the Mass of Christ

    Most Christians believe December 25th is the birthday of Jesus, but some historians do not believe December 25th is the birthday of Jesus. Among Ex-Christian atheists most celebrate Christmas, some don’t. I am in favor of not celebrating Christmas. Atheists treat Christmas as winter solstice, the Pagan holiday. I am nor in favor of celebrating Pagan superstitions. Both Christians and atheists love Christmas trees, Christmas gifts, Christmas lights, Christmas songs and snow-man, Christmas family dinner. I like trees, lights, gifts, family feast too. But I can get those things any other times, I do not need a specific day for those, especially not the day when millions of non-scientific minds, superstitious souls, celebrate their religious holy day.

    I have decided to celebrate some of the birthdays this week. On December 24, I will celebrate the birth of physicist James Prescott Joule, who discovered a simple law connecting the current and resistance with the heat generated, and investigated the conversion of electrical and mechanical work into heat. On December 25, German author Charlotte von Stein’s birthday, I will celebrate the day by reading her books. It’s a great great day. Sir Isaac Newton, the English physicist, mathematician, astronomer’s birthday will be celebrated with music. Newton described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. On December 26, I will celebrate the birth of Charles Babbage, a mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer who originated the concept of a programmable computer. On December 27, I will celebrate the birth of German astronomer Johann Kepler who discovered elliptical orbits and of Louis Pasteur, a French chemist and microbiologist, who created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax and invented a method to treat milk and wine in order to prevent it from causing sickness, and of George Cayley who founded the science of aerodynamics and invented gliders. On December 28, it will be Auguste Lumiere and Louis Lumiere who were twin brothers opened the first commercial cinema, and American scientist, Kary Mullis a Nobel Prize winning American biochemist, author, who developed the polymerase chain reaction or PCR technique. December 29 will be celebrated for Charles Macintosh, a Scottish chemist and inventor of waterproof fabrics (Mackintosh raincoat). And for Charles Goodyear who invented the vulcanization process for rubber. On December 30, I will definitely drink a few bottles of Coca-Cola to celebrates the birth of Asa Griggs Candler who invented Coca-Cola. And will use my photo printer to celebrate Larry Bartlett’s birthday, Larry invented black and white photographic printer. And on December 31, I will celebrate the birth of American astronomer, Robert G Aitken, who was the first to discover binary stars. Then comes New Year’s Eve. I do not celebrate New Year’s Eve because I feel the first day of a new year is just like any other day. I do not find any reason to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

    Are you thinking I am weird? Don’t worry, you can think whatever you like. I respect your right to have a thinking mind.

    Fuck exists

    A scientist is religious. The media tells us that the scientist is religious.
    A scientist is not religious. The media doesn’t tell us that the scientist is not religious.

    Then millions of idiots jump around the world with joy and tell everyone that scientists believe in god, it means god exists. [Read more…]

    Lunatics will soon start fasting

    Scientists discovered a 5th moon of Pluto. They have named it P5.

    What are the religious bigots doing? They are not interested in exploring things. They are waiting for the- age-old-moon-visited-and-flagged-by-the-Americans to rise, so they can begin their Ramadan-fasting.

    Throughout the world, superstitions revolve around the Moon. If you want to know about them, they are here.

    What would the lunatics living in northern Finland, Norway and Sweden do? They have to refrain or abstain from eating, drinking, copulating, smoking, vomiting, etc. from sunrise to sunset. But in those regions, sun almost does not set in the summertime and almost does not rise in the wintertime.

    The illiterate camel driver in Arabia obviously did not have any knowledge about the climates of the Nordic countries.

    My Childhood Days

    ‘…One of aunt Fajli ’s sons was also called Muhammad. He was her first son—before him had come his three older sisters—Humaira, Sufaira, Mubashwera. After having produced three girls in a row, aunt Fajli became prone to frequent possession by jinns, but after Muhammad was born the jinns began to leave her alone. However, Muhammad was then followed by three more girls. The jinns renewed their attack with greater force. Even Humaira, I heard, had been possessed a few days ago. In fact, this was quite a common occurrence in this house. Some young girl or another would be possessed almost every day. Amirullah had to be called in to get rid of the evil spirit, in a dark room, with all the doors and windows closed if there any.

    I had once witnessed the whole procedure. The girl was called Juthi, in the same school as me, but one year my senior. She was a very pretty girl. One afternoon, she happened to be sitting under a banyan tree, singing quietly to herself. When the bell rang, all the other girls left but Juthi continued to sit there, singing. The bell rang again for the next class, but Juthi just went on singing, her hair blowing in the wind.

