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RE: Answering the laments of "Hindu atheists"
(20-11-2011 10:13 PM)karatalaamalaka Wrote: It is not entirely a bad thing to be drawn to Dawkins-Hitchens based on their criticism of Semitic religions. That way the attention of the reader or listener is drawn to their other arguments against religion in general.
I read yours and AjitaKamal's articles, and I have a few questions generalizing the 'Hindu' label.
How do you allow for the fact that some people may seek to define their secular, cultural, identity with the caste labels? 'Indian' is not an identity everyone should necessarily subscribe to. Other than an imposed political order, there is nothing homogeneous about the country. I would argue, while it may sound regressive, it is ok for someone to identify themselves by their caste/sub-,sub-sub-sub-...-sub-caste.
Culture, cuisines, etc. sometimes vary dramatically across different castes. This may be due to entrenched practices which define tastes. Consider this very realistic (IMO) thought experiment: a person from caste X may have a cuisine, which that person is highly conditioned to. I have seen that food and taste sometimes vary drastically across castes even when the castes are all domicile to the same region. Is there any other name by which one can refer to that person's taste for food, other than by linking it to the caste X? Considering that food is entirely secular, is it wrong for a person to whom food is important to identify him(her)self by his(her) culinary tastes? One can find many secular attributes which are uniquely (surjectively?) associated with castes. How would you suggest such a person identify him(her)self without resorting to apparently religious/regressive labels?
I don't seek to justify calling oneself a 'hindu atheists.' I am also excluding the act of appending 'Hindu' (e.g. 'Hindu mathematics' of AjitaKamal's article) to anything other than one's identity.
Instead, I think we should cut them some slack in seeking to understand why this term is so common. Rather than an inability to think rationally, it may just be a case of sloppy terminology, with negligible socio-cultural effects beyond the fact that historically, culturally, and philosophically, it is a mischaracterization. Islam and Christianity are cosmopolitan, global religions. It is possible to find people from two drastically different cultures (e.g., Philipines vs. Armenia, or Indonesia vs. Iran), who are termed 'christians' or 'muslims' simply because of their belief in religious (strictly non-secular) bullcrap. Thus, for staunch christians and muslims, it is trivially easy to divorce the secular part of their identity from the non-secular.
Not so for 'hindus'. The 'hindus' of today and recent history define themselves by exclusion, i.e., 'hindu' is someone who is from the Indian subcontinent, but is not a muslim or christian. If a person seeks to not identify with the political entity of India, how can he or she culturally identify him(her)self without the label 'hindu'? Not everyone who uses the label 'hindu' necessarily appeals consciously to the religious aspects. The dangers of the ambiguity in terminology are overstated in the OP.
Quote:A unique problem that freethinkers in other parts of the world don't face is dealing with people who call themselves atheists and at the same time identify with a cultural label that promotes irrationality. But in India the freethought movement has to deal with the problem of Hindu atheists.
They are a problem because in any discourse on the ill effects of Hinduism, they post indignant comments with special pleadings about Hinduism. This article "Is ‘Hindu Atheism’ Valid? A Rationalist Critique Of The ‘Hindu’ Identity’s Usurpation Of Indian Culture" address the Hindu atheist phenomenon in detail. The long comment trail of the article illustrates the indignations of Hindu atheists.
I think Lije is being a little too harsh on folks calling themselves 'hindu atheists'. Aggressive commenters on blogs always represent the most rabid section of the society. These apologists, IMO, do not represent the majority of folks calling themselves 'hindu atheists'. By being derisive about 'hindu atheists', we are doing no good to folks who are rational yet are genuinely confused about using the term 'hindu'. The few self-proclaimed 'hindu atheists' I have met do not subscribe to the arguments listed in the OP. They are only mistaken about the term 'hindu', applying it to describe the secular, non-philosophical, and cultural parts of their identity without any 'usurpations' (cf. Ajita Kamal's article). To chide them or 'deal' with them, is a bit harsh.
In my opinion, a more reasonable line of argument would be to just point out that by using the term 'hindu atheist' one is just being flippant. I think there is a derisive tone, in addition to the excellent historical/cultural/philosophical arguments, in the OP and Ajita Kamal's post. In my opinion, adopting the tone (with absolute words such as 'looting', 'most disgraceful', ) used by Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. against the obviously irrational practice of religion to criticize the much smaller crime of using being inexact in using 'hindu' is unjustified.
Such a large and Interesting debate....I only lack patience to go through every line. In the end I prefer to hear opinion whether it is ok to use the term Hindu atheist or not.
I am a atheist myself.