I was going to write about the beautiful sunrise I saw, the cats on the wall, and the birds in the sky, one of them made of shiny metal. But when I hopped over to This, That, and The Other and found that the prompt was ‘heretic’, I went: Hello! that’s me, right?
Not leaving things to chance, I asked dear old Know-It-All Google for the meaning of heretic. Dissident. Dissenter. Hmm… was I? Nonconformist… Ahh, I said stopping right there. Me, surely! Unorthodox thinker. Jackpot! Me again. Freethinker. Skeptic. Agnostic. Atheist. Me. Me. Me. Me. The rest of them meanings could go take a hike. I had what I wanted. Sunrises and cats as also birds were definitely not for today.
It’s funny how people want to know how I happened to become an atheist in my ‘old age’. Yup, that IS a question I get asked. Isn’t that the age like when even the staunch atheists go back and start worshiping God, they want to know. I don’t even know how to answer that question.
I was a halfhearted believer to start with. My questions during teen years were met with mockery not answers. Oh, so you think you can understand God by asking stupid questions? The emphasis was on stupid because that described best the one asking the question. Or so I was made to deduce. You think you are knowledgeable enough to question the Ultimate’s ways? Nope, never occurred to me. But I though I’d like to know things.
One thing about religions is that everybody wants you to simply believe, not ask inconvenient questions. An extremely difficult proposition for me. And yet, I had learnt my lesson. I went through life following the motions, sometimes even believing. Never ever question, simply have faith and everything will be fine. There was supposedly a divine plan which we, could not hope to understand. Well, if you say so. Rather convenient way of explaining away what one doesn’t understand, right? Just saying. A simple ‘I don’t know’ would have been such a breath of fresh air.
Pray at this temple for longevity of your family members. Do that pooja for their health. Fast on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays. Saturdays. What the heck, fast ALL week. No salt on some days. No rice on others. Go hungry the whole day. Don’t drink water. Stay awake one whole night. Read holy books. Sing devotional songs. Bathe early morning before doing anything. And then one day my teenage sons came into the picture.
There is no God, Amma, the progeny told me. How can they be so sure? I was told ALL my life there’s a God. No, many. Every religion has at least one of them. And here are the ‘monkeys’ telling me, their mother, that there is No God. Egad, I gave birth to them. How did they find out these things before me? But, what if… there is one? Someone’s got to be there, right? To sort of ‘direct’ things? Not in flesh, a light maybe, a power source that created the world? No? No, Amma, it’s not like that. Hmm…
I am an atheist, Amma. Me too, Amma. Both? These guys are really good, I remember thinking, they are so sure about things. They didn’t even come to me with doubts before they arrived at their conclusion. And I wasted my youth listening to my elders shoot me and my questions down, browbeat me into submission till I followed their path out of the inculcated fear. Should I applaud the sons for their firm convictions or be scared for them? No, God? Really? Could it be right after all? It never occurred to me, even once, that I should try and make them change their mind.
Thus it began, the journey that my children set me off on, of rediscovering my doubts and finding answers. No, not the kind the spiritual embark on, the ‘who am I’ question. This was the search for knowledge of a different kind, the rational kind. At first agnostic was as far as I went to describe myself. Then one fine day I had an epiphany (the irony of using the word here!). Of course, I am an atheist. What was I doing hiding behind ‘agnostic’?
The wonderful part? The group of absolutely wonderful people I have come across since, who have helped me grow, and from whom I am learning still.
© Shail Mohan 2019
I, too, am an atheist and I realized and accepted it when I was in my teens. I kept quiet about it, because back then, denying God’s existence was considered blasphemy and it was not a way to win friends and influence people. But one advantage of age is that it teaches you to not give a f*ck about what other people think of what you believe.
I cannot agree with you more. Age definitely has that advantage!
We never stop learning if we continue to explore. Independent thought is important for all of us – regardless of which side of the fence we stand.
That’s so true, Anne!
Thank Heavens!!(oops pardon the word!) I am familiar with those epithets too, so high 5. “Dont act all High and mighty, one day God will smack you.” and the voice in my head went “hmmm God? Petty much”
High 5, right back at you! 🙂 And ‘petty much’! Lol, yeah. Once I was told, ‘So you think God sits among the stars up there on the clouds?!’ in a tone dripping with sarcasm because I pointed upwards while making a point. I was confused. It was not me, the whole world and every religion says Gods are up there somewhere. Talk about sidetracking conversations by pouncing on irrelevant things! Smh.
A fellow “questioner” gave a “fundu” explanation when we pondered over the universal point upwards to mean “God”- “we point up cause we didnt find it on earth, and thats the only place that is so vast, we havent searched every nook and cranny yet.” As giggly as I was at the time, I thought, “Now, why didnt I think up that?” 😛
This is good! Lol. But we haven’t yet explored all of the ocean depths, or even the center of the earth too. Does that take us back to square one? 😀
From what we know of the center of the earth, if God is there, they must not have a form. As for ocean depths, the question “Why hide?” pops up…As I age, I wonder, why am I searching for a Goose that Lays the Golden Egg? I lived so far, without really needing the concept, so why bother now?
Ahh, those are the reasons, eh? 😉 😀
Those are ponderments when I do feel inclined…but we are at square one regarding pointing up 😛
Belief and faith are very personal and very important is the fact that external sources should not force them on you. And I love the fact how you took cues from your sons! Sometimes even I do…the kids think very simply and to the point while I ponder over habits ingrained over years!
We are from a time period when we were forced to conform to our parents’ beliefs whether we liked it or not. I am glad some of our children at least, don’t have to go through the same.
Usha Pisharody said:
Those growing up years, ditto. Knowing so many mantras, slokas, ditto. Never asked questions, because default thingy was no questions. Sigh.
So the rebel within lay quiet, except at times offering Khalil Gibran’s “On Children” on one memorable occasion to my mother 😁 I don’t have to explain the bafflement it met 😁
Still, on occasion I’m a believer, this time with a different perspective, though not opportunist. 🙂 If that makes sense.
I’ve however opted out of those mandatory ritualistic occasions and observations unless I want to do them 🙂
Love the beginning too! Heretic, eh? I’m in that zone as well, with similar questions of why I’m not religious in my old age 😂
No questions was the default thingy those days, yes! And it was like, ‘Bingo!’ when I first came across Khalil Gibran’s ‘On Children’ 🙂
Believer with a different perspective, hmm. I get that. Each to their own. And ahh, the expectations from us oldies to conform to a stereotype! 😂