By Rahul Kumar
Three years ago, an anti-religion post was doing the rounds on Facebook. The man behind the post was in complete contrast to the sentiments expressed in them— from his sadhu-like appearance to, of course, his name, Swami Balendu. At a time when self-proclaimed godmen and godwomen in India are fending off allegations of illegal activities, Balendu is an anomaly. Once known for preaching Hinduism, he is neither a swami nor a ‘godman’ now, but identifies as an atheist.
In an interview with Rahul Kumar, Balendu talks about the business of religion, atheism and where he stands on this wide-ranging spectrum. Here are the excerpts from the conversation—
There are many examples of scientists, artists, actors, comedians and even politicians who are atheist. On the other hand, we have seen foreigners come to places like Vrindavan and Varanasi and turn into gurus or swamis. How did you, who were a preacher and a believer, become an atheist?
Superstition is present all over the world. Also, western travellers see the glorification of gurus here in India and get to know more about the guru business. It’s a business with no fear of loss as there is no investment, only profit. Anybody, Indian or non-Indian, can feel attracted to this and come into the business, which will bring them money by superstitious people in their own countries.
How did I go on this journey the other way round? It was a process which simply happened over time. A change like this doesn’t take place overnight and there was not one single incident that initiated it. In life, you develop and grow, step by step. I grew into atheism in the same way.
If I had to answer the question for the root of my change in one line, I would say it was the urge to live an honest life which made me turn towards atheism.
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