I’ve always been the kind of person who can’t resist a good story. From the time I was a kid, I loved stories about the countless Hindu gods, the ancient Greek myths, biblical stories and fairytales. Till the age of twelve or so, I believed in God – in the same way that I believed in Harry Potter and Gandalf. It’s not that I really believed in their existence, I merely liked the idea and decided to adopt it.
I’m sure most people believe in religion only because they’re brainwashed from childhood. My parents taught me to pray to the Hindu gods and took me to the temple once in a while. I studied in a convent school where we had prayers at regular intervals (we recited them without thinking, like trained parrots) and were taught ‘Moral Science’. I liked the peace and quiet of the school chapel and the atmosphere of the temple with it’s chanting and lighted lamps. Still, I knew there were people who weren’t the least bit religious and I considered myself to be one of them.
As I grew up, I realized that most people took religion much more seriously than I did. They were willing to turn into mass murderers to justify their beliefs. Over the years, I’ve decided that religion was not a comforting fairy-tale, but an unnecessary evil.
I don’t need religion to explain where I came from. I think that astrophysics and evolutionary biology have done a pretty good job of it. I’d rather believe in the laws of nature, some of which are probably yet to be discovered. I think deism is ridiculous too. It makes more sense to believe that the universe always existed than to believe that an intelligent creator always existed.
I don’t need religion as a support. Most people only pray out of habit or when they’re in deep trouble. The saying that “there are no atheists in foxholes” implies that anyone would believe in God in extreme stress or panic. That makes sense, because fear makes us irrational. Religion feeds on fear and ignorance; it was probably invented as an explanation for diseases and natural disasters that terrified people during ancient times.
I understand why people feel the need to believe in God. It’s comforting to think of a benign father figure who plans your destiny and rewards you for good behavior. The idea of ‘Karma’ and the rebirth cycle in Hindu mythology was probably invented to console people when they saw that bad men often become highly successful while the good lead miserable lives. The idea of ‘heaven’ serves the same purpose. It takes courage to acknowledge the fact that we only live once and cease to exist when we die.
I don’t think people need the fear of God to make them act as good human beings. We need to help each other to ensure the survival of the species. Most of us already have qualities like compassion, empathy and personal integrity. If anyone thinks that religion is necessary for morality, they must have a pretty low opinion of humanity. (In my school, the teachers always warned us against cheating in an exam by saying “God sees you.” Needless to say, that never stopped any of the other kids from cheating.)
One thing most major religions have in common is sexism. So I honestly can’t think of any explanation as to why women are said to be more religious than men. Extreme religious belief makes people intolerant and bigoted. And that’s why I don’t believe in God. I’d rather believe in myself. And Harry Potter.