I regard Taslima Nasreen as brave but stupid. Some people have asked me to explain.
I regard her as brave because she bravely spoke out against atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh after the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992, in her novel 'Lajja ', even at the risk of her own life, and she has been hounded by bigots since then. I am opposed to atrocities on anyone, whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, etc, and I am opposed to hounding anyone.
However I also call her stupid because she attacks religion without understanding the social conditions which give rise to it.
Like Taslima, I too am an atheist, and I too believe that all religions are superstitions, and are therefore false.. But unlike her, I understand that there are certain social conditions which give rise to religion, e.g. lack of scientific understanding among most people of the objective world due to the primitive development of science as yet ( as compared to what it will be 100 or 200 years hence ), poverty, exploitation, and the chance factor in our lives. Without eliminating these social conditions an attempt to suppress religion forcibly will only make people more fanatic and bigoted.
Religion and science are poles apart. Religion states that there is a supernatural being called God, which is immortal, unchanging and all powerful. Science does not believe in any supernatural entity. It believes that the only real entity in the world is matter ( or rather, matter-energy, since Einstein has proved that matter and energy are inter convertible ), but matter is in motion, according to certain laws, which can be discovered by scientific research.
Some people ask that if there was no God, who created the world ? This question presumes that everything must have a creator. But if everything must have a creator, then God too must have a creator, i.e. a super God, and this super God too must have a creator, i.e. a super super God, and so on. This is known as the fallacy of the infinite regress.
In fact the only reality in the Universe is matter. If we ask where did matter come from, the answer is : matter came from matter. Matter always existed, but it is in motion.
Religion first arose everywhere due to men's ignorance about nature. Almost all gods everywhere were initially nature gods, e.g the Vedic gods Indra, Agni, Surya, etc or the Greek and Roman Gods, Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, Poseidon, etc.These were personification of natural forces which could benefit man or harm him. For instance, if there is timely rain the agricultural crop would be good, but if there was drought, there would be famine. So men conceived of a rain god, Indra, who had to be propitiated to please him and avoid his wrath. Similarly, people in many places at one time believed that small pox is due to the wrath of a goddess ( mata ), who had to be propitiated to please her.
Much later the concept of one god alone arose in the Jewish religion and Islam, where God represented the Perfect Man, who did not have the failings of the ordinary man e.g. he never fell sick, was never born and will never die, and is all powerful, etc
Of course all religions are superstitions, and therefore false. But why do people need religion even today ?
The poor people, who comprise 75-80% of all people, need religion as a psychological support, because their lives are so miserable that they would go mad if they did not have religion as a consoler and a balm ( some call it an opium ).
Many affluent people too need religion because while they are rich today, they may become poor
tomorrow. Prosperous businessmen today may become bankrupt in the future ( due to various causes, e.g. an economic recession ). Employees may lose their jobs.The chance factor is so powerful today that we cannot control our own lives, and so we believe that some supernatural entity is controlling our lives, which must be propitiated. This is also why people believe in babas, astrology, palmistry, etc which are all superstitions and humbug.
It is true that today the chance factor is very powerful in our lives. We plan something, but something else happens. But this is due to the low level of development of science as yet in the world as compared to what it will be 100 or 200 years hence. Science would then have developed so much that we will be able to control our lives, and then there will be no need of religion.
With every step science takes, religion recedes. At one time people believed in a rain god, Indra, who could cause drought or floods if he was angry. So he had to be propitiated if there was a drought ( by performing yagyas, etc ). Today, by development of science we understand how rain is caused ( by formation of low pressure areas ), and how we can harness rivers by dams, etc. We also understand that small pox is not due to a goddess, but due to a virus, which can be prevented from entering our bodies by vaccination.
In his famous novel ' The Brothers Karamazov ', the Russian writer Dostoevsky posed the question : if there was a God, why do children, who had not done any harm to anyone, suffer ? There are millions of children in the world who are poor, hungry, homeless, and shivering in the cold. Why does not God, if he were all powerful, remove their distress ? This means that either God, if he really exists, is all powerful or good, but he cannot be both.
100 years hence or so there will be no poverty, exploitation, etc among humans, and modern industry will have become so powerful and so big that enough wealth can be generated by it to give a decent life to everyone in the world. Also, science will have developed so much that we will be able to control our own lives. Then people will have no need of God.
So instead of directly attacking religion, as Taslima does, I attack the social conditions which give rise to it, while upholding everyone's freedom to practise his/her religion.
It is true that many scientists believed in God, but that was because for a considerable period of time scientific and unscientific ideas will co-exist, often in the same head ( since remnants of the old thinking persist for a long time before they die out finally ). But this does not prove that God exists.