Local Punjabi Writer Pens An Ode To Atheism From A True Believer’s Perspective


Sadhu Binning dedicates his latest book “Nastik Bani” to Shaheed Bhagat Singh and others who have struggled to enlighten mankind

At the personal level every individual should have the freedom to determine his or her views including the freedom to believe or not believe in God. The use of social, political or economic power to force your views on others is an attack on personal freedoms which is damaging to the whole of society.

First two sentences of Sadhu Binning’s book “Nastik Bani”

By Harinder Mahil

On September 23 I had an opportunity to attend a function in Delta where Sadhu Binning released his latest book “Nastik Bani”. It is appropriate that the book is dedicated to the great Indian revolutionary Shaheed Bhagat Singh as it was his writing “Why I Am an Atheist” that partly influenced Sadhu’s beliefs.

Sadhu described himself as an atheist. He defined an atheist as someone who does not believe in the existence of God. Neither does an atheist believe in some unseen great power, soul, or life after death, and heaven and hell. Speaking at the event Sadhu said, “Every human being is an atheist at birth. Religion is taught to him or her.” He also stated that God did not create man but man invented God.

Sadhu stated that religion has gained significant prominence in India after independence. He pointed out that religion has enormous effect on Indian politics and society. He expressed concern that in Punjab it is difficult to find any separation between religion and politics. Religion has become so powerful that any expression of critical view can lead to personal danger for the person expressing it. He stated that most of the commentary in Punjab concerning religion today is about improving religious practices rather than trying to diminish religion’s influence on people’s lives.

Whether or not a person believes in God’s existence makes no difference to others. However, when an issue impacts on society, it affects everyone. I agree with Sadhu’s assessment that the degree to which organized religions have influence on Indian society is not a healthy situation.

I have known Sadhu for over 36 years. I am well aware that he respects everyone’s right to believe or not believe in God.  The problem is that great many followers of organized religions view atheists as inferior human beings and not nice people.

Sadhu believes that scientific method is the only reliable path to knowledge. There are millions of people who agree with this view but are reluctant to express them. The question is: why should they be reluctant or afraid to express their views.

A number of people who spoke at the September 23 event expressed concern that political decision making process in India has degraded the very concept of democracy. The government is supposed to be neutral when it comes to matter of religion but often promotes religion in many ways. Although the Indian constitution declares India as a secular society but that seems to have faded in today’s politics.

Sadhu’s main objective for writing and publishing this book in Punjabi is to start a dialogue on this important issue. With this objective in mind Sadhu quotes more than 400 well known academics, intellectuals, political leaders and thinkers on the subject of existence or non-existence of God.

The second objective of this book is to start a discussion on this issue amongst the writers, academics and intellectuals. Sadhu hopes that writers, academics and intellectuals would participate in this important exchange as they are the ones who generally shape opinions in a society.

Sadhu is clear in his thinking: religion cannot be eliminated; nor should one try to do so. The issue is to create a balance in society which is not the case at the present time.

Nastik Bani is Sadhu’s sixteenth book and is the most well-researched reference document published on the subject in Punjabi. It is a must read for those who are struggling with the issue of existence or non-existence of God. I congratulate Sadhu on publication of this book and hope that he will keep writing for a long time and continue to enrich Punjabi language and literature.

I conclude this column with a quotation by Buddha (included by Sadhu in Nastik Bani):

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

Harinder Mahil is a human rights activist and is a board member of the Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation.