Atanu Dey On India's Development

On Ideas & Ideologies

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I mainly criticize ideas and ideologies because ideas fundamentally affect human welfare. Most of the time my focus is on ideologies and not people. That distinction is worth keeping in mind. If ever someone misconstrues my criticism of an ideology with animosity against a group or a person, it reveals at best a reading comprehension problem and at worst guilt associated with a hidden prejudice of the reader against the group I am accused of opposing.

I am for or against ideologies, not people.

I judge the people for how they behave, not what they fundamentally believe in. However, to lend support for my assessment of a certain ideology, I may have to point to specific actions by individuals or groups that acted in accord with the dictates of that ideology. I am given that opportunity by the actions of the followers of the ideology and is not something that I invent on a whim. If the facts I choose to highlight are in dispute, I’d like to be corrected. Otherwise I would like to hear an argument why the ideology cannot be judged, first, objectively without reference to actions; and second, by noting the consequences of the ideology as evidenced by the actions of those motivated by it.

The Importance of Making Distinctions

The ability to make distinctions and see differences is absolutely critical. Perceiving the universe as an undifferentiated whole with no boundaries or distinctions is a wonderful mystical Zen experience perhaps but in our daily living we need to distinguish the benign from the malignant, the useful from the useless, the healthy from the diseased. We do that as a matter of course since it is ingrained in our genes: like all other living things, we are the descendants of a very long line of ancestors each of whom was successful in making those distinctions long enough to mate and procreate.

We live in a World of Ideas & Ideologies

We humans differ from other living things in one significant way: we live in a world of ideas, not just a world of things. Ideas can also be broadly characterized as benign, malignant or neutral. The same can be done for an ideology which is essentially a collection of ideas.

An example is the theory of evolution — like all scientific theories, it is an ideology, just like capitalism, or communism, or any other ‘ism.’ Ideologies, like things, can be grouped and their characteristics examined. Any specific religion is an ideology. A group of related religions can also be examined as an ideology. Judging the goodness (however defined) of any ideology is no different from judging the goodness of things.

All religious ideologies are not created equal

They differ naturally because they were created by different people under different geographical and historical circumstances. Religious ideologies are contingent and don’t have any absolute existence, unlike say the ideology of the theory of gravitation. If you did the right inferences from observation, you would arrive at the same theory of gravity as someone who lived in a different land at a different time.

The major monotheistic ideologies were born in the Middle East and they share the same lineage. Their family resemblance is unmistakable. Judaism came first; the Christians acknowledge the Jewish bible and added their own two bits; then Islam came along and plagiarized bits from the preceding two and added its own twisted bits to it.

Monotheism is Evil

Every age and every place that has been touched by the monotheistic ideology has suffered profoundly from its malignant influence. It has killed, raped, burnt, pillaged, and destroyed whatever it can. Not content with merely killing non-monotheists, it has encouraged its followers to turn their rage against one another. Sibling rivalry, perhaps.

Gore Vidal put it thusly at the Lowell Lecture, Harvard University, April 20, 1992:

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. Ultimately, totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the sky-god’s purpose. Any movement of a liberal nature endangers his authority and that of his delegates on earth. One God, one King, one Pope, one master in the factory, one father-leader in the family home.

The history books are full of rivers of blood shed by mutual hostility between Protestants, Catholics, Shias, Sunnis, and all of them at some point or the other against the Jews. Though Christianity and Islam are descended from Judaism, the Jews are held in special contempt by the followers of the other two. A Darwinist may explain that by saying that they all occupy the same ecological niche and hence the bitter rivalry.

Not Equally Vicious

But they are not equally vicious. The Jewish god is a monomaniacal savage but he does not command Jews to go out and kill the others. His world is restricted to the Jews and how he controls them. The Christian god is a much meaner god. He created a hell for non-believers and instructed his followers to go out and either convert or kill those who don’t follow him. A few hundred years later, the Islamic god upped the ante and instructed its followers to basically kill everyone who refuses to submit to him until the entire world is enslaved to him.

The sequence of origination ensures that the ideology which came later had the opportunity to revile the earlier one(s). Islam labels Jews and Christians monkeys and pigs; Christianity condemns Jews for having the blood of their savior on their hands. There is a progression of increasing violence in the three monotheistic ideologies.

Invented by Savages

One reasonable explanation for the savagery of Christianity and Islam is that they were invented by savages. They lived in a brutal and brutalizing environment. They lived in a dog eat dog world where worldly pleasures were few and far between. Their god is a reflection of that mentality that brutalizes humans and humanity. A brutalized male dominated warring society living in harsh conditions could not conceive of a god that was loving. The fantasies of a paradise which can only be described as an impotent man’s wet dream figures prominently in Islam.

