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18 January 2008

(Must read!) Atheism, Hinduism, Moslems etc.

It is (religion is) always a difficult subject to discuss with convinced believers of any creed. With most Moslems, it is probably an even harder matter of discussion, since no latitude of thought is officially permitted to them. Ideologically, theirs is straight and narrow path, and the believer must not swerve to the right or the left. Hindus are somewhat different, though not always so. In practice they may be very orthodox; they may, and do, indulge in the most out-of-date, reactionary and even pernicious customs, and yet they will usually be prepared to discuss the most radical ideas about religion. I imagine the modern Arya Samajists have not, as a rule, this wide intellectual approach. Like the most Moslems, they follow their own straight and narrow path. There is a certain philosophical tradition among the intellectual Hindus, which, though it does not affect practice, does make a difference to the ideological approach to a religious question. Partly, I suppose, this is due to the wide and often conflicting variety of opinions and customs that are included in the Hindu fold. It has, indeed, often been remarked that Hinduism is hardly a religion in the usual sense of the word. And yet, what amazing tenacity it has got, what tremendous power of survival! One may even be a professing atheist --the old Hindu philosopher, Charvaka, was -- and yet no one dare say that he has ceased to be Hindu. Hinduism clings on its children, almost despite them. A brahman I was born, and a Brahman I seem to remain whatever I might say or do in regard to religion or social custom. To the Indian word I am "Pandit" so and so, in spite of my desire not to have this or any other honorific title attached to my name. I remember meeting a Turkish scholar once in Switzerland, to whom I had sent previously a letter of introduction in which I had been referred to as "Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru". He was surprised and a little disappointed to see me for, as he told me, the "Pandit" had led him to expect a reverend and scholarly gentleman of advanced year.

--- An excerpt from "An Autobiography" by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru

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