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Friday, November 11, 2011

Of Morality and Religion and How I Became an Atheist

Atheist, Pantheist, Theist, Irreligious, Spiritual, Pious, Agnostic...
Moral, Immoral, Right, Wrong, Criminal, Righteous, Honest...
Connected, or not?
I have long struggled with the idea of religion and spirituality -- it's existence, accuracy as well as significance. My family can be defined as a Hindu one. The prophet-like guy and his gang my mother and grandmother are subscribed to is defined as a Hindu saint and his family and followers. Don't get me wrong, I mean no disrespect for the great people of our bygone days. But that's not the point. The point is, I have implicitly learnt to identify as Hindu, in a country where identifying as Atheist, Agnostic or in any other way devoid of religious identity is very uncommon, as is changing this identity without explicit conversion (which itself is uh-oh). Everyone around me has a religion by birth, whether they practise it or not.
However, my mother is also an advocate of free thinking, which has been inculcated in me apart from basic socially required religious training. My religious thinking has also been nurtured to be less narrow-minded than those of my peers. So, as I've grown, I've opened up to other ideas.
My family has always taught me blind faith. My grandmother is overly protective of the religious views that are the norm, and reacts rather unpleasantly and defensively if I question what she has taught me in the field of religion. But hey, what can stop me from thinking. The first thing that happened to me outside the norm was the refusal to accept science and spirituality as contenders. I began to believe in a single quest for truth. I formulated my own theories of accepting the state of affairs around me. I also saw how much ancient knowledge could be distorted, how religion could be twisted out of shape by shameless politicians and how blind faith could kill. And that's how I first deviated from my grandmother's teachings, by picking and choosing from amongst the tenets that my family followed in general. I began to believe that in an old and hugely branched religion like Hinduism, each person already has a particular cocktail of codes according to their particular stream, which can easily be completely alien to one's neighbour of the same religion. Then why couldn't I make a cocktail that served me well, instead of choosing one of the assembled platters?
Blasphemous. Who are you to formulate religion? That's how people go astray. You don't have the calibre to know what's right or wrong in entirety. You can only follow a code laid down by some who supposedly did. Oh great.
My mother supported my views about 'one truth'. However, my beliefs have now deviated even more drastically from what I was taught. I have decided that deities are but symbols of the unknown, and though I believe that prayer works because of the unknown powers of the mind, it is against my principles to pray. Why? Because I refuse to accept the unknown as an entity to be communicated with or as a single sentient being. I also refuse to be judged at every step by some codes that discriminate and divide. There are many mysteries, and I accept that we hardly know anything, but I know that we can do better than hold on to a system that hardly evolves and that owes much of its development to historical power games. I find it a better lifestyle to wait to find out than to accept distorted forms of euphemistically expressed ancient knowledge. Much of it can be related to known facts, but no religious code can be taken for its word without some serious digging into how it came to be. Also, all religion now involves elevating certain persons, like you and me, to levels above mortal. That simply disgusts me. Whatever is beyond our reach, the form given to it by human beings and the prescribed methods to be in touch with it are so twisted that I prefer irreligious reasoning to religious training as a means of learning the truth. I prefer to apply my mind's facilities directly and concentrate as hard as possible, rather than to pray for what I want.
The accepted form of secularism in my country (and many others) involves generalising God without naming a particular religion. Atheistic or irreligious forms have no place in it. One thing all religions agree about is that Atheism is a no-no. Why I chose Atheism has many reasons: my hatred towards religion is not the only one. I also can't choose a religion even if I want to, because, at the simplest levels, I cannot agree with any. Women's rights or not? Beef or not? Pork or not? Alcohol or not? Gay rights or not? I say, are these people out of their minds? They keep quarreling, and I cannot pick a side because none of them agree with me completely. I accept LGBTs, I accept all sorts of meats and beverages even if I don't consume them all. I am a woman, and I believe we deserve to be treated as well as the men are. At the same time, I have a very simple way of deciding what to support and what to oppose. If more people did such-and-such, will the world be a better place from where I stand? If yes, it is a good thing. Else, not. I also believe that at the cores of our subconscious we all do the same when it boils down to a binary decision. I shall not listen if you tell me that people who drink alcohol are bad. I agree that people shouldn't get drunk and beat up their families, but I am tolerant to people who drink socially. I have similar views about many debated topics. And the results I arrive at never are a complete match with any religion. So basically, I HAVE NO CHOICE. Sorry, everybody in my family and school and in religious places who will be disheartened to know this, but I don't want to pray. I want to do things on my own terms and not give credit to some entity who apparently does everything for long-term good. An earthquake in Haiti is not good. For any term. It just happens and we must adjust, but no one in their right minds will cause it. If I am wrong and there is a God, then because of things this God chooses to do in spite of having absolute power, I don't like Him anyway. (Or Her. Don't even get me started on that one.)
And so, for several reasons, it's completely illogical for me to believe. I have my own moral code, my own judgement. Atheism actually has given me that freedom of conscience that religion never did. Atheists are not bad people. They might not pop up and kill you. Many theists might. As David Morgan-Mar of Irregular Webcomic once said (I paraphrase and severely condense), it might not be conceivable for theists that someone can make their own moral code, but that system works.
Hello World, I'm an Atheist.
P.S.: Some old profiles of me and considerably many of my old creative work, especially poetry, dates from the time when I was an unwavering believer. Most of these were created in the second phase I mentioned, when I was rebellious within religion. Many expressions and ideas in those I now find completely alien. However, I will not destroy those works, as they are products of my abilities nonetheless.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Old Drawings on Paint --3

