Atanu Dey On India's Development

Harris, Hitchens and Gadkari

| 25 Comments

Two men I admire most are Harris and Hitchens. Awesome speakers and writers, they have the courage to say it like they see it. In an age where politically correct mealy mouthed prevarication oozes out of spineless leaders leaving a slimy track for the mindless to follow, Harris and Hitchens restore my faith in humanity and I am assured that this is just a temporary phenomenon because truth abides. Here’s a video, an editorial, and a news item.

Sam Harris argues that science informs our understanding of what we call moral behavior. He talks about science and human values. He claims — contrary to popular opinion — that science can help us (to some extent, in my opinion) tell use what we ought to value. In other words, I hear in his TED talk the claim that science can help us out with the normative as well, not just the objective or positive.

He uses a few telling examples such as the status of women in Islamic societies to show that different cultures have different values and all of them are not objectively valuable. He is not for moral relativism. Nor am I. I think cultures, much like many other human attributes, occur along a continuum ranging from the dysfunctional to the good. Not all of them in all their aspects are good.

Now on to Hitchens. Writing in Newsweek in Dec 2009, “The Death of Theocracy“, he makes a related point —

My colleague and friend Fareed Zakaria wrote not long ago in these pages that there was a significant difference between, say, the Taliban takeover of the Swat Valley and the launching of suicide attacks on the non-Muslim world. I said to him then and I say once more that in the long run this is a distinction without very much difference. A country that attempts to govern itself from a holy book will immediately find itself in decline: the talents of its females repressed and squandered, its children stultified by rote learning in madrassas, and its qualified and educated people in exile or in prison. There are no exceptions to this rule: Afghanistan under the Taliban was the worst single example of beggary-cum-terrorism, and even the Iranians were forced to denounce it—because of its massacre of the Shia—without seeing the irony.

But when the crops fail and the cities rot and the children’s teeth decay and nothing works except the ever-enthusiastic and illiterate young lads of the morality police, who will the clerics blame? They are not allowed to blame themselves, except for being insufficiently zealous. Obviously it must be because the Jews, the Crusaders, the Freemasons have been at their customary insidious work. Thus, holy war must be waged on happier and more prosperous lands.

India is likely to prosper relative to Pakistan and Bangladesh. I am afraid that India’s rising prosperity will provoke increasing Islamic terror. It will arise out of a mixture of envy of the material wealth of and the hatred for an infidel India.

And lastly, a news item from Indian Express: To attract youth, Gadkari seeks new Hindutva idiom

“Our credo has always been ‘justice for all; appeasement of none’. A true Hindu can never attack a Muslim, and a true Muslim can never attack a Hindu. A terrorist, on the other hand, has no religion, caste, or creed. It’s the pseudo-secular brigade that has unduly highlighted the religion of terrorists who happened to be Muslims,” said Gadkari.

I am supposing the new Hindutva idiom is an attempt to be more pseudo-secular than the Congress. Mr Gadkari is a politician and has many reasons to — how shall I put this most delicately — be very sparing with the truth. He has elections to win and therefore cannot alienate the pseudo-secular voters. But I am afraid that this tactic is not going to work.

First of all, those who are opposed to the BJP on religious grounds are not going to vote for a party that is at best a “wannabe Congress B team” merely because Gadkari makes meaningless statements about terrorists not having a religion. I think it is pretty clear to all that an overwhelming majority of terrorists are Muslims and are motivated by Islam. I am not making this up. The terrorists themselves claim that they are doing it for their god and their religion. They shout Allahhuakbar as they slit the throats of the infidels. Don’t believe me. Go listen to the videos and voice recordings; go read the transcripts; do read their manifestos; go hear them make their statements in open court defending their actions.

How dare Mr Gadkari speak on behalf of the terrorists?

I disagree most vehemently with Gadkari’s claim that a true Hindu can never attack a Muslim. In the many wars, many Hindus and Muslims have been killed by the opposing side. Is it his claim that all the Muslim soldiers who killed Hindus were not true Muslims? Or that all the Hindus who killed Muslims were not true Hindus?

How did we come to this sorry state of affairs where leaders spit on the memory of people who gave their lives in defense of the motherland?

In earlier times, I would laugh at this sort of mealy mouthed nonsense and point out the “no true Scotsman fallacy”. In July 2008, I wrote in “No true Terrorists”

The Hindu reports that an official of the “Indian Union Muslim League has asked the media and public to not to brand the perpetrators of the deed as Muslims.”

“I appeal to the media and the public not to brand the perpetrators of the Bangalore blasts as Muslims,” State president of IUML K M Khader Mohideen told reporters here on Saturday night.

“These kind of people are neither Muslims, Hindus or Christians. The Centre and the state government should take steps to nab them quickly,” he said.

That’s an example of what is called the “No true Scotsman” fallacy, a fallacy of equivocation and question begging. Here it is, from Thinking about Thinking (1975), by Andrew Flew:

Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again.” Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing.” The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, “No true Scotsman would do such a thing.”

