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Posts Tagged ‘islam’

Bah, I completely missed that it’s Everybody Draw Mohammed Day until Crispian’s reminder. It’s too late to do anything new about it now. Time for a repost:

You can go back and read what I thought about this three years ago, if you’re desperate for an opinion. It hasn’t shifted much since then.

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Why do atheists spend so much time attacking a god who they say doesn’t exist?

I wasn’t asked this one in the comments of my blog post soliciting questions a few days ago, but it came up in a Twitter discussion, and it is something a lot of theists seem to have trouble getting their head around. Just why do atheists care? If God’s not real, why do they get so angry with him, and go out of their way trying to prove he’s not there? If God isn’t real, how does he manage to bother them so much?

This is a very easy one. So easy that I’m baffled as to how any theist can keep asking it after hearing even the most cursory explanation, and yet they do seem to persist. I don’t imagine it’ll sink in for many of them with yet another iteration, but here goes anyway.

God doesn’t exist. Religion sure as hell does.

What many atheists oppose, and are angered by, isn’t God, but religion. It’s the massively popular worldwide belief systems, which require uncritical acceptance of implausible and unsupported claims, exacerbate and encourage failures of critical thinking, and relegate compassion and morality as secondary to obedience and monomaniacal worship.

The God of Islam doesn’t have to exist for the 9/11 hijackers to be motivated by thoughts of him, and to bring immense grief and suffering into the world as a direct result of their irrational beliefs. Whatever god you believe in probably has his fair share of crazy shit done in his name too, which has done real damage to real people in the world I live in.

I don’t hate God. I’m not angry with him. He’s just not there. But religion, I object to. The things that do exist and cause harm to people are worth fighting against, and the notion of God is often tied up in that.

I will admit that, if he existed, any god guilty of such dereliction of duty as to allow the kind of suffering evident in the world to continue unabated for millennia, without stepping in to help or offering any reason or excuse – let alone one that would permit such an infinite, unjustifiable evil as Hell – would unquestionably be my enemy. I would defy and despise such a being with all my strength, right up until the point where I started cowering in terror and doing every pitiful and obsequious thing I could not to piss the Supreme Fascist off and suffer the consequences. Which would probably be instantaneous, if I’m honest – I don’t imagine I’d have the courage of my convictions to actually stand up against an omnipotent tyrant of such casual malice.

In principle, though, I maintain my conviction that such a god would be an unimaginable bastard. But it’s much simpler, and hugely reassuring, to assume there’s no such bastard there. I’m no more angry with Yahweh than I am with Sauron.

And I think most people understand this, even those who keep asking the question, if they’d stop having fun scoring what feels like an easy point against atheists for long enough to actually think about it. Some of them have also decried terrorists acts by extremist Muslims, casting aspersions on the whole of the Islamic faith, even while the non-existence of Allah is just as obvious to them as it is to me.

I suspect, too, that there’s a non-trivial crossover between people who profess bemusement as to why atheists spend so much time attacking a god they don’t believe in, and people who are unconvinced by the argument of “If you don’t like abortions, don’t have one”. When it’s something you care about, it becomes obvious why your concern should stretch beyond your own immediate experience.

So, another brief and unhelpful rant accomplished. I’ve got a couple more brewing, at least one of which may be presented in an interestingly different format… Stay tuned.

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– Good news, everyone! All the crime in America has been solved. At least, that’s the only plausible reason why undercover cops in Florida are artificially creating more crime by tricking teenagers into buying drugs. I cannot fathom how much desperate rationalisation must be going on in some people’s heads to convince themselves that they’re not making the world a worse place by implementing a scheme like this.

– Planning a holiday this year? Just remember that going back home again is a privilege, not a right. (via Radley Balko)

– A Muslim physically attacked a guy dressed as Mohammed, and a judge threw the case out. Apparently, because the guy was offended, his violent response doesn’t deserve any kind of punishment. It’s a good thing there’s nothing “offensive” about assault and battery, or we might get stuck in an infinite loop.

– Yet more evidence of the pointless inhumanity of the government’s “workfare” scheme: it doesn’t get people off Jobseeker’s Allowance any quicker. And there’s more details here on how the statistics being used to support it are deeply misleading.

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A couple of weeks ago, a particularly intellectual and astute Muslim totally destroyed some heretics’ arguments with his superior powers of logic and deduction. Before they’d even spoken, he conclusively demonstrated that the facts were entirely on his side, and that any rebuttals made by the non-believers would necessarily be false.

By which I mean he threatened them and had a debate cancelled.

