Showing posts with label atheism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label atheism. Show all posts

Friday, 22 May 2015

Atheist, Agnostic... I'm Both, You Know!

There's an okay video trying to explain Why Atheism Is More Popular Than Ever by TestTube, which is a Discovery Digital Network.

It all goes okay, I suppose, until they explain that people can be atheist or agnostic. At this point, I and many of the commentors to the video died a little inside. It seems like whoever put the video together pretty much assumed that they understood the definitions. I guess they looked them up in a dictionary rather than actually check out how many atheists self-identify and self-define.

Screen capture from video.
It's really simple. All you need to do is look up the actual meaning of each word to figure out they are not mutually exclusive.

Is this really that difficult? Actually, I've had people come to me and point to the same classic definitions this video used. I can imagine their hands tightly clasped around some dog-eared faded yellow-paged Harper Collins dictionary pointing enthusiastically at the pages. We've got it all wrong, guys.

Note: Removed Harper Collins definition shortly after publishing.

Egyptian Cleric Is Okay With Atheists Getting Human Rights - Just Not In Egypt

This Khaled Al-Gindi looks like a pretty okay guy. He just says some awful things sometimes. I mean, he basically called Shakira a whore a few years back, but we can't be fun all the time, right?
Last year Egypt cleric Khaled al-Gindi decried a performance by hip-shaking sensation Shakira and likened her profession to prostitution but stressed he was sure she was a "nice person."
Now he's getting more flak because he went on television and said some stuff... energetically... well, sort of like someone targeting a specific a-religious minority. You know, it sort of sounded a little bit like a direct call to suppression of and/or violence towards a minority. I guess you might actually call it hate speech, if you're into that sort of thing.

Al-Gindi is totally cool with atheists living and thinking and believing things! He's chill and completely down with that! He just doesn't want them to talk about them or express them in any way in public in their own country. Just for the sake of argument, let's call that freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

I'm sure Al-Gindi doesn't mean to impose his religious views on society or anything. He just wants atheists to shut the fuck up, that's all. If atheists cannot stop themselves from exercising their human rights, he helpfully suggests their exile as a possible cure to his own discomfort with their theological position.

He doesn't think he should leave the country -- it's just better if they get the fuck out.
It was unfortunate that (atheists) were allowed to appear in the media. They say: "God does not exist. The Prophet is like ISIS" and other baseless, nauseating things, that we, unfortunately, heard. What we need are not polite sheiks, but someone to knock some sense into them.

Polite sheiks are the ones who brought this calamity upon us. That's not what we need. These people need a guy who would be tough with them.

If you want to say that the Prophet is like ISIS and that God does not exist, say it when you are abroad, far away from us.

We are a people of believers, whether Christian or Muslim. We have an age-old belief in God. We are the most ancient believing people in history. It's in our DNA.

If you (atheists) don't like the fact we are believers, go find yourself another nation. Stay away from us. Such blatant atheism constitutes an attack on the fundamentals of society. It is an afront to the beliefs of society and to its symbols. The eagle on the Egyptian flag is a symbol. If you harm this eagle, you might go to prison, but if you harm the god of all eagles, you won't?!? If you harm the eagle, a piece of cloth, you might go to prison, but if you affront our god and the Prophet Muhammed, you won't?!? You are punished if you attack the symbols of this country, but not if you affront our God and Prophet Muhammed?!?

We must not allow any affront to religion. It is absolutely forbidden to declare such things out loud. Islam says: "There should be no compulsion in religion" and "Whoever will, let him believe, and whoever will, let him disbelieve." This means you are free in your beliefs.  But don't go beating a drum in Tahrir Square, proclaiming: "I am an apostate!" What are you trying to achieve? They created a (Facebook) page and a political party for apostates. This is a provocation.
He finds all this atheist talk pretty nauseating and he's 100% certain that his god is also totally disgusted and offended by atheists flapping their mouths and sharing their opinions on the media and banging on drums all over the place all the time. Don't even think for a moment he's defending the sensibilities of a mere nonexistent projection of himself -- an extension of his own persona into the idea of a divinity. That's totally wrong!

