Atanu Dey On India's Development

Where to be Born — Follow up

| 28 Comments

In a previous post, “Where to be Born,” I had written “There’s something toxic about the Indian subcontinent. (Hint: it has something to do with a desert religion.)” Addressing that point, Vickram commented

Hint: There are several countries of primarily desert religion that are much above India.

Question: Could it be that your own religion is the culprit?

Modified Hint: Your own religion preaches subhuman treatment to a very vast section of the population bringing down average quality of life for all.

Certainly there are several countries much above India in the list of preferred places to be born — including “desert religion” countries. By itself that does not imply anything about that religion because there are multiple causal factors that determine the fortunes of a country. My point was that everything else being equal, the presence of the desert religion in the mix does not improve matters but rather it makes it worse.

The empirical evidence is incontrovertible. Across space and time, wherever that desert religion has had its baleful influence, there’s been lack of prosperity. Places which were peaceful before, once the desert religion got its stranglehold, descended into barbarity and chaos. The reason for this can be summed up in one word: freedom. That desert religion imprisons people.

First it mandates the forcible conversion of people into it. The punishment for leaving the religion is death. Second, it divides all of humanity into believers and non-believers, and forces the two groups into eternal conflict. Third, it suppresses all dissent and makes people into automatons.

All this is not conducive to any kind of human or economic development. The Indian subcontinent is a study in the destruction that the ideology achieves. The people of the region are of course backward in general but the degree of backwardness of specific groups and sub-regions is positively correlated with the degree of influence of that ideology.

Practically all the on-going conflicts in the world involve adherents of that desert religion. That is not surprising: as mentioned before, the religion mandates its faithful to wage ceaseless war against others. Huntington had observed that that religion’s borders are bloody. He went further and said that its innards are also bloody. The two major sects of that religion slaughter each other with gusto as a distraction from the routine killing of non-believers.

People who were once peaceful turn murderously violent once that desert religion takes hold. Afghanistan used to be home to a peaceful people just a few centuries ago. Its tranquility and peace were shattered when it gave up its old religion and adopted the desert religion. Its people suffer immensely.

In modern times, Iran used to be a fairly good place. Then the great revolution happened and the ideology took over. Iranians suffer needlessly.

People in Western Europe are beginning to suffer. And more is on the way.

India was entirely free of that ideology. Then it arrived in the Indian subcontinent. Two of India’s present day neighbors are countries which have as their foundation that desert religion. Both are worse off than India. They wage war on India for no other reason than that a large segment of Indians are non-believers of their insane ideology.

That ideology defines the culture of the people who identify with it. Culture strongly determines peoples’ fortunes. The results of an interesting natural experiment are conclusive. People from the Indian subcontinent have migrated to different parts of the world. Those migrants of the native Indian culture do phenomenally well relative to those migrants with the desert religion culture. Look up the statistics. In the UK, just to cite one example, South Asians immigrants from that desert religion are at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, while those from cultures not from that desert religion are at the top.

In India, the followers of the desert religion are more backward relative to others. They are poorer, less educated, less socially cohesive, less at peace with their neighbors. Of course, it is possible that they are systematically discriminated against since they are a minority. But people in those to aforementioned neighboring countries are not a minority — what accounts for their obvious backwardness?

Followers of that desert religion take immense pride in pointing out that they ruled the Indian subcontinent for centuries. Well, if that speaks to the superiority of that ideology, then how would one explain that even after lording it over their supposed inferiors for centuries they end up at the bottom of the heap?

It may not be politically correct to point this out but it is time that we examined dispassionately the proposition that the desert ideology has something rotten in it that it impoverishes people. But then it is not a matter that will engage the attention of the leftists, the jholawalas and the mombatti-walas. All they are good at is making bald assertions about how wonderful that ideology is and that’s that.

One of the favorite deflectionary tactic of the jholawalas is to hide behind the tu quoque logical fallacy. Faced with undeniable evidence that that desert religion is destructive, they may respond, “But Christianity and Judaism are equally bad.” I have seen this gambit from quite a few Westerners. (Not all jholawalas are necessarily Indian.)

There are two objections to this kind of nonsense. First, those ideologies are cats of the same breed. All the three major monotheistic ideologies are bad. The late Gore Vidal put it best. “The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism.” Let Vidal speak —

The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved–Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal–God is the omnipotent father–hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not for just one tribe but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good.