    Our Urdu teacher—we called him Urdu Sir—was a priest. Informed about Juthi, he dragged her away from under the tree and told the other teachers that she had been possessed by a jinn . Juthi, by this time, was already shouting, “Let me go, let me go!” But, keeping a firm hold on her, Urdu sir began preparing for an exorcism. The first thing he did was take some holy water, mutter a few lines of prayer specific to the task, after which the water was sprinkled on Juthi’s face. But this was not all. Urdu Sir then set fire to one end of a branch from a neem tree, held it before Juthi, and beat her with a thicker branch. It didn’t stop until she fell over. I stood with all the other girls in the school and watched this spectacle, my eyes filled with boundless wonder. I felt very sorry for Juthi. Sitting in this room in Amirullah’s house now, I felt extremely uneasy. What if I was also possessed by a jinn ? What if Amirullah had to take me to a dark room, stick in hand, as he had done with all the others?

    I shrivelled up with fear, so much so that I didn’t even notice the other girls moving away from the window. Ma came in briefly to tell me that she would return home as soon as the meeting was over. This brought me no comfort, for I had already had some experience about the length of Amirullah’s meetings. I knew the get-together would take place in a large hall. The girls would go straight from the inner part of the house, the portion of the hall that was curtained off. Everyone would have to sit on a mattress on the floor. Only Amirullah would sit on a divan, on a thick mattress. When he entered the hall filled with the scent of incense, his right hand would be raised, his face would be grave, and everyone would rise to their feet and say, “Salaam aleikum ya Rahamtullah.” The hall would echo with the sound of so many voices. Amirullah would reply in his deep voice, “Waleikum assalaam!” and make a gesture inviting his audience to sit down. The women—some smelling of talcum powder, some wearing kohl—would peer through a chink in the curtain to look at Amirullah and to cast sidelong glances at the other men.
    The routine was the same today. Amirullah ran his fingers through his beard and began speaking: “Look, Abu Bakar, this world that we live in is an unreal world, so what’s the point of making a lot of money here? Will anyone ever be able to take it with him in the end? Tell me, will you take your possessions with you to your grave?”
    Abu Bakar—short, with a dark beard, seated in the front row—replied, “No, Huzur.”
    “So what will you give your heart to, eh? To Allah, or to the pursuit of wealth?” Amirullah addressed the question to Abu Bakar, but his glance swept over all the heads in the room, each covered with a white cap.
    “To Allah, Huzur,” said Abu Bakar, sounding as if he had been hypnotized.
    The women stared hard at Abu Bakar through the curtain. Today, his name would be on every one’s lips. Amirullah had spoken to him voluntarily. This was a rare honor for Abu Bakar. Some were of the view that Amirullah would now make a special recommendation to Allah to send Abu Bakar straight to heaven.
    Each time the meeting lasted exactly an hour. This evening, Amirullah spent the time describing the poverty the Prophet had to suffer. His only possession was a torn blanket. The congregation wept noisily upon hearing how he had suffered. The more you cried in this house, the more you earned a good name. There was something else that earned one a good name too: having a dream. Aunt Fajli had dreamed she was sitting by the side of a fountain of Heaven with the Prophet Muhammad. Flocks of white birds were flying around, and a soft breeze was blowing. Although she couldn’t recall what they talked about, Amirullah had told her that a place in Heaven for her was now assured. After that, aunt Fajli had risen in everyone’s estimation. Some had asked her individually what the Prophet looked like, her face lit up as she described her dream: “His face is so bright, he is so handsome, how wonderfully soft his hands felt!” Her eyes closed slowly as she spoke, as if she could still feel the softness of his touch. They had moved to the fountain to take shower together and had only just started, when she woke up.
    After hearing of her dream, various other members of the congregation began dreaming of the Prophet and were similarly hailed with words of praise. Ma felt profoundly unhappy that the Prophet had never appeared in her dreams. Before going to sleep she thought very hard about him, so that she might see him, but that didn’t happen. Ma considered herself a sinner.

    As soon as the meeting was over, the men formed a queue to touch Amirullah’s feet and thrust money into his hands. The amount was unspecified. One was supposed to pay for Allah whatever one could. Those were Amirullah’s instruction.
    Abu Bakar bent with deep reverence over Amirullah’s feet and said, “Huzur, I am very worried. The world is soon going to come to an end and we’ll all have to face the day of judgment. I no longer pay any attention to running my business. After all, when I go, I’ll go empty-handed, won’t I? Who knows what’s in store? All my life, I never really thought about this. Please pray for me, Huzur. Without your prayers and your blessings, I will be lost.”
    Amirullah promised to pray and to bless.

