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Category Archives: Atheism

Rousing the Atheists – Deccan Herald

Posted: March 31, 2020 at 6:44 am

In these scarring last months of Hindutvas blood-blazed march in a notional constitutional democracy, Indians are finding there is tiny space in their public consciousness for one of the most marginal of their minorities if we view them as an ideology, an intellectual persuasion, a way of being: I am speaking of Indias multifarious non-believers, atheists and agnostics.

In the movement against the CAA-NRC-NPR, the agitations against the violence at Jamia Milia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University and north-east Delhi, there has been a spectrum-crossing conjoining of Muslims, Sikhs, the Bhim Army, Christians, people of many and no genders and some non-believers under one ark. Herein, the ragtag of non-believers has made a quiet re-entry into public life on a livewire issue. But, some unpacking first.

As Hindutva advanced in this era, the atheists became lightning rods for fanatics. They were organized opponents of religious extremism but weak on wherewithal. In societies like ours, such folk dont get sustained mass support (lest the whatabouters rise out of the swamp and flog this essayist with the whip of partisanship, let me add the customary caveat: India isnt alone in embattling religious extremism. Pakistani and Bangladeshi dissenters have been slayed for blasphemy. Sri Lankans, including monks, who rebuked Buddhist extremists have been attacked).

In the 2010s, under Congress state governments, individuals like Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Gauri Lankesh were threatened and then assassinated. Collectively, its been long since these murders took place. There are updates in the press. But if we seek out tangible justice, theres been little headway in the investigations yet. The information trickles and the case transfers from one agency to another. One wonders if the Establishment has left these in a vacuum.

In a way, their killings signpost the social acceptance of religious violence in this era. These people were at the frontline of the fight in the hinterland against obscurantism, superstition, fanaticism, false history. In the 2010s, the attacks on the rationalists paralleled those against Muslims and caste minorities: These processes have been ongoing for long. In this setting, and as we have seen till now, all our fault-lines have dreadfully relapsed. Delhi and Uttar Pradesh look like war zones. But theres an unarticulated upshot.

This essayist finds it numbing that the many gurus, pontiffs, mahants and leaders of the major temples, sects and denominations within Hinduism havent said much over the bloodshed or the militarisation of their faith (only Narendra Modis hosts at Belur Math were irate when he turned a non-political aegis into one about citizenship). Does their collective silence show their political bent? In contrast, some non-Hindu leaders of other faiths have stepped in to engage, converse, argue with the government and its votaries.

Lynch mobs, cow vigilantes, outsider rioters in Delhi: Have we ever seen such an extrajudicial panoply? Chants of greeting as war cries; an amiable god, remobilized on car trunks, as a bellicose warrior. If one is a true imbiber of religious values, how can such violations be vindicated? Finger-pointing at the weaponizing of other religions cant be their justification. Is mimicry the only pushback?

Hinduism is rich in irreligion. Sramana, Charvaka and Nastika are schools of thought that venerate atheism, reason. For long, these have been muted, kept away from the public eye. They beg to be recalled, remade, re-presented. The atheists have a great chance to steer a set of Indians (not just Hindus) who may be born into a religion but are put off by religiosity or its extremists.

For this to happen, they will need to face up to their past. If they are to pitch their world view, they will be probed on how the Age of Reason led to imperial colonialism; how agrarian collectivisation led to the mass killings under Stalin; or Maos Cultural Revolution; or the sins of the Left in West Bengal or Kerala. They will have to be honest; and still hold their own.

Societies like ours, overdosed on religions, nary become irreligious overnight. Some sections, parts, regions might, but not en masse. Organized religion is revered, since the subcontinents nation-states fail to provide the basics of human life for the masses so often. Thus, a middle path to non-belief is salutary. The onus for this is on the atheists. They ought to fight off their alienation from the body politic of India and reinstate it as a legitimate way of being.

Communist Cuba, now sending aid to hyper-religious Italy to fight Covid-19, made that switch. The Castros, reared in an orthodox society, fought against Catholicism while in power, but made peace with the Vatican. Contemporary subcontinental society craves for this balance, where it may keep its faiths but on many public matters accord primacy to irreligious reason.

Rousing the Atheists - Deccan Herald

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Texas Tech Prof. Would Reconsider Atheism if Donald Trump Dies of Chinese Virus – Breitbart

Posted: at 6:44 am

Texas Tech University Professor Richard Wigmans told his colleagues in an email last week that he might reconsider his atheism if President Donald Trump died after contracting the Wuhan coronavirus.

