your opinionns please
#1
For your opinions please

A recent conversation with a sympathiser/new entrant to our ideology prompted me to do some thinking about certain issues which I want to share with you and invite your comments.
I have been an atheist since nearly five decades- I stopped believing in a god at the age of ten or eleven and it wasn't a revolutionary process, my atheism came on gradually. At first I kept that to myself but as I grew up became more and more confident and started announcing that to any one who would care to listen. I kept myself away from any religious activity that would need my active participation. My marriage was under the special marriages act which does not involve any religious ritual and even during important events like starting a business, purchasing a car or flat or even when my parents passed away I have not conducted any religious rituals or ceremonies carried out in the community into which they were born. Of course I have incurred the wrath of members of our family for that and have faced that.
But, when invited to ceremonies like marriages and/or such religious rituals which also have a social function, I have gone as a guest and have had the lunch/dinner as the case may be. Even when my friends and relatives invite me they say well, we know you are an atheist and don't believe in all this, but you could have your food and grace the occasion. I used to do that as a social obligation. Many years ago when Premanand was staying with us, I had to attend a marriage and invited him to come along telling him that both of us could have lunch and come home. We went there wished the couple and came back. But, Premanand was furious he told me you said just lunch and then we went and wished the couple. I replied what is wrong with that? He told me don't you think that you are supporting a superstitious activity? i replied that it was not so we were going there only as a social obligation. He said don't call me to such places any more. I took care not to do that. At that time it was my opinion that he was being antisocial.
Some days back some one raised the issue of attending functions like marriages. I told him that it was a social obligation and I would attend such so that feelings of friends and relatives are not hurt. he told me that every time a religious ceremony is performed are your feelings not hurt? I said yes. He replied that if that were the case was any one bothered about my feelings? My reply was that people have such functions with a social objective to invite their friends and relatives. The he said that can one not have such functions without any religious rituals? I said yes.
At that time it flashed into mind that even as a non active participant in such we are a party to such superstitious rituals. I have now decided that I will not participate in any social ceremony that has a religious ritual even at the risk of 'hurting the feelings' of friends and relatives. what do you think of this? Is it a right one? As the president of FIRA I have to follow certain norms and as a rationalist be true to my convictions. Please post your comments here.
Reply
#2
I applaud you - it must have been a difficult decision. In my opinion, if we strictly adhere to rationalist principles, then this is the absolutely the right thing to do.

This made me think whether I would be able to do it - which all things I would have to "say no" to:

Ceremonies for new house, new car, new baby etc.: I already say no to these.

Marriages of close family and friends: Two sets of my friends are getting married in Nov and Jan. Until I read this post it didn't even occur to me I could say "no". Now I'm wondering if I should. I could tell them why, and that I would still come to the reception, and that I still wish them well. Something for me to think about.

Funerals/cremations with religious ceremonies: Here I'm at a loss. If it's that of a close family member or friend, I don't think I would have the strength to say no.





Reply
#3
Thanks for your comments. I am eliciting opinions before finalising my decision. As for ceremonies connected with death, I have not performed any rituals after the demise of my mother in 1995 or my father in 2006. However, I have had lunch at the ceremonies for many of my relatives, friends, business contacts etc.
Marriage for example is more of a social occasion. But how about purely religious ceremonies like thread ceremony, rituals connected with death(sending the 'soul to heaven'), pujas etc. which are totally superstitious events? You can attend a marriage reception which is a secular event without any problems, though some have expressed that the very institution of marriage is a superstition!
Reply
#4
I see social interactions this way. We do all that we do, not for others, but for ourselves. We go and meet a friend (even half willing) because we would be sadder by not going. So for me its really a question of how would I feel, if I went either way.

Objectively speaking, the pros and cons (to an extent) are
Pros - I might inspire some of my friends to stop superstitious activities.
Cons - I might lose the friend, have attrition towards that person possibly forever. I might end up feeling bad about doing so and my friends dont take me as an inspiration anymore and dont maintain contacts with me.