    Having collected the money from the men, Amirullah entered that section of the room where the women were sitting. Every woman not from his own family would now touch his feet and offer him money. After this was done Amirullah would retire, recline on his bed, and various young women would throw themselves at him to massage his body.
    I pulled at Ma’s veil and said plaintively, “Come on, Ma, we must go home. If Baba gets back and finds me gone, he’s going to beat me!”

    Ma snatched her veil my grasp. “Stop pestering me!” was all she said.
    I stood alone in the dark courtyard, under the hibiscus bush. Somewhere, I had heard that a jinn was more likely to attack if you left your hair open, so I quickly covered my hair with my urna. I was not used to wearing long salwars and a urna, the garments older girls wore. At home, I still wore frocks, but here, in Amirullah’s house, your age didn’t matter. Unless your dress was approved by him, you were not allowed to pass through his front gate. It was an extraordinary new world, functioning within the familiar old one.

    On our way back, as we began our ride in another rickshaw I asked Ma, “Why has Israfil been sitting for millions of years, holding a horn to his mouth? Why does Allah make him do that? I mean, He jolly well knows when the day of judgment is going to arrive, doesn’t He? Surely He could ask Israfil to pick up his horn and sound it when the time comes? Poor Israfil having to stay put, not moving an inch.”
    Ma replied from under her burkha: “Allah is the Creator. Israfil is only an angel, so he has to obey the Creator’s command. Every angel must do that. Never question Allah’s will. Learn to be afraid of Him.”
    “Your Huzur said we must give our hearts to Allah, learn to fall in love with Him. How can we love someone if we are afraid of him?”
    I had always found it difficult to utter the words ‘fall in love’. There was an unwritten law that that particular phrase must never be used. But then, that law applied only to love between a man and a woman, because it was somehow wrong. People who fell in love were bad people. Aunt Jhunu , I knew, secretly loved someone. Dada wrote poetry with a girl called Anita in mind but that, too, was done secretly. “There was something between aunt Jhunu and uncle Rashu ,” Dada had once said. Even in my school, girls did not use the word “love.” They said “That girl over there has ‘something’ going on with a boy!” At first, I found it quite difficult to understand what “something” meant, but eventually I got into the habit of using it myself.
    I did find that the word “love,” or even the phrase “falling in love,” could be used freely when referring to Allah. I had never heard anyone say, “Huzur has ‘something’ going on with Allah!” Humaira, it was rumored, had a love affair going on with her cousin, Atiq, but, it was always referred to as “something,” and the word was whispered. Yet, no one had any hesitation in saying that Humaira was deeply in love with Allah. In fact, it was always said very loudly so that every one could hear.
    In answer to my question, Ma said briefly, “You can love Allah and be afraid of Him.”
    “But you always say Allah keeps a record of every human being, when he’s to be born, when he’s to die, even who he’ll marry. Allah also knows who’ll go to Heaven and who’ll be sent to Hell. It’s all written down, all decided. Well then, this man Abu Bakar . . . if Allah has decided already to send him to Heaven, surely he’s not going to go to Hell even if he’s a sinner? And if you take me , , , if going to Hell is what’s already written for me, what’s the point of my praying to Allah? Is He going to change what He wrote down Himself?” I said all this in one breath.
    “How come you behave as if you haven’t got a tongue in front of others? When you’re with me, you can’t stop chattering.” Ma said in a very cross tone.
    “But, tell me, Allah is capable of doing anything, isn’t He?” I insisted, my voice trembling with curiosity.
    “Yes. Allah can make anything happen. But if He does not want something to take place, then no power can work against His will. Not a single leaf on a tree would move unless Allah willed it.”
    Ma’s body was covered from head to toe with a black burkha. Her face was hidden behind a thin, transparent veil that hung down from her forehead, so that her eyes were free to spot potholes before she stepped into them. Right now, the fury of her glance pierced the veil. I looked at her fiery eyes and said, “Suppose Allah was sitting with empty hands. Could he create a flower out of nothing?”
    “Yes.”
    “Suppose He had a hankie in His hand could He turn it into a pigeon?” I asked again.
    “Certainly,” Ma said firmly.
    “That man who came to do tricks in our school—that magician—he can do all those things too. He can even vanish into thin air and remain invisible, just like Allah!” I declared, triumphantly.
    “What did you say? You’ve lost all your belief, all your virtue. You dare to compare a magician with Allah? You stupid girl! Is this why I take you with me to hear huzur’s speech? You’re much worse than you used to be! You are becoming a big Satan. I bet you’ve learned to talk like that from your father. I will sew up your lips, I swear, if you say such things just once more. In the face of such rage, I felt like a pricked ball. Ma had once told me that the saint Abdul Kader Jeelani, after being ordered by Allah, had emerged from his grave. I felt quite sure that if that magician was buried in a grave, he could come out, too. But I did not mention this to Ma, for I had no wish to hear more abuse. However,another question that was struggling to escape from my mind slipped out before I could stop it. “Why do people in your Huzur’s house keep getting possessed? Jinns don’t attack us, do they? You keep telling us Allah Himself comes down to visit that house. If that’s true, how come jinns dare to appear in Allah’s space?”
    Ma dug her elbow into my stomach and gave me a sharp, painful nudge. “Shut up! Not another word, do you hear? When we get home, you must pray to Allah and beg His forgiveness. You’re not afraid of Allah, are you? No, of course not. How else would such Satanic thoughts get into your head?

