Srikanta Swamy (SS): What do you say to someone who is struggling with the pain of withdrawal symptoms of leaving his religion and coming to the realization that this is all there is and that there are no personal Gods - Brahma, Vishnu or Shiva, speaking in the context of our Hinduism?
Me: Deal with it. It's a fact of life. Look at the bright side. You no longer have to worry about eternal punishment. Your life is now your own, not governed by external forces except for those imposed by the fact that you are a physical being in a purely physical world.
SS: If the physical world is all there is, in this life, why bother living? What is the purpose of living? How do you give your life purpose?
Me: You live your life as it is and not rely on some imagined afterlife. One of the greatest evils of religion is how it aids those in power to keep the downtrodden in line by telling them they will get their reward in the next world. Seek fairness and justice in this life. Do not put off its enjoyments. You have love, work, pleasure, family, art, music, and science - much to make life worth living. Why should you need primitive superstitions held by our gullible & naïve ancestors, to find purpose?
As to how I give my life a purpose, I have a wife to whom I have been married for 45 years, two wonderful children, and three wonderful grandchildren. What more do I need? No one is the center of the universe. Religions feed off narcissism and self-centeredness. Buddhism, at least in its original form, emphasizes that the only path to peace of mind is through the elimination of the personal ego.
SS: When a horrible tragedy strikes your life or someone you love, how do you console the bereaved without a belief in a deity or the afterlife?
Me: At least you know they are not in hell! You grieve for some time but get on with your own life. Again, it's a fact of life that you have to deal with.
SS: If you find yourself in a horrible accident or you have a terminal illness, how do you deal with it, and what do you say to someone in the absence of faith?
Me: That's life. Recognize that the world does not revolve around you and accept your fate. Replace thoughts of yourself with thoughts of your loved ones.
SS: How do you interact with your religious family, and friends, and neighbours?
Me: I don't argue with them. But I don't hide where I stand. They accept me as I am, and I do the same. We are all free people in a free country. To each his own philosophy. As long as you do not crash planes against towers & behead innocent people who are godless or believe in a different god, you may believe in any nonsense for all I care.
My Raison Detre
- As a Humanist I wish to declare that I have no ill-will or malice toward anyone who believes in soul, afterlife, reincarnation, heaven or gods. After all humanism treats all humans in a egalitarian way. We have to be better than the parochial religionists. Anyway what people do to other people is more important than what people believe and if the people you know are compassionate toward the less privileged, a humanist can have no quarrels with them.
- As an amateur Behavioural scientist, I understand many of the psychological motivations for why people are drawn to belief & even have empathy for their need for gods as it is reflective of normal human nature. I can appreciate the emotional need in others to justify their pre-conceived beliefs, devise arguments in support of them even if they are fallible.
- As an amateur Philosopher, I realize that it is impossible to reason people out of a belief they were never reasoned into. So I never attempt to convince the really religious folks of their god-delusion. They are not to blame for their superstitions. One cannot choose one's parents and those parents have indoctrinated them into those beliefs.