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To be an atheist in a country so invested in religion is bad enough. To be an atheist woman is beyond belief. Because women only have to do all religious things, na?
One of those days when I was discussing religion and spirituality with a group of people who I had just met, one man asked, “So, what about you? What do you believe in?”
I said, “I am an Atheist.”
“Oh these recent fads!”, he said. “Are you also bisexual and poly-amorous?”
Well, that’s some next level bitterness that was directed my way, and I failed to understand what prompted that.
“Why so bitter? Did your God render you homeless?” I said. “After you spent a fortune doing that havan, your Pandit had asked you to?”
And that landed the entire group smack down in the middle of a tirade, insulting all the Atheists of the world. Well, in my defense, he started it!
I have been an Atheist for almost 3 years now. It was never one of those things where one day you lose a loved one, and you look up at the sky screaming, “WHY ME?!” and decide to stop believing in God, just to spite God.
It was a gradual process, a transformation from a young woman who religiously fasted every Monday and Thrusday, every Mahashivratri, every Navratri and every Karvachauth. To a wiser, older skeptic who started questioning pointless beliefs and rituals, and never fasted.
It was around my early 30s when I realised that all those pujas and fasts that I used to do were never because I wanted to. Most of them were cause I was terrified of crossing my Mom and the rest were because I understood that if I sat in the Puja room, rotating a flame anti-clock wise for 30 mins, my in-laws wouldn’t expect me to do chores around the house. Those 30 mins were my respite, from jhaadoo, poncha and bartan.
Even then, I did not move right into Atheism. I was an Agnostic for a while, questioning religion, wondering if God really does exist. It took a while to be able to let go of the dependency I had developed after decades of being a Theist. It was like letting go of an anchor, terrifying, initially, but in the end it made me feel freer than ever before. It was as if I had been chained in iron shackles of religion all my life, and finally I could move.
Don’t get me wrong, you will still see me visiting temples, churches, mosques, but not to pray, instead to experience the hope, the energy, to observe people, to feel the architecture, the rough blocks of stones made soft after centuries of people running hands over them, hoping their prayers reach the deity encased within.
When I finally came out to my family, declaring that I am an Atheist, most of them smirked and wrote it off as a fashion trend for these millenials. It has been 3 years, they seem to have gotten used to the trend.
However, more than my own family, what has shocked me is the reaction of educated people outside, at work, at social gatherings. The minute I declare my belief system, one person always takes it upon themselves to turn me into a religious, pious woman in a span of half an hour. Perform a polite exorcism to rid me of the demons of the 21st century. Like hello! I was a Theist for the first three and a half decades of my life, there is nothing you can tell me that I haven’t experienced already. And then they start talking about the miracles around the world, of souls and rebirth, of karma, of ancient texts and vedas. And I tell them that radio waves were considered magic at one point of time, and what we now know as Ayurveda was witch craft then.
My reluctance then allows them to form a perception about me. Maybe I am devil worshipper, I dance naked under the moonlight and perform orgies. Because, of course you can either be a good person and believe in God or you can be evil and believe in the Devil. There really is not comprehension of the in between.
Although, except for the incident mentioned at the beginning, I have never had anyone directly connect being an atheist with fluid sexuality. But I can feel it in the looks, when they avoid meeting my gaze, as though Athesim is like a pink eye, you will contract it by just looking to long. According to the man I had this argument with, I probably contracted Atheism from reading too many feminist books, and while I was at it, I also decided to become bisexual and poly-amorous. It is amazing, the amount of ignorance people live with. The ignorance that Atheism and fluid sexuality are evil. Or that these are considered as byproducts of a modern society.
There have been thousands of ancient tribes that practiced polyamory, Ancient Greek religious texts, reflect cultural practices that incorporated bisexual themes. And Atheism is as old as 300 BCE, when Theodorus of Cyrene wrote a book On the Gods expounding his belief that denied the existence of God. Essentially, Atheism is older that most modern religions.
And perhaps what made me an Atheist to begin with was the complete refusal of general population to analyse their own religion with logic and rationality. To read the Bible, the Kuran and the Geeta, to intelligently analyse why they say, what they say. And do some of those things really make sense now, in the 21st century?
Having said this, my intent to write this article is not to offend anyone, although I am sure many would get offended. It is to pass the message that when you meet an Atheist, they don’t intend to turn you, neither should you intend to questions their belief.
Image source: shutterstock
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