Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Atheism, intolerance

Very disturbed to read this story about a non-bailable offence being registered against JAM editor Rashmi Bansal for “hurting religious sentiments”. (Amit has more here, and yes, it’s idiotic that such laws exist.)

I got separate mails from a few friends today, jokingly suggesting that I might be the one in trouble next given some of the responses to my Groucho Marx-as-Krishna post. Thing is, you can never be sure when and how this sort of thing might develop into something serious. One minute you’re in paroxysms of delight picturing Peter Lorre as Shakuni in a 1930s Hollywood version of the Mahabharata, and next thing you know you’re behind bars in some squalid Tihar cell, with a local Sydney Greenstreet-lookalike eyeing you lasciviously.

It’s scary how eager some people are to be offended and how they want to then let the whole world know about it, and pay for it. Even scarier is how thin the line between moderate religiousness and extremism can be, and how quickly it gets breached when atavistic feelings come to a boil. My first experience of this was in 1992, when I saw my harmless old grandmother whooping in joy, doing cartwheels around the house (or almost) and rah-rahing Uma Bharati’s rabid speeches in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition. Everything I had so far known about this sweet, affectionate lady vanished, drowned in a hatred that came from a 45-year-old source: the Partition riots.

Early this year I interviewed Kiran Nagarkar and he said something that resonated strongly with me, though it was on the face of it a simplistic remark expressed in a convoluted, self-conscious way. He said: “I’m always afraid that I might become intolerant towards intolerant people.” I’ve had cause to think about that statement – because (thanks in part to some unpleasant recent incidents) I’m finding it less easy to be tolerant of religious people, even the ones who are dignified and non-obsessive.

This makes me uncomfortable, because it never used to be this way. I’ve never worn my atheism like a badge, or bothered getting into arguments about God, or tried to influence other people’s worldviews. As it happens, many of the most important people in my life – including my mother, girlfriend and grandparents – are believers. They aren’t ostentatiously religious (except for one grandmother), but they have a quiet, steadfast faith in a Higher Power. I have no desire to go about poking holes in their beliefs, and I’m willing to go along with them to an extent. If my participating in a Diwali puja or accompanying someone to a temple or a gurudwara makes a loved one happy, well, that’s more important than my atheist principles. (Besides, as Groucho said, “Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”)

But like I said, this has changed slightly. And I hope this new intolerance I’ve been feeling isn’t the beginning of “atheist fanaticism” or something similar. As history repeatedly shows us, one evil quickly begets another.

(Of course, the above reflections bear little relevance to the issue at hand, which is that some idiots decided that religious sentiments have been hurt and used an archaic, unfair law for persecution. All the best again to Rashmi.)

P.S. This is a good time to revisit these fine posts by Scott Adams: 4 Billion Losers, Education and Religion, Talking to God, and Atheists: The New Gays.

31 comments:

  1. Being a little pedantic, but I believe Groucho said "I have principles and if you don't like them I have others". Or maybe I misremember.

    Intolerance towards intolerance seems in the news lately. What with Dawkins and all the blogs on militant atheism. Food for thought. Maybe you have to be intolerant about some things if they mean enough to you. Maybe if you care about something enough you have to fight for it. Maybe its a trade off. Me, I don't think its worth it.

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  2. hey man- i am an australian student studying in jnu. read your article in hindu and heard about your site. simply loved it. I have been reading indian authors for a while now. they are a refreshing change. used to do some freelance work myself back in melbourne. wish to do something similar here till i'm around. where can i find upcoming books by major houses, like harper collins or penguin? the indian sites dont help. plus, how much do most papers here pay for a review? thanks for your help.

    -- Pete

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  3. Jai,

    There is certainly a higher level of intolerance that the web has enabled in all of us. It offers us plenty of opportunity to offend since it is so 'inorganic'.

    A blogger who publishes cartoons on Mohammed would probably not refer to them or show them to a Muslim friend during dinner at the latter's place. A columnist who mocks the Pope will probably be very civil with a Catholic friend during his church wedding.

    While I certainly believe that someone else's taboos are not mine, I do realise that everything is contextual and my willingness to state my principles or argue against someone else's beliefs are framed within those contexts.

    Re: The Mahabharata..