As long as we are declaring that the self-proclaimed bombers who self-identify themselves as Muslims and their organizations as explicitly Islamic are not Muslims, why don’t we go the whole hog and declare that there were no terrorists bombings, that there were no deaths, that everything is peaceful and tranquil?

Let’s live in fairy-land as the reality is too painful and our so-called leaders are powerless to do sh!7.

Now I will not do so because it is no longer funny. We have to oppose this sort of nonsense without apology.

  • Sundried Atheist

    Gadkari is a stupid guy who thinks that Muslims and Christians will vote for his party if he sounds nice. Being nice at the cost of the truth is not really a nice thing. Maybe Gadha Kari, should take a cue from the famous Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

  • http://hoopyfrood.org hoopyfrood

    Atanu,

    You might find this Nightline “debate” about the Future of god between Sam Harris and Michael Shermer on one side, and Deepak Chopra and some lady on the other, interesting.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/FaceOff
    (Nightline usually leaves it online for about a month)

    Warning: Listening to Dee-quack may cause brain cell holocaust.

    One my favorite parts is where Deepak calls Sam Harris a jihadi for science.
    Also: “I take resentment at you questioning my scientific credentials. I took physics and chemistry…. ”

    Much hilarity ensued.

    Harris to Chopra:
    “Scientists are usually careful with what they say because they don’t want to be embarrassed in front of their colleagues. Thats not a problem you seem to have.”

    “Sir, saying it louder and more relentlessly won’t make it true.”

  • http://honestlynagpur.blogspot.com kautilya

    bjp keeps disappointing. i think they shud close their shop already.

  • myxzptllck

    Chris Hitchens should just stick to riding Dawkin’s coat tail . His uninformed views on the War of Terror are worthy of a NeoCon membership.

    I find it difficult to believe that Hitchens is completely unaware of the role played by certain “Happy and Prosperous lands” in the very creation of the Taliban that he so contemptuously dismisses.

  • gbz

    another TED talk that leaves you deeply underwhelmed. So what was his point? Couldnt note a single real point he made backed up evidence or logical construction. Another series of pretty powerpoint slides for no end. And shameless grandstanding to the standard-issue far-left TED galleries with juvenile potshots at republicans (that always ensures a standing ovation at TED). I think the only point he was really trying to make was that gay marriage is good (but didnt bother to show any scientific proof for that).

    so is he arguing that moral questions can be analyzed within a scientific framework by reducing every question to finding the ‘conscious well-being maximas’ in a graph (which would be a 2-d graph btw, not the pretty 3-d ones he was showing). Without further elaboration, thats just the height of narrow-minded semi-literate idiocy. How about measuring the conscious well being of a snake in your bed? how about realizing that the well being itself is dynamic and the same environmental factors can produce dramatically difft points on that graph for difft people and in difft times. Or that wearing the veil does in fact produce a local maxima within the environment (which he later admitted). But above all, isnt the idea of maximizing the well being itself a value judgment? How is that a fact? And do you really want to maximize it for everyone, including the suicide bombers and the pope and the snake? And if not, aren’t you making a value judgment NOT informed by science? Either i dont understand him at all (which is his fault) or he’s just offering the pseudo-science version of deepak chopra himself. Not unlike mike shermer who’s sci-am columns often leave you wondering about the extent of his ignorance. He was once making fun of quantum physicists claiming that the world doesnt exist until we experience it (which is a deep and controversial point going back to the core of QM – heisenberg principle) by challenging them to jump out of the window and see if the ground below exists. Funny, yes, but ignorant. This guy is just another version of the same non-sense. Guys who think they know science but really don’t. Its not odd to find that most top physicists are often deeply religious people — their favorite line: if any of the universal constants were any difft by even a billionth, life wouldnt exist anywhere in the universe. Yes, someday we might have a true scientific explanation for why they are exactly what they are, but till then.. beware of pseudo-scientists (dee-quack or sam harris).

  • Sundried Atheist

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> find it difficult to believe that Hitchens is completely unaware of the role played by certain “Happy and Prosperous lands” in the very creation of the Taliban that he so contemptuously dismisses.

    No he is not unaware of that. In fact he has been one of the foremost critics of many US policies. Perhaps you should read a book called the “Trial of Henry Kissinger” in which he makes an excellent case against Kissinger and lays the base for a trail against him for war crimes.
    Yes USA screwed it up, however it was not as if the fertile ground for sowing these seeds was not there already. Besides just because you do something wrong once does not mean that you can’t get it right when you have the chance.

  • myxzptllck

    @Sundried Atheist :

    “Foremost critics” ? How do you reckon his undying support for the invasion of Iraq figures into that equation ?

    >> it was not as if the fertile ground for sowing these seeds was not there already <<

    Agreed, but let's not forget that the said country has an established agenda of identifying, nurturing and subsequently exploiting such 'fertile grounds' whenever it suits their self interests (as it so often does). Point being, with such a track record, one can't help but be sceptical about the country's intentions when they come forward with "solutions" to "fix" problems – usually crises they helped create in the first place.

