An Interview with Uttam Niraula — Board Member, IHEU & SOCH Nepal

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Was there a family background in humanism?

Uttam Niraula: Not at all. My father was a famous Hindu priest of my village. He passed away when I was four years. My mom is also a very religious. I was pro-Hindu child due to their influence. I use to chant Hindu mantras and believed in massive influence of ‘god’ in my lilfe during my childhood.

Jacobsen: How did you come to find humanism, or a humanist community?

Niraula: I have a school friend named Ms. Bishwamuna Shah. We were disconnected after graduation of secondary school. In 2001 we encountered in a busy place of Kathmandu.

Obviously we had a long chat about childhood and school days. She was involved in Humanist community and she asked me to visit once. I used that opportunity to understand what Humanist idea is. Finally, I liked the idea of being free and fearless to design my own future. Slowly, I felt like, I am getting rid of many imaginary sins in life.

Jacobsen: What seems like the main reason for people to come to label themselves as humanists, from your experience?

Niraula: I think religion is a designed prejudice to impose superstitions so that one can highly benefit from overall society. So, Being a Humanist for me is living an ethical life of my own choice.

Jacobsen: What was the experience of finding a community of like-minded individuals?

Niraula: Nepali society is Hindu dominated. They equally respect Buddhism in general. Interestingly the Atheist community exists from the foundtion of its civilization let’s say 3000 years ago. Guru Brihaspati, Gautam Buddha, Guru Kapil were questioned the existence of god. Unfortunetely religious people did not want their ideology wide spread in society. But, at least small sect of Buddhist community preserved the atheist ideology.

Later, we initiated a movement to identify like minded people in the society while we were about to form SOCH Nepal. Hardly 7 people were ready to tell they are Humanist. Later we started conducting college seminars, discussion programs, publications. Slowly, many people started coming to US.

Now, Humanist community is getting bigger. More then two thousand people are organized in SOCH family. Interestingly, some religious groups express their solidarity to us. So, I take the expansion Humanist community as an assets to Nepal for long run.

Jacobsen: You are a board member of IHEU. You joined in a “competitive election.” What was the feeling being elected? Why did you run?

Niraula: Hehe. I am a very calm person. I think many time before taking any decision. I worked for IHEYO in different positions before I joined IHEU. When it was about to end my tenure in IHEYO, I was not feeling good in the back of my mind giving up my role in wider Humanist network. Then I decided try IHEU.

I was not sure if IHEU GA will trust me as a board member. Later I realized that whole IHEU GA is positive about my candidature. After I was elected! There is no word to explain my happiness. But I tried not to be so excited among all.

Jacobsen: What tasks and responsibilities come with this board position?

Niraula: As a board member, my main responsibility is to contribute for correct policy decision because IHEU is the earning of universally devoted liberalists, freedom fighters, human rights defenders and scientists. I feel very lucky to be in the board of such organization.

I am mostly focusing myself utilize my knowledge on untouchability in South Asian society and campaign against this grave concern as a board member of IHEU.

Jacobsen: What seem like the core parts of humanist thought? Who are living and dead exemplars of humanism as an ethical and philosophical worldview?

Niraula: I think the definition of Humanism itself is enough to understand what Humanism is. It promotes the universal human rights and gives equal value to each Human in the world regardless of difference.

Jacobsen: How can we expand the internationalist, humanist movement and its message of compassion, science, rationality, and unity?

Niraula: We are living in the age of Information, Communication Technology (ICT). ICT is the outcome of science. Generally, ICT is used by young generation in the world. They understand the logic of science. Also, the young generation is the future of the world. So, we should focus on bringing more young minded people to explore the message worldwide.

We have to be very careful on those parents who are poisoning their child with superstitions. Teachers are also equally responsible for shaping the mind of youth and child. So, we need to reach parents and teachers to make our coming future very welcoming to respect each other.

Jacobsen: There can be many damaging effects from religion. What are the damaging effects of and the positive aspects of religion? How can humanism ameliorate those damaging effects — as you see them? How can humanism improve upon the positives of religion?

Niraula: Only the selfish person does not understand the damaging effects of religion in the world. They are selfish because they do any unethical act in present in hunger of living in heaven after death. Religion is the biggest lie to create inequality and anger against other society. This creates the foundation for hate and crime. Hate and crime are the base for social damage. See, religion has killed more people than in world wars.

I think each intelligent citizen of the world can understand the damaging effective of religion. Probably, that is the reason more and more people are now emancipating from religion and becoming non-religious. I think the wider population should organize themselves and influence in policy and action throughout the world to promote secular, free and respectful society.

Jacobsen: What are some of the big future initiatives for you?

Niraula: I am not focusing on creating a worldwide campaign against untouchability in South Asian Society. Only in South Asia more than 205 million people are living the worst life as ‘untouchables’ each day. Their politicians and even UN has not done enough to protect them. I want to use IHEU’s platform to raise their voice in UN and in other universal bodies.

Jacobsen: Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?

Niraula: There are three kinds of people in the world; religious, silent Humanists and active Humanists. Active Humanists are doing their best to make the world livable. That is not enough. So, we need to make silent Humanists awake to participate in building the world.

Jacobsen: Thank you for your time today, Uttam, that was fun, my friend.

Niraula: Thank you Jacobsen for sending my voice internationally. What an honor!

Original Publication in Humanist Voices.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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