Go read Vidal’s lecture “(The Great Unmentionable) Monotheism and its Discontents,” which he delivered in Harvard University in April 1992.

The second objection to the jholawalas nonsensical tu quoque argument is that while monotheism as an ideology is evil, not all followers of the evil three behave equally badly. The oldest has the fewest followers (a few million in total) and they are quite happy with their ideology and don’t believe that everyone has to believe in their theology. They don’t proselytize, unlike the other two.

The second monotheism in the triad has the largest number of followers in the world. The ideology states that those who don’t believe in the nonsense are condemned for eternity in hell. It prescribes to its followers that they should go and convert the non-believers, and many indeed do. But the followers of this monotheism have matured a bit in the recent past and they are not as murderous as they used to be.

Indeed the followers of the first two have become sufficiently mature that criticizing the ideology does not make them go off into a murderous rage. The third desert ideology is vicious, vengeful and cannot tolerate criticism. To that extent, it is the most uncertain of the truth of its proposition.

But the third desert ideology is the most vicious of all ideologies so far invented by humans. It commands its faithful to kill those who refuse to convert, as previously noted. It kills its own children who want to leave the faith. And all the time it proclaims that it is the most best perfect unique unalterable grand shining magnificent perfect superb best perfect grand profound perfect . . .

Enough to make a body scream enough already.

As Hitchens used to say, it makes some rather tall claims for itself — claims to supremacy and to perfection. Of course, if it were all that wonderful, how come it has to keep its people imprisoned and kill those who wish to leave? Have you heard of any club which they claim is so wonderful that everyone must join but if they try to leave they are beheaded?

Anyway, Indian jholawalas trot out the “you are a Hindutva fanatic” and “Hinduism is equally bad” the moment they hear any criticism of the desert religion.

I am happy to state that I am a Hindu. I am a Hindu because of accident of birth — my parents were Hindu. I am also a Hindu by default — as I am not a Christian, Jew or Muslim. More broadly, I am a follower of what is called the “dharmic” traditions — those that arose in India — which includes Jainism and Buddhism.

The dharmic traditions do not make claims to supremacy. They do not imprison their people. People are free to leave, if they so desire. They are not immutable. They are not revealed, and therefore their truths can be discovered through reason. What does not accord with reason can be rejected and there is no penalty.

I am a Hindu but I am also an atheist. I don’t believe in anything that does not make sense to me. I don’t believe in the supernatural. I don’t care what you believe in or don’t believe in.

I don’t judge people for what their beliefs are. I judge ideologies for what they are. I judge people based on how they behave. I think Wafa Sultan, an apostate from the desert religion, put is very nicely: “Brother, I don’t care what you believe in. You can believe in a stone as long as you don’t throw it at me.”

I am a Hindu but I don’t believe that Hinduism is perfect. Neither do I believe that Hindus are infallible. I take what I want from whatever ideology that is (according to me) reasonable and sensible. I am a free person. This is quite contrary to what that desert religion would have people behave.

So now to the final point in Vickram’s comment. Is India’s backwardness due to Hinduism?

India is backward and its culture has something to do with it. As religion has a major role in defining culture, and since India is predominantly Hindu, I would say that Hinduism has something in it that makes it hard for India to prosper.

Vickram no doubt pointed to Hinduism to deflect blame from the desert religion. Heaven forbid that anyone ever point a finger at that most holiest of ideologies. Tauba, tauba. Hai main marjava.

Or perhaps his point was that all religions are equally bad. Which of course is one of the more asinine points made by jholawalas. (I don’t know Vickram and therefore cannot know for sure that he’s a jholawala.)

The asininity of “all religions are equally bad” brings to mind Isaac Asimov’s point that right and wrong are relative concepts and are not absolutes. Here’s what he wrote in an essay “The Relativity of Wrong” in the Skeptical Inquirer (Fall, 1989). The context: someone had written to him pointing out many people had been shown to be wrong in the past and therefore all scientific understanding of the world is likely to be wrong.

My answer to him was, “John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that “right” and “wrong” are absolute; that everything that isn’t perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong.

However, I don’t think that’s so. It seems to me that right and wrong are fuzzy concepts, and I will devote this essay to an explanation of why I think so.

That is where the tu quoque argument falls. Not all religions are equally bad. There are degrees of “badness” of religions, you can say. Some are indeed worse than others. My point is that that desert religion is the worst of the lot.

  • THE MINDSET

    WHO IS “JHOLAWALA” EXACTLY?