According to a report by Campus Reform, Texas Tech Professor Richard Wigmans has come under fire this week for an email he sent to faculty members in which he suggested that he would reconsider his lack of faith in God if President Trump contracted the Wuhan coronavirus and died.

Wigmans, who focuses his researchesparticle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology, is referred to on his faculty profile as the worlds foremost expert on calorimetry for particle physics experiments. Calorimetry refers to the measurement of the amount of heat that is released or absorbed during a chemical reaction.

I am personally an atheist, but if #45 would die as a result of this virus, I might reconsider, Wigmans wrote in the email.

In a short comment to Campus Reform, Wigmans claimed that his email is being misinterpreted.This is a statement about myself, not about someone elseI have distributed some emails to my colleagues in which I provide a scientists perspective on the available COVID-19 data, and use the observed trends to make some predictions.

When asked directly if he hoped that President Trump would die from the virus, Wigmans blurred the line further. I have not expressed such a wish, he said.

Skyler Wachsmann, chairman of Young Conservatives of Texas at Texas Tech, condemned Wigmans for his distasteful remark.Implying that the President would enjoy for supporters of political opponents and for the elderly to suffer from this virus is disgusting, as is his comment expressing hope that President Trump would die from the Coronavirus, Wachsmann said.

Stay tuned to Breitbart News for more updates on this story.

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Podcast Ep. 315: COVID-19 and Bad Decision-Making | Hemant Mehta – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

Posted: at 6:44 am

In our latest podcast, Jessica and I discussed the past week in politics and atheism.

We talked about:

Hemant will be on Jeopardy on Wednesday! (0:20)

Yes, the government can force churches to close down in the pandemic. (3:48)

Liberty University is open for business for some reason. (7:45)

A Pennsylvania lawmaker proposed a resolution blaming COVID-19 on our sins. (13:30)

A boy drowned at a low-budget Creation Museum and Kent Hovind doesnt seem to care. (18:16)

Is abortion an essential health service during a pandemic? (25:13)

A Texas lawmaker praised COVID-19 for saving lives by shutting down abortion clinics. (26:45)

A pastor who said our COVID-19 response was mass hysteria died of you know what. (34:49)

A Louisiana pastor brought in 26 busloads of people for Sunday services. Hes not planning to stop. (38:01)

Oklahomas governor led a televised Christian prayer rally while Mississippis read from the Bible during a livestream. (42:57)

The White Houses Bible study leader is blaming COVID-19 on gay people and atheists. (54:30)

A Romanian priest gave communion to people with the same spoon. (57:00)

A GOP leader in Nebraska said the virus wouldnt affect them because there arent a lot of Chinese people there. (57:38)

Wed love to hear your thoughts on the podcast. If you have any suggestions for people we should chat with, please leave them in the comments, too.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Google Play, stream all the episodes on SoundCloud or Stitcher, or just listen to the whole thing below. Our RSS feed is here. And if you like what youre hearing, please consider supporting this site on Patreon and leaving us a positive rating!

(Image via Shutterstock)

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Podcast Ep. 315: COVID-19 and Bad Decision-Making | Hemant Mehta - Friendly Atheist - Patheos

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‘Atheism’ a straw man idea of what theists think non-believers ‘believe in’! – Patheos

Posted: March 26, 2020 at 6:40 am

Ive just seen a straw man meme from a believer that said, Atheism: the religious belief in a spontaneous, causeless, sourceless, purposeless, meaningless existence.Honestly, nothing could be more wrong in so many ways! This meme-maker is behaving like Don Quixote tilting at windmills with his lance while riding his donkey, which he imagines is a majestic steed.

The straw man fallacy is where a person argues against what they imagine their opponent thinks. Its such a waste of time and could be avoided by simply asking the other person what they actually think. But that is not what this straw man meme-maker wants to do. He wants to maliciously label people who dont belong to his group and he is not too bothered about the truth. He is inciting hatred. We have laws against that in some countries.

For a start, a-theism is not a belief system, let alone a religious belief system! Its non-belief in the beliefs of theists, thats all. It doesnt come with any other baggage. I dealt with this in my earlier article, Atheism: what is it?, but the misinformation rumbles on. (Cause/source and purpose/meaning deserve their own articles so Ill deal with them in the future.)