  • Sundried Atheist

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Agreed, but let’s not forget that the said country has an established agenda of identifying, nurturing and subsequently exploiting such ‘fertile grounds’ whenever it suits their self interests (as it so often does). Point being, with such a track record, one can’t help but be sceptical about the country’s intentions when they come forward with “solutions” to “fix” problems – usually crises they helped create in the first place.

    Agreed, USA does not have a very good track record in this sphere. Obviously the invasion on Iraq was not done only for moral reasons. Control over oil was a very important aspect that has to accounted for when we speak of the Iraq war.
    There is nothing wrong with this per say, because the only benificaries of the clampdown on Iraq were the Saudis who are controlling all of the world’s oil supplies. This money was futher being funneled into contructing wahabi education centers all over the world. What these centers are comminted to doing is not secret anymore, so I don’t think there is any need to talk about this futher.

    However there is another angle to the story, which is that this invasion is being seen as an opportunity to spread Christianity in Iraq. Although I am not sure how sucessful this endavour would be in a country like Iraq, but attempts are being made all the same. I don’t have any problems with people converting to any faith of their choice, however these conversions are being used basically to further the Imperialistic agenda of the US and I have a big problem with that.

  • larissa

    Hitchens is a toad. I can’t belive that Hindus give him so much respect. Says a lot about the quality of intellectual life in India when Hitchens becomes a hero. I recall his recent book about religion–this guy who happens to be Jewish does not know anything other than the Abrahamic faiths but speaks like he is an authority on religion. Have you noticed that these Abrahamics can’t concieve of anthing other than atheism as an alternative to religion? Thats what happens when your religion is built on miracles are revealed truths. When you become too intelligent to believe in it you become an atheist–just like Freud, or interpret it in the way Marx did from the point of materialism. And yet Hitchens for all his atheist talk is proud to be Jewish and supported the Iraq war initially. He’s just a clever man, who makes a buck by appearing wise to people who don’t know much and look up to people who can write in a clever, articulate fashion. He is an entertainer, not an intellect, a rabble rouser–indeed thats what these media pundits all are–they are modern day sophists feeding on the ignorance of the rabble.
    As for the man whose video was uploaded, does he say anything that a serious student of history or philosophy does not know? Most of what he says is common sense, and most of it is just rehashed logicial positivism with a critique of religion (the same Hitchens kind, which is basically inverted Abrahamism)–thats the best these Abrahamics can do–not knowing of anything other than dogmatic religions they become atheists, scientific materialists or logical positivists. That religion need not conflict with science, is something these people do not understand. Why do Hindus need to listen to such nonsense? Their religion does not conflict with science, neither does Buddhism or the other dharmic religions or the outlook of pagan Europe before it became overrun by the Abrahamic dogma incarnated in Christianity…
    That these people are considered wise just says a lot about the pathetic intellectual life in India…
    When will Indians start to think for themselves again?

  • http://the-redpill.blogspot.com vakibs

    Larissa…. good point.. The debate between theism / atheism is getting too empty. There is hardly anything to discuss. The debate doesn’t capture even 1/5th of the philosophical richness that is present in the ancient Indian tradition. Let’s look at the 9 streams of ancient Indian philosophy : (a1) samkhya, (a2) yoga, (b1) nyaya, (b2) vaiseshika, (c1) purva mimamsa, (c2) vedanta, (d) buddhism, (e) jainism, (f) lokayata or materialism of Charvaka.

    The darshanas (philosophical paths) are paired in a very interesting manner. (a1) Samkhya is the mother of all the streams and made the most indelible impact on Indian culture. It gave rise to the myriad devas, which are not objects of worship, but which have a prescribed psychological and philosophical meaning. It is basically a naturalist / causal philosophy that is as atheistic as it gets. Now such a thing is weirdly coupled with (a2) yoga, a very theistic philosophy that tries to achieve communion with God. Only when one understands both, can one achieve enlightenment.

    Similarly we have the logical school (b1) nyaya which systematically tries to derive the laws about the functions of nature. Indeed, it postulates the monotheistic God, according to the primal cause hypothesis and dissolves all the devas within it. But as a true logical philosophy, it is ambivalent about this hypothesis, agnostic but tilting to the positive side. It is eminently paired with (b2) vaiseshika stream which understands matter in terms of atomic principles. It doesn’t postulate God, but adopts a scientific approach to understanding the universe. Thus the mathematical and scientific approaches are blended into one, and understanding both of them is deemed required for reaching enlightenment.

    The ritualistic school of (c1) mimamsa ignores complex theistic questions on the relation between self and God. It advocates orthopraxy, and blind following of Vedic ritual. At its heart, it is atheistic. It is paired with (c2) uttara mimamsa or vedanta which draws from the Upanishads and provides extremely refined philosophical commentary on self. One should understand both of them to be enlightened.

    Then we have philosophical streams that completely violate the existence of self : Buddhism, Jainism and Charvaka materialism. They all make very complex philosophical points and dispute with each other. Buddhism, itself has evolved into very different philosophical doctrines outside India (some of which mirror exactly the earlier 6 astik streams of India).