How anyone can believe in a god of the monotheists is a fascinating subject. That god is literally unbelievable. This is widely recognized by the monotheists themselves — those who believe in the Islamic god vehemently reject the Jewish and Christian god, the Islamic god is unpalatable to the Jews and the Christians, and the Christian god is idiotic in the opinion of the Jews and the Muslims. Each comprehends the utter stupidity of the other two, and non-monotheists arrive at the logical position — the logical union of the three views — that monotheism is utter stupidity.

Supremacist and Triumphalist Claims

What distinguished monotheism from other religious ideologies is that it is supremacist, exclusivist, and triumphalist. That attitude finds it most extreme expression in Islam — it claims it is perfection in every sense, no other ideology can be permitted to exist, and it will ultimately conquer every human for eternity.

The non-monotheist religions are cautious and hesitant. Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism all claim to be correct but also make allowances that there are multiple ways and that different people will see the world differently. They are willing to accommodate other points of views, and other ways of living. But to the ideology of Islam, there is only one way and if you refuse to willingly submit to the dictates of Islam, you have to be subjugated and if need be, annihilated.

Motives Differ

The followers of ideologies are humans. Human action is motivated by a wide range of impulses and incentives, not just ideologies — religious or otherwise. It is not too difficult to determine what the prime motivation may have been for a certain action. The kamikaze bombers of the second world war may have been Buddhists but the Buddhist ideology was not the prime motivator for their suicide missions. It was not an adherence to the principles of Buddhism but rather their allegiance to the Emperor and the nation that moved them. Stalin and Mao murdered scores of millions for a political ideology and not for their being atheists. They were bad people doing what came naturally to them as followers of a certain ideology.

Steven Weinberg has said: “Without religions, good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things. But it takes religion to get good people to do bad things.” I would generalize that observation: Without ideological motivations, good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things. But to get good people to do bad things requires bad ideologies.

Religious Insanity and Economic Development

So why am I writing about religious insanity in a blog which is about economic growth and development? How is religion relevant? Let me elaborate on why I think religion matters and why more importantly the ideology of Islam matters to India’s development.

As I have said before, all ideologies are not created equal. Some are benign and can be safely ignored. The Pastafarians will not sic their Flying Spaghetti Monster god on me if I call them ridiculous for their ridiculous beliefs.

But never mind the FSM as it was meant to parody monotheism. How about if I call Buddhists a bunch of retarded egg-heads and call the Buddha a dried shit stick? Not a problem. At worst someone may challenge me to a dharma duel which I could easily win by smiling stupidly as I make some seemingly profound statement like “what is the sound of one hand clapping” or “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”

Violent Response is Hard-coded in Islam

These days you can mock all ideologies — religious or secular — except one: Islam. Scribble something on a piece of paper and, regardless of where you are and whether or not you have broken any local laws, Muslims (sometimes half way across the world) can and will take offense at what you have written. That is usually followed by some of the faithful flying into a murderous rage (which is different from murdering people by flying planes into buildings) and setting out to kill you.

I object to an ideology that responds to criticism with violence and murder. Islam has the response encoded within it. It is not the invention of the followers. By not allowing criticism, it forces a stop to human progress because it will not allow any idea — religious or secular — to survive if it is not consistent with Islam. This is why most countries where Islamic ideology is dominant do not figure in any area of science, technology, arts, and entertainment.

Limited Understanding of the World

Pretty much everything we know about the universe was discovered after the 7th century and therefore all that Islam could possibly know (and knows) was (and is) bounded by what was known by essentially ignorant people in the desert in the 7th century. So if Islam is allowed to dominate India today — today when it has finally emerged after a thousand years of servitude — it will be a disaster. What sort of disaster? Well, look at Pakistan and Bangladesh — those parts of the Indian subcontinent where Islam has triumphed.

Ideologies matter. Observe the differing performance of the differing ideological groups from the Indian subcontinent in Western nations. That is a natural experiment the results of which clearly demonstrate that Islamic ideology hinders the development of people because it prohibits precisely those freedoms that are most critical in human development and growth.

Islam in India: The Bloodiest Story in History

The ideology of Islam matters to today’s India and it has done so for around a thousand years. Will Durant, an American historian summed it up this way. “The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in History. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex order and freedom can at any moment be overthrown barbarians invading from without and multiplying within.”

