A Rationalist!

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

Leaders! Ladies! Comrades!

I’m glad for the opportunity to talk on the topic ‘North India – South India’ in the general meeting organised by the debating committee headed by the poet Sami Chidambaranar. I would like to say a few words about the debating committee before I proceed on the topic.

Debating literally means war through exchange of words. But this committee is not about that. Everyone will have space to express their opinions freely in the committee. That is the reason the secretary of the committee who welcomed us informed us that this committee is not affiliated to any particular political party, and anyone can express their opinions on anything, and thereby it aims to nurture the talent of speech among common people. 

Hence, I would proclaim that this committee nurtures and values rationalism. In general, let alone the common man, even intellectuals say that rationalism, especially a proper rationalism, means only atheism. 

Everyone manipulates people’s reason. But they restrict the use of rationalism in some issues. They even restrict themselves from being rational. Certain people who are allergic to rationalism, who engage in things against rationalism, people who blindly follow certain beliefs, who are benefited by such beliefs, say, ‘We shouldn’t use our rationalism on things like this. We should accept them as they are.’ If we question them for their superstitions, they respond, ‘You do not have the qualifications to be rational about this. While our ancestors have created certain beliefs about divinity after great contemplation, it is not fair for normal mortals like us to question such beliefs. If you question them, it only means lack of trust or atheism.’ 

But a true rationalist will look for reasons in anything and everything. There are only a very few people who are proper rationalists. The majority are believers.

This is because life in society is constructed in such a way that it is entirely contradictory to nature. Most of the beliefs, if analyzed, will be unfit for today’s life. Trying to rectify this might need the world’s structure to be changed in its entirety. Hence, rationalism is a tougher choice for those who believe in such structures blindly or for those who are excessively benefited by these structures. Such beneficiaries force superstitious beliefs on those below to keep them in a satisfied, contented state. Such superstitions are there in almost every walk of life, in professions, in social experiences, in thoughts, binding a large population. 

Since common people oppose or discriminate against rationalists who criticize superstitions, there is not much possibility of increase in numbers or influence of the rationalists. Hence, they are very few. If only each one of us can think rationally and apply reason in every walk of life, discrimination between humans, inequalities, feelings of want, anxieties, undue rivalries would have no space here. 

It is evident that people do not live a rational life in countries where people suffer inequalities, feel incomplete, and compete with others for selfish reasons, whereas in places where such lacks do not exist and people live a life of content, they are ruled by rationalism. 

For example, in countries like Russia where people do not have private competition, are without anxiety, and have an equal life with equal opportunities, it is only because rationalism rules there. And that is precisely the reason why others criticize that country for being a ‘rationalist country’ or an ‘atheist country’.

From this itself it is evident that theism and theistic countries nurture social inequalities, unequal opportunities, and jealousies and private competitions among people. 

Hence it is also evident that to get rid of such inequalities, inadequacies, and anxieties and to provide an equal and peaceful life for people, god should be destroyed and atheism should be advocated. 

People do not have to destroy god, do not have to propagate atheism. If, with full consciousness, we are able to approach our experiences and our actions with rational thinking, god and theism will vanish automatically. To encourage such practices, that is, rational and critical thinking, such debating committees are very significant. That is why I wholeheartedly appreciate Amaindakarai’s debating committee. I request, therefore, that our youngsters, the Dravidians, the oppressed people, the backward sections, should support the committee and be immensely benefited by it.

Periyar’s speech at the Aminjikarai Debating Committee meeting on 31.01.1951. First published on Viduthalai 5-2-1951.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2013. Periyar Kalanjiyam 33: Pagutharivu, Paagam (1). First Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam. 173-175.

One thought on “A Rationalist!

  1. Lotika Singha February 27, 2021 / 10:21 am

    Inspiring speech — as one becomes rational, god and supersitions will just fade away. Experienced it!

    Liked by 1 person

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