The problem with prayer

Assumption 1: Some god/gods exists and he created the universe.
Assumption 2: That god is omnipotent. He can do anything.
Assumption 3: That god is omniscient. He knows everything – past, present and future.

So a god created humans and he knows what each of them is going to do. So if a human kills another human, god knew it all beforehand. Since the god is all powerful it must that’s how he wanted things to go. So essentially we humans are just characters acting according to a script – for god’s entertainment presumably. So what’s the point of praying? If everything is predefined, how is your praying going to change it? And you think the god will just change the script because you request him to do so? And since god is omniscient he ought to know you were going to pray for it. Well then it means the act of prayer itself is scripted! So the god puts you in a tight situation, makes you pray to himself and then bails you out – all according to a well crafted plan.

Looks like this god dude was getting bored, so he created a world full of creates who would endlessly go on praising and praying to him – just to massage his ego! Classic example of a narcissist psychopath who likes to surround himself with an army of sycophants.

So if you believe assumption 1 above to be true, just think of what and whom you are praying to.

PK, OMG and atheism in Indian movies

Yesterday I watched the long awaited PK where Aamir Khan plays an alien searching for god at various places and taking on the managers for god – the so called godmen in the process. The movie is preachy in parts and goes on to question nonsensical rituals and stupidities of religion – something which was handled much more sharply and bluntly in Oh My God (OMG) starring Paresh Rawal. Although in OMG they did end up showing there was after all a god – and no other but the Hindu god Krishna! (Which is understandable as the movie as a commercial venture has to make money in a Hindu majority country)


Both OMG and PK make a case against following conmen posing as godmen, and they appealed the audiences to reconsider absurd practices and wasteful excesses of religion. Both the movies have had godmen as antagonists and ended with the message of following the real god instead of the god created by these godmen. And therein lies the problem. Both the movies have shied away from prodding the viewers to question the very idea of god itself. While OMG actually ended up showing there is in fact a god and making a believer out of an atheist, PK resisted the urge of a finding a magical solution in the form of a god – so that is definitely a plus.

Now I hope somebody makes a truly atheistic movie where the very idea of an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient creator/s is questioned and debated. It will be difficult to make such a movie in a country where even a fart can hurt somebody’s religious sentiments and send people to jail but I hope someone will take the bold step and do the unthinkable.

Atheism is seldom represented in Indian movies. I don’t know about movies in other Indian languages but Hindi movies have never really touched upon the subject. A couple of movies in the 80s like Deewar and Nastik showed the protagonist not believing in god but it was more like the hero was angry with god and wasn’t on talking terms to him but eventually turned around by the end of the movie. That isn’t atheism. You can’t be angry with something you don’t believe exists.

Paresh Rawal’s character in OMG was an atheist in true sense. He made compelling arguments and so to make him a believer god appeared in front of him. I wonder why god chose to appear as Krishna and not Jesus or Ra or Odin or Juju of the mountain or the FSM. May be he chose to appear as a Hindu god because Kanji (Paresh Rawal’s character) was from a Hindu background. So may be if the protagonist had been ex-Christian he would come as Jesus or Buddha if he were a Buddhist. Not sure what would they show if he had been a Muslim. (You can’t show Mohammad on screen unless you want the theaters burned down!)

Aamir’s alien in PK is not an atheist. He is a simpleton who hears about god and takes it on face value. He actually is pretty dumb for a member of a species who communicate telepathically and are capable of inter-galactic travel. Any evolved intelligent life form should be capable of logic and reasoning and should be able to see through the mirage that is religion and belief in god.

Bollywood has indulged in pandering to supernatural themes of gods, magic, reincarnation, destiny and spirits since its inception. First Indian movie was based on mythology. Movie after movie has reaffirmed the existence of supernatural. The industry has no dearth of atheists – and the film industry is the most secular faction of Indian society but it has never dared to question the core idea of god. OMG and PK can be treated as attempts to eventually get there. I hope we get there soon.

