The Five Lenses: A Hindu Rebuttal to Ex-Muslims of North America and their Ex-Muslim Cohorts
Table of Contents for The Five Lenses
1st Lens: Atheism
2nd Lens: Anecdotal Experience
3rd Lens: Secularism
4th Lens: Nietzschean Philosophy
5th Lens: Human Rights versus Religious Tolerance
“In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist“. We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.” – Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation, pg 51.
In this article, I’ll be critiquing Ex-MNA from my standpoint of atheism which serves as my first “lens” in repudiating what I believe to be their thoughtless views; I don’t expect people to agree with me on everything or at all, but I felt it was ultimately important to explain what I find objectionable about Ex-MNA’s arguments and attitude after giving them more than enough leeway for over a year. Late last year, and earlier a few days ago, they and many other Ex-Muslim Atheists/Anti-Theists seem to hold the view that people must behave a certain manner as atheists and that more atheism and anti-theism will lead to better human rights, advancements in science, and a safer civilization. While I’m largely unopposed to such assumptions, these views seem to now be confusing a specific view of Secularism with atheism and even being used to ridicule any other self-identity that atheists may have, especially if they’re part of South Asian faith traditions.
When discussing the topic of atheism, even as far back as 2007 when I first discovered Sam Harris’s content and began watching him throughout my undergraduate years in college along with the debates of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, there was a particular conflation of terms that I don’t think gained much scrutiny until years later when Atheist conventions like The Amazing Meeting (TAM) became notorious for their sexual assault and rape controversies against Atheist and Agnostic women. Chiefly, the confusion was of Secular Humanism being treated as synonymous with atheism. Many atheists seem to argue both views depending on the topic of conversation without any acknowledgement of the fundamental contradiction; when arguing against superstitious religious beliefs, most Western Atheists seem to argue that atheism banishes superstition in favor of science and humanism. However, when confronted with examples of terrible atheist regimes, the argument has been to highlight that atheism doesn’t preclude any horrible beliefs and that atheism itself is a non-belief. Now, atheism is most certainly a non-belief, but once we accept this definition then it is clearly a self-contradiction to argue that the position of atheism leads to any advancement in science, better human rights, and a more peaceful civilization for humanity. What many atheists are doing is conflating one of the most positive philosophies associated with atheism to atheism itself despite the fact that the terms aren’t unanimous. A persistent contradiction that has arisen is that when putting their Secular Humanism to the test, so-called Secular Humanists have balked from following through with their supposed beliefs. Long before the #MeToo movement, when confronted with sexual harassment and even rape allegations at Atheist conventions, many supposed Secular Humanists chose to metaphorically bury their heads in the sand and ignore the normalization of misogyny within atheist conventions. Even more recent improvements like the outing of Lawrence Krauss over his sexual harassment scandal ended-up revealing failings on the part of organizations like Center for Inquiry (CFI) knowing about Krauss’s behavior, but doing nothing while it was happening. What does that reveal about CFI’s claims of upholding “Reason, Science, and Secular Values” as their moniker? What does this reveal about professionals, who genuinely contribute positively to the causes of Secularism in their many court battles and lobbying to the US Congress, when their Secular values are tested? At best, even if Secular Humanism improves human rights for all, there’ll still be marginal cases where moral licensing comes into play in the behavior of professionals and they may turn a blind eye to some cases of sexual abuse even while launching much needed human rights campaigns that are saving the lives of thousands who risk being killed for the crime of thinking for themselves. While that is an improvement, it is tragically clear that Secular Humanism may have its moral limitations despite it being a vast improvement from superstitious beliefs. In the case of The Amazing Meeting, hardly any atheists seem to speak up on the rape allegations of Michael Shermer even now and from my searches I’ve never found any information of famous rational skeptics like Julia Galef ever mentioning it. Should these “blind spots” continue to persist, then self-described Secular Humanists must gauge their own values with a more critical eye. Even acknowledging that religious beliefs garner more human rights abuses, it would be fallacious reasoning for Secular Humanists to use that as an excuse to ignore failures in upholding the values of Secular Humanism. In light of all this, Ex-Muslims of North America’s seemingly uncritical confidence in Secular values leading to a better world deserves more scrutiny. I fear that far too often atheists who support Secular Humanism could end-up turning it into a Utopian ideal similar to Communism or an Abrahamic religion while using the truism “Atheism is a non-belief” as an excuse to ignore taking painful steps to correct course when it falters.
