Society

Like “nigger” for African Americans and “faggot” for homosexuals, the Bengali pejorative “nastik” is a hallmark of its loathing towards atheists and skeptics

By Adi Chowdhury

Bangladesh-Atheist-Blogger-Killed-as-Fears-of-Radical-Islamism-Grow

“Nastik” is a Bengali term typically uttered with an air of disgust and a tinge of scorn to your voice, usually accompanied by loathsome glares and mutterings of distaste. It’s a widely used pejorative and insult–expressing contempt for atheists, skeptics, and pretty much anyone who doesn’t completely buy into this whole religion thing.

By definition, it means “an atheist, secularist, and/or nonbeliever”. By popular usage, it means “a vile, contemptuous, disrespectful, filthy God-hater who deserves to be shunned and disgusted by all.” Its connotations have visibly furthered the nationwide distaste for nonbelievers–perpetuating the “evil atheist” stereotype. In the minds of the general public, this has conjured the very image of an atheist that we are battling to end: the violent, rude, hateful, corrupted youth with zero regard for morality or courtesy, tearing up holy books and yelling profanity at peaceful religious believers. How ironic.

Again:

How.

Freaking.

Ironic.

Ah, well. This image has, no doubt, spurred disgust towards atheists and magnified its negative connotations. The stereotypes enshrouding skepticism is multitudinous, and such pejorative slangs have surely perpetuated the hatred of skeptics. Its historical equivalents, in fact, could possibly be examples such as the pejorative “nigger” for African Americans. It is a hallmark of racism against blacks. A (less historical) example is the term “faggot” for homosexuals, reflecting the distaste for gays and is a hallmark of extensive homophobia. Such pejoratives exist only to shame blacks, gays, atheists–people whom society generally has a hilariously skewed and incorrect perception of, usually based on baseless on stereotypes.

Demeaning usages of “nastik” knows no bounds: ranging from mildly insulting to genuinely threatening. It can be used as criticism for expressing the slightest of doubts regarding religion, and it can be used as a “war cry” to rally fundamentalists to go on and slaughter disbelievers. Most usages I’ve heard that were directed at me (I’m sure others have heard far, far worse) came from classmates h

Among the most memorable ones was one that my classmate said (in Bengali): “You’re a nastik! Why would you want to do any good deeds?” And he said this as he was trying to convince me to help him cheat on an English test. Oh, the irony. (In fact, I made a Reddit post about it and it grossed over 3000 upvotes.)

Here’s what I do. I wear the term “nastik” as a badge. Sure, it’s a pejorative. Sure, it’s intended to be insulting. Sure, it perpetuates negative stereotypes around atheism and skepticism. But the only way to fight such stereotypes is to disprove them–prove that nastiks aren’t bad people. They’re not God-hating, vile crooks and criminals. In fact, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a nastik and a moderate believers if you were talking to one. That’s how we seize the term “nastik”: by doing away with the demeaning stereotypes enshrouding it.

It’s time for a change. Let’s get to work.

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Like “nigger” for African Americans and “faggot” for homosexuals, the Bengali pejorative “nastik” is a hallmark of its loathing towards atheists and skeptics

  1. Sorry to burst your bubble but people will never stop calling one another names. Of course, that won’t stop political opportunists from stepping onto the scene to try and build a movement by taking advantage of the mindless sheep who will jump on any bandwagon so long as it has an air of moral superiority.

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    1. Sure, I know that they won’t stop calling us names; they’ll persist in their delusional, fabricated sense of smug superiority over the secular citizens. That doesn’t mean we give in and accept “nastik” as a derogatory term that truly reflects the vile monsters we are.

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