I mean, who's going to go to court and lay defamation charges against all those non patriots on behalf of the eagle on the flag -- which he's pretty sure is absolutely crushed by hypothetical people theoretically injuring it! Poor eagle. That's nothing compared to God, who gets really down when people don't have faith in him or call him bad things. Who's going to be tough on the atheists when they poo poo Him?

From what I've seen, atheists aren't exactly beating their drums. They already seem concerned about being thrown into jail. I wonder if Al-Gindi has that problem? No, I guess he doesn't! I wonder if his god has that problem? Nope! I suppose that's not an issue for Him either.

Remember that calamity, the Egyptian singer and actress, Donia Massoud? She got the beautiful atheist tattoo proclaiming that her heart's at feud with God. I wonder what Al-Gindi's solution to this problem would be? At any rate, a recent tweet of her's answers some of the the controversy the tattoo stirred up.
There really seems to be something going on in Egypt. Atheists are starting to speak their minds and feathers are being ruffled.

Monday, 18 May 2015

More Signs of Increasing Atheism In Egypt

Donia Massoud showing off her atheist tattoo at the beach. (source)
Secularism and atheism really seems to be picking up in Egypt -- I've even added an Egypt tag to the top of this blog. I first thought the government was being downright melodramatic by declaring that the country's 866 atheists were a key challenge to society and then them setting up these little re-education brigades to combat atheism. Now, though, I'll admit that there could really be something to this.

I've already posted about a new Atheist television station,, recorded secretly in Egypt and produced in the US. Recently, Al Monitor did a nice piece on them, so they're getting traction.
According to Ghanimi, at least 2,000 viewers watch Free Mind broadcasts daily, and the numbers are steadily growing. “We started the channel with modest capabilities, but our impact is expanding,” said Ghanimi, noting that the goal is to have a satellite broadcast within a year.
Then you've got a recent piece in the Cairo Post with Salafist Muslim leader Yasser Borhami.
“Nowadays there are cafes for atheist, streets for atheists, political parties for atheists, TV channels for atheist… That’s strange,” Borhami said in a recorded statement uploaded on “Me the Salafi” webpage.
He's referring to a cafe in Cairo frequented by atheists that was raided by police in December, because of satanic rituals. Apparently, Borhami visited the street this cafe is on -- the street of atheists -- and quipped that it ought to be called the street of the astray.

Apparently, in December, Egypt was named the most atheist country in the Middle East. You would think this would be great news for freethinkers everywhere. However, this upset the president of the country -- probably because atheists and freethinkers are much harder to control than a faithful flock.
In March, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the Holy Quran radio station he was not worried about a “trend” of atheism in Egypt, adding that “the shock was too much; our shock to see people who say there is not God but Allah and Mohamed is His Messenger, or who claims they raise this slogan, and [at the same time] doing this; killing, destroying and sabotaging.”
Speaking of killing, destroying and sabotaging! Just take a look at the picture at the top of this post! That's Egyptian singer and actress Donia Massoud. Egyptian media are in a tizzy because she got a (beautiful!) tattoo on her back saying "My heart's feud is with God".
The controversial ink work arguably implies that Dunia is an atheist or at least doesn't believe in any of the three holy books. Atheism is prohibited by law in Egypt and is certainly not considered a "freedom of choice."
Reader of this blog, Mariam, translates it as "My heart is enemy with god." Bold words, indeed.

I'll also admit that my wife has tattoos, so I cannot help but love women with ink. There really seems to be something strongly individualistic about it.

There really does seem to be some level of open defiance of religion in Egypt -- it does seem to be growing, slowly.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

MisterSharp: 'Ready... Set... Atheism!'

The atheist jumps in to decipher natural phenomenon.
Here's a humorous satirical video by MisterSharp released just today. I've been informed this is something of an event, as it seems like Sharp's YouTube channel has lain dormant for some two years before now.

