From Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Joann Sfar…
My Journey to Atheism (A story of an Ex Muslim)…
(Please note that I will not reveal my name for safety purpose).
I was born in a middle-class Pakistani family, and thus I was brought up in a very religiously (Sunni Muslim) strict manner. As the eldest son, my mother paid a lot of attention to me. She used to tell me about the stories and Miracles of Prophet Mohammed and Qu’ran, she told me that I was very lucky to have been born into a Muslim family. I was happy knowing that Allah cared so much about me and that I will go to heaven when I die. As a curios child, I once asked my mother that “What was Allah doing before he made the universe? I mean he is always there and has no beginning, right?” to which my mother replied “Don’t even think about stuff like that ever again”. I was fine with that. If I do exactly what the Qu’ran and Prophet Mohammed said I was going to get rewarded with Heaven and who wouldn’t want that?
And since everybody in my family considered me a genius they had a lot of expectations from me and so I was sent to a local Primary school at the age of 4. At age 12 (after I was done with 8th Grade), I was sent to a Madrrasah to memorize Qu’ran.
Those unfortunately were the worst days of my life. At first I was very excited about this, because I was told that If I memorize Qu’ran, Prophet Mohammed will personally welcome me to heaven (if that makes any sense?). First few days were good, but for some unknown reason the Qari (Imam or w/e you want to call him) hated me. After a couple of weeks he started beating (well not just me other students as well) me no reason at all and each day it got worse, I convinced myself to believe that he was probably doing this so I don’t make any mistakes (which I rarely ever made) because if I do, Allah will send me to Hell. One day I was sick but was I was not allowed to be absent from Madrassah so I went there anyway, but couldn’t memorize the work I was given. When it was my turn to recite the Qu’ran, I told the Imam that I didn’t memorize it and apologized. He didn’t say anything, instead he picked up the water hose and lashed me around 20-25 with it( I was begging that sadistic monster to stop, but he didn’t), then he smashed my head the desk (which caused two of my teeth to break). When I went home that day and told my parents about it, they said “Well, you must have done something wrong, you are not supposed make mistakes when it comes to Qu’ran. We’ll still talk to Imam-Sahib tomorrow”. That was it. I was infuriated, I mean how could an All-Merciful Allah allows such severe punishment of such small mistakes (not even a mistake since I admitted that I didn’t memorize the work and even apologized)? That was when I started to have doubts about Islam. The next day I told my parents that I don’t want to go to Madrassah and I wanted to continue my studies. Of course, my parents protested a lot but I had already made up my mind and so they had no choice but to accept my decision (though they didn’t talk to me for a whole month after that). I started High School and became a good Muslim again, I met a guy in school (he was an Ahmadiya. I was told that I should never talk to him) and we became good friend. It was when the suicide bombing started in Pakistan and my friend died in one of them. What was worse that my parents actually supported the “Jihadits” although they did condemned the bombing in their own Muslim countries. They said that these Jihadits should wipe out America. I was left speechless, I mean how could my parents even think of such inhuman thing? And how could any religion even allow anything like this?
From Libby Anne
Sometimes reading two very different articles in conjunction with each other can be fascinating. Take this article about Christian homeschool leader Kevin Swanson’s persecution complex, on the one hand, and this article about Boko Haram bombing mosques in Nigeria, on the other.
First, Kevin Swanson:
Swanson told host Tim Wildmon, the president of the American Family Association, that persecution in America is “happening all over the place,” lamenting that now “accountants who refuse to submit forms for homosexual couples” are facing persecution.
“We’re looking at a massive increase in persecution,” he said, warning that religious radio stations will soon be taken off the air if they “refuse to give equal time to homosexuals on the basis of sexual orientation.”
He continued: “We’re all at stake. If you don’t want your pastor in jail, if you want your religious radio station still broadcasting, if you want your job and if you’re a Christian, you had better take this matter seriously in the 2016 elections.
Next, Boko Haram:
Two bomb attacks in north-eastern Nigeria have left at least 42 people dead and more than 100 injured, officials say.
At least 27 people died when a bomb targeted a newly opened mosque in the town of Yola.
Earlier, 15 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Maiduguri.
It is not clear who carried out the bombings but the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has carried out many attacks in the area.
The group has targeted both Christians and Muslims who do not adhere to their ideology.
. . .
Thousands of people have been killed and millions forced to leave their homes by Boko Haram violence in recent years.
From The Raw Story
Biologist E. O. Wilson, who is known as the “the father of sociobiology,” said recently that the Earth was suffering “the death of a thousand cuts” because of religion.
In the most recent issue of New Scientist, Wilson explained that his next book would look at the future of humans and the Earth.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist warned that people had not yet realized that the “tribal structure” had been destroying the planet by “a thousand cuts,” according a partial transcript obtained by the International Business Times.
“All the ideologies and religions have their own answers for the big questions, but these are usually bound as a dogma to some kind of tribe,” he said. “Religions in particular feature supernatural elements that other tribes – other faiths – cannot accept … And every tribe, no matter how generous, benign, loving and charitable, nonetheless looks down on all other tribes. What’s dragging us down is religious faith.”
From Emo Philips
This morning I received thrilling news: a joke I wrote more than 20 years ago has been voted the funniest religious joke of all time! In case you’ve missed it, here it is:
Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”
Last night for the third time in as many months I found myself explaining to someone raised outside of a devoutly religious environment that religious people are not stupid simply because they believe nonsensical things.
Each of the three times I’ve had this conversation it’s been with a different person whose professional life has increasingly come to focus on critiquing religion. Each time I’ve encountered the same bewilderment, and each time I’ve covered the same ground in an attempt to explain how and why some people who are very intelligent can nevertheless believe things that are absurd to anyone not raised to accept those things as a settled matter of fact.
Sometimes they insist we must not have ever truly believed what we said we believed. Other times they ask me to help them understand how that can be so. Very often they flatly disagree and insist that anyone who believes in things like demons and angels and Young Earth Creationism must be morons. But then like last night they get a puzzled expression as they sit across from me and finally admit, “The thing is, you don’t seem stupid to me. So how on earth did you ever believe such things?”
I know it doesn’t make sense. I know it’s hard to understand how otherwise intelligent people can believe things that sound ridiculous to anyone not raised to accept them as sacrosanct. It seems untenably contradictory, but that’s just how humans are. In case you haven’t noticed, human beings aren’t entirely rational creatures, and that goes for the most intelligent and well-educated among us as well.
We all have our blind spots, and we all have those areas in which our much beloved rationality takes a back seat to emotion, prejudice, and personal interest. Humans aren’t entirely logical beings, which is precisely why we have things like the scientific method in the first place. We know all too well how badly we let our own biases cloud our perception and our judgment. We need science precisely because we know we are prone to superstition, subjectivity, and cognitive bias.
For the benefit of those who grew up outside of a devoutly religious context, I would like to spell out four reasons why it’s possible for people who are clearly intelligent and often very well educated to believe things which appear “stupid” to everyone else.
A study came out recently all about what Catholics believe compared to what all Americans believe.
I just want to mention two issues in particular.
First is marriage equality. 55% of all Americans said they support gay or lesbian couples getting married.
Now, this is something forbidden by the Church. The Catechism even says “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” The supposedly-great Pope Francis believes that.
And yet the study showed that 60% of Catholics support gay marriage. 60!
The second issue is abortion. 53% of all Americans said it should be legal in all or most cases.
The Catholic Church calls it a “grave offense.” It’s completely anti-abortion.
But guess what? 51% of Catholics said they support legal abortion in most or all situations.
What the hell?
A 4,743-pound granite monument dedicated to “ATHEISTS IN FOXHOLES and the countless freethinkers who have served this country with honor and distinction” was installed, Oct. 6, at the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s new offices in Madison, Wis.
The Atheists in Foxholes monument will be dedicated on Friday, Oct. 9 at 10:30 a.m. during the by-invitation-only grand opening of the renovated Freethought Hall downtown. Vets in attendance will be encouraged to pose for a photograph.
The monument, made of the same South Dakota granite that Mount Rushmore is carved from, is more than 7 feet high, reflects the long windows that are part of the original 1855 building and provides a focus for the new Rose Zerwick Memorial Garden and Courtyard adjoining Freethought Hall’s new entrance. A teak bench opposite the display provides a spot for reflection.
The monument text concludes with a pacific plea: “Presented with hope that in the future humankind may learn to avoid all war.”
This panel discussion was held at Harvard’s Kennedy Forum on September 14, 2015.
Neuroscientist; Co-founder and Chief Executive, Project Reason; Author, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, among others
Author, Radical; Founding Chairman, Quilliam
Juliette Kayyem (moderator)
Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; Former Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, US Department of Homeland Security
Growing up Christian meant to me that life on Earth was but prologue to Heaven, almost a sort of virtual reality training ground to see if you would accept the authority of God and submit to achieve immortality and forgiveness, or be stubborn and reject Christ and damn yourself to an eternity of fiery torment and final exclusion from God’s presence (which was portrayed as being the real, ultimate torture of Hell).