For me the Cons weigh more than the Pros. By participating in such events, and mildly stating that these things are superstitious and these are just traditions (hence they are fine), I might make more of a change (in the people I love and care) than by distancing myself.

It might be a totally different situation for you, because of your position and the fact that you are a role model. But I still think that you need not put the fact that you "have" to be a role model before your personal preferences. If you like the company of those people, and you admire those people for who they are (their other life accomplishments along with their superstitions) then I think you should continue going to weddings and other events.

PS: I am a huge fan of your videos and your articles Professor smile. I hope that you keep them coming! And I definitely do think of you as one of my role models.
Reply
#5
(20-Sep-2010, 07:54 AM)mohankarthik Wrote: For me the Cons weigh more than the Pros. By participating in such events, and mildly stating that these things are superstitious and these are just traditions (hence they are fine), I might make more of a change (in the people I love and care) than by distancing myself.

I seriously doubt that. It just allows the superstition to go on unchallenged. (I'm not pointing fingers at at you - I'm guilty of this accomodationist position myself).

One thing that bugs me about marriages I go to these days: if you question the married couple, it becomes clear that they don't believe in the religious ritual, don't care what the priest is saying etc. It's something they want to be over and done with. Yet they go through with it, why? I think it's partaking of privilege: by opting in, they automatically get to be known as good saintly people who value tradition and culture. It makes me sick, truth be told, to see them sitting there, going along with the charade as a hundred other pious hypocrites look on with benevolent smiles on their faces. Saying "no" to a marriage ceremony is an honourable thing to do. And I suspect we would actually not lose that many friends and relatives - because deep down, they don't believe in it either.


Reply
#6
(20-Sep-2010, 08:21 AM)unsorted Wrote: if you question the married couple, it becomes clear that they don't believe in the religious ritual, don't care what the priest is saying etc.
Well said! That is very true. Even if they do believe, the have absolutely no idea on what is happening and hence they do not care in a way.

But the point I was making is that, it is alright for you to take a more "militant" stance if that is what will make you happy. That is the perspective I was talking about. If at this point in your life, you feel that you will be happier by taking a militant stance and you are confident that you will not lose your friends (it can be decided on a person to person basis) that yes, that is the way to go.

For example, If one of my "dont care about religion" friends is getting married, then I would try to convince him / her to make a secular ceremony where I can participate and I'll tell them that I wont come to the religious wedding. They would understand. On the other hand, my cousin is getting married in a month and my aunt and my entire family is super religious. She is a little religious too and does believe that the poojas are helpful. But there is no way I would miss the wedding, simply because I want to be a part of her most important day, superstition be there or not! I would feel worse if I skipped it.

The argument that we would promote superstition by being there isnt true I believe. If we are not there, the superstition goes on as well right? And these arent some tom, dick and harry that we can say, well if you believe, then its your problem. They are people we love and care. In a sense, it is our duty to stick with them and try to reason with them till we complete our goal. Its a daunting task, but distancing ourselves is definitely not the solution. But as I said in the earlier post, this might not be applicable when you really are a powerful individual and your statement really means something. Then it requires more thought and I am not sure what my stand is there. But I still think our personal joy and priorities should matter.

Hence it depends on what your priorities are. If you care more about the person than about making a statement, then dont stop yourself from being part of the occasion just because you can make a statement, because you will regret it. If on the other hand, its a distant friend, and you dont really care, then definitely you can take the occasion to make a stand. It makes sense then, but we should still do so politely. It is their wedding, not a forum for us to make a statement.

Reply
#7
(20-Sep-2010, 10:17 AM)mohankarthik Wrote:
(20-Sep-2010, 08:21 AM)unsorted Wrote: if you question the married couple, it becomes clear that they don't believe in the religious ritual, don't care what the priest is saying etc.
Well said! That is very true. Even if they do believe, the have absolutely no idea on what is happening and hence they do not care in a way.