A crucial question must be posed to Ex-Muslims of North America when they make their content mocking Hindu Atheists and adamantly refuse to acknowledge the atheist legacy of the Dharmic faith traditions despite the historical evidence and the internal theological structure: If atheism is a non-belief, why is it wrong to self-identify as a Hindu Atheist, a Buddhist Atheist, or more broadly as a Dharmic Skeptic? Even so-called Ex-Hindu Atheists are vehemently ignoring the historic and theological teachings of Jainism which is explicitly atheist, even if they have other supernatural beliefs. What on earth is the point of the juvenile mockery and animosity to terms like Hindu Atheist? Why are they antagonistic to the term? Even when I gave them sources justifying my use of the term, they seemed to react with more negative news coverage in their subsequent responses; it was as if they saw the term as some sort of threat or challenge and it didn’t make any sense to me. If the whole point is to push for Secular values and rid the world of dangerous supernatural beliefs, then why does it matter if Hindu Atheists take part in other aspects of Hindu culture that they identify with or personally enjoy? It is doubly confusing since one of their explicit purposes is to build communities for Ex-Muslims and they privately help Ex-Muslims who are coping with the loss of community with what they feel are issues that only fellow Ex-Muslims can understand, but Hindus telling them that Dharma has a different set of axioms in its theology and the reasons why Hindu Atheism is an acceptable viewpoint within Dharmic communities are treated with derision.
As an organization, Ex-Muslims of North America’s views on Hinduism in particular and India in general seem to be fueled by utter contempt. When told or even given sources on information contradicting them on ancient India’s history, they don’t bother to read it. This became particularly evident when they shared an article from Dawn.com, Dawn is a Pakistani news organization and the oldest of Pakistan’s English-language newspapers, titled “Pakistan’s Slice of the Moon“ which was filled with historical inaccuracies from what the best archaeological and textual findings on the Ancient Vedic period have to offer. They further label Hindutva and the Modi government as anti-science for what is believed to be deluded claims about India’s ancient history. Yet, the Vedic period is notorious for being ended by what is estimated to be the earliest written records of atheism supported by rationalist arguments which has been made clear and cited in Will Durant’s work “Our Oriental Heritage” since it was published in 1935. I had shared these two particular sources on Ex-MNA’s Facebook and Twitter multiple times and even individually among their prominent activists yet they were never acknowledged for what was over a period of seven months back in 2018:
Worsening the issue is that the article peddles the same conflation of scientific progress, rationalism, and human rights that is from the standpoint of Secular Humanism with the non-belief of atheism. The author, and likewise Ex-MNA from the views they share on Twitter, seem to be either thoroughly ignorant of or categorically ignoring the existence of two very important people in Indian politics who helped shape it and arguably deserve to be called founding fathers of modern India equal to Gandhi:
The lack of knowledge by Ex-MNA that the architect of the Indian Constitution and respected Dalit Social Reformer, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar and the founder of Hindutva philosophy and freedom fighter, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar were respectively a Buddhist Atheist and Hindu Atheist seems a bit odd when they seem keen on sharing articles defending Nehru or Gandhi. Ex-MNA treats removal of superstitious beliefs via atheism as synonymous with Enlightenment values in many Twitter, Facebook, and personal commentary posts. It may suggest an ignorance or lack of willingness by Ex-MNA to acknowledge the atheist legacy of India which extends from approximately 600 BCE to even its beloved and controversial founding fathers of the Secular Republic of India. After all, acknowledging that the founder of Hindutva was a Hindu Atheist would defy their attempts to mock Hindutva as formed from superstitious nonsense, their stalwart belief that Hinduism can’t comport to atheism, and their belief that embracing Secular values necessarily rejects religious culture for atheists. Even more problematic for Ex-MNA would be acknowledging a respected Dalit social reformer who was also architect of the Indian Constitution and who modern Hindutva consider the real father of Secular India. The triumphant rise and dedicated work of a social former and architect of a Secular Constitution who, while repudiating Hinduism due to his own life experiences of Casteism, found solace in another denomination of Dharma as an atheist, stands as firm repudiation for Ex-MNA’s narrow views about Dharma. Even more stomach churning for Ex-Muslim atheists from Pakistan would be Ambedkar’s arguments about Islam being worse than Hinduism since his was the perspective of an educated Dalit.
This isn’t a complete list of the famous atheists who influenced South Asian politics, consider the person who is probably the most famous Ex-Muslim Atheist in modern times:
Muhammad Ali Jinnah was popularly known for being an atheist before his family claims that he reconverted to Islam before his death. Consider the deplorable legacy of an Islamic State that he left behind. A legacy that the British likely set-up for failure as per the Realist Theory of International Relations, where it is believed that it is in the supposed rational interest of nation-states to sow discord and worsen pre-existing social ills for their own advantage, as there is no other rational basis for making a country on two different sides of another larger country. To argue that the Islamic State of Pakistan is a democracy equivalent to a Secular Republic like India or the United States is the moral equivalent of arguing that ISIS can be reformed into a democratic country if it existed for 70 years. If you’re an Ex-Muslim Pakistani reading this and you think there’s a shred of bigotry in that statement or that I’m deluded or “biased” (who among the human race is not biased?) because you have this idea of a Hindutva boogeyman for any Indian or Hindu who makes negative comments about Pakistan, then you’re lying to yourself. However, that is a discussion for another Lens essay. For the purposes of this Lens, it is clear that Dharmic atheism has had a superior legacy compared to Ex-Muslim atheism.
