sent in by semagoohay
I had written a letter to the webmaster regarding my Hindu background and the subsequent detachment from it. The webmaster was kind enough to publish it too, but I was not a registered member then, nor did I place the message in the correct forum. So here is another go at it.
I was born in India in a Hindu family and I belonged to the so-called highest caste – the Brahmins. For the benefit of those who don’t know, Hinduism splits its followers into four groups (or classes or castes) – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vysyas, and Sudras. Brahmins are the preachers, teachers, mathematicians, scientists, and the defenders of the faith. In short, they are the erudite and the elite class. Please understand that such distinction no longer exists. Whatever I said was true only in the past. Kshatriyas are the warriors. Kings and Generals belonged to this class. Vysyas are the business people and Sudras (pronounced shoe-druhs) are the people of the lowest class. I feel terribly guilty even describing this atrocious divisive nature of Hinduism and assure you that I do not harbor any such distinction myself.
When I came to the U.S. fifteen years back, as a masters student in mechanical engineering, a crusader (from Campus Crusade for Christ) asked me if I was saved. Don’t get me wrong. My English has always been pretty decent, but this question totally baffled me and I had no clue as to what it meant! When I found out, I was taken aback. Usually such a question was followed by what Hinduism stood for. Quite frankly, though I was a Hindu for 23 years by then, I had never really given much thought to that specific question. You see, I just lived as a Hindu along with a large majority of people just like me. Never needed to explain about my belief to anybody.
Did I believe in the Hindu gods? You bet. Come on, level with me here. If you prayed to these gods all your life and have sought them for personal favors, of which every one was granted, wouldn’t you believe? I wanted to be first in my school in the statewide exam in tenth grade. Not only was I first in school, I was first in the entire district. Then I wanted to do mechanical engineering in a particular, well reputed, engineering school. Wish granted. After graduating, I wanted a job. I got one in a campus interview, even before finishing school. I wanted, oh, this I wanted sooooo badly, to come to America. Granted. It seemed like my gods were right there watching over me and granting anything I wished for. And so, when Christians came to me thumping their bibles and claiming that my gods were not gods and that the Judeo-Christian god was the only true god, I was terribly offended. More on this later.
Then I visited an Indian friend in Pittsburgh. His grandfather, an old man in his seventies, broached the subject of religion. You see, until then I thought old people, due to their proximity to death, believed in religion a lot more than the younger ones. So I bragged to him about how I knew many chapters of the Bhagavadgita by heart. I surely thought the old man would be impressed. Instead, he asked me if I knew this particular verse in Gita, in which, Krishna promises that he will take an avatar anytime righteousness (dharma) goes down and unrighteousness (adharma) comes up. I said yes. Then he asked if that were the case how come He never showed up when Hitler killed millions of Jews. Huh! My jaw dropped. I was speechless.
In the mean time, my now brother-in-law (I was dating his sister then) had gotten saved from Jainism (an offshoot of Hinduism and very fundamental in its beliefs). He is the valedictorian in high school kind of guy - very intelligent, and a voracious reader. As a fresh convert, his passion was to take the word of god to the nonbelievers and debate with them with gusto. So, one day he picked up a debate with me. Initially it was decent, with exchange of ideas back and forth, but then one statement, a very strong statement, changed the entire course of the debate, and for that matter, my religious life. “There is not a single discrepancy or contradiction in the Bible.” And I was like, hey, wait a minute. Let me read the damn bible before I respond to that. He suggested that I read the book of John. I said, as an engineer, I am more methodical; so let me read from the beginning. Genesis.
He was glad to present me with a good bible and I started to read Genesis. No sooner did I start than I ran into this controversial claim from god that the day Adam or Eve ate from the tree, they shall certainly die. I read further and found that they ate, but did not die. Gotcha! Interestingly, there was a footnote in that wonderful bible. It said that the statement was not a contradiction because Adam and Eve did die, a ‘spiritual’ death, not a ‘physical’ death. I was like, what?!?! Further reading brought out many similar problems in the bible, but as you might have guessed, my brother-in-law had an answer for everything.
Well, once it occurred to me that the Christians will “explain” away any blatant contradiction or, for that matter, anything ridiculous, such as god stopping the earth, I asked myself if I was guilty of the same in my defense of Hindu gods and their stories. Lo and behold! I was.
So I suspended all my beliefs and examined things more critically. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to call myself an atheist. And, that is my story.
email: semagoohay88 at yahoo.com
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)