Atheist Centre 50+ Golden Jubilee (1940-1990)
International Conference on
"Future of Atheism -- Humanism"
Vijayawada, December 29-31, 1990
[OCR, HTML, editing, Cliff Walker]

The Quintessence of Gora
Mahaboob Adam
Program broadcast on All India Radio
September 11-16, 1988

All India Radio, Vijayawada station broadcast "The Quintessence of Gora" under the caption "Sookti Sudha" for six days from September 11 to 16, 1988, for three minutes each day at 7. a.m. Md. Mahaboob Adam, a veteran social worker, presented the same. The following is the translation of the Telugu original.

GORA -- the moment his name is uttered people say: "Oh! Isn't he the Atheist?" Yes. Gora's name has become a synonym for atheism.

All through the history many people were persecuted by the contemporary society by branding them as atheists. Many prophets and social reformers were dubbed as atheists and were harassed. But, there are only a very few who unequivocally declared themselves as atheists and became social reformers. Charles Bradlaugh in England in the Nineteenth Century and Gora in India in this Century, are such distinguished persons.

Gora was a scientist, social revolutionary who bridged the gulf between precept and practice. Gora was an illustrious person who founded the World's first known Atheist Centre, developed positive atheism and strove incessantly for the welfare of humanity.

Gora was a veteran freedom fighter, patriot, secularist, humanist and also a writer.

Gora gave a new definition to atheism. Atheism is an embodiment of freedom, belief in the innate abilities of humans and self confidence. When Gora met Mahatma Gandhi at Sevagram Ashram, Gandhi greeted him with a broad smile: "What shall I talk to a godless man?" Both laughed heartily and Gora replied, "Bapuji, I am not a godless man, I am an atheist."

Gora defined theism as the subordination of man to some thing superior to him. Atheism, on the other hand, is the freedom of the individual. The surrender of man to god is only a part in the subordination of man to something superior. The human is subordinating and surrendering himself not only to god, but also to the theory of fate (karma), physical circumstances and traditions. Atheism, on the other hand is the expression of the individual and his liberation from the shackles of slavery, dispelling the feeling of helplessness, promotion of self-confidence, and making him a responsible person. That is why atheism is not mere intellectual excercise or scholarly exposition of philosophical debate. The Atheism propounded by Gora is a positive way of life.

Gora said that atheism means promotion of humanity in humans and inculcation of reality, social outlook and development of individual personality. That is "VASAVYA" as enunciated by Gora in Telugu language. The abbreviation "Vasavya" stands for 'Vasthavikata' (Reality with scientific outlook), 'Sanghadrusti' (Social Outlook) and 'Vyaktitvam' (Personality of the individual). It is atheism.

"Vasthavikata" (Reality) is the basis of social organisation. Fact, Scientific outlook, pursuit of truth are essential. Theism built up a god-centred society. But, god is a mere human imagination and not a fact. Social progress was stunted as ethics, morality and social outlook were linked with god. Even though, the concept of god was helpful to some extent in building of society, it is not based on reality. God is not only a human imagination but also a falsehood, Gora reiterated. Atheism turns the attention of the people from imaginary other world to the reality.

Instead of the imaginary "god" human beings should be the centre of social organisation. Man or woman is the central and focal point. Economic, social and political systems exist for the sake of humans. That is why, human centred society is essential. The positive atheism which was enunciated and practiced by Gora is distinctive and attracted wide attention in India and abroad.

2

"Why do you need atheism?" Mahatma Gandhi asked Gora.

Gora replied: I was in Calcutta in 1944 at the time of the Bengal famine. I saw the famine stricken destitutes dropped dead in the streets of Calcutta. They died beside marts and stalls which exhibited their sweets and fruits for sale. The hungry died staring at them. Suppose there was a hungry dog or a bull in the same situation, would he die of hunger?"

The hungry destitutes were not abject cowards, nor the shop-keepers were so cruel. Then why should hundreds of thousands perished in the famine with hunger? Both the hungry destitutes and the shop-keepers adopted the same way of life. Each one said to himself: It is my fate, that is his fate; god made me like this, god made him like that. This was the thought of both the destitute and the rich.

While the destitute suffered with hunger cursing his own fate (Karma), the rich pitied the poor for his fate. The ingrained belief in the theory of fatalism (Karma) widened the gulf between the rich and the poor and perpetuated economic inequalities. What is said with regard to the Bengal famine applied also to the relations between the untouchables and the caste Hindus, between the darkskinned and whiteskinned. The same philosophy rules all these relationships, elucidated Gora.

If we think realistically, humanism will grow leading to revolutionary changes in social relations. If belief in god disappears and humans learn to stand on their feet, social outlook is bound to grow. The more social outlook spreads, the more inequalities will be lessened to that extent. Economic and social inequalities are human creation. The unequal social and economic structure can be remodelled by us. The spread of such consciousness, self confidence, courage among common people is a must for social progress.