Ideological Differences in Non-Belief
Western atheism’s influence has been very checkered within democracies. The human rights push by the New Atheist movement petered into a fringe subculture after the initial success of accepting atheists into Western societies, especially in the United States. The most influential atheist, even beyond the New Atheist movement, has been Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand has been the figure at the forefront of promoting neoliberal economics by Republicans in the United States while Bill Clinton influenced the Democrats to do the same. What few comment on is how Ayn Rand poses a dangerous challenge to one of Secular Humanism’s core tenants:
And no, I don’t mean selfishness. I mean science; to the best of my knowledge, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and the specific brand of neoliberalism peddled along with her philosophy is completely against the government doing little more than providing police and a military. Why is this problematic? Because the great technological breakthroughs and innovations of science were exclusively through government-funded research and not by capitalist innovation. Therefore, it would seem given the evidence, that Objectivism and neoliberal economic philosophy is antithetical to scientific progress. Ayn Rand’s brand of atheism and atheists who hold neoliberal economic views (Libertarian Atheists) are thereby anti-science. A society under Ayn Rand Objectivism cannot progress technologically and one need look no further than the abysmal failure that is the modern United States.
So while Ex-MNA spokespeople like Sarah Haider continue to make thoroughly bigoted and explicitly xenophobic comments on India (Oh, and if you don’t believe these comments are xenophobic, then go search the definition of Xenophobia before commenting):
Often being totally ignorant of the legacy of intellectual discourse that famous economists like Amartya Sen have written on the legacy of. Perhaps she should instead focus on the consequences of her libertarian economic views since it has quite clearly brought upon the slow death of the US empire and the slow revival of Asian powers. To be sure, there might be major economic implications due to the Coronavirus pandemic and people’s views of China’s economic model, but only time will tell. To me, it is all too clear that neoliberal economic policies and Libertarianism have only been a catalyst for the abrupt death of US hegemony. Compared to previous empires, the US won’t even last 75 years at this pace of sheer stupidity. It should be made abundantly clear: Western atheist philosophers haven’t led us to any fruitful future for Western civilization, the Western influence of Communist forms of atheism don’t need further scrutiny as we’ve all heard the arguments, and an Ex-Muslim Atheist’s idiocy helped shape the geopolitical disaster that is Pakistan today. Meanwhile, the exact opposite is true for Dharmic Atheism’s influence on Indian civilization.
Playing Devil’s Advocate on being a Hindu Atheist:
Let’s say that I’m wrong about my own beliefs regarding Hinduism and that Hindu Atheism is a laughably stupid term that only proves I’m delusional and that there is no such thing as Hindu Atheism. Let us ponder a reality in which I am convinced and I simply see myself as an Ex-Hindu Atheist that Ex-Muslim Atheists wish to see.
Very well! This doesn’t change the fact that, as an Ex-Hindu, I don’t face threats of being killed by my family, I don’t have to suffer any personal anxiety about some Uncle, Aunt, or Cousin secretly desiring to murder me for not being a Hindu. I don’t have to fear random visits from extended family should my immediate family accept my choice. I can live and be happy, regardless of if I am a Hindu or not, with any Dharmic family and friends without suffering any persecution, contempt, or animosity. I never have to leave or be abandoned by a community that I grew-up with. I know they’ll always support me so long as I treat them like decent human beings. There is no contempt, animosity, or revulsion for my life choices based on faith. Perhaps there’s an example of one or two who distance themselves from me for choosing to be an “outgroup”? Very well! This is still largely untrue for the vast majority of family members who would ultimately take my side due to religion. Aha, but what if large portions of my family rejected this change? Very well! I could just get a Hindu priest to help me out since atheism is supported in Hinduism.
