Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Danger of Non-Abrahamic Complacency


For the past few days, I've been engaged with truckloads of religious apologists on Twitter...not too different from other days - but this time it's with apologists of a different sort, the non-Abrahamics.

I've come across many kinds of religion-apologist in my life, many shades of apologia....your garden variety Abrahamic apologist may be a dishonest goalpost shifter....hiding behind 'mistranslations', 'misinterpretations' and 'inauthenticity' of sources. But the Hindu apologist is two steps ahead - if a regular apologist is a goalpost shifter, the Hindu apologist is a shapeshifter. Anything you try to critique about Hinduism is uncritiquable because of Hinduism's 'fluidity', and hence it isn't really a religion...it isn't really there at all...*poof*

Reza Aslan and Deepak Chopra rolled into one. A lethal combination. All words are meaningless, don't blame god for your bigotry, there is no god, god is everywhere, god is in us, what goes around comes around, Karma, cosmic payback, woo, pseudoscience mindfuckery galore.

The caste system which divides people into lesser and higher 'status', it's links to Hinduism undeniable, is acknowledged by many honest people of Hindu backgrounds...the existence of castes/untouchability and it's effect on people's lives are denied by defenders of the faith (which is not 'really a faith' of course). If that doesn't work, then it's links to Hinduism are denied... because the  holy texts are not really holy texts, because not many people read that text, because its not mandatory, because the religion is not really a religion, etc.

From the Documentary India Untouched
From the Documentary India Untouched

The most interesting defence of Hinduism however...is that it is 'better' than the Abrahamic faiths...as if that makes it ok. It is better in plenty of ways...it is less rigid, less violent, and more open to reform. However, complacency in the fact that it is 'better' than some pretty vile, bigoted belief systems is really setting the bar low. This is not something to be proud of or complacent about.

Being better than the worst isn't something that should help you sleep well at night.

Not being a violent Jihadist, shouldn't be the thing that makes you smug. You don't deserve a gold medal for not being a suicide bomber.... sorry. And not being as bad as the Abrahamics doesn't make the horrors in your faith go away. This complacency provides a comfortable place to stagnate, and not dismantle the evil that is religion. Saying 'my religion is open to reform' and denying the horrors that come with the religion is pretty counterproductive to that openness to reform.

What seems to have happened with popular sceptics and critics of religion is that their critiques have developed around the Abrahamic faiths, and perhaps justifiably so because their backgrounds are in the Abrahamic faiths. Also, the world at large is most troubled by Abrahamic faiths - their misogyny, their homophobia, violent tendencies...and glaringly Islam is at the forefront of this today. No denying that.

Something defensive Hindus seem to assume when criticism of their faith is brought up.... that I am in some way equating or denying the horrors of other religions. Nope. I have no attachment, no need to defend... no tribal instinct to protect...I only have a desire for the betterment of the world in general. The way I see it, religions are a roadblock to that betterment and progress.

So while you defend and deny and bicker about who else is bad, who is worse....people of your faith will continue to destroy lives of innocent people they deem 'untouchable'. Certain children made to sit at the back of the class, not allowed to enter the homes of their classmates, having to drink from a separate glass...having to walk alongside higher caste classmates barefoot in the mud because they don't have the privilege to wear shoes in those areas....The constant humiliation and oppression they suffer is not indicative of the fluidity and freedom you describe in your faith.

From the Documentary India Untouched

From the Documentary India Untouched

The Independent has this to say:

"Dalit (untouchable) women and girls are especially vulnerable, experiencing not only the discrimination of caste, but also of class and gender – ‘triple discrimination’ as it’s called here in India – leaving them in a vicious cycle of marginalisation and exploitation. National crime statistics indicate an average of over 1,000 rape cases against dalit women are reported annually, the highest of any social group.
Many dalit girls are also dedicated as Devadasi or Jogini. Once reported to be a sacred, religious practice, the Devadasi or Jogini dedication of girls to temples has morphed into an organised system of abuse of young dalit girls by men from dominant castes.  These girls are prohibited from marrying and are stigmatised by their community. Children born to them have to suffer discrimination as they don’t have a recognised father.
The continuous effect of these practices, and the sexual abuse of dalit women, is that dalits and other ‘untouchable’ groups are kept powerless, separate and unequal."

