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date: 23 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This article introduces the aims and activities of atheist, humanist and rationalist groups with a focus on the lived experiences of atheists in present-day India. At the same time it discusses the scope of the Oxford Handbook of Atheism’s understanding of ‘atheism’ with respect to India. It argues that the focus on the belief in God and gods can be misleading in the context of Hindu religious traditions. Against this background it is a topical question whether contemporary atheist groups in India are merely a global expression of post-Enlightenment Europe or whether their roots reach further back into Indian history, probably even, as claimed by atheist representatives, back to Vedic times (the materialist traditions referred to as Lokāyata or Cārvāka). As a possible answer to this question this article employs an illustrative analogy between ‘modern atheism’ and ‘linear perspective’ in painting.

Keywords: atheism, rationalism, humanism, materialism, India, Lokāyata, Cārvāka, perspective, Hinduism, Hindu traditions, God, gods

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