Chapter 14: The Only Hope: The Enlightenment of Humanity
Wouldn’t it have been much easier for you to work without being associated with the word religion? What is the secret behind your choosing to do it this way?
I would have loved not to be associated in any way with the word religion.
The whole history of religion simply stinks. It is ugly, and it shows the degradation of man, his inhumanity, and all that is evil. And this is not about any one single religion, it is the same story repeated by all the religions of the world: man exploiting man in the name of God. I still feel uneasy being associated with the word religion. But there are a few problems: in life sometimes one has to choose things that one hates.
In my youth I was known in the university as an atheist, irreligious, against all moral systems. That was my stand, and that is still my stand. I have not changed even an inch; my position is exactly the same. But being known as an atheist, irreligious, amoral, became a problem. It was difficult to communicate with people, almost impossible to bridge any kind of relationship with people. In my communing with people, those words - atheist, irreligious, amoral - functioned like impenetrable walls. I would have remained so - for me there was no problem - but I saw that it was impossible to spread my experience, to share.
The moment people heard that I am an atheist, irreligious, amoral, they were completely closed. That I don’t believe in any God, that I don’t believe in any heaven and hell was enough for them to withdraw from me. Even very educated people - because I was a professor in the university, and I was surrounded by hundreds of professors, research scholars, intelligent, educated people - simply avoided me because they had no courage to defend what they believed; they had no argument for themselves.
And I was continually arguing on street corners, in the university, in the panwallah’s shop - anywhere that I could get hold of somebody. I would hammer religion and try to clean people completely of all this nonsense. But the total result was that I became like an island; nobody even wanted to talk with me, because even to say hello to me was dangerous: where would it lead? Finally I had to change my strategy.
I became aware that, strangely, the people who were interested in the search for truth had got involved in religions. Because they thought me irreligious, I could not commune with them; and they were the people who would be really interested to know. They were the people who would be ready to travel with me to unknown spaces. But they were already involved in some religion, in some sect, in some philosophy; and just their thinking of me as irreligious, atheistic, became a barrier. And those were the people that I had to seek out.