12345...102030...


James A. Haught: We need to trust in science even when the answers are complicated – YubaNet

October 14, 2020 Long ago, I concluded that no reliable evidence supports gods, devils, heavens, hells, miracles, prophecies and other supernatural stuff of religion. Those magic claims simply arise from the human imagination, I assumed. Instead, I chose to trust the honest search of science to explain the ultimate mysteries of existence.

Aye, theres the rub. Answers by science are sometimes almost as baffling and logic-defying as the mumbo-jumbo of churches:

Multiple universes, for example. Or Einsteins assertion that time slows and dimensions shorten as speed increases. Or the mysteries of quantum weirdness, with particles popping in and out of existence in pure vacuum. Or the seeming impossibility of pulsars, which gravity compresses into a solid mass of neutrons weighing 100 million tons per cubic centimeter. Or the astounding claim at the heart of the Big Bang theory stating that all matter in a trillion galaxies originated from a proton-size dot exploding stupendously 13.8 billion years ago. Holy moly.

In his posthumous book, Stephen Hawking says the entire vast universe essentially burst from nothing, following laws of nature. The book,Brief Answers to the Big Questions, was compiled by colleagues and relatives from the physicists notes, materials and interviews just after his 2018 death. It reiterates his well-known atheism:

Its my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization: there is probably no heaven and afterlife either. I think belief in an afterlife is just wishful thinking. There is no reliable evidence for it, and it flies in the face of everything we know in science. I think that when we die we return to dust.

In a 2011 interview with The Guardian newspaper, Hawking said each human brain is like a computer, and its inevitable that some computers malfunction and die.

There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers, he said. That is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.

If no divine creator made the universe, what did? Blind laws of nature, he says:

Since we know that the universe was once very small perhaps smaller than a proton this means something quite remarkable. It means the universe itself, in all its mind-boggling vastness and complexity, could simply have popped into existence without violating the known laws of nature. From that moment on, vast amounts of energy were released as space itself expanded

But, of course, the critical question is raised again: did God create the quantum laws that allowed the Big Bang to occur? In a nutshell, do we need a god to set it up so the Big Bang could bang? I have no desire to offend anyone of faith, but I think science has a more compelling explanation than a divine creator.

Another of my science heroes is atheist-genius J.B.S. Haldane, who hatched the theory that life began in a primordial soup of chemicals. He saw that some science discoveries are almost impossible to believe. In 1928, he told a London newspaper: The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

When theologians hounded him about Gods creation, Haldane joked that the creator must have had an inordinate fondness for beetles, to make 400,000 different species. And Haldane spoofingly saluted Noah for finding pairs of all creatures to take on the ark, when there are numerous different species of birds just in India alone (where Haldane spent a good number of years).

As I said, findings by science can seem nearly as absurd as the miracle claims of religion but theres a crucial difference: Science is honest. Nothing is accepted by blind faith. Every claim is challenged, tested, double-tested and triple-tested until it fails or survives as true. Often, new evidence alters former conclusions.

Even though science findings show that reality is queerer than we can suppose, honest thinkers have little choice but to trust science as the only reliable search for believable answers.

FFRF Member James A. Haught, syndicated by PeaceVoice, was the longtime editor at the Charleston Gazette and has been the editor emeritus since 2015. He has won two dozen national newswriting awards and is author of 12 books and 150 magazine essays. He also is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine and was writer-in-residence for the United Coalition of Reason.

This essay is adapted from a column that previously appeared at Daylight Atheism on Oct. 12, 2020.

http://www.ffrf.org

Original post:

James A. Haught: We need to trust in science even when the answers are complicated - YubaNet

Mubarak Bala: Blasphemy And Anti-Atheist Repression In Nigeria – Modern Ghana

The arrest of Mubarak Bala has foregrounded the dangerous situation of humanists and the vicious threat of Islamic extremism in Nigeria. Nigeria is a very religious society. Religious belief permeates all aspects of life, thought, and culture. In 2004, Nigeria was polled as the most religious nation in the world. People mainly profess Christianity, Islam, and a mix of traditional and Christian or Islamic faith. Both Christianity and Islam are foreign religions.

Western missionaries introduced the Christian faith, while Muslim scholars and jihadists from the Middle East brought Islam. The 1804 Jihad led by Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio enthroned political Islam in Northern Nigeria. De facto and de jure sharia law apply in Muslim majority communities. Sharia law informs the everyday life of the people, including how they interact with non-Muslims.

The place of sharia in post-colonial Nigeria has been a source of controversy, tension, and conflict. Sharia applied to personal and family issues until 1999 when Muslim majority states in Northern Nigeria started implementing the full sharia law that included punishments such as amputation for theft and the death penalty for blasphemy.

Some of the Muslim majority states include Kano, where Mubarak Bala was born, and Kaduna, where he was living until his arrest. In Muslim majority and sharia implementing states, Islamic privilege holds sway. Non-Muslims are treated as second class citizens. Non-Muslims, who are accused of blasphemy or desecrating the Quran, are attacked and killed with impunity. In Muslim dominated northern Nigeria, humanity or dignity is predicated on the profession of Islam. Non-Muslims who convert Islam are celebrated and honored and sometimes given financial rewards. Those who renounce Islam or espouse dissenting views, as in the case of Mubarak are disowned, persecuted, or killed.

Leaving Islam and persecution

Bala came out as an ex-Muslim in 2014, and his family did not take it kindly. Balas father is a foremost Islamic scholar and one of those behind the implementation of sharia in Kano. In response to his renunciation of Islam, Balas family consigned him to a mental hospital in Kano where he was treated as a psychiatric patient. Information about Balas maltreatment and persecution reached humanists and atheists who campaigned and rallied support. Humanists pressured the Nigerian authorities until Mubarak Bala was eventually released from the hospital.

Since Bala left the mental hospital in 2014, he has been the face of humanism, skepticism, and freethought in Northern Nigeria. Bala has been vocal in his criticism of Islam especially the violent campaign of jihadist groups such as Boko Haram. Bala has been critical of Islamic indoctrination and the practice of Almajiri. Almajiri refers to the practice of street begging by children who are learning the Quran in northern Nigeria. Children who are learning Quran roam the streets and beg for alms.

The proceeds are sent to their Muslim teachers. Some of the children come from neighboring countries including Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Cameroun. It has been noted that some of the children get radicalized and have been recruited to join jihadist groups. In his posts comments and articles, Mr. Bala continued to draw attention to the link between Islam as practiced in Nigeria and terrorism, poverty, and underdevelopment in Northern Nigeria. Islamic authorities found Balas writings annoying and irritating.

Bala was becoming a rallying point for many young critics and dissidents in the region. He was identified as the arrowhead of the emerging atheist, skeptical movement in the area. Until the emergence of Mubarak Bala, ex-Muslims have been in the closet and seldom go open and public with their views. Those who renounce Islam do not openly declare their apostasy.

Muslim apostates are not a visible and distinct identity or social group in Northern Nigeria. But with Mubarak Bala, the landscape of apostasy has been changing. Bala has been open about his rejection of Islam and has continued to openly and publicly criticize Islam, including the prophet of Islam.

Mubarak Bala has campaigned to change this culture of silence of Muslim apostates, dissidents, and critics. Bala has used his posts on Facebook to underscore the rights to freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Bala is of the view that if Islam based abuses must be rooted out, then the faith, teachings, and prophet must be criticized.

Insulting the prophet of Islam

In April, some Muslim lawyers petitioned the police in Kano state. They complained about some posts, which Mr. Bala made on his Facebook page. They said that Bala had called the prophet of Islam a pedophile and a terrorist. These Muslim petitioners said that these posts insulted the prophet of Islam and contravened sections of the Nigerian law that prohibited contempt on religion. To avoid a break down of law and order by Muslims, the petitioners argued, the police and the Kano state government should arrest and prosecute Mubarak Bala.

It must be noted that the Islamic religion is foreign to Nigeria. Muslim scholars and jihadists who introduced the Islamic faith criticized African traditional religion and other faiths. The Islamic declaration of faith is critical of other gods, prophets, and religions. It states that there is no other god but the Islamic god and Muhammad as the messenger. The Islamic religion is founded on the denunciation of other religious gods and prophets. Muslims dismiss other gods except for their god, Allah, and other prophets and messengers except for their prophet, Muhammad. Meanwhile, they do not tolerate criticisms of their god, Allah, and their prophet, Muhammad. Muslims regard the criticism of other gods but Allah and other prophets but Muhammad as an affirmation of faith. They designate the criticism of their religion and prophet as blasphemy and an offense punishable by death under sharia. But the case of Bala presents a challenge.

Arrest and Disappearance

On April 28, police detectives from the Kano state police command arrested Mubarak Bala in Kaduna. The following day they whisked him away to Kano where the police held him incommunicado. The police disappeared Bala and for months. They refused to disclose where and how he was detained. The police could not confirm if Mubarak Bala was alive or dead. Many Muslims posted on social media welcoming the arrest of Mr. Bala and threatening to kill him if the police did not severely punish him. Some Muslim fanatics threatened to arrest and prosecute other atheists who criticize Islam or post blasphemous comments on social media.

The police and the Kano state government have been in a dilemma over the case of Mubarak. Bala is not a Muslim, so they cannot charge or prosecute him in a sharia court as many Muslims in the region would have wanted. The prosecution in a state court where the punishment for blasphemy is a maximum of two-year imprisonment would not appease the Islamic base in Kano and beyond. The police decided to hold him incommunicado in a police cell and later, in a prison. Following months of international pressure on the Nigerian authorities, Mubarak Bala has been allowed to call from a prison where he is being held. No real progress has been made in his case in Kano and Abuja.

In Kano, the police have approached a magistrate court. But the court has not formally charged Mr. Bala. For months, the police have refused to obey a court order granting Mubarak access to a lawyer. In Abuja, the process to enforce Balas fundamental rights has been stalled. The process has suffered delays and adjournments. These delays are deliberate. The courts do not want to make any ruling that would embarrass the sharia government in Kano. The judges are also being careful.

They want to save their lives and jobs. Above all, the police and government in Kano want to make an example with the case of Mubarak Bala. They want to reinforce Islamic privilege that holds sway in Kano and Muslim majority states. Muslim authorities want to discourage criticism of Islam and its prophet, apostasy, and blasphemy. The Islamic establishment in Northern Nigeria has been worried about the rise of atheism in the region. Last year, some Muslims organized a seminar to discuss the emergence of atheism and the connection with social media in Northern Nigeria. The activities of Mubarak Bala and other humanists and atheists were the focus of the meeting.

Muslims in Northern Nigeria are socialized to hate atheists and treat apostates and blasphemers with indignity and disrespect. There is no freedom of religion in the region. As a demonstration of faith in Allah and the messenger, Muslims are taught to persecute and murder infidels and non-believers. Contrary to what many Muslims say, there is compulsion in the Islamic religion as practiced in Northern Nigeria.

Since the arrest of Mubarak Bala, humanists and atheists have been living in fear of their lives. Humanism has an endangered outlook. Freethought has become a risky undertaking. The future of secularism is under severe threat. Nigerian authorities need to make clear their stand: Is the government for freedom and equality for all believers and non-believers, or repression, oppression, and persecution of atheists and humanists in the country?

See the original post here:

Mubarak Bala: Blasphemy And Anti-Atheist Repression In Nigeria - Modern Ghana

Ireland Will Begin Phasing Default-Catholicism Out of Many Secondary Schools – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

In Ireland, where the fastest growing religious demographic happens to be people with no religious affiliation, the government is taking a major step in secularizing the default-Catholic school system: They will soon be phasing out Christianity as the default option in many secondary schools.

Say goodbye to Catholic masses at graduation.

Say goodbye to crosses in the classroom.

And say goodbye to pop-in inspections from Church leaders. (Which is a thing that actually happens.)

The new rules will apply to more than 200 secondary schools run by the States Education and Training Boards (ETBs) formerly vocational schools which are officially categorised as multidenominational.

The framework for the recognition of religious belief/identities of all students in ETB schools outlines steps schools should follow to bring them into line with a multidenominational ethos. They include that any religious symbols on display must echo the beliefs of the wider school community rather than one particular religion. It also means schools that symbolically represent religious celebrations should ensure balance, such as a school displaying a crib at Christmas but also Islamic symbols for Eid.