So perhaps, think again when you claim the caste system has been eradicated, think of the lives of underprivileged people when you deny its links to the religion that has caused them to suffer.

From the Documentary India Untouched
From the Documentary India Untouched

And while you continue to defend your 'Deepak' understandings of 'consciousness', 'Quantum healing', and retribution for actions in 'past lives'...others will continue to tell the disadvantaged or disabled they were born into this because they somehow deserved it.

Karma....

But let me guess, that's not 'really' what karma means is it... and those people are just 'misusing' the term. Yep... where have I heard that before?

From the Documentary India Untouched

"Quantum healing is healing the bodymind from a quantum level. That means from a level which is not manifest at a sensory level. Our bodies ultimately are fields of information, intelligence and energy. Quantum healing involves a shift in the fields of energy information, so as to bring about a correction in an idea that has gone wrong. So quantum healing involves healing one mode of consciousness, mind, to bring about changes in another mode of consciousness, body. --Deepak Chopra"

Sounds a lot like the bullshit wordsalad 'science' that was hurled at me by 'science loving' Hinduism apologists today... Cringeworthy was their appropriation of Sam Harris' Waking Up as some sort of endorsement of Hindu 'science' and Hinduism in general.

Sigh.

***

While you talk about how much you like 'science', and how science-compatible your faith is...people depend on things like astrology for making major financial decisions and life choices. People's marriage compatibilities are determined according to astrology... And again, on the topic of 'science'...there's Ayurvedic medicine of course:

"Ayurvedic medicine teaches that good health is achieved when these forces are in perfect balance. But the doshas are unrelated to any known physicochemical process. You cannot see them. You cannot touch them. They cannot be measured or quantified in any manner. They are essentially the product of a rich, albeit unscientific imagination.
Ayurvedic practitioners nonetheless claim to have therapies for treating cancer, epilepsy, schizophrenia, psoriasis, peptic ulcers, bronchial asthma, malaria and many other diseases.4 Indeed, nothing appears to be outside the realm of Ayurvedic care. Some Ayurvedic doctors also claim that in the absence of any clinical symptoms they can accurately diagnose diabetes, cancer, musculoskeletal disease and asthma simply by taking a patient’s pulse,5 but remain incapable of providing evidence of a valid physiological mechanism for this amazing capability.
Are Ayurvedic doctors truly initiated into an ancient knowledge system, unknown to evidence-based science? Did erudite Indian mystics stumble on curative wisdom overlooked by modern researchers? More importantly, does Ayurveda work?
Credible scientific research answers in the negative, on all counts."
Please do tell me again, how this sort of nonsense isn't harmful? Imagine persuading a cancer/ asthma/epilepsy patient to try this as treatment instead of modern medicine? That could be fatal....and the defence I've heard here is "Well its not mandatory to follow these things in Hinduism" - well yeah its not mandatory to marry a child or perform fgm in Islam either... but I oppose those things because they exist within the ideology - for others to use and justify their actions with....for others to exploit people with.

It shouldn't be about avoiding criticism and shifting blame, it should be about accepting criticism and creating change.  
Until the power of religion is dismantled as a whole...it is the duty of every 'freethinker' to point out the ways in which religion...all of it, harms humanity. Some of it is more harmful certainly...and more urgent. But some of it goes undetected as a result, slips under the radar of scepticism...and the oppressed continue to be oppressed by it...pseudoscience continues to flourish. 
It's important we turn our attentions from the Abrahamic faiths to the non Abrahamic faiths every now and again...for a better, less nonsensical world for everyone.

In many ways, the largely absent mainstream critique of non-Abrahamic religions is taken as an endorsement. This is not the message to be sending at all - and sceptics must take steps to rectify this misunderstanding.

