Atheist Centre, Vijayawada
The World Atheist Conference is yet another milestone in the history of strengthening atheism and humanism as a movement in India and globally. India, over the centuries has witnessed efforts of various people in building critical thinking and free inquiry in the young minds and in fighting superstitions, which are a bane to the society.
Atheists, Humanists, Rationalists, Free Thinkers, Skeptics and like-minded people have over the years have faced persecution and ridicule for their efforts in sowing seeds of questioning and scientific temper. They have withered the storm and stood for the cause of humanity, which is possible only when, we as humans transcend religion, caste, race and other parochial considerations and think as humans first.
In the yester years, even small questions, had led to persecution and outcast. In the olden days, Gardino Bruno was burnt at stake, Socrates was poisoned and many went missing. Even the persecutions are happening in the era of scientific advancements. The growing intolerance and fear of religious fundamentalists on being questioned, has led to the assassinations of Dr. Narendra Dhabolkar, Kalburgi, Pansare and Gauri. All they did was for voicing dissent and standing for separation of religion and State and religion and politics.
The growing intolerance in the current world in the name of religion, has resulted in many youth falling prey to extremist ideology and violence as a means of silencing dissent. Indoctrination of children and youth into religion is sowing seeds of blind faith and religious protectionism. Added to this, the politisization of religion and religionalization of politics has divided the communities and countries alike. It is a known fact that misdirected youth resort to violence and they are used by vested interests to silence critiques. The atheist and humanist movement in India has not lost its fire as majority youth and commoners stand for secular and rational thought and action. They know that only tolerance, harmony and mutual respect and peaceful coexistence alone can help society to progress.
The modern world has witnessed the best inventions of the century. We have identified ways to extend life, conquer certain diseases, technology that has connected distances.
Atheism has always existed globally. Charles Bradlaugh, Robert Green Ingersoll, Thomas Paine, to name a few and in India, Charvakas and Lokayutas, Gautham Buddha, M.N Roy, Periyar, Gora & Saraswathi Gora, Abraham Kovoor have led it as a movement for social change.
There is a need to bring a cultural shift, by investing in young minds, right from critical thinking in schools, telecasting programs on media on tolerance and secular thought and upbringing of children, free from blind faith. Education is naturally secular, however, vested interests have used it as a tool for controlling young minds through religious and radical ideologies. Democratic Governments should invest public funds in any religious propaganda and activity as the voters are from various religion and no religions, making Democratic Governments are inherently secular.
Atheist propaganda is not equal to religious propaganda. There are no incentives, promises for an afterlife, or a hidden and an all-forgiving and punishing ‘so called god.’ Atheist propaganda is to invest in building critical thinking, free inquiry, rational outlook and questioning spirit. The returns for these are visible in the formation of a peaceful and a healthier society. This also helps in building hope for the next generation and an opportunity to open up their vistas of thinking. Investing in astronomy opens up questioning about the vast space, however investing in astrology limits questioning and confines the individual to blind faith. Atheism stands for inquiry and questioning.
Superstitions, globally have left scars, especially on children and women, who many-a-time are victims of superstitious practices, such as witchcraft and sorcery. Atheism challenges superstitious practices through the prism of scientific inquiry and asking the promoters to stand for test of their claims. Education is the need of the hour and hope for the future. Educating the young minds on magic, will help them to question any superstitious claims.
Humanity has transcended through a journey of war and peace, over the centuries. It has also passed through the era of dark ages, wherein superstitions and religious persecutions were at the peak. Millions have lost their lives, as victims as well as those who questioned.
Atheist Centre has been organizing World Atheist Conference since 1972, when Gora initiated the need to have discourses and conversations with an international perspective and cross learning of movements. Ever since then, Atheist Centre has organized nine World Atheist Conference, wherein we have partnered with Dr. Veeramani twice, as we are partners in building younger generation into rational thinking and action.
The World Atheist Conference is yet another milestone in the history, for bringing all of us together and help in strengthening secular ramparts as well as stand for separation of religion and State, religion and education, religion and morality and religion and governance. This would help in a long way in taking forward the conversations back to the countries and integrating them into our actions, for a rational society.
It is important that for strengthening humanist and atheist way of life and reducing religious fundamentalism, the role of citizen, government, educational institutions and the necessity of social reform are the foundations for the future and this Conference will surely help in further strengthening our cause for the well-being of humanity and the atheist and humanist movement.