    There is a long standing tradition of mockery and parodies of Mahabharata and Ramayana amongst Hindus, and it has all been rather healthy. Some of the best stuff is by the malvani-fisherfolk comedian Machindra Kamble, whose delightful take on the Draupadi vastraharan episode has had audiences in conservative Maharastra in splits for decades. Imagine a beedi smoking old (villager) male dressed up as Draupadi. Imagine, an overenthusiastic Dushasana pulling Draupadi's saris and exposing stripped shorts and you get the picture. Imagine Draupadi singing while all this is going on, a song in Marathi-natya-sangeet imitation style "Krishna dhavuni ye ikde Dushansana sodith majhe lugde" - "Krishna please come running hither, Dushasana is pulling my sari hither-thither." And all this used to be broadcast on Bombay tv in the 70s and 80s.

    Re your question on actors
    ============================
    In Dvaita tradition, Bheema is the most righteous amongst the Pandavas since he is the only one who has his moral antenna intact throughout the story. Plus, he originates from mukhya prana.

    See this

    astrajñesvadhiko'rjuno'tha yadanukrosena bhimam vina

    By whose grace, Arjuna became the greatest among those who
    knew the astravidya (except Bhima, who was steadfast in dharma).


    Why not Gary Cooper for Bhima? I would've preferred Mr. Atticus Finch but Peck does not qualify for the 30s.
    Al Jolson would play Karna.
    Robert Taylor for Arjuna
    Robert Donat or Spencer Tracy for Bhishma
    Lawrence Olivier (Maxim De Winter vintage) for Yudhistra
    Joan Fontaine for Subhadra
    Abbott and Costello for Dantavakra and Shishupala.
    Mack Swain (Gold Rush) as Jarasandha.
    Kate Hepburn wins hands down for Draupadi. No competition then or since.

    ..later. :-)

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  4. jai,

    i remember nagarkar's comment in the interview, and i didn't really understand it then or now. it sounds nice, but what does it mean -- intolerant towards the intolerant?

    does it mean one would burn their books? destroy the articles of their faith? what?

    it probably simply means that you, as one who is increasingly becoming intolerant of the religious, would avoid conversations about religion. or worse, avoid meeting 'religious' people, if they aren't your loved ones.

    how on earth is this intolerance? impatience, maybe; but intolerant in the same way that fanatics of all persuasions are?

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  5. Quizman: yes, I can relate to that bit about Bhima having his moral antenna intact throughout - in some ways he's the purest character in the epic.

    ...I do realise that everything is contextual and my willingness to state my principles or argue against someone else's beliefs are framed within those contexts.

    True. Thanks.

    Space Bar: I get your point - even rabid atheists (in their capacity as atheists) will never come close to matching the terrible things done in the name of religion over the centuries. But in ways I can't quite articulate (and not necessarily in this present context) Nagarkar's quote did make sense to me. There are many examples of one form of intolerance provoking a counter-movement that eventually becomes just as depraved.

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  6. Pete: use email please. But to answer the last question: the papers pay just about enough for you to buy a couple of cups of coffee at Barista. The cheque comes in a minimum of eight months after the review has appeared in print. And your name will be misspelt the first 3-4 times.

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  7. Revealed: I usually don't think it's worth it either. And militant atheism and all this FSM talk just amuses me.

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  8. Jai,

    I get your point - even rabid atheists (in their capacity as atheists) will never come close to matching the terrible things done in the name of religion over the centuries.

    Now this statement, I have a problem with and I've seen this repeated by my good friend Amit. Alexander, Genghis/Kublai Khan, Taimur-i-Lang, Napoleon, Caesar had non-religious conquests WWI, WWII were not wars of religion. But they were not wars of atheism either. The true atheistic wars (or genocides) were instigated by Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and other communist dictators. Between them, they killed more than 60-70 million people. By comparion, the biggest religious wars (Crusades, Moorish wars, Babar, Aurangzeb (anti-sikh/hindu), partition, anti-Sikh riots, anti-Muslim riots, ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya, WTC etc) aren't even close.

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  9. Quizman: in what context would you call those atheistic wars? I'm not suggesting that people who happen to be atheists aren't capable of doing terrible things. I was talking about violence being carried out specifically in the name of atheism, in order to counter the edifice of religion. It was said in the context of religious intolerance giving rise to an equally destructive atheistic intolerance - which to my knowledge hasn't happened yet.

    Let me know if I'm wrong though, and what your slant is on Stalin, Pol Pot etc.

    Just to clarify btw, I don't think religion is the root of all evil anyway. Intolerance and hatred are integral to the human condition. If God and religion had never been invented, people would have found other pretexts to kill each other. (They have, anyway – take nationalism, racism, reality TV.)