The video is sure to offend everyone -- this appears to be his style. Just watch the other videos to realize that that he isn't just going after any particular group. He delightfully plays up every stereotype and misconception and weaves a sort of patchwork of witty inaccuracies. Please relax. I liked it!

So Ready... Set... Atheism!

Friday, 15 May 2015

Documentary: Joy & Meaning in a World Without God

Scene from trailer. (source)
Last May, I posted about an exquisite picture book created by photographer and filmmaker Chris Johnson,  A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy & Meaning in a World Without God.

Back then, I wanted the book. Now I think I know what I'm watching this weekend. Chris has made it into a inspiring and beautiful movieA Better Life: An Exploration of Joy & Meaning in a World Without God.

Like the original book it's based on interviews with influential people in the atheist and freethought movement. Hemant Mehta describes the kind of inspiration the film brings.
I had a chance to watch the film the other day and it was beautiful — not just how it looked, but what the atheists had to say. I wish I could’ve heard them when I first became an atheists. This is like an extended “It Gets Better” video, featuring Matt Dillahunty, Julia Sweeney, Cara Santa Maria, and several others.
Looking at the preview, I couldn't help but think that we've really reached a sort of tipping point. The trailer gave me a similar feeling as that atheist Superbowl commercial that ended up being a doctored version of a Scientology spot -- except this is new movie is not a doctored anything, this is real. It really seems like it's not just finally okay or acceptable to be atheist nowadays, it's fantastic to be free of religion.

I'll be ordering it this weekend as soon as I figure out how to stream the Youtube machine to my television machine.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Duggars 2.0 & 'Institute for Creation Research' Expert say 'No Such Thing as Atheists'

Jessa and Ben Seewald at Arby's. (source)
Just to fill you all in, Jessa Duggar got married and is now Jessa Seewald -- but she'll always be a Duggar.

Previously, I wrote about Jessa's comments about the Holocaust. They upset a fair number of people. Before that, I wrote about her ideas on atheism -- which are completely unsurprising for someone who's been raised in a bubble (see here and here!)

Well, Jessa and Ben have been making Youtube videos lately, and the most recent lets us all know that atheists don't exist. You see, I may think I don't believe in god, but I really do! I'm just fooling myself ... something or other. Better watch this video.

The bring in an expert from The Institute for Creation Research which presupposes the veracity of the Genesis story before doing any of their actual science or whatever you want to call it.
All origins research must begin with a premise.1 ICR holds that the biblical record of primeval history in Genesis 1–11 is factual, historical, and clearly understandable and, therefore, that all things were created and made in six literal days. Life exists because it was created on Earth by a living Creator. Further, the biblical Flood was global and cataclysmic, and its after-effects therefore explain most of the stratigraphic and fossil evidence found in the earth’s crust. It is within this framework that ICR research is conducted.
There's this hilarious footnote at the end of the page:
1Neither evolution nor creation can be scientifically proved, since they are dealing with history instead of repeatable science. For more information on this topic, see “The Nature of Science and of Theories on Origins“ by Dr. Duane Gish.
Well, I suppose you'll have to deal with evidence. Got some? Probably not.

The good "«' Dr'»" Jason Lisle spends six minutes doing things like explaining away the problem of evil by positing that if God didn't exist, nothing would be evil because... 'standard' or some such nonsense. He also dragged out the usual insult to atheists that according to our system murder is about the same thing as eating someone else's ice cream... or something like that. I forget.

I do remember him telling me that I'm suppressing my belief in God in unrighteousness. Whatever the hell that means!

Here's what Wonkette had to say:
Yeah, there’s a whole lot more of that nonsense — like, six minutes of it! — but you get the idea. Dr. Lisle can prove the existence of God because the Bible says he doesn’t even have to prove the existence of God, THE BIBLE SAYS! And anyone who doesn’t buy into his bullshit is clearly deluding themselves, hahaha, poor dumb bastards.