Even in a microcosm as small as my own personal twitterverse, I see consistent patterns:

1) A spike in followers when Abrahamic religion is criticized.
2) A drop in followers when non-Abrahamic religion is criticized.

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- For more thoughts on the subject of non-Abrahamic critique, this article on What's wrong with Jainism is an interesting read.

here are some thoughts I had about Sikhs who claim that not being allowed to wear their kirpans (daggers) publicly is a violation of their human rights. 
- And for those who think the caste system has been eradicated in India, I request that you watch this excellent documentary :

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19 comments:

  1. Hindus don't want their religion to take over the world as Islam does. That's the main difference.

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    1. Do you have trouble reading? Because that's not a good enough reason to spare it from criticism....as I've said multiple times in the post.

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  2. Betterment of the world is an excuse and a shield behind which anti-religion hide. There is no single thing on Earth which causes more grief than alcohol. None. But the anti-religion people will never discuss this because it's not a religious thing.

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    1. LOL love this comment! Thanks for the laughs...

      Delete
  3. Don't agree with your statement "Hinduism is better in plenty of ways...it is less rigid, less violent, and more open to reform". The caste order has survived more than 2000 years with Brahmins at the top and Dalits at the bottom. Yes, there has be *some* mobility for the middle castes, but that change was pretty minimal and did not significantly alter the caste order. And, whenever there has been some kind of challenge to the system, it has come entirely due to the rebellious efforts of the oppressed caste, and not from the benevolence of the savarnas (as Hindu apologists like to claims)

    PS: do the read the iconic work by Anand Teltumbde called 'The Persistance of Caste"

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    1. Will check it out thanks...! It's quite possible that you are right re:rigidity, but I'll have to look into it more.... it is def better in that it doesn't have apostasy punishments, and has multiple ways of practising, there is a non-violence undercurrent..... which is not present in Abrahamic religions... but again, Abrahamic religions set the bar really low...so being better than them shouldnt be a source of smugness or complacency was my point. Cheers!

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  4. Great article. My thoughts exactly but I could never put that into words as you did. Keep up the good work.
    @funb42l8
    Sal

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  5. You have raised many valid points about abhorrent practices in ancient cultures of Subcontinent. Logic in your general criticism of 'Hinduism' (i.e., that it is just like all other religions, in final analysis) can be taken apart in merely two points.

    First, using word 'Hinduism' is lazy way of referring to cultures that have evolved ways of living over 10K+ years. You have to cite pre-European-contact scholarship that widely refers to Dhaarmic traditions as 'Hinduism' to use word in authoritative sense. Otherwise, use of such word is demonstrably damaging to your criticism.

    Second, word "god" is extremely bad translation of what Vedic literature is conveying. But it persists in your criticism because it is easy. It is easy because Abrahamic ideas clearly delineate god and no-god dichotomies. And how easy it is to walk down a beaten path!

    You brush aside fact that Dhaarmic philosophies have produced cultures with core idea of non-violence. This is no small feat. With cultural assault from Abrahamic West that is unending, Dhaarmic traditions rarely advocate counter-assault or other crusade-like reaction. Fact that India and China have not sought to be imperialist towards former aggressors and current cultural aggressors is, imho, a mark of collective cultural grace.

    Completely absent from your criticism is impact of economic collapse of ancient economies with onslaught of Abrahamics.

    Surely, you must know of massive on-going effort in India to correct abhorrent practices. For example, it has largest affirmative action program in world which has resulted in country electing PM from poorest sections of society. Regardless of views on his politics, this is another massive achievement that proves Dhaarmic traditions are not stuck in ideas that worked before electricity and vaccines.

    Again, you have raised valid points. One will appreciate a follow-up post from you that focuses on nuance of Vedic thought and impact on practices due to Abrahamic invasions rather than reactionary rhetoric that is in vein of Marx and Macaulay.

    - Ek Chakkar

    ReplyDelete
  6. You have raised many valid points about abhorrent practices in ancient cultures of Subcontinent. Logic in your general criticism of 'Hinduism' (i.e., that it is just like all other religions, in final analysis) can be taken apart in merely two points.

