I had come to the realization in 10th grade that Christianity and Hinduism couldn’t both be true due to irreconcilable differences. Growing up in the USA, you get a lot of Christian symbolism in television, movies, and sometimes in music. Even the use of the term “God” during the pledge of allegiance made me feel different because as a Hindu, I had been led to believe in a polytheistic view when growing up. I seriously began to wonder if Hinduism was really true around middle school. When I visited India as a kid (at age 12 for my cousin’s wedding), I realized that people really did believe in Hinduism and that Christianity was as vacant in the parts of India I visited just like Hinduism is vacant in the U.S., because there was no frickin’ way people danced around a fire pot for 8 hours to gain blessings for a wedding from various deities. That takes dedication . . . and I was on a rooftop with a bunch of other people sitting in the cold as some Hindu priest rambled on in some nonsensical ceremony while the bride and groom occasionally had to circle around the fire pot with him.
It was later on that I realized people just used their personal surroundings as a sort of “proof” that their religion was real because so many around them believe it. Moreover, I had to come to terms with the fact that if Hinduism is true then the majority of the 300 million people living in the U.S. and millions living in Europe were fooling themselves. By contrast, if Christianity was true, then 1.2 billion Hindus were fooling themselves. Worse than that, I had believed if Hinduism is true then believers of the Abrahamic faiths were condemned to live in misery in the world unless they recognized Hinduism – or in some cases end-up in some Hindu version of hell or reincarnation. To clarify, my belief on that was misguided as the Bhagavad Gita which I read years later clarified that all you have to be is a good moral person and that it doesn’t matter your religion (Hindu or not) to obtain Moksha (Self-liberation to either become one with Brahman or to beyond depending on the interpretation of whichever Hindu school of thought is believed in). Conversely, if the Abrahamic faiths were true then my entire extended family was being sent to hell since before I was born. So, I decided not to lie to myself about the negatives of religion.
By age 14, I became agnostic and began to question the meaning of life. Although, it was more accurate to say agnostic-theist; that is, I didn’t know whether there was a God or gods or not, but still believed. By age 15, I became an atheist-agnostic. And to be honest, I felt the shift from agnostic – that is, the feeling of being unsure of whether a God existed or not – to an atheist-agnostic was more profound and impactful to me personally. It was with the understanding that I couldn’t know whether a God existed or not, but that I didn’t believe in it on a personal level due to the comparisons I kept making. I was confused how anyone else could have confidence. If you were a Christian, then you must believe all non-Christians are going to hell. Muslim? Same thing. Jewish? It wouldn’t matter how many Christians or Muslims there were in the world and the appeal to conversion would stop mattering if Judaism was the truth. Hinduism, same thing.
By 17, I began to be acquainted with the New Atheist movement and it still has a profound influence to me even to this day, but it stopped having any significant role on my personal views when I went to college. Moreover, the Principal at the high school I went to made some spiel about the Abrahamic God filled with Bible passages. I learned something quite astonishing that day: that man probably felt like he was saying something deeply profound due to his personal relationship with Jesus Christ as his lord and savior — but all I heard was crackpot nonsense and a psychotic ramble. That high school principal didn’t know it, but upon hearing his heartfelt Christian sermon . . . I became a total atheist. He probably felt his heart elate and his feelings for Jesus Christ grow ever so strongly within him, but I felt nothing from his words. I compared it again with Hinduism and realized that the Hindu priest at my local mandir probably felt the selfsame heartfelt veneration for passages in his sermons about Vishnu, but I felt nothing from them. The Vishnu sermon at least made some sense to me, the Christian one sounded like a psychotic rambling from a crackpot making a conspiracy theory. It meant nothing and I felt nothing. The Vishnu one slowly waned as I grew older – although I hated the songs and felt annoyed by them as a kid. As for the Christian one, I had never felt anything from it even once.
From then on, college life began. After reading works like Chris Hedges “War is a Force that gives us meaning” since it was a required reading in one of my undergraduate classes and reading into his journalistic accounts of how religion and war can be blended to manipulate people; I found debates that he had with Atheist philosophers and watched debates of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins. I found their views on religion interesting but I agreed with Hedges as far as international affairs. A Muslim Professor and Japanese professor’s (sorry, can’t name names) excellent classes helped me understand and empathize with the other side of the story better so that I wasn’t just getting the patronizing pro-American view that presented the rest of the world as backwards savages.