Anyway, that should clear everything up about creation, evolution, the Bible, and the non-existence of atheists. But do be sure to stop by the Institute next time you’re in Texas if you have any more questions, because surely Dr. Lisle will be happy to not explain it to you further, because he doesn’t have to, THE BIBLE SAYS. Also, he has written many “books,” including one called Taking Back

Astronomy, good fucking god, and you can probably buy all of them at the Institute, and Ben Duggar-Seewald-Whatever says you should buy them books, uh huh, because then you’llpt  learn stuff too.
Amen to that!

Singapore Teen Blogger Found Guilty of Criticizing Former PM & Christians

Amos Yee (source)
On Sunday, I posted about 16 year old Youtuber and blogger Amos Yee who faces up to three years in prison for posting a video and sexual cartoon criticizing the deceased founder and former PM of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. Yee also drew some not so flattering parallels between Christians and followers of the late politician.

I thought we we have to wait until Wednesday for the ruling but it turns out it just happened yesterday and he was found guilty.
Yee faces up to three years in prison. But the judge has called for an assessment for probation, which could mean he avoids jail time. The sentencing has been pushed to a later date.

"I don't know if I should celebrate my release or mourn my sentence," Yee said to reporters after he was bailed out by his parents.
What's extraordinary -- and what Yee should perhaps find rather flattering in a twisted way -- is that many believe this is the case of punishing a political dissident.
Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday that his convictions "run contrary to international human rights standards and are a dangerous affront to freedom of expression".

"The reality is convicting Amos Yee was all about publicly punishing a youthful dissident who dared besmirch the image of the recently passed leader, and intimidating anyone else who might think of doing the same in the future," said Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia, in a statement.
Apparently Yee must now take down the offensive blog and Youtube posts. So far they are still up. This will likely affect whether or not this sixteen year old ends up in jail. Now we know that freedom of speech is only limited to speech which does not criticize the establishment in Singapore -- Yee has admirably proven his very own point.

A 49 year old brute who slapped Yee at an earlier court hearing has also been sentenced to jail time, which is a bit encouraging, I suppose.

Several dozen held a candlit vigil on Monday evening in a park in central Singapore.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Singapore Teen Faces Jail Time For Criticising Deceased Leader & Christians On Youtube

Amos Yee (source)
Yesterday, I posted about Malaysian Youtuber Alvin Lee, who has fled his own country and seeking asylum in the United States for posting a picture of himself eating pork. This is because in Malaysia everyone has free speech unless they say something really unpopular against religious sentiment. In Malaysia, you're allowed to say anything at all unless it offends religion.

Before, I've written about Russia, where you have freedom of expression unless you upset religious sentiment. This is much like how things are in Egypt -- where you had better not hurt the feelings of religious people unless you want to go to jail. Oh and in Pakistan. Oh, and there's also Indonesia. Poor poor religious people and their feelings.

Today, I move on to Singapore, where you also have freedom of speech unless you say things hurtful to Christians and mock the late political leader of the country. If you do these things, you end up on trial and facing a possible three year jail sentence.
In a packed courtroom yesterday, 16-year-old Amos Yee pleaded not guilty to charges of posting an obscene image and insulting Christianity.

This was after admitting in court documents that the image and profanity-laced video he uploaded two months ago were "offensive, and promoted ill-will and hostility among Singaporeans".
In particular, we have the ubiquitous hurt our feelings crime:
If convicted of making remarks wounding the feelings of Christians, Yee, who is being tried as an adult, faces up to three years’ jail, a fine, or both. For circulating obscene imagery, he could be jailed up to three months, fined, or punished with both.
Look at all the harm Yee is causing.

Yee explains how he got into trouble on his blog.

He essentially posted this video on Youtube. It harshly criticizes -- potty mouth words and all -- recently dead politician Lee Kuan Yew. Yew appears to be an absolutely idolised saint-like politician. You'd think that as a politician he would be fair game for all sorts of criticism, but that's not how things work in Singapore, apparently. Yee draws comparisons between Christians and Christianity and Yew's followers.

