From the Mailbag: Deconverting from Hinduism

Living in a culture where Christianity is the dominant religion, I don’t often come into contact with former Hindus or ex-members of other Eastern faiths. But there are atheists in every culture and society in the world, and they all go through the same intellectual and emotional struggles. I got a reminder of that in an e-mail the other day from an ex-Hindu atheist named Vikram who was seeking some advice on handling his own deconversion:

Dear Mr. Lee,

I have greatly enjoyed your book and articles on atheism. I feel that they have benefited me greatly in my own acceptance of being an atheist, albeit a closeted one. Unfortunately, I still have momentary lapses where I long for my former faith (Hinduism). I have been an atheist for over two years now. Since that time, I have had moments where I desperately wanted to revert to Hinduism, but the rational part of my mind simply could not accept it. For some reason, the emotional part still wants to be a devout believer, though. I have tried reading deconversion stories, watching videos, talking to a few atheist friends, and reading atheist novels, but nothing has worked. I still feel tormented by the idea that the universe is cold and apathetic.

As a former believer, do you have any advice on how to overcome this painful part of the deconversion? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

This was my reply, in part:

It’s true that the universe doesn’t care about us and doesn’t respond to our wishes, and that can be a difficult realization to come to terms with. But it has real benefits as well. It means that there’s no such thing as prophecy or fate, no fixed destiny that was locked in for you at birth. It means that when life is hard or when disaster strikes, there’s no need to ask why, no reason to wonder if you did something to deserve it or if you’ve made a supernatural force angry at you; and the same applies when you see other people suffering or in need. Life is random in the truest sense, and strange as it may sound, that can be a source of comfort.

Something else I’ve often suggested to people in your situation is to read mythology, from as many different cultures as possible. Learn more about the beliefs of other religions, both the modern ones and the dead ones. I find that it makes it easier to leave one particular religion behind when you can put it in its proper context among the vast diversity of world beliefs. It may make Hinduism, for you, feel less like “the one true and immutable set of beliefs about reality” and more like “one particular set of beliefs that some people happen to agree with and others don’t”.

But because I’m not an expert on Hinduism and I figure there are people out there who can probably offer better advice than I can, I asked Vikram for permission to share his e-mail with all of you, and he agreed. What would you say to someone in this situation? What’s the best way to rid yourself of a lingering emotional attachment to a faith you can no longer give intellectual assent to?

Image: Statue of Krishna, avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, at the Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Via Shutterstock.

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Pito Rosario

    Good morning Adam, how are you? Listen, I think I’d be able to offer some advice to this gentleman. Specifically, I’d ask him to keep in mind the fact that positive emotional states don’t necessarily correspond to objective truth or reality. No matter how nice or comforting Hinduism’s myths, legends or ethical teachings are, all other traditions exhort one to lead a wholesome life. It would be an unwarranted logical leap to conclude that Vishnu, for example, must exist, simply because Hinduism makes him feel good or teaches one to be a moral person.

  • Chip

    The bit that he particularly sounds like he’s having trouble with is the notion that the universe doesn’t consider him (or anybody else) to be a Special Snowflake. It’s hard to come to grips with that realization, and it feeds into the question that believers often level at us: How is it possible to find meaning if life is ultimately meaningless? The answer to that, as has been stated in many places far more eloquently than I can manage, is to make your own meaning. Work to make the only life you’ll ever have the best life it can possibly be…and realize that everybody else is also living the only life *they’ll* ever have, so do what you can to make their lives better too. Be aware that all of humanity is clinging to a little slick of biosphere on one single rock, and work to preserve it for future generations.

    I once saw belief in the afterlife described as being like keeping your eyes closed through a movie in hopes of getting your money back at the end. I’ve always rather liked that, and it’s a good description of what’s going on here: We’ve opened our eyes, we know we won’t get our money back at the end, but at least we get to enjoy the movie.