    I received no answer to my questions.

    One day, I showed Ma my science book and asked, “Allah created Adam, didn’t He?”
    “Yes.”
    “But look at this!” I pointed at a early homosapian in my science book. “Here’s the first sign of life on earth.one cell grew to multiple. Ancient man evolved from a species of apes. Those men lived in caves, fought among themselves, ate raw meat etc. Then, much later, they learnt to light a fire. Then they made more progress, and gradually became civilised. The first man that Allah made – the prophet Hazrat Adam ,did he look like this hairy, naked ape , who walked in the garden of heaven?”
    Ma wrinkled her nose, as if a bad stench was coming from the book, and said, “Get out of here, go! Every word written in that book is a lie. What Allah has said is the only truth. Nothing else matters.”
    I had to come away. It was impossible to raise the matter with Baba, for invariably I lost my voice if I went anywhere near him. Who was right? Which was true — Allah or science? Who was going to tell me? There did not seem to be a great deal of reason in what Allah had said. ‘Reason’ was a word I had recently learnt. Baba had lately started saying, “Never act without reason. Ask your conscience before doing anything whether you should — or should not — do it. If the answer is yes, only then must you perform that task. Every human being has a conscience.
    This particular speech was delivered — and repeated subsequently — when, during a game, I lit a match and accidentally dropped it in a heap of firewood. Luckily, there was no major disaster. Had the wood caught fire, and had it spread, Baba believed that the whole house would have been gutted.

    There didn’t seem to be a great deal of reason in what Allah had said. What science said appeared far more reasonable. The first man was supposed to have been created by Allah and then simply dropped from heaven to land on earth with a loud thud. That sounded like a fairy-tale. If I mentioned this to Ma, she came back with, “If you say such bad things about Allah, your tongue will drop off.” To test this out, I sat in my room one day, with the door closed, and said Allah you are bad, you are ugly, you are rotten, you are a crook, you son of a bitch, you son of a pig . My tongue remained in place, it did not drop off. Now there was no doubt in my mind. Nothing happened if you abused Allah. Ma was quite wrong. I had learned something else. It was just not true that Allah would give you whatever you wanted. So many times after prayers, I had asked for chum chums, or snacks that I had seen uncle Sharaf and the others eat. I was never given anything. In my old school, Rajbari—the one that used to be a palace—I had seen a lovely, painted wooden horse and felt tempted enough to ask for one like it. No one gave me a wooden horse. There were various other things I had wanted. After what uncle Sharaf and uncle Aman did to me, I wanted them to get leprosy and die quickly. They neither got leprosy nor died. I had heard Ma say a similar prayer with regard to Baba. But he remained in perfect health and in fact seemed to be getting even fitter. He never had fever, not even for a single day. I, on the other hand, got frequent attacks of fever. It made me very happy, because I could stay away from school and studies. When I was ill, Baba spoke to me gently and stroked my head. It was only during these rare moments that it became easy to receive his affection. He bought bunches of grapes and oranges and placed them on my bed. I ate them all by myself, while my sister and brothers looked on. If they insisted that I share my fruit with them, I gave them just a little. Ma brought me pieces of salted ginger. But when it was time to take my medicines, the joy of being ill vanished quickly. Baba wanted me to swallow various pills and tablets every hour. Usually, I said, “Yes, I’ll take them,” and then threw each one out of the window when no one was looking.
    Once, when my temperature did not come down even after a week, Baba got suspicious. He began bringing me my medicines himself. “Open your mouth,” he would say, pouring water into it and thrusting a capsule or tablet in. It invariably got stuck in my throat, which made me retch and throw up. Undaunted, Baba said “Open your mouth” as soon as I stopped vomiting. He didn’t give up until the capsule or tablet made a successful entry into my stomach.When Baba was not in the room, Ma came in, muttered suras, and blew on my chest. That felt quite nice. After all, someone’s soft breath on my chest had to be very different from a foul-tasting medicine. Then she brought me several glasses of pretty dirty water that was blessed by Amirullah, and she made me drink it. When I recovered, Ma claimed that it was her prayers and the holy water that had done it. Baba maintained it was his capsules…’

    From ‘my girlhood’.