    This is the kind of philosophical debate that used to happen in India. Now we are reduced to listening to cheap hacks like Harris and Hitchens, who speak of nothing new. If there is anything that they offer to the world, it is their blind intolerance and rabble-rousing. Doesn’t the modern world have enough of that already ?

  • larissa

    This is the kind of philosophical debate that used to happen in India. Now we are reduced to listening to cheap hacks like Harris and Hitchens, who speak of nothing new. If there is anything that they offer to the world, it is their blind intolerance and rabble-rousing. Doesn’t the modern world have enough of that already ?

    Could not agree more. In times like these, weeds like Hitchens and Harris flourish. Hitchens is just an entertainer at the most. One is reminded of similar times in ancient Greece–opinions had become so many and relativistic that sophists who made falsehoods appear as true and the weaker argument stronger, began to get rich until a Plato was born who was able to cut through the sophistry and trickery with the sword of wisdom.
    Who is going to do that in times like this?

  • http://pravinpillai.wordpress.com Pravin

    “That religion need not conflict with science, is something these people do not understand. Why do Hindus need to listen to such nonsense? Their religion does not conflict with science, neither does Buddhism or the other dharmic religions or the outlook of pagan Europe before it became overrun by the Abrahamic dogma incarnated in Christianity…”

    That’s a pretty big statement. I think you miss the point where Harris and Hitchens point to dogma as the common enemy, of which religion is a prime example. As for Hinduism not conflicting with science, that’s a matter of opinion. The problem with Hinduism is that its an ambiguous entity, stretching from strict Vedic interpretation, to the Carvaka philosophy of strict materialism, so just when you put your finger on something astoundingly stupid, someone pops out and says that some other text says something radically different. I don’t know what Hindu texts you’ve read, but the ones I have consisted of some pretty complex philosophical propositions along with a liberal dose of incest, bestiality, adultery and plain old fucking. Guess what? All religious texts are essentially the same formula, with different ratios of all of these. It doesn’t make the Hindu texts as god awful as the Abrahamic ones, but somehow taking the moral high ground is just plain stupid. Try reading the Manu Smriti or parts of the Bhagvad Gita. It’ll make you squirm.

    Harris and Hitchens are part of a growing trend about fighting back the spread of religion in the West. They tend to concentrate on the Abrahamic ones since those are the ones that concern the West most. Harris in particular spent many years in India and Nepal and has written quite frequently of the moral superiority of Jainism and Buddhism over the Abrahamic religions, but that there was some pretty stupid stuff in them too. Where is there such dialog in India? Apparently since you think Hinduism and science march along in step together we should seriously consider the universe being created by Brahma or that there is a cosmic ocean where a boar carried Earth a few million years back and some other associated nonsense. No thanks.

  • larissa

    The way you analyze Hinduism is absurd. Your logic seems to be that there are some strange mythologies and some strange rituals fossilized in the past in Hinduism so all of Hinduism is on par with the Abrahamic religions!! Well Hinduism makes sense as it recognizes that not everyone made for sophisticated thinking–only in our democratic times do we think so, as we have been brainwashed. This is not to deny that people can think in a sophisticated fashion when they have the right upbringing and education. That is why there are several paths to god depending intellectual calibre in Hinduism: Hinduism recognizes that the common man’s understanding is very different from the abstract philosopher’s. Its not a democratic religion at all–just as Buddha was not the egalitarian, do-good-peace- loving-humanitarian as he is made out to be by cults like the Dalai Lama’s. I mean not democratic in the sense that Hinduism recognizes differences in human calibre and how people pursue the truth. Indeed buddhism today is known for everythig it originally was not (Coomaraswamy). I doubt that Harris understands this. Moreover his talk of the Greeks in the video was naive in the extreme–he does not seem to understand their civilization, and understandably so, as you need to understand an entire civilization to undertand them (not just bits and pieces), which means studying it in depth.
    Hinduism cannot be compared to the Abrahamic religions because it is not founded on a single book of revealed truths–it is the product of an entire civilization. So its absurd to criticize Hinduism because some people perform rituals they don’t understand or you have read some mythologies that strike you as irrational.
    For Abrahamics its different. Their religion is based on faith and miracles not on self-realization or self-knowledge. Herein is the big difference.
    If anything, Hinduism is comparable to the outlook of the Greeks before their civilization came under the influence of a foreign religion.
    Hinduism is not dogma, it does not have a single book of revealed truths. It contains a lot of mythology but that does not make it stupid. Julius Caesar was an atheist but he functioned as the priest of Jupiter. He saw no contradiction in this. This is typically Greek. Just as for the Hindus, smart Greeks read philosophy and others other worshipped their gods and goddesses. Temple was more a social affair and did not mean you had to take the stories found in mythology literally.
    But the Abrahamic religions are based on faith and miracles. It involves a suspension of the rational and a belief in miracles. If you don’t believe in Christ you are not Christian. So I can’t see how you place the two religious outlooks at the same level. Just because Hinduism allows for different levels of understanding does not mean that anything goes in HInduism. This simply shows you have not studied in depth that which you place on par with Abrahamism with your assertion amounting to “all religions are the same.” They are not the same as they issue from fundamentally disparate civilizational outlooks.
    Hindus have stopped being creative in a civilizational sense these days, so they have begun to view their own religion from the Abrahamic lens. Just as they need foreigners to tell them their own history. Why must Harris be an authority on religion in general when what he speaks of is valid for just the religious outlook which he was exposed to and raised in?
    He is a mediocre intellect. You found him profound. Well thats your level of understanding perhaps?