The end time that we were being drawn to was the Apocalypse, and we were immersed in the weird cognitive dissidence of it being simultaneously the most terrible event ever, worse than any war or Holocaust imaginable, yet at the same time a blessed event (to quash the Adversary and establish God’s Kingdom) that we might not have to take part in, if, IF we could be good and holy and forgiven enough to be caught up in the rapture.
That’s a lot for a kid. I was just a pawn on death row, waiting for when the shit would finally hit the fan.
Now, before you think I was raised in a cult on a razor-wire compound, all Jim Jones style, let me assure you that mine was a common (not even bible belt) upbringing. It wasn’t even drilled into me daily by hand-wringing religious nuts of a family, it was much more banal than that… it was just a simple fact that they told us in Sunday School and my family confirmed that yes, that’s right; there will be an Apocalypse, a Judgement Day, and yes, we’re all sinners bound for Hell but we have an escape clause provided by the blood atonement of the Son. Praise Jesus, I am washed clean in the blood of Christ! And after church we all had pie.
It was like being raised in a happy, care-free concentration camp where we could walk by the gas chambers and play in the ovens, and all my neighbors smiled and reminded me every now and then that a good boy loves the Camp Director because He’s the only one that can sign and stamp your Papers. We must be careful and any infraction had to be asked forgiveness as the Camp Director had cameras everywhere and He could see you in such detail that He could count the hairs on your head and see into your very thoughts.
This is how religion steals your childhood.
I finally escaped my own prison (so lovingly and faithfully built by my family and community) and saw the world outside the walls erected in my mind. Most never escape and remained twisted and gnarled by their upbringing and feel it their duty to erect the same walls in the minds of their children, and twist them with this burden of imminent torture and damnation. So thorough is their indoctrination in the faith that they do not realize what is like to live outside the walls.
The abused become the abusers, generation after generation, and we all call it good and righteous and great for the nation. The government stamps its approval and bestows churches with a free pass on taxes, and good Christian boys and girls grow up to be on a stage where we judge them for their fitness to be President of the United States by how much they swear allegiance to the Camp Director.
95 comments here…
Goats? Zombies? A 13-year-old slave? Your uncle’s wife? Test your knowledge of 20 Iron Age do’s and don’ts.
Some folks believe that America should be subject to biblical law rather than constitutional law, that public servants— like Kentucky clerk Kim Davis—owe their highest allegiance to the Bible, which means they shouldn’t be forced to give out unbiblical marriage licenses—like to gay couples.
The issue, obviously, is contested by a host of liberals, secularists, Satanists and moderate Christians. But assuming that Bible believers and religious freedom advocates carry the day, public servants will need to know their Good Book. I have written elsewhere about biblical justice (If the Bible were Law Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty?and Bible vs Quran—Test Your Knowledge of Who Deserves Death in Which Religion), and readers found those lists illuminating. So, I thought folks might appreciate the following 20 item quiz, which can be used to screen applicants for county clerk positions or as a guide for those already working the job.
If Kentucky issues only biblical marriage licenses, to which of the following couples should a county clerk grant a license?
While it can be challenging to find them, we like to share positive stories with you. Stories that inspire and encourage, and some that simply make us laugh. Stories like that of Czech Pastafarian, Lukas Novy.
In July of 2013, Novy demanded to be allowed to wear a plastic colander in his official ID photo, claiming that wearing it is a religious requirement to show respect to the Pastafarian deity, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Pastafarianism and The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was an invention of Bobby Henderson, used satirically in an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education prior to a series of evolution hearings in January, 2005. The first known instance of someone being allowed to wear a colander in an official ID photograph was Austrian atheist Niko Alm in 2011.
From the story: “Today, it is ‘insisted’ by thousands of followers all over the world that Pastafarianism is an authentic religion. The deity of the religion is referred to as His Noodliness the Flying Spaghetti Monster by the followers.” A pasta strainer or colander is their official headgear.
Due to their religious equality laws, Czech officials had no other choice but to allow Novy to use the colander as long as his face wasn’t hidden.
Some of your comments were even more funny than the story itself. Like this one from Charlie Bloom, “I would wear a sieve but his Noodliness has told me personally that as a moderate member I am not required to do so. However, my balls are revered and kept well supported! All hail to his Noodliness, fountain of all flavour!”
