I grew up in a Hindu household, where I too was told to believe (without question)
Sudeshna is a young bright indian woman. Sudeshna is her real name but for the time being she wishes to keep her appearance anonymous. We asked Sudeshna a few questions and the following is her reply.
What does atheism mean to you?
Atheism reassures me of my ability to think clearly, in a fashion of idealistic pragmatism. I know it sounds contradicting but it can assure you, it makes sense (let me demonstrate it with an example. Like the cheetah who runs at a speed of almost 120 km/h, but stops when it knows it has gone too far, I would love to work for hours at a stretch and would only stop when I know I would not be able to move onwards without a break. I can see that this wasn't quite the example that would make much of a profounding effect, I am hoping that you can understand that I am being metaphorical, for crying out loud!) What I am trying to say is, this brings out my potential to do my best, in a manner that is not only prudent but also with a hint of sanguineness. Atheism reminds me of how small we are, how terribly trivial we are before the universe. It appears that I am being nihilistic, which I am, but it is actually a positive outlook. It is an incentive for us to keep in mind that we only have this one life we have, one brief moment before time itself so that we live life to our fullest with no regrets. Atheism makes me realise how manipulated we were as children. How we had been brainwashed into believing everything we were told about religion and how we had no right to question it.
I grew up in a Hindu household, where I too was told to believe (even today) in meaningless garbage like how a god slept on a snake with a hundred heads in the sky, or how earthquake was caused by the rage dancing of a marijuana huffing god, and the list goes on. My particular favourite was the one where Gopal (baby Krishna) had the whole universe in his mouth. So, was the dude living inside his own mouth as the earth is, a part of that universe as well?! I will let you have some moment to process this, haha! Another Hindu anecdote that was proven wrong by science was the lunar cycle. Moon God was punished with leprosy but he had also earned a boon by the weed guy aka Shiva to be his handsome self. The transition from leprosy to his virile self and back to his leprosy is the reason behind the transformation of the moon, from new moon to full moon to new moon!
To be honest, I was never much of a theist, to begin with, so in a way, me becoming an atheist, was not an outcome of painful realisation that many ex-theists have gone through. The massiveness the universe has always intrigued me more than these petty bedtime stories, which were never much interesting, in the first place. My curiosity overcame my need to believe things that weren't rational in the first place. Atheism just explained and confirmed what I had always known about myself. I sometimes wish it had some sort of intellectual realisation, which would have had a zealous effect on me so that I could be deeply involved in the cause of helping atheists across the globe. I may not be deeply involved in this, but I will always help those who need my help to fight the injustices of religion.
I should have also mentioned, that being a woman isn't a pickle where religion is concerned, especially in Hinduism where menstruation is considered a taboo. The girl child is favoured less than the boy child. Female foeticide is still alarmingly high in India. Another repulsive notion is that women are nothing but the responsibility of the men. The word responsibility is just a fancy word for the word "burden". She is first the burden of the father, then the husband, followed by her son, at the three different stages of her life - childhood, youth and old age. This kind of thinking is not only demeaning but also manipulative. For centuries, women have accepted their inferior status and viewed themselves as nothing but subordinates to men. They never realised their potential to do something meaningful in their lives, and it is prevalent to this day. Many women enforce this belief in other women, especially impressionable children, which ruins their future. These women are in a cycle of self-loathing, and they inflict their pain on the little ones. This breaks my heart. Religion has always looked down upon women and has showered us with a ruthless misdemeanour, something that's barbaric and inhumane, psychologically, socially and physically. I can go on about the hatefulness that is present in religions towards women, but I do not have to; we all know about it. The unfair treatment of women in the Abrahamic religions, especially Islam, needs no special announcement. When women realise that their wings were clipped by people of faith for faith itself, a faith that's unfounded and unjustifiable in a court of reason and evidence, they will struggle in the beginning, to realise how much they were in the dark, they will struggle to realise their strengths, then they will accept who they are, and will emerge glorious in their tasks, hopes and dreams.
What does the IPU pendant represent to you?
Never have I ever felt the need to keep my emotions in check until today. I was compelled to visit three "sacred" Hindu temples today, against my will. I will not lie. I wasn't threatened or anything perilous had happened, however, I was not left with many choices. I had to go, or else I would have to put up with long, tedious hours of berating from my mother. She mocks my failures and blames it upon my lack of faith on the imaginary ludicrousness, which she holds dear (like any other run-of-the-mill theist); and I just for once, didn't have the energy to put up a fight against it. I seem to have deviated from the subject of your question, for which I apologise. When I witnessed hundreds, if not thousands (we have a lot of people here, for the lack of responsible procreation!), it made me angry. It pained me deeply when I noticed people giving away their hard-earned money to the temples, to impress upon the "goddesses" of Hinduism, so that they may be granted with boons but offering zero condolences to the beggars outside, who had tattered clothes over their backs, with no shoes on their feet. Whenever I held the IPU pendant with it being around my neck, it reminded me that there are people who are good, who help the unfortunate people around them, not to bribe the gluttonous figments of imaginations but doing it because it is the right thing to do. It reminded me that there are millions out there, who are being persecuted for their lack of faith, struggling with dual life, where they pretend to have faith in these nonsensical beliefs for the fear of persecution, and most importantly, it reminded me of those people who have lost their lives, their freedom, their families and loved ones to the brutish talons of religions. This tiny thing above my heaving chest reminded me to not surrender to the deceptive thrall of religion.