  • Sriram

    I second larissa:I see that there is Avant-Guarde in any human society and dharmic religions permit that, which gives scope for an evolving society as per needs of the day and days to come. Abrahammic religions, with all the tenets to the last detail, will have little or no room for evolution.

    Having said that, still we see a good number (understatement) of evolution happening the very abrahamic societies. So, shall we say, opportunity in adversity? I think no matter if a religion has *provision* and/or scope for such boundary people, they do exist at all times. Strangely, with all our *dharmic* ambience, we are seeing fewer of them in recent times than from the west.

    One can always ask: Why evolution if we are already in heaven? Boundary people think there are better heavens :-) Who is correct? Who is John Gault? :-)
    -Sriram

  • http://pravinpillai.wordpress.com Pravin

    Larissa,

    What I have a major gripe with is your propensity to put words in my mouth and then attack them as if I have said them. In fact I second everything you say up till your last paragraph where the ad hominem attacks fly thick.

    Did I say that all religions are equal? I clearly state earlier that the Hindu texts are nowhere near as god-awful as the Abrahamic ones. You would do well to read a paragraph before you start chomping at the bit to negate it. It pretty much makes all that you say after that irrelevant because its clearly intended to say what you want, not to critique me.

    Now since you mention how illiterate I am because of charges I have clearly not made, I would like to reiterate my original point. Hinduism is pretty stupid. Not as much other Western religions, but pretty stupid. There are some pretty profound philosophical truths in the Hindu texts, as well as some really really crazy shit. There have also been significant corollaries or extensions to these, via factions or sects. This is unique to Hinduism and by far one of its better qualities. I happen to associate most to the Carvaka branch of atheism/materialism and so tend to think of worship-oriented sects and practices as stupid.

    Hinduism, at the end of the day, is a religion. It has some really stupid stories in it, and also some finely thought out philosophical discussions. If I choose to deliberate on the validity of these treatises and hypotheses, but reject everything else (idol worship, caste hierarchy, temples, priests, prayers, sacrifices, yagnas etc.) as colossal imbecility, I expect to be at least debated, not made the subject of ad hominem, poorly thought out pieces of white noise babble.

    Are the things listed above in brackets part of the religion? Yes. Are they, in your opinion, not to be mocked? If not, then you have no consistency in attacking the Abrahamic religions.

    PS – I think of Harris and Hitchens as entertainers who entertain me more than other people. They’re also pretty smart. I’m unaware that I implied that they were akin to the second coming of Confucius or Socrates, but then again don’t let a small thing like me not saying it stop you.

  • Surya

    Hi Praveen,
    You wrote: “Are the things listed above in brackets part of the religion? Yes. Are they, in your opinion, not to be mocked? If not, then you have no consistency in attacking the Abrahamic religions”. Unquote.There are some points in your post that enthused me. Those who want to be crirical of hinduism are most welcome and hindus have made enough provisions for debate all along.There is no single man god who has had revelation of hinduism. The faith was researched an cdocrines have been compiled in sanskrit over millennia. So pragmatism has very short shelf life if you will. Lets consider an example here, they kept both dual and nondual (dvaita and advaita) doctrines alive from time immemorial. The very fact that no hindu scripture banished one in favor of the other holds testimony to my argument. I for one strongly advice all humanity to understand and promote the advaita doctrine as a base for any self enquiry. Please google the word for some articles by scholars; to understand non dualism a certain imagination and intellect is mandatory. The hindus don’t believe that a god is sitting in the idol (of a deity) and when some devotee taps 3 times the god will pop out (fun intended). The idol made of stone or wood is an idol and an object of focus for Mediatation (prayer).
    If you explore and get a real sense of abrahamic faiths, you will understand the main 2 are also classified as proselytizing faiths as opposed to hinduism which is clearly a non proselytizing religion. The most anti interfaith act ever unleashed on planet is proselytizm. Do you know the most stellar all time interfaith dialogue was stated in RigVeda? Heard ever of-“one god (creator) and many paths (faiths)”? The abrahamic faiths, I may sound intolerant here but you must hear me out first, state that in order to go to ‘their’ heaven, one must first ‘officially’ change ones faith in a church or a mosque. One must also accept their own respective prophet as ones prophet. Ironically, the muslims have built a heaven of their own and the christians one for themselves, one cannot enter the other. The rest of the humanity will go to hell as a rule (if they don’t convert). None of that is necessary for anyone who wants to follow the path laid out for hindus: Follow a path of dharma (duty) and accumulate karma (cause and effect), then aspire for merger with creator (moksha or nirvana), thus ending the cycle of rebirths. Have you seen a church without a cross or Jesus nailed on a cross or mary, not being in there? Those are their idols. A muslim will kill you if you call Mohammad any bad names, he is their god. A balck stone is their idol. For hindus, the idols are not god the creator, they have ‘brahma’ as their creator. Clearly the scriptures stated that brahma is formless (physical) and genderless. The vedas also stated that the creation is infinite with no beginning or end, both in time and space. Now you know they have given an infinite wisdom for me and you to explore and cherish on. Keep coming. Cheers.Surya,Chicago

