Ajita Kamal has died

I am sad to report that Ajita Kamal has died. He was the founder of Nirmukta, and was a leading promoter of science and freethought in India.

Here’s one of his articles that I liked very much.

There is a very important role that anger, ridicule and passion play in any social movement. While intellectual understanding is key to a movement that is well-grounded, it is the primary emotions that provide the impetus for social organization. Without this, atheism would simply remain an idea to be discussed in academia and in private settings.

Let me give you an example. Secular Humanism has been around for more than a century. Humanists often deride the ‘New Atheists’ for their bitterness. In fact, the argument from many humanists has been that their tactics are more effective! But how many people knew about secular humanism before the ‘New Atheists’? Their whole movement was an academic one, restricted to an elite group of people who had the time and inclination for such intellectualisms. While the humanists were debating about human rights and ethics for over a century, atheists continued to remain in the shadows, in a cultural environment where they were unable to realize many of their fundamental rights. The only community that was available to most atheists was society at large. As you may well know, one of the most important functions of religion is to provide a common cultural ground to enable a common morality and social code to bring together people and form a functioning and content community. We atheists did not have this- not until a few years ago. It is easy to ignore the freedoms (from the point of view of social acceptance) we have gained towards expressing our beliefs in public and for gathering in the name of reason. It is easy to forget that millions of atheists crave the kind of social contact that religions have traditionally provided. It is even more easy to forget the role that anger, ridicule and passion have played in creating this global community of freethinkers. Without the ‘new atheists’, secular humanism would have remained irrelevant in the public sphere. Today we can meaningfully talk about replacing religion with a secular morality derived from humanistic principles only because of the social impetus that the ‘New Atheists’ like Dawkins have provided humanity with.

I also recommend this recent article by a group of the Nirmukta writers. He was one of us. We are now diminished.


  1. mirapath says

    Such sad news. Hope that his untimely demise won’t set back the cause of Indian atheists/Nirmuktha.

    The use of the phrase ‘íncident’ to describe his death is rather chilling; really, really hoping that it wasnt something violent.

  2. Sir Shplane, Grand Mixmaster, Knight of the Turntable says

    I really wish that cool people wouldn’t die before I had a chance to hear about them. It kind of blows to be like “Oh hey, this guy is aw- oh fuck he’s dead.”

    Oh well. I’ll have to check out his articles. Least I can do to honor his memory, right?

  3. SallyStrange (Bigger on the Inside), Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Yeah, I hate it when someone awesome is brought to my attention because of his or her demise.

    Thanks for writing about him, PZ.

  4. says

    This is a awfully sad bit of news. Ajita founded Nirmukta and gave us a place to openly discuss our skepticism and atheism, specifically issues relating to the Indian context. This is a very big loss for the Indian atheist community. I hope the organization he founded continues its mission

  5. SidBB says

    This is shocking and saddening. He was young, probably around thirty.

    I first met him at a live SGU event in Connecticut and we learned that we both lived in Long Island, NY, not far from each other. He invited me to the local atheist meetup group but I never found the time to go.

    A year later, I ran into him at NECSS where he proudly told me about Nirmukta, “this little blog” he’d recently started. He was hanging around outside the venue hoping to introduce himself to Steve Novella and record an audio interview.

    In just a couple of years since, I’ve seen Nirmukta blossom into a huge community of atheists and skeptics. Being Indian myself, I am in awe of the work they’ve done to establish a prominent presence in several Indian cities.

  6. RFW says

    Perhaps a little off-topic, but wothehell:

    Anyone interested in the effects of religiosity on Indian society is pointed to two rather obscure books:

    1. “Verdict on India” by Beverley Nichols, published in the 1944. Nichols was a British journalist who wrote a great many topical books of little lasting value, a few really bad children’s books, a number of gardening books that are still read with joy – and “Verdict on India.” His conclusion: the intense religiosity of India is an impediment to its development as a modern country. Yes, it’s only one man’s opinion, but when I read it, many years ago, I didn’t come away with any sense that Nichols had an axe to grind on the matter.

    I don’t know if “Verdict on India” has been reprinted or not.

    2. “Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies” by Abbe J. A. Dubois. Dubois was a French missionary in India in the early 1800s. He “went native”, spoke the languages, and if you discount his gasbaggery about “our divinely inspired religion” (i.e. xtianity), is a pretty thorough account of life in India in pre-modern times, including much detail about religious practice, less about religious belief. One concludes that the caste system, still alive and well today, and the Brahmanic monopoly on many religious matters are both impediments to progress, even today.

    Abbe Dubois’ book has an interesting publication history; his final revision was not published until the 1890s. There is a Dover reprint.

  7. mirapath says

    RFW the tragic death of an articulate and active atheist is what we care about, not your outdated book recommendations and rather patronising remarks about India and its progress or lack of.

  8. says

    I’m very saddened to hear this and would have liked to have thanked him for creating Nimurkta which has often been a go-to place for me for information about atheism-related topics after a friend pointed me to it. Virtual hugs extended to the people at Nimurkta. I’m sorry for your loss.

  9. says


    There is a very important role that anger, ridicule and passion play in any social movement.

    sounds right up my alley. If I lived (or blogged) by one motto, that just might be it.

    I’m so sorry I wasn’t at all familiar with him before, but I can only be grateful that I’ve discovered him now, thanks to PZ.

    Sincere condolences to all those who knew him.