PERIYAR: BANISH GOD; RESPECT MAN
Solely depending on god is an impediment to progress and welfare of people
Periyar is a staunch rationalist, atheist and humanist. According to him, god is the arch-enemy of rationalism. He feels that once you accept god, man is reduced to nothing; man begins to think that compared to god he is nothing. Such beliefs are carried on from generation to generation. People are usually born and brought up only in such religious traditions. As a result, people begin to compete with each other in showing to god as to how they are utter nothings. One of the great harm that befalls inevitably by having faith in god is that man stops thinking afresh on even fundamental issues. Whenever and wherever god, religion, scriptures and tradition come in, the believer’s stance is that of prostrating before them. Now Periyar feels that only irrational people accept god, leave every thing to him and become fatalists. They do not progress. On the other hand, according to Periyar, the more rational we become, the more progress we make.
Due to Independant thinking of man, cure of many illness found and human longvity increased
Whenever man has wrested any sphere of our life from god and religion, man has progressed leaps and bounds in that particular sphere. Take for example., medicine. As long as man believed that disease, cure and death were due to the will of god, nothing else could be done in these matters except reconciling ourselves to what comes by and the result was that misery only increased. As soon as man has begun to think independently on these matters except reconciling ourselves to what comes by and the result was that misery only increased. As soon as man has begun to think independently on these matters, cure of many illnesses has been found, human longevity has increased and pain, infection, epidemics and misery have become less. We can observe similar advancement in all the spheres that have come out of the reign of god and religion. Hence, Periyar found that independent thinking i.e., rationalism is the only road to real progress. Rationalism is the panacea. He had been repeatedly saying that man cannot progress unless he gave up god. Therefore, Periyar waged a unique crusade against god as found in the scriptures, especially the Hindu scriptures. He launched an intensive frontal attack on god, religion and the orthodoxy. He took them by horns. In the following paragraphs, we will note only what Periyar himself has said about god and not note what many others have said in this matter.
Man has created god and not god created man
He pointed out that it is man who has created god; that is why god is very much like human beings, the only difference being that god was a superior man: a lord, a king, an emperor and so on. He, too has various sense organs, has desires, gets angry when annoyed and is pleased by our prayers. That man has created god and not the reverse is also evident from the fact that the nature of god differs with difference in culture. This can be seen from differences founds in the idols, pictures, their dress, features and other descriptions of god of various religions and cultures. Hindu gods are not accepted by Muslims and Christians and similarly their god is not accepted by the Hindus. The Jains, the Buddhists and the atheists do not accept god at all. All this shows that man has created god according to his own imagination. The belief and all other details about god are created in the minds of children in their susceptible condition by the family environment. The society around also goes of hammering these things. Hence, the ideas regarding god get so firmly seated in our minds that it becomes very very difficult to remove them. Had the families not created such ideas in our minds, we would not have had any idea about god even when we grew up. Had god been an objective fact there would have been unanimity about god’s existence and his nature. But this is not the case.
Periyar even found that the term god does not have a definite meaning since it does not point to any definite object. Sometimes god is taken to mean a divine person living in heaven, at other times even mountains, rivers, fire, breeze, the seas, animals, serpents, trees and the stars are believed to be gods. All this goes to prove that man has created god. Moreover, we should also note the thing that whatever advantages the primitive man may have derived from creating god, they are no more there now.
Periyar pointed out that at present god is not at all necessary for man. Animals live without god. Primitive men lived without god; the jains, Buddhists and atheists also live quite well without god. And the welcome development is that the number of people living without god is increasing. We rather find that in modern times those who live without god do live a better life.
No divine doer behind every natural phenomen
Periyar pointed out that the ancient man created god when he was ignorant about the happenings around him. He imagined that there was an invisible, divine doer behind every large-scale movement like rainfall, winds, earth-quakes, flowing of rivers and even behind the epidemics. But modern man knows the processes responsible for these phenomena; so he does not need an invisible god to explain these and such other things. Therefore Periyar, bluntly says that god arose when man was an ignorant fool. He concluded that -
(1) One who has fabricated god is a fool,
(2) One who has attributed qualities to god is dishonest, and
(3) Followers of these are stupid and idiotic.
Absurd and indecent stories in epics and puranas
He used to say that ‘to say there is god you need not be wise. Even a fool could say that there is god. But to deny god one must be wise and intelligent.’ Periyar used to ridicule and point out the silly, dishonest and superstitious ways gods are characterized in the Hindu mythology. To cite just two examples, in a speech captioned ‘Rationalist Ideology’ at Mettupalayam on 22-6-71 he narrated: “The king Dasharatha is believed to have lived for 60,000 years and had 40,000 wives. Naturally, each wife had to wait for many years for her turn to spend a night with the king.” What a silly description and what a wretched life of the queens. The other example of queer description of god’s ways is the following. “The gods once went to lord Shankara and sought for a general to defeat the demons. Now instead of creating a general through his divine powers, Shankara thought of procreating a son who would be the desired general. Naturally, he entered into a sexual intercourse with Parvathi. But Shankara forgot about procreating the general and the sexual intercourse went on for one thousand years. The gods were worried and had to remind Shankara about the general. This means that the intercourse was going on in the open. Any way Shankara suddenly stopped the intercourse but the overflow of his semen was such that it flew in rivers; it flooded even the seas and so on. Some of the gods drank that water but spat out. The semen part which was drunk by six women and the Kartikeya general was born.” Periyar cited such instances in his speech much to the merriment of the audience leading to disbelieving the whole thing lock, stock and barrel. People saw as to how foolish the whole religious mythology was. But the misfortune is that this mythology is believed to be true and is respected even today, by millions of orthodox people.
