Quote of the day

As an atheist, I am angry that we live in a society in which the plain truth cannot be spoken without offending 90% of the population. The plain truth is this: There is no good reason to believe in a personal God; there is no good reason to believe that the Bible, the Koran, or any other book was dictated by an omniscient being; we do not, in any important sense, get our morality from religion; the Bible and the Koran are not, even remotely, the best sources of guidance we have for living in the 21st century; and the belief in God and in the divine provenance of scripture is getting a lot of people killed unnecessarily. -By Sam Harris

Swades: My comments

I have been wanting to make a post on this movie called Swades for a long time. But I have always been distracted by the topics of interest and never seemed to have any time or mood. But now, here’s my chance. It’s one of my favourite movies. For the synopsis of the movie, go to this site.

Many of the sites that offer a review of Swades have either made it sound mundane or very great. Eventhough it’s a documentary-movie, I think Swades is a consciousness-raiser for all those who live overseas without any knowledge of what is India like at the level of the grassroots. Be it the Indians or foreigners. In the case of the Indians, their ancestors have migrated to US, UK or other overseas countries in search of a better living. So most of the Indians brought up there know nothing about their roots in India. Not even what kind of a country is India. Some do take the effort to know about their distant ‘motherland’. But not all of them. Not to mention the number of foreigners, who totally misunderstand or have a gross misconception/generalization about Indians and India.

At the same time, I’m not suggesting that this movie will reach everyone of this supposedly targetted audience and touch their hearts. Bollywood is quite famous in US and Shah Rukh Khan is quite a well-known personality among a lot of Malays here in Singapore and Malaysia, as far as I know. Therefore, such a movie will definetely have an impact, regardless of its scale, on these ignorant people, with it’s touching scenes and repeatedly conveyed messages. I know a handful of my other ethnic friends who have watched the movie and have good comments about it. Ignoring the fact that its such a long movie, of course.
I myself was not aware of these issues in India as I didn’t stay there long enough. I came to Singapore when I was 9. I’ve lived here in Singapore for 10 years and I know about the Japanese Occupation and Malaysia-Singapore merger. But not so much about Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, why they celebrate Republic Day, the caste discrimination and so on. I did find out more about them after I was exposed to this movie. So afterall, there is no mystery why the Indian reviewers of this movie find it so cliched. Because I don’t find it cliched at all. For me and for others like me, this movie is or must have been an eye-opener.

Other than all these comments I have, the movie is not so boring from my point of view. In fact, I’ve watched this movie for three times now, sitting through the whole movie. I love all the songs and their meanings. The songs are better in Hindi compared to in Tamil. Khan’s acting was really good. His dialogue deliveries were good. A.R. Rahman has left his permanent mark once again in my heart and all others’.

So it proves that its all in the eyes and mind of the beholder. While I find this movie not-so-boring and not-so-cliched, most of them do find it that way. I can’t help them. Neither can I help myself feeling that way:P

My Temple Tours in India

Last time, three years ago, when I went to India, we only went to Thirupathi. But this time in 2006, we went to a lot of different temples. We went to Thiruvannamalai, Srirangam, Namakkal, and Palani. And what more, it was Ayappan season and so we saw a lot of guys in black clothes. Once in a restaurant, I almost bumped into a guy and he saw me and said, ‘swami saranam’ and went up away. Oh my, what a devotion to God!

Do I sound mocking? Definitely not. I’m not mocking at anyone and nor do I wish to. I learned a lot of things from these temple tours to different places. I admired the artistic values of the gopurams and the statues of the deities. I certainly felt peaceful after visiting these places. And by saying this I’m not implying that belief in God gives comfort. It sure does sometimes. But that doesn’t prove anything.

I’ve always thought that it is possible to be an atheist and still show some appreciation for the religious practices and places. Even the holy scriptures can be viewed from an artistic point of view. They are certainly great persuasive literary works. But the problem with religion is that most of the people read the texts and believe in its literal truth. Sure there are some nice verses written down there, but there are also vicious once that denounce heretics and praise martyrdom.

I think we are all culturally religious at heart. We are infatuated with the memes that come from these religions. I mean, just imagine. Weddings, celebrations of Christmas, Deepavali, Pongal, Hari Raya and so forth are all feel-good factors of religions. They certainly do a lot of work in bringing families together and creating happiness. In the process we thank God for such happiness, while we can derive such happiness ourselves without the help of the God! But if we were to deeply question ourselves whether we believe in a God or not, I think the answer will be a vague one. We’ll be sitting on the fence.

I still find it a problem to reveal myself as an atheist to most of my colleagues and friends at work. I’ve already told my close friends and my parents. And all those who read my blog know about me. My friends understand me better than my parents. Mom and Dad still have trouble accepting my views, but they will eventually come to understand. But I think I’m still not ready to tell my short-term friends and acquaintances about my views on this matter.

Yesterday during lunch, my Chinese friend asked me whether I can eat beef. It is believed that hindus cannot eat beef. So I replied them: “I don’t eat beef not because hindus can’t eat them, but I don’t like to eat it. I don’t like the taste or it’s smell”. Then I said I don’t mind trying a different version of beef. At that time, she was eating beef noodle from a famous hawker stall in holland village and she said that it was very good. Then my other Indian colleague started to question me, that if I am an hindu and so on. She believes that we can’t eat beef. At that moment I was a bit stalled off. I couldn’t come out and declare that I’m a non-believer and that I don’t believe in such nonsense. There were two Catholics, and one Hindu sitting on that table. Damn, one of them actually prays before eating. While they are so much of believers, I felt a bit out-numbered. Atheists are out-numbered. But there are a significant number of atheists in this world. I don’t know why I feel this way, about declaring myself. Maybe I need more time to feel comfortable of myself being an atheist in front of all those moderately religious people.

Feel free to click the Flickr link below. I have uploaded photos from my India trip in 2006.

An Educational Scandal

I borrow the above post title from Richard Dawkins’s book, The God Delusion. Steven Layfield, the Head of Science at Emmanuel College in Gateshead, once gave a lecture called The Teaching of Science: A Biblical Perspective. For goodness’s sake, he is the head of science! And it seems that he has no masala in his head! Do read the lecture text in the link provided! Also, take time to read this, a reply by Richard Dawkins to this lecture. Have a good laugh! What a loser?! And at the end he says:

As we stated at the beginning, Christians, with very good reason, reckon the Scriptures of the Old & New Testaments a reliable guide concerning just what we are to believe. They are not merely religious documents. They provide us with a true account of Earth history which we ignore at our peril. Many who parade as competent scientists today are unwittingly asking the same question which Satan first uttered back in Genesis, ‘Did God really say…?'(3:1)

…True Science then should confirm pupils’ realisation that they are rational, spiritual beings of infinite worth with immortal souls whose eternal destiny, because of their sin, is placed in the balance. True science is no enemy of true religion. Indeed, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10). As the 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler remarked, his work consisted of ‘thinking God’s thoughts after Him’.

May it please God to raise up a new generation of Scientists who are duly respectful of their Maker and who, recognising the limitations of human scientific enquiry, give full weight of respect to the statements of propositional truth of Holy Scripture – being the authoritative Word of God.

The gullibility of children

It has been a long time since I’ve posted. Most of the time, I was busy and even when I had the time, I was not in the mood to blog. Not to mention not having any topic at hand to discuss. But now I have.

I have always been wondering why so many scientists in our labs and other labs believe in their religions. Being so educated and having seen the scientific explanation of life in our universe, how is it possible that they can still believe (have blind faith with no irrefutable evidence) in their religion, be it christianity, islam, or hindu?

One of my colleagues is a post-doc. She is now working on a paper. I went home with her on one of the days and we talked about hindu temples. She seems to have gone to a lot of temples in the southern part of India. She also seems to be religious. She told me that she grew up in a street where there was a ‘powerful’ temple, to which she used to go to a lot. And then I understand why she is so religious despite being a scientist.

Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, explains it clearly in his hypothesis, ‘gullibility of the child mind’:

“Natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents and tribal elders tell them. Such trusting obedience is valuable for survival… But the flip side of trusting obedience is slavish gullibility. The inevitable by-product is vulnerability to infection by mind viruses.”

He refers to religious beliefs as viruses. So therefore, a child’s mind is like a sponge that absorbs anything and everything that they see or hear. That might have been the reason why I was so religious just until last year or so. That is the reason why so many of them today, well-educated people, are religious and have blind faith in their beliefs. My colleague falls under the same category. She was brought in a community where such religious beliefs were abundant. No wonder she is still commited to the beliefs of her religion.

Moreover, nobody wants to denounce their beliefs and later feel that they have no purpose to live, other than worshipping and praising someone. All along we have been believing in something. And now that we know that it is false, we have nowhere to lean onto. But I say why not lean onto science? Science has not totally disproved god, but if offers a better explanation than the theory of ‘intelligent design’. The explanation for how life came about in our earth. Though not everything is yet known, it will soon be.

Here’s a youtube video of Richard Dawkins, my favourite author:

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Fun SMS

An SMS that I got from my friend:

Tamil Hero’s next film titles… (just for laughs)

RAJINI: Sivaji, M.G.R, Geminiganesan, Nagesh

VIJAYKANTH: dharmapuri, masalapuri, cholapoori, panipuri

VIJAY: pokiri, pichakaran, mollamari, kepemari

AJITH: Varalaru. Science, Maths, Geography

SURYA: 6, 7, 8, 9

JEEVA: E, erumbu, kosu, kambilipuchi 🙂

LOL!!:)

Thaipusam

The hindus in Singapore celebrate Thaipusam very elaborately. Check this link. It’s a news item from the local news channel. It’s really amazing how multicultural Singapore is. Traffic has been diverted and roads blocked to facilatate the crowds in the roads during the procession of the devotees.