WHY I AM AN ATHEIST
WHY I AM AN ATHEIST.
WHY I AM AN ATHEIST
Bhagat Singh wrote this essay in 1930 while detained in Lahore Central Jail. He proclaimed himself an atheist. Because of this, his friends accused him of vanity. They said that he was an atheist because he was too proud of himself. But Bhagat Singh strongly disagreed with that. In this essay, he explained that vanity was not the reason for his atheism. You will learn about his liberal and revolutionary principles.
Bhagat Singh saw the injustices of the world and asked that if there is a God, why does he let his people suffer? In this book, Bhagat Singh presented strong challenges to the faith of Muslims, Christians, and Hindus. He questioned the concepts of creation, evolution, and reincarnation. Because he died an atheist, he had no hopes for heaven or a higher rebirth. Bhagat Singh faced death as it is. He was content to have spent his life fighting for the masses and the independence of India. He was sentenced to death by hanging in 1931. He was only 23 years old. Yet, he is a great Indian hero. He was a gifted writer, a free thinker, and a strong leader. Bhagat Singh laid down his life for what he fought for. Atheist or not, he is a man to be admired.
Why I am an Atheist
Is vanity the reason why I am an atheist? Is vanity the reason why I don’t believe in God? This is the question that some of my friends ask me. It never occurred to me that I give that impression. Some people just concluded that in the brief time that they spent with me. I feel compelled to give my answer. I’m just an ordinary man. I do not claim to be more than that. I admit that there are times that I am vain. But that is definitely not the reason why I’m an atheist. Some friends call me an autocrat. Some of them call me a despot. They complain that I have the tendency to force my opinion upon others and to argue until my views get accepted. I cannot deny that. I also cannot deny that I am egotistical. In our cult, we call that “Ahankar,” or excess pride in your own self. Now, if it is indeed true that I am atheist because of vanity, then it must come from these two arguments.
First, I must be so full of pride that I consider myself the rival of God. Second, I must be so vain that I think of myself as a God. However, in either of the two situations, I will fail. If the first statement is true, that I see myself as the rival of God, then I’m not truly atheist. That is because to be his enemy, and I should believe that God exists. And if the second statement is true, then I must also believe in God because I think that there is a higher being that is watching over the whole universe. To say that I am the rival of God or that I am the reincarnation of God strongly implies that I believe in a God. This is most certainly false. I purely deny the existence of a higher being who gives the reason for everything. Therefore, I am not vain. I do not claim to be a higher being. I do not believe that such an entity exists. Let me state clearly that there is no God.
Where did my friends get this idea? How did they derive that I am an atheist because I am vain? I became popular because of the court trials. My name became known because of the Delhi Bombing and the Lahore Conspiracy case. My friends thought that this popularity got into my head. Well, let me explain to you the truth. I did not become an atheist only recently. I have been an atheist since years ago, when I was in college. I haven’t met these friends of mind yet who accuse me of being vain. I could not have pride then since I wasn’t even a good student.I was not studious. I was also not industrious. I was a very shy boy who was pessimistic about my future. But I can tell you that I was not an atheist from the very beginning.My grandfather is an Arya Samajist. I was born and raised in that belief. My upbringing was Arya Samajist.
After my private education, I enrolled in the DAV School of Lahore. I lived in the school boarding house in my first year. During that time, I prayed in the morning and in the evening. I also had the habit of reciting the Gayatri Mantra for hours.I was a strict devotee. After that, I began to live with my father. He was a liberalist. It was from him that I learned to fight for freedom. Nevertheless, he also told me to pray daily. In the rise of the Non-cooperation movement, I enrolled in the National College. I became even more liberal there. I became a critical thinker. I learned to question all accepted beliefs and systems. I started to question religious matters. I started to grow my hair long. I became rebellious. I began to criticize the mythologies and doctrines of religions. But I still believed in the existence of a God.