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  10. You guys should really watch the new South Park Episodes "Go God GO!". Basic argument is that there will always be crazy people willing to fuckall and kill all, even if religion is fully destroyed.
    Btw, Dawkins also mentions the same thought, that whole root of all evil title was suggested by his producers at Channel 4.
    Religion is most commonly used to subdue people, be it the church or Stalin. People like Stalin were not real atheists, they were fascists in the guise of atheists, and they gave atheists a bad name.
    Stalin simply threw out the church because he wanted all power for himself, and religion was in the way because it is also about gaining control of people.
    Atheism's most obvious argument is that human beings are nice by nature, and through memetics we all have the inherent affinity to be nice to everyone.

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  11. 'Atheism's most obvious argument is that human beings are nice by nature, and through memetics we all have the inherent affinity to be nice to everyone.'

    Huh? What? What? Really? THIS is atheism's most obvious argument? Wow! And I always thought its most obvious argument was simply 'There Isn't a God'! Did I miss something here?

    As for the Stalin, Pot argument I don't think those wars were carried out in the name of atheism per se.
    Just cos the protagonists didn't believe in a religion does not make it an atheist war.

    And I think being intolerant towards intolerance is a pretty self-explanatory concept. It means finding intolerant people hard to tolerate. The most natural thing in the world if you care about what they can't tolerate, no? And I think for this very reason if you care enough about there not being a god you can definitely commit as many outrages in the name of an absent god as you can in the name of one of those present.

    @J/w: I think the FSM stuff is supposed to be amusing

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  12. And I think for this very reason if you care enough about there not being a god you can definitely commit as many outrages in the name of an absent god as you can in the name of one of those present.

    Revealed: heh, well put.

    Ya, I know FSM is supposed to be amusing - that was just me being sniffily self-righteous.

    Anangbhai: Atticus Finch was an atheist?!

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  13. Jai, Revealed:

    These wars/pogroms were in fact, carried out in the name of atheism. In fact, Stalin's attack on the Russian orthodox church and its believers is well documented. He levelled hundreds of churches, killed thousands of priests and murdered millions. So did Mao and Pol Pot (temples, churches etc). Yes, they were tyrants, but the excuse used by Anangbhai "people like Stalin were not real atheists, they were fascists in the guise of atheists, and they gave atheists a bad name." could be used for anyone, including religious fanatics like Khomeini. In fact, that is what other Ayatollahs had to say about Shia-ism and politics - that they should be separate.

    Also, when it comes to discussions on religion, people entirely discount the good that religious people do. Heck, I can't help but admire the quiet, thankless work done by religious folks during disasters like Katrina, the Tsunami, Morvi dam (Gujarat), and so on. Go to any soup kitchen during Thanksgiving and you will find religious folks feeding homeless people there. Most orphanages, even in India, are established as a product of someone's core religious beliefs.

    My point is that the discussion on religion should never be black and white terms. Which is what frustrates me about militant atheists - they prefer to focus on the fundamentalists and not on the average religious Joes, who number in the millions, who actually do good work.

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  14. My point is that the discussion on religion should never be in black and white terms.

    I agree. In a way that was the point I was trying to make too, though it got lost somewhere along the way...

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  15. Jai,

    True. :-)

    Btw, a video of a Q&A with Dawkins is here.

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  16. @J/w: TY. I believe Amit (of India Uncut fame) has found a new site that you can be sniffily self righteous about if the fancy takes you
    @QM: An admirable defense of your standpoint. A few demurs though, most not outstandingly important, but nevertheless: firstly, the mad atheist tyrants of the world waged war against religion AMONGST other things including Capitalism, Westernisation, Modernisation, etc, so I don't know if its fair to characterize it as a war based on atheism alone. I know the same argument can be made for wars based on religion but I dare suggest that some wars for religion have been based on religion alone. Secondly, I think the helpful sort that set up charities etc are both religious and otherwise. I don't think the two are connected. Bill Gates is a good example, no? Maybe its true that a lot more do-gooders are religious but that could also be because your sample is skewed towards believers, isn't it? Thirdly and lastly, I think a discussion on anything shouldn't be in black and white. The fun's in the grey stuff.

    But your point was well taken, indeed. I am becoming increasingly wary of the militant atheists. I hear the cry 'into the fray' trembling on their lips.

