Tag Archives: Atheism

Should the state kill you for being an atheist?

In seven countries, there’s a belief to do with religion that can land you in jail, or get you killed. It’s not that you belong to a different religion to the rest of your country, or even a minority group within a religion. Those things can get you killed in some places, but I’m not talking about them.

Amnest InternationalIn January 2015 Karim al-Banna, a 21-year-old Egyptian student, was sentenced to three years jail for saying on Facebook that he was  an atheist.  As the New York Times reports in the same article, “Because atheism itself is not illegal in Egypt, charges are laid under laws against blasphemy or contempt for religion. In 2012, a 27-year-old blogger, Alber Saber, received a three-year sentence on charges of blasphemy for creating a web page called “Egyptian Atheists.” In 2013, the writer and human rights activist Karam Saber (no relation) was convicted of defaming religion in his short story collection “Where Is God?”

In Indonesia, Alexander Aan was arrested for saying there is no God on Facebook, and asking “If there is a God, why do bad things happen? Aan served two years jail, although some religious groups had called for his beheading. Amnesty International took up Aan’s case, and one of the country’s leading newspapers (The Jakarta Globe) described the case as blight on Indonesia’s democratic credentials and a threat to Indonesia’s attractiveness to foreign investors.”

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The Washing Post (see map above) describes the case of a Saudi Arabian, who was arrested as he changed planes in Malaysia, deported back to Saudi Arabia, because he had declared himself to be an atheist. The article includes a map showing the seven countries where you can die for being an atheist.

It’s time we asked a simple question. Is there any place in the 21st century for laws that allow a government to jail or kill a person just because they stop believing in god, and have the courage to say this publicly? Why should this be happening?

Amnesty International takes up cases like this, and campaigns to have  such sentences set aside. If you are not a member, I strongly urge you to join. The world needs more free speech, not less. It doesn’t need people hiding in cupboards and secret on-line forums just because they hold a minority opinion that harms no one. I hope you’ll consider joining. Here’s a link: http://www.amnesty.org/

OTHER INFO

Here is a Muslim author arguing that blasphemy charges are un-Islamic.

The Huffington Post provides a list of 13 countries where publicly declaring that you are  an atheist can get you jail or death.

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Differing methods of deciding what’s true

Here is an excellent video by Stephen Fry about different ways by which people claim to “know” what’s true. He talks bout scientific method: formulating a hypothesis,  conducting experiments, and testing the results against the theory. Other people claim to know things by visions, or the contents of holy books written thousands of years ago. Some of these claim that the sun revolves around the earth, which we now know to be false.  Have a look at Fry’s arguments for science as the best way of discovering knowledge about the real world.

Note: this is my blog site. For my site about editing services, go to the  RichardSnowEditing site.

What it’s like to grow up in Hezbollah culture

This is an extraordinary description of what it’s like to grow up in an area controlled by Hezbollah. The writer then compares Hezbollah to the fundamentalist Christian family and culture she married into, and talks about the similarities. It’s real eye-opener. (The passage starting “Hey guys! It’s been a coupe of months…” is the intro paragraph by the original author, not me.) And her article is here.

Does Siri believe in God? It’s a definite maybe.

My interview with Siri.

Some of you may have read of the funny answers Siri, the operating system on the iPhone, gives when you ask her questions about her own beliefs. Somebody has programmed her to give very evasive answers about herself. I was sitting with friends, one of whom had an iPhone,  having  coffee, and just for a joke, I tried to ask Siri about her and her religious beliefs. Here’s what happened.

Siri, do you believe in God?

I don’t believe that I have beliefs.

Siri, do you believe in life after death?

Humans have beliefs, computers have silicon.

Siri, do you go to church?

I believe in the separation of church and silicon.

Siri, do you believe God is a trinity?

I would suggest that you address your theological questions to someone qualified to answer them, preferably a human.

Do you eat Pork?

I don’t each much.

Siri, am I a good person?

I don’t believe that I can answer that question.

Siri, are you a good person?

Who, me? Now let’s see, where were we?

And here’s the best: Siri, do you love me?

You’re looking for love in all the wrong places.

Odd stuff I found in the papers this week.

In Britain, a young woman has had her stomach removed after drinking a cocktail made with liquid nitrogen. Gaby Scanian, 18, a resident of Haysham in Lancashire, drank the cocktail at Oscars Bar in Lancaster. The bar had advertised the drink on its Facebook page.  Adding liquid nitrogen to the cocktail makes it give off white smoke. Liquid nitrogen is often used to chill food and glasses, but if swallowed may burn your mouth, throat, and stomach. The bar has since stopped serving the drink.

Cocktail Picture by Lynn Kelley Author, WANA Commons

Scientist have discovered a new type of squid, named  Vampyroteuthis infernalis, (Latin for  “Vampire squid from Hell”).  The squid lives at ocean depths so low that it can’t form muscle tissue, so it lives on  dead things, and guess what else? Faeces. Yep, that’s right. Apparently this doesn’t require a whole lot of muscle development.

Some squid that live in the waters around the states of Victoria and Tasmania, Australia, use up so much energy in mating that they swim slower for half an hour afterwards. The “dumpling squid” only live a year, and become sexually mature at four months, so they have to get it while they can. Melbourne University Master of Science student Amanda Franklin studied the squid and published  her findings in the Journal “Biology Letters.” According to Franklin, the squid have multiple partners and the males initiate sex “whenever they can.” Being slow to swim afterwards makes them vulnerable to predators, so they bury themselves in sand to hide.

A bride in the town of Jallias  in western France gave birth to a baby, only minutes after the wedding  ceremony. She was not due for a week, but felt unwell after a ceremony at the town hall and went back inside. Minutes later paramedics were called after her waters broke. The local mayor, Jean-Robert Gachet, said it was a very emotional moment for everyone when the baby was delivered. Yeah. sounds like bad planning to me. I wonder what the wedding photos will look like.