Later on, I became a member of the revolutionary party. The first leader I had was doubtful about God, but he could not reject the idea that God exists. When I asked him, the leader would tell me, “Just pray if you want to.” I think that this kind of atheism lacks courage. The second militant leader I had was a firm believer. His name was Sachindra Nath Sanyal. He was convicted as part of the Karachi Conspiracy. He wrote a book entitled “Bandi Jivan,” in which he glorified God. He praised God under the guidance of the Vedas. What I am pointing out is that atheism is not prevalent in the revolutionary party. Even the four martyrs of Kakori spent their last moments in prayer. Ram Prasad Bismil was an Arya Samajist. Rajen Lahiri recited the hymns of the Gita and the Upanishads before his death.
There was only one among them who never prayed. He said that religion is the result of ignorance and imperfection in humanity. But this man never dared to proclaim that there is no God. When I first joined the party, I was just a romantic idealist. I only followed the teachings of the leaders. But now that they’re gone, it has come to us, the new generation, to take responsibility. Some critics jeer at us. Some do not believe in our cause and our strength as a political party. That became a turning point for me. “Study” became my motto. If you study, you empower yourself to fight back against the arguments thrown by the opposition. If you study, you will be able to protect the beliefs of the revolutionary party.
And that is what I did. Our past leaders used physical force only. But I learned that ideas are stronger. Because of study, there is no blind faith. There is no mysticism. I encouraged my comrades to embrace realism. When I finally became leader, I taught the members to use physical force as a final resort. They must first understand the reason why we fight. They must first know the principles behind our struggle. I read about anarchy and communism. I read about Lenin, Marx, and Trotsky. I read about other men who succeeded in bringing revolution to their country. All of them were atheists. By 1926, I saw the absence of logic in the idea of God. From the standpoint of realism, it is simply impossible that there is a higher being out there who created and watched over the universe. The next events that happened to me, I faced already as an atheist.
I was arrested in Lahore year 1927. It came as a surprise. I did not even know that the police were looking for me. I was just walking by a garden when all of a sudden I was surrounded by policemen. I felt calm. I did not feel any emotion. I was not angry or excited. I just let them take me. I was taken to the police precinct, where I was detained for a month. The police thought that I was connected to the Kakori Party. They said that I was in Lucknow when the court trials were being held. They also said that I was part of a scheme to help the martyrs escape. The police claimed that I, together with some members, procured several bombs. They said that in order to test them, we did the Dussehra Bombing of 1926.The police told me that if I were to give more information about the activities of the revolutionary party, I would be set free. They said that my case would all be cleared in court. I laughed at their proposal. I never believed any of it. I knew that it was a trap.
Revolutionaries like me would never throw bombs at innocent people. The Senior Superintendent of CID came down to tell me what was going to happen. If I would not provide the statement that the police demanded, they would arrange for my court trials.They would insist on my connection to the Kakori case as well as the murders in Dussehra.The superintendent explained that the police had enough evidence against me to get me hanged. I was aware that the police could do whatever they wanted with me that very day. Some of them told me to start praying. But, as I said, I was already an atheist at this point.
I thought that maybe I could only say that I am an atheist in times of peace and happiness. I thought that maybe in times of hardship, I would revert back like the Kakori martyrs. But I realized that even in this tough time in the police precinct, even on the brink of being hanged, I could not bring myself to believe and pray to God.I never did. I “passed the test,” so to speak. I never felt any desire to “save my neck.” I am a disbeliever through and through.“Faith” makes hardships easier and bearable. Man finds support and consolation in God. But in the absence of God, man has no one to depend on but himself. He should stand on his own legs. He should get through the hurricanes and storms all by himself.
During those times of great need, man cannot afford to be vain. He would not dare to challenge God.I am now in the middle of a hurricane. In just one week, the court decision will be announced. I have no other consolation beside the fact that I am going to die fighting for my principles. I am going to die standing for what I believe in.A Hindu revolutionary might expect to be reincarnated as a king. A Christian revolutionary might hope for eternal life in paradise. But what have I, an atheist, to hope for? I know that when the rope is around my neck and boards removed from below my feet, that will be the ultimate end for me. There will be no afterlife or other life. My soul will be gone nothing else.All that I have is a short life spent with a cause. I have no selfish motive. I have no hopes to be rewarded in this life or another. I have devoted my life to the nation’s independence because that is all I want to do.