    SORRY if the question seems stupid but I don’t get it. It’s better to ask than to remain ignorant.:)

    • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

      The Mindset:

      Go read “The Jholawala Syndrome” for details on what a jholawala is.

      Atanu

  • Dinipc

    Superb articulation makes this piece such a fine read. Love your way of making things so simply logical!

  • Loknath

    Hi Atanu,

    I wish some Jholawala reads the the Jholawala post and takes to streets to abuse the Fakeer and you :-)

    Awesome post

    Thanks

  • krishnarao

    By the way who’s this Vick ram whose stupidity is apparent from the comments?. He does not deserve any explanation , but the explanation is simple, erudite.and useful for every one except desert fanatics from whose minds reason evaporated due to the heat of hate.

  • Karishma

    I agree with this article – mostly, because I do believe in the supernatural. However, my point is a different one.

    What I cannot fathom is why Hindus (this Vickram seems to be one; I may be wrong, of course) feel the need to take up cudgels in defense of the desert religion. We Hindus seem to be compelled into defending the afore-mentioned religion.

    I wish I understood this, because it infuriates me. Thoughts?

  • https://thewarriorforjustice.wordpress.com/ Warrior For Justice

    India will be rapidly going further with the proposals being put forth by Govt. in collaboration with Women’s group. It is a knee jerk reaction.

    GOVT, WOMEN’S GROUPS PROPOSALS ON NEW RAPE AMENDMENTS:

    (Present punishment for rape is minimum 7 years and maximum life sentence and in rarest of cases death penalty)

    1. Punishment for rape accused should be hanging till death, presently the death penalty stands only for rape and murder

    2. Chemical castration for accused

    3. Accused must prove that he has not committed the rape, the victim does not need to give any proof or even a medical test. The victim only has to claim that she has been raped and whoever she named will be arrested immediately and not get bail till the case is over, irrespective of how long it goes on

    4. As soon as the victim files the case, regardless of whether it is true or false, she will get a minimum of Rs 2 lakh with a first installment of Rs 50,000 available immediately

    5. A rape victim will get a government job

    6. In a marital dispute, the wife can file a rape charge on her husband along with Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and the husband will have no defence.

    7. There should be no punishment for women making false rape or gang rape charges.

    Do not believe. Of course you will not! I was like you before hit by 498A. So, here is one link for Times of India:

    http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=UE1JUi8yMDEzLzAxLzA3I0FyMDAyMDA%3D

    Good scheme will be spawn now. Let MEN go more hysteric on these cases and let us see how many more laws can be put forward till it hits everyone.

    In India, as Atanu you have aptly put – “Indian voters deserve the police heel on its neck & the lathi on its back good & hard” – especially the Indian men now!

  • DJ

    Tauba, tauba. Hai main marjava.

    My imagination capabilities have gone for a toss as I can’t quite picture a Bong in California saying these words. :P

    • Atanu_Dey

      :)

  • DJ

    Karishma,

    Its called pseudo-secularism. They think they have to show as Hindus that they are tolerant, as Hindus are known to be. What they don’t understand is that being tolerant does not mean being tolerant to everything, especially that which is wrong, evil and stupid. Its the same trap that liberals in the West fall into. Giving freedom rights to religions and cults while not realizing that they are inherently not free and hence will undermine society.

  • DJ

    Warrior for Justice,

    This is the problem in India, and with Kejriwal’s approach. Activism does not lead to good laws because of intellectual gaps in our middle class, not to speak of the political class.

    The recommendations you have listed, if true, are appalling.

    According to a female lawyer, one third of rape cases in India are filed by parents of daughters who eloped by their own choice. Just imagine, one-third of the accused will be presumed guilty. And, surely these numbers will ramp up, if these silly recommendations are accepted. If a rape victim is going to get a govt job, then all of rural India will line up on day one. It will be quite funny.

    Please see this article on why policy making has to be carefully done and not on a knee-jerk basis based on activism:

    http://ajayshahblog.blogspot.in/2013/01/activism-and-wonkery-are-yin-and-yang.html

  • DJ

    Warrior for Justice,

    Its wrong to blame men and male protestors for this though. Its the fault of the policy makers. But, yes, men (and women) will have to speak up with as much force against these stupid recommendations. The question to ask is, aren’t there any men in the women’s group which drafted these recommendations?

  • https://thewarriorforjustice.wordpress.com/ Warrior For Justice

    @DJ

    Good that you noticed and found it to be appalling. I do not know about a kejriwal or shah.