If anyone would like to alert me to weird stuff in their newspapers, please let me know.

ON A MORE SERIOUS NOTE: There has been a lot of discussion this last couple of weeks about the film “Innocence of the Muslims,” and the resulting riots in many counties, including at least a couple of dozen people who have been killed. I found this video by a Muslim man, Syed Mahmoud, urging his fellow Muslims not to demonstrate or riot. I agree. The film is an artless piece of junk that looks as tho a-14 year-old made it just to be provocative and seek attention. Mahmoud argues that by continuing to demonstrate, people are simply giving the film free publicity, for no good outcome. I agree, and   here’s the link to his video.

Have a good week.

Richard Snow

My novel ‘Fire Damage,’ an action thriller, is available on Amazon Kindle, here :The novel is based on the Japanese religious cult Aum Shinrikyo, which released Sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system in the 1990s. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the app to read it on your computer or phone from here.

When ‘Art’ insults Religion; where are the limits?

Contents of ‘When ‘Art’ insults Religion; where are the limits?’

Piper Bayard has written in  her blog  about the current  film on Youtube which has resulted in riots and protests in several counties. Bayard states that “…religion, like politics, is visceral and rational discussions of either are rare.” She’s dead right. Her blog also has a discussion (which I recommend) of which countries might stand to gain from the current unrest, which I won’t attempt to summarize here.

Here in Australia there was a demonstration this week in which an adult held a sign saying “behead those who insult the prophet” and a small child (aged 6-7) held a similar banner, given to the child by its twenty-six year old mother.  You can see the sign here. Several police and demonstrators were injured when the demonstration moved to Martin Place, home of the US consulate.

A childish, stupid film, by a dishonest director

I’ve seen the film on Youtube. It’s childish, stupid, and is clearly intended to offend. The director has been dishonest with his actors, because he overdubbed the actor’s voices with other dialogue after the film was produced.  You can easily see where the producer (Sam Bacile) overdubbed the voices to make the actors say lines that weren’t originally in their scripts: the overdubbed voices don’t even sound like the original ones. (The actors claim to have been used and didn’t realize what would be done with the film.) It features a donkey who appeared to have converted to Islam.  I gather there are still arguments about whether the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi was related to the film or was already planned, so I won’t comment on that.

The film, we are told, only had one public viewing, in one cinema in Hollywood, for one night, and the audience consisted of about two dozen friends of the director. Without further publicity his film would have just fizzled away into the dustbin of history.

As best as I can figure, with the latest bombing in Afghanistan, the death toll appears to be about 20. (I’m writing about 4 pm Australia, Wednesday).   By demonstrating as they have, Muslims have only given the film free publicity and caused more people to click onto Youtube to see “what it’s about.”

So what role do we have – if any – in protecting the feelings of those who may be offended by deliberate insults to their religion?

Christians didn’t react with violence to the film Life of Brian. As far as I know Christians didn’t organize book burnings or demonstrations in response to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. If they had it would probably just have increased his sales. Dawkins referred to the Christian God as a monster and a child abuser for ordering Abraham to (almost) sacrifice his son Issac on an altar as a test of faith. (For a summary of Dawkins’ claim and Christian reaction to Dawkins click here. ) On Melbourne television last night Muslim leaders appeared urging Muslims in Australia to ignore text messages and not to demonstrate.

Australia has a widely accepted  system of film censorship that mostly relates to sex and violence, but not religion.

So the central question: is how do you respond to so books or film that argue with or insult a religion?

Should we have censorship on the internet?

Should such things be censored?  Generally, my argument is no. In most of the English-speaking world, it’s legal to criticize, or even make a comedy about  a religion. I don’t see a way of banning the Youtube video unless Youtube itself pulls it – which it has done in several countries where the content would be illegal. But elsewhere governments have no power to do so. (Except China – but we don’t want to go down that pathway). Even if they had, the question becomes where do you stop? If governments had the power to ban this video, do you ban the Life Of Brian? Mel Gibson’s film, ‘The Passion of the Christ? Certain episodes of Southpark? I don’t see that religion is in a special category of its own that should somehow be exempt from logical criticism, humor, or ridicule. If there is a reason for religion being a special category, let’s discuss that – calmly and rationally.

On purely pragmatic grounds it sometimes helps to hold your tongue. If you’re at a family gathering and you think Mormon baptism of the dead is ridiculous (which I do think), or a loving monotheistic creator wouldn’t create a world in which the majority of its inhabitants are destined for hell, (which happens to be my own view) but you have a Mormon family member at the barbecue, it’s better for the sake of peace in the family to stay quiet.

In Australia, any religion is free to set up a table on the street or on a university campus, and debate or criticize the beliefs of others, including atheists, and others are free to criticize their religion – in fact any religion – and the best course of action is to respond with rational discussion debate. Explain why you think your religion is better than others, but do it logically.

Why give your enemy free publicity?

The actions of perhaps 50 people in Sydney have reinforced stereotypes of several hundred thousand other Muslims in Australia, who had nothing to do with these demonstrations. Many Muslim leaders in Australia have urged their followers to stay away from any similar future demonstrations about this film, and in this, I think the local Muslim leaders are correct.

We all have to accept that free speech means sometimes people will think that what you say is offensive, and they might think your views are offensive, so keep the response rational and civil.

Additional note: I found this video by a Muslim man, Syed Mahmoud, urging his fellow Muslims not to demonstrate or riot.  Mahmoud argues that by continuing to demonstrate, people are simply giving the film free publicity, for no good outcome. I agree completely, and   here’s the link to his video.