“I am an Atheist. I don’t believe in God”.
“I believe something is there, but don’t know what it is, but it is definitely not as we see in Church. “
“I am agnostic.”
“I respect all religions, but I don’t believe in God myself.”
“I believe all religions are good. I am a humanitarian.”
Such above are the views on God and religion of circa 35% of German population, circa 25% of French Population and circa 20% of EU population.
Religion is a soft taboo in discussions in Germany. Most often it comes out in conversations when we discuss Tax rules. When people declare themselves to be non-Christians, they do not pay Church Tax which is a sizeable component of their income.
When they do not pay Church Tax, they are not entitled to avail the services of the Church, like baptism, wedding ceremonies and such. Funny, isn’t it? I have personally got numerous invitations to attend Easter meeting and Christmas Mass from the Church workers; them having complete cognizance of the fact that I am not a Christian.
However, evasion of Church Tax is not the motivation behind people declaring themselves as non-Christians. Disillusioned with Church, its teachings and its controversies, rational thinking individuals declare themselves to be non-Christians. They take comfort in subscription to degrees of atheism, agnosticism and other popular philosophies denoting disenchantment and fallout with Church.
“You are following Sanatan Dharma. You just do not know it”, sometimes I tell them.
Sometimes they display more interest, prodding me to further elaborate,” The word Sanatan loosely translated means eternal. It is the natural way to be.”
Finally, I clarify that in popular language they are Hindus.
I am not authorized to convert anyone to Hinduism. However, don’t we believe that if the other person subscribes to your ideas and arguments, they are converted? One needs to win over a rational mind. I explain to them some prescribed ways to be one with God – Bhakti, Karma, Sewa and Dhyana; a rather simplified explanation. A concept that does find a lot of resonance with a good number of people is that of being a Karmayogi and serving through Karma. Are they not already converted?
Only an esteemed and learned Guru could coach, clear confusion and convert such people.
However, on a personal level I know that my relationship with God has seen myriad phases of delusion, detachment, devotion and diligence. I have been an atheist during some phases of my early life, but never had the urge to call myself an atheist; never needed to denounce my faith. It was merely a variation of my relationship with the ultimate truth; a relationship which was relevant and comforting at that phase of my life. The vastness and all-encompassing trait of Sanatan Dharma created space for me; or so I believed; and so, I tell them.
Not being deeply intellectual and thoroughly versed in scriptures sometimes helps, as the resistance of people to your ideas is low. It is easier to prod people into exploring Hinduism while discussing personal, relatable life experiences. Prod I do; and prodded they are.
I read the book by Aroop Chatterjee – “Mother Teresa:The Untold Story”.
I come across a rather inspiring passage in the book.
“In the homes for the dying, Mother taught the sisters how to secretly baptize those who were dying. Sisters were to ask each person in danger of death if he wanted a ticket to heaven. An affirmative reply was to mean consent to baptism. The sister was then to pretend that she was just cooling the person’s forehead with a wet cloth, while she was in fact baptizing him, saying quietly the necessary words. Secrecy was important so that it would not come to be known that Mother Teresa’s order was secretly baptizing Hindus and Muslims.”
I have a lot of admiration for Mother Teresa. She lowered the already low barrier to entry into the Christian fold. What could be simpler than having your forehead wiped with cool water and someone chanting some verses, more so when you are on your death bed and unmindful of what is going on?
I attempt to remove that barrier completely for a large number of people claiming to be atheists, agnostics or simply not believing in the dogmas of Abrahamic faiths. These alert, rational individuals are not aware that they might have subscribed to the teachings and philosophies of Hinduism. I might have initiated them without them being cognizant of it. Just like what Mother Teresa did; created Christians, who did not even know they were Christians as they lay dying.
She is a saintly role model. I try to do my bit.
It was important for the Mother to convert even by stealth, dying people into her fold. It is important for me that people know, understand and adopt Hinduism as the natural, neutral, eternal and organic way to be.
Once I hired a taxi driven by a driver from Albania. On knowing that I came from India, he said, “Ah. You must know Mother Teresa. She won the Nobel Prize for Peace. We are very proud of her”.
I could win the Nobel Prize. I learnt from Aroop Chatterjee‘s book that none from Kolkata proposed Mother Teresa’s name for the Nobel Prize. That could happen to me. No one from Kolkata would propose my name and I might win.
Maybe the Albanians would be proud of me too, if the Indians not so much.