Go ahead and watch it and tell me if he deserves to be arrested, jailed or even fined for this. Hint: He doesn't. His delivery may be crude, but surely adults can cope with the medium to get to the message.

From what little research I did concerning press freedom in Singapore (ranked 150th!), his fellow countrymen would perhaps benefit from listening to Yee.

Yee also posted this ridiculous cartoon (barely NSFW). It's Lee Kuan Yew having acrobatic anal sex with Margaret Thatcher -- just the sort of thing a reasonable person would expect coming from the mind of a 16 year old... well 16 year old political activist, that is.
In the court documents, he revealed how he was raised a Catholic but he asked to leave the Church in 2013 when he converted to atheism.

He called himself a "fan" of the YouTube channel, The Amazing Atheist, which convinced him that vulgar language was "effective" in putting his points forward.
I'm not a fan of the Amazing Atheist, myself. However, nobody can deny that he has a huge following. So he must be doing something right.

Apparently even Singaporean Christians realize how insane this is. Many have apparently come forward to say they were not personally offended by Yee's video -- not that that should even matter! Still, good on them for that, right?
On his second charge, Yee's second lawyer Chong Jia Hao said there is no evidence that Christians have been wounded by Yee's statements in his YouTube video and instead, he saw an outpouring of Christians to say their feelings have not been hurt. He added that Yee had not created the video to intentionally hurt the feelings of Christians, and that his real intention was to share his critique of the late Mr Lee.
We'll know how things go with Yee on Wednesday -- that's when the decision is expected to be made.

Did I mention this is a sixteen year old kid who posted something on a blog and Youtube!?!

Meanwhile, there seems to be a general pattern I can see in Asia and the Middle East. Atheists, agnostics, and people who understand the value of freedom of speech and expression are starting to stand up and make themselves heard in social media. Internet is having a huge impact there.

I wish this were more true in North America and Europe. It really seems to me that we may be taking freedom of speech for granted here. People play lip service to it, sure. They'll say things like 'of course I believe people should be free to express themselves... but... BUT... --- but what? How are these qualifiers not to offend religious sensibilities or use inflammatory language any different at all from the situation now in places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia, India, Indonesia or Singapore?

There is no difference at all, actually.

A sixteen year old kid! Come on!

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the whole concept of freedom of speech is utterly foreign and unnatural to humankind. It is a difficult concept that needs to be taught and instilled into people from a young age.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Life Imitates Art: Two Former Hasidic Jews In Film About Woman Questioning Her Place In Hasidic Community

Still from Félix et Meira set in Mile End, Montreal. (source)
There's an interesting film out recently set in Mile End, Montreal, one of a few neighbourhoods with a large Hasidic Jewish population on the island. It's called Félix et Meira:
Félix and Meira is a story of an unconventional romance between two people living vastly different realities mere blocks away from one another. Each lost in their everyday lives, Meira (Hadas Yaron), a Hasidic Jewish wife and mother and Félix (Martin Dubreuil), a Secular loner mourning the recent death of his estranged father, unexpectedly meet in a local bakery in Montreal's Mile End district. What starts as an innocent friendship becomes more serious as the two wayward strangers find comfort in one another. As Félix opens Meira's eyes to the world outside of her tight-knit Orthodox community, her desire for change becomes harder for her to ignore, ultimately forcing her to choose: remain in the life that she knows or give it all up to be with Félix. Giroux's film is a poignant and touching tale of self-discovery set against the backdrops of Montreal, Brooklyn, and Venice, Italy. Written by Oscilloscope Laboratories
Of course, it's cool I get to see Montreal. The story line is also cool. However, it's also pretty neat that both of the starring actors left Hasidic Judaism.

One, Luzer Twersky, who plays Meira's husband,  is even an atheist (interview):
“I just didn’t fit in. I didn’t believe in God. I realized that I was actually an atheist and there seemed to me so much more to explore in the world and I didn’t want to limit myself to that tiny little community.”