    First, using word 'Hinduism' is lazy way of referring to cultures that have evolved ways of living over 10K+ years. You have to cite pre-European-contact scholarship that widely refers to Dhaarmic traditions as 'Hinduism' to use word in authoritative sense. Otherwise, use of such word is demonstrably damaging to your criticism.

    Second, word "god" is extremely bad translation of what Vedic literature is conveying. But it persists in your criticism because it is easy. It is easy because Abrahamic ideas clearly delineate god and no-god dichotomies. And how easy it is to walk down a beaten path!

    You brush aside fact that Dhaarmic philosophies have produced cultures with core idea of non-violence. This is no small feat. With cultural assault from Abrahamic West that is unending, Dhaarmic traditions rarely advocate counter-assault or other crusade-like reaction. Fact that India and China have not sought to be imperialist towards former aggressors and current cultural aggressors is, imho, a mark of collective cultural grace.

    Completely absent from your criticism is impact of economic collapse of ancient economies with onslaught of Abrahamics.

    Surely, you must know of massive on-going effort in India to correct abhorrent practices. For example, it has largest affirmative action program in world which has resulted in country electing PM from poorest sections of society. Regardless of views on his politics, this is another massive achievement that proves Dhaarmic traditions are not stuck in ideas that worked before electricity and vaccines.

    Again, you have raised valid points. One will appreciate a follow-up post from you that focuses on nuance of Vedic thought and impact on practices due to Abrahamic invasions rather than reactionary rhetoric that is in vein of Marx and Macaulay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please see the part in the post where I say: "Anything you try to critique about Hinduism is uncritiquable because of Hinduism's 'fluidity', and hence it isn't really a religion...it isn't really there at all...*poof*

      Reza Aslan and Deepak Chopra rolled into one. A lethal combination. All words are meaningless, don't blame god for your bigotry, there is no god, god is everywhere, god is in us, what goes around comes around, Karma, cosmic payback, woo, pseudoscience mindfuckery galore."

      I do think that addresses your attempts at deflection.

      Let's not blame 'Abrahamic invasions' for all Hinduism's issues...

      Delete
    2. "You brush aside fact that Dhaarmic philosophies have produced cultures with core idea of non-violence." Yes, and I've heard of Jains sending rape threats to non-veg eaters... some excellent non violence in practice.

      Delete
    3. Your criticism's is challenged on two important points: use of words 'Hinduism' and 'god'. Your replies did not address this challenge. Instead, you chose to pick something else that is irrelevant. Why did you ignore such points when a discussion based on logic and reason must stick to well-defined terms? Contrary to your implication that I adhere to "all words are meaningless" standpoint, I have challenged you on using specific words incorrectly.

      "Let's not blame 'Abrahamic invasions' for all Hinduism's issues..."
      - Please reread my post. We agree that all issues of Subcontinent's ancient cultures cannot be blamed on Abrahamics. Therefore, some can be blamed. For example, idea that Abrahamic cannot live as minority resulted in partition of Subcontinental peoples exclusively based on Abrahamic/non-Abrahamic dichotomy. This partition was supported by many secularists. For more evidence in 2015, please see separatist movements in northeastern India that are on basis of Christian majority in relevant states. And your blog post does not address such issues.

      You are given a concrete example of fluidity of Dhaarmic traditions in addressing deep-seated social divisions, yet you would not acknowledge such progress, however small in your perception.

      "Yes, and I've heard of Jains sending rape threats to non-veg eaters... some excellent non violence in practice."
      - Please provide evidence of this sort of anecdotal threat being representative of a widespread issue amongst Jains. Otherwise, it is good as anecdote only and cannot be part of any serious critique. It is very serious matter to utter rape threat. When you heard of such threat, did you advise Dhaarmic people who would scold such an abuser? Many of them are around. They number in hundreds of millions.

      This blog post and your replies to my comment are ample evidence of lack of nuance from you in criticising Dhaarmic traditions. What it proves is that you are typical person from rich country or urban society that hates poor countries or rural communities. Your lack of nuance ignores that life in poor countries revolves around rural agriculture. And ignoring this is fatal to all your criticism of 'Hinduism' because rural agriculture is about more than livelihood; it is about family and culture that evolved over more than 10 millenia with connection to land.