  • David Simon

    The majority of the Earth is covered in water, but you probably don’t wear scuba gear most days.

    Similarly, while most of the universe is cold and apathetic, some parts are warm and friendly. Usually these parts are shaped like humans or golden retrievers.

    Just like we prefer to live on land instead of water, it’s a good idea to avoid the boring unthinking vacuum parts of the universe and instead hang out with the nice parts of the universe that like talking about your favorite movies with you and/or chasing tennis balls.

  • Fractal Heretic

    Take that fear and turn it into excitement. The universe is a dark and foreboding place, and we don’t know much about it yet, but that just makes it more thrilling to be alive.

    Remember you’re not alone though. I call myself a humanist because I substitute humans in place of God, in a sense. They’re real and they get stuff done, which is more than I can say about any gods.

    Deconverting is a lot like learning to ride a bike. There’s that moment when you think Dad is still running along, holding the bike upright, but then you look back and he’s not there. It was you all along. That’s a scary feeling at first, but it’s also very empowering.

  • Wretched Fiend

    “As a former believer, do you have any advice on how to overcome this painful part of the deconversion? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.”

    Vikram, my answer is trite, but it was true for me: time.

    I realized I couldn’t believe in Roman Catholicism when I was 13 years old, but I still had an emotional attachment. I still wanted to believe in Catholicism, but I couldn’t. At first I saw myself as an agnostic, not an outright atheist.

    I had a very religious parent, was generally shy, and didn’t feel like arguing about the topic, so I remained silent. I was therefore obligated to continue attending church until I left home for college.

    Once I was on my own and no longer participating in Catholic ritual, I slowly lost that emotional need to believe in what my intellect knew couldn’t be true. Time and distance brought perspective. This process took many years for me.

    So I suppose if I have any advice to give beyond “wait, and heal”, it is this: try to spend as little time being directly exposed to the practice of Hinduism as possible. I have no idea how difficult it may be for you to avoid it, but to whatever extent you can, do so. Don’t shun religious friends and family, of course, but try to find ways of participating in their lives without participating in (or even discussing) their religion.

  • Ubi Dubium

    I’d take a moment to reflect on which specific parts of being a devout believer you miss. You mention having a hard time with the universe being cold and apathetic. Is the comfort of a caring universe the only part of Hinduism you miss? Perhaps you also liked being part of a community of like-minded people, or quiet meditation, or participating in cultural traditions, or participating together with your family. Walking away from everything all at once can be really difficult. If you can replace some of what you miss with secular alternatives, you may be emotionally able to find the idea of an uncaring universe less of a torment.

    For me a big part of what was keeping me attached to religion was the music, and camaraderie with other musicians. I now sing with a really good community chorus, and that helps replace the parts of religion that I actually liked. (Plus, we throw occasional potlucks, which is something else I liked!)

  • MNb

    “they all go through the same intellectual and emotional struggles”
    That’s incorrect. The majority of Dutch atheists (about 14% of the population) and agnosts (another 14%) doesn’t experience any struggle of this kind at all. There are only few closet atheists and agnosts in The Netherlands; I’ve never been one of them. I remember the day I decided to call myself an atheist; it changes exactly zilch in my life.
    Of course this fact makes me also incompetent to help atheists who recently have deconverted. For instance this

    “I still feel tormented by the idea that the universe is cold and apathetic.”
    is completely alien to me. My answer is a blunt one: so what? My inner circle of friends and relatives (most of them are religious) creates a niche that’s not cold and apathetic at all.

  • L.Long

    As Lee states…
    ‘It’s true that the universe doesn’t care about us and doesn’t respond to our wishes,’ well guess what -what makes you think the gawds give a schite about you either? Some fairy tale your mamma told you? Some religious dude told you? And they know that the gawds care…How? There is no warm fuzzy about what the ???whatever???? thinks about you or anyone, the only thing that counts is how others treat you and how you treat them….THAT is your warm fuzzy, and you can see and feel that.