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'Atheism' a straw man idea of what theists think non-believers 'believe in'! - Patheos

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VIDEO: The Unholy Trinity Atheism, Feminism and Darwinism – 5Pillars

Posted: March 24, 2020 at 7:45 pm

Lead instructor at the Islamic Education and Research Academy, Subboor Ahmad, explains the epistemological conflicts between atheism, feminism and Darwinism.

As youre here

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Why an Irish Buddhist resisted empire in Burma – OUPblog

Posted: at 7:45 pm

On 2 March 1901, during the full moon festival at Rangoons Shwedagon pagoda, the Buddhist monk U Dhammaloka confronted an off-duty colonial policeman and ordered him to take off his shoes. Burmese pagodas are stupas, containing relics of the Buddha, so wearing shoes on them (as white colonials did) was a serious mark of disrespect. Choosing his target well, Dhammaloka engaged in an act of non-violent resistance that provoked a local political crisis but also launched shoes as an issue that would become central to later Burmese nationalism until 1919. The shoe controversy made respect for Buddhism a challenge to racial hierarchies and colonial power.

Religion and race also came together in the monks bare feet. Born Laurence Carroll in Ireland, he had crossed America as a hobo and sailed two oceans before converting to Buddhism and ordaining in Rangoon in 1900. Yet Europeans still expected him to wear shoes, a key marker of racial difference intended to buttress colonial power. Going nativeincluding abandoning European dresswas not only part of his required clothing as abhikkhubut marked his defection from this symbolic racial order. So too, of course, did his ritual subordination to an Asian hierarchy and a non-Christian religion in a world where empire increasingly justified itself at home by its capacity to bring the Christian gospel to the heathen masses.

Echoing traditionalist Burmese views, which saw the British defeat of the Burmese monarchy as a sign of the decline of Buddhism, Dhammaloka would build his career as an anti-colonial celebrity activist around opposition to what he called the Bible, the whiskey bottle and the Gatling gun missionary Christianity, cultural destruction (given Buddhisms opposition to alcohol) and military conquest. If his bare white feet undermined the racial hierarchies of empire, his monks tonsure challenged the military and the missionary.

Dhammaloka brought together the persona of the Irish rebel with the developing figure of the activist Buddhist monk, in a life that continually challenged power. We know of five different aliases but little of the 25-year gap in his biography before 1900, during which he learned the skills of effective activism in one or another of the radical movements of late nineteenth-century America: freethought (atheism), labour organising, Irish republicanism, socialism, or anarchism. We find him under police and intelligence surveillance and put on trial for sedition. He seemingly dies at least twice.

Dhammaloka brought a distinctive Irish sensibility to his anti-colonialism. As the movement for Catholic emancipation had shown, if empires support for its own religion overstepped the markas on the Shwedagon in 1901rebels could use local religion as a force for resistance, which the colonial power could not be seen to tread too heavily upon. Dhammaloka pioneered this form of symbolic confrontation in Burma, for Buddhism rather than for Catholicism; but the arguments he used against missionary Christianity were not traditional Buddhist ones but those of western freethinkers, published in huge numbers by his Buddhist Tract Society. Convicted for sedition for a version of his slogan about the Bible, the bottle and the Gatling gun, Dhammaloka danced out of reach and continued his provocative challenge to power.

Dhammalokas dramatic life helps us understand how people used religion to engage with vast processes of change. Within a generation of his disappearance, popular movements had swept the British empire out of Asia, in many cases replacing it with nation-states founded on an ethno-religious basis. Yet before Irish independence, the pan-Asian Buddhist revival contained many imagined futures, and many different actors. Burmese peasants and Sri Lankan villagers flocked to Dhammalokas sermons, but his Buddhist projects also involved a Singapore Chinese businessman and a Shan chieftain. We find him based in monasteries of the Dawei ethnic minority in three countries and part of Japanese elite projects for international Buddhist networking. He ran Buddhist schools in Singapore and Thailand and was also active in India, Bangladesh, China, Australia, and present-day Malaysia.

All of this reflected the deeper ethnic complexity and transnationalism of a world of port cities, migrant labourers, trading diasporas, and poor whites. It was a sort of plebeian cosmopolitanism in which the Chinese, Indian, and Burmese bazaars of Rangoon closed down in support of an Irish ex-sailor gone native, who drew on the radical literature of American and British atheism to challenge imperial Christianity on behalf of Burmese Buddhists. If this story was lost for a century because it did not fit with mono-ethnic accounts of nationhood (and sanitised accounts of western Buddhism), it now offers us a window onto these wider currents that would help to bring about the end of empire and the rise of todays global Buddhism.