But the point I was making is that, it is alright for you to take a more "militant" stance if that is what will make you happy. That is the perspective I was talking about. If at this point in your life, you feel that you will be happier by taking a militant stance and you are confident that you will not lose your friends (it can be decided on a person to person basis) that yes, that is the way to go.

For example, If one of my "dont care about religion" friends is getting married, then I would try to convince him / her to make a secular ceremony where I can participate and I'll tell them that I wont come to the religious wedding. They would understand. On the other hand, my cousin is getting married in a month and my aunt and my entire family is super religious. She is a little religious too and does believe that the poojas are helpful. But there is no way I would miss the wedding, simply because I want to be a part of her most important day, superstition be there or not! I would feel worse if I skipped it.

The argument that we would promote superstition by being there isnt true I believe. If we are not there, the superstition goes on as well right? And these arent some tom, dick and harry that we can say, well if you believe, then its your problem. They are people we love and care. In a sense, it is our duty to stick with them and try to reason with them till we complete our goal. Its a daunting task, but distancing ourselves is definitely not the solution. But as I said in the earlier post, this might not be applicable when you really are a powerful individual and your statement really means something. Then it requires more thought and I am not sure what my stand is there. But I still think our personal joy and priorities should matter.

Hence it depends on what your priorities are. If you care more about the person than about making a statement, then dont stop yourself from being part of the occasion just because you can make a statement, because you will regret it. If on the other hand, its a distant friend, and you dont really care, then definitely you can take the occasion to make a stand. It makes sense then, but we should still do so politely. It is their wedding, not a forum for us to make a statement.

I agree with this position.
Reply
#8
We are all elements of this functioning Mega-tron called "society". I think it is a social obligation to participate in such functions considering we are social beings (marriages, engagements, funerals or naming ceremonies even though they have a religious element in it).

Our feelings are hurt every time when there is a religious function even then i think boycotting such occasions will make us outcasts from the society. I also agree that there is nothing as a harmless delusion but all will have also agree that there are lot of genuinely good people who are currently delusional.

Concludes - Will attend such ceremonies may be i am not courageous enough to boycott my family neither the yummy Payasam.
Reply
#9
(19-Sep-2010, 07:56 PM)narendra Wrote: For your opinions please

A recent conversation with a sympathiser/new entrant to our ideology prompted me to do some thinking about certain issues which I want to share with you and invite your comments.

Many years ago when Premanand was staying with us, I had to attend a marriage and invited him to come along telling him that both of us could have lunch and come home. We went there wished the couple and came back. But, Premanand was furious he told me you said just lunch and then we went and wished the couple. I replied what is wrong with that? He told me don't you think that you are supporting a superstitious activity? i replied that it was not so we were going there only as a social obligation. He said don't call me to such places any more. I took care not to do that. At that time it was my opinion that he was being antisocial.

I have now decided that I will not participate in any social ceremony that has a religious ritual even at the risk of 'hurting the feelings' of friends and relatives. what do you think of this? Is it a right one? As the president of FIRA I have to follow certain norms and as a rationalist be true to my convictions. Please post your comments here.

Prof. Nayak, thank you so much for sharing the anecdote about the great Premanand with us.

I've been considered antisocial too by some but it never bothered me.
I don't attend marriages as I'm against the religious rituals, the caste and horoscope matching, the obligation on the bride's family to pay for the wedding and other social ills. Besides, these events and the people there are crashing bores. No I have always found better things to do with my time.

As President of FIRA, it is a good decision to be true to your convictions.

Reply
#10
(20-Sep-2010, 03:52 AM)narendra Wrote: Thanks for your comments. I am eliciting opinions before finalising my decision. As for ceremonies connected with death, I have not performed any rituals after the demise of my mother in 1995 or my father in 2006. However, I have had lunch at the ceremonies for many of my relatives, friends, business contacts etc.
Marriage for example is more of a social occasion. But how about purely religious ceremonies like thread ceremony, rituals connected with death(sending the 'soul to heaven'), pujas etc. which are totally superstitious events? You can attend a marriage reception which is a secular event without any problems, though some have expressed that the very institution of marriage is a superstition!