To offer oneself to the service of mankind, to devote oneself to alleviate the suffering of humanity without expecting rewards such as being reborn as a king or living eternally in paradise: that is true nobility.Is there vanity in this? Is there vanity in this noble cause? No, there is none. Let us forgive those who cannot grasp this kind of emotion, this kind of depth. Those who accuse me of vanity have hearts that are just lumps of flesh.It is sad that my self-reliance is interpreted as vanity. It is miserable, but there’s no hope in controlling the opinions of other people.If you oppose the accepted faith, if you criticize a great man who is deemed above criticism, then you are vain. You think very highly of yourself. Is this not a sign of blind faith? As a revolutionary, I should be a free thinker. I should be able to challenge the prevailing norms.
Let’s take, for example, Gandhi. Since he is a great man, no one ever dares to criticize him. Whatever he said about politics, economics, ethics or religion must be right. It doesn’t matter if you really believe in what he said. You should accept it as the truth.Does this mentality lead to progress? Surely, it does not. It is reactionary. It is not independent thinking. This is the same as mysticism. This is the same as blindly believing and following God just because your ancestors did.
I have made it clear that it is not vanity which led me to become an atheist. It is upon the readers to judge if I am convincing or not.I know that my current situation would be more bearable if I believed in God. My hardship would become lighter. My suffering would be more romantic. But because I am an atheist, things are just harsh and dry.I do not really need the help of mysticism to face my future. I do not want to be intoxicated by hopes of salvation. I choose to a realist. I will accept my fate as it is. I will accept it with reason. It is difficult, but I will try my best to succeed.If my reason for atheism is not vanity, then what is? This is the next question that I will answer.
The idea of God came about because ancient people could not explain the mysteries of the world. They did not have direct proof of why the sun comes up and goes down. They did not know why it rained or how fire worked. That is why the ancient peoples each tried to create their own explanations.That is the reason why we have different religions. People from the West and the East have different mythologies. They have a wide range of stories explaining creation and natural phenomena.Within the Eastern religions, the Hindu faith is different from the Muslim faith. Within India, Brahmanism, Jainism and Buddhism are all separate from one another. Within Brahmanism, the beliefs of Sanatan Dharma and Arya Samaj are also in deep conflict.
Every other belief, every other religion, every other branch of faith has its own version.And they all believe and proclaim their own as the ultimate truth. This, for me, is very unfortunate.If only the ancient thinkers collaborated and thought as one, then they would have found the real answer to the mysteries of the world. But this is not what happened. Each of them was unwilling to give up their own versions. The result is that humanity has been ignorant for centuries.At this point, I have questions for the believers.First, why did God create the world? Why did he create it full of misery and tragedy? Why did he create humans as imperfect and unsatisfied beings?
Do not tell me that this is his Law. For if God follows a certain set of rules, then he is not omnipotent. Do not tell me that God takes delight in this. For if he does, then he is no different from Nero. This Roman emperor killed thousands of his people. He created a number of tragedies just for his enjoyment.Nero is labeled tyrannical, wicked and heartless. How is God different if he lets tragedies happen every minute, every hour and every day? Why did he create a world of constant unrest? What is the logic behind all this?I ask you Muslims and Christians. What is your explanation? You don’t believe in reincarnation. You cannot say that the present misery is caused by past evildoing. You believe that God made the entire universe in six days, and each day when the work is done God said that “All is well.”
Muslims and Christians, ask your God today. Tell him about the past history, like the wars, the famines and the plagues. Show him the present situations like terrorism, poverty and child abuse. Can your God still say that “All is well”?Everywhere around the world, there are people starving in slums. There are overworked and underpaid laborers.There are capitalists who drain the lives of the poor.Every day, there is a production surplus thrown into the ocean. Resources are wasted instead of being distributed to the deprived producers. We have monuments in the honor of kings which are laid upon the bones of slaves. Let God see all of this. Can he still say that “All is well”?
What is God’s reason behind all this suffering? You are silent. Well now, let me ask the Hindus. You say that all those who suffer today are sinners in their past life. You say that the rulers of today have been saints in their previous birth, which is why they are entitled to have power.Hindus, let me say then that your ancestors were very wise people. They were clever enough to create a system which endures all efforts of doubt and disbelief.But let us see how far these arguments can stand.My dear Hindus, I say this to you: the concept of rebirth is created by those in the top. They want to protect their power, they want to maintain their riches, and they want to keep their superiority.