Its a start. There are roughly 70 ETB schools that wont have to abide by these rules because they have contracts with the Catholic Church. Its also not clear how long this phase-out process will last. Its also bizarre how much religion creeped into these schools in the first place and unclear what the government is doing to ensure that never happens again.

Balancing religious beliefs leads to a variety of different problems; they would be better off just leaving religion out of school other than the academic study of it.

Atheist Ireland issued this statement reacting to the unpublished document listing the changes, pointing out that the proposed rules still exclude non-theistic perspectives.

This draft document shows that some people within the system recognise that things have to change. We already had evidence of this two years ago, when the Department of Education, after lobbying by Atheist Ireland, instructed ETB schools that they have to give an alternative subject to students who do not attend religious instruction. But in that case the ETBs resisted the change, and the Government withdrew the instruction.

The same thing is happening here. The draft document says that they want to operate a multi-denominational ethos, and that this will make the curriculum suitable for everybody. But atheism is not a denomination, and these new changes would not protect the rights of atheists. Also, it is only a draft document and does not in any way reflect the reality on the ground.

In recent years Atheist Ireland has empowered parents to stand up for their constitutional right to not attend religious instruction in these schools. But the ETBs are now trying to undermine that right by claiming that it only applies to religious instruction according to the rites of one religion. There is no legal basis for this opinion. It is not based on any case law and seems to have been just made up.

Atheist Ireland has recently obtained a legal opinion from a barrister on our constitutional rights in this regard, and that is the basis of our political lobbying at the moment. We need to have our rights vindicated in practice, not to read draft documents that seem to sound inclusive but still isolate atheist families.

If the governments goal was to end the criticisms, they messed up. They have a long way to go before this issue is resolved, and the longer they try to placate religious perspectives, the longer this process will take.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Andrey for the link)

Read this article:

Ireland Will Begin Phasing Default-Catholicism Out of Many Secondary Schools - Friendly Atheist - Patheos

OPINION: MUBARAK BALA: BLASPHEMY AND ANTI-ATHEIST REPRESSION IN – thewillnigeria

The arrest of Mubarak Bala has foregrounded the dangerous situation of humanists and the vicious threat of Islamic extremism in Nigeria. Nigeria is a very religious society. Religious belief permeates all aspects of life, thought, and culture. In 2004, Nigeria was polled as the most religious nation in the world. People mainly profess Christianity, Islam, and a mix of traditional and Christian or Islamic faith. Both Christianity and Islam are foreign religions. Western missionaries introduced the Christian faith, while Muslim scholars and jihadists from the Middle East brought Islam. The 1804 Jihad led by Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio enthroned political Islam in Northern Nigeria. De facto and de jure sharia law apply in Muslim majority communities. Sharia law informs the everyday life of the people, including how they interact with non-Muslims. The place of sharia in post-colonial Nigeria has been a source of controversy, tension, and conflict. Sharia applied to personal and family issues until 1999 when Muslim majority states in Northern Nigeria started implementing the full sharia law that included punishments such as amputation for theft and the death penalty for blasphemy.

Some of the Muslim majority states include Kano, where Mubarak Bala was born, and Kaduna, where he was living until his arrest. In Muslim majority and sharia implementing states, Islamic privilege holds sway. Non-Muslims are treated as second class citizens. Non-Muslims, who are accused of blasphemy or desecrating the Quran, are attacked and killed with impunity. In Muslim dominated northern Nigeria, humanity or dignity is predicated on the profession of Islam. Non-Muslims who convert Islam are celebrated and honored and sometimes given financial rewards. Those who renounce Islam or espouse dissenting views, as in the case of Mubarak are disowned, persecuted, or killed.

Leaving Islam and persecution

Bala came out as an ex-Muslim in 2014, and his family did not take it kindly. Balas father is a foremost Islamic scholar and one of those behind the implementation of sharia in Kano. In response to his renunciation of Islam, Balas family consigned him to a mental hospital in Kano where he was treated as a psychiatric patient. Information about Balas maltreatment and persecution reached humanists and atheists who campaigned and rallied support. Humanists pressured the Nigerian authorities until Mubarak Bala was eventually released from the hospital. Since Bala left the mental hospital in 2014, he has been the face of humanism, skepticism, and freethought in Northern Nigeria. Bala has been vocal in his criticism of Islam especially the violent campaign of jihadist groups such as Boko Haram. Bala has been critical of Islamic indoctrination and the practice of Almajiri. Almajiri refers to the practice of street begging by children who are learning the Quran in northern Nigeria. Children who are learning Quran roam the streets and beg for alms. The proceeds are sent to their Muslim teachers. Some of the children come from neighboring countries including Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Cameroun. It has been noted that some of the children get radicalized and have been recruited to join jihadist groups. In his posts comments and articles, Mr. Bala continued to draw attention to the link between Islam as practiced in Nigeria and terrorism, poverty, and underdevelopment in Northern Nigeria. Islamic authorities found Balas writings annoying and irritating. Bala was becoming a rallying point for many young critics and dissidents in the region. He was identified as the arrowhead of the emerging atheist, skeptical movement in the area. Until the emergence of Mubarak Bala, ex-Muslims have been in the closet and seldom go open and public with their views. Those who renounce Islam do not openly declare their apostasy. Muslim apostates are not a visible and distinct identity or social group in Northern Nigeria. But with Mubarak Bala, the landscape of apostasy has been changing. Bala has been open about his rejection of Islam and has continued to openly and publicly criticize Islam, including the prophet of Islam.

Mubarak Bala has campaigned to change this culture of silence of Muslim apostates, dissidents, and critics. Bala has used his posts on Facebook to underscore the rights to freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Bala is of the view that if Islam based abuses must be rooted out, then the faith, teachings, and prophet must be criticized.

Insulting the prophet of Islam

In April, some Muslim lawyers petitioned the police in Kano state. They complained about some posts, which Mr. Bala made on his Facebook page. They said that Bala had called the prophet of Islam a pedophile and a terrorist. These Muslim petitioners said that these posts insulted the prophet of Islam and contravened sections of the Nigerian law that prohibited contempt on religion. To avoid a break down of law and order by Muslims, the petitioners argued, the police and the Kano state government should arrest and prosecute Mubarak Bala.

It must be noted that the Islamic religion is foreign to Nigeria. Muslim scholars and jihadists who introduced the Islamic faith criticized African traditional religion and other faiths. The Islamic declaration of faith is critical of other gods, prophets, and religions. It states that there is no other god but the Islamic god and Muhammad as the messenger. The Islamic religion is founded on the denunciation of other religious gods and prophets. Muslims dismiss other gods except for their god, Allah, and other prophets and messengers except for their prophet, Muhammad. Meanwhile, they do not tolerate criticisms of their god, Allah, and their prophet, Muhammad. Muslims regard the criticism of other gods but Allah and other prophets but Muhammad as an affirmation of faith. They designate the criticism of their religion and prophet as blasphemy and an offense punishable by death under sharia. But the case of Bala presents a challenge.

Arrest and Disappearance

On April 28, police detectives from the Kano state police command arrested Mubarak Bala in Kaduna. The following day they whisked him away to Kano where the police held him incommunicado. The police disappeared Bala and for months. They refused to disclose where and how he was detained. The police could not confirm if Mubarak Bala was alive or dead. Many Muslims posted on social media welcoming the arrest of Mr. Bala and threatening to kill him if the police did not severely punish him. Some Muslim fanatics threatened to arrest and prosecute other atheists who criticize Islam or post blasphemous comments on social media.

The police and the Kano state government have been in a dilemma over the case of Mubarak. Bala is not a Muslim, so they cannot charge or prosecute him in a sharia court as many Muslims in the region would have wanted. The prosecution in a state court where the punishment for blasphemy is a maximum of two-year imprisonment would not appease the Islamic base in Kano and beyond. The police decided to hold him incommunicado in a police cell and later, in a prison. Following months of international pressure on the Nigerian authorities, Mubarak Bala has been allowed to call from a prison where he is being held. No real progress has been made in his case in Kano and Abuja.

In Kano, the police have approached a magistrate court. But the court has not formally charged Mr. Bala. For months, the police have refused to obey a court order granting Mubarak access to a lawyer. In Abuja, the process to enforce Balas fundamental rights has been stalled. The process has suffered delays and adjournments. These delays are deliberate. The courts do not want to make any ruling that would embarrass the sharia government in Kano. The judges are also being careful. They want to save their lives and jobs. Above all, the police and government in Kano want to make an example with the case of Mubarak Bala. They want to reinforce Islamic privilege that holds sway in Kano and Muslim majority states. Muslim authorities want to discourage criticism of Islam and its prophet, apostasy, and blasphemy. The Islamic establishment in Northern Nigeria has been worried about the rise of atheism in the region. Last year, some Muslims organized a seminar to discuss the emergence of atheism and the connection with social media in Northern Nigeria. The activities of Mubarak Bala and other humanists and atheists were the focus of the meeting.

Muslims in Northern Nigeria are socialized to hate atheists and treat apostates and blasphemers with indignity and disrespect. There is no freedom of religion in the region. As a demonstration of faith in Allah and the messenger, Muslims are taught to persecute and murder infidels and non-believers. Contrary to what many Muslims say, there is compulsion in the Islamic religion as practiced in Northern Nigeria.

Since the arrest of Mubarak Bala, humanists and atheists have been living in fear of their lives. Humanism has an endangered outlook. Freethought has become a risky undertaking. The future of secularism is under severe threat. Nigerian authorities need to make clear their stand: Is the government for freedom and equality for all believers and non-believers, or repression, oppression, and persecution of atheists and humanists in the country?

*** Written by Leo Igwe.

Follow this link:

OPINION: MUBARAK BALA: BLASPHEMY AND ANTI-ATHEIST REPRESSION IN - thewillnigeria

An open letter to Umar Khalid: If you are doing time, you may as well do it well – Scroll.in

Dear Umar,

We ought to feel outraged at yet another fake case being slapped on a friend. But such are the times that when we heard of you being brought back from Tihar jail to police custody to be interrogated in yet another FIR, the first thought that came to our minds was that we would be able to catch a glimpse of you in person. And we did, however shortly.

We are aware that any letter written to you will be pried into by several pairs of eyes. But then, there is nothing that we cant talk about that isnt fit to be shared by other people. Hence this open letter. The gatekeepers are welcome to join. We only hope this reaches you in due time.

Time. You are probably settling into a parallel routine of time, a slow and sluggish one. It has already been more than a month. As we think about you, we realise that the phrase doing time is very unsettling. Even after all the reformatory thinking that has gone into the idea of prisons in the last century or so, this appears to be the pithiest expression of what one effectively does in jail. One does time, after all.

However, it is not so much the length of time that irks us, at least not yet. And that is because this is a witchhunt that had been unfolding for some time now. We all knew this was coming. The prominence that was being ascribed to you in the media trial had preceded your arrest made it amply clear that it was only a matter of time before theyd come for you.

For you, the context had been laid ago. The barrage of hateful content, misinformation and outright lies pumped into the public psyche by the media trials of the concocted Jawaharlal Nehru University case in 2016 had already made you the seditious villain, one that yielded them high TRPs. All that they needed to do this time is to ignore the real culprits of the February violence in Delhi, discredit the people protesting peacefully against the Citizenship Amendment Act and repackage you as the mastermind. So what, if you only spoke about harmony and equality? With a pliant media at their disposal yet again, the script remains the same.

At times, we feel you were probably over-prepared for this. So much so that in the weeks before you were finally detained, every odd knock on the door would trigger a firmness in your jawline. It is an irony that finally when the bearer, a constable, came with the summon, you werent home. And he didnt want to hand it to your mother because the Indian Penal Code, it seems, does not allow a summons to be handed over to a woman. Such a colonial throwback.

Did you know that? While the proportion of women behind bars reflects a certain gender parity in the ranks of the dissidents, the penal code remains sexist and regressive.

Anyway, to some extent, this time around, we all were prepared, ammi, us and you, obviously.

What irks us in fact is the sinking feeling that we will get used to your absence, that will let this get normalised.

After all, havent we become used to a lot in the last few years? We have become used to the incarceration of young minds who have been vocal advocates of equal citizenship that the Constitution guarantees.

