Sreeni: Prof. Kumar, one of my religious friends asked me about the real benefit of an Atheistic & Secular outlook. All I could think of and say was this: “The journey toward Atheism is a quest for the truth, truth which can be empirically tested and for which you can gather evidence, however distressing & frightening the truth might be. It could be the discovery that we humans are all alone, there are no souls, no afterlife & no god(s) to help us”.
Me: That is correct. But there is one more benefit from Atheism & its offshoot “Secular Humanism” and that is “Freedom”.
Sreeni: Freedom to do whatever one likes?
Me: Not really. Freedom is of two types. One is the ‘Freedom from’, which is freedom from Religion & childhood indoctrination. Atheism gives you freedom from the compulsive urge to suck on the pacifier of Blind faith. That’s all. That is the kind of benefit you were talking about.
Sreeni: Well, what is the other type of freedom?
Me: Secular Humanism which is a magnificent 'add on' to Atheism implies the second type of freedom. ‘Freedom to’, which is freedom to do something useful in this 'only life' we have. It means having the sense to utilize the time, energy & money saved from religious activities for enhancing our own happiness or enhancing the happiness of our family members or society at large.
Sreeni: So Atheism & SH together can provide us with a 'purpose & meaning' which religion alone over the last 100K years (The thousands of extinct primitive animisms & the current 4200+ living religions) couldn’t provide.
Me: You are spot on Sreeni! Mere Atheism makes us a Naxalite, Marxist or a Periyarist (DK follower) but together with SH, it is the best thing which could have happened to science-savvy Homo-sapiens in the last 100K years of the existence of their species..
Sreeni: But tell me Prof. Kumar, what were the initial emotions in you when you felt you have lost faith in gods, soul, afterlife, reincarnation/rebirth & the works?"
Me: Well, I soon realized that I was a free bird! I was accountable to myself, not to some divine voyeur constantly looking over my shoulder and marking down my every transgression, no matter how insignificant, to use against me later.
A picture came in front of my eyes. I am writing an exam and the invigilator is hovering near me and I find it extremely difficult to concentrate on my answers. Time is short and I still have to tackle many questions. But my mind goes blank. All of a sudden he disappears and I feel a sense of immense relief. My creative juices start flowing again."
Sreeni: That must have been a very liberating experience?
Me: You bet it was! You have to experience it to feel the joy of emancipation! Yet. Along with this freedom, there is a responsibility we are constrained to shoulder. That is why secular humanism is not for the great unwashed, who might go berserk and start murdering & looting
Sreeni: What is that responsibility?
Me: Having concluded that God(s) are a delusion of the mind and if Gods are not ruling the world and ensuring that justice is done, taking care of needy people, guiding our priests and leaders, answering prayers, rewarding the good……. then each of us shoulders that much more of the responsibility for those things. In short, without God, our lives could become more responsible & meaningful, because without an omnipotent God each individual must assume more responsibility for what happens.
Only right thinking humans in the biosphere can empower themselves and learn to save the environment, live in peace, love one another, help the poor and disadvantaged and help themselves too. The other constituents of the biosphere like animals, plant life or even self-centered human beings cannot do these things. Also the Jihadis cannot do this. All they know is how to increase entropy by killing people.
Realizing that belief in gods leads to a lack of responsibility, or belief in eternal life diminishes efforts to improve real lives on earth, as a secular humanist, you feel powerful like a god and as ' noblesse oblige ' you start treating others with compassion & kindness. You do whatever you can to ease the misery in other people's lives. Since God is dead, you are constrained to assume the role of a “Badli worker” (substitute worker).
Sreeni: That's a colossal & formidable responsibility if you ask me!
Me: You bet it is. But for a meaningful life assuming that role is essential. Isn't it?