India and freedom from religion

India celebrated her 67th Independence Day on 15 August 2013, but we the people of India are still not free in many aspects. I am going to talk about one such aspect in which we are yet to get our freedom – freedom from religion. If you love your religion, there are apps from so you can support and learn about your religion further

The constitution of India grants us freedom of religion – every Indian citizen is free to follow any religion he/she wants, but it does not grant us freedom from religion – at least on paper and in official records. The way things are currently, you have to have a religion. You can convert from one religion to another but you can not give up all religions altogether. You have to be accounted for under some religion. That does not go well with a country that has secularism as one of it’s ethos.

Let’s talk about secularism – the term secular means separation of government policies and laws from religious matters. That the policies and laws will not be influenced by religion. That is what secularism means – separation of church and state. It does not mean I respect your religion and you respect mine. And certainly does not mean whatever Indian politicians want us to believe it means.

Ok, back to freedom of religion – in practice you can choose not to follow any religion and you can just stopped doing whatever religious mumbo jumbo your religion prescribes, but in the personal matters where the law gets involved – marriage, divorce, inheritance – you will be covered by religion based personal laws like the Hindu Personal Law, Muslim Personal Law, Christian Personal Law etc. And that is why authorities ask for religion of the child when you ask for a birth certificate. The form that you have to fill up before you can get a Birth Certificate has a column for religion and the options are – Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Other. When my daughter was born I selected Other and wrote None as another couple from Mumbai had done. And that was not accepted! I was forced to select Hindu as religion. Where is my constitutional right of freedom of religion!?

Atheists, agnostics and others like me who do not believe in any super natural creator and do not want to follow any religion are often faced with this dilemma when we are asked to select a religion for birth certificate, for school admission or in the census. There is no place for us to be counted as what we are and not get clubbed into a category that we do not fall under.

This is not done.

A lawyer from Mumbai pleaded in court to give up religion entirely and his plea was rejected. As per a recent survey 3% of Indians consider themselves atheists and further 13% consider themselves non religious. When 16% of the population of the nation likes to describe themselves as irreligious, how can we continue to club them with the rest of the population?

We want legal recognition for people who do not believe in God/s. The least this country can do for us is provide us with a None option in the religion column.

With this goal in mind, some of us atheists have formed a group called Indians without Religion.

We do not want to take away anybody’s right to follow any religion, we just want our constitutional right not to follow any.

It is difficult be an atheist in India. A land of 33 crore (330 million) Gods and birthplace of multitude of religions, the social stigma and apartheid faced by unbelievers is huge. From relatives who stop talking to physical violence and legal threats – atheists face it all. Just for not believing in ancient fairy tales and believers think it’s no big deal.

It is a big deal for us. On one hand in schools we teach evolution and big bang to students and on the other hand we ask people who they think created the world and the humans and force them to choose one story while not giving any option to say that they support the fact of the science and not fiction of any particular book.

People often ask me, if you do not believe in God why are you so obsessed with it? Good question. I don’t play golf or follow F1 or football and hence I don’t write about these things. But neither does entire world. And you are not castigated for not having an interest in football. When almost entire world is religious and you are saying you do not agree with them, unless you speak out you will be clubbed with them and being forced to do what they are doing. Atheists have to unwillingly participate in religious activities going on around them. We are bombarded with religion from all directions. It is everywhere – at home, in schools, in offices, on the streets. Believing in God is a default position – for majority of the population at least – so it is important for us to stand out.

Besides, if people can wear their irrational beliefs on their sleeves why can’t we wear our perfectly rational and scientific ones on our sleeves? We are not going around knocking the doors of people giving them anti-religion messages like some religions do.

We exist. Our world view is completely scientific and rational and we want to be counted as such. We don’t want to be clubbed together with folks who want to believe fairytales. We have no objection with what other believe and do, just do not include us in the same league in the official records.

If you want to join us in this endeavour, join our Indians Without Religion Facebook group and drop by in one of our meet ups. It’s a long journey and there are many hurdles. But we shall overcome!

Zombies do exist!

I was watching We The People on NDTV yesterday and the topic of the debate was magic. Some people who claim to perform miracles including Yogi Ashwini were pitted against Narendra Nayak. Even though Narendra Nayak demonstrated some tricks like swallowing fire and conjuring up gold chains from thin air – the followers – the blind followers of the Yogi were unimpressed. Their argument – “So what if that is a trickery. That does not mean Our guru is fake!!” Really? Are you f-ing kidding me? Seriously?