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  17. It is regrettable that intolerance is raising its head through the covers of law.

    I remember there was a controversy over Khushboo's comments (which had nothing to with religion but all to do with AIDS) on the World Aids Day last year for which complaints were lodged throughout Tamil Nadu and she was forced to apologize. When some fellow actresses supported her, they were also forced to back down and apologize for their statements.

    In Sri Lanka, the resurrection of the Prevention of Terrorism Act last week will surely give vent to the slightest of comments, that may affect some influential person's sentiments, on the ongoing conflict into suppression of freedom of thought.

    What I think is that the underlying issue is that human-made laws (basically because it depends on the perceptions of the group of individuals who made those laws or amendments) always have loopholes and that a person who can manipulate it will always have room to use it to enforce his or her will on others.

    I followed your link to Amit's blog where he had linked to the section codes that had been filed against Rashmi Bansal and I think Section 292 and 298 need to be really re-examined by the Indian law-makers as 'obscene' and 'hurting religious sentiments of others' is very much open to interpretation by each individual and can encompass most people.

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  18. Thos weren't Uma Bharti speeches. They were (Sadhvi)Ridhambara's.

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  19. Ah...

    This gets interesting.

    I’ve never worn my atheism like a badge

    But you do seem to have, case in point being your response to one "problematic" gentleman on your Groucho Marx / Mahabharata post, in recent memory, and a few others earlier on. The funny thing is that you do like to shine it now and then, if only to momentarily blind the other with your rapier sharp wit and, dare I say it, wisdom/enlightenment/liberty of thought.
    :)
    ( Oh yes, I'm one of those terrible Smiley People )

    Appropos the issue at hand, there is a significant ( debatable? ) population of people in this country, who fervently desire, that their religious sentiments be a matter of private censure / jest / question amongst the neo-liberals / atheists / pseudo-intelligentsia ( I must apologise for this unseemly categorisation which shall no doubt offend your sentiments ) , at best ( or worst? ), if need be. And I suspect, that is the underlying basis for the archaic ( ? - I wonder how, if said significant population finds it necessary and relevant in these troubled times ) law under question.

    You see, it is a little like this Holy Cows business. I am sure you would not be averse to the suggestion that apart from God(s), cows ( in our specific context ), national / regional / sectarian leaders ( rabid or not ) and the like, the Holiest Cow of them all is your mother. Regardless of who she might be ( even if her existence / character / morality etc be under debate and question ), you would not ( unless of course you choose to disagree here ) desire that her name be bandied about loosely ( I use the qualifier loosely too )by those who have nothing whatsoever to do with her, in the matter of public debate / exchange of opinions. Laws on Wilful Defamation / Libel come in very handy for the aggrieved ( if you might be - and not feeling very potent enough to do something of a more personal nature against the person / persons who might have affected your sentiments thus ). Of course, you could always ignore such matters. But then a lot of people do not.

    It is taken as a matter of social propriety and breeding ( of particular significance in the context of which type of cow bred you ) that such questions are not publicly raised but privately discussed, if need be.

    If irreverence be admirable, then there is no particular line which can be drawn as to the exclusion of certain types of cows, for the simple question of who is to draw such a line or set a definition.

    I think Section 292 and 298 need to be really re-examined by the Indian law-makers as 'obscene' and 'hurting religious sentiments of others' is very much open to interpretation by each individual and can encompass most people

    This is an outstanding observation - very illuminating indeed. One wonders how it escaped the formulators of said laws ( amongst others ). I'm sure they must regret passing away before such incandescent insights had a chance to penetrate their unthinking hide-bound minds.
    :)

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  20. KK: It’s interesting the way you separate the line “I’ve never worn my atheism like a badge” and then pounce on it with a gleeful “But you do seem to have...” (you may as well have also put in a “Ha! Gotcha!”) - when in the first place the line was part of a larger paragraph where I’m admitting to discomfort about being tempted to wear it like a badge. Never mind. When you’re trying to make others self-aware, your own self-awareness is usually the first casualty. Thanks for the sincere attempt though...

    W.r.t. the Groucho post, did you actually look at the original comment that provoked my response? Or did you focus only on the response itself?

    Will go through the rest of your comment a little later - too many back-slashes confuse me.

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  21. Quizman, you write: "Now this statement, I have a problem with and I've seen this repeated by my good friend Amit."

    Um, if I'm the person referred to there, where have I made this statement? While religion is a common justification for many terrible things, I've never said that it is the sole justification used for such things, or that all terribleness is to be attributed to religion.