Still, I’m sure they were all persuaded. I’m sure that everyone there who might have believed something derogative of the holy Prophet Muhammad – say, that he had multiple wives and had sex with at least one pre-pubescent child – now realises that it’s not true, for the obvious reason that if they were to say that it’s true then they might be violently attacked. To still believe the truth of such a fact, even in the furthest recesses of one’s mind, would be an affront to reason.

So, well done, Islamists with no interest in debate or discovery but who are willing to attack and harm others for crimes of thought. You won in a way that really matters.

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– Prejudice against individuals based on their religion is wrong. Pointing out the violence and abuse inherent to Islam is not prejudice.

Citation badly needed.

– People who want abortion to be illegal aren’t even opposed to abortion, if you actually look at the practical effects of their policies. They’re neither pro-life nor anti-abortion. Anti-choice is perhaps the only remaining label that fits.

– The state of “science” TV in the States isn’t looking so hot.

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The Heresiarch is characteristically spot-on in his take on the matter of the recently firebombed French magazine that had dared to publish blasphemous cartoon images of the prophet Mohammed. In particular, he’s taking on the idea that an organisation that goes out of its way to deliberately cause offense to millions of peace-loving Muslims deserves no sympathy when a small violent faction is driven to bloody vengeance.

I think when I do this it’s called a pull-quote:

The irony is that this kind of argument is a form of Islamophobia itself, both because it demonstrates actual fear of Muslims (they might bomb us) and because it caricatures them as all the same, all equally thin-skinned and all interested in nothing beyond upholding the dignity of their holy prophet. But in fact Muslims (whether they know it or not; many do) have much more than other people to gain from a lifting of the taboo on criticising any aspect of their religion, whether Sharia law, the Koran or the personality of Mohammed.

This is exactly right. If the over-sensitive cultural taboo wasn’t so keenly and aggressively in place, then cartoonists and satirists wouldn’t find it nearly such a rich vein of subject matter. Magazines wouldn’t bother putting the images in question on their covers, because there’d be no worthwhile point to be made by doing so; and so the extremists subgroups wouldn’t keep firebombing people and reinforcing the public image of Muslims as violent reactionaries who the rest of us ought to fear. Surely that unfortunately widespread perception is more damaging and hurtful to the majority of Muslims than the occasional drawing of their prophet.

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…K-I-S- …Wait. Um. What letter rhymes with “Vatican”?

Okay, never mind. This is about The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, part of the Vatican, which sent some sort of open letter to all Muslims not long ago.

It’s possibly a bit weird.

The end of the month of Ramadan offers the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue a welcome occasion for sending you our most cordial wishes, hoping that the efforts you have so generously made during this month will bring all the desired spiritual fruits.

Impressively flowery language aside, I actually went so far as to look up Wikipedia’s page on Ramadan to see if I’d missed something here. Yes, this issue has actually driven me to research. Horrors. Anyway, my largely ignorant assumption was basically right: Ramadan is about fasting and abstinence, and maybe more praying than usual. Quite where generosity comes into it I’m not sure.

But still, it seems an odd thing for the head of the Catholic Church to be wishing for followers of Islam: that their efforts “will bring all the desired spiritual fruits”. So, you hope that their devotion to a false god who doesn’t exist, and their denial of the true Lord Jesus, is bringing them spiritual fulfilment? Huh. I thought those were generally advised against by Christian teachings, so I’ve only done the second one. Do I get a positive wish for spiritual fulfilment from the Vatican as well?

No, evidently not. Because one thing Christians and Muslims have in common is the way they are…

faced… with the challenges of materialism and secularisation.

Oh, right. That’ll be me, then.

Of course, it is possible to be a religious secularist. One can hold religious views, but consider them a personal matter which should not influence state policy or be involved in any official legislation. But it seems clear that what the Vatican’s objecting to is the irreverence against faith often exhibited by those without it.

We cannot but denounce all forms of fanaticism and intimidation, the prejudices and the polemics, as well as the discrimination of which, at times, believers are the object both in the social and political life as well as in the mass media.

Yep. Prejudices and discrimination in social and political life. I’m sure the spiritual leader of over a billion Christians knows just as much about that as the Muslims his office is addressing.

There surely can’t be much that they have in common. What do Christians and Muslims both share, which doesn’t also include atheists (or “secularists”)? It’s not the nature of God, or Jesus, or really any of the big important spiritual questions which they both claim to have answers to. Atheists, though, have at least one thing in common with every religion: they’re the only ones who agree that all the other religions are false.