Luzer Twersky's plays the charachter Shulem, whose wife Meira wrestles with her faith. Credit: courtesy of "Felix & Meira" Now Twersky, the secular atheist actor, has been put him back inside that Hasidic world by a role in the upcoming film “Felix & Meira,” which premieres Friday. 
He plays the character Shulem, the Hasidic husband of Meira. Meira, played by the Israeli actress

Hadas Yaron, turns to music and drawing to escape the religious life that has been prescribed for her. Twersky can’t help but relate.
In the interview, he relates how he would hide CDs, DVDs and even the DVD player in an old spare tire. Finally, one day it struck him that he was an atheist.
He’ll never forget the moment when he officially lost faith. It was Friday night, Sabbath and he was at synagogue doing Friday night prayers.

“And I was just standing there with all the hundreds of people praying. And it just hit me, this is so pointless. Everybody is insane in here,” he remembers thinking.
I've written about Orthodox Jews who find out they are actually atheist before. They often hide this fact, sometimes for years because of the deep ties they have with their families, the community, and lack of secular training for dealing with the outside world.

So Twersky kept it secret and continued to watch secular movies with headphones one. Eventually, his wife asked him for a divorce and he was effectively kicked out of the community. His parents effectively disowned him.
“Every once in a while it creeps into your mind, ‘Did I make the right decision?’” says Twersky, “As an actor, you go back there you get both the comfort of it and the conflict of it. That was difficult for me. Between takes, I would just go outside and chain smoke.”
Meanwhile, the actor who plays Meira, Melissa Weisz, has also spoken up about her own past within the Hasidic community.
I never thought I’d be an actress, but not just for the reasons most people think they won’t make it. For most of my life, I lived in a traditional family in a Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, where careers — let alone careers in acting — were rarely discussed. I was fully observant and, when I was 19, I entered into an arranged marriage. Four years later, I left it all behind.
Like Twersky, Weisz went through a period of asking why -- asking the wrong questions and she didn't get any proper answers.
When I was 19, I had an arranged Hasidic marriage. It was just what was done; my ex-husband and I met a few times, and then we got engaged. Fortunately, he’s a great guy; I actually started to feel like I was falling in love with him during the courtship process. I hadn’t been with anyone else. I didn’t question whether the marriage was right for me (ultimately, it wasn’t). I figured I would make it work no matter what, because I had to. But, when you start questioning things, all the dominoes start to fall.
We were married for four years when I decided to walk away from both my husband and our community. That summer, I’d gone away to Texas and spoken with various Hasidic friends and rabbis, checked out different temples. I was reading a lot about Judaism and realized, once and for all, that it felt false to me. I had been trying to make sense of it and find my own path within it, but I just couldn’t. Religion, in general, just doesn’t really have a place in my life or my belief system.
Although things were shaky at first, Weisz has managed to reconnect with her family.

Here's the preview. I think I may hunt out the movie!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Being an Atheist in India

Chandra, The Moon God. (source)
One thing I enjoy reading is coming out or childhood stories of atheists in other countries and cultures. There's a really nice piece by writer Sachi Mohanty in the Hindustan Times about growing up in what is undoubtedly the most religious country in the world as a freethinking skeptic and then an atheist.
I was not an atheist always. I remember childhood visits to the Shiva temple with my mother and trying to ring the temple bell by jumping up to reach it. But before the age of 10, I was skeptical enough to stop participating in rituals at home.