    My atheist cat


    She is Minu the philosopher. A 7-year-old cat. She was born in India. She does not believe in god. She laughs at humans when they practice religion. She gets angry with humans because they practice a cruel, disgusting, dehumanizing, unjust caste system.

    She believes in evolution.

    Minu used to believe that cats were first domesticated in ancient Egypt around 4000 years ago. But she recently started believing that cats were domesticated in Asia 10,000 years ago around the time of the development of agriculture. She learned that a 9,500 years old Neolithic grave was excavated in Cyprus that contained the skeletons of a human and a cat.

    I have no idea why she thinks that Himalayan snow leopard is her ancestor.

    What about Bast or Bastet, Egyptian Cat-Goddess? I asked her.
    She told me that throughout history ignorance encouraged people to worship things. She thinks every human and animal should live with head held high, with dignity and honor. I said, ‘What about me, some of my friends say I worship my adopted daughter!’ Minu smiled, ‘They are so jealous of you! I know you treat me like your boss. It is alright. But I will never let you worship me. I am no Goddess. Actually there is no such thing as God or Goddess!’

    Minu the philosopher loves to study physics. I sleep but she would stay up late at night studying. Her favorite physicists are Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss.

    She likes to read Richard Dawkins. She has just finished reading The Magic of Reality.I met Richard Dawkins at Reason Rally in Washington DC in April this year. We both were invited at American Atheist convention. After his lecture he signed his Magic book for Minu the philosopher. Minu was so happy! She sent Dawkins an email, ‘Uncle Richard, Many thanks for the autograph. You help me to open my eyes to the wonderfulness of the truth and the poetry of the universe.’

    She is now having a Twitter account . But she is too busy studying and thinking and writing. She doesn’t get much time to tweet.

    She doesn’t study all day long. Sometimes she likes to do other things too. After reading newspapers in the morning or after having her lunch, she takes a nap.

    She is against war and bloodshed. She believes if humans did not spend their enormous amount of money to make weapons of mass destruction, they could provide food,shelter,education, health care, job for every human in the world including cats and other domestic animals.

    Minu is so worried about me. When Mullahs issue fatwas or demand for my execution by hanging, she desperately tries to find me a hiding place.

    She shared her bed with her aunt who came to visit her a few months ago. She slept exactly the way her aunt slept.

    Minu could not accept the idea that she would live with humans who kill each other everyday because of their belief in God. She was so sick and tired with human society that she decided to leave. She left for jungle but came back after a couple of days because she realized that she loved me very much and she wouldn’t be able to live without me.

    She has recently visited President Obama. It’s an interesting story. She paid $5 dollar to buy a ticket for a chance to attend the fund-raising dinner at George Clooney’s house in LA. She was so lucky! she got an invitation letter and flight tickets. They did not know that she was a cat. The brave girl flew to LA but was kept in quarantine at the airport.
    She is a cat from a 3rd world country! It was not easy for her to enter a rich country! Animal rights organizations wrote letters to Obama. She was then released and joined the party. She bought a nice black dress to dance with Obama and Clooney. BTW, She almost fell in love with Clooney.

    She is now busy in preparation for writing her memoir. She doesn’t have time to chat with me or watch TV or talk with her friends on her iPhone or tweet or facebook. She needs to read some of the autobiographical works before writing her memoir. One of the books she has chosen to read is my ‘My Girlhood’.

    Are you an atheist? Better be a humanist.

    Dear Alom Shaha,

    Thank you for sending me your ‘The Young Atheist’s Handbook’. I haven’t started reading the book. But I’ve listened to your interview today. I understand what you have said.

    I was thinking of Sam Harris’s recent article while listening to you. You probably have read the article. Sam Harris said TSA screeners at airports should not waste time screening old people, children, and others who do not look like Muslims and they should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim and they should be honest about it. Sam Harris’s Muslim-profile-program is more dangerous than the notorious Homeland Security program in the Bush era!

    I never feel bad when I am asked to take my shoes, my belts, my jewelry, my scarves, my coats etc. off and to go through metal detectors repeatedly. I feel safe when I see people of all ages, of all colors, of all ethnicities, of all nationalities,of all genders, and of all beliefs get screened. I feel safe when I see a 2-year-old baby’s sandals and an 85-year-old wheelchair lady’s orthopedic footwear are removed for screening, for these are the things terrorists would think of using as shoe-bombs because these are the things people would not be suspicious about. It will scare the crap out of me if I see only ‘Muslims and Muslim-looking people’ are going through security screening and others are free to board a plane. If I see that Sam Harris without being properly screened is going to board the plane I am supposed to board, I would most likely decide to cancel my flight because I would be afraid of him. I would think that he accidentally carried a gun, and he would accidentally shoot people on the plane and I would accidentally die. I do not want to take any risk. Who knows, for he might get suddenly mentally sick and start thinking that all ‘Muslim looking people‘ are terrorists or they all are Osama Bin Laden and it is better to finish them off. I would not trust Muslim looking people, and I would also not trust Christian looking people, Jewish looking people, Hindu looking people, Jain looking people, Buddhist looking people, or any other religious looking people! How would I know about their plans!They may have some secret plans! Muslims have been terrorizing and killing people in many parts of the world. It is Muslims who become suicide bombers these days, but faith-heads of any religion can become suicide bombers. I would not trust even die hard atheists and die hard atheist looking people. They might think of blowing up the plane, because the plane is full of fucking believers! You never know.

    We both look like South Asian. South Asian Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs,Parsis, Jews, Bahá’ís, Bramhas, Animists as well as atheists look more or less the same. How would Sam Harris identify Muslims? It will really be a tough job for him or anyone else. If we are identified as ‘Muslim looking people’, then we will have to spend more time going through rigid security checks than Sam Harris inasmuch as he does not look Muslim. But we are not any less godless than Sam Harris! The question of identification of Muslims is very much related to the color of skin.

    It is true that fear, hatred, and hostility of some Western people toward Islam and Muslims helped to make Muslims all over the world more religious, more fundamentalists, and more terrorists. We who were born into Muslim families but became atheists and have been fighting Muslim fundamentalism for decades know very well how difficult this fight has become.

    We know there is a conflict. But the conflict is not between the West and Islam. Or West and East, or Christianity/Judaism/Hinduism and Islam. The conflict is between secularism and fundamentalism, between rational logical minds and irrational blind faith, between innovation and tradition, between humanism and barbarism, between the future and the past, between the people who value freedom and the people who do not.

    Atheists need more enlightenment to become humanists. I dream of a day when all atheists will be free from racism, misogyny,homophobia,megalomania and other silly things.

    Humanistically

    Taslima

    All great feminists are atheists

    ‘The church is a terrible engine of oppression, especially as concerns women.’–Elizabeth Cady Stanton

    ‘I have endeavored to dissipate these religious superstitions from the minds of women, and base their faith on science and reason, where I found for myself at last that peace and comfort I could never find in the Bible and the church…The less they believe, the better for their own happiness and development…

    For fifty years the women of this nation have tried to dam up this deadly stream that poisons all their lives, but thus far they have lacked the insight or courage to follow it back to its source and there strike the blow at the fountain of all tyranny, religious superstition, priestly power, and the cannon law.’ –Elizabeth Cady Stanton

    ”We would be 1,500 years ahead if it hadn’t been for the church dragging science back by its coattails and burning our best mids at the stake.”–Catherine Fahringer

    ”The tragedy is that every brain cell devoted to belief in the supernatural is a brain cell one cannot use to make life richer or easier or happier.” –Kay Nolte Smith

    ”It is impossible to exaggerate the evil work theology has done in the world.”–Lydia Maria Child

    ”There is yet another consideration which is fatal to the Christian religion, and that is its persecuting spirit. It calls in the aid of Ecclesiastical and civil laws, and the iron hand of custom to condemn, and if possible to punish those who may express different opinions to its own…Perish the cause which has no more rational argument in its favour than that which the stake or prison can supply.” –Emma Martin

    ”Christianity is an insult to the wisdom of the nineteenth century. To place before its progress and development a leader, ruler, king, saviour, god, whose knowledge was less than a modern five year old school girl, is an outrage upon humanity.”–Ella E. Gibson

    ”Possessing no proof of its (God’s) existence, the church has ever fostered unintelligent belief. To doubt her “unverified” assertion has even been declared an unpardonable sin.”–Matilda Joslyn Gage

    ”There is no book which tells of a more infamous monster than the Old Testament, with its Jehovah of murder and cruelty and revenge, unless it be the New Testament, which arms its God with hell, and extends his outrages throughout all eternity.” –Helen H. Gardener

    ”Less power to religion, the greater power to knowledge.”–Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner

    ”Let us inquire what glory there was in an omnipotent being torturing forever a puny little creature who could in no way defend himself? Would it be to the glory of man to fry ants?”-Charlotte Perkins Gilman

    ”A believer is not a thinker and a thinker is not a believer .”–Marian Noel Sherman

    ”Ethical teaching is weakened if it is tied up with dogmas that will not bear examination.”–Margaret Knigh

    ”The greatest contribution nonbelievers have made to the world has been the Constitution of the United States. Consider how very heretical to a religious world was the idea of a Constitution predicated on “We the People.”‘-Siver Queen

    “The religious scriptures are nothing but rules and laws made by men. Whatever you hear from the priest, may have been the opposite to what a woman priest would say. No one can say the religious Scriptures are really the revelation of God. Men has advertised them as the revelation of God to keep the womankind in dark.”–Begum Rokeya

    ”There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages.”-Ruth Hurmence Green

    ”It’s an incredible con job when you think about it, to believe something now in exchange for something after death. Even corporations with their reward systems don’t try to make it posthumous.”–Gloria Steinem

    The great feminist Robin Morgan is talking about the importance of separation of church and state.

    Mary Wollstonecraft, Simone de Beauvoir, Anne Royall, Harriet Martineau, Lydia Maria Child, Ernestine L. Rose, Margaret Fuller, Emma Martin, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy N. Colman, George Eliot, Susan B. Anthony, Ella E. Gibson, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Lucretia Mott, Frances Wright, Betty Friedan, kate millett, Germaine Greer, Katherine Hepburn, Sonia Johnson, Lois Waisbrooker, Elmina D. Slenker, Lillie Devereux Blake, Marilla Ricker, Annie Besant, Susan H. Wixon, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Helen Gardener, Ellen Battelle Dietrick, Josephine K. Henry, Clara Zetkin, Etta Semple, Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Voltairine de Cleyre, Emma Goldman, Zona Gale, Margaret Sanger, Marian Sherman, Dora Russell, Meridel Le Sueur, Margaret Knight,Katha Pollitt, Barbara Smoker,Polly Toynbee,Joan Smith, Jennifer Hecht, Queen Silver, Vashti McCollum, Ruth Hurmence Green, Catherine Fahringer, Susan Jacoby, Meg Bowman, Barbara G. Walker, Rosalind Franklin, Sherry Matulis, Kay Nolte Smith, Sonia Johnson, Louise Antony, Meera Nanda, Gisèle Halimi, Barbara Ehrenreich, Ayn Rand, George Sand, Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan, Andrea Dworkin, Nawal El Saadawi, Lucy Parsons, Antoinette Fouque, Eve Ensler, Meredith Tax, Begum Rokeya, Sukumari Bhattacharji, Maitreyi Chatterjee are among tens of thousands of atheist feminists and female atheist writers/philosophers/playwrights/actresses/artists/astronomers/physicists/scholars etc.

    Why do you give your children Chrstian names, or Muslim names or any religious names?

     

    You are an  atheist but you name your children after  gods or prophets or heroes  and  heroines  of   the religious scriptures. Why don’t you stop doing it?

    And,

    Why is it necessary to have a family name ?

    Having a first name  related to religion and  a surname related to  father or husband’s surname  proves  that  you are a victim of  the misogynistic patriarchal religious system  and you do not denounce  the system rather you try to  keep the system  intact.

     

    I have no  family name. Nasreen is not derived from my father or my grandfather or my husband nor is it   derived from  my mother or my grandmother.  Nasreen is  a Persian word  which means a wild rose.  I feel good for not having a patriarchal family name. I feel good for not having a  given name that comes  from the Koran or the Hadith. I am grateful to my parents for  not  having named me after Prophet Muhammad’s mother  or daughter  or wives.

     

    We can live our lives  happily without having a family name, but many people think  that the  things will be totally messed up  without  it.  Iceland is not a messed up country. Icelandic names differ from  Western family name systems. For example, a  man  named  Gunnar Svensson  has a son named Eric and a daughter named Björk.  Eric’s  last name will not be Svensson  like his father’s; it will become Gunnarsson, literally indicating that Eric is the son of Gunnar (Gunnars + son).  Björk also would not have the last name Svensson; she would have the name Gunnarsdóttir. Again, the name says that Björk is  “Gunnar’s  daughter” (Gunnars + dóttir). Not everybody’s surname  carries  father’s name, many choose to  have  matronymic names, instead of father’s name they pick mother’s name.  For example,  Eric and Björk’s mother’s  name is Anika Stefánsdóttir.  If parents decide or  Eric and  Björk want to  pick their mother’s name for their last names,  Eric’s last name will be Anikasson, and  Björk’s last name will be Anikasdóttir.  Iceland is not alone, some  other countries also  have a different family name system or no family name system. Who doesn’t want to be a separate human being!

     

    I love names that come from  nature. Let me  translate some common  names of Bengali  people:  Rose, Jasmine, Sky, Moon, Sun, Earth, River, Sea, Forest, Love, Wind, Soil, Flower, Peace, Beauty, Happy, Orange, Apple, Bird, Music, Poem, Strength,  Rain, Smile  etc. I call them true secular names.

     

    Let’s be 100% secular.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Mother’s Story

     

    1

    My mother’s eyes became yellowish, egg-yoke like.
    Her belly swelled out rapidly like an overly full water tank
    ready to burst at any moment.

    No longer able to stand up, or sit down, or even move her fingers, she just lay there.
    At the end of her days, she did not look like Mother any more.
    Relatives appeared each morning, every evening,
    telling Mother to be prepared,
    telling her to be ready to die on the holy day, Friday,
    uttering la ilaha illallah, Allah Is One!

     

    They warned her not to disappoint the two angels—

    Munkar and Nakir.

     

    The relatives wanted to make certain that the room

    and yard would be clean
    that the perfume atar  and the blue eye shadow surma

    would be present when Death would finally arrive.

     

    The disease had nearly devoured her entire body;
    it had stolen her last remaining strength;
    it had made her eyes bulge from their sockets,
    it had dried her tongue,
    it had sucked the air from her lungs.

     

    As she struggled to breathe,
    her forehead and eyebrows wretched with pain.

    The whole house demanded— shouting—
    that she should send her greatest respects and reverence

    to the Prophet.
    Not one doubted that she would go to Jannatul Ferdous,

    the highest level of heaven.
    Not one doubted that she would soon walk hand-in-hand

    with Muhammed, on a lovely afternoon,

    in the Garden of  Paradise..


    No one doubted that the two would lunch together

    on pheasant  and wine.
    Mother thus dreamed her lifelong dream:
    She would walk with Muhammed

    in the Garden of Paradise.


    But now, at the very time that she was about to depart from this earth, what a surprise

    She hesitated.

    Instead of stepping outside, and entering that Garden,
    she wished to stay and boil Birui rice for me.
    She wished to cook fish curry and to fry a whole hilsa.
    She wished to make me a spicy sauce with red potatoes.
    She wished to pick a young coconut for me
    from the south corner of her garden.
    She wished to fan me with a silken hand-fan,
    and to remove a few straggly hairs from my forehead.
    She wished to put a new bed sheet upon my bed,
    and to sew a frock with colorful embroidery—

    just for me.
    Yes, she wished to walk barefoot in the courtyard,
    and to prop up a young guava plant with a bamboo stick.
    She wished to sing sitting in the garden of hasnuhena,


    “Never before, had such a bright moon shone down,
    never before, was night so beautiful.. .” 

     

    My mother wanted so desperately to live.

     

     

     

     

    2

    There is, I know, no reincarnation,
    no last judgment day:
    Heaven, pheasant, wine, pink virgins —
    these are nothing but traps

    set by true believers.

     

    There is no heaven for mother to go.
    She will not walk in any garden with anybody whatsoever.
    Cunning foxes will instead enter her grave;

    they will eat her flesh;
    her white bones will be spread by the winds…

     

    Nevertheless, I do want to believe in Heaven
    over the seventh sky, or somewhere—
    a fabulous, magnificent heaven—
    somewhere where my mother would reach

    after crossing the bridge,

    the Pulsirat— which seems so impossible to cross.
    And there, once she has passed that bridge

    with the greatest ease,

    a very handsome man, the Prophet Muhammed,
    will welcome her, embrace her.

    He will feel her melt upon his broad chest.
    She will wish to take a shower in the fountain;
    she will wish to dance, to jump with joy;
    she will be able to do all the things

    that she has never done before.
    A pheasant will arrive on a golden tray.
    My mother will eat to her heart’s content.
    Allah Himself will come by foot into the garden to meet her;
    he will put a red flower into her hair,

    kiss her passionately.

     

    She will sleep on a soft feather bed;
    she will be fanned by seven hundred Hur, the virgins
    and be served cool water in silver pitcher

    by beautiful gelban, the young angels.
    She will laugh,

    her whole body will stir with enormous happiness.

    She will forget her miserable life on Earth…

     

    An atheist,

    How good I feel
    just to imagine
    somewhere there is a heaven!

     

    (The original poem was written  in Bengali.  It  was published in  Bengali literary  weekly magazine ‘Desh’. Bangladesh government  banned the magazine on April 4,1999, and seized all copies from the news stands. I was accused of personifying  God.)