  • Surya

    hoopyfrood, thanks for the ABC weblink.Chopra was clearly extrpolating the non-dualism or advaita philosophy in his arguments and yes he did not mention it by name. Chopra was using a medium of modern metaphysics and the all new vocabulary that goes with it. Essentially his core message is a replication of advaita Vedanta. It took sometime for me to understand what the heck the sanskrit scholars were talking about with their millennia old nondualism, believe me. Hope Sam Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens will explore that vedic doctrine before they continue with their traditional anti religious rhetoric in future. Otherwise they will sadly remain as ignorant as Wendy Donigar , the “sanskrit scholar” from Chicago, is. Science can not define value of infinite, because it is science and lacks the tools to do so. Vedas stated that the creation is infinite, millennia ago. Cheers.

  • http://pravinpillai.wordpress.com Pravin

    Surya,

    At least your tone is not a shrill as Larissa’s but I can’t accept the merit of what you are saying.

    “Those who want to be crirical of hinduism are most welcome and hindus have made enough provisions for debate all along.”

    – This is a strange thing to say. Everything that is postulated is open to debate and inquiry. As is Hinduism. As is Islam, Judaism, etc. Just because you say Hindus have allowed something that should have naturally been allowed is not a big thing. Islam is an inferior philosophy exactly because this is explicitly disallowed in its texts.

    Anyway, I’m not sure if you noticed that I mentioned that I associate most with the Carvaka ideology of strict materialism. I can appreciate the philosophical complexity of advaita (advaitism?) but its still gobbledygook to me. There is a undue stress on omnipotence and infinity. You do realise that hucksters like Deepak Chopra and Ravi Shanker spout this same garbage over and over again but with less elegance, than sat, Adi Sankara?

    There is no infinite wisdom in the Vedas that will somehow save humanity from itself. There are undeniably some complex philosophical treatises that obviously took a great deal of intelligence, but there is no need to romanticize them.

    Yes, proselytizing is bad, but so is exclusivity and an undue pride in being born a certain way, which is true of Hinduism. The two don’t negate each other, but its a fact that must be acknowledged. That said, Hinduism naturally allows for the presence of other religions, which is one of its better parts.

    Now I come to the most ridiculous part of your stance. If you actually believe in this unsubstantiated nonsense about “karma” and “rebirth” and “moksha” you’ll have to do a better job convincing me than just parroting it. Try telling an 8 year old rape victim that its all part of “karma” and she’ll get a better deal (or not) in her next birth. Or take another route and tell her that she deserved it for her past accumulations in the “karmic cycle” or whatever you people call it these days. Its as evil a conception as heaven and hell. Its a luxury only the complacent and rarely troubled can afford without feeling their conscience prick them. I’m not one of them, thankfully.

    I won’t even get to the part where you clearly show how far removed from reality you are. No, a Muslim will NOT kill you if you insult Mohammad. A crazy fundamentalist who takes the Koran literally will. You do realise that you are a bigot, don’t you? Calling the Koran a ridiculous and badly written book is one thing. Calling a generic Muslim someone who will kill you for saying anything about Islam is a stereotype that I will in no way reinforce. I have a rommmate who’s a pretty devout Muslim. He would undoubtedly get pretty upset if I insulted the Prophet Mohammed in any way. But he wouldn’t kill me. Even though the Koran says is. I know this for a fact. Do you know why? Because he’s not batshit crazy. Just credulous for being religious.

    Also, since you think Hindus don’t really think that the idol is god but merely a conduit, why not take a hammer to the nearest temple and break up the deity and stomp on it and see how pleased the populace is with you for breaking up a “mere” conduit. Hopefully you won’t find any crazies there who think you’re a Muslim.

  • larissa

    Praveen,

    Let me respond to your statements one by one, as you say I am putting words in your mouth.
    “Hinduism, at the end of the day, is a religion. It has some really stupid stories in it, and also some finely thought out philosophical discussions.”

    Oh yeah? What are the stupid stories pray? I find them rather illuminating if you ponder their meanings within the context. Far more inspiring and revealing of human nature than the Abrahamic stories built on fear of an external jealous god of the old testament! Moreover, the Hindu mythology shows a culture that is not “repressed” as you feel when reading Abrahamic myths. The same sense of being able to “breathe” is felt upon reading Greek myths. This is because you are confronting a different civilizational ethos, not mythologies of oppressed people living under the Egyptians.