When social relations are based on fact and reality, the effort for social change is bound to grow. For thousands of years masses are accustomed to bear the brunt of poverty, untouchability, inequalities, insults, slavery and also oppression and suppression. They do not feel that it is wrong and unjust system. As social outlook is at the lowest ebb, exploitation injustice, inequalities and oppression, are growing. All are born equal in their capacities. Inequalities are increasing in society because of social and economic disparities and lack of equality of opportunity. Atheism enables people to stand up against these inequalities and injustices, and creates new awareness among them for change.

Untouchability is a blot on humanity. Gora strove incessantly championing human dignity; to destroy the caste and religion barriers that divide people: to promote economic and social equality and for a society free from exploitation. Gora bridged the gulf between precept and practice in the efforts for eradication of the untouchability. Gora championed hundreds of inter-caste inter-religion and casteless marriages. Gora strove for the achievement of social and economic equality.

Democracy does not mean simply voting at elections and making of ministers. Democracy essentially means providing all people with food, employment, peace and respect. It is the responsibility of the Government to do so. Such an effort is the real foundation of social change, said Gora. He led the movement for economic equality with redoubled vigour.

3

Man is the master of his life and the maker of his systems. Economic, social and political systems were created by man for his own welfare and well being. But in the modern world, there is a lurking danger that man would be a slave of his own creations. The comprehensive development of the personality of the individual alone would save him or her from the catastrophe.

In spite of the fact that men and women are equal in their physical and mental abilities, it is the customs and traditions which confined women to kitchen and house, and degraded her position in society. Double standards were applied in judging men and women in matters of morality. Woman is not weak, but strong. But in this world of masculine superiority, a woman lost her weight and remained weak and meek. Gora, a social revolutionary, strove very hard to improve the status of women in society. He made it clear, women are second to none, if equal opportunities are given. In order to enhance the dignity and personality of women to promote scientific and rational outlook and to give equal status to women in social, economic, ethical, cultural, education and psychological fronts, Gora launched a crusade through the practical programmes and writings. Gora exposed the myth of miracles and so-called supernatural powers. He recognised that illiteracy, ignorance, innocence and superstitions are degrading women. Gora took up practical programmes to dispel superstitions among men and women. He walked on fire and dispelled superstitions associated with it. He gave scientific explanation of fire walking and encouraged hundreds of men and women to do so. He paved the way for promotion of scientific and rational outlook among people.

Hindus have a misconception that if pregnant women witness an eclipse, they would give birth to deformed babies. This belief is confined to one religion. But anatomy and physiology are the same for all. In order to promote scientific bent of mind and questioning spirit, Gora encouraged a number of pregnant women to see eclipse. Their new borns had no physical deformities. Thus by questioning and verification, superstitions could be dispelled and truth reigns supreme. Gora reiterated that devils, demons, spirit possessions are falsehoods. The belief in the supernatural and superhuman powers perpetuate the psychology of superstition, Gora's effort was to promote scientific outlook and truthfulness. Gora lived in a "haunted house" and showed that no ghosts exist. Being a scientist, he investigated various claims of the supernatural and occult, exposed the hoaxes. Babas were challenged to prove their claims.

If belief in god, supernatural goes and people are endowed with self-confidence, superstitions would disappear. People should give up meaningless age old blind beliefs and to welcome the dawn of a new age of scientific and rational outlook. That was the essence of Gora's life and work.

4

"Don't I have the freedom in the free city of London at least to turn hand stick freely" lamented a man angrily when he was objected from doing so in the streets by the passer-by. They replied: "Yes, you have, but only as long as you don't interfere with the freedom of others."

It is true. Every one has freedom. But there is no freedom without restraint. Unrestricted and unbridled freedom is self centred. Freedom coupled with social responsibility is the real one.

There is no progress without freedom. Equality, freedom, fraternity and social justice are essential for every one. Humans have complete freedom, free to reshape institutions and systems they have established. Thus, human freedom and progress are intrinsically inter-connected. But freedom has very wide connotation. Freedom is the very breath of human existence. Economic social, political, cultural and psychological freedoms enable the civilisation to bloom. But the freedom should be coupled with social outlook and sacrifice. Freedom and selfishness cannot co-exist. Freedom is the basis for cooperation. There is an inter-relationship between freedom and openness. Secrecy is anti-social, asserted Gora.