    When it comes to the gawd thing nobody knows jack about schite; all they do is throw BS around. Live, love, help as you can and be happy with life as best you can. Me, You, them, NO ONE knows anything, but you will soon know as I will soon know.

  • Dave Ucannottaknow

    You chose to embrace the painful reality of the truth over blissful ignorance by taking the red pill, and now you are cut lose from the matrix which bound you and fed off of you. The illusion of the matrix was easy, but did it ever really satisfy? If it was really that good, then you wouldn’t be here now! It may be lonely now, but there are people who understand what you are feeling, just reach out to them instead of some icy-blue idol – chances are there’s a group of us in your home region!

    The universe is indifferent, but somehow I find comfort in reading up on what scientists are learning about it. We still don’t know enough to determine for sure whether there’s any other sentient life out there, and a certain account of how this universe originated may never be known within our lifetimes, but we get closer to answering such huge questions the more we learn – and I feel somehow privileged to be living in a time when we are free to study and consider such fascinating concepts! It’s like a drug which takes the imagination on a high, expanding the mind, opening up those channels which had been cut off under the fog of religious thought! We may be the only life forms in existence anywhere who think as we do, and are capable of contemplating our position among it all, but isn’t it just awesome that out of the chaos of physical processes we are here at all in such a state?

    The fact that we remain imperfect and war-like is testament that no perfect god or gods created us – as you have likely experienced, excuses are given for this conundrum, but none of them ever make good sense. Our existence serves no higher purpose other than our continued existence, and if that isn’t enough then you may want to find a way of helping others improve theirs.

  • Dave Ucannottaknow

    I’ll second that – it has been a very long process for me as well! I don’t really know for sure what age I was when I stopped believing because I hid behind such a wall of denial, but it wasted my childhood with much fear and confusion. The illusion was crumbling by the time I finished high school, and I knew something was seriously wrong soon before my first year of college ended. Decades later, I go to that occasional family baptism, confirmation ritual, or funeral, wondering how I ever could stand the baroque weirdness of my church, or how I would manage to not run out of there screaming as the priest drones on with his inane nonsense!

  • Agni Ashwin

    There are many Hindu atheists.

  • adnyat

    I have no clue what belief system he is talking about. Hinduism is just not a set of beliefs in some presumably revealed dogmas. It is an internalized search for the true nature of our Self. The assumption of a personalized God is not necessary here. What is needed is a scientific attitude, and some shedding of one’s ego which is masking the true Self, so that one can bring oneself to practice scientific yogic techniques. I liked Vipassana and SRF Kriya Yoga techniques, but there are hundreds of these. I have also found “God” in doing research in mathematics, It reveals to me in the form of theorems. Perhaps, he can get in touch with me to discuss this further. BTW, Hinduism is just a name given by foreigners to whatever people in India practiced. It is as silly to call it a religion as it would be to call the American way a religion called Americanism. There is a sad joke played on us in translating our notions into English using phrases appropriate for belief–based religions.

  • Vikram

    Thanks for the comments everyone! This social support has been very helpful in letting me come to terms with my atheism. Many of you suggested that I find comfort in people and in humanism. I’m still a novice at secular humanistic ideas, but the idea of humanity as a brotherhood has intrigued me. Does anyone have any recommended readings on the subject? Happy New Year!

  • Russ

    I enjoyed the other comments but would like to make a narrower point. I don’t think you should embrace the “atheism means life is random” meme, and not merely because the argument is commonly used against atheism that “you atheists are saying life is the result of randomness.” It simply isn’t true and reflects deficient understanding of evolution.

    “Randomness” has a meaning in math and science: all possibilities of a set equally likely, like drawing a lottery number. Evolution is not random like that. Bottom-up? Yes. Undirected? Yes. Surprising? Often. But not random. In fact, there are many sophisticated arguments for why evolution moves toward complexity, the simplest being that with passage of time, more complex building blocks are available.