The partitioning of India was based on that ideology of Islam. The Muslims of colonial India voted that they cannot co-exist with non-Muslims because their ideology did not permit that. The creation of Pakistan (and subsequently of Bangladesh) was the direct and unavoidable result of Islamic ideology. Thereafter, the constant state of war that exists between the three fragments can be reasonably traced back to the Islamic ideology of dividing all humanity into the land of Islam and the land of the kuffars.

Fighting the Jihadists on Empty Stomachs

The millions of lives lost over the centuries continue to be added to every year — sometimes in bloody wars and more regularly in a war of thousand cuts of random acts of terrorism. Resources that could have been used in alleviating the misery of its poverty-stricken population, India is forced to use instead to buy weapons from the advanced industrialized nations to deter Pakistan from declaring and fighting one more of the Thousand Year jihads.

Being in a constant state of war with Pakistan is without doubt one of the reasons that India is miserably poor.

I should hasten to add that it is not the only reason. Even without the existence of Pakistan, I am sure that some people would have figured out other ways of keeping India poor. And indeed they did. I have, for the same reason that it keeps India poor, opposed socialism and communism. But the Islamic specter haunting India is making the job that much harder. As the on-going conflict with Pakistan is religiously motivated — just like the partition of India was — I find it hard to evade the conclusion that India would have been much better off if it did not have to contend with Islam.

The Dharmic Traditions

Now what about violence by people who follow the dharmic traditions? None of them (Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism & Sikhism) lend the least support to violence against people merely because of what they believe in or profess. I would worry about it but I would not lose my sleep over it. It is neither urgent nor important in the overall scheme of things. I could rant and rave about it but there are more pressing things that matter to me.

I know that I have a bias which reflects my personal history and upbringing. For instance, I am a non-Muslim and therefore my view of Islam is that of an outsider — an outsider whom Islam considers to be a little less than filth.

As I was born to Hindu parents, I am a Hindu. As a Hindu I am quite familiar with the faults of Hindu society and I am critical of any bits of the ideology that is irrational and stupid. Fortunately, Hinduism is flexible enough that you can pick and choose the bits that appeal to you and reject the rest with nary a thought. For instance, I like the ideas behind the idols — the symbolic representation of the gods — even though I am not a theist.

I Know I am Biased

Not only am I biased but I know that I am biased. I am not an impartial observer. I am partial towards rationality and reason. I don’t think tales of people rising from the dead and people flying off on their horses to the moon make any sense at all. Only those who don’t really understand what the world is clearly understood to be can entertain such idiotic notions.

I think that anyone who seriously believes that the books that the monotheists follow were dictated by god — an omniscient eternal omnipotent being — is dumber than a doorknob. Heck, those books are so full of nonsense and factual errors, that even a reasonably educated person living a thousand years before they were written would have known better.

For instance, that the earth was a sphere was known since antiquity. Yet the authors of those books were clueless — they did not even have what was fairly common information. The so-called omniscient being apparent only knew what was known to ignorant desert nomads.

Sick of Pseudo-seculars

I have had it up to here with the pseudo-secularists blaming the victims for the harm that is ideologically motivated and is unacceptable in a civilized society. I realize that it will not make me popular with that crowd because what I wrote will stick in their craw since they cannot factually refute any of the statements I made above. Their position is generally a fine mixture of illogic and ignorance — the antithesis of what I stand for.

{This is an environmentally friendly post. It uses recycled electrons for getting this post to you. Not just that, the post itself is recycled. It is an edited version of a post from five years ago — March 1st 2008 — titled “Ridiculing Religious Insanity.” Reuse liberally.}

  • Srikanth

    Just one small correction needed. In the section ‘Invented by Savages’ it says “the Islamic god is unpalatable to the Jews and the Muslims” when it should have been Jews and Christians. Other wise a great post as usual.

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

      Srikanth, thanks for the correction. I have made the change.

    • Atanu_Dey

      Srikanth,

      I have made that correction. Thanks for catching that one.

  • akhondofswat

    Rather bloodthirsty for a non-monotheist, what?

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

      Describing murderous ideologies as murderous is being bloodthirsty? Did you have to go to school to learn this kind of logic or does it come naturally to you?

      Let me guess: you are a monotheist.

      Consider yourself flamed for your asinine comment. Thank you.

    • Atanu_Dey

      Describing murderous ideologies as murderous is being bloodthirsty? Did you have to go to school to learn this kind of logic or does it come naturally to you?

      Let me guess: you are a monotheist.

      Consider yourself flamed for your asinine comment. Thank you.

  • Aryan

    “Most of the time my focus is on ideologies and not people.”

    Really? You have focused a lot of Antonia Maino and the transitive closure of her family so much. Not that I care about them but your claim is not correct. In last couple of years your blogs have got more and more vitriolic and surprising personal. You have criticized B Raman, and some media whores with very personal attacks.

    Secondly you have praised Modi as a person instead of his ideas and it appears that you have put all your faith in him. You have conveniently avoided writing about his ideas which obviously you will never agree with (such as banning books, opposition to FDI and so on).

    I remember you writing about how Lal Bahdur Shastri resigned after a train accident. You had praised his sense of integrity but I guess somehow same does not apply to Modi. We can reasonably assume that Modi was not responsible for riots but then as a CM the moral responsibility belonged to him which he always shied away from.

    There is no doubt that Modi is our hope for better future. I am personally not much sensitive to the riots issue either and will be glad to see mob lynching Main family. But what strikes me is your double standards.

    You are obviously for Modi, you have made it clear a number of times. May be you implied that you dont care about Modi as a person but the ideology that he represents. I see a trend among rightists and the free-market advocates to look at Modi as someone who will fight the socialist policies. However from his speeches and propaganda there is not much evidence of it (unless you have had personal discussion with him over these topics, it is possible that Modi does stand for free-market policies but does want to go public).

    While your criticism of Maino family and other crooks is perfectly acceptable your personal veneration for Modi does not correlated with the contents of this particular post.

    • Atanu_Dey

      Aryan,

      The word ‘people’ is used to denote a collective and not individuals in this context. That should be clear from the rest of the piece where I clearly state that my criticism is not directed at Muslims (a collective, the people) but rather at Islam (an ideology.)

      Yes, Antonia Maino, B Raman, Modi, Gandhi — these are people too. But they are not collectives. They are individuals.

      I feel silly making this distinction because I think this is too trivial to be pointed out.

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

      Aryan,

      The word ‘people’ is used to denote a collective and not individuals in this context. That should be clear from the rest of the piece where I clearly state that my criticism is not directed at Muslims (a collective, the people) but rather at Islam (an ideology.)

      Yes, Antonia Maino, B Raman, Modi, Gandhi — these are people too. But they are not collectives. They are individuals.

      I feel silly making this distinction because I think this is too trivial to be pointed out.

  • S. Roy

    An enlightening article.

  • DJ

    There are major differences between the state of Christianity and Islam today.

    Christians have fought against the church and instituted certain ideas commonly known as the Enlightenment ideals. This ensures that we have things like: separation of church from state, individual liberty, freedom of speech, etc. Its quite revealing that progress necessitated limitations on the church. But, they have fought for it and achieved it.

    Islam is very, very far from this situation. Muslims cannot separate the state from their religion. Unless they themselves don’t get to that point, its going to be a problem. And, a problem to Muslims themselves than to others (just like the church limited Christians). Given the long time it took the Christians to get that stage, it will probably take a long time for Muslims too and it might be as bloody (within Muslims). The problem is that monotheism cannot tolerate doubt. If it allows even an iota of doubt, the edifice falls (its very much like a placebo). In fact, monotheism feeds on the doubt and liberty among others to push for conversion (temporarily). So, there is no way to debate one aspect of monotheism. And, so, it takes a long time, for the people themselves to realize what is good for them.

    —-

    Quoting Ibn Warraq (Pakistani born Author and founder of the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society)

    “What we need now is an age of enlightenment in the Islamic world. Without critical examination of Islam, it will remain dogmatic, fanatical and intolerant and will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality, originality and truth.”

    “What we need, of course, is not a Reformation in Islam but an Enlightenment. For me Reformation implies dishonest, piece-meal tinkering with this or that aspect of Islam which really leaves the whole unsavory edifice essentially intact. But we are not going to be able to do away with or extirpate the religion of one billion people, nor is it necessary. We need to bring about the secularization of the habits, attitudes and thoughts of Muslim people whether in the Islamic world or the West. We need to separate the mosque from the state but we need to achieve this formidable feat in the minds of Muslims, and not just politically.”

  • http://twitter.com/suhitanantula Suhit Anantula

    Fantastic article. I do not remember reading it 5 years back! What I like is the clear view on ideology and how it effects us and more importantly Islam and India.

    In terms of language and people stuff I learned some thing really good many years back on Facebook. I used “pakistanis” in a sentence talking about the state of Pakistan and my Pakistani friend on facebook corrected me that there is a huge difference between both and I have to agree.

    The Pakistanis who are my friends in Australia are a nice lot however, Pakistan as a state is a huge problem for India.