We have become used to the incarceration of some of the best defenders of our hard-earned rights after fictitious charges have been used to frame them. As a nation we have become used to lynchings of Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis while they are recorded, live-streamed, shared, relished and even become the backdrop for selfies.

We have become used to a daily dose of misogyny, jingoism and hate-mongering on prime time television. We have become used to a lurking sense of fear, of midnight knocks, of self-censorship.

The gangrape and death of the Dalit woman in Hathras a few weeks ago and the perversion of justice that followed shows the deep the rot that has set into our body politic. The fact that we move on so easily shows the toxicity we are getting used to.

Come to think of it, your real crime was that you were one of the handful who have refused to get used to these realities, who have refused to be browbeaten into silence.

Your crime was your ever-restlessness and the fact that you refused to be paralysed by fear. Sedition charges, an assassination attempt, incessant social media trolling, death threats, media trials even youd agree that they gave you a fair share of warning.

Ziddi; stubborn you. As stubborn as Shaheen Bagh; as our octogenarian Bilkis daadi, now of Time magazine fame, who survived the harshest of winters on the streets to secure a future with izzat, dignity.

But it is your restlessness that worries us now when you are doing time. You must not live by the day anymore. Slow down. Dont rush. The last time, at least one of us was there with you to reign in your disquiet. This time you have to do it by yourself. Put the rush to rest.

As for the outside world, the video speech that you recorded to be released in case you were arrested, was a chronicle of events foretold. It revealed, in Eduardo Galeanos words, an upside down world. One in which hatemongers have a free run with no scrutiny, while those who speak of love, compassion, justice and solidarity are demonised.

One where provocateurs like Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra are hailed as heroes while turning into villains the thousands of people who marched through the streets of India in the winter to defend our Constitution. A world where the investigation into the Delhi riot has been turned into an inquisition of peaceful protestors demanding equal citizenship.

The 11,000-page charge-sheet, which is one of the longest pieces of fiction the world has seen, makes it clear that to oppose any government policy is a crime today. And that, to simply have been born Muslim is a crime.

It is rather amusing that there has been a debate in some circles as to whether you are an atheist or a Muslim. It is amusing because we find this debate quite banal. Because, to you, the answer is simple. You are a materialist with a deep sense of history. That is because your tool to interpret the world both in its physical and metaphysical realms is Marxism. Not as dogma, but more as a navigator.

In fact, Marx himself seemed to detest the silliness of the label atheism. In his words, it reminds one of children, assuring everyone who is ready to listen to them that they are not afraid of the bogey man. This juvenile banter for him made no sense as it is quite easy to deal with religion by just being against it. But it doesnt take one anywhere apart from a moral pedestal propped up on some sort of an ultimatistic ultra-leftism.

You were born a Muslim. You have always been reminded of it at every step while being refused delivery when trying to order pizza from a Muslim ghetto, to seeing extra-judicial police killings (euphemistically described as encounters) unfold in front of your eyes.

From being called a member of the Jaish-e-Mohammad group in 2016 to being accused of being a traitor, you have been hunted and taunted for being a Muslim. You couldnt have escaped it even if you wanted. Your crime is that you refused to be bracketed as just that.

Our rulers today are inheritors of an ideology that believes that if you are Muslim, you are not a citizen of equal worth in India. The recent amendment to the Citizenship Act reiterates this, by making persecuted minorities from the region eligible for fast-track citizenship except if they are Muslim.

Your crime was that, drawing from Marx, you claimed that one can be both a Muslim and also expect ones rights as a citizen to be safeguarded. The nation-wide movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the many Shaheen Baghs in fact advocated the same. They rejected any kind of binary politics: Hindu/Muslim or believer/secular. As immortalised in Amir Azizs Jamia ki Ladkiyan, what they taught us is that one cannot freeze a community in time. They cannot be easily bracketed into either fundamentalist or atheist.

A community, any community, is always in a state of flux. That reflects in its past, its present, its choices, its hesitations, its aspirations, its misgivings, its ideas, its contradictions. As we have discussed so many times before, you were a product of that condition of flux.

From the Babri masjid demolition in 1992 to the Batla House encounter in 2008; from your observant parents decision to give you the most liberal education, to your engagement with Marxism as a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, you were shaped by your family, your community and the events you witnessed. As your sister Zainab noted Umar Khalid couldnt come up in isolation; he is very much a product of the way he was raised.

How does one encapsulate that many layers in a simple binary?

The hustle and bustle of the protest sites across the country has been stilled by the pandemic. For the moment, there is a lull. We might as well use the time to gather our thoughts. To review our achievements, the lessons weve learned and analyse our shortfalls; to evaluate in the fullest sense the potential that was Shaheen Bagh, what it signified for the Muslims as a community and for the citizens of this diverse nation. That would be a good way to do your time, dont you think?

Life for you, particularly since the sedition case in JNU since 2016, has been more like a rush in the head. It has been one of constant looking over the shoulder. It has also been one of being pricked by both foes and friends. Maybe this hiatus will bring some pause, if not peace. As for some of us, it is like a constant (at times even annoying) drone around our ears has suddenly ceased. But as we said before, we hope we never get used to the lull, the void.

Meanwhile, let the physical mulakaat in jail start. We will bring you to speed with all that is worth. And if the gatekeepers are still reading, the first letters of the last words of the first ten paras make for a message.

Until next time,

Daisy & Ban

Continue reading here:

An open letter to Umar Khalid: If you are doing time, you may as well do it well - Scroll.in

Podcast Ep. 344: Can the Supreme Court be Fixed? – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

In our latest podcast, Jessica and I discussed the past week in politics and atheism.

We talked about:

Please subscribe to my new Substack newsletter!

A whites-only church wants to set up shop in Minnesota. Locals arent having it. (2:00)

Donald Trump fell for an article on a satirical conservative website. (6:25)

Trump needs to work on his pandering. Hes now saying only Jesus is more famous than he is. (9:27)

Trumps support among white evangelicals is slipping (15:37)

Anti-gay groups are already celebrating the eventual overturning of marriage equality. (26:46)

Two congressmen say interracial marriages are also on the chopping block. (33:00)

This could be a way to save the Court but its not pretty. (36:20)

Nashville authorities say theyre investigating a super-spreader event hosted by Christian preacher Sean Feucht. (42:25)

Someonecalled the cops after seeing a sleeping homeless man on a bench. It was actually a statue of Jesus. (51:10)

Anti-abortion groups are defending Trumps use of a COVID treatment that wouldnt have been possible without an aborted fetus. (58:18)

Wed love to hear your thoughts on the podcast. If you have any suggestions for people we should chat with, please leave them in the comments, too.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Google Play, stream all the episodes on SoundCloud or Stitcher, or just listen to the whole thing below. Our RSS feed is here. And if you like what youre hearing, please consider supporting this site on Patreon and leaving us a positive rating!

(Screenshot via YouTube)

Visit link:

Podcast Ep. 344: Can the Supreme Court be Fixed? - Friendly Atheist - Patheos

Why is it so hard for atheists to get voted in to Congress? – The Conversation US

Every election cycle has its firsts.

This year, the selection of Kamala Harris as Joe Bidens running mate presented the U.S. with its first politician of Indian heritage and the first Black woman to be on a major party ticket. It followed Hillary Clintons becoming the first woman to win the popular vote for president in a 2016 election to replace Americas first Black president, Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg became the first openly gay candidate to win a presidential primary and Ted Cruz became the first Latino to do so. In recent years Americans saw the first Jewish American win a primary, Bernie Sanders, and Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar became the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

But in this era of increasing diversity and the breaking of long-rigid political-demographic barriers, there is no self-identifying atheist in national politics. Indeed, throughout history, only one self-identified atheist in the U.S. Congress comes to mind, the late California Democrat Peter Stark.

This puts the country at odds with democracies the world over that have elected openly godless or at least openly skeptical leaders who went on to become revered national figures, such as Jawaharlal Nehru in India, Swedens Olof Palme, Jose Mujica in Uruguay and Israels Golda Meir. New Zealands Jacinda Ardern, the global leader who has arguably navigated the coronavirus crisis with the most credit, says she is agnostic.

But in the United States, self-identified nonbelievers are at a distinct disadvantage. A 2019 poll asking Americans who they were willing to vote for in a hypothetical presidential election found that 96% would vote for a candidate who is Black, 94% for a woman, 95% for a Hispanic candidate, 93% for a Jew, 76% for a gay or lesbian candidate and 66% for a Muslim but atheists fall below all of these, down at 60%. That is a sizable chunk who would not vote for a candidate simply on the basis of their nonreligion.

In fact, a 2014 survey found Americans would be more willing to vote for a presidential candidate who had never held office before, or who had extramarital affairs, than for an atheist.

In a country that changed its original national motto in 1956 from the secular E pluribus unum out of many, one to the faithful In God We Trust, it seems people dont trust someone who doesnt believe in God.

As a scholar who studies atheism in the U.S., I have long sought to understand what is behind such antipathy toward nonbelievers seeking office.

There appear to be two primary reasons atheism remains the kiss of death for aspiring politicians in the U.S. one is rooted in a reaction to historical and political events, while the other is rooted in baseless bigotry.

Lets start with the first: atheisms prominence within communist regimes. Some of the most murderous dictatorships of the 20th century including Stalins Soviet Union and Pol Pots Cambodia were explicitly atheistic. Bulldozing humans right and persecuting religious believers were fundamental to their oppressive agendas. Talk about a branding problem for atheists.

For those who considered themselves lovers of liberty, democracy and the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion, it made sense to develop fearful distrust of atheism, given its association with such brutal dictatorships.

And even though such regimes have long since met their demise, the association of atheism with a lack of freedom lingered long after.

The second reason atheists find it hard to get elected in America, however, is the result of an irrational linkage in many peoples minds between atheism and immorality. Some assume that because atheists dont believe in a deity watching and judging their every move, they must be more likely to murder, steal, lie and cheat. One recent study, for example, found that Americans even intuitively link atheism with necrobestiality and cannibalism.

Such bigoted associations between atheism and immorality do not align with reality. There is simply no empirical evidence that most people who lack a belief in God are immoral. If anything, the evidence points in the other direction. Research has shown that atheists tend to be less racist, less homophobic and less misogynistic than those professing a belief in God.

Most atheists subscribe to humanistic ethics based on compassion and a desire to alleviate suffering. This may help explain why atheists have been found to be more supportive of efforts to fight climate change, as well as more supportive of refugees and of the right to die.

This may also explain why, according to my research, those states within the U.S. with the least religious populations as well as democratic nations with the most secular citizens tend to be the most humane, safe, peaceful and prosperous.

[Youre too busy to read everything. We get it. Thats why weve got a weekly newsletter. Sign up for good Sunday reading. ]

Although the rivers of anti-atheism run deep throughout the American political landscape, they are starting to thin. More and more nonbelievers are openly expressing their godlessness, and swelling numbers of Americans are becoming secular: In the past 15 years, the percentage of Americans claiming no religious affiliation has risen from 16% to 26%. Meanwhile, some find the image of a Bible-wielding Trump troubling, opening up the possibility that suddenly Christianity may be contending with a branding problem of its own, especially in the skeptical eyes of younger Americans.

In 2018, a new group emerged in Washington, D.C.: The Congressional Freethought Caucus. Although it only has 13 members, it portends a significant shift in which some elected members of Congress are no longer afraid of being identified as, at the very least, agnostic. Given this new development, as well as the growing number of nonreligious Americans, it shouldnt be a surprise if one day a self-identified atheist makes it to the White House.

Will that day come sooner rather than later? God only knows. Or rather, only time will tell.

See the article here:

Why is it so hard for atheists to get voted in to Congress? - The Conversation US

Atheists Have a Hard Time Running for Office (But It’s Getting Easier) – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

In a political season when weve seen the first openly gay presidential candidate, the first Black woman to run for Vice President, the first whatever-the-hell-Marianne-Williamson-was, why is it still shocking to consider an openly atheist candidate running for federal office? Rep. Jared Huffman is openly Humanist the only non-theist in Congress willing to say that but even he came out after getting elected.

Why is there still such an antipathy to electing atheists?

Thats what Phil Zuckerman tries to answer in a piece for The Conversation. Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College and author of What It Means to Be Moral: Why Religion Is Not Necessary for Living an Ethical Life, says that there are two reasons people dont feel comfortable voting for an atheist:

There appear to be two primary reasons atheism remains the kiss of death for aspiring politicians in the U.S. one is rooted in a reaction to historical and political events, while the other is rooted in baseless bigotry.