After thinking about it for some time and learning to fall in love with science after looking at youtube videos that taught me more than middle school or high school ever did (although, I became pro-science back in middle school but found the material boring too). I thought about religion throughout this entire time and came-up with reasons throughout this process on why I believe religion functionally impairs us as individuals.
As far as Hinduism, I’m sure you’ve heard the criticisms already. And they’re true. The sexism against women is abhorrent and I absolutely hate how India is like that. They haven’t socially changed because the religious system in place leads those of the lower class to believe that they only exist to serve the Brahmin class; who are seen as descended from the bloodlines of gods. There is no room for growth. Brahmin class individuals live a privileged life and don’t have access to education in rural areas so all they live by is their own anecdotal experiences. Their personal religious biases create friction to change. City dwellers are more educated and better off but there is still sexism and people don’t want to change their lifestyles because corporate-owned buildings tend to have no safety measures and cause massive fires that kill people. Small businesses are seen as a preferable alternative because you’re not going to be killed. Moreover, police and the mafias in India often work together and corruption is the norm.
The Abrahamic faiths have their own set of very serious issues. But please understand, I grew-up in a religion that is far more tolerant of the concept of blasphemy. Hinduism is freely decorated anywhere and it isn’t seen as shameful compared to the Abrahamic faith’s history of being intolerant to depictions of their religious figures. You still see it somewhat today with how people refuse to speak of religious beliefs and how negative depictions of figures like Jesus are seen as acts of blasphemy.
The chief problems that I’ve observed are thus:
- Misogyny against women. There is a very real theme of demonizing women for demonstrating their sexuality. The Abrahamic faiths often conflate a woman showing her body to be a secret cry for help from someone who is not confident in themselves as if they need to be guided on the ‘right’ behavior. This isn’t ever true. Human beings like sexualizing the other gender because we are biochemically programmed to desire sex. Demonizing our own skin, our own normal desires, and believing it to be a sign of shame is just delusional and petty. It comes from a barbaric time when women’s bodies were seen as property to be owned by men. To demand women conform because otherwise they’re a “whore” is just wrong.
- The belief that human nature is inherently evil is a sociopathic mindset in my personal view. This belief seemed delusional and insane to me because I had only heard of it when I was 15. I thought it was a joke at first because it is inherently irrational. Moreover, human beings who believe in this become indifferent to human suffering – including genocide – in other countries because they believe it’s the unavoidable norm of human nature. It’s not; we only create that sort of system through religious beliefs and social systems. Our cognitive bias in perceiving anecdotal evidence as more realistic than qualitative data. Philosophers Nietzsche and Kant pointed out that believing every human to be inherently evil allows us to disregard human violence because it’s seen as the norm.
- Worse than that, the belief in Jesus Christ in particular creates another huge problem. A total lack of personal responsibility. Christianity espouses the belief that ALL sins; including murder can be forgiven so long as you believe in Christ as your Lord. This belief system is functionally abhorrent. It means that a Christian is expected to believe that they’re inherently evil and that their evil acts are totally forgivable. They’ll be rewarded in God’s kingdom in heaven. All wrongful acts – murder, rape, torture – are nothing that they have to feel responsible for because they believe in Jesus Christ. They shouldn’t be doing it because of the commandments but the inherent belief that they’re evil and that Jesus will absolve them of all their wrongdoing supersedes the commandments. This functional belief is what teaches soldiers to disregard the killings that they’ve committed, including those of civilians, because they believe Jesus will absolve them; the poor class of societies don’t ever have to think too deeply of the conditions that they live in because they have great faith in Jesus and believe that a paradise awaits them in the afterlife for living under the orders of their government and Christianity.
- Let’s assume Christianity IS true, Jesus is the Lord and savior, my family is in hell for not believing in his word. The belief in Jesus Christ is the only way to the Kingdom of God in heaven. Well then, logically, shouldn’t all the Jews who died in the Holocaust be in hell? They didn’t convert to Christianity; most of the survivors either abandoned Judaism or believed even more strongly in Judaism. If the belief in Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to heaven, then the Jews who died in the Holocaust should be in hell. Moreover, if the Jews who died in the Holocaust ARE in heaven then the belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is pointless.