Featured Image Credit: Shwedagon Pagoda via Wikimedia Commons

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Is privacy in pandemics like atheism in foxholes? – Reason

Posted: at 5:57 am

That's the question I debate with David Kris and Nick Weaver in this episode, as we explore the ways in which governments are using location data to fight the covid-19 virus. Phone location data is being used both to enforce quarantines and to track contacts with infected people. It's useful for both, but Nick thinks the second application may not really be ready for a year too late for this outbreak.

Our interview is with Jason Healey, who has a long history with Cyber Command and a deep recent oeuvre of academic commentary on cyberconflict. Jay explains Cyber Command's doctrine of "persistent engagement" and "defending forward" in words that I finally understand. It makes sense in terms of Cyber Command's aspirations as well as the limitations it labored under in the Obama administration, but I wonder if in the end it will be different from "deterrence through having the best offense." Nothing wrong with that, in my view as long as you have the best offense by a long shot, something that is by no means proven.

We return to the news to discover the whole idea of sunsets for national security laws looking dumber than it did when it first saw the light of day (which is saying something). Several important FISA authorities have expired, Matthew Heiman reports. That's thanks to Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, I might add (though Nick blames President Trump, who certainly put his boot in too). Both House and Senate passed measures to keep FISA authorities alive, but the measures were completely different and out of sync. Maybe the House will fix the problem this week, but only by extending the deadline for a couple of months. Because of course by then we'll be rested and ready, in the middle of a contagion and a Presidential campaign, for a debate over Sen. Paul's proposal to make it harder to wiretap and prosecute Americans who spy for foreign governments.

Maybe before they did all that naming and shaming of Russian government hackers, federal prosecutors should have worked on their aiming: The US Justice Department has now dropped Robert Mueller's charges against a sponsor of Russian electoral interference, Matthew tells us. We explore two fever-dream narratives that the whole prosecution was part of a witch hunt and that the Attorney General is just sabotaging Bob Mueller's righteous crusade. You don't have to believe either to conclude that the Mueller team should have thought a little more about how it would try the case and a little less about how convenient it was to be able to tell the IRA story in an indictment. CyberScoop Wall Street Journal

There's another major leak about government skullduggery in cyberspace, David tells us, and Wikileaks is, uh, nowhere to be seen. That's because the skulldugging government in question is Vladimir Putin's, and Wikileaks is looking more and more like Putin's lapdog. So it falls to a group called Digital Revolution to publish internal FSB documents showing Russia's determination to acquire a huge DDOS network, maybe enough to take whole nations offline.

Alan Cohn makes a guest appearance to discuss the role that DHS's CISA is playing in the covid-19 crisis. And it has nothing to do with cybersecurity. Instead, CISA is ensuring the security of critical infrastructure around the country by identifying facilities that need to keep operating, notwithstanding state lockdown orders. We talk about the federalism crisis that could come from the proliferation of critical infrastructure designations but neither of us expects it soon.

Here's a surprise: Russia is deploying coronavirus disinformation, claiming that it is a US bioweapon. Uncharacteristically, I find myself praising the European Union for flagging the campaign.

Nick talks about the ambiguity of the cyberattack on Norsk Hydro, and I raise the risk that companies may stop releasing attribution information pointing to nation states because doing so may undercut their insurance claims.

Finally, we wrap up the story of ex-Uber autonomous driving executive Anthony Levandowski, who pled guilty to trade-secret theft and is likely headed to prison for a year or three.

Download the 307th Episode (mp3).

Take our listener poll at can subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast using iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Pocket Casts, or our RSS feed. As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Be sure to engage with @stewartbaker on Twitter. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to Remember: If your suggested guest appears on the show, we will send you a highly coveted Cyberlaw Podcast mug!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of their institutions, clients, friends, families, or pets.

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What Name Comes to Mind When You Think of Atheism? Many Americans Say Satan – Patheos

Posted: at 5:57 am

Who is the first person who comes to mind when you think of atheism?

Mind you, that doesnt mean the person is the most famous atheist. Just the name that comes up when you think of the word.

The Pew Research Center asked that question, along with similar ones concerning the major world religions, and they just released the responses. It wont surprise you to learn that Buddhism prompted Buddha (55% of respondents said that) or that Catholicism led to the Pope (47%).