And this from teacher, Tom Justice, “The sad part is in a 1000 years we’ll have wars between the Penne Pastafarians and Linguini Pastafarians over who has the one true Pasta religion……and one will probably have to snip the ends off of their sausages…..”
Since we reported this story, The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was granted permission to register as a religion in Poland, and a student at Texas Tech University in the U.S.A. also got approval to wear a pasta strainer on his head in his driver’s license photo.
On this date in 1880, America’s most prominent journalist, H.L. (Henry Louis) Mencken, was born in Baltimore. Although his father was agnostic, his Lutheran mother sent him to Sunday School, which he later defined as, “A prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents” (A Mencken Chrestomathy,1949). The cigar-chomping, iconoclastic journalist worked most of his life at the Baltimore Sun, where he began his trademark column, “The Free Lance,” in 1911. Mencken also coedited Smart Set magazine (1914-1923) and edited American Mercury magazine (1925-1933). His lifetime production of 28 books included a 6-volume collection of his essays, Prejudices (1919-27), In Defense of Women (1917), Treatise of the Gods (1930), and an autobiographical trilogy, ending with Heathen Days, published as one volume in 1947.
The sardonic critic of the “booboisie,” who also coined the term “Boobus americanus,” was famed for his coverage of the Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tenn., in 1925. Mencken’s many epigrams include: “Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable” (The New York Times Magazine, Sept. 11, 1955). “The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore” (Minority Report, 1956). “No one in this world, so far as I know . . . has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people” (Notes on Journalism, Chicago Tribune, Sept. 19 1926). “Puritanism – The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy” (A Mencken Chrestomathy, 1949). “Sunday – A day given over by Americans to wishing that they themselves were dead and in Heaven, and that their neighbors were dead and in Hell” (A Book of Burlesques 1916, 1924). “Theology: An effort to explain the unknowable by putting it into terms of the not worth knowing” (A Mencken Chrestomathy, 1949). “The most curious social convention of the great age in which we live is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected” (American Mercury, March 1930). D. 1956.
I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind–that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.
I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious. . .
I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.
I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech . . .
I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.
I believe in the reality of progress.
But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.
—Mencken’s Creed, cited by George Seldes in Great Thoughts
Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor
© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.
From Secular Scarlet
I wanted to break the walls of ignorance ~Raif Badawi
I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this book.
The amount of international effort to Free Raif Badawi has been on a scale I have never seen before. An individual persecuted for freedom of speech and a stranger to us all, yet we all feel like we know him!
His wife, Ensaf Haider has been an inspiration to us all. Never giving up and keeping the continual pressure on the world to fight against this injustice. How she has managed this has been truly amazing.
I suppose I was expecting a serious monologue on the subjects he was interested in, what I found was a nuanced and effective delivery with a touch of humour and sarcasm. He reminded me of myself! A warm individual, full of passion for his subject, a passion that bounces of the pages of the 15 blog posts included in this book. A man wanting a secular governance with no priorities for religion. A Saudi Arabia that gives equal rights to all no matter what your religion or non-religion. Is it really too much to ask?
From Evolution Is True
I wasn’t aware of this collection of plots until Jeffrey Tayler highlighted it in today’s Salon piece, “Bill O’Reilly’s nonsense ‘nihilism’: now the Fox News host is even lying about God.” I won’t reprise Tayler’s essay, which deals with O’Reilly’s mistaken notion that without God, life has no meaning and “anything goes.” In view of the pervasive atheism in countries that are more moral and more healthy in societal terms than is the US (24% of Danes and 16% of Swedes believe in God, compared to about 90% of Americans), O’Reilly’s thesis simply won’t wash.
Frankly, I’m surprised that the “atheism = immorality” trope is still with us in light of all the palpable evidence against it, including the fact that American nonbelievers aren’t running amuck in the streets. Tayler disposes of it neatly, but I want to show you some graphs that his essay links to; figures on the characteristics of different US states that have been collated and presented by Josh Sager at The Progressive Cynic. His notes are indented; mine are flush left:
Human development (well being) by state:
The first map is color-coded based on a meta-measure of a society called the “human development index.” This index was created by the Social Science Research Council as a composite measure of the health, education and income levels within each state—the higher the number (or darker-colored the state on the map), the more developed the state.
As this map clearly shows, the most developed states are clustered in the northeast, around the great lakes, and on the west coast, while the least developed states in our country are almost exclusively in the Deep South and Appalachia.
Levels of poverty by state: