Stones Do Speak
When stones shaped to symbolize, sparks off controversies...
| Earlier this year, a Swiss writer named Alain de Bottom, proposed the building of a ‘Temple for Atheists’. Making atheism more attractive being the idea behind it, the proposal attracted harsh criticism from renowned advocate of atheistic ideology, Richard Dawkins. Alain opined that Richard’s and other atheist’s approach towards promoting skeptical thinking as ‘destructive’ while ignoring the fact that the very basis of atheism is shunning of any form of structure or idol representing a religious deity. “Atheism need not ape religious customs in order to promote itself”, was the unanimous voice of those who opposed the proposal.
A few days before, an interesting question was raised by the Madras high court which made little news in the local media. The question was related to a case filed by a political party against the building of a statue of freedom fighter and social activist, E.V.Ramaswamy (fondly called ‘Periyar’ (or ‘The Elder one’)), in the premises of a government school in South Tamil Nadu.
Periyar, whom during his lifetime, proclaimed strongly against discrimination in the name of religion, is considered by many as an atheist. Therefore, the argument was that his statue might expose the children of his atheistic principles thereby, influencing them.
We shall ignore the motive and outcome of both the above mentioned issues and ask ourselves more fundamental questions: Why do we build statues? Are they simply to honor a personality or are they meant to spread the principles and ideals that the personality practiced, to the succeeding generations? Why do we build structures? Are they mere symbols of human thought in various fields, be it religion or science or do they act as a beacon of inspiration for the future generations?
Numerous instances in history have shown us that statues and structures were not merely considered symbolic. Dictators used them fairly successfully to instill a mixture of fear and respect in people. Ancient structures never fail to capture our imagination even centuries afterwards. They hold the power to influence and inspire a whole generation, at times, breaking the barriers of time.
So, even if the mere erection of a statue drives young minds into atheism, it is likely that Periyar himself would not have approved of it, for he was a proponent of rational thinking and a questioning approach towards everything, his own teachings not being an exception. He would have rather wanted young minds to ‘evolve’ into an ideology, instead of merely adhering to one, simply because it was preached to them.
There were similarities, which drew my attention, between this statue issue and the earlier mentioned ‘Temple of Atheism’ proposal. If the building of such a temple attracts and forces minds into an ideology, it defeats the very purpose of rationalism.
© Copyright 2012 Ak (UN: aksabapathy at Writing.Com).
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