At Work In India
Dear Mr. Cliff Walker,
Let me tell you how I happened to visit your web site. I am from India. I was born into a Hindu family. I consider myself a Hindu and this does not have anything to do with belief in god. Generally I do not bother about religion or god, because in normal day to day life I do not require them.
However, in recent years in India there is a controversy going on regarding religious conversions by Christian missionaries. This is heightened in the aftermath of the murder of an Australian missionary and his children allegedly by a Hindu. Naturally, I used to discuss and debate with my friends about the propriety of such conversions. During one such debate, one of my Christian friends told, in support of conversions, that if not for Christian missionaries all Indians would have died of Leprosy.
Though this was just an opinion, I was surprised and shocked. I decided to learn more about the two parties involved in this matter: (1) my ancestors, i.e., the people of pre-British India and (2) the Christians in general, and Christian missionaries in particular. A search in the Internet for the second category led me to your web site. However, as I mentioned in the beginning, now I spend more time reading articles in "Thoughts about thinking" and "Historical writings" than on Christianity.
Finally I would like to comment on what you have written in the section "The Philosophy of Positive Atheism"
...He (Gora) also worked with India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, an atheist, urging him to support the formation of a secular government in the then predominantly Hindu nation of India...
I do not know in what sense Mr. Nehru and his contemporaries used the word "secular". But, many people in India, including political leaders, religious heads (of course, except Christian and Muslim religious heads), and those who pretend to be intellectuals, define the word "secular" to mean "recognition of all religions" rather than its definition given in many dictionaries which is exactly opposite. Because of this, almost all political organizations, and the governments formed by them from time to time, go out of their way to support religious organizations. I would like to say that, in practice, Indian government is not secular. For example, they give subsidies to religious pilgrimages by Muslims and Hindus using the tax payers' money.
Thank you for maintaining such a good web site.
With warm regards
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "K.R. Anil Kumar"
Subject: Re: PA-via_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Sunday, July 08, 2001 7:09 AM
I thank you for further clarification as to the situation in India. I will post this and provide a link to it from the India Index. I have been invited to visit the Atheist Centre in February, but I'm not sure if I can go (money; health). If I do go, I know I will be welcomed with the hospitality that is given only by people from India. In fact, I just returned from dining out, at an Indian restaurant near my home, and was reminded of that hospitality. A market near my home recently closed, which was run by Indians, and I always got the same unique hospitality whenever I stopped by. I used to live in Mexico, and have always been impressed by the style of hospitality and respect that distinguishes Mexican culture. I can say this about many nationalities, but the Mexican, Indian, and Lebanese cultures have always held a special place in my heart. Perhaps I will be able to visit all three countries eventually.
We get varied stories about India's government, and I am beginning to think that the government is probably as multi-faceted as the people themselves. I do know that Gandhi is said to have tried to be all things to all people. Gora opposed this tendency, criticizing those who called themselves atheists but then went to religious ceremonies in order to please their friends or family. I differ from Gora in that I appreciate how hard it is to be an atheist in some parts of the world and in some situations, so I do not criticize those who think it is best to keep their atheism a secret or to go along with certain ceremonies. Although I do not urge others to become atheists, neither do I keep my atheism a secret -- and I often pay dearly for making this admission.
Although I do not have the source citation, Nehru is quoted as having said:
The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organized religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled us with horror, and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it.
Nehru was no friend of organized religion, nor did he tolerate the religious teachings which kept people passive, "satisfied to live in hunger, filth, and ignorance." I am not entirely sure if Nehru was an atheist, but have heard from several sources that he was. Perhaps you know the answer to this question. If not, I ought to change that sentence in the "Introduction."
I think Nehru and the others probably wanted India's first government to be unaffiliated, though that does not necessarily abolish government funding of various religious causes. This is the big argument in the United States today, and has been for about 50 years, since the beginning of the Cold War. However, what one or the other founding figure wanted is not necessarily the same as what ended up in the Constitution, and the Constitution is not always obeyed. In the United States, our Constitution has never been obeyed in its entirety, and a few of its tenets may as well have never been written down, because they have, for the most part, never been obeyed by more than a handful of elected servants.
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
people with no reason to believe
Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.