Until I get over this phase of not wanting to blog (which I’m told by me can end any moment), I am going to be lazy and link to really good posts.
Here’s one by Neo Indian titled Why You Should Read The Vedas, And Why The Religious Will Never Understand Them.
You should read the Vedas because they are deeply real, deeply flawed, and because they describe the first and perhaps the most genuine of human epiphanies: that there might be no answers, only beautiful questions.
“… But, after all, who knows, and who can say
Whence it all came, and how creation happened?
the gods themselves are later than creation,
so who knows truly whence it has arisen?
Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows – or maybe even he does not know.”
—Nāsadīya Sūkta, 129th sūkta of the 10th mandala, Rigveda
[This, of course, is the verse made famous by the title track of Bharat Ek Khoj. The track is one of my favourites. I have uploaded it for those of you who don’t have it.]
Neo makes a great argument for reading ancient texts with the most important caveat: Do not listen to religious folks, especially those who dissuade you from reading them as sources of half-knowledge.
If you are an atheist, I believe you are better qualified to read texts like the Gita because you can easily cut through all the — for lack of a better word — bullsh*t. [Tip: Avoid versions published by ISKCON.] You can read texts like they were intended to be read. And let’s face it: you can’t possibly have a worse interpretation of the texts than how contemporary religion has evolved from arguably the same texts. Even with half-knowledge, I can guarantee that you won’t be burning gays or buying Groupons for bomb-making classes.
For their time, the Vedas and texts like the Gita were highly intellectual and in many, many, many instances, even for our time. And I’m going to turn the argument 180 degrees around and say that it is vital — according to me — to only take half-knowledge from them.