    People like Dawkins make this quite clear, and it was amusing to see Dawkins embracing the label of “intelligent design” in a 2013 YouTube lecture. He explains that he is using the label to describe highly orderly, non-random outcomes of slow, cumulative, after-the-fact selection. At each step the range of variants is highly constrained by which building blocks are available. That makes the blind generation of new variants highly non-random.

    How would this change your “advice.” Not much, maybe. You correspondent can still take solace in the fact that misfortunes are not punishment from a God. But the reality he embraces is hardly a random stew of directionless change. It is what it is, a rather remarkable unbroken 3.5 billion year record of replication success on this planet, still ongoing. A life on this planet necessarily ends in death and involves both positives and negatives, but it is still remarkable and good that it exists at all.

  • jack

    It’s true that Hinduism is a diverse collection of beliefs and ritual practices, but to claim that it is “not a set of beliefs in some presumably revealed dogmas”, or that in Hinduism the “assumption of a personalized God is not necessary” is simply to deny the obvious reality of what Hinduism is. Hinduism has an abundance of personal gods and revealed dogma. A careful reading of the Bhagavad Gita, although only a tiny sample of Hindu Holy Scripture, is ample proof of that. Hinduism has all the beauty and ugliness of any other religion. It has been, and still is to this day, the force behind a great deal of religiously motivated violence — especially between Hindus and Muslims in India and Pakistan.

  • Ubi Dubium
  • Vikram

    I was a former Vaishnava, specifically believing in the teachings of ISKCON. Hinduism certainly has different schools of thought, including pantheism and even atheism. But most practicing Hindus believe in personal gods and the sacredness of the Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas, as Jack mentioned. Few Hindus follow the atheistic schools anymore; just declaring that you are an atheist is enough to be persecuted and ostracized. Also, the Gita and Bhagavata Purana explicitly state that loving God is the easiest way to shed one’s ego and attain liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. For these reasons, I think Hinduism can be treated as a theistic religion, like the Abrahamic religions, and categorically rejected like them.
    All that being said, I am curious to learn more about your discovery of “God” in mathematics. Is it a pantheistic idea, or something else?

  • Vikram

    Thanks for the help Ubi! I will certainly check all of them out.

  • Vikram

    What exactly is the difference between an atheist and a Hindu atheist? Do you follow any of the non-theistic schools or reject the authority of the Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas?

  • Agni Ashwin

    The Sankhyas and the Purva-Mimamsakas both accept the authority of the Vedas (including the Upanishads), but that acceptance of the Vedas is an issue separate from belief that an individual, conscious entity created the cosmos or rewards and punishes humans according to our actions.

    The Sankhyas believe in Isvara, commonly mistranslated as “God”, but for Sankhyas Isvara is actually “Pure Knowledge”, unattached to the cosmos, and thus did not create the cosmos. The cosmos has always existed: “To believe that Isvara is the author of the universe is not right”, say the Sankhyas. And the Rig Veda itself states that the origin of the cosmos is an open question.

    The Purva-Mimamsakas see the question of whether Isvara exists or whether Isvara made the world, as irrelevant. But what they strongly reject is the idea that, if Isvara exists, then Isvara is the one who rewards humans when humans do good or punishes humans when humans do bad. The P-Ms argue that humanly performed actions themselves, give results, whether positive or negative. And for the P-Ms, the Vedas indicate what sorts of actions we should do, but Isvara doesn’t reward or punish us based on what we do. Our own actions produce their own results.

    I’m Buddhist, so I reject the (ultimate) authority of all scriptures.