Like freedom, honesty is also very essential. Ethics and morality that bind the society together have nothing to do with the concepts of heaven, hell or salvation. Morality is a social necessity. "Do what you say and say what you do." It is the foundation of morality. Morality and honesty are not mere ideals or cherished goals of life. But they are the very basis for the human behaviour and day-to-day practice. Morality should be recognised as the very foundation and starting point of inter-personal relations. On the contrary, when moral behaviour is linked with imaginary other world or heaven or hell, immorality increases. In human relations honesty, integrity and morality should be promoted. When every individual is made responsible for his behaviour and stress is given on practice of morality in daily life, there will be no scope for immorality, stressed Gora.

"JAI INSAAN", (Hail Human), is Gora's slogan to atheism. The human, embodiment of love and compassion, should be victorious; humanism should guide the social relations. Each individual's dignity, decorum and respect, freedom and personality should be safeguarded and promoted.

5

If you leave a cat and a rat at one place, the former will kill the latter and eat away. But if we leave two small children in a park, they play together joyfully. Nationality, colour, language, religion, caste, or social and economic status do not cause any difference among the children. The truth is simple. Unlike cats or rats, all humans are alike. All are born equal and we should live equal. Every one should have equal opportunity.

Karl Marx was one of the greatest humans who was genuinely concerned about the poverty and misery of the poor, and devised programmes for demolition of inequalities. 2,500 years ago, Gautama Buddha deeply thought about human suffering, disease, old age and death. The Buddha sacrificed every thing for the sake of humanity. 150 years ago, Karl Marx thought deeply into causes of poverty. Like Marx, Gandhi was also equally concerned about inequalities in society. Thus Marx and Gandhi were embodiments of struggle against inequality and injustice.

Gora made it clear that atheism champions human freedom and opposes dictatorship. It promotes democratic values. Gora made it clear that "even though atheism is akin to Gandhism in the promotion and preservation of human freedom, atheism follows socialism in economic matters."

It is not enough if civilisation is free, the freedom should percolate into social relations in the form of equality. For this socialism is suitable. Hence atheism will promote freedom and, at the same time, it will follow socialism, said Gora. He gave highest importance to economic and social equality, open methods and moral behaviour as well as practice.

In the modern world, Government is the principal instrument to attain equality. Politics is the method by which people's problems are solved through government. Hence, the Government belongs to all. In a democracy, the elected representatives represent people of the whole constituency, including those who have voted to the opposition. Hence, Gora demanded that the elected representatives should act as representatives of the people, but not as party representatives. Gora enunciated partyless democracy to solve people's problems. In partyless democracy the representatives would not divide themselves into permanent blocks of those who oppose and those who support (ruling group and opposition). Criticism and support to a measure depends on the merits and demerits of each case. The criticism would be an honest one. Gora also made it clear that in partyless democracy all the elected representatives will have equal respect and weight.

6

"Tomorrow is better than yesterday. In human life the impact of goal is much more than the past history. Because of it there is progress in human life", said Gora, the robust optimist, looking into the saga of human progress.

History always talks about yesterday and yester-years. There will be no scope for change in it. Hence, there is nothing else we can do about the past. But tomorrow is different. It is a goal to achieve and attain. Tomorrow is brand new and it has not come into our experience yet. We have every opportunity to mould it. We can make tomorrow much more brighter, with our effort and commitment. Hence, we should concentrate all our efforts and energies on tomorrow, which is the ray of hope, said Gora.

Yesterday was good. But today we come to know the mistakes of yesterday. We do not have opportunity to correct mistakes in yesterday. But we have that opportunity in the future. That is why we can make tomorrow and shape tomorrow into a better one.

This is possible because the human life is not guided by any supernatural power. When we progress towards a goal or ideology, we attach great importance to the future. Gora highlighted the role, freedom and responsibility of the individual in shaping his or her own future.

Atheism means humanness. Atheism is a comprehensive way of life. The whole society is marching towards a post-religious society. Humanity, on the whole is progressing towards peace and friendship transcending wars, disturbances, hatred and agony. If the march towards peace and friendship has to be achieved at a quicker pace, if horrors and strifes should remain things of the past, humans must assert themselves and every person should develop his or her own personality to the fullest extent. Every individual must be an active citizen. Every person is capable of moulding his or her own life. Humans are makers of their own systems.

This is the most opportune time for mutual cooperation, mutual respect, love and affection, full confidence in the future of mankind, and unity of all people to strive unitedly for peace and friendship.

What we need today is not atomic weapons for destruction, but food, shelter and clothing for every one to lead a life in peace and dignity.

Beauty lies in social outlook. The preservation of equality itself is the real beauty.

Gora propounded atheism as a positive way of life. Atheism gives paramount importance to the freedom of the individual. Gora opined that each individual Is endowed with freedom and opportunity as well as responsibility to shape his own future.

Gora's slogan, JAI INSAAN. (Victory to human) is a symbol of his firm belief in the innate abilities of the humans and in humanism.