Browncast Episode 107: Kushal Mehra on religion

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In this episode Razib talks to Kushal Mehra about their views on religion. Kushal discusses his transition from being a New Atheist to a Carvaka, and the differences between Dharmic and Abrahamic religions in his view.

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Deep Bhatnagar
Deep Bhatnagar
3 years ago

On authority –

People’s conception of authority depends upon their social & financial security or conditions. People conform to state’s coercive power when they trust in the process that state enshrines but it can also erode based upon how things evolve in future.

Similarly people did not differentiated between Religion, Philosophy & Science in ancient times because they were entangled with authority & Social positions of people who indulged with these subjects.

It was also not the case that people were not able to grasp these concepts but they only took as much interest in them as their social positions allowed them & they employed them to the extent which they find beneficial among themselves but did not always tried to challenge authority because they were busy in scavenging resources for their lives.

Just like specialists in modern times where people don’t challenge authority till their lives remain socially & financially secure and stable but they don’t trust scholars or people in authority when their social & financial conditions don’t improve or gets challenged by the state.

On Tautology –

I have watched Manjul Bhargava {Fields medal winner’s}, videos on youtube & other maths videos esp. with regards to how they conceptualize or define Mathematics & logic & their relation to tautology.

What i could gather is that in Maths results are interpreted as interesting or non-interesting {Not exactly True or False – i.e. Arbitrariness} & based upon the results one may stop doing Maths on equation or may continue working with the equation further.

V S Ramachandran’s Music & NeuroScience studies are also interesting along with David Eagleman’s neurological studies i.e. If one is interested in how Arts, Maths & Neuroscience can converge & diverge.


Kushal then mixes authority claims with Individual’s conception of truth. Here if one replaces authority with any form of Institution one may be able to understand the core conflict has always been about allowing greater & greater freedom to Individual but then Individuals tend to show group biases & so institutions take it upon themselves to equalize those biases via institutional biases {which has never worked though but are very beneficial politically}.

It is with institutional imposition of trying to suppress/negate biases is what i oppose. I would rather have systemic biases as long as system does not actively suppress/oppress others {you know ancient India’s Untouchability or China’s 4 or 5 Barbarians & so on….}. Point is biases are unavoidable but to remove biases we don’t have to end all differences rather it can be done by acknowledging differences in a honest manner.

E.g. – – It took differences so seriously that Vedas were less important compared to ‘community beliefs & practices’. – Modern scholars like Joshua Ralston arguing for taking differences seriously.

Then Razib tries to interpret how people understand religion to how Kushal has defined Institutionalized community truths. The problem here is, all definitions are at best trying to represent human experience of that community. The problem is words mean nothing without interpretations & they at most can only represent a part of experience.

Most important issue is how people coming from other perspectives interpret truths of another community & how those truths are defined and get represented within the hierarchy of institutional truths.

What Hinduism did was that it allowed each community the freedom to engage with truth claims as they wished without suppressing other claims in the name of ‘Universal truths’ as colonizers did. It allowed communities to come to universal truth on their own terms which is not the case with other traditions with even other Indic traditions except Buddhism to some extent {As it can be noted in how well preserved regional practices have been in Hinduism Vs other traditions because of focus on acknowledging differences in real world}.

Kushal then goes on a tangent of moral zeitgeist but Razib then bring the focus on religious evolution {Using Christian beliefs evolution from ancient to modern times} & less known Islamic religious claims {using more or less Ahemadis interpretation of Islam where all other religions are acknowledged but wronged at the alter of Islam}.

What Razib is overlooking is that such interpretations came about because rulers wanted to rule & when they encountered people who were not described in Abrahamic books they had to reinterpret their own beliefs to kings administrative needs & similarly Indians had to reinterpret their beliefs e.g. Naths & Sikhs, point is people reinterpret beliefs to fit the world which they inhibit.

Then Kushal claims that each religions has non-negotiables but gives 4 examples {Rebirth for Hindus, Anti-Idol worship for Islam & Christians, No-self for Buddhists etc.} which all have been altered greatly throughtout the ages thus negotiated many times via intra as well as inter-religious debates.

Then Kushal makes a wonderful distinction – Literalist criticism of Armin Vs Kushal Truth Value in literary canon Vs Razib’s Science based approach with regards to human beliefs.

At the end Kushal again goes on Dharma tangent but Razib then ends the conversation by acknowledging the fact there can be no singular truths {to which i completely agree}.

Sher Singh
Sher Singh
3 years ago
Reply to  Deep Bhatnagar

Singular truth is Khalsa।।

You just acknowledged that reality is contingent on power or Shakti which created Samsara।।


3 years ago

Loved this conversation.

“Hindu” has very few non negotiables. I don’t agree that Vedas and reincarnation are non negotiable. Many throughout the ancient texts have disagreed with both.

Maybe open ecosystem? Freedom of art and thought? Mutual respect? Love?

Razib sounds awefully Hindu in this conversation.

I would add . . . try to experience and observe subjective conciousness. And analyze that. I think the perspective of subjective conciousness (which is correlated with psychodelic highs) changes the way we understand and apply the various schools of science and religion.

3 years ago

I don’t think Anatma is a non negotiable. After someone transcends the 31 heavens including the 4 arupa swargas (which some might interpret as four types of Nirvikalpa Samaadhi) . . . we experience Anatma. Or this is the claim. How can Anatma be defined in words and concepts? If something cannot be defined . . . then it isn’t non negotiable as I understand the term.

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