These were some drawings that were part of my 'formal' training of using Paint, in which my Mom would give me specific exercises to do, with some help from a book for kids learning how to use computers. Most have my own choice of colouring and some additions too. These are proof that my eccentricity was not caused by any freakish accident. I'm kidding. They just prove that I was always awesome :P. I named these drawings 'Practice-1' through 'Practice-5'.
You will notice that this involves almost all basic drawing tools in Paint.
The birdie was my idea.
Involves the basic ideas of cutting, copying, pasting, and rubbing out to simulate overlapping.
Isn't drawing in Paint a cute thing in itself without the pictures being cute?
Arrrrr. First usage of curved line and polygon tools. And also zooming in to do details.
My memory doth serve me well at all unnecessary times.
It was a 'test' in my lesson program, with the task being the red and blue blocks with text and the hills.
Later, during a phase of fascination with the Lucida Handwriting font, I added the rest.
I'm not sure if this qualifies as a drawing... oh wth, there's modern art.
The neatest of my practice drawings by far. Also the one most deviated from the original task by later modifications.
This makes prolific celebratory use of my then new-found knowledge of the two different selection modes.
I've always liked drawing both on my computer and on paper. And I've always been crazy enough to show these drawings to people long after growing out of them and graduating to better stuff and then Photoshop and Gimp. That sums up the logic behind Old Paint Drawing posts.
I have done some better artwork in Paint, and had some even better ideas that I abandoned out of laziness and later sometimes resurrected in Photoshop. And as most regulars will know, design wallpapers for a hobby now. I was inspired to make efforts in digital art by some great work, mostly in Paint, by my cousin Pamelee. If you saw the landscapes she made at times in Paint, you'd be amazed by her infinite patience before you appreciated how awesome and real-looking they were. The effects she achieved with the rather primitive features of Paint are well worth appreciation. Now that she works, I don't know if she still does any digital art.
I also know that Windows 7 has a Paint which is not that much primitive at all, and has interesting brush modes etc. I for one still have XP, and do not intend to change until it gives compatibility issues for new software or I get a new computer, whichever is earlier. Also, I think because the target users are different (though overlapping), Paint will never become like Photoshop. I do intend to do stuff other than wallpapers. Will tell you when that plan reaches anything resembling fruition.

Highly Irregular!

I found a new webcomic that is good enough for regular following. Irregular Webcomic! by a geeky and extremely knowledgeable Australian guy whose name I don't know is a genuine laugh riot. It does mostly theme-based comics, built from Lego, RPG figures, and real-life photos of the author and sometimes some other people. Many themes directly draw inspiration from real-life fictional work, people or incidents, but that fact is not always admitted. I don't blame the guy, given the possibility of his humour being misinterpreted.
Two additional good things about this comic: it is PG-rated, and it raises money for the Jane Goodall Institute (he has a theme on Jane Goodall too). So go read!

Edit: David. His name is David.
Edit 2: Hah! Found it. David Morgan-Mar. I didn't want to research, and was waiting for another mention of his name as I flipped (clicked) through the archives.
Edit 3: The comic's been discontinued last year. But hey, there's a whole huge archive to read.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Back to the basics

Not strictly, that is. I've returned my blog to the regular look after deciding that I'm too tired of specials to do a Diwali special and also that fireworks are difficult to integrate into a ramble blog. However, I am experimenting with the description line. It used to be "Expressions of a free-flowing mind". My blog involves showcasing both my creative side as well as the interesting (and not-so) things that happen in my life, in my dreams or around me. Not that they never overlap. Often do, actually. Basically stuff: as I've chosen to put this new description: "Little Stuff, Big Stuff. Stuff."
I intend to convey through my description line that I have myriad items here as opposed to a single topic, but with a consistency in the sense that it's always something that's going around inside my head: it's always something I need to say. My blog is my journal, my gallery, my whiteboard and my soapbox all rolled into one. [rambling]It's my life, that is going to live on after me. It's my dream, that's going to give me strength because I will know there are always people to listen, look, criticize or support whenever I need it. It's my little corner of this absolutely fabulous community of blogs and bloggers. [/rambling]
At the same time, there is material for those who enjoy topical blogs: I have the label cloud handy just below the tabs, and readers can selectively visit my blog just for the poems, the events, the wallpapers, the narratives or even the link library -- whichever they like.
In a nutshell, I have a lot of things to convey in a first impression, and a merciless limit imposed by, well, human psychology and the ever-growing pace of life, especially online life. And sticking to the same old is a guaranteed way of wooing less new regulars. That is why I am always open to suggestions as to what it should be, so that people know what they're in for as soon as they read those first few words -- those first few crucial words. Brownie points (non-redeemable!) for anyone who can add to all that an oblique request to comment. Ciao!
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