I ask why your Omnipotent God does not hold a man back when he is about to commit a sin or offence. It is child’s play for God. Why did He not kill war lords? Why did He not obliterate the fury of war from their minds? In this way He could have saved humanity of many a great calamity and horror. Why does He not infuse humanistic sentiments into the minds of the Britishers so that they may willingly leave India?
This was written by Indian revolutionary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh 85 years ago , while in prison facing death penalty. He along with 2 other freedom fighters were hanged in Lahore jail on March 23 , 1931.
The essay from which the above quote is taken is titled ‘Why I am an atheist ‘. It is being shared widely in media, both online and offline, on this day of his martyrdom. Bhagat Singh is one of the most revered freedom fighter in both India and Pakistan.
Bhagat Singh and his friends belonged to a more radical movement than that led by Mahatma Gandhi. They were inspired by Marxian and anarchist ideologies. Singh did not believe in the Gandhian ideology—which advocated Satyagraha and other forms of non-violent resistance, and felt that such politics would replace one set of exploiters with another.
Some critics have said that the tactics and politics chose by Bhagat Singh, if had become mainstream , might have led to much more bloodletting than that actually happened in India’s freedom struggle. That may be true, but no one can belittle his courage, sincerity and efforts for the cause of freedom from colonialism.
Today he is considered by many as an atheist icon. He ends his essay like this.
Society must fight against this belief in God as it fought against idol worship and other narrow conceptions of religion. In this way man will try to stand on his feet. Being realistic, he will have to throw his faith aside and face all adversaries with courage and valour. That is exactly my state of mind. My friends, it is not my vanity; it is my mode of thinking that has made me an atheist. I don’t think that by strengthening my belief in God and by offering prayers to Him every day, (this I consider to be the most degraded act on the part of man) I can bring improvement in my situation, nor can I further deteriorate it. I have read of many atheists facing all troubles boldly, so I am trying to stand like a man with the head high and erect to the last; even on the gallows. Let us see how steadfast I am. One of my friends asked me to pray. When informed of my atheism, he said, “When your last days come, you will begin to believe.” I said, “No, dear sir, Never shall it happen. I consider it to be an act of degradation and demoralisation. For such petty selfish motives, I shall never pray.” Reader and friends, is it vanity? If it is, I stand for it.