Religious ceremonies and rituals should be a no-no. Marriage receptions are alright. But, as President of FIRA, you could discourage other unhealthy and unjust social practices. Prof. Nayak, how would you feel if you found out about the wedding you attended, that the bride-groom had taken a dowry from the bride's family?

In the immediate aftermath of death, the close family and friends are numb with loss and it's also a sobering time for acquaintances. A funeral is not the best time to take a stand on religious rituals considering the trauma people are going through. But, the other endless rituals like 'pitru-paksha' are unnecessary.

Just think about it, Prof. Nayak. In the future, let the priestly class be associated only with funerals. Keep them away from all joyous events like marriages, baby naming, and whatever else. Maybe it won't be such a nice profession so they'll stop perpetuating and teaching their progeny to chant "mumbo-jumbo". Very few would like to be known as the death/funeral-bearers.

Reply
#11
(20-Sep-2010, 08:21 AM)unsorted Wrote:
(20-Sep-2010, 07:54 AM)mohankarthik Wrote: For me the Cons weigh more than the Pros. By participating in such events, and mildly stating that these things are superstitious and these are just traditions (hence they are fine), I might make more of a change (in the people I love and care) than by distancing myself.

I seriously doubt that. It just allows the superstition to go on unchallenged. (I'm not pointing fingers at at you - I'm guilty of this accomodationist position myself).

One thing that bugs me about marriages I go to these days: if you question the married couple, it becomes clear that they don't believe in the religious ritual, don't care what the priest is saying etc. It's something they want to be over and done with. Yet they go through with it, why? I think it's partaking of privilege: by opting in, they automatically get to be known as good saintly people who value tradition and culture. It makes me sick, truth be told, to see them sitting there, going along with the charade as a hundred other pious hypocrites look on with benevolent smiles on their faces. Saying "no" to a marriage ceremony is an honourable thing to do. And I suspect we would actually not lose that many friends and relatives - because deep down, they don't believe in it either.

Well said, unsorted! You're also right about not losing many friends and relatives. I haven't lost any, though I'd very much like to lose some of them Wink
Reply
#12
@mohankarthik - bit of a strawman there. I never said anything about being "militant" or "making a statement". We can explain our objection clearly and thoughtfully, so that the couple doesn't feel guilty for excluding us, or embarrassed for being called out. And the point (for me anyway) is not making a statement - it's choosing not to participate in religious ceremonies because of serious moral and ethical objections to them.

So with that in mind, let me break down our choices (using marriage ceremonies as the example cos that's the one we encounter most frequently):

1) Make some excuse and not show up.
I think we'll all agree that this isn't a good option.

2) Don't explain your objection, and show up.
Again, I'm sure none of us here will be comfortable doing this.

3) Explain your objection, and show up.
This is the option you're advocating - and you said it might be *more* effective to do this than stay away. To me this is wishful thinking. This is one instance where actions really do speak louder than words. If you explain your whole position and still show up to the ceremony, you're weakening your arguments considerably. Like it or not, your presence is a tacit endorsement of the ceremony.

4) Explain your position, and don't show up.
This is the option I'm leaning towards. Though I'm still not sure. I'll post back here once the deed is done. smile

One last bit:

(20-Sep-2010, 10:17 AM)mohankarthik Wrote: The argument that we would promote superstition by being there isnt true I believe. If we are not there, the superstition goes on as well right? And these arent some tom, dick and harry that we can say, well if you believe, then its your problem. They are people we love and care. In a sense, it is our duty to stick with them and try to reason with them till we complete our goal. Its a daunting task, but distancing ourselves is definitely not the solution.

I hope the statement "If we are not there, the superstition goes on as well right?" is something you just threw in and you didn't mean it seriously? Think global, act local: we can effect change even through seemingly insignificant actions.

Reply




Users browsing this thread: 2 Guest(s)