Lets start with the first: atheisms prominence within communist regimes. Some of the most murderous dictatorships of the 20th century including Stalins Soviet Union and Pol Pots Cambodia were explicitly atheistic. Bulldozing humans right and persecuting religious believers were fundamental to their oppressive agendas. Talk about a branding problem for atheists.

The second reason atheists find it hard to get elected in America, however, is the result of an irrational linkage in many peoples minds between atheism and immorality. Some assume that because atheists dont believe in a deity watching and judging their every move, they must be more likely to murder, steal, lie and cheat. One recent study, for example, found that Americans even intuitively link atheism with necrobestiality and cannibalism.

I would add another reason to the list: People just arent used to it. It sounds paradoxical, but if more atheists were elected, more atheists would be elected. Or, if more politicians came out as atheists after election, it wouldnt be such a burden for future candidates. Voters just need more examples of atheists in office so they can see that the sky isnt falling.

Theres also a sideways approach to the matter: Openly atheist candidates can be elected simply by downplaying that aspect of themselves since its not necessarily relevant to policymaking. It would be strategic and honest for candidates to admit theyre not personally religious before explaining why they value evidence-based policies and care about the issues that matter locally. If anyone tries to use atheism against you, throw it right back at them like youre an Amy Coney Barrett defender discussing her Catholicism. Use the opportunity to pivot to issues that matter to other voters.

That sort of approach is precisely what more than one hundred candidates for statewide and national office have been doing this year.

According to research from myself and the Center for Freethought Equality, those candidates are on the ballot this November, many of them having survived primary challengers, and are not shying away from using non-religious labels. None of them, to my knowledge, have made atheism a central part of their campaign. Theyre just not running away from it.

Thats the key to winning. And the more of them who succeed, the easier itll get for other atheists during the next election cycle.

(Image via Shutterstock)

Read this article:

Atheists Have a Hard Time Running for Office (But It's Getting Easier) - Friendly Atheist - Patheos

Pastor Who Said Atheism Has Never Healed a Disease Tests Positive for COVID – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

Yesterday, we learned that John Hagee, the senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, tested positive for COVID.

His son Matthew made the announcement:

Thats quite a reveal from John Hagee, given that he once said Hurricane Katrina was the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans because there were plans for a gay pride parade that would supposedly reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. (I dont know what that means.) Hagee later backed away from that comment when he was trying to help elect Republican John McCain in 2008. McCain later rejected the endorsement.

Hagee has also said Hitler was fulfilling Gods will by pressuring Jews to return to Israel.

So was COVID Gods way of punishing Hagee?

If it happened to a Democrat, no doubt thats what Hagee would say.

I wont stoop to his ignorance. But I will point out that Hagee has a long history of promoting Christian Nationalism and conspiracy theories. Which is to say: If God wanted to punish him, theres no shortage of reasons to do it.

While Hagee has been in the Oval Office to pray for Trump, he wasnt spotted at any of the recent White House super-spreader events so its not clear where he picked up the virus.

Lets note, however, that Hagees church has been hosting in-person, indoor, mask-option, not-very-socially-distanced services for weeks now. He has also claimed Atheism has never healed a disease; faith in God has, but not atheism.

For his sake, lets hope his doctors are relying on proper science and not just sending prayers his way. God hasnt stopped the virus, but the nations that have followed the best advice of epidemiologists have been most successful at combatting the disease.

Visit link:

Pastor Who Said Atheism Has Never Healed a Disease Tests Positive for COVID - Friendly Atheist - Patheos

Leading Irish atheist wades into the Dawkins disinvitation row – Patheos

THE CHAIR of Atheist Ireland Michael Nugent has written to the Historical Society at Trinity College Dublin, known as the Hist, asking it to reconsider its recent decision to drop Professor Richard Dawkins from its 2021 list of speakers because his presence could make students uncomfortable.

Auditor of the Hist Brd ODonnell announced the cancellation in a statement on her Instagram page at the weekend, saying that she had been unaware of Richard Dawkins opinions on Islam and sexual assault until this evening, adding that the society:

Will not be moving ahead with his address as we value our members comfort above all else.

Amidst growing fury over Dawkins disinvitation, Nugent, above, said in his letter that he had spoken as a guest of the Hist several times:

I have always enjoyed it as a place of intelligent debate where ideas are tested robustly, passionately, and rationally from all sides of an issue. That is what a good debating society does.

You have a particular responsibility to protect this reputation as custodians of the worlds oldest student debating society.

I am writing to ask you to reverse your decision to unilaterally break your agreement to host Richard Dawkins as a speaker. Like Richard, I had a speaking event unilaterally cancelled, speaking about atheism to final year students in a Roman Catholic school. Thankfully, the school reconsidered, and honoured their agreement. I hope you are open to doing the same

Your decision harms the credibility of the Hist as a debating society, and your stated reason misunderstands the nature of debate. The priority of a debating society is not to value our members comfort above all else.

Indeed, part of the purpose of good debate is precisely to cause some discomfort, by challenging peoples beliefs from all sides of an issue.

Your decision also harms the integrity of the Hist as a body that can be trusted to keep its word. There is a major distinction between a decision to not invite someone, and a decision to publicly disinvite someone after inviting them. Richard has done nothing so unpredictable to justify unilaterally breaking an agreement.

The Council of Europes Venice Commission advises democratic governments. In a report on the relationship between freedom of belief and freedom of expression, it concluded:

The purpose of any restriction on freedom of expression must be to protect individuals holding specific beliefs or opinions, rather than to protect belief systems from criticism. The right to freedom of expression implies that it should be allowed to scrutinise, openly debate, and criticise, even harshly and unreasonably, belief systems, opinions, and institutions, as long as this does not amount to advocating hatred against an individual or groups.

Richard has never advocated hatred against anybody. Whether or not you agree with him, he is an honourable man who pursues truth and promotes education and human rights. I ask you to please reverse your decision, and I look forward to your response.

Nugent referred in his letter to two articles hes written about Dawkins. You can access them here and here.

His intervention coincides with a petition calling on the Hist to reverse its decision. It says:

Richard Dawkins is a renowned philosopher, biologist and author who has made major contributions to the field of evolutionary biology with his works The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype.

He is also an outspoken critic of organised religion and has garnered a reputation as one of the worlds most prominent atheist intellectuals.

The Hists decision to prioritise the comfort of its members over debate and discourse is an outrage of the highest order. This ludicrous decision contradicts the fundamental idea of a debating society and deprives the student body of the opportunity to both engage with and challenge the views of one of the most prominent intellectuals of the 21st century.Not only does this damage the reputation of the Hist, but is also an abject embarrassment for the college as a whole.

We ask the Hist to reverse this cowardly decision

One of the most damning criticisms of the decision was published on Monday by The Burkean, which said:

Let us make something clear, the views held by Dawkins in relation to Islam are completely reasonable, and the very fact he has been deplatformed from an Irish college is outrageous in itself. However, his deplatforming is merely a symptom of a far greater travesty that has occured over the last number of years

The modern progressive has managed to worm its way to the top of Irish society. While the likes of ODonnell would have been laughed out of the room less than a decade ago, they now rule the roost, forcing their views down the throat of everyone they can.

Dissent in the minds of these ideologues should never be tolerated, as demonstrated by how frequently they will try to get people deplatformed, and even depersoned, when they are perceived to have sinned against their new form of Cultural Maoism

It is clear that ideologues have gained control of the halls of debate in this country and its colleges. Whether it be online, on television, or in our universities, what used to be the source of much needed dialogue within an often fractured island now do not permit even a slight deviation from dogma. For those of us rightfully horrified by such a state of affairs, we need to act now, or the consequences will be disastrous

Hat tip: Antony Niall and Angela_K

Id love a cup of coffee

More here:

Leading Irish atheist wades into the Dawkins disinvitation row - Patheos

Please Support the Work I Do Through This Site – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

I post this article once a month, and the options have changed. Thanks for your support! The latest project Im working on involves a Substack newsletter that sums up atheism-related news three times a week.

Over the past decade, what began as a personal blog has turned into a hub with several contributors and multiple posts per day. I create YouTube videos, put out a podcast each week, and have released books! More recently, I created a podcast about the history of the Pledge of Allegiance.

In order to facilitate all of this, I have a Patreon page.

If youd like to help out, you can pledge a certain amount every month (with rewards along the way!) from as low as $3 a month.

As always, Im grateful for the kind words and support you all send my way. Its a pleasure being a source of information (and solace) for you, and I hope to continue it well into the future.

If Patreon isnt preferable for you, you can use a credit card through Venmo (My address: Mpromptu at gmail) or send mail to P.O. Box 9734 Naperville, IL 60567.

And for those who prefer to make a one-time donation only, since Patreon doesnt allow those right now, you can always give via PayPal:

Thank you!

Excerpt from:

Please Support the Work I Do Through This Site - Friendly Atheist - Patheos

The ending of Raised By Wolves explained – Looper

Although it's not for the first time, in this episode, Mother is confronted by Father about the fatalistic streak she's been developing over the course of the story, one that seems unbefitting of her self-described atheism. Father's position, that their mission is their own to determine, better represents atheism than Mother's, which is essentially a dogmatism based around another person's design for them.

Mother has always revered her "creator," Campion Sturges, after whom she named her youngest child. There's a logic to this as an artificial life-form, she has a certainty of purpose that few humans can ever experience. She is not only programmed to serve a specific aim, but she is conscious of that programming and aware of the person who created it. Her feelings intensify after uncovering archived memories of their time together on Earth, during which she falls in love, and the feeling may even be reciprocated.

Mother may retain the capacity for faith from her time as a Mithraic-made Necromancer, but as she points out to Father, her effective worship of her creator does not actually require faith. Faith implies the possibility for doubt, and Mother hasmet her god. Sol, on the other hand, is an immaterial god, who, until recently, could be dismissed as superstition. It will be interesting to see how she copes with the strange new physical evidence of Sol's existence that has just been born from her body.

Follow this link:

The ending of Raised By Wolves explained - Looper

Raised By Wolves Theory: Who Is The Prophet? Every Possibility Explained – Screen Rant

Raised by Wolves on HBO has many mysteries that are still to be revealed, including if the Mithraic prophet is Campion, Paul, Marcus/Caleb, or no one.

Raised by Wolves on HBO has many mysteries that are still to be revealed, including who the Mithraic prophet is and what they will do for the last survivors of humanity on Kepler-22B. Interestingly, there are several contenders that it could be, all of whom fit the description.

From the beginning of season 1, Raised by Wolves has featured a Mithraic prophecy that a prophet will arise to lead humanity to salvation. The Mithraic priests say that an orphan boy will "come to lead the race into the next evolution of humanity". The obvious choice would be Campion, as he has been at the center of the show from the beginning. However, there are several others who fit the description, and Campion may only be a distraction from the truth.

Related: Raised By Wolves: How Mother ACTUALLY Kills People

Of course, there's also the possibility that there is no prophet. Depending on where showrunnerAaron Guzikowski intends to take the plot of Raised by Wolves, the Mithraic prophet may only be a MacGuffin meant to distract the audience from more important plot twists. Even if the Mithraics choose to appoint and believe someone is the prophet,there may not be anything special about that person. After all, Marcus (Caleb) appears to be gaining trust and control amongst the group, and he is actually an atheist. It will be interesting to see what the show intends to do and the message it chooses to tell. Is humanity better off run purely by science and atheism, or does it need religious belief to survive? Either way, there are several characters who may turn out to be the Mithraic prophet.

There's definitely a solid argument that Campion is the Mithraic prophet. He has been at the forefront of the show since the beginning of the series and perfectly fits the description. He is an orphan, having never known his biological parents because he was an embryo grown in an incubator who was then raised by the androids Mother and Father.

Interestingly, Campionis also named after the atheist hacker Campion Sturges, who reprogrammed Mother for her mission to raise human children on Kepler-22B. He has been raised by Mother and Father to be an atheist, but after meeting some of the Mithraic children has begun to wonderas is natural for every personif there is something greater going on in the universe, mysteries that defy logical explanation. It's difficult to know where Campion will land, but it's likely he will question the ideas of Mother, just like a normal adolescent boy would question their parents, especially when exposed to outside influences. Either way, Campion seems a little too obvious to be the prophet, so there's a good chance the show will take a different turn.