The right to practice their own beliefs in a way that doesn’t inhibit the freedom of others? The right not to have an opposing faith view forced on you? Secularists are right with you on those.

The only significant unifying factor which atheists aren’t on board with seems to be the idea that believing in some all-powerful divine overlord is good in itself, even if it’s the wrong one – even, in fact, if that belief is completely untrue. Christians, by nature of their religion, believe all Muslims to be wrong in finding the prophet Mohammed’s writings to be divinely inspired – but the fact that they believe untrue things about a fictional god is still somehow seen as a virtue.

What they share is belief in belief.

Which in fact they probably do also share with a good many non-religious, who miss the comfort provided by a religion they no longer believe in. They use “church-going” as a synonym for “morally upstanding”, and so on.

It’s a flimsy connection for two opposing faiths to find with each other, and still fails to exclude the godless in the way they really want to.

(h/t Atheist Revolution)

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Just quickly: Geert Wilders, blasphemer against Islam and probable dickhead, has been acquitted on charges of hate speech.

This is basically a good thing, for obvious reasons to do with the goodness of free speech that don’t need repeating here.

I am le tired, and Heresy Corner’s got this one covered.

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The Ministry of Truth has a good post up about the way some religious believers champion their holy texts as holding fantastic scientific advancements.

Of course, as they’ll often tell you, God is completely removed from the world of science, and his presence could never be refuted by any such coarsely human thinking. But when science comes along with discoveries that might bolster their ideas, well, that’s another matter.

And while Judaism isn’t particularly known for its kooky fundamentalist extremism – all the Jews I know personally are atheists, in fact – the Rabbi behind Intergalactic Judaism (yes, really) isn’t doing the rest of them any favours.

The thing is, the idea of God imparting scientific knowledge about the world in some divine text, centuries before it was independently reached by lowly mammalian researchers, would be easy to verify and quite profoundly conclusive, if it actually happened. Inserting an unambiguous description of quantum theory into the Bible would surely not have been beyond Yahweh’s powers; people would have pondered the curious words as they were copied faithfully for hundreds of years, until eventually someone noticed the uncanny similarities between these ancient passages and the recent ground-breaking work of Planck or Bohr or Einstein. The astounding insight shown by these millennia-dead nomads would lend some real credence to whatever else they had to say.

But the people with a religious agenda to push tend to be overwhelmingly impressed by the most flimsy of evidence, and don’t seem to recognise that everything in the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, and every other holy book can be quite satisfactorily read as the reasonable understanding of the people who lived at that time.

As Unity wonders:

The Gaon of Vilna wrote in a similar vein, “Everything that was, is and will be is included in the Torah… even the details of every animal, plant and inanimate object, with all their features.”

Really? Every animal, plant and inanimate object?

So where’s the section that deals with dinosaurs?

What about Kangaroos and Koalas – are they in there, and if so, can someone point me to the relevant passage?

And as the Torah is supposed to contain details of every inanimate object, can someone show me the reference to the iPhone?

And the Rabbi’s assertions just get emptier and more futile as it goes on:

When God uttered metaphors referring to light, He knew that light bends in a strong gravitational field and that certain kinds of light can blast through solid rock. When He spoke of the heavens, He knew of the dark matter which permeates them.

Okay, but… isn’t this supposed to be about things God told us hundreds of years ago? The idea of light being bent by gravity would have been truly revolutionary and surprising at the time the Torah was written, but it’s not in there. So now you’re claiming that God didn’t tell us about any of this stuff until we’d figured it out anyway, then claimed he’d obviously known it all along.

Tortured metaphors by which “And then there was light” is meant to be a nuanced recounting of the Big Bang just aren’t convincing. Maybe believers would be advised not to press this angle if they don’t want to look desperate.

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Maryam Namazie gave a much-lauded talk at the recent World Atheist Conference in Dublin, about the rise of extremist Islam. The full text on her blog is worth a read.

– I’ve had quite enough of a headache as it is lately without trying to get my head around the Bailey Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood. This big supposedly important government report was released a couple of days ago. Among the best discussions I’ve seen on what the report is, what it says, and what’s wrong with it, come from Dr Petra and Nelson Jones.

Oh, Sarah Palin. The war on reality continues.

– Have you ever organised or attended an event where, on average, the guest speakers had more penises than you might expect? Wait, I don’t mean they each had more penises than expected, I mean… If you compared the number of penises to the number of people, would the ratio be… Okay, never mind. If you’ve had trouble finding female speakers for stuff, they’re making it very easy for you now.

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