And then there was this Miss India who claimed to be a skeptic and then said she had some stomach problem and her doctor father couldn’t understand what was wrong and she went to Yogi Ashwini and in 5 minutes she was all right! Lady you need psychiatric treatment!

If you believe some Babaji, Mataji, Guruji, Swamiji, Panditji or Shastriji will solve your problems in life and it involves saying some prayers, performing some dumb rituals, wearing some ring, locket or thread or other such mumbo jumbo, then – let me say it categorically – you are an idiot! A disgrace on human intellect! May be your brain has not evolved or you have just shut the doors to any reason or logic or may be you are just incapable of understanding basic science. In such a case you are nothing but a mindless zombie!!

The Yogi, who claims to have correctly diagnosed a person’s ailment just by looking at his/her photograph – in over 500 cases with 85% accuracy – also repeated the common misconception that we humans only use 7-8% of our brains. You know what dude, that is entirely true in the case of people who actually follow you. They don’t even use 1% of their brain! Or may be they just don’t have a brain – only cow dung in their skulls.

When you look at the number of followers these thugs have then you seriously wonder where did evolution go wrong!

How to differentiate between faith and blind faith?

A dialogue ensued between me, my mom and my mother in law yesterday

Mom (on some other topic): We don’t believe in old customs.
Me: Good. You should also stop believing in old gods. believe in new stuff, believe in science.
Mom: You should not speak about other’s “shraddha” (faith). You should respect others’ faith.
Me: Ok there was a woman who had a faith that if she sacrificed her step son, he would be re-born as her own son. Should I respect that kind of faith too?

Mother in law joins the dialogue

Mom in law: That’s “andha-shraddha” (blind faith/superstition).
Me: Well yes that’s andha-shraddha indeed, but it was shraddha for her. How do we decide what is shraddha and what is andha-shraddha? How do we differentiate between faith and superstition?
Mom in law: If someone’s getting harmed then that’s andha-shraddha.
Me: ok what would you call when a person stops because a cat just cut his path?
Mom in law: That is andha-shraddha, superstition.
Me: Well, but nobody was getting harmed. Cat went on its way and the guy stopped.

Mom in law: Well…..

Choose Your Path

I stumbled upon this image and I posted it on Facebook.

Somebody suggested a program should be made from it. What could be a better way to kill some time on Sunday for an atheist programmer? So a bit of jQuery and some image hunting and a program was ready.

Choose Your Path

The time consuming part was looking for images and symbols. And the funniest part was about the magical underwear question. Mormons have something called as temple clothing which is kind of underwear they are required to wear. :)

Religions are a waste

Couple of days back I was traveling in the train and I saw a middle aged man around 50. He was weary and visibly poor and he was holding a yellow bag in his right hand and had prayer beads inside it. He was reciting something…constantly. I kind of pitied that man. He probably had no hope in life and his only chance was his false hope of divine intervention. What a waste.

Yesterday I saw a man outside a Hanuman temple, he was bent down and touching and retouching the very last step of the temple….again and again.

It’s sad what religion makes people do.

Those actions are meaningless. And that is the sad part. People perform those actions believing it will serve a purpose but it does not. People spend time and money on those actions which is completely fruitless.

Watching a movie, reading a book, going to toilet, chatting with friends, playing with pets, watching birds/sunset all these actions have at least some reason, some benefit, some point. We do it for entertainment, relaxation, gaining knowledge or just to have some good time. And they do serve that intended purpose.

But religious actions, they do not serve the intended purpose. They don’t even cause the placebo effect. You can not cure decreases with prayers. One can not improve the financial situation with chants. Mannat (Asking something from god and promising to give something in return) can not make you successful in exams or solve your marital woes or give you a baby. Those are fruitless actions.

Its is wrong to believe and engage in futile activities because they become more sinister over a period of time. Like the woman who sacrificed her stepson so she could bear a child of her own. That too was a matter of faith and belief. People actually believe they get 72 virgins for killing people who do not share their belief. It’s all matter of faith. And they are all dangerous and wasteful.

Religions and a belief in super natural are a waste of time, money, intellect and human life!

