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Monday, April 13, 2015

Two female professionals stand up to Islam

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born, American (formerly Dutch) activist, writer and politician. She describes herself as an atheist.
In her latest book Heretic, Ayaan argues that a reformation of Islam is overdue. It is “…the only way to end the horrors of terrorism, sectarian warfare and the repression of women and minorities.”
“Islam is not a religion of peace,” she writes and describes how some of the Quran’s key teachings - not least the duty to wage holy war - are incompatible with the values of a free society.
There is a distinct triumvirate of Muslims within Islam that needs identifying. First, the religious zealots, who follow Sharia (Islamic religious) law and embrace Mohammed’s violence. Second are those that practice Islam and are devout but without violence, but who, she says, are mistakenly termed moderates. The third, to which she belongs, consists of the dissidents, those thinking critically about Islam, some of whom like her have renounced the faith. ‘It is the Muslim reformers within the last group who need our backing, not the opponents of free speech’.
Ironically, she thinks that although the religious zealots are a clear threat to the West, they are much more of a problem to Muslims themselves.
Another ex-muslim Wafa Sultan is a Syrian psychiatrist born to devout Muslim parents.
She was enveloped by the culture from birth and all of her earlier life was saturated by the faith; in effect, she was brainwashed.
She now describes herself as a Muslim by birth but not now by belief. The final straw came when she suffered the trauma of witnessing her professor (a world-renowned opthalmologist) murdered by the Muslim Brotherhood. "They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great)!" she said. "At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god."
She disagrees with the apologists who say Islam is being demonised and asserts that Islam has never been misunderstood; it is definitely the problem, but ‘noone is stating the truth’. She believes it is a mistake to consider that the fight is against just political, militant, radical or Wahabi Islam. The struggle is against Islam itself.
Wafa says Islam is ‘what the prophet Mohammed did and said’ and that reading the ‘traumatising and shocking biography of Mohammed’ is a way of truly understanding the foundation and nature of Islam.

These two steadfastly brave women, according to Islam, are apostates and thus in theory under an implicit sentence of death. They both deserve our whole-hearted support in their struggle.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Peddling dreams: Religion and the War On Drugs

There are two high-profile world views out there which I think the majority of people subscribe to.
The first, “Religion is generally good and should be supported”. The second, “the taking of (non-prescriptive) drugs is generally bad and should be prohibited”.
Both religion and the war on drugs fly in the face of reality and the available evidence. They are two chimeras hanging heavily around humanity’s neck.
The Gods and their messages, as evidenced in their so-called holy books, really have no basis in fact. The presented evidence is weak, mostly hearsay and private revelation. The cost of taking religion on board is very high: the loss of freedom in becoming a slave, the pointless praying to and worshipping something you will never know or see, living your life based on the principles and moral standards of primitive societies. Religion should be seen as a backward step for modern society and respected only in terms of its historical relevance, music and architecture. It belongs in a fantasy world where the laws of physics are broken and unicorns fly. We know it really, but we won’t admit it. God is not the reason for our existence, Nature is.
The ‘war on drugs’ has failed miserably. It has not particularly impacted on general usage and has positively nurtured a massive ‘black’ economy, not least of which are the multi-billion-dollar drug cartels. The simple truth is that wherever there are people wishing to consume and others ready and willing to supply, economic activity will follow and evolve, despite even severe legal constraints. US prohibition in the 20s proved this, but the lessons have not been learned. There is an unholy alliance between conservative opinion and the liberal State. The first knows what’s good for us; the second is happy to comply through regulation. The war being waged is a huge waste of human resource and economic potential. Society needs to embrace the drug culture and manage it from within, not try to contain it from without. Progress here can only be through first de-criminalising then legalising all drugs, while commissioning legitimate companies to produce substances under strictly controlled and regulated environments. The tax income should help educate and, where necessary, treat.