  • adnyat

    I make a difference between the actual practice of people who identify themselves as Hindus and the philosophical principles known as Hinduism. A lot is lost in translations and preconceived ideas that are hard to give up. For example, I don’t see any mention of a personal biblical–like god in the Geeta at all, in fact, there are shlokas stating exactly opposite! The trouble between Hindus and Muslims and between India and the so called country of Pakistan has nothing to do with religion in the sense of spiritual practiced. That is politics. To learn more about Vikram’s question, I propose my essay in If he lets me know his email address, I can email it to him. But I don’t wish to enter into a meaningless political discussion. I am happy to discuss only with those who are serious about understanding the philosophy, and keep aside their prejudices.

  • adnyat

    Looks like you are torn between a mental need for social approbation and intellectual convictions. I find it absurd to imagine that someone who lived and died 5000 years ago had a blue skin and is still capable of saving us from different calamities. You might wish to think of the Sanskrit root krish meaning to attract, and ram meaning to delight. So if anything (even a concept) attracts and captivates your attention, not that thing itself but the essential quality of attraction is Krishna, the essential quality to delight your mind is Rama. Vishnu is Prarabrahma in Its role as the fundamental scientific laws because of which all the universes appear to exist. Have you thought about why the values of various physical constants are what they are — a simple answer is that if they were not, we would not be here to ask the question:-) But it is possible to have a different stable universe with different values. What is it that underlies all of this science? However, it is hard to contemplate on something which has been a holy grail of all physical sciences for centuries. All scientists including mathematicians use symbols to denote and visualize various concepts. Similarly, when you see an idol of Krishna or Rama, you might think of them as visualizations of the deep quality of attraction and delighting or the root property of existence itself, which just allow you to express your love and participate in social activities. We need visualizations. We also have a mental need to love and be happy. Idols and hymns are just the visualizations which allow us to purify our love and contemplate upon the deep philosophical concepts, while, in an hour of need, console ourselves. Since others have no way to probe what goes on inside of your mind, you might feel free with no fear of contradiction to participate in idol worship as your mind dictates you, while contemplating and approximating in your intellect the deeper aspects of the quality of existence itself, which cannot be really understood by intellect. Remember too that just as the same symbol might carry different meanings to different people, different people will have different ideas about what this idol and hymn means. They are all right in their own way. You might wish to read Geetarahasya by Lokamanya Tilak, preferably in Marathi, but at most in another Indian language, not English.

  • adnyat

    I am getting confused by the format here. I have replied to your query, Vikram, just a couple of hours ago, but it looked like a reply to myself:-) Hope you can read it. Good luck to you.

  • Narendra Babaria

    First of all I want to salute you. You have a courage to boycott the most corrupted business. You are ahead of millions who are blind faith.
    Did know Swami Vivsekanand was atheist too?
    Have you seen “Oh my God” movie? Please see it.
    I think you are missing out most important part of Hinduism. Hinduism is not about God. Its all about you and me. We have a great culture, if you can go back just 500 years, you will able to see true Hinduism. Yes, currently, Hinduism is being practiced the way it is embarrassing to all Hindus.
    If we just go back 500 years.
    The best Music & Lyrics – do you how many kinds?
    The best Politics – do you know how great kings we had?
    The best education – Have you seen Chankya – Life oriented?
    The best medicine – Ayurved?
    The best Family Life
    The best Social Life,
    Do you know after science, technology, computer and cell pone what is new?
    “Dirgh Drusty” means inspired, imaginative, creative, inventive, ingenious, enterprising, innovative. There qualities are build only by meditation. Only Hindu Scripts can teach you to do that.
    Gita teaches you how to stand up in your feet in any situation.
    Look Gandhiji, based on his belief ,what he accomplished? Read “Bhagwad Gita” it’s not talking about God. It is talking about human. Gita’s conversation was only 2.5 hours long, in 1st chapter, Arjuna was nervous and 2.5 hours later? He was ready to fight! We all are going through same scenarios, isn’t it? If we read only Gita ,we will overcome our nervousness. Gandhiji said many time, every time he faced the problem, he read Gita and he found the answer. If we put our intellectual together, we can show the world how great our culture is and we can give the solutions of all kind of problems.
    Gita is teaching you to invest everything you have in your Dream or Goal. If you do that money and fame will follow. Not only that It also teaches you how to invest and how to overcome all the trouble.
    Example Vivekanand, Gandhiji etc…..
    Hinduism is the only religion where you don’t have to believe in God and you are still consider a Hindu. Means Hindu can accept any belief, not believing in God is also a belief. Hindus are also ready to accept Jesus and Mohamed as their 11th and 12th incarnations respactively.
    Do you know science and technology is trying to build a better world to live?
    The biggest business in the world is to make weapons of mass destruction.
    The 2nd is Pharmaceuticals.
    The 3rd is Alcohol.
    Do you think we would have a better world, ever, if we go this way?
    We need people who can donate for the poor.
    But we need more people to say I don’t want anything free. We have to elevate the life of people. Hinduism is offering this service.
    We have a lot to offer.
    Think twice before leaving.