Perhaps its a bit surprising that 21% associated Billy Graham with Evangelical Protestantism, more than any other single person, given that he died in 2018 and stopped preaching regularly long before then, though many of the more prominent evangelicals today are better known for politics than religion.

But when it came to atheism, the one name that came to mind more than any other was

6% of Americans thought Satan when prompted with atheism. Which doesnt even make sense. But there you go.

51% of Americans couldnt think of anyone, 10% said it was someone they knew personally (i.e. someone whos not famous), 26% gave a smattering of random answers (i.e. people who arent famous enough), and 4% each said Richard Dawkins and Madalyn Murray OHair (who was murdered in 1995).

There were some other names on the longer results list, many of whom were included in that 26% of random answers.

Theres astrophysicist Stephen Hawking (2%), comedian Bill Maher (2%), author Christopher Hitchens (1%) and, for whatever reason, Jesus (1%).

The big takeaway for me is that there really isnt any prominent atheist these days the sort of person who can cut through the atheism-only bubble and talk about it to a mainstream audience. The names that come up today are probably the same ones that wouldve come up a decade ago. Atheists arent as well known because atheism has become less of an issue since the New Atheism hype in the mid-2000s.

These results come from the same survey in which people were asked about their religious knowledge. As you may recall, Jewish respondents fared the best, closely followed by atheists and agnostics. But none of the groups did exceptionally well.

Many people dont know much about religion, period. So its no wonder that the most famous people associated with various belief systems arent necessarily ones that make sense. No living (or even recently alive) Jewish person made the popularity list. Even for evangelicals, the big names who were alive this century were Graham and Jerry Falwell (the despicable dead one, not his despicable son).

Or, if you want to spin that in a good way, it means there are openings for people who speak about their religious views to break into the American consciousness regardless of background. Just as we can always use strong science communicators, it would be wonderful to have a (literally new) atheist who can break through our own bubble, who the media can turn to for comment, and who isnt cringe-worthy in a variety of other ways. Its not something you can just volunteer for, but it starts by finding a way to advocate those views in a way that doesnt turn the whole world against you.

At least we can hope for that. The alternative is having an atheist version of Falwell, the sort of person you have to constantly apologize for instead of point to when your belief comes up.

(Featured image via Shutterstock)

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Christians Convert To Atheism And Pray To Science – Patheos

Posted: at 5:57 am

America was once full of Christians. Catholics, Baptists, and other denominations littered the landscape with cries of Hallelujah! and Youre going to Hell for butt stuff! Among industrialized nations, the United States was an outlier. While countries like Germany, Italy, and Britain enjoyed a post-Christian culture, the USA was still firmly in the hands of an angry God and His confused worshippers.

With the COVID-19 epidemic, the religious landscape is changing. The virus that is wrecking the world economy is taking a toll on traditional faith. Many Christians are seeing the light. They are turning away from Christianity and reaching for science.

Professor Andrew Canard heads the Sociology Department at the Theological Institute of Technology (TIT). He notes those who are turning away from the cross dont seem to know how to science:

The coronavirus is showing how empty the promises of Jehovah are. In some parts of the Bible God tells worshippers He will protect them, and at other times God tells people to take their lumps and theyll get their reward in heaven. Its crazy.

Whats disturbing is that these new followers of science are exchanging one God for another. They dont seem to understand science is a process.Rather, they are treating science as another deity to worship.

Professor Canard states these new science believers typically follow their new science-faith in certain ways:

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As religion re-emerges as the faultline of Indian society, could Bhagat Singh’s ideas of atheism be a way… – Firstpost

Posted: at 5:57 am

In Amitav Ghoshs novel The Shadow Lines, the unnamed narrators grandmother whom he addresses as Tha'mma talks of how as a student in Dhaka, she wanted to join the revolutionary movement that was active in Bengal in the first decade of the 20th century. She talks of revolutionary societies like Jugantar and Anushilan and how a quiet, retiring classmate of hers turned out to be a member of one of them. These societies which were part of the first wave of the revolutionary movement propagated a programme of violent resistance to British rule by assassinating prominent British officials in their bid to state the case for Indias freedom. Highly motivated, secretive and daring, for a time, they caught the imagination of the public. Eventually, the British came down hard on them, sending several to the gallows.

But what remains unsaid is that while these societies were popular and patriotic, they were also characterised by a strong Hindu element in ideology and practice. They drew on the literature of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Swami Vivekananda for inspiration, swore oaths on the Bhagavad Gita and often worshipped arms in the presence of an idol of Goddess Durga. It appears that non-Hindus found virtually no place in the movement.