Another character who could be the prophet is Paul. Paul is now an orphan, even if he doesn't know it yet. Marcus and his wife killed his parents, then used facial reconstructive surgery to look like them and replace them in order to escape the dying earth. The Mithraic ship took 13 years to reach Kepler-22B and, during that time, Paul seemed surprised that his parents were actually spending time with him. It's possible he already suspects they're not his real parents, but he likely won't be too upset by this revelation, as his parents didn't sound very caring.

Related: Raised By Wolves: What Actually Happened To All Of Mother's Children

This means that for 13 years, Paul was raised by atheist parents who treated him with more kindness than his religious parents. He will probably have to face this realization at some point, and may or may not turn from the Mithraic path because of it. That said, he could still be the prophet, especially if he embraces his religious roots. Also interesting to note is that the name Paul corresponds with Paul the apostle from the bible, who helped to spread the word of Jesus. Another coincidence, perhaps, is the Paul shares a name with PaulAtreides from Frank Herbert's Dune, who was also a prophet.

Marcus (Travis Fimmel) is an interesting possibility. His real name is Caleb, but after having facial reconstructive surgery he looks just like Marcus, who was a devoted follower of Mithraic doctrine. He was a child soldier who knows a lot about conflict and death. What's more, in a flashback scene, the man who trained him as a child mentions that Caleb/Marcus is an orphan, thus fitting the prophecy.

Marcus has begun to hear voices, which may either indicate that he is receiving divine guidance from Sol or going crazy. Either way, these voices may be enough to sway his atheistic beliefs so that he begins to embrace the Mithraic religion, helping him to survive as he masquerades as one of them. It could also bring him or the others to believe that he is the prophet to help humanity survive on Kepler-22B.

There's also the possibility that the Mithraic prophet has not been born yet. It could be the first human baby to be born naturally on humanity's new home planet. Tempest was raped while in cryosleep by a man who claims he heard Sol's voice tell him to do it. While it's likely this man is crazy, as not even his fellow Mithraics believe him, he could be telling the truth, thereby creating the baby that is to be the one true prophet.

Related: Raised By Wolves: What Mother's "Real" Name Means (& Why It's Important)

Of course, if this is the case, it happened through a despicable act. What god would condone such a thing? Is Sol that kind of god? Mythologically speaking, Gods can be cruel, but it remains to be seen whether Tempest's child will turn out to be humanity's hope for the future.

It should also be noted that Hunter is now an orphan. He "dwells in an empty land" that has demons living beneath it, as the prophecy goes. He is also a devout Mithraic, despite now living under the care of Mother and Father, who insist he become an atheist. He fits the description, and could very well be the prophet.

Thus far in Raised by Wolves, Hunter has not been able to do much, but if he were to escape Mother and return to the Mithraics, he could prove to be a leader of the faith. It's possible he may do something heroic that will prove himself to his people.

Raised by Wolves features a conflict between the highly-religious Mithraic and the atheists. Both sides feel very strongly about their beliefs, one based on faith and the other based on science, so much so that they fought and destroyed Earth, making it uninhabitable for humans. This central conflict points to the core issues of humanity, both of which have made people strong and enabled civilizations to prosper and thrive, despite the fact that they are at war with each other.

Related: Raised By Wolves: What The Show's Title Really Means

So far, Raised by Wolves has been careful not to pick sides, which may be an indication that the writers believe both views are valid. Indeed, the best civilizations are those that find a way to incorporate both faith and science together to fuel progress and prosperity. The materialization of a prophet would point to faith being the stronger of the two, while having no prophet come forward would support a more nihilistic view that the atheists are correct.

If the show is careful, it won't support either view, and will leave things open to thought and interpretation. Even if a prophet is decided by the Mithraic group, that person may only be a normal person and thus a false prophet. Either way, as Raised by Wolves continues to develop in season 1, it's obvious that humanity has brought all of their problems and conflicts from Earth to Kepler-22B. It remains to be seen whether the Mithraics and the atheists will find a way to live in peace.

Next: How Raised By Wolves Fits Into The Blade Runner & Alien Timeline

Star Trek's Future Can Perfectly Redeem Wesley Crusher

Keith Deininger is a content writer, published author, and lifelong horror fan. In between copywriting, editing, and blogging, he writes his own dark fiction. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter (@KeithDeininger), and his Patreon page @ patreon.com/keithdeininger.

See the rest here:

Raised By Wolves Theory: Who Is The Prophet? Every Possibility Explained - Screen Rant

Podcast Ep. 340: The Don’t-Say-The-S-Word Baptist Convention – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

In our latest podcast, Jessica and I discussed the past week in politics and atheism.

We talked about:

If youre a pastor, maybe dont use your work email to send hateful racist messages based on a hoax. (0:55)

The Southern Baptist Convention is drifting away from the word Southern. (11:45)

Evangelicals for Social Action is getting rid of the first word because its too toxic. (19:18)

Scientific American issued its first-ever endorsement for Joe Biden. Will it matter? (22:19)

Dont be this mom complaining about a Bible reading in your daughters English class. (38:00)

Democrats can and should reach out to non-religious voters. (51:00)

A Republican state senator who participated in a protest against climate change just lost his home due to the wildfires. (56:11)

A California church will finally stop its indoor services. It just took a fine of $112,750. (1:00:16)

Wed love to hear your thoughts on the podcast. If you have any suggestions for people we should chat with, please leave them in the comments, too.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Google Play, stream all the episodes on SoundCloud or Stitcher, or just listen to the whole thing below. Our RSS feed is here. And if you like what youre hearing, please consider supporting this site on Patreon and leaving us a positive rating!

(Image via Shutterstock)

View post:

Podcast Ep. 340: The Don't-Say-The-S-Word Baptist Convention - Friendly Atheist - Patheos

Referendums in the Pacific are attracting attention faraway – The Economist

France, China and Taiwan are all involved

TESTING THE popular will does not come naturally to Melanesian governments. Policy decisions are normally taken behind closed doors, away from the prying eyes of the general public. That may now be changing. New Caledonia, still a French possession, and Bougainville, an island at the eastern end of Papua New Guinea (PNG), held referendums on independence in 2018 and 2019. New Caledonia will hold a second such vote on October 4th. Enthusiasm for direct democracy is becoming infectious. The premier of tiny Malaita, the most populous province in the Solomon Islands, now wants to hold his own referendum on secession in protest against his national governments overtures to China.

Bougainvilles 250,000 people are in the midst of their first election since the referendum of 2019, when 97.7% voted for independence. But that vote was non-binding, requiring only that the PNG government open negotiations on the islands future status. PNGs prime minister, James Marape, is adamant that Bougainville lacks the economic clout to survive as an independent state. Bougainville once boasted one of the worlds largest copper mines, but it was closed down in the civil war of 1988-97, leaving the island devoid of profitable exports. The front-runner in the contest to lead its autonomous government, Ishmael Toroama, once commanded the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, which fought bloodily for independence from PNG in the early 1990s.

Whereas Bougainvilleans opted emphatically for independence, New Caledonians voted against it in 2018, by 57% to 43%. That was the first of three scheduled referendums on whether to split from France, the territorys colonial ruler since 1853. Since then, fervent French loyalists have regrouped, taking control of the local government. The French government is not neutral. It has let loyalists hoist the French tricolour on the campaign trail. On a visit to the territory in 2018, President Emmanuel Macron waxed lyrical about the vast stretches of the Pacific that remain a part of France.

Geostrategic rivalries are shaping Oceanias local struggles. The Solomon Islands shifted diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China last year. Malaitas premier, Daniel Suidani, rejected that switch, condemning China for its communism and atheism. Despite the border being closed against covid-19, a direct flight from Guangzhou arrived on September 2nd, carrying Chinese workers hired to prepare facilities for the Pacific Games in 2023. We will be closing access to Malaita, Mr Suidani declared angrily, promising at the same time to shut down stores run by ethnic Chinese on the island.

Taiwanese diplomats stirred the pot by meeting Malaitan officials in Australia in March. Since then Taiwan has sent consignments of surgical masks, bags of rice and thermal-imaging equipment. Whether or not they are independent, the islands of the Pacific will not be insulated from big-power rivalry.

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline "No island is an island"

View original post here:

Referendums in the Pacific are attracting attention faraway - The Economist

The Temptation of Disbelief – Kashmir Observer

WhatsAppFacebook Twitter Email20Shares

Image Credits: National Geographic, September 1999, Kashmir: Trapped in Conflict

Sheikh Shahid

The greatest question of our time is not communism versus individualism; not Europe versus America; not even the East versus West. It is whether men can live without God. Will Durant

OUR evening tete-a-tete turned into a solemn conversation when a friend remarked, I am waiting for someone to return from his grave and set me free; in response to my question Are you sure there is no God?

The terse conversation makes manifest the ambivalence and the curiosity of humans befuddled with the question of God. Is there some supernatural intelligent design at work or are we left in lurch in a godless pit? Perhaps, the thought of the supernatural and its denunciation is as old as thought itself. But historians of ideas trace the origins of disbelief from the 6th century BC Ionian or Milesian philosophers like Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes of Miletus one of the Ancient Greek colonies on the coast of Asia Minor. They are called physical philosophers as they rejected everything else which was beyond the natural and tangible confines of this universe. Their ideas led them to ask some of the big questions that confront human mind, like the ultimate origin of this world and two centuries down the times lane their ideas ended up in the atomistic theories of Leucippus and Democritus. These Milesian philosophers iconoclastic worldview was in sharp contradiction to the traditional mythological writers like Homer. They are believed to be the first to have rejected the mythological explanations and instead put their weight behind the naturalistic worldview. If earlier, the workings of this world were explained by the nitty-gritties of mythology, the Ionian philosophers believed that the world was a self-sufficient system working in accordance with the laws intelligible enough for the human mind. No longer was the unrequited love the undoing of Aphrodite, no longer did a man act reckless because Athene willed it, and no longer did Zeus take away anyones wits. Many centuries later, this naturalistic view would echo in the words of Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, where he describes an atheist as someone who believes there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world.

This pre-Socratic period could be said to have commenced the scientific outlook, though not in the current experimental sense. However, this radical turn of thought did not replace mythology by science only, rather it was replaced with a rational explanation in general. For instance, Herodotus History is populated with mythology so that the gaps are plugged while Thucydides wrote perceptible history dotted with facts or in Bernard Williams words, the history of Thucydides aimed at telling the truth plainly. So, we could argue that what supersedes myth is rationality. So that there is only room for reason, evidence and opinions which are wide open to rational scrutiny. Therefore, the naturalism of Milesian philosophers stems from rationalism which in turn is the fundamental basis of Atheism.

Through the Islamic Lens

The Islamic word for Atheism is Ilhaad, which literally means deviation. The word Ilhaad is derived from an Arabic root word lahad, which is used to describe the grave where a trench is dug straight into the ground and then a side pocket is carved for the deceased. The side pocket marks a deviation from the main trench. So, in this sense Atheism is considered a deviation from the natural or straight path. From the Islamic perspective, Atheism could be said to have emerged from the 8th century Dahriyya movement, who were empiricist thinkers believing that only through empirical means could knowledge be acquired. They reasoned that everything in this universe always existed as it is, hence there is no need for the inclusion of a creator. Faraj al-Isfahani in his book Kitab al-Afghani mentions Abu Hanifa, the famous Islamic jurist and the founder of one of the Islamic schools of thought, who debated many Dahriya in the 8th century and intellectually confronted their claims. There were many other Islamic scholars like Al-Ghazali, Ibn al-Jawzi, Muhammad Shabab, Abu Isa al-Warraq, Ibn Qutayba etc, who responded to the Dahriyya claims of disbelief. In his book Kimiyai Saadat (The Alchemy of Happiness), Al-Ghazali has described Dahriyya as reductionists bereft of any holistic understanding of the universe and its purpose. He compares them with ants on a piece of paper that cannot lift their eyes from the ink and thus fail to see the writer who holds the pen.

