How I & my children benefited from my skepticism


In the year 1948 CE, I was 10 years old and was a boarder in St. John's High school at Ranchi (India) and at a distance from the dormitory was this big peepal tree. From the window of this dorm one could easily see this tree. One night, a fellow boarder told me in a hush-hush voice that the white thing fluttering in the breeze among the branches of the tree was a ghost. Perhaps it was a white kite caught in the branches. I was petrified and couldn't sleep a wink that night and for several nights thereafter. I used to be scared of walking in the dark and avoided going near the tree even in daytime.

But when I had grown up to become an atheist and didn't believe in anything supernatural, I made sure that my kids did not suffer the anxiety of accosting a ghost or evil spirits when we turn off the lights. For one thing, I did not tell them ghost stories. I made sure that they were not scared of the dark, like I was at their age..

Being an atheist also meant that when you are sick or hurt, you trust in doctors, hospitals & evidence-based medicine, which actually work, and not faith healing, prayers and alternative anecdote-based medicine which don't. Being religious means being okay with believing in things without evidence ( Soul, Afterlife, God(s), Heaven, Hell, Reincarnation, Maya, Karma) and with the same mind-set, believing in pseudo-sciences like : Astrology, Reiki, Vaastu shastra (Indian Feng shui), Ayurveda, Homeopathy and the 1001 other delusions of our ancestors. After all 'Faith' (in God or in Alternative medicine) is belief in something not only without evidence but despite evidence to the contrary. I am glad that my children follow the evidence-based modern medicine, like me.

Most importantly, being an atheist meant that you are accountable to yourself, not to some divine voyeur constantly looking over your shoulder and marking down your every transgression, no matter how insignificant, to use against you later. It also meant that you don't have to throw yourself down in agony and beg some terrible cosmic dictator for forgiveness for being the way he created you to be. For example, for using the brain which he only gave me to doubt his existence or for being born to wrong parents with different religions worshiping false gods.

This gave me a tremendous sense of freedom but same time reminded me of an unshirkable & unavoidable responsibility. It meant that we have to do good for its own sake, not because we desire rewards or fear punishment in the afterlife. I am glad my children are following this self-discipline.

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