For all you non-believers out there..we have a name for you

Most thinking people will admit that they have doubts when it comes to faith. I was born a Hindu and Hinduism’s easy-breezy style of focusing more on rituals and less on dogma is perfect for the mind taught to trust science when it comes to belief.

Over the years I have described myself as an agnostic, an ugly word that conveys more of a sense of wishy-washyness than a genuine interest in exploring the dimensions of spirituality and faith without blind belief. I have a friend who prefers the term “spiritual”, de-linking herself from the smothering hold of religiosity and creating a strong set of moral values of her own.

I suspect many of us who were born Hindus choose to do that. We are not comfortable in believing in a literal “blue” god or a multi-limbed destroyer, but they serve as useful anchors for a belief system that is personal and customized. We don’t have priests telling us how to think and behave and no compulsory practices that reinforce our Hinduism and this gives us the freedom to create our own morality.

But what can we fence-sitters call ourselves? “Atheists” is too harsh and most of us would be uncomfortable categorically denying the existence of a higher power – we have all had moments when we gasp at the sheer wonder of the world; no one can be unmoved by a look a clear night sky, when the glowing stars make us feel at once minute and universal.

Take a look at the following passage and see if a beautiful term pops out at you. It is from an address by President Obama at a Prayer Breakfast this morning at the White House.

We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Torah commands, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” In Islam, there is a hadith that reads “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule – the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.

Yes, I am a humanist. Anybody who believes in the Golden Rule must be.

10 thoughts on “For all you non-believers out there..we have a name for you

  1. Basab

    “Hinduism’s easy-breezy style of focusing more on rituals and less on dogma is perfect for the mind taught to trust science when it comes to belief.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. They mythology behind Hindu gods is so bizarre that it is hard to create a belief system on top of it. A Hindu rational thinker has it easier – he or she can overcome the dogma of ritual easier unlike the dogma of belief, especially if that belief is supported by a single holy book.

    Hinduism, in its diversity of rituals and belief systems is more culture than religion.


  2. Rohini Mohan

    That’s a beautiful post, Vidya. I am a Hindu and a believer (though selective) but I would rather be a humanist. Now if somone can come out with a convincing definition of “Spiritual” I will be happy.


  3. Abhishek

    How about you don’t put a label on yourself and categorize yourself. I can be anything, I have faces and shades of me that are composed of all of those labels. Refuse to be labelled and refuse to be categorized. This is the nature of being human. This is how you can begin to explore yourself and your freedom. Everything else is entrapment.


  4. Vidya Pradhan Post author

    So true. But it would be nice to just use one word to describe your beliefs instead of launching into a long explanation when asked the question( and believe me, people do ask.) The other option is to say, “None of your blooming business” but that’s still 4 words too many. 😀


  5. neo

    To think of Atheism as a belief system is like thinking of “not collecting stamps” as a hobby.

    Atheism is not a belief in the absence of God.

    Atheism is an absence of belief in God (or Santa Claus, tooth fairies, Zeus, …)


  6. Geeta Padmanabhan

    “Atheism is an absence of belief in God (or Santa Claus, tooth fairies, Zeus, …)” In which case, you recognise there is a God. It is just that you don’t believe in him/her.


  7. Mona Vijaykar

    Vidya, enjoyed this piece. While the “call to love one another” is the universal ‘Golden Rule’, which should have naturally aroused a sense of Oneness among all human beings …..the Golden Rule has become the very object of discord….for each ‘religious group claims it’s ‘God’ and His Golden Rule to be superior and therefore beyond concurrence with other Golden Rules!! Vedic knowledge, as far as I know, offers a logical understanding of human connection…versus following the advice of a Master. Assuming “atheism/agnostic etc refer to the absence of an all-powerful, all-controlling mysterious Superbeing, I would count as an atheist too…. but if that Superbeing is the Collective Consciousness/Energy, being atheist would amount to negating my own my existence!
    I also wanted to give a shot at defining spirituality for your friend, Rohini…I would guess spirituality is ” living with an understanding of prana…breath (spire) as that which controls the mind; connects all living beings…and is the source of all existence”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s