Gods are not only supposed to have human shapes (they could at will adopt any shape), they even had genders, holy abode, and respective birds or animals to go from one place to another. Gods were also born, played truant, were married and had children.
Idol of god taken to concubine’s house every year
Periyar could not understand god needing wives. But the unconvincing and funny thing is that some of them even had mistresses. On a particular day every year the devotees carry the deity on their shoulders from Srirangam (Tamil Nadu) to a concubine living at Uraiyur with all devotion and festivities. The devotees wait there outside the concubine’s residence for the whole night and bring the deity back on the next day to the deity’s own residence in all dedication and rejoicings. Pointing at such instances Periyar asked: Can there be any thing more silly than this? He pointed out the contradiction between conceiving god to be omnipresent and yet conceiving a particular holy abode for him.
If the world is the creation of god,why there is so much cruelty and killing?
Similarly, it will be self-contradictory to imagine that everything in the universe is created by god and yet believe only some particular river, place, mountain, day or animal to be sacred or even unholy. Moreover, when god is supposed to have created the world and everything in it, god becomes responsible even for the evil in the world : wickedness, foolishness, selfishness, deformities, death and so on. If god is omnipotent, omniscient and kind, he should have a world where there are no clashes and accidents; everything should have been a smooth adjustment as we see in a watch or, in fact, in any machine. But do we see any adjustments and kindliness in the universe supposed to have been made by a kind god? No, many animal species live on killing animals or insects of other species. Bigger fish swallow smaller fish. There is so much cruelty and killing in the natural world that as Ingersoll had put it, almost every mouth is a battle-field and every stomach a grave-yard. And the pity is that the omniscient, omnipotent and kindly god has not been doing anything all these millions of years to save many times even his own devotees. Hence Periyar feels that instead of indulging in an unverifiable and unconvincing acrobatics to justify the state of affairs the most convincing thing is to say that the world is not created by god, and that god does not exist. He exhorted people to look at these self-contradictions, silly behaviour of gods and their believers, and give up god altogether. When Periyar put forth such arguments in picturesque details in his satirical and colloquial style and language, his preachings went home straight to the hearts of the people, numbering thousands at each meeting. But there are many more arguments put forth by him to banish god from our life. Some of them are the following.
If god was omnipotent and omniscient, why should we lock the temple/church/mosque doors at night to prevent the theft of god’s property? If fire was god why should we extinguishes fire burning our houses or other property? If a child is a gift of god would any one accept a child born to one’s wife when he did not have sex with her earlier? By chanting of mantras if the Brahmins can transform even a mere stone into a god why could not he transform the untouchables into gods by chanting the very mantras? He failed to understand as to why the downtrodden people were forbidden entry into temples when mosquitoes, bats, rats and the dirty flies roamed there freely? He again failed to understand as to why all the incarnations of Vishnu took place only in India and again in North India, while the incarnations of Shiva took place only in Tamil Nadu? Hence he concluded that the whole religious thinking was silly and foolish.
Valuable time and money is wasted in prayers and pilgrimages by devotees
He further adds: surely our ancestors were foolish enough to create god(s) but by continuing to believe and worship such god(s), we also become like our ancestors : fools and idiots. Science has proved that the sun, the moon and the other planets are lifeless bodies; and yet the orthodox people go on worshipping them as if they were living persons who could be placated through worship, prayer and devotion. Naturally, all such activities are bound to go waste; and so do they actually go. Similar is the case with our devotions, prayers and pilgrimages to various holy places. They all go waste. Has any one observed god accepting the offerings we make to him? No. Similarly our prayers are never actually answered by the gods. If we minutely observe the course of events we will find that on the whole we get what we deserve. This we should get even without the prayers and the devotions to god. We reap as we sow. If people keep this fact in mind, they will not need god at all. By giving up god, we will be the gainers since the time, money and the other resources wasted on god-worship will be saved; we can utilize them for better purposes and in more fruitful ways. Any one can see that only the idlers and greedy people incapable of putting in sustained labour and the persons living in insecure conditions need god. Fear, ruin and death are the greatest factors that make people seek god and religion.
None of the promises of religions has ever been fulfilled
People foolishly rush to religion because every religion promises/guarantees success over these factors. Unfortunately people do not realise the fictitious nature of these promises. Every religion en masse offers the guaranteed success of the good over the evil meaning thereby the successful of the faithful over the faithless heathens; it also offers immortality to the believers. But these promises are never seen by anyone to have been fulfilled. Yet under the false hope that they will be fulfilled somewhere, somehow and sometime the faithfuls cling on to god and religion. But as far as this world is concerned these people are the losers in one more way. The faithful and the enthusiasts of every religion fight with the faithful and the religious enthusiasts of the other religions. The world scene becomes something like on (religion) against all. This is why we see that throughout the history more human blood has flown in the name of religion than in any other name. Clever people give religious colour to their even secular interests and make the struggle far more fierce than what otherwise it would have been. One more thing we should keep in mind, i.e. due to technological advance the present wars have become vastly destructive. In this respect again not only the believers of both the quarrelling sides are on the whole the losers, the world as a whole is also the real loser. The religious conflagrations greatly harm even the secular people, their property and interests. Therefore, it would be foolish on the part of the secular people to allow the religious people to continue to fight among themselves.