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  22. :)
    I must thank you for your rather prompt impromptu response to my comment which appeared as soon as I had refreshed the page.

    I did read the original comments from the said "problematic" gentleman. Please allow me to aver that I have no axe to grind for him or against you. It was merely the tone and tenor of the collective response to his comments that prompted my reference to the case.

    I separated the statement that you made, purely in light of the not-so-infrequent, possibly un-self-conscious, little flashes of the badge that litter the commentspace of this esteemed blog.

    To return to the post-script to your post, Mr Scott Adams posts ( undeniably witty though they might be ) smack of a smug ( and juvenile? ) self-satisfaction that is in part derived from having set himself up as one of the 'smarts' i.e. those with no religion / God AND a Top-Notch education. I would recommend a perusal of www.edge.org where Messrs Dawkins, Dennett et al have abrogated the term for themselves post-9/11. It is curious how the smarts, having awarded themselves such distinction, by and entirely for themselves, decide who qualify as smarts. Going over the posts that you have so affectionately referred to, one fails to find any merit whatsoever therein, in the questions that Mr Adams purports to raise. All one sees is a belittlement of others who might not be as 'smart' as he implicitly considers himself to be, purely on the basis of liberal doses of sarcasm due to literal interpretation of semi-articulate ( or for that matter - inarticulate ) expressions of believers such as "God talks to me" or " I have felt God" amongst others.

    Education and the ability to articulate oneself well does not necessarily validate/substantiate/elevate one's human experience. You also happened to refer to the all-knowing and enlightened Mr Amit Varma whose blog raises some questions about some laws/practices/beliefs. What usually escapes sight is the fact that by raising such questions the writer necessarily implies his/her view of how things "should" be. If you refer back to our "problematic" gentleman, you find that he did the same ( maybe with not as much wit and finesse ).

    There is another little corollary here - this issue of "Freedom of Speech / Expression" ( sans fear, of course ). The commonly dished out argument - "This is public domain. If you are offended by what I/We have to say, you are free to exit the page and never return", just does not hold. I mean you may consider yourself to be free to belittle anyone you choose to; but I would assert that your intelligence would inhibit you from casting such aspersions within earshot of the subject. ( And why not, it would be sincerely out of good breeding that you do not do so as well as a bit of common-sense ). This, I would argue, is an merely an extension of said ear-shot range. You never know who might read what you have written and what he might make of it. ( As an aside, it is traditionally accepted in the organisation that I work in, that we do not discuss Religion, Politics and Women publicly. It does not mean that we do not hold informed and well-formed opinions on the subjects ourselves. But one is judicious w.r.t when, where, how and to whom such subjects are broached; AND, it is NOT out of fear of repercussion but, as the saying goes - 'It just ain't cricket, mate'. )

    For the time being, I would like to sign off by confessing to the one thing that I have an aversion to, greater than for "unthinking idiots" - and that would be "thinking" idiots.
    :)

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  23. KK: there’s no way I can respond to everything you’ve said in your comments (especially since you have, implicitly at least, attributed a few opinions/stances to me that I don’t hold). So just a couple of scattered responses based on various things you’ve said here:

    I like Scott Adams’ writing because I find it funny. That’s the principal reason and at times the only reason. Whether or not I agree with everything he says is beside the point, or at least secondary. At various times in the past I have also derived great amusement and pleasure from humour writing that’s anti-atheism (or anti-something else I happen to believe in). Not claiming that I have no sacred cows or that I’m incapable of feeling offended, but on the whole I do know how to laugh at myself and try to do it as often as possible. Looking around these days, I wish other people would do it more often too - but maybe that’s just another example of me imposing my beliefs on others!

    Education and the ability to articulate oneself well does not necessarily validate/substantiate/elevate one's human experience.

    I have absolutely no argument with this and find it strange that you seem to think I might. To the contrary, friends are often frustrated by my “being too open-ended” in my reviewing and by my attitude that anything that comes out of a human mind/experience deserves to at least be looked at with respect, and examined for what it has to tell us about our world - even if critics sniff that it’s lowbrow or not worth being taken seriously. That said, I will of course continue to hold my own opinions and to respond to people who respond to them.

    If you want to take this discussion further, mail me. Enough on comments.

