Martyr to no god

Atheism is the NOTA button of religious choice. It deserves every safeguard from law and the state.

By: Editorial | Published: March 28, 2017 12:05 am

H. Farook , freedom of religion, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi, religious killing, religion killing, NOTA, nota button, indian express news, india news

Despite legal protection accorded to the freedom of religion, the assault on rationalism in general and atheism in particular continues. H. Farook has joined Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi in the ranks of the martyrs to no god. The only difference between them is that he was not a prominent rationalist, but a Coimbatore scrap dealer with a strong sense of identity. Farook’s father has offered the finest tribute to his son’s memory. Disappointed by an orthodoxy which will not brook dissent, he has decided to become an atheist himself. Thus, he has expanded a question pertaining to the freedom of religion into an issue of the freedom of speech. It is not enough to be an atheist; one must also have the freedom to proclaim it without fear.

While this instance involves Muslims, it is not a Muslim issue. When political events turn religion into a focus of identity, atheism and agnosticism threaten orthodoxies across religious divides, ignoring legal precedents which safeguard religious freedoms. The most significant precedent is a 2014 judgment of the Bombay High Court, which held that the government cannot force anyone to declare their religion in an official document. It also observed that citizens have the right to declare that they do not belong to any religion. This is really not unusual, in a region where numerous schools of atheism have flourished from antiquity. While Buddhism and Jainism are commonly understood to be heterodox, the Carvaka and Ajivika schools of Hinduism are unfortunately known only to scholars. This is apart from the numerous atheist and agnostic groups that have flourished in modern times, often as part of reform movements.

In modern times, of course, the right to be guided by the senses and the intelligence rather than scripture is a given. So is the importance of tolerance, without which the ideal of a borderless, globalised world would be unattainable. The intolerant persecution of the atheist is a special case, along with honour killings and caste abuse, since victims are attacked by the very community they were born into. Religious identity is only one of the many personas which are assigned to us, and which we should be free to change or discard. At a time when identity is central to politics, this freedom is as fundamental as the right to change party allegiances, and those who would constrain it are enemies of democracy.

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  1. O
    om prakash
    Mar 29, 2017 at 11:06 am
    pran no
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    1. R
      Ranjan Kaul
      Mar 28, 2017 at 7:47 am
      You have rightly placed Farook's murder to the earlier killings of the rationalists. While the rationalists and non-believers live in fear, religious bigots feel equally threatened by the rationalist arguments who question faith in god that is not based on reason or logic or science. In fact, to them (the bigots) they (the rationalists) are greater enemies than those from other religious groups.
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      1. rahul
        Mar 28, 2017 at 9:58 am
        What is the use of being a hindu or muslim and not reading and knowing the essence of its scriptures. Rather being an atheist and trying to understand all the religios scripture is far much better..
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