So overall, what exactly has changed here? I’d still be celebrating Hindu holiday festivities like Diwali, Holi, and Rakhi. Maybe I don’t read Hindu texts in my spare time. What am I actually changing here about my life? What changes am I forced to undergo? What am I being compelled to do here? There’s no huge breakthrough in thinking, there’s no fear over any thought crime, there’s no relief or feeling of freedom, I can mock and insult whatever I want about Hinduism regardless of what I’ve chosen to identify as, and if I have an interest in atheist history, then I can marvel at the earliest written accounts of atheism being from Dharmic culture likely from the Pramana system of argumentation which is similar to Western notions of Steelmanning. If I decide on what I want my funeral to be, I’m definitely having a Hindu funeral with the caveat of rejecting any sexist customs that I dislike. Why a Hindu funeral? I find the idea of throwing a party celebrating my life after my death and then a year later in remembrance of me to be a way better process for a funeral than simply being sad and depressed that I’m gone. I wouldn’t care if this funeral process was based upon superstitious beliefs and for that matter, what funerals aren’t? So why should anyone who values the term Hindu Atheist, Buddhist Atheist, Jain, or is a Dharmic Skeptic of some other kind be forced to reject a culture that they’ve grown-up with, if they don’t have to? This is not the case of supporting superstitious beliefs, most Dharmic atheists agree that superstitious beliefs need to be challenged and overturned. But why on earth should anyone be compelled to disdain their own culture, if it can be modified?
The Lived Reality: Hindu Atheists and Ex-Muslim Atheists
It is particularly odd that Ex-Muslims argue they tried to be good Muslims and tried to believe in Islam before becoming Ex-Muslim whereas Hindus don’t ever have to suffer this emotional pain. Ex-Muslims have to feel wary around family and fear of being outed, Hindus never have to suffer this. Ex-Muslim women may seek help after marrying into a Muslim family, converting, and becoming pregnant while no longer believing and being forced to keep it a secret; any Hindu woman who stopped believing wouldn’t ever have to fear being killed. If an Ex-Muslim leaves the faith, parents will try to get a priest to coerce the Ex-Muslim into accepting the religion again. If a Hindu leaves the faith, nominal Hindu parents who try to get a priest involved will be blindsided by the Hindu priest taking the Ex-Hindu’s side. Islam claims no compulsion in religion, Dharmic faiths live it as a reality. Islam seeks to encroach itself into Indian and Western societies constantly demanding special privileges while Dharma teaches to adapt and respect the new land that is your home and their social norms.
In short, what Ex-Muslims aspire to in the 21st century is precisely the status quo that Hindus have lived with since 600 BCE. Hindus would listen to Charvaka practitioners ridicule the belief in the supernatural and Hindu religious tenants. Unlike Diagoras of Melos who was vilified by ancient Greek society in 500 BCE and banished by Athenians, Dharmic faith practitioners wholly embraced and accepted atheists without any discrimination or contempt. Hindus often argue they’re tolerant and such Hindus couldn’t be more wrong. Tolerance is a narcissistic Western concept made to demand equality under the basis of mutual contempt between religions. As a whole, Dharmic faiths teach acceptance of others without demanding they believe in the same make-believe as them. I have seen Ex-MNA share Twitter and Facebook images of Ex-Muslim Atheists and Muslims getting along. Ex-MNA celebrates Muslims who support Ex-Muslims being allowed their viewpoints while choosing to stay Muslim themselves. If it isn’t a purely anti-theistic outlook and Ex-Muslims are settling for Muslims and Ex-Muslims supporting each other, then how is this different from Dharmic atheists getting along with Dharmic theists? If simply getting along under Secularism is the goal, then why do they cast aspersions on Hindu Atheists? If mutual respect and compassion between Atheists and Theists in Islamic civilizations is the goal, then what they’ve been aspiring to is Dharma. Yet, still in the 21st century, their Islamic civilizations – many of which were carved out of or butchered Dharmic civilizations – have yet to be able to reach Dharma. We are all One and we all have our own interpretations to our Oneness.
We don’t need to be saved by Western civilization to get along with each other, we don’t need Western philosophy to find compassion in each other, and we don’t need to glorify the West while conveniently ignoring how the West has empowered the very Islamic civilizations that Ex-Muslims flee from. Dharmic civilization isn’t perfect, but to constantly compare it to Sharia hellholes is laughably absurd; I find it hilarious that even Harris Sultan does this while also supporting fundraising for Spartacus to flee to Nepal which is a Hindu-majority country. To Ex-Muslims, here’s some tough love, you’re the outcome of a waterhole of death that seeks to drown you for the crime of thinking, we come from a culture of philosophical introspection and repudiation that has been stifled ever since the waterhole of death came to break it apart and leech off it while claiming perpetual victimhood and laughing off Hindu deaths. To be sure, Dharmic practitioners need to be more honest about fully eradicating the problems of Casteism and misogyny, but that doesn’t require hating Hinduism or destroying Dharma; people can change because they care about correcting the wrongs of the past and acknowledge the wrongdoing. Once that is done, and that is certainly the future I place confidence in so long as Hindus are cognizant of how idiotic Casteism is, then Dharmic Indians will have fulfilled the vision of Buddhist Atheist B.R. Ambedkar and thus Dharma will be redeemed.