Friday, May 22, 2009

Power without God

I have often exclaimed how any serious political candidate in the USA has to repeatedly announce his/her Christian beliefs, while in India it is not so, apart from those who explicitly want to benefit from pandering to the people of their own faith.

My friends often countered this with the fact that while Indian masses already know your religion from your surname, they also _assume_ that you are a "believer" in a higher power. That if it came out that a politician was agnostic or atheist, they would never win in India.

Well, the cat (some cats, at least) are out of the bag! The ToI reports that as many as six cabinet ministers took their oaths of office only on the constitution, no "help me God". From the article:
Six cabinet ministers of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's new team are 'non-believers'. These ministers "solemnly affirmed" that they would bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution while taking oath today.

The Prime Minister and 13 of his ministers took the oath in the name of God.

This who didn’t, are A K Antony, P Chidambaram, Sushilkumar Shinde, M Veerappa Moily, S Jaipal Reddy and C P Joshi, a first-timer in the cabinet.

The other ministers who took oath in the name of God include Pranab Mukherjee, Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Vayalar Ravi, S M Krishna, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kamal Nath, Meira Kumar, Murli Deora, Kapil Sibal, Ambika Soni, B K Handique and Anand Sharma.

Given that our home minster is a non-believer, does that mean that God won't bless India?

In any case, this agnostic feels that it is a good sign for the country when a politician can openly acknowledge his lack of belief in a supernatural power, while still stressing their intention to do their duty in accordance with our governing document; one that didn't come to someone in a vision, or is not comprised of God's own words, but is a living, changing, evolving entity, much like our rich culture.

Amen to that!


  1. I thought that last line there was beautifully put! :-) I've always felt rankled by the exaggerated role of god in American politics. Glad to know we are not as pretentious in secularity, in the sense that atheism is considered as an option.

  2. Thanks for the kind words JD :).

    It will be interesting to see though if the opponents of these cabinet ministers portray them as godless atheists in the next elections for political mileage :).

  3. Anonymous11:05 AM

    I beg to disagree about the "atheist can never win in India logic". Our first prime minister was one.

    Also to believe or not to believe or what to believe or what not to believe is a person's own choice (our constitution guarentees that).

    Above all a person should be judged by his/her deeds, not from his/her cast, religion or political belief.

  4. @Anon: I agree with you in terms of what the Indian constitution guarantees, and what "should" be one's right. However, I find it hard to believe that ordinary Indian voters back in the day were aware of the fact that "Pandit" Nehru was anything but a devout Hindu.

  5. Anonymous11:24 AM

    "Pandit" Nehru took the oath on the name of constitution. Nehru never went to any religious place during his prime ministership. He declared himself as atheist and he was (his autobiography clearly states that, plz check wikipedia also)

  6. @anon: I am not saying that Pt. Nehru was not an atheist. I am saying that people may not have been _aware_ of it. (not sure how many had read his autobiography back in the 50s)

    That said, if indeed the Indian masses do not care about a person's religious beliefs or the lack thereof, it only makes me happy :).

  7. I also believe that Indians don't really attach much value to somebody being a non-believer. What may cause problem (and does) is someone claiming to believe in a particular way a religion is practised, or the religion itself.

    Though I think caste is the biggest factor, which many would understand is different from religion.

    Anyways...that's a good news. Amen to that.

  8. India need to know about the Self-Respect Movement started years ago in Tamilnadu. And to believe and not to believe on god is a personal matter.I liked the last line that "In any case, this agnostic feels that it is a good sign for the country when a politician can openly acknowledge his lack of belief in a supernatural power, while still stressing their intention to do their duty in accordance with our governing document;"
    Future looks good now with atheist finding attention in main indian media ...

  9. Was watching Boston Legal last night & James Spader was brilliantly & passionately demonstrating in court how the right wing wins in US politics have allowed the line between the Church & Politics to be blurred, resulting in schools eschewing important things like sex education, resulting in higher risk of HIV infections.

    I'm a believer in God, but I'd be the last person to allow religion & politics to mix.

    I also do not see anything wrong with a believer swearing to uphold our constitution & serve the country, and asking for God's assistance in being able to do so well. I know I ask for His assistance in anything I do.

    On a separate note, I can understand why Karunanidhi is an avowed non-believer. Anyone who was born male & given two names, both female (Karuna & Nidhi) is bound to have a bone to pick!