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The Romanticism of Religion

November 16, 2009

The next blog featured is that of a very vocal Atheist from South Africa. She blogs on just about everything that interests her and is passionate about. However, her take on religion and Atheism are reflected in her blog very often. Here is one of her many posts on the subject.

In a conversation with a person who asked me why I’d left Christianity,  he asserted that there were two kinds of people in the world: Analysts and dreamers – and said that he guessed he was a dreamer, and that’s why he could believe in God, because it was easier for him to ‘think outside the box of science’.

Wow. Talk about black & white. You’d think there’d never been a scientist who believed in a God or an atheist who’d written a fantasy novel (*cough* Douglas Adams *cough*). I don’t think we put man on the moon for a lack of imagination or aspiration beyond what seems possible. I don’t think humanities invented even half of the things we have without some ability to ‘look outside the box’ (yes, the bad stuff too).

I really dislike the elitist sense of nobility religious faith gives people. It’s just frustrating to see someone romanticising the lack of critical thinking and reasoning as though living in a fantasy daydream is somehow an equal method for answering important questions, an equal basis on which to live our lives, when it’s clearly not the method by which they live the rest of their lives.

Christianity is chock-a-block with imagery of righteous warriors, brides and bridegrooms, sons and daughters of a King and fighting the ultimate battle of good and evil – all romantic, exciting, fantastical imagery and concepts that serve to give many people a desperately desired identity and purpose in life.
I would say that social activism and many of the causes that atheism involves itself in are equally romanticised. We all want something to fight for in life, some sense of everyday purpose. The difference is that one is based on faith and mysticism, while the other is based in the reality of this life. Which is more noble, the man who daydreams his life away on an old speculation, or the person who thinks for himself and tests his ideas and moves his feet to make tangible changes in his environment?

So why Christianity? If one is convinced there must exist a God to fill the gaps science has not or cannot (yet?) then how do you pick a God to believe in?
When all was said and done, it came down to this – the person I was talking to knows there is no proof that God exists, but chooses to believe in the Christian God because it’s the only way he knows to avoid hell, and it ‘doesn’t hurt to cover all bases’.

But why, when there religions that don’t even believe there is a hell in the first place?
Well, there’s no point to that, is there, he said. And besides, there’s the Bible.
Oh – you mean the Bible which is the inerrant word of God because it says it’s the inerrant word of God? Oh… silly, scientific, analysing me.

I’m so glad the purpose and meaning of my life doesn’t boil down to fear of punishment by a God I can’t prove in an afterlife I can’t prove, based on the writings of book that people who believe in resort to using, oh, those horribly restrictive tenants of science, history and maths to prove correct.

The original post can be seen here. Do visit her blog to find other posts on the topic and a whole lot more.

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Communism Tends to Capitalism

November 16, 2009

This post is by a student of Engineering, on the prospects of Communism in India. He analyzes the pluses and minuses of Communism, back then and now; keeping the Indian scenario in mind. Though it is rather old post, we felt Communism is a topic that will never go out of discussion. The author’s blog can be found here.

Being brought up in a family which was dead against communism and anything to do with it, I grew up thinking it was a dirty word, and thought it was pronounced “Khamyouneesam!” forcing itself out of the throat with saliva and hatred.

It was only recently, when I came across the Communist Manifesto, written by Marx and Engels, did I realize there was more to it than everyone made it out to be. Obviously, I won’t be able to give you a neutral person’s point of view in this regard. Nevertheless, I endeavor to list out both the pros and cons of this ideology, and how it has impacted the world.

Communism is a socioeconomic structure and political ideology that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless society based on common ownership and control of the means of ownership and property in general.

Communism attempts to offer an alternative to the problems with the capitalist market economy and the legacy of imperialism and nationalism. Marx states that the only way to solve these problems is for the working class (proletariat), who according to Marx are the main producers of wealth in society and are exploited by the Capitalist-class (bourgeoisie), to replace the bourgeoisie as the ruling class in order to establish a free society, without class or racial divisions.

Source: Wiki

It is a noble concept, really, when you think about it, but how far is it practicable in today’s world,we have seen. Not one pure Communist regime in world history has kept its people happy for long, be it Cuba, China, Cambodia, or the erstwhile Soviet Union (which was Socialist, but Communism is a branch of Socialism).

A communist regime has only limited benefits, with the cons greatly outnumbering the pros. Capitalism is an evil by itself, but it is the better of the to evils. When the British left India, we were the twenty first most industrialized nation in the world. By 1967, when we were staunch socialist, we were reeling under poverty, and the Rupee value was a joke. Forty years we invested in socialism, to what avail? It was only in the liberalisation phase that we saw our country develop to an extent. What the administrators didn’t realise was, Socialism needs a vast amount of money beforehand. Its ideals states that the cost of expansion will be shared by the masses, but that’s only bad economics. You cannot expect Ratan Tata to share his money with a populous of lazy people who aren’t willing to work hard for the development of the nation.

A perfect example of this is Air India. Indira Gandhi took it over from the Tatas and nationalised it.It became a failure soon after because like anything government, it was horrible and had low standards.

Just like thermodynamics,politics too has an ideal situation. Ideally, after independence,if we had embraced strict Marxist communism for ten years, and then shifted to capitalism, we could have eradicated poverty,and then focused on development. But reality would differ. Politicians would be power hungry.  A permanent emergency would have been set up in the country, just as in Pakistan. Resources remain the same, Economics differ. Capitalism makes the rich richer, and the poor-poorer. Communism gives everyone a middle class lifestyle. Which is better? Debatable.

The main problem with communism is that it goes against human nature. Man will work only if he sees the carrot at the end of a stick. If you tell a man to work, telling him he will be rewarded with a carrot irrespective of whether he manages to complete his job, he will not bother. In the erstwhile Soviet, a Doctor and a Sweeper were paid the same salary. If I had lived at that time and place, I wouldn’t have bothered studying for the decade it takes to become a doctor,when I could have just as lavish a lifestyle by picking up a broom.

Communist nations have managed to develop,but only by using capitalist ideals.China realised, as early as 1971(after the death of Mao),that liberalisation is the way forward. The method of working of the entire politburo changed,and they overtook most nations in terms of development. Kerala and West Bengal, too, are now following capitalist ideals in the name of communism. Only the party name is Communist. That explains why Kolkata now has Israeli electronics, American IT, and an Indian automobile company(which was driven out by the people) setting up base.

The main difference between Communism in India and that abroad is that we have the only two democratically elected communist governments in the world. First, was Kerala, followed by West Bengal. There exist vast differences between these two governments as well, such as:

Update: Tripura is also ruled by the Marxists, so that makes it three democratically elected communist governments.

The West Bengal communists are a group of elitists who were educated in the most sought after universities in the west, and are driven by strong Marxist principles. The Kerala communists, on the other hand are a bunch of labourers who turned to politics as a means to make money and enjoy a sense of power, and aren’t aware of any of Marx and Engel’s thoughts. This is clearly seen from the fact that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee continues to live in a single bedroom apartment, even after becoming Chief Minister. A kerala Communist leader, on the other hand, will move into a mansion, complete with a swimming pool, two dogs and a dozen coconut trees.

Also, in West Bengal, the party has been sitting tight since 1977, with Jyoti Basu being the longest serving CM(23 years) in the country, and was succeeded by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, a member of the same party. Meanwhile in Kerala, there has been an alternating of power since 1982 between CPI-M and the Congress, neither party managing to get re-elected even once.

Yet, Kerala is in better shape than Bengal. The Communists gave them literacy. Free books were provided, reading rooms opened all over the state, and Malayalam newspapers were made available. The money lenders and landlords could no longer cheat the public.

If Kerala has a high GDP right now, no credit goes to the politicians.It happened because the Mallus are an industrious lot. They went abroad,and brought back a lot of foreign currency.

If Kolkata is a great city, it’s because the British developed it, and once development happens, it continues even if the bureaucrats aren’t doing anything about it. Outside of Kolkata, the state has nothing worth mention.

An inside source of the SFI(Student Federation of India) who does not wish to be named(I have to thank him profusely. Without him, this post wouldn’t have been possible at all), confided to me the main reason why the CPI-M in Bengal manages to win elections every time, though this cannot be confirmed. In the Bengal countryside, when a girl child is born, Communist goons plant a teak sapling in the house. When the girl is old enough to get married, the father can cut the tree, sell the wood, and pay off her dowry. This is the sole reason why they have such a strong presence in the villages, though they might soon lose it due to the Nandigram incident,and the salt-lake land allotments.

In the end, I would say this: Marx was a genius. The kind of genius who is born into this world only once every millennium. Communism is an ideal which can serve the people better than any other can ever hope to, but humanity hasn’t matured enough to make good use of it. Man won’t work for the greater good of humanity, and hasn’t learnt to use power responsibly.

With this, I would say, that the country had best vote out the communist government. Communism came to places where people asked for change, but the change they got, was not the change they wanted. It is very easy to get seduced into communism, but impossible to follow its ideals. If we knew how to use it, the Tiananmen massacre in China, the killing of 10 million people in Gulags by Stalin, and the Nandigram incident wouldn’t have happened.

In all the elections, I ask you, no wait, I IMPLORE you all to vote out the communists. They are being ousted from positions of power all over the world, and it’s high time India followed suit.

OK…TATA…HORN PLEASE

The original post can be found here.