    But, typical indian male do not know mostly or too “macho” (at least by talk) to even admit it. The mass hysteria created by many Indian Males on Death Penalty or castration mob justice…have just added to this increasing chorus.

    Talk of digging their own graves by highly demanding it…!!

    Hmm…about “men” (really?) inside those group. Let us see what they did:

    In year 2011, close to 100,000 cases are filed under 498A (80% false only in trial courts and in upper courts it is over 90% with no less than SC calling it “Legal Terrorism”). I explained with exact data from NCRB in my blog. 498A is there since 1983! TADA, POTA came and went afterwards saying that terror laws are too harsh in India! But not 498A. UAPA, less draconian than 498A (yes,in UAPA you do not pull in the entire family of an Afazal Guru when someone complaints – but in 498A you can !!)

    DV Act 2005 by Renuka Chowdhury, 498A was not enough: In 2011, 9431 and only 3 convicted.
    2009 – 7803 cases, 8 convicted.
    2010 – 11736 cases and 11 convicted.

    Of course no one will believe again. So:

    http://www.deccanherald.com/content/296671/low-conviction-rate-domestic-violence.html

    And they are family laws, inside Indian families – and are cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.

    Expect with this recommendation (and if passes), left and right you will find harassment/assault reports now.

    Ignore at your own peril…Indian males do not wake till it hit them personally!

  • DJ

    WFJ,

    One can’t tell just by numbers whether most of them are valid complaints or not. I can’t make that out.

    Secondly, conviction rates are low, so seems like the proof has to be really strong for conviction, so it doesn’t seem like people are getting convicted wrongly on flimsy charges, are they?

    Surveys have shown that domestic violence is a huge problem. Probably the worst in the world, so I don’t find the large numbers surprising. In fact, there should probably be many more. But, I can see the potential for misuse of the law. And, we have to be careful that the law is well framed and implemented, which one can assume isn’t the case in India. But, are there stats out there for genuine cases vs false cases?

    http://infochangeindia.org/women/news/indian-men-most-sexually-violent-says-survey-of-six-developing-nations.html

    http://southasia.oneworld.net/archive/Article/indian-survey-highlights-spousal-abuse-no-pay-for-working-women

  • https://thewarriorforjustice.wordpress.com/ Warrior For Justice

    Let us go by some truly Credible sources – Supreme Court, Law Commission of India with many luminaries without bias (take 2011 report – almost all the states report 498A is grossly misused and make it bailable), other than NCRB.

    I can give you 1000 links – where men are sexually violated in India, abused in their own houses, forced to pay money on blackmailing/extortion….

    Now, I think you trust courts or SC or Law Commission reports. Courts do check on the evidences.

    Law is very much skewed in favor of women. Judges almost always give consideration to that. And, still people not getting convicted? Yes, they are not. It is not related to strong evidences, rather with flimsy evidences they are filed in the 1st place!

    But, by that time entire family behind bars, jobs gone, children tormented, old parents nowhere related tortured by police! Do you feel what a jail means for a common Indian family? These are cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable. For rapist also it is bailable and for a murder also it is compoundable. What kind of family laws are these? Police chargesheet sheet rate is at around 95%. I can talk sitting on my chair and in fact I was till I faced the system and saw it 1st hand.

    Also man suicides are very high in India. Married men suicides are the highest (no.1 reason – domestic abuse), 70:30 – man:woman again credible Data from NCRB. On an average a man lives 7 years less than woman worldwide. In India, 5 to 6 years.

  • Nobody

    @Warrior For Justice & @DJ

    Now you know why in the desert religion last prophet did not like women witnesses. Even when they are victims. lol

  • DJ

    @Nobody So, because there are bad women who misuse the law, there should be no women witnesses? What kind of stupid logic is that? Stop peddling your backward agenda. There are as many bad men who would misuse some other law. So, what does that prove? It is because of stupid reasoning like this, that the desert religion is the most pathetic thing in the world today.

    @WFJ Laws are badly crafted and implemented in this country. That is well known. I’m no legal expert, so don’t know how the law can be improved or what it can be replaced with. Perhaps, making it bailable would be a start. Although, the lawmakers must have made it non-bailable because there is the high probability that there would be further problems outside. There has to be a better mechanism for cases that are under trial. At the end of the day, laws can only do so much to prevent issues born out of deep social backwardness. But, yes, any laws have to be fair to both parties.