  • cipher

    Every Buddhist I’ve ever known has rejected the authority of Hindu scriptures but accepted the authority of Buddhist scriptures!

  • Agni Ashwin

    Buddhist scriptures may be interpreted in various ways, and may have various degrees of authority in the life of a Buddhist. Having faith in a Buddhist scripture is a major part of Buddhist practice for some Buddhist traditions. In other Buddhist traditions, the scriptures are to be tested in the fire of one’s own experience — the true Dharma is not in a text: the realization of nirvana takes place in one’s own body-mind, after which the scriptures are superfluous. I adhere to this latter approach.

  • cipher

    I have a history with Buddhism, and managed a Tibetan center for three years. Every Buddhist I’ve ever known has touted the Buddha’s admonition to test all teachings against one’s own experience, but I have never met one Buddhist, Asian or Western, who thought it was a real possibility that one could test Buddhist teachings and find them wanting. If you test them and end up disagreeing with them, the fault lies within you and not with the teachings.

    Your statements are in the same vein as the often-repeated remark, “Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion”. I’m sorry, but it simply isn’t the case. Sooner or later, in any school of Buddhist philosophy, with any line of reasoning based upon Buddhist teachings, one comes up against a wall of faith.

  • Agni Ashwin

    I didn’t say I found Buddhist teachings wanting, or lacking, or disagreeable. When I say that I do not place (ultimate) authority in a text, I mean that I do not blindly believe in a textual statement, but neither do I blindly reject it either. There might be scriptural statements that I do not interpret literally, or at face-value, but do interpret allegorically, psychologically, or noetically.

  • Rajimus123

    Hindu atheists exist. I gave a pretty good answer that might have been listed as a diatribe against the Mod which might be why it wasn’t approved BUT in a nut shell there are 12 (ish) accepted philosophies 8 being Astik (“orthodox/heterodox”) and 4 being Nastik (unorthodox). The Astik philosophies generally follow the same line that there is a creator with varying levels of interaction with creation as well as the primacy of the Vedas in daily life, covering the various bases of philosophies of worship (monism, henotheism, panentheism, etc). Nastik philosophies always get translated as “Atheist” when in reality the term Nastik is jsut referring to philosophical schools outside the norm. For example, the Nasadiya Sukta is one of the first examples of religious skepticism, posing questions about even the worthiness of trying to question whether there is or isnt a god and whether that really has anything to do with human experience outside of being a moral compass and is answered by another school of thought with the Hiranyagarbha Sukta which questions why there should be a distinction between creator and creation and that if god exists the proof is humanity.

    As an “atheist/agnostic” I accept the primacy of the Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas with regards to some aspects of societal structure, social interactions and traditional medicine but do I believe in the literal existence of a man in the sky with a cobra wrapped around him? No, because that is foolishness. If you actually pore through the thousands and thousands of versions of stories and look into the history of the culture, origin of the stories, societal context and anthropological motivators as compared to evidential advancement (need for spirituality/explanation versus the advance of the wheel) you’ll come to realize that all the stories can be pieced into having historical bases but with allegorical/mythic overtones. In the context of a literal society this seems odd but in the context of an oral society this makes sense because history and morality were passed down through the storyteller.