- According to accounts of Jewish historians, they say that the Catholic Church was neutral during the Holocaust. Jewish historians claim that the Church allowed Catholics to join whichever side so that after the war, the Catholic Church could claim the winning side was the one that they supported all along. The pro-Zionist historians go even further and claim that the Catholics of Germany helped cause the Holocaust because of the pervasive belief espoused by Hitler that “The Jews killed our Lord.” Research done on the genocide show that 1/3rd of every Nazi soldier was Catholic and that the belt on every SS soldier read “God with us.” Christianity helped cause the Holocaust. Discrimination against the Jewish community by the prevalent Christian Europe is far too well-documented to deny. The belief they magically changed belief systems before World War 2 during the rise of Hitler is just self-delusion and ignoring historical reality of the time.
Judaism and Islam have similar problems to Christianity’s denial of responsibility and belief that the world and humans are inherently evil. Christianity and Islam are just branches of Judaism in reality. Turkey’s genocide of the Christian Armenians was absolutely horrific and Israel’s systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestine in a manner similar to how the U.S. committed genocide on the Native Americans (with religion yet again being a major factor) and China’s systematic genocide of Tibet is the “neo-genocide” of our time. It isn’t always a total brutal destruction. Some countries have learned to do it systematically so that there is less scrutiny. Nation-States try to promote ethnic cleansing in these areas without outright saying it.
Moving away from that. . . on a more general level, the basic problem I see with all religions.
- They view the purity of the religion as more important than the lives the fanatics killed. Speaking of religious conflicts that led to war create an atmosphere of ignorance in which the mass population will insist it’s “political” and not religious. Politics is all about human interaction in terms of social power, human history, and personal beliefs. Saying it’s political is an empty statement to make people feel better about their personal beliefs.
- Religion is narcissistic (especially the Abrahamic faiths): A religious believer is led to believe that their religion is the true word of God from the vast cosmos and that all the other religions are wrong. They value their religious beliefs as more important than human rights atrocities because humans killed are just statistics to them, they believe it’s unavoidable due to the evil in humanity, and that they are less important than serving the path of God. That those dead people either go to a good afterlife anyway or are condemned through their own choice of believing in a so-called “false idol”. Because God is the most important belief system; humans who don’t believe in the same religion are fools and have condemned themselves. They’re deluded while the religion that “our side” believes in is the ultimate truth. Meanwhile, atrocities committed to their religion are a grievous crime because they’re serving the true path of God and others are just being deluded. The other religions are viewed as less civilized.
Ergo, it is narcissism. A religious believer praises “their group” as more important, see the positives of people on “their side” as better than all others, and believe that living in squalor for the true path of God is of greatest import and proof of their beliefs in the “true way.” They ignore other religions as self-delusional.
- Religion uses the catch-22 fallacy. That is, the “moderate” religious believers argue that the faith is openly interpretative. The problem is, this is an empty argument. If the tenants of the faith are what people go by then they’re untenable to modern society and if faith is openly interpretative then the tenants of the faith meant absolutely nothing to begin with. Why believe in any religious tenants if they don’t ever have to be followed and the faith is open to any interpretation? Furthermore, if religious extremist attacks are not a true interpretation of the faith then the faith was NEVER openly interpretative.
- Above all, religion is a convenience. All the good people that we love go to paradise and all the people we hate go to hell.
To exemplify what I mean though; consider these examples that exist due to the “Just World” fallacy:
- If a child dies in a third world country, then we will say to ourselves that they’re in heaven now to make ourselves feel better. It doesn’t change the fact the child died due to the neglect of their environment and the world at large. However, to keep ourselves mollified, we tell ourselves they’re in a paradise after death.
- If a child lives through cancer, a common saying is that God saved the child. If the child dies of cancer, then the child is with God so the child is no longer suffering and in a paradise after death.
- A war criminal slaughters thousands of innocent people and lives a wholesome life and dies of natural causes before they’re found or ever able to stand trial. We tell ourselves that they’re suffering in hell for their sins so we can continue to believe in a just world.