    “Try reading… parts of the Bhagvad Gita. It’ll make you squirm. ”
    You say that the Gita contains come unpleasant things? Like what? That it is just to fight for noble cause and one can fight without hating the enemy? I don’t believe I have ever squirmed reading the Gita! But perhaps men who are no longer men squirm when they read such things!

    “Apparently since you think Hinduism and science march along in step together we should seriously consider the universe being created by Brahma or that there is a cosmic ocean where a boar carried Earth a few million years back and some other associated nonsense. No thanks.”
    and more ”
    ” I don’t know what Hindu texts you’ve read, but the ones I have..”

    I think you are the one that does not seem to have read much in Hinduism. You talk about philosophy, but then you quote some creation mythology. It is like taking a painting and saying “This is not scientific!” and the world that it is trying to depict is nonsense.
    First of all, Hinduism does not conflict with science because it respects different grades of understanding. It does not try to impose an external god on everyone built on fear, guilt, and miracles. As for the mythology you mentioned, of course it is not science, but just a creation myth. As for “science” not even the pre-socratics can be said to be “scientists” in the modern sense, but you are not going to dismiss a Pythagoras as he believed in all kinds of things like transmigration of the soul? You should perhaps think of what constitutes “science” and its limitations. The difference between Hindus and Abrahamics is that Hindus do not “require” everyone to believe in the myths and miracles as Abrahamics do. Apart from what appeals to the lay people such as poetry and mythology, there is space for other esoteric doctrines such as various philosophical schools of abstract reasoning for the intellectually inclined.
    I am going to let Alberuni illuminate you about Hinduism. He was a Muslim who lived a thousand years ago and he seems to have somewhat a better understanding of Hinduism than you do, even as a Muslim. Alberuni writes:
    “The educated among the Hindus abhor anthropomorphisms of this kind, but the crowd and the members of the single sects use them most extensively.”
    So you can’t form an opinion of Hinduism by using some beliefs found in a plural culture. Even Alberuni seems to have understood the fact that Hinduism allows for something more than the beliefs of lay people. The difference with the Abrahamic point of view is that their religions do not–as they are based on a single book built on a single faith.
    “Did I say that all religions are equal?”
    Well then what does the following mean? If you do not wish people to misunderstand you then you must express yourself clearly. You wrote:
    ” All religious texts are essentially the same formula, with different ratios of all of these. It doesn’t make the Hindu texts All religious texts are essentially the same formula, with different ratios of all of these….”

    ” I think you miss the point where Harris and Hitchens point to dogma as the common enemy, of which religion is a prime example. As for Hinduism not conflicting with science, that’s a matter of opinion.”
    I don’t miss anything. Hinduism is not a dogma and can hadly be called a religion in the Abrahamic sense, a dogma refers to beliefs imposed upon others. Hindus do not impose their beliefs on others. So I fail to see the “common enemy” in their case. . Hinduism does not have a single book or text. It is not a dogma. Yes Hindus might have some rituals and customs that are anachronistic in modern times, but they are by no means “dogmatic” because of this. Being dogmatic means forcing everyone to think the way you do.

    Hinduism has never conflicted with philosophical, abstract reasoning. Hindus realize that not everyone is capable of this and leave it to those who are capable and interested. The problem is that because it does not impose one way of thinking, many charlatans get away with fooling lay people. Hinduism has been a growing and not a static religion in the course of its history, as it represents a civilization ethos of a peoples. So without a doubt it can grow and reform without a change of the fundamental overall framework . I doubt this is the same for the Abrahamic religions.
    ” It doesn’t make the Hindu texts as god awful as the Abrahamic ones, but somehow taking the moral high ground is just plain stupid as god awful as the Abrahamic ones, but somehow taking the moral high ground is just plain stupid.”
    I don’t think you realize that HInduism does not claim the moral high ground, only religions that impose their beliefs on other do so. Otherwise if you did not think your religion superior, why the need to impose it through conversions?
    Hinduism does not end with mythology, there is the possibility of understanding at a highly abstract sophisticated level for those who wish to do so without being in conflict with the overall framework of the religion . But the Arbahamic religions end in faith, miracles. Understand?
    “that its an ambiguous entity, stretching from strict Vedic interpretation, to the Carvaka philosophy of strict materialism, so just when you put your finger on something astoundingly stupid,…”
    It is not an ambiguous entity. I don’t see how pluralism in thinking amounts to ambiguity. This simply recognizes that not all people are on the same level of thinking so its best not to force your thinking on those who don’t “get” it. Perhaps its difficult for those used to the Abrahamic one book, one way (for everyone!), to deal with pluralism in thought(which by the way is different from the multicultural sameness imposed today by modern day democracy, or relativism which says anything goes)!!
    “Harris and Hitchens are part of a growing trend about fighting back the spread of religion in the West.”
    Hitcens and Harris are part of a growing trend of those who make a buck by feeding on the stupidity of the crowd–its annoying being lectured to by such Abrahamics. I believe they ultimately do more harm than good in a highly, subtle, subversive way. Any intelligent Hindu would be put off, annoyed, and bored by such lectures….