My mother followed the rituals she must have learned from her mother - carrying flowers, a coconut and bananas to the temple on Mondays and worshipping the moon on specified days. To my scientific mind, the worship of the moon, the sun, and the Ganga are absurd.
To some -- mainly products of secular families, I think -- such rituals seem fascinating and the mythology charming. This view is similar to my own experience with Greek and Roman myths -- I have a degree in classics. However, things are quite different when you're actually in it every day. They do actually believe this stuff.
But about atheism. People will perform any ritual - while wearing funny headgear - if it's prescribed as part of their parent's religion. Many old men (and women too) in my family spend hours every day worshipping their dear gods. Cumulatively, they spend perhaps more than a 1,000 of their waking hours every year in doing flower arrangements and other rituals and perhaps reading a book. Of course, when it comes to reading books, religions prescribe the reading of the same book, again and again, endlessly and mindlessly.
Imagine how much learning could be acquired if one bothered to read real books (or even Wikipedia) that talked about astronomy or evolution or why religions are evil. But for most people, acquiring new information - especially knowledge that challenges their long-held beliefs - is anathema. They would rather watch television soaps featuring feuding saas-bahus or the IPL.
But Sachi has broken free of the deep religious bonds of his culture. He is one of very few.
For now, it seems like the majority of Indians are destined to spend their lives singing songs in praise of various gods. I'm happy to be in the tiny minority of those who call themselves atheists. It doesn't bother me that I am in disagreement with about 200 family relations. Einstein, Feynman, Hawking and Weinberg are some of the physicists who share my lack of belief while most prisoners in America believe in god.
Go read his entire story over at Hindustan Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @sachi_bbsr.

Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility For Murdering Avijit Roy & Other Atheist Bloggers

Al Qaeda branch leader Asim Umar, who apparently believes his god is too weak to fend for himself.
Although I had been covering other cases of abused or murdered bloggers in Bangladesh, I failed to cover the barbaric murder of Avijit Roy. I really thought I had nothing much more to add to what was already in-depth coverage in the atheist blogosphere.

Then there was the horrible murder of atheist blogger Washiqur Rahman only weeks after that of Roy. I just didn't have words to express it.

Well, today the news is that Al Qaeda is taking credit for murders of atheist bloggers, including Avijit Roy.
In a nine-minute video posted on jihadist forums on Saturday, the leader of the branch, Asim Umar, said followers of his group were responsible for the killing of several people he called blasphemers: Mohammad Shakil Auj, an Islamic scholar fatally shot in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2014; Aniqa Naz, a Pakistani blogger; Rajib Haider, a blogger killed in a machete attack in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, in 2013; and Mr. Roy.
They've also put the word out to their locally situated religious lunatics to murder as many atheist bloggers they can get their hands on.
He went on to urge his followers to carry out more attacks, saying, “Where are those who would kill these blasphemers, wherever they may be found, even if it has to be done using a dagger or a knife, and by doing so record their names on the Day of Judgment among the devotees of the prophet?”
Blogging here in Canada, I do not feel the same sort of immediate threat as the brave bloggers in these regions must.

How weak and sad someone's faith must be if they feel the need to murder anyone who questions it. How feeble and inept their god must be if he requires them to mow people down with machetes in his name.

Saudi Arabia declared all atheists terrorists. Yet it seems like the real terrorists here are actually murdering innocent atheists.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Egyptian Atheists Collecting Signature to Form Official Secular Party

Cairo (source)
I just wrote about the formation of an atheist television station in Egypt.

Another amazing story coming out of Egypt has to do with the formation of a Secular Party. I've heard that Egypt was once a true bastion of secularism within the Middle East, actually -- then the war in 1967 apparently changed everything.
According to Al-Watan newspaper, Egyptian atheists have launched a campaign on Facebook to collect signatures for a party that they would call the “Egyptian Secular Party," which would include secularists, atheists and liberal thinkers. It would also be committed to defend freedom of belief and atheism, and work on removing Egypt's Islamic identity from the Constitution.
Alber Saber has been pushing for a proper Egyptian constitutional amendment since at least 2011 for the same reasons.
This is not a constitution. I have a problem for example with Article 44 that says prophets and other religious figures cannot be insulted. Who defines insult? Christians do not believe Muhammad is a prophet, is that an insult? If a Christian says that, should they be put on trial? Muslims do not believe Jesus is God, is that an insult?
Atheist Hisham Auf represents the new initiative, which plans to collect at least 5,000 signatures from 10 governorates within Egypt to justify the formation of a new party. (Naturally, there are only 866 atheists in the country. So how is this possible, right?)
“It will explain what secularism really means in order to refute the misleading definition propagated by the Islamists,” he said. “We do not intend to have a majority party, but rather a party of an influential minority.”