The privileged make the poor think that they deserve their problematic fate because they were sinners.And so the poor follow. They do not attempt to get more shares of resources. They do not attempt to break the order. They do not attempt to displace the rich. It is the religious leaders and the rich powerful people who conspired to create this system of punishment and reincarnation.The poor accepted the knouts, the jails, the gallows and the endless poverty because they were made to think that they deserve it.And so the preachers and the elites continue to enjoy 99% of what the world has to offer.Hindus, I ask now your all-knowing God, why does he let people commit sin? He can prevent it if he wants to. Why did he let warlords kill so many innocent people? Why did he not terminate these tyrants or terminate the evil in them? Why did God let wars happen?
Why does not God change the minds of the British so that they can finally let India achieve independence? Why does not God stop the greediness in the hearts of capitalists so that the masses can live a better life?My fellow Indians, I say this to you.The British rule is upon us not because there is a God who wills it. The British are colonizing us because we do not attempt to fight them. Yes, they have guns, rifles, bombs and bullets. But more than the military power, the British are able to rule over us because of our apathy. They exploit our nation because we let them.Where is God in all of this? What exactly is he doing? Is he just watching? Is he enjoying the suffering of humanity? If this is true, then he is an oppressor. He is a tyrant. He is a Nero. Down with him.
Now, let us get into the subject of creation. If I am an atheist, how do I explain the existence of the universe? How do I explain the origin of man? I have a simple answer. Creation is a process of nature. A long time ago, different substances floating in the universe mixed together. They formed the nebula that eventually became earth.This is also what happened in the origin of animals and man. Refer to Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Life started with organic substances that mixed to form the simplest of living organisms. From bacteria in the water, the plants, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals evolved. Man is a result of his constant battle with nature.The next argument you may like to tackle is the reason for birth defects. If I am an atheist, how do I explain a child who is born lame or blind? Is it because he was a sinner in his past life?
Biologists have already provided the answer. Birth defects, whether a physical or mental disability, can be attributed to genetics or to the shortcomings of the parents during pregnancy. They are not the result of reincarnation.You may ask me then, if there is no God, why did humanity come to believe in him? My answer is short and simple. People believe in God in the way that they believe in ghosts or evil spirits. They are products of imagination and storytelling. The only difference between God and other supernatural entities is that the belief in God is universal. The belief systems are well-structured and well-defined.Man created religion to help him face the challenges of life. He made God as a mother, a father, a sister and a brother. That is so that if he is left in utter defeat and all his friends have deserted him, man still has someone to count on.
And that someone is dependable and powerful. Man is consoled in the idea that there is someone who will support him no matter what. That idea must have been very useful to primitive man. Therefore, we can conclude that man believed in God to help him overcome suffering.If a man chooses to be a realist or an atheist, then he is on his own.He has no one to depend on but himself. That is my personal situation. Let me state loud and clear that it is not vanity that led me here.
I am an atheist because of my rational way of thinking.If I pray now that I am in the midst of death, then I will be committing a greater sin. In my opinion, prayers are a low, selfish act of man in trying to save himself. I have read about other atheists like me who faced troubles bravely. So now, I will stand up straight and keep my head up. I will fully accept my fate at the gallows.A friend told me that I will begin to pray at the very last moment.But I said no. That would only make me a liar and a coward. I will stand by my principles until the very end. I will not pray. If my friends and readers would still say that this is vanity, then so be it.
You learned about Bhagat Singh. You learned about why he was an atheist. You learned that it was not because of vanity. You learned that his atheism was due to his socialist revolutionary beliefs. You learned that for Bhagat Singh, man created God to help him endure hardships.Perhaps, we will want to reflect on whether atheism is evil or immoral.If you do not believe in God, does this mean that you would bring violence to other people? Does this mean that you are a bad person?
Bhagat Singh wanted to lift up the masses. He wanted the end of poverty. India has gained its independence. But the struggle continues for India to become a strong, developed nation.To take on Bhagat Singh’s message, it is upon us the citizens, not upon God or any supreme being, to stand on our own feet, strive hard and reach our goal. The fate of the nation is in our hands. Your success or failure as a person depends on no one else but you.