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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Decline of atheism in China

As per the latest issue of the Economist, atheism is on a decline in China. It says that even though only 10% of the population is officially deemed to be religious, the actual number of believers is far higher and growing at an astonishing rate. What more, the Party is also changing its attitude and becoming more accommodating of religion. So what does it mean for rationality worldwide?

It is a fact that China contributes to most of global population of atheists (15% of world population), I believe that atheism by dictate is pointless. To me, atheism comes from a long process, requires some level of thinking and observation, a certain understanding and appreciation of the sciences, and a capacity to take personal risk. Atheism is about looking at a wretchedly poor person and arriving at a conclusion that a God worth praying doesn’t exist as opposed to a conclusion that it’s his karmic fate. It’s about giving alms to a beggar without hoping that someone will bless you for that deed. It’s about avoiding the lure of religious help whether it’s a question of a badly written exam or a seriously ill relative. Atheism is about marveling at the wonders of the universe and man’s ability to predict and influence so much of it in such a short time. It’s about ability to honor one’s left hand as much as the right hand, honor one’s feet as much as one’s nose, and most importantly to honor each individual despite his allegiance and affiliations. To me, true atheism is a point of no return with a closure of all routes offering false hope. All these can’t come from a decree, a baptism by immersion in water, a circumcision, or just by coming out of the vagina (as religious affiliation by birth espouses).

Surely China turning religious will bring down numbers of unbelievers, and this has to be seen in the context of increasing religious energy in many societies. And atheism will always face significant challenges in terms of getting numbers since our parents instill very early in us a fear of the Gods and offer hope through the easy route of prayers, thereby significantly increasing the risk perception in turning skeptical. But there is hope; just a handful of atheists like Sartre, Russell and Camus changed the atmosphere in Europe. And men, after all, do sometimes respond to logic and reason.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

use of the word 'honor' is kind of ironic here ; what would one consider to be a god-worth- worshipping ? anything worth worshipping, for that matter ? is atheism and its anti-ism are to revolve around the fulcrum of social ‘honor’ mores ?