The message is the same for both of these issues: wake up from the dream and go with reality. It just makes sense.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The View of God from my Anti-theist bridge: The verdict

I cannot subscribe to the mindset needed for religion. I would need to give up my free will, to blindly accept a supernatural creator whose dictates I must obey without question. Many of the religious tenets I would be expected to embrace are questionable and some are downright evil. Without God’s guidance, I manage to live quite morally without being  tempted to plunder, rape and murder. Faith in an imaginary God plays no part in my life.
If you want to reason about faith, and offer a reasoned (and reason-responsive) defence of faith as an extra category of belief worthy of special consideration, I'm eager to play. I certainly grant the existence of the phenomenon of faith; what I want to see is a reasoned ground for taking faith seriously as a way of getting to the truth, and not, say, just as a way people comfort themselves and each other (a worthy function that I do take seriously). But you must not expect me to go along with your defence of faith as a path to truth if at any point you appeal to the very dispensation you are supposedly trying to justify. Before you appeal to faith when reason has you backed into a corner, think about whether you really want to abandon reason when reason is on your side. (Daniel Dennett: Darwin's Dangerous Idea).
Religion originated, and is firmly based, in the distant past when Man understood little of the environment he found himself in. Adverse weather was God’s wrath, plagues were caused by spells and curses. Clearly religion’s simplistic explanations for our existence gave comfort and succour to primitive man. I could almost say, looking back from a modern rational standpoint, it served some small purpose.
We are now more sophisticated, understanding much of the how and why of our immediate environment and universe. What we don’t understand … we don’t yet understand, or perhaps never will. Accept it. We do not need to invent a supernatural creator to explain it.
Religion and God should be well past their use-by date and it is not easy to understand how they are still largely tolerated, if not actively supported by some, in our information-rich age.
Heather Hughes (Knoxville News Sentinel 4/11/2012) explains her world view: “The elaborate nature of creation is just one of the many reasons why I believe in God. In fact, it's difficult for me to understand how anyone who truly takes a moment to reflect on the world would not at least believe in some form of intelligent design.”
The Intelligent Design belief set really is a product of unsophisticated and un-enquiring minds; minds that are incapable of understanding the evidence or comprehending the logic of the processes involved in natural selection and evolution. Similarly, the irrational and delusory views of the Young Earth Creationists, flying in the face of redoubtable evidence to the contrary, are easily embraced by gullible, uncritical minds.
“If someone doesn't value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?” (Sam Harris, University of Notre Dame, April 2011)
It is a misconception for the religious to label non-theists (or atheists) a ‘quasi-religion’ with a set of beliefs, the most important of which is: ‘God does not exist’. This is utter nonsense. It is simply a lack of belief based on bad presented evidence and until this situation changes, the gods and their holy books should be considered as man-made constructs supporting myth and legend.
My vote is for rationality, secular humanism, the joy of enquiry and discovery, an appreciation of the beauty of the natural universe and, through these, a real purpose for our existence. And all totally free of any divine authority.

“A life that partakes even a little of friendship, love, irony, humour, parenthood, literature, music, and the chance to take part in battles for the liberation of others cannot be called meaningless.” (the late Christopher Hitchens)

The View of God from my Anti-theist bridge: Good

The common argument that ‘religion does a lot of good’ needs to be measured against the consideration that any generally agreed ‘good’ could easily be produced altruistically without the precursor of religious belief. It is perfectly possible to behave in a considerate way simply because it is a reasonable thing to do. Or to help fellow human beings in order to make them happier or more comfortable. Such acts can be performed altruistically, without either the approval of an unseen attendant or the instructions from a holy book.
An often used apologist aphorism in support of religion is “Without God, where do you get your morality?” This should be quite insulting to anyone with only a moderately enquiring mind. In effect, it is saying that we are not competent to fashion our own moral codes, too primitive to use our rational faculties to differentiate between right and wrong. We need to be guided every step of the way. Are we as fodder for the divine shepherd?
“You are created incurably sick and then ordered on pain of death to be well. This is not morality.” (Christopher Hitchens describing God)
Most British people think religion causes more harm than good and atheists “can be just as moral” (as the faithful) according to a survey commissioned by the Huffington Post. (26th March, 2015). Surprisingly, even among those who describe themselves as “very religious”, 20 per cent say that religion is harmful to society.

“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.” (Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything).