Emerge ‘18 – A Full Day Seminar on Rationalism, Atheism and Free Thinking by EsSENSE

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EsSENSE, Freethinkers’ dairy is an Indian rationalist platform based in Kerala. It brings together rationalist speakers, writers, thinkers, activists, supporters, and well-wishers, with the goal of promoting rationalism and freethinking in Kerala and in the larger global environment.

Through EsSENSE’s publications, e-magazines, seminars, online media, and other collaborative platforms, they endeavor to develop rationalist thought, share ideas, expand human intellectual horizons, facilitate learning, and foster collaboration.

EsSENSE embarked on a journey to build a better tomorrow that embraces science and rationality, pursues freethinking and atheism, and elevates humanism and justice, while resisting superstition, quackery, ignorance, and hate.

Emerge ‘18 is a full day seminar conducted by EsSENSE at Hotel South Regency in Cochin on 29th July 2018.

I was fortunate to attend the function. The seminar exposed me to new ideas and thoughts on rationalism and free thinking.

My main intention was to meet Professor Ravichandran.C and click a photo with him. (I was lucky to do that) I have watched numerous debates and lectures of him on YouTube and also read few interviews on him in various online and offline magazines. Basically, I’m a hardcore fan of him!

From the interaction with people gathered to attend the function, I have realized that a revolutionary wave of rationalism and free thinking has emerged in Kerala.

To free our society from the clutches of superstitions, religious dogmas and pseudo-scientific endeavors, we need a younger generation of freethinkers, rationalists as well as promoters of reason and science.

This blog-post contains new ideas and thoughts I have acquired by attending Emerge ‘18.

38023461_1754510941252286_6066925907312902144_oThe function started with the talk of Professor P.A.Varghese titled ക്രിസ്തുവിന്റെ കുമ്പസാരം (Confession of Jesus Christ)

He presented his ideas as an analogy of confession from Jesus Christ himself.

P.A.Varghese was raised in christian faith. When he was young, he got enrolled in a seminary to become a priest. The habit of reading helped him to understand the phony nature of christian belief system and ultimately transformed him into a rationalist when he was just 20 years old.

He realized that the uncertainty of life and fear of death are the trump cards religion plays against ordinary, ignorant people.

He has described the history of catholic church in an easily understandable way.

Roman kingdom is behind the myth of Jesus. Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena are the persons behind the initiation and propagation of Christianity. Constantine had done it for political and religious unification of Rome.

Early Bible was written in Greek and not in Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus. It has been proved that the gospels in New Testament were written 100 years after the death of Jesus at distant places rather than in Nazareth or Israel, the places where Jesus is believed to have been lived, performed miracles and engaged in teaching.

Myth of Jesus also has correlation with pagan mythological gods like Mitra, Horus, Osiris and Indian mythological god, Krishna.

He chronicled the criminal history of catholic popes. They were sex addicts and pedophiles who utilized the spiritual and religious powers of christian belief for their personal and political gains. And, he also gave account of how all those activities of noble and elite class finally led to uprisings like French Revolution.

He also adds that there is no wonder catholic priests are showing the same characteristics of their clergy even in this modern, information age.

Today, Catholic church which is worth $200 billion has been divided into more than 100 different sects as a result of conflicts among nobility and believers.

There is no evidence for the life of Jesus according to Pagan and Jewish historians lived during the period of Jesus. And, sole historical reference of Jesus that Christians point out is the writings of Flavius Josephus, a first century Romano-Jewish scholar. But his writings on Jesus is not accepted as an authentic document by present-day scholars and historians.

Professor Varghese has pointed out with authentic references that there was no city called Nazareth during 1st and 2nd century CE. So, not only Jesus but also his birth place was nonexistent at the time of his birth!

Professor Varghese concludes his talk by presenting Jesus’s confession that he is a mythical character created by Paul the Apostle or Saul of Tarsus. Today, he has been given an image of a real historical person by vested interests to utilize that image and his teachings, which is copied from Buddhism and other prevalent philosophies of those times, for personal, political and religious gains.

Logically, If there is only one god, there would be only one religion and only one holy book. Existence of various religions, belief systems and holy books is the testimony that the concept of god is nothing other than human invention.

According to Professor Varghese, Bible is an utterly foolish book that is immoral as well as anti-woman.

A widely traveled person, he adds that, 61 out of 63 developed nations have dumped religions and the concept of god. Those were the nations once propagated religious belief all around the world through conflicts and wars. Atheist countries or countries those keep religion at bay are peaceful with low crime rates. He hopes that our country will also develop into one like them in near future.