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  24. *head swimming after reading KK's comments* What I totally didn't understand is why views on religion, politics and WOMEN aren't discussed in public??? Now I understand how Horatio must have felt. Also, I compliment KK on dismissing magnificently in one fell swoop, J/w's 'esteemed blog', 'the all-knowing and enlightened' and I must contend hapless Mr.Amit Varma and 'the undeniably witty but smug' Scott Adams. Well done.

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  25. "Hapless" indeed!

    To be discussed in the same breath as both Jai and Scott Adams is a rare honour, and I am all-knowingly grateful. Thank you, KK!

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  26. :D

    Errat(Um) : For 'abrogate' read 'arrogate'.

    I suppose one would have to swim a bit more ( or maybe sink ) in the comments to derive the subtext that links to the reason why. Of course, one is always free to discuss such things freely, if you don't get what I mean.
    ;)

    Honour? I suspect there is a peerage of sorts lined up as well ...
    :)

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  27. In hindsight, kindly allow me to retract my comments posted earlier. There is just one sound that serves to amply amplify all that I have implied :-

    MOO!

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  28. Intolerance is a funny thing. Are Hindus intolerant? Should they be?
    I would say your grandmother was showing civilizational memory. For centuries, the land that created Hinduism, saw its adherents massacred in genocide after genocide. Culminating in the last bloodbath at partition. After independence, whilst Pakistan went on to complete its job by eradicating its Hindu population, India sank into a torpor of feel good atheism and a belief that atheism and fear of majoritarianism, would suffice. This was repackaged as secularism. The end result is that many Hindus grow up in an environment, sheltered, middle class- but with no clue of why there is a visceral outpouring of fear against Islam and Muslim extremism. Having grown up in a lower middle class ghetto, with muslim neighbours galore, I do know that many Muslims are good, but when it comes to their religion, they will kill, maim without compulsion, with sincere belief that they are doing good. In that vein, steel cuts steel, and its but obvious that hindus will migrate towards the hindu conservative movement.COming to censorship, I am against it- but freedom to offend, doesnt necessarily mean the right to constantly offend and provoke out of a belief that atheism is essential and required. That is what one sees in many "progressive" historians and intellectuals, who go out of their way to dump scorn and bile on anything that has the term hindu on it. However, they become paragons of silence when other religions come into play. This hypocrisy is what drives public reactions and frankly, if anyone were to burn MF Hussains works in front of me- I wouldnt give a damn.

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  29. "My first experience of this was in 1992, when I saw my harmless old grandmother whooping in joy, doing cartwheels around the house (or almost) and rah-rahing Uma Bharati’s rabid speeches in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition"
    --

    Jai,

    So your world-view and response (reaction?) was to your grandma's behavior? I'm wondering if you made an attempt to find out why she did what she did, or whether she experienced certain horrors during partition which influenced her life and played a part in her behavior? Or were you just horrified and reacted with judgment and without understanding, as most of us would do?

    I wonder if your kid will read your "irreverence" in your posts and react to it by forming a world-view that's markedly different than yours by embracing and loving what you so deeply dislike and shun.

    And so the game, the see-saw of life goes on, lurching from one end to the other, as knee-jerk reactions to others form our world-views as we try to "correct" the perceived imbalance.

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  30. I'm wondering if you made an attempt to find out why she did what she did, or whether she experienced certain horrors during partition which influenced her life and played a part in her behavior? Or were you just horrified and reacted with judgment and without understanding, as most of us would do?

    Kaffir: Answer to the first question: yes, I did make that attempt. Answer to the second question: no, I haven't reacted "with judgement and without understanding". I tried to make that clear in the post, but obviously I didn't succeed.

    I have no kids so far (and don't intend to have any in the near future), but I agree with the last para of your comment.

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  31. This post seems fairly old but these views are valid even today. I have often wondered as to why there is a certain insensitivity to the sentiments of atheists in our culture.
    I am not an atheist. I may not be religious but I do believe in a greater power, and I also accept that our religious practices are ways to try and connect to that power, or at least give us a sense that we can connect to it and assuage our sense of helplessness. But if any friend or acquaintance proclaims themselves to be an atheist, I truly respect their belief and never try to involve them in any ritual or practice which may be contrary to their belief system. So I really wonder, if atheists are constantly told not to offend the sensibilities of the believer, is a believer ever told not to offend the beliefs (or lack thereof) of an atheist. Isnt the belief that there is no good as valid and as worthy of protection as the belief that God was born in Ayodhya, or for that matter, Mecca or Jerusalem.

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