  • Nobody

    @Warrior For Justice
    Someone needs to explain to @TajinderBagga and get him to stop his fast. He ought to know how laws get abused all the time. More tough laws in the hands of corrupt police & dysfunctional judiciary will not help.

    @DJ
    First, learn to read properly, before you outrage. *lol*

  • http://anirudh2189.wordpress.com/ Anirudh

    Throughout this article and the previous one you have gone on referring to Islam as ‘a certain desert religion’. This is not consistent with your usual bearing of being politically incorrect, but speaking the inconvenient truth.
    It is very necessary that we call a spade a spade.

  • mallikarjuna

    Salutes,

    subtle & strong.

  • Sunil

    Hi

    Have been a longtime reader of this blog. But I think your views are becoming a bit bigoted.

    However, I loved this point

    “Brother, I don’t care what you believe in. You can believe in a stone as long as you don’t throw it at me.”

    and this too
    “I am a Hindu but I am also an atheist. I don’t believe in anything that does not make sense to me. I don’t believe in the supernatural. I don’t care what you believe in or don’t believe in.

    I don’t judge people for what their beliefs are. I judge ideologies for what they are. I judge people based on how they behave.”

    The reason I say this is that taking a “digging your heels in” approach may not be correct in today’s world.

    Cheers
    Sunil

    • Atanu_Dey

      “Have been a longtime reader of this blog. But I think your views are becoming a bit bigoted.”

      Thanks for reading my blog.

      I would be happy to respond to your charge that my views are becoming bigoted. If you would, please cite some evidence of my bigotry. Thank you.

      • Sunil Natraj

        Your views find resonance amongst others and I would retract my “bigoted” comment.

        As I indicated, I agree with a few of your points.

        What I disliked is the irreverence that you accord to Islam through the transparent veil of the term “desert religion”.

        Whether the concept of Kafirs exist in Islam or not, the point is that all Muslims dont thrust their thumbs and religion onto others. History cannot be cited for everything.

        My final line indicates why I disagree with you. I think religious and sectarian matters can be resolved through education and dialogue. By deeming the presence of a group in a community as a virus, you are in essence not allowing education and dialogue to ever play a part as you are alienating them

        In any case, I love your writing and views. An opinionated leader is better than a confused one.

        Thanks
        Sunil

  • Kaffir

    Sunil,

    And what may be the correct approach according to you?

  • https://twitter.com/kaunteya kaunteya

    Someone commented that the columnist is being bigoted. I would like to see a specific example of bigotry here in this post.

    Anyhow… about the point of “all religions are bad” thing.. I am sure most pseudos use the “equal-equal” strategy to deflate the attack on their favorite desert religion and diminish and blunt it. It is very effective, I must say and also helps them self-rationalize in their head and more importantly help them with being in denial – which is a comfort zone.

    The analogy I like to use is – parking your car at a wrong place is illegal and so is murder. But in pseudo-secularists world, it works like “they both are crimes” and hence “equal-equal”.

    You should read columns in Times of India by Amresh Misra. It will make you believe that Hindus are worse than Talibans and that Muslims are mary’s little lambs who are India’s only innocent victims.

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

    The new theme is uber cool

  • GAli

    After reading this article, I have come to two conclusions

    I: You have never
    read a book on world history

    2: Common sense and
    logic have not really affected you much.

    You wrote “Across space and
    time, wherever that desert religion has had its baleful influence, there’s been
    lack of prosperity. Places which were peaceful before, once the desert religion
    got its stranglehold, descended into barbarity and chaos”

    Ever heard of Moorish
    Spain? Never before and never since has
    Spain been called beacon of knowledge for Europe. Also, Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) only
    twice became the center of civilization, first at the beginning of human
    history when it gave the world concepts of writing & agriculture and next
    time when it was under the Abbassi rule.
    Just these two examples are enough to prove your theory wrong.

    “Two of India’s present day
    neighbors are countries which have as their foundation that desert religion.
    Both are worse off than India”. So is
    Nepal where your so called “desert religion” has no influence. Using your logic, there are only two
    countries in the world where people of your dharmic religion are in majority
    and they are both barely above the sub Saharan Africa, so …….

    G. Ali

  • http://www.medibird.com/ jinu

    i support ajayshahblog , the right thinks “This is the problem in India, and with Kejriwal’s approach. Activism does not lead to good laws because of intellectual gaps in our middle class, not to speak of the political class”.

    any way nice ingormations
    http://kerala-home-design.blogspot.com