    With regards to rituals, I see no problem as a Nastik Sanatani in being able to enjoy the experience and practice of the ritual as an effort for meditation and focusing ones thought. You can look at it in two regards: if you believe 100% in the form of Vishnu, then performing your rituals is akin to plugging a lamp into a socket to get light with energy coming from one place being manifested in another but only with intention on the part of the practitioner. OR you can look at it as a practice in self-focus that allows you center your mind and work towards inner peace.

    Lastly, the “secret religions” in India (ie, the Guru Panths) are almost entirely rejecting of the primacy of the Vedas for the concept of Purusha/Shakti which, while described as male and female dualities, are actually descriptions of the ancients understandings of reality: Shakti/Maya being the outside illusory world and Purusha being the innermost part that connects all living beings. Through those “faiths” one is supposed to understand that first one must learn to engage with the illusory world, recognize it and then progress beyond it towards detachment.

    It is futile to juxtapose the Western/Anti-Abrahamic version of Atheism with the “Nastism” (for lack of a better word) of the Indic faiths, they are two wholly different concepts, one being much more developed with regards to needs for human spirituality versus the polemics written by people with a bone to pick against the Christian church, who paint ALL religious philosophies with the same brush out of there own self-inflated sense of “knowledge”.

    There is A LOT you should study, especially of British/Christian influence on the destruction of various Indic schools of thought and the historical codified degeneration of our culture (by bloody Mountbatten) before conforming to the chauvinistic European models of either blind acceptance or blind denial.

  • aj

    Hinduism is a diverse collection of beliefs including atheism (e.g., nastika, advaita, etc.), so the assumption of a God may not be necessary.

    Regarding violence, most all violence in today’s world is caused by proselytizing religions like Islam and Christianity in Asia and Africa. Adherents to Hinduism form a minor fraction of the violence in the world and usually it is in direct response to a proselytizing religion.

  • brmckay

    If it is possible to make your own meaning. Then life is meaningful.

    Where do you think the Self that you experience as you derives from?

    A quirk of your personality chooses to limit the scope of it’s contemplation.

    That this is even possible seems to go unexamined.

  • brmckay

    Sooner or later, in any school of Buddhist philosophy, with any line of reasoning based upon Buddhist teachings, one comes up against a wall of faith.

    No, sooner of later one Wakes Up! At which point reason and faith have served their purpose. Nothing left to do.

  • cipher

    Yeah, you really rather missed the point.

  • brmckay


    Well, actually I just made a different one.

  • Vish

    I am very much in the same boat as Vikram. I started questioning all religious claims 5 years back and I consider myself fortunate to have found resources on the internet( as a side note – I cannot image just how many atheists were struggling with their questions before the internet with no ready access to material!). My introduction to Hinduism came mainly from the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. I love the stories even now and find myself fascinated by the vast array of characters and how well they describe the actions a person is forced to take. I find drawn frequently to a number of things I found attractive earlier – but I find myself relieved that I am no longer subject to the dogma and oppressive thoughts that are also part of the religion. I take part in family functions and enjoy going through the ritual because it defines me and where I come from in so many ways. But I also know that the other people in my family who are doing certain things (some diet on particular days, others don’t eat meat on certain days, some don’t marry in particular times of the year etc) don’t have the capacity to force me to do those same things because I know that there is no divine being who wants me to do these things. I have no fear, no guilt and my mind is free. At the same time I have empathy for people doing these things because they are good people, and are doing what they think is the best thing to do to please the imaginary being.
    so my take on it is to not fight these urges – it is a bit like meditation where you do not fight against the thoughts that distract you. You accept they are there, acknowledge them and return back to meditation. In the same way you be a part of the society/family but you know you are the higher being.