Religion is one of the most sensitive issues in today's world. With the rise in right-wing politics, terror outfits and Islamophobia, it has become one of the most discussed issues too. But what if someone does not conform to a particular religion? What if someone doesn't believe in God? Atheists comprise almost 8% of the world's population. This means that atheism, or the absence of belief in the existence of deities, is a significant world view. I consider myself an atheist but I have stopped advertising my views. Many times, I have been criticized for being an atheist. Explanations are demanded. I give no reply because of the sensitivity of the issue. I don't wish to hurt the sentiments of any person who believes In God.
Once drawn into a debate on this topic, I was told by a friend that he believed in God. He believed that God had created life and he respected and worshipped Him. When I probed him about his belief in religion, his reply was that religion is a means of functioning in society, a set of rules and customs to follow. It started a new train of thought. The existence of God is a concept I have wrestled with for some time. It goes against one of my most fundamental beliefs that I alone have the power to change my circumstances and my destiny. No amount of prayer and chanting can change that. To believe in an Omni-present, all-powerful entity means to relinquish control over my abilities. However, believing in the existence of God is not unacceptable to me. I understand that millions of people all over the world derive comfort and happiness from their faith. However, I am firm in my conviction that no religion can define the rules for existing in society, no religion can dictate the right way to worship God.
My moral code is an amalgamation of the principles I value and the practices of different religions that I have come to respect. It is the reason why I light diyas on Diwali but stop short of muttering a prayer whose meaning I don't know. Reading the newspaper every day is a reaffirmation of my conviction. The amount of blood shed in the name of religion is unacceptable. So, perhaps I am simply only nonreligious.
I would also just like to say that I have never met an atheist who has demanded that a person give an Iron-clad reason for believing in God but I have on several occasions been berated for reasons behind my non-belief. I think it speaks volumes about the liberalism of religious people. I believe that a person's religious identity or the lack of it is important. In any society, a lot of emphasis is placed on religion. People form their own views on religion after much contemplation and deliberation. To censure them for their views is unfair.
The debate about faith and God is never-ending. People grapple with their beliefs over their entire lifetime. I am confident that my own thoughts about this issue will evolve with time and experience. I just hope that I remain receptive and rational.
Ramjas School, R K Puram, New Delhi