      Again, one would hope that you can publish follow-up post to incorporate numerous nuances you have demonstrably missed. Otherwise, you will continue without nuance simply because you can.

      Delete
  7. good article... sounds like you found the corner of the internet-verse inhabited by the species called the sanghi chaddhis possibly of the nri variety.

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  8. The link to this blog was posted by Ali Rizvi and let me rebut:

    1. Due to the menace of Abharmic religions - a new breed to liberal atheist have sprung up. They with one brush dismiss God and all religions and pronounce them as evil or hindrance to human development. The author of this blog is part of so called liberal atheist brigade.

    - Fact is that religions and God have played very important role in making humans reach the current state. The point of differentiation of sapien species from other animal species was not intelligence or language or any other factor but our ability to believe in myths. Gods, religions, nations, money, etc are part of the myths that we humans believe in - and it has served our purpose - as we r now the dominant species on the planet. The question is not of right or wrong but of survival - we believed in myths and not only survived but r ruling class.(for details watch videos of Dr. Yuval Hariri on History of Mankind on youtube)

    2. There was no issue with Gods till the time of arrival of Abharmic jealous God - who felt threatened by getting associated with other gods. Greeks had several gods, so did pagan arabs, romans, hindus, etc.. There was no fight between people due to God but on the contrary if one set of people fought and defeated other set of people they used to carry the gods of defeated people and put them in respectable place. (again refer to Dr. Hariri)

    3. Now due to the onslaught of Abharmic faiths - most of the polytheistic gods have vanished from Europe, Africa, America, Asia, Australia - the only remaining major civilazation that still has its roots to antiquity - is Hinduism - which is only capable to counter these evil cults.

    cont..

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    1. So the Abrahamic god is evil... but polytheistic gods are great! Got it. :) Religion has definitely served a purpose in satisfying us by 'answering' the unanswerable...by providing some sense of comfort in a world where there were no answers. Now we know better....and can clearly see that it's been stupid misogynistic fairytales all along.

      Hinduism is the only thing available to counter the evil cults that are Abrahamic faiths but it is definitely not an evil cult itself.

      Excellent rebuttals thank you.

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  9. Nice article! But I think u are somewhat ignorant about killings of rationalists in india. Probably because they didn't get any international attention like murders of Bangladeshi bloggers. Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi are just a few names. All of them were rationalists and have spoken against religion at some point of time. However, no organization has taken responsibility of their murders, neither have the murderers declared their intentions. (Which are pretty clear)
    Out of them, Dabholkar was killed in 2013 when he was trying to make govt pass a law that would make exploiting ppl from their superstition a crime, killers still haven't been found.
    Hinduism probably isn't as bad as abrahamic religions, but hinduists are surely good at silencing ppl.(Or not, 3 rationalists might have been coincidentally shot dead for no apparent reason)
    BTW, since u quoted Chopra, have u checked this website- http://www.wisdomofchopra.com/

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  10. Nice article.
    You have touched on all that is wrong in Hinduism.
    Lately there has been a lot of change taking place in the write direction.
    I am from the Sudra community.
    Still the present day CASTE system is not as bad as you potray. I haven't watched the video. I don't need to watch it as I live in India. I have seen documentary makers mostly have a specific goal and their documentaries are driven by that preset goal.
    Hope you write again about the present day Indian CASTE system after a visit to India. Do visit the villages and also the cities. Particularly the public sector or government industries.
    Another point. India is vast and the North and South differ vastly.
    BTW one Rape threat or murder threat or Rape or murder byba Jain or Buddhist does not make the whole Jain / Buddhists rapists / murderers.

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    1. Please show where i claimed that all Jains, etc are rapists?

      lol @ "I haven't watched the video. I don't need to watch it as I live in India." , yeah because everyone living there will get the full picture of how things are for all people of all castes in all areas. Got it.

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