Beginning of Avowed Atheism

Historians agree that the first use of the term Atheism could be traced down to the Greek scholar John Cheke in his translation of Plutarchs On Superstition. However, many historians are of the opinion that the avowed atheism did not emerge up until late in the 18th century. David Berman, in his book A History of Atheism in Britain, writes that the first avowedly atheist work is Baron dHolbachs The System of Nature published in 1770 and first such writing Dr. Priestleys Letter to a Philosophical Unbeliever was published in Britain in 1782, the authorship of which is still disputed. James Thrower in his book Western Atheism A short History also unambiguously states that while some works of Democritus and Lucretius are atheistic, DHolbach was the first unequivocally professed atheist in the Western Tradition. Hamza Andreas Tzortzis has mentioned the 17th century Polish thinker Kazimierz Lyszczynski as having denied the existence of God in his De non existential dei wherein he writes that God is a creation of man and that humans created the concept of God to oppress others. Similarly, in 1674, Matthias Knutzen produced such atheistic writings and in 1700s Atheism saw the emergence of the intellectual promulgation in the likes of David Hume and Voltaire. Voltaire claimed deism accepting the existence of a creator while rejecting the revelation or word of God. For Hume, the idea of an omnipotent God was incomprehensible given all the suffering and evil in this world. The question of suffering and evil has led many generations of thinkers to ponder and question the existence of God. Professor Bernard Schweizer, after scrutinizing a number of literary works of many prominent writers like Zora Neale Hurston, Peter Shaffer, Philip Pullman, Elie Wiesel, Charles Swinburn, Rebecca West et al, comes to a conclusion that there is one common thread running throughout these profound works that all of them seem to be struggling with the idea of a merciful god in a world full of suffering. He says that the Misotheist (one who hates God) is psychologically troubled and it is quite true that the psychologically, emotionally, and physically wounded are most likely to turn away from God. Another avowed proponent of atheism was the 19th century member of British parliament Charles Bradlaugh who fought for atheism to be acceptable for society. In his essay Humanitys Gain from Unbelief he defends atheism and charges society of bearing prejudices against atheists and those who are falsely suspected of atheism.

The Four Horsemen

The currents of atheism were flowing subtly underneath without too many people heeding to the rhetoric of its proponents. And suddenly 9/11 happened and the fear and anger it created culminated in the prolonged War on Terror occupying the US and its allies in a protracted war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most importantly, it provided a renewed impetus to the emergence of a political manifestation of atheism. To describe this new brand of atheism, Gary Wolf, in 2006, while writing a column for Wired, a British magazine, hit on a catchy slogan New Atheism. Its protagonists were a group of three men who had attracted tremendous media attraction with their bestsellers. Sam Harris with his book The End of Faith (2004), Richard Dawkins with The God Delusion (2006), and Daniel Dennett with Breaking the Spell (2006). And in 2007, the movement secured a new hero when Christopher Hitchens published his book God is Not Great. All these books are first and foremost fueled with raging anger against religion and very much sustained by the events of 9/11.

The New Atheist will not let us off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; its evil. wrote Garry Wolf.

And precisely four days after the 9/11 attack, Dawkins wrote an article in The Guardian in which he mounts a scathing criticism on Religion writing:

To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used.

It is certainly true that the Four Horsemen, named in reference to the biblical image of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Revelation 6.1-8), seen as a portent of the end times, sufficiently capitalized on the events of 9/11 and suddenly everyone was talking about religion and their writings gained a new relevance. God was thought to be vanishing from this world, never to come back from eternity. The Economist, in their millennium issue, had even wrote an obituary of God. But soon afterwards felt a genuine need for a volte-face in their 2007 issue In Gods Name, writing that The Economist was so confident of the Almightys demise that we published His obituary in our millennium issue. This is reminiscent of the moment when Time magazine, in their 1980 issue, announced Gods comeback by writing:

God? Wasnt he chased out of heaven by Marx, banished to the unconscious by Freud, and announced by Nietzsche to be deceased? Did not Darwin drive him out of the empirical world? Well, not entirely. In a quiet revolution in thought and argument that hardly anyone could have foreseen only two decades ago, God is making a comeback.

Temptation of disbelief in Kashmir

While writing about any kind of dissociation from religion in the valley, its important to note that there is a lack of comprehensive survey in this domain. Also, given the conservative religious society, there is almost no history of avowed atheism. Therefore, the writer has sought responses from different people with different backgrounds and varied beliefs to see where Kashmir stands on the issue of disbelief.

Mohd Yusuf, a self-professed atheist, after completing his masters in Urdu, gained a keen interest in religious philosophy and he started reading from an eclectic trove of writings. It has been twenty years now, since he and his small circle of friends started sifting through the esoteric works of philosophy. He says that over a period of 10 years they met the highly educated people in universities and colleges, doctors and other professionals and found that out of these 20 to 25 percent were those who openly dissociated themselves from any religion. His further opines that about 10-15 percent of overall population in the valley might be irreligious and it could be more as most people fear to express their disbelief. The reason, he states, is the highly orthodox society and the intolerant clerics who issue fatwas on the slightest of suspicion.

Assistant Professor of comparative religion at the Central University of Kashmir, Dr. Nazir Ahmad Zargar, is of different opinion. He wrote in response to me:

I think atheism is newly born in Kashmir as a fruit of modern western education. Religious contradictions caused by pseudo street preachers, plethora of baseless opinions, posts, lectures on social media, unreal tussle between religion and reason, random reading, moral degradation, being religious meaning backward, and above all materialistic education system and jumping to conclusions without knowledge, are some of the reasons for getting astray

Saqib Ahmad, who did his masters in Philosophy from Aligarh University, commented that according to his own experience, atheism or skepticism is a growing trend among young generation who have uncensored access to the internet. Sajad Ahmad, assistant Professor of Mathematics and an autodidact in philosophy of religion, is also of the opinion that many young people, especially in humanities discipline, are getting liberalized with an unconventional outlook towards religion.

These are all free conjectures drawn from personal experiences of some curious persons. However, the exact figure is unknown for want of a substantial survey. Whatever the cause, belief and disbelief would play simultaneously till eternity. As Christopher Hitchens himself acknowledged in his book, though ruefully, that religion is ineradicable.

Be Part of Quality Journalism

Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.

CLICK FOR DETAILS

Related

Originally posted here:

The Temptation of Disbelief - Kashmir Observer

Nigerian Atheist Arrested and Disappeared – Council on Foreign Relations

The arrest and subsequent disappearance of Mubarak Bala, an avowed atheist from a prominent Muslim family in Kano and an engineer by profession, illustrates the fragility of human rights and the rule of law when an individual directly challenges the norms of conservative society in Nigeria. Bala says he rejected Islam and embraced atheism following exposure to a video of the beheading of a Christian woman in 2013 "by boys about my age and speaking my language." The immediate cause of his arrest was his Facebook post calling the Prophet Mohammed a terrorist; a group of lawyers in private practice complained about it to the police.According to Bala's wife, following his arrest four months ago, he has been denied access to a lawyer, contrary to a court order. She has been unable to contact him, and the authorities have refused to respond to inquiries about him. Now she is asking for "proof of life," implying the possibility that he has been extrajudicially murdered.The response of Bala's father and older brother to his 2013 profession of atheism was to have him committed to a mental hospital where, he says, he was beaten, sedated, and threatened with death.

Under a northern Nigeria version of sharia (Islamic law), blasphemy is a capital crime, though execution is rarely carried out.Under nation-wide, secular law, the penalty is two years imprisonment.Assuming Bala is still alive, the disposition of his case may depend on the legal system under which he is tried. Nigeria's federal constitution explicitly guarantees absolute freedom of religion; yet, in a seeming contradiction, blasphemy (of which Bala's Facebook post would seem to be a clear example)is a crime, though lesser than under sharia.

More on:

Nigeria

Religion

Rule of Law

Sub-Saharan Africa

If Bala is dead, it should not be assumed that it was necessarily at the hands of the security services.Conditions of incarceration promote disease, especially when prisoners are denied access to their families, as Bala has been. It is also possible that fanatics have taken justice into their own hands and murdered him, perhaps in an "honor killing."Nigeria, alas, has a culture of impunity; if Bala died under embarrassing circumstances, authorities at any level might successfully cover it up.

The Bala case raises multiple hot-button issues. His public embrace of atheism is a direct challenge to the patriarchal authority of his father, his elder brother, and, indeed, his entire distinguished Islamic family. His profession of atheism is a direct assault on traditional, northern Islamic society when it is under siege from the radical Islam of Boko Haram, but also (perhaps more assiduously) secularism and Christianity in the more advanced southern part of the country. Blasphemy is viewed as warranting death in other conservative Islamic societies, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as well as among northern Nigeria's Muslims. Bala's lack of access to a lawyer despite a court order highlights the weakness of the rule of law.

Atheism is seen as an assault by both Christian and Muslim Nigerians, even if the focus of the two is often different. Popular reaction to atheism is reminiscent to that of homosexuality. The draconian laws against the latter, including the possibility of the death penalty, were equally supported by Christians and Muslims during a particularly intense period of religious rivalry. Atheism, blasphemy,and homosexualityare perceived as, somehow, assaults on the family.Yet, as governance at all levels deteriorates, it is the family that provides the context and the safety net in which Nigerians live out their lives.

More on:

Nigeria

Religion

Rule of Law

Sub-Saharan Africa

View original post here:

Nigerian Atheist Arrested and Disappeared - Council on Foreign Relations

Alice Roberts: ‘Atheism is defining yourself by an absence. Humanism is a positive choice’ – The Guardian

Prof Alice Roberts, the broadcaster, scientist and author, has been filming this week for the third series of Channel 4s Britains Most Historic Towns, after a five-month gap. The last time we were out, back in March, people were pulling the shutters down around us. We felt very nervous. I drove home that evening, and stayed there, she says.

Despite the hiatus in filming, Roberts has been remarkably productive during lockdown and its long tail. Her first childrens book, Human Journey, a story of ancestral migration, will be published this week, while a much bigger book, Ancestors: A History of Britain in Thirteen Burials, going back to the depths of the Ice Age, is due out in early 2021.

Roberts has also found time to co-author The Little Book of Humanism, a pocket-sized guide to the meaning of life and death scattered with quotations, mini-meditations and illustrations, published last week.

Roberts, who became president of Humanists UK last year, says she has come across many people who, on learning about humanism, say: Thats me! Thats what I think, I just didnt know there was a name for it.

I found there was a lot of fantastic writing on humanism but it tended to be quite hefty tomes, she says. I like those books that you have lying around and dip into, that offer a bit of inspiration. So Andrew Copson [the chief executive of Humanists UK] and I cooked up a plan to produce this little guide.

She hopes the book will be a lovely introduction to the ideas of humanism for those thinking about humanist ceremonies to mark lifes big events, such as marriage, birth and death.

In their introduction to the book, she and Copson write: Throughout history there have been non-religious people who have believed this life is the only life we have, that the universe is a natural phenomenon with no supernatural side, and that we can live ethical and fulfilling lives using reason and humanity to guide us.

These people have looked to scientific evidence and reason to understand the world. And theyve placed human welfare and happiness as well as the welfare of other sentient animals at the heart of how they choose to live their life.

Today people who hold these beliefs and values are called humanists. There are millions of individuals around the globe who share this way of living and looking at the world even if they havent heard of the word humanism and realised that it describes what they believe.

The quotations in the book, which come from ancient philosophers such as Epicurus and Mencius through to contemporary literary figures including Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith and Wole Soyinka, are intended to show that humanism is not a new idea, but has a deep history going back thousands of years.

Roberts, whose parents attended church every Sunday, became an atheist as a teenager. But atheism is defining yourself by an absence of something. Humanism is a positive choice to base your morals on your own human capacity.

At the heart of humanism, says Roberts, is the idea that humans can be deeply moral beings without having some external source of goodness to either impel or encourage them to behave well. Living a good life comes from you, from employing your own human faculties of reason and empathy and love.

Humanism is a general philosophy or framework for life, rather than a movement or an organisation that people join, she says. But Humanists UK is extremely needed. The organisation helps train humanist celebrants, supports people across the world who are persecuted for their non-religious beliefs, and provides a much-needed voice for humanism, she says.

Religion still carries immense political weight in the UK, despite the steep fall in the proportion of people who define themselves as religious, she says. The UK is the only country in the world apart from Iran that reserves places in its legislature for clerics, with 26 Church of England bishops sitting by right in the House of Lords. And yet we think of ourselves as a progressive nation!

The C of E also plays a huge role in the education of children, with a million children in its schools and increasing involvement in multi-academy trusts; Roberts says she suspects the churchs influence over the curriculum will continue to grow. Education has been an area of some controversy for Roberts, who has always been open about sending her own children, aged seven and 10, to a local C of E primary.

I live in a rural area, and my children werent offered places at non-faith schools, so I didnt have a choice. I was very open with the school about my humanist beliefs, and Ive been a school governor. I havent withdrawn my children from assembly as it felt divisive to remove them from the occasions when the whole school gets together, she says. But they say prayers in the classroom, which isnt something that should be happening in the 21st century. It goes beyond being taught about Christianity to indoctrination.

Her children are returning to school this week, a move which Roberts views with some anxiety as three of her family of four are asthmatic. We know that reopening schools will increase transmission of the virus. Most people dont have space in their houses in which they can isolate themselves if theyre vulnerable and of course, some families will have members who are extremely clinically vulnerable, and who have been shielding.

Theres been no investment in more space or teachers in schools, so many children and of course, teachers are going back to normal class sizes, in poorly ventilated classrooms, with inadequate social distancing and unclear, inconsistent guidance on face coverings. Teachers and heads are clearly doing their best in a difficult situation. I think everyones anxious, arent they?

She has not been impressed with the governments handling of the Covid crisis: The most gentle way of saying it is they could have done better. OK, they are dealing with something that is completely novel, but there has been a failure of policy making and communication. At the beginning of the pandemic, I started out wanting to give the government the benefit of the doubt. But their erosion of public trust has left me doubting them very much indeed, she says.

The pandemic has led to people asking questions about the meaning of life and death, and what really matters to them. In the past, people were more likely to turn to religion in times of crisis than look to other sources of guidance, Roberts says. But there has always been an alternative the humanist approach and in the UK today, where most people are now not religious, that alternative is more relevant than ever.

See the original post here:

Alice Roberts: 'Atheism is defining yourself by an absence. Humanism is a positive choice' - The Guardian

A Conservatives Revisionist History Aims at Marx and Misses the Mark – National Review

The Karl Marx sculpture in Chemnitz, Germany, August 31, 2018. (Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters)Paul Kengors The Devil and Karl Marx is superbly researched, but makes no effort to persuade the unconverted.

Per its introduction, Paul Kengors new book, The Devil and Karl Marx, deals with the grim, disturbing, militant atheism and intense anti-religious elements of Marx and other founders and practitioners of communism. The history of the last century gives Kengor no shortage of examples of these elements, and, as a superb researcher, he is well suited to the task he has set himself. The book contains almost 700 footnotes, and he is clearly well acquainted with practically every biography of Marx in print. Nary a point is made about the life of Marx, or the Soviet Union, or domestic Communist infiltration, without citations from primary or secondary sources (in most cases, both).

The great virtue of the book is the attempt it makes to correct those who would separate Marx the man from the evils ushered in by Marxism. Kengors point of departure is the observation made by Aristotle that men start revolutionary changes for reasons connected with their private lives. He sets out to show that the salient features of Marxist ideology are each and all putrid emanations from Marxs miserable, morally destitute private life. But he doesnt devote any significant space in the book to a forensic and dispassionate deconstruction of Marxs ideas; he merely contents himself with illustrating Marxs many flaws and implying that Communism can be explained in terms of those flaws alone. In so doing, he leaves himself open to the critique of those who would point out that an idea cant be refuted by simply observing or explaining its historical origins. So an extra chapter detailing how the ruinous results of Marxist ideology flow ineluctably from its intellectual premises, quite apart from the manifold defects of Marxs personal character, would have been welcome.

Nevertheless, Kengor does make a strong case that the philosophical output of a man who called for the ruthless criticism of all that exists might have been born of considerable personal unhappiness. It is not surprising, for example, that Marx, who once wrote Blessed is he who has no family in a letter to a friend about his own domestic unhappiness, also included the weakening of family ties as part of the path to his envisioned utopia. His inability to play well with others also seems to have prefigured the practice of his ideological progeny:

Marx was often dictatorial with his editorial staff and with his Communist League and Party. Payne chronicles what he aptly terms Marxs purges, a haunting bellwether for how various Communist Parties, from Russia to America to worldwide, would deal ruthlessly with internal dissenters who did not always toe the Party line.

The inconsistency of Marxs conduct with his ideology is, however, even more powerful than the consistency Kengor traces. Marx was a rank hypocrite, devoid of any integrity. He spent an extraordinary amount of time traipsing across Europe to estranged relatives, attempting to scrounge money off of them, since he refused to get a job. He was only too delighted when his mother, for whom he had no affection, died and left him 6,000 franks. His attitude toward the woman who gave birth to him is encapsulated by this line from a letter he sent to his wife, Jenny: She does not want to hear a word about money but she destroyed the I.O.U.s that I made out to her; that is the only pleasant result of the two days I spent with her. As Kengor observes, this flies completely in the face of Article 3 of the Communist Manifesto, which calls for the abolition of all rights of inheritance.

Marx and Jenny also retained a live-in nanny, bequeathed to them by her family. They never paid this woman, named Lenchen. She functioned as an indentured slave, upon whose body Marx would slake his sexual appetites when his wife was ill. The reader would do well to remember Lenchen the next time they hear something about the exploitation of the proletariat quoted from Das Kapital.

The books novelty is found mainly in its focus on Marxs work as a poet and a playwright, which, Kengor claims, displays a wicked affection for the figure of Satan. I have to confess, I dont find this argument particularly compelling. Its true that the Prince of Darkness does make several appearances in Marxs creative work, but, as Kengor concedes, there is no real evidence of any interest in the occult or in Satanism as such in these works. What we find instead is the same affection for the figure of Satan that tends to fire the imaginations of most violent political revolutionaries. Marxs one-time friend and ally, Mikhail Bakunin, eulogized Lucifer as the eternal rebel, the first freethinker, and the emancipator of worlds. Even John Milton, himself a devout Puritan, could not wholly resist the literary allure held out by the Devil to political insurgents, as Paradise Lost amply demonstrates. Marxs similar literary interest doesnt tell us anything we didnt already know about the man: He resented the givenness of the world and sought with fiendish fervor to remake it in his own image.

Although Kengors skill as a researcher is considerable, and the new historiographic ground he breaks is interesting despite the tenuous conclusions it leads him to, his book is in the end a failure, mainly because it exhibits one of the besetting sins of present-day conservative publishing: It is pitched at an incredibly narrow and siloed right-wing audience that is bound to already agree with everything Kengor has to tell them. Put simply, if you are not already a conservative Roman Catholic, youre unlikely to get very far into this book before putting it down. No attempt is made to convince people who fall outside this demographic of the authors thesis. Marxists, or even moderately progressive readers, will be so turned off by Kengors insults and his childish dismissals of his ideological opponents that they will rightly dismiss it out of hand. We come across fan service for the already-converted and bad writing besides in lines such as as usual, however, Marx was far from finished venting the acrid recesses of his bitter brain, and admirers of Marx will surely want to dispute that, given their fealty to their beloved founding father, for whom they make excuses for everything, and modern Marxist oddballs will find reasons to defend this nightmarish trashin a way, of course, they would never do if, say, a Republican president had penned such pernicious claptrap.

This is not to say that theres anything inherently wrong with converts, of course; the history of the conservative movement in America is littered with them. Some of our brightest luminaries have been socialists or progressives who were mugged by reality, to use Irving Kristols memorable phrase. Ronald Reagan, Whittaker Chambers, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell all began their political lives on the left before being won over to the right, and we can always use more like them but Mr. Kengors book wont produce any.

One of the most important principles of Sun Tzus Art of War is that its important to provide ones enemy with a golden bridge to retreat across. In intellectual terms, this means giving your opponent the respect necessary for them to climb down from their position and change their mind. They have to be able to do this while keeping their self-image and their dignity intact. Otherwise, they will simply dig in their heels. No human being is going to admit that his political aims are wicked and that his conscience is therefore corrupt. Consequently, its always advisable to at least attribute noble motives to ones ideological opponents. Unless they are particularly depraved, the reason that most Marxists want to see their political agenda enacted is probably not that they think its evil. They want to see it enacted because they think it is good. Conservatives must work to show them that they are mistaken, and that there are better means to fundamentally good and decent ends.

Kengors book shows no interest in that vital work. Take the following passage. After quoting extensively from a Communist writer, Kengor dismisses the content of the quotation out of hand without making any argument:

This, of course, is relativistic pabulum. It is the sophistry that, unfortunately, has evolved into the modern secular-progressive zeitgeist that dominates America and the wider West today. It is the childish philosophical silliness that has enabled modern leftists to redefine everything from life to marriage to gender to sexuality to bathrooms. When man makes himself his own Sun that is, his own God then he destroys his world.

Any writer worth his salt knows that the way to convince a reader of something say, that a given text is relativistic pabulum is to describe, explain, and take apart the opposing argument in such a way that the reader says to him or herself, Ah, I see. Thats some relativistic pabulum right there. Kengor doesnt care to show the reader what to think; he simply tells the reader what to think. Without addressing the claims of the text in question, he has a verbal hissy-fit about the modern Left, punctuated by a bald and pietistic theological assertion.

This last point needs expanding on, because the way the author employs his own Catholic faith throughout the book is also a case study in what not to do when seeking to persuade. Kengors references to Roman Catholicism leave an impression of expectation that the reader already shares his prior religious commitments. For instance, take Kengors invocation of Christs temptation in the wilderness:

As the two debated, the Living Bread told the tempter that man lives by every word from the mouth of God. Marx took not the side of Christ on that one. Of course, Marx rejected Christ in total. Communists are atheists after all.

What is the reader who doesnt already believe that Jesus is the Living Bread to make of this? And why the complete conflation of atheists and Communists? Doesnt Kengor want to convince his atheist readers that they, too, should abhor Marx and Marxism?

The book is also chock-full of appeals to papal encyclicals, writings, and statements condemning socialism and emphasizing its incompatibility with the Catholic faith. But the author fails to demonstrate why anyone who isnt a Catholic should care about what any of these popes or bishops have to say. The authority of their statements, as presented by Kengor, is not derived from the independent merits of their historical analyses but from the fact that they are men of authority within the church, which, again, cant mean much to anyone who doesnt share his faith. The books conclusion includes an appeal to Pope Pius Xs critique of the many roads of modernism. Kengor then sums up the Popes warnings in his own words:

We face a terrific danger as each and every person renders unto itself his or her own individual interpretation of truth and reality. Eventually, each person becomes his or her own god. Soon enough, it ends in Karl Marxs ultimate goal: the undermining if not annihilation of religion.

Theres more than a little irony involved in an author condemning the individual interpretation of truth and reality in a book. After all, why put pen to paper if not in an attempt to alter the individual readers interpretation of truth and reality? By the very end of the book, Kengor has descended into full-on homiletics, appealing to the anti-Communist Fulton Sheens predictably approving assessment of his own church:

The truth was to be found in Truth itself, in Himself. And Sheen was certain most of all that Truth existed in the Church that He, Jesus Christ, founded upon Peter, the rock upon which He built His Church. That Church would provide the foundation for surviving age after age and all the corrosive ideologies and isms and spirits that pervade it. The Church offers a constant reminder to people of the principles that do not change and which thus are those to live by, and those which will protect us from being children of our age.

As a general rule, writers should not make claims that they are unprepared to back up with explanation and evidence. Everything Kengor writes here would fit reasonably in a Catholic devotional book, but baldly asserting any of it in a political and intellectual history of Karl Marx and Communism is unprofessional and immature. Perhaps this brand of presuppositional pietism could be excused to a limited extent if it made room for all theists, or all Christians, seeking to unite them against the avowed materialism of Marx. But Kengor goes out of his way to alienate every one of his readers who is not in communion with the Bishop of Rome. First of all, the Protestant Reformation is presented as leading ineluctably to Communism:

[Marxs father] became Lutheran. It was a choice that allowed him more choices to define his own views. The son would seize upon such choices with wild abandon. . . . Thinking completely apart from the Church of Rome could pave the way for him to open the door to philosophical communism. Breaking with Rome was the break he needed to pursue atheistic communism.

Theres no attempt to back up this ludicrous assertion of a direct and immediate causal link between disbelieving the claims of the Roman church and embracing communism. Once again, Kengor confesses himself to be an opponent of thinking completely apart from the Church of Rome, something that the material conditions of the modern world all but guarantee, quite apart from the theology of the Reformation. Kengor also spills a lot of ink to establish that Protestant churches were easy targets for Communist infiltrators in America. This phenomenon is neatly contrasted with Catholics Reject the Outstretched Hand and The Catholic Worker Steps Up.

After defaming Protestantism as a staging ground for full-blown communism, forgetting all the while to mention any of the prominent Protestants who battled against Marxism in the 20th century, the author then sets about burning his bridges with Eastern Orthodoxy. Totally forgotten in the West today, he informs the reader . . .

. . . is that the Russian Orthodox Church surrendered to become a tool of the Soviet government (to quote Cianfarra) in order to unite all Christians and make Moscow the Rome of the Twentieth Century. Both the Bolshevik leadership and Russian Orthodox Church leadership alike wanted to contest Romes leadership as the primary head of the worlds Christians.

This claim is as historically illiterate as it is morally offensive. Insofar as the Orthodox Church behind the Iron Curtain accommodated itself to the Bolsheviks in light of the relentless and overwhelming persecution it experienced, it was with a view to survival, not to deposing the pope. The idea of Moscows being a Third Rome has furthermore been around since the conversion of the Slavs in the Middle Ages. It is not a Twentieth Century idea. Kengor further alienates Muslims alongside Orthodox Christians by deciding to defend, of all the things that Marx criticized, the Crusades. The Crusades, the reader is told, are greatly misunderstood and maligned to this day. The goal was to rescue those Christians and recover land and sites (such as the Holy Sepulchre) that had been theirs until Muslim invaders seized them violently. This would have been news to the Orthodox Christians of Constantinople, who were completely unperturbed by the Muslim invaders in 1204, when their city was sacked, pillaged, and burned to the ground by Roman crusaders during the Fourth Crusade.

In short, Kengors book fails to justify its own existence as a work of ideas. Virtually the only readers that it wont alienate are his fellow conservative Roman Catholics. It will undoubtedly serve to confirm the already-entrenched biases of some particularly excitable members of that demographic, but that is insufficient grounds for calling it a respectable work of political history, or even of polemics. Kengor should spend some time immersing himself in the work of C. S. Lewis. He might learn how to graft religious belief onto persuasive intellectual arguments in a winsome and non-sectarian way. If he can master that art and combine it with his remarkable prowess as a researcher, his next work will be a real treat to read.

Read more:

A Conservatives Revisionist History Aims at Marx and Misses the Mark - National Review

‘Atheist Overreach’ Thinks Secularization Will Fail | Roll to Disbelieve: ‘Atheist Overreach’ Thinks Religion is Forever – Patheos

Hi and welcome back! Lately, weve been talking about Christian Smiths 2019 book Atheist Overreach. Weve covered the three questions that Smith asked and answered in his book. Now, lets look at the conclusion he draws from his work. Namely, he thinks secularization will ultimately fail making religion dominant once again across humanity. So today, lets see if his overweening optimism is really justified.

(Notes: In the book, Christian Smith specifically tries to make it look like hes talking about all religions generally, not just Christianity. However, the way he talks about religion makes it clear that he really means Christianity, and Catholicism in particular. Page citations come from the 2019 hardback edition. Please check out the Atheist Overreach tag for lots more posts about this book!)

Christian Smith makes a bold prediction at the end of his third question (p. 122):

we should not expect human societies to become thoroughly secularized on any long-term basis.32 Secularization as a process will likely be limited, contingent, and susceptible to reversal. The New Atheist dream of a fundamentally secular world will prove illusory.

Its quite an optimistic show of bravado. In reply, I must ask:

According to what research, exactly?

That citation, Atheism and the Secularization Thesis, comes from theOxford Handbook of Atheism. I cant access this work, alas. However, I can take a wild guess about it.

Thesecularization thesisholds that as societies modernize, they become more secular. As secularism rises, religious authorities own power fades.

Christian Smith aint buyin that idea. And I can absolutely see why hed dislike it.

Dominance is, after all, a zero-sum game. If someone wins it, then someone else must lose it. So if religious authorities are not dominant in a society, then secular ones will be. Ifreligion itselfdoes not dominate peoples lives, thensecularismmust. (Though sometimes, they take turns.)

The secularization thesis states that as societies become more rationally-oriented and modernized, their people lose their need for religious affiliation. They look instead to rational answers for their questions about the universe and themselves.

But Christian Smith doesnt think thats how it works.

Instead, he thinks that somehow religion will regain and maintain its dominance over societies. In his view, secularism will only arise briefly in scattered areas. Eventually, that spark will be snuffed out by religion again. (And to him, thats agoodthing.)

As for the trend toward secularization now, he sees it as a show of smug, teenage rebellion against the status quo. Hes even in the Wikipedia article about secularization saying so:

In contrast to the modernization thesis,Christian Smithand others argue that intellectual and cultural lites promote secularization to enhance their own status and influence. Smith believes thatintellectualshave an inherent tendency to be hostile to their native cultures, causing them to embrace secularism.[6]

The citation in the above quote comes from Smith bookThe Secular Revolution. I suppose that in Christian Smith-Land, as these elites calm down and embrace religion again. In other words, they allow religion to dominate their lives again.

InAtheist Overreach, he tells us something similar (p. 125):

Humans are not naturally religious in the sense that religion is inevitable in human lives and social institutions. But we are naturally religious in the sense of possessing by nature not only the complex capacities but also the recurrent, strong inclinations to cognize, believe, and observe religious ideas and practices. [. . .] But atheists have little reason to be confident that human societies are on a path toward steadily increasing secularization. Atheist overreaching has tried in various ways to deny or ignore these realistic conclusions, which accomplishes little good for anyone.

Its big talk. But where is this happening? What societies are going back to religion after embracing secularism? Whos allowing religious leaders to dominate their lives again?

He offers us no support at all for these astonishing claims nor for his sidelong insult to atheists. Instead of offering evidence, he throws a snotty little hissy-fit over atheists apparently ignoring Aristotelian ethics, and there, my friends, the book ends.

Over here in Reality-Land, meanwhile, Ive seen little evidence of any of this dream actually happening anywhere.

Im struggling to think of a single time in the past 50 years that any society has gone secular and then experienced a massive resurgence of religious dominance. Im just not coming up with anything.

Instead, what we see is a constant decline of religious affiliation in major religions.

Christians love to gloataboutMuh Chinese revival! MUH AFRICAN REVIVAL! Theyve done thisfor many decades.

These gloaters place their improbable stories only in dystopias, of course. There, the false promises of religion might be believed by achingly-desperate people who have no other options or hope.

By contrast, I have seen no evidence of this grand revival happening in any free societies that embrace human rights and civil liberties for all. At most, religious movements (like the Toronto Blessing) poach Christians from other groups or revive faith in lapsed Christians. Even then, these movements dont even ping the radar of non-Christians.

Once a society embraces secularization alongside human rights, religious dominance dissolves away.

The few times Ive heard about religion making a comeback it has been on the smallest scale imaginable. Moreover, such cases usually represent a form of religion that violates Christian Smiths entire narrative.

For example, Hellenistic pagans achieved legal recognition in Greece a few years ago. Norse paganism is apparently now the fastest-growing religion in Iceland. In both cases, the actual number of people involved in these religions is quite low (1.2% in the latter case). Thus, I doubt well see either country declaring itself pagan anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Christianity declines inboththose countries. In Greece, the decline looks especially dramatic. Greek Orthodox leaders are panicking there these days for good reason!

Even worse (for Christian Smith), these up-and-comers arent at all like Christians.

They arent trying to force their rules on everybody. Nor are they seeking to enshrine their demands into law. They arent annoying people with evangelism attempts, even.

(And yet they are still growing! Ill tell you this: When I was a pagan, I converted several peopleto Hellenismos but none to Christianity. And each time, it happened by accident. Christian evangelists only wish they could experience those conversations.)

In short, these new religious adherents do not seek coercive power over others.

And so they wont ever attain it.

Religious dominance hinges upon coercion above all other factors. Secularization is what we get when coercion is demolished.

As human rights and civil liberties get more and more firmly supported by governments and society, religious leaders power diminishes significantly. Most particularly, religious leaders lose the power to forcethat societys people to play along with their Happy Pretendy Fun Time Game.

Despite their frantic machinations, religion becomesoptionalin free societies. Once that happens, every adherent whowantsto leave,can. Every person who wants to reject religious recruitment, can.

And thats exactly what happens.

People leave. They refuse to join up. They reject religious leaders demands.

Before, religious leaders and adherents alike retaliated brutally against these rejections. But in a free society, they cant. The law ties their hands. It punishes and prevents religious overreach.

So coercion becomes the magic fairy-dust that brings religions to dominance.

By contrast, human rights, embraced and enforced, become the thunderclap that heralds secularization.

Ever wonder why world religions tend to be so authoritarian?

Wonder no more.

Humans might be naturally superstitious. Our cognitive development and our evolution into modern humans speak to that tendency.

But humans do not naturally tend toward organized religion. They dont naturally want to follow strict behavioral rules that make no sense. Nor do they want to spend their diminishing resources and finite lifetimes on stuff that theyre not excited about and doesnt seem to bring any benefits to anybody. Most especially, they dont want to be part of groups that might hurt them.

It always has been like that. It always will be.

Authoritarian groups like Catholicism demand a lot while actively harminga significant number of people. So those groups dont appeal to many people on their own. They cant. They never did.

Instead, such groups might win a few adherents here and there, as pagans are doing and as Christians did before they gained real temporal power. Where people can freely reject them, where they cant gain artificial support from governments, these groups always struggle to keep the lights on.

History teaches us a very sobering lesson:

In order to grow to world-religion status, religious leadersmustgain coercive power, and theymustkeep it.

I can see why Christian Smith a member of a flavor of Christianity facing a particularly pronounced decline nowadays might want to believe that sooner or later, some large number of people will spontaneously wake up one day and flood into his abandoned cathedrals and churches.

Christians like imagining themselves as being onthe winning team.

I can also see why Christian Smith a very scholarly member of that flavor of Christianity thinks that religions resurgence hinges upon atheists re-subscribing to Christian dominance based not on belief in gods, but something far more esoteric. He thinks theyll return because ofCatholicismshigh-flown philosophy and ethics. Catholicism in particular falsely imagines that it is the only real source of ethics and morality. Indeed, Smiths spun this narrative of superior ethics and morality all through his book.

But Catholicisms own history contradicts that narrative, even more so than just that of Christianity generally.

At the books very ending, Christian Smith laments that (p. 130):

All parties involved in the theism-atheism debates, in shared moral reflection, and in the public consumption of the findings of science should be interested in and committed to careful reasoning, rigorous criticism, and the making of justified and defensible claims.

Im feeling really helpful today. Thus, I offer some advice in return:

Maybe try shared moral reflection yourself sometime.

Living in reality is rewarding and spectacularly interesting. More than that, though, its the only real game in town.

NEXT UP: Its not just about hypocrisy anymore. Its about blatant, indefensible hypocrisy and the world is watching Christians reveal their true nature and goal. Tomorrow, lets see what really drives secularization.

(Hint: It sure aint cultural elites throwing teenage temper-tantrums about religion.)

Come join us onFacebook,Tumblr,Pinterest, andTwitter!(AlsoInstagram, where I mostly post cat pictures.)

Also please check out our Graceful Atheist podcast interview!

Ifyou like what you see, I gratefully welcome your support. Please consider becoming one of my monthly patrons viaPatreon with Roll to Disbelievefor as little as $1/month! MyPayPal is captain_cassidy@yahoo.com(thats an underscore in there) for one-time tips.

You can also support this blog at no extra cost to yourself by beginning your Amazon shopping trips withmy affiliate link and, of course, by liking and sharing my posts on social media!

This blog exists because of readers support, and I appreciate every single bit of it. Thank you. <3

See more here:

'Atheist Overreach' Thinks Secularization Will Fail | Roll to Disbelieve: 'Atheist Overreach' Thinks Religion is Forever - Patheos


12345...102030...