Fortune teller

On my recent trip to Rajasthan we visited Chokhi Dhani near Jaipur – an artificial Rajasthani village. There was a tarot card reader as part of the village setup. My wife was curious so she checked out her fortune and also got me to do the same. I went along to know what the fortune teller comes up with.

He had a parrot. The parrot would come out and pick one card. The card had some cryptic things written mostly numbers etc. I didn’t get to read it, just got a sneak peek. The fortune teller said following things about me.

You are in some computer related business.
You are doing the hard work but not getting full benefits of your labour.
You are a risk taker in life.
You will not find the success in your birthplace, you will have to go out.

My wife was mighty impressed. I wasn’t.

Every job today has something to do with computers. My wife also spends her entire day in front of a computer. So is my dad. Not a brilliant guess.
Everyone thinks that he/she is not getting due reward and/or recognition for his/her efforts. The fortune teller guy was just playing on that psyche. Is a kind of ego massage.
He had asked me whether I do job or business. I said bluishness. Every businessman is a risk taker to a certain extent. What’s new in that? He should have been able to figure hat our without asking me about my nature of work.
Go out to find success? That’s just plain Bull Shit! He is advising a course of action to change my future!

But these guys are so professional and they put forth these things in such a manner that you do tend to believe them for a minute. At least it makes you think. They kind of baffle you with the conviction with which they speak. As if they do really know everything about your past, present and future. But when think more about it, the tricks of the predictions and fallacy of their reasoning becomes apparent.

God is taking a country down – Pakistan!

Salmaan Taseer, governor of the Punjab province of Pakistan was shot dead by one of his guards Mumtaz Qadri. Reason? Mr Taseer was a moderate Muslim and he was a vocal opponent of a blasphemy law under which people (often minority) disrespecting the-one-who-can-not-be-named-drawn-pictured-caricatured-AND-disrespected were sentenced to death.

The killer Mumtaz Qadri is actually heralded as a national hero! In Twitterspace he is referred to as “Ghazi” – a brave warrior! Sure showering bullets on an unarmed man whom you are supposed to guard is a stupendous act of valour and bravery! Somebody creates a Facebook “fan” page for him and 2000 people like him and praise him before the page is removed. He is showered with roses by lawyers – yes lawyers – when he is presented in the court! National hero. Yeah that’s right!!!

People educated enough to be users of Facebook and Twitter and be lawyers are actually supporting a religious fanatic. That’s a dangerous sign for a society!

In the name of God, the most hateful, the most wasteful and the stupidest fantasy of Humans!

Why do theists avoid logical debate about God’s existence?

I find this amusing. Whenever I try to explain my position as an atheist and ask some logical questions about God, the theists run away. My mom, my wife, friends… they just don’t want to discuss the G word. I often have fun encounters with my mom on the subject. When she tries to thrust some nonsensical religious idea down my throat, I object and question the logic. She wouldn’t answer, or would start scolding me and if I insist, change the topic or just leave the room.

Favorite arguments of my mom to support her belief in God

– Millions of people believe in God, are they all mad and you are the only smart one to not believe?
My answer: Just because majority of the people do something doesn’t make it right. There are 950 million Hindus but there are 1.5 billion Muslims and 2 billion Christians. So Christians are in majority so they must be right in their belief. Why are you a Hindu then? Be a Christian!

– If there is no God who does all this? Who runs the world? Who makes the day and night and gives life?
My answer: Kids in standard four know how day and night happen. Its a natural process, we don’t need a power to run it. Evolution explains life.
Mom: Huh! Evolution?

– Don’t believe. You will go to hell!
My answer: I am not afraid of going to non existent palaces. You can’t go to a place that doesn’t exist can you?

I think theists somehow deep down know that their position is week. I feel every believer is a skeptic somewhere. Theists fear that the logical argument could be true. What if it turns out that there is no God? Oh boy that would be a major blow! After a certain age religion becomes the life support system for the people. Older people especially in India don’t really have much to do except pray and visit temples, mosques, churches. If you take away the religion it will take away the purpose to live for many a people. Pity!

The other reason could be that people genuinely fear that by indulging in a conversation questioning the God’s existence they are committing a great sin and they will have to pay dearly for it. But again you don’t have to fear if you are debating on behalf of God. You are trying to further “his” cause right?

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