Sajeevan Anthikad’s talk titled അറിയപ്പെടാത്ത സഹോദരൻ (The Unknown Brother) was based on the contributions of little known social reformer, thinker, rationalist, journalist, and politician in Kerala named Sahodaran Ayyappan and impact of western educational system on the Renaissance movement in Kerala.

Number of prominent spiritual and political leaders have played major roles in Renaissance movement and earned their deserved place in history. Sahodaran Ayyappan was a disciple of Sree Narayana Guru and history of Kerala has forgotten his existence.

He eloquently presented how western education system has demolished the caste system and discrimination prevalent in Kerala in those times.

It was Lord Macaulay who introduced the western education system in our country in 1835. Sajeevan is of the opinion that only ‘ism’ that benefited our country is ‘Macaulism’ It has also created a wave of modernity and free thinking in Kerala.

His lecture was highly thought provoking and inspired me to learn more about the interesting history of Kerala. He has also described how various social, religious and communal organizations originated in Kerala and how they have influenced the sociopolitical scenario of those times.

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In his lecture titled പനിയെന്ന പ്രതിഭാസം (The Phenomenon of Fever) Dr. P.S Sunil Kumar presented the history and contributions of modern medical science to humanity and how poor knowledge on modern medicine leads us to alternative medicines and even to death.

He used simple analogy of fever to present his ideas and explained that ongoing monsoon season is the reason why he chose fever as an analogy.

He has taken the audience through the history of the development of modern medical science, how it has survived and thrived in the midst of superstitions and false belief systems prevalent in premodern times.

During those days, it was a common belief that diseases are caused by ghosts or bad air. But with the invention of microscope, the role of virus and bacteria came to limelight. He also showed the audience how modern medicine conquered diseases like Tuberculosis and Leprosy.

A question was raised from the audience regarding the liver toxicity of paracetamol. Sunil has answered the question using water analogy – Humans need 2-3 liters of water daily but what will happen if we try to pump 20 liters of water into our body? It will result in our death, isn’t it? So, a substance which is essential for the healthy functioning of our body can cause our death too. The blame is not on water but on our usage of it.

Every modern medicine is prescribed by a recognized physician with recommended dosage. Self medication by an ignorant patient can result in heavy dosage of the drug that results in health issues.

He explains the importance of an efficient waste disposal system, cleanliness of our surroundings and simple personal hygiene activity like hand-washing in preventing diseases like diphtheria, dengue fever and various viral diseases.

He warns that Kerala has become a backward state in taking vaccination. Our inclination towards pseudo medicinal practices like Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Naturopathy and other alternative medicines is surging. Our country also lacks a valid medical treatment protocol and it needs to be fixed at the earliest.

He dispels the argument that antibiotics is harmful to human body with facts and figures. He stated that antibiotics are developed to eliminate bacteria and viruses, not to cause harm to human body.

He admits that there are minor side-effects for modern medicines. But, these side-effects are scientifically reported, researched and eventually tackled.

He throws light on the precautions to take while visiting hospitals. Since he is a physician serving in a government run hospital, he describes the limitations of doctors working in government hospitals.

He concludes his talk by stating that most common diseases are taken care of by the natural defense mechanism of our body and don’t need any kind of medical treatment.

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Professor Ravichandran. C lectured on the subject which interests me the most: the relevance of personal experiences or opinions in reality.

His lecture was titled അനുഭവവും കെട്ടുകഥയും (Personal Experiences and Fantasies)

As a financial market speculator, I very well know how valueless a personal opinion is, both in financial market and real world.

To Ravichandran, personal experiences are just raw materials those can be used in the pursuit of knowledge or truth. They are akin to fantasies those are not truth or has any intrinsic value.

Human beings love to enjoy and believe things which are not based on facts and truth. Our brain is tuned to escape from reality and live in a fantasy world.

Personal experiences are nothing other than individualistic perspectives. He gives out number of examples to explain the topic of lecture.

If we fell ill, what we do normally is to consult a doctor rather than going for self diagnosis or self medication. Only a knowledgeable third person can diagnose our illness and give proper medical treatment.

Similarly, we can’t discover the shape of earth by conducting an internal exploration as an inhabitant. The earth is always flat to a person who does that.

An unbiased approach by implementing both subjective and objective perspectives is necessary for a successful learning curve. Learning from our own experiences and perspective is actually a foolish pursuit.

Our mental conditions and prejudices can effect our experiences. We can’t judge or evaluate a Pakistani from the perspective of an Indian or a Palestinian from the eyes of an Israeli.

Experiences makes a person vulnerable too. This is the reason several surgeons shy away from conducting surgeries on their close relatives.

He has also talked about how media cultivate caste discrimination and prejudice among masses.

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