He added that the party will call for a modern constitution, based on the principle of citizenship, the abolition of religious parties, reducing the role of Al-Azhar in political life and its guardianship of thought, art and the media, and the right to civil marriage for Muslims and Christians.

He also said the party will also address inheritance and personal status laws, remove religious affiliation from ID Cards, call for abolishing laws penalizing the defamation of religion, and support freedom of creativity and art.
I've already run across some opposition to this new party (original Arabic), but -- predictably -- nobody has given me the actual link to this new party's Facebook page. Can anyone help me with this? I'll add to this post when I find out.

Egyptian Atheists Mobilizing Against Oppression With New TV Station

Free Mind TV is edited and produced in USA, but filmed in Egypt. (source)
It really sucks to be an atheist in Egypt. Alber Saber got thrown into jail and had to flee the country. Karim Ashraf Mohammed Al-Banna gets three years in the slammer for saying he's an atheist on Facebook. The police shut down atheist cafes. The government keeps declaring war on atheists and calling it the key challenge to their society. The Egyptian government has even gone so far as to declare there are only 866 atheists in the country!

Well, some of those 866 have formed their own television station to try to dispel some of the ridiculous assertions about secular and non-religious people foisted out into the media in Egypt. It's so dangerous that all production and editing is done in the US -- just the two hosts and some other contributors work in undisclosed locations within Egypt.
Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online TV channel. Free Mind TV defends the right not to believe.

Edited and produced in a studio in the United States, Free Mind TV says it wants to promote nonreligious liberal ideas in the Middle East.
You can actually watch the station LIVE right here -- or watch documentaries -- and it looks pretty slick:

There is also a direct donation page using Paypal.

The two hosts of the primarily news-based information station are the husband-wife team Ahmed Harqan and  Nada Mandour. They are both atheist activists in Egypt who, on at least one occasion, come close to death at the hands of an angry mob and police.
According to media reports, Harqan and his pregnant wife, Nada Mandour (Saly) Harqan, survived an assassination attempt 4 days later - in the evening of October 25, 2014. Harqan managed to flee with his wife after having some injuries and went to the Alhanafie–Alajlany police station to report the incident along with their friend Karim Jimy. Instead of taking action to help Harqan and his wife, the police officers further assaulted them and they were imprisoned charged with blasphemy and "defamation of religion" under article 98 in the Egyptian penal code for asking "What has ISIS done that Muhammad did not do?” on a popular Egyptian television talk show. Harqan's lawyer was humiliated and kicked out of the police station.

Eventually Ahmad and Saly Harqan, and their friend Kareem Jimy were released and charges against them were dropped.
Needless to say, they are under constant threat of danger, which makes what they do all the more extraordinary.
Mandour, also a former Muslim, shoots and directs some Free Mind TV programs.  Since she abandoned religion two years ago, she said, most of her family has abandoned her. Mandour said they hate her for being critical of religion and ultimately declaring herself a nonbeliever.  She no longer sees her parents and is not allowed in the family home.

Nonbelievers from Christian families in the Middle East face similar dangers, said Ayman Ramsy, a former Christian who appears in the broadcasts.
Watch the Voice of America video report for more details on this compelling story.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Help Dopio and Other Orphans in Uganda's First Atheist Orphanage: BiZoHa

One of the orphans, Dopio Everlyne. Her father died and mum is too sick with epilepsy to properly care for her.
In March, I posted an interview with Bwambale Robert, Director of the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda. With the help of the atheist and Humanist community, Bwambale is opening the first non-religious -- atheist -- orphanage in the world and he's doing it in Kasese, Uganda.

After a successful fundraiser by Hank Pellissier at the Brighter Brains Institute, construction began on the orphanage. You can follow the amazing construction of the new orphanage over at Hank's blog.

In the first 60 days since the initial fundraiser raised $5,