Although I sincerely try to believe that pluralism is the way of being an Indian and that as a born Indian I should be tolerant of the sensibilities and opinions of everyone, off late I am feeling terribly pissed with Mr. Christopher Hitchens. The guy is just unbearable. Hear him talk about Mother Teresa here.
This guy has made a career by being the extreme atheist - not just denouncing god but going around the world trying to convince others. Good, for him - he has the right to do so in a world of ideas and his idea will have to compete with everything else that is out there - including religious fundamentalism. I believe that in a free market his ideas will get their share of attention and will win, if indeed they are good.
I feel uncomfortable, however, when he launches on his tirades against people like Mother Teresa in the name of atheism. Faith or not, impostor or not, she was a woman who had dedicated her entire life for serving the poorest of poor in India. Mr. Hitchens should probably visit the slums of Calcutta before passing character remarks on people who have served lepers and people dying with disease.
It is wonderful to know that DNA is the blueprint of human life and not god's hand, it is wonderful to know that earth is a small rock that revolves around the sun and was not created in five days, it is wonderful to understand the scientific method and to be able to apply it to physical world's problems. However, if being able to practice the scientific method makes you apathetic to human suffering, and turns you into a rational monster, one who questions the motives of people who empathize with the needy, is unforgivable.
I do not believe in questioning the motives of people who have dedicated their lives for the betterment of the underprivileged. If their objective is mass-conversion, then so be it. If people are being cured of leprosy in exchange for their forced belief in a construct called God, I have no problems. However, I do object when rationalist, liberal individuals such as Mr. Hitchens who have done nothing for the betterment of slum dwellers and the needy, and walk around denouncing god, probably for the only purpose of intellectual snobbery.
I am not a believer. Neither am an atheist. As I always acknowledge, I sincerely do not know what my belief structures are when it comes to religion. However, I believe in a moral basis for empathizing with those in need and this has nothing to do with religion. Hinduism or not, I know that my world-view of what I ought to be doing as a human being has a strong basis in my upbringing. Mr. Hitchens and off late Mr.Dawkins have called this inheritance "cultural genes", some sort of a virus that plagues mankind. I have to say that what I inherited from my religious minded family was not blind faith in an omnipresent God, but an unquenchable thirst for trying to understand who I am, and what my existence is meant to be. when I look back at what has happened in the last twenty or so years of my life is that I have developed a comfortable model of doing this without believing in dogmatic religion and neither being overly rationalistic. That is my model - everyone needs to have their own. What I know is that all the science courses that I have taken in my life have not taught me how to develop the moral code that I practice. I also know that I did not learn this from any religious text or some dogmatic beliefs.
Mr.Hitchens and others ignore the good that has come to our world through religious beliefs and choose to focus on the evils that extremist practice of faith has brought upon us. By doing so, they are not being any different from the fundamentalist extremists who kill others in the name of religion. The debate between science and religion is no debate at all. These two pillars of modern society answer different questions dealing with mankind and they exist for serving different purposes. Just as religion should not have a say on how the earth was created, science should not encroach upon what forms the moral code. These two should be tools, for us humans, to achieve our objectives and should not be the masters of our destiny.