  • Surya

    Praveen,
    you wrote – I can appreciate the philosophical complexity of advaita (advaitism?) but its still gobbledygook to me.–Thank you. So long as hindus/ others dont understand the concept of nondualism, they will be going round and and round in dizzying circles reminiscing the myth/ miracle/superstition that is thrown at them. As Larissa has made clear the mythology is a compelling story for a casual onlooker, whilst the underlying take home message is sunningly enlightening to a seeker of wisdom. Examples are plenty. Mahabharat says dont gamble, Ramayana says dont steal other mans wife. Krishna said fight evil when evil persecutes goodmen. Gita talks about duty, meditation and rebirth. The rebirth was meant for people who have lost precious time in pursuit of material pleasures. The later will never make a man content.
    Whilst watching a 2 hr documenntary on PBS channel (u can probably watch it on PBS.org) 2 days ago, i was attracted to one statement made by the presenter. Buddha did not comment on cosmos and origin of creation. Wow. What a statement, i thought. Hindus were not spoonfeeding humanity with myth, instead they used myth as a medium to underscore the tantallizing concepts on the eternally ongoing debate. The same debates of present day. Nature of creation and human existence. Nondualism (google the word) is the only non controversial explanation that satisfies all peoples out there. When the astrophysict started quizzing Chopra on the interesting ABC debate (see one blogger above provided the weblink) that took place in Caltech, CA, Chopra had asked the Physisist- ‘do you use infinite, in your science?’ Surprised, the Physicist replied,”yes”. Chopra said,”thank you” and ended the argument.
    Praveen, the value of infinite is impossible to measure. The ‘infinite’ thus simply exposes fatal weaknesses of science.(dont get me wrong, i love science, and i have adequate university degrees to prove my passion for it). About muslims the less said the better. I lived in Iran and our neighbors in India (before that) were muslims.
    I know how exactly conversions are happening there.Interested to learn about islam, then please google, ayan hirsi ali, wafa sultan, faithfreedom.org, these are/were all muslims just to let you know. Hitchens and Harris have a constructive role to play, Iam all game with that. They have to dispell the myths and heinous practices that are plaguing contemporary religions. They have a right to condemn the jihad, crusade, Inquisition (eg Goa inquisition), holocaust, casteism etc. As these atheists have acknowledged themselves they are riding on the giant shoulders of the carvaka ilk. Read if u can lay your hands on a small book candide written by french atheist voltaire who had vivdly described 18th century abrahamic religions. Carvaka had not offered any explanation to an inquiring hindu, about the reality of it all out there. Advaita does offer though.Explore an ongoing blog on Newsweek, some bloggers (caveman, vedas for all) have commented on nondualism/ consciousness.
    you wrote-Yes, proselytizing is bad, but so is exclusivity and an undue pride in being born a certain way, which is true of Hinduism- Sorry, no you are wrong, google the following-Himalayanacademy.com, David Frawley (American Institute of Vedic Studies), Frank Morales (dharmacentral.com) for example. These are all white americans who have converted to hinduism and are monks. The monastery in Hawaii is run by all whites founded over 60 yrs ago. The senior monk was INVITED as a hindu representative to the Parliament of world religions conf. organized in Melbourne, Australia in Dec, 2009. Iam more proud of these converted hindus than any hindu I ever met all my life. Hinduism never was meant to be exclusive to one born into it, just as the so called caste.Hinduism is the most misinformd faiths in the world.These converted hindus are more intelligent than most (born) hindus who (the latter) simply fail to taste the nectar of vedas and upanishads.Cheers.

  • Surya

    Pravin
    this is the weblink I mentioned above, look for cavemans comments
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/235462/output/comments

  • http://themmindset.wordpress.com/ The Mindset

    Terrorists don’t have a religion

    Really funny, what about all those killing and Beheadings done while shouting Allah-o-Akbar (Allah is the greatest)

    These are the people who have filled the young minds with the dung of pseudo-secularism

  • http://themmindset.wordpress.com/ The Mindset
  • http://themmindset.wordpress.com/ The Mindset
  • Anonymous

    I have utmost respects for people like Hitchens who publicly criticizes Islam because they know fully well they endanger themselves as a lightning rod to Islamic violence. That alone takes enormous moral courage regardless of what they actually have to say. IMO non-Muslims who are sympathetic to Islam to despite all the enormous amount of irrefutable evidence are either uninformed at best or are complicit at worst. For those of you out there who still think Muslims on the whole aren’t dangerous, I give you the greatest quote from ML King Jr.:

    “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

    Where is the sea of Muslim voices speaking against the barbaric excesses of their own religion if they are indeed honorable and peace-loving people? All we hear is a faint silence and it only serves to prove they aren’t.

    Thanks again Atanu for hosting and adding this site to the many others in the voice of rationality and reason.