Bhagat Singh. Image via WikimediaCommons

By contrast, the second wave of the revolutionary movement that grabbed the centre stage from the early 1920s and formed an important of the anti-colonial movement during that entire decade till the execution of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev on March 23, 1931, was distinctly non-religious. While some individual members did observe their faith privately, religion formed no part of the rituals and conduct of the organisation itself. Arguably, in large part, this was on account of the convictions of Bhagat Singh.

In a long essay, Why I am an Atheist, written and completed in 1931, a few days before his hanging, Bhagat Singh laid bare the nature of his lack of faith. In a nuanced and well-argued stance, he traces how his atheism came to be. Clearly, atheism wasnt part of his childhood. His grandfather was an orthodox Arya Samajist and as a boarder at the DAV School, Lahore, the teenaged Bhagat Singh was in fact given to reciting the Gayatri Mantra several times a day. This habit lapsed in time, but not his faith in God. His close compatriot in revolutionary activities, Sachindra Nath Sanyal, was a fervent believer as well as were some of his other fellow-travellers in the revolutionary movement.

But in spite of keeping such company, by 1926, Bhagat Singhs faith had lapsed. In his own words, Realism became our cult. Atheism seemed to be the outcome of the extensive programme of the reading of revolutionary literature that Bhagat Singh had embarked on in the years prior to his final lapse of faith. And it was atheism that did not waver till his dying day.

"Belief softens the hardships, even can make them pleasant. In God man can find very strong consolation and support," Bhagat Singh states in the essay. But, given that many trials and tribulations lay ahead of him, what is perhaps of interest is how faith did not make a comeback to Bhagat Singhs life. By his own telling, his first arrest in May 1927 over suspected complicity in the Kakori Case did not send him scurrying to faith. In fact, the police officers who arrested him actually encouraged him to pray, perhaps as a veiled threat of sorts since they probably intended to apply third-degree methods to him. But it didnt make a dent.

Later, even when his execution was imminent, religious belief remained conspicuous by its absence. Clearly, faith had completely left him leaving no traces behind. Bhagat Singhs objection to faith and God seemed to be both philosophical as well as springing from the severe religious unrest that he observed around him which marred regular life in 1920s India. This was a matter that Bhagat Singh had also written on prior to 1931.

In an article entitled Religion and National Politics published in the journal Kirti, in May 1928, Bhagat Singh talks of how religion is proving to be a barrier to national unity and preventing people from moving forward in their quest for independence. The practices of social distancing mandated by religious leaders were proving to be a huge obstacle. Equally, religions habit of demanding complete submission was in Bhagat Singhs opinion, weakening individuals, and not helping to build their self-confidence.

Similarly, in another article, Communal Problem and Its Solution, published in the same journal the following month, Bhagat Singh comments darkly on the recent Lahore communal riots. These riots were prompted by the publication of a controversial book called Rangila Rasul by an individual with Arya Samaji persuasions which the Muslim community found offensive. On the other hand, cow slaughter was a sore point with the Hindu community. These differences were then sought to be resolved with daggers and fists. The article castigates the members of all three religious communities (Hindu, Muslim and Sikh) for their inability to keep a cool head in the face of provocation and the political leadership for their inability to play a constructive role. Interestingly, the article also takes to task the press and journalists for instigating communal tension through mischievous headlines and reports. The economic question, Bhagat Singh believes, is at the root of much of the tension and to attempt to solve that problem is to strike at the heart of the matter.

The impression that one gathers when re-reading these articles is that little has changed in close to a hundred years. On the one hand, it is tempting to say that religion has re-emerged as the faultline of Indian society in the last decade. But it appears that a heightened awareness of religious (and caste) differences was never very far away from the surface all along. Hence the inability of people to band together to demand more from elected representatives and the bureaucratic machinery. The nation has meandered along for seven decades riding on the back of some noteworthy achievements, but with most urgent tasks to do with economic matters left undone.

How then can we hope to plot our way forward?

In a country like India, while atheism is bound to have limited appeal, could we hope to make realism our cult? Could the sobering fact of widespread poverty, poor educational accomplishments and our lackadaisical health-care system not to mention the doddering economy and the agricultural crisis force us to look away from our religious and caste differences and concentrate on more compelling matters instead? The distractions that media and political leadership throw at us are not going to go away. It is up to us to look away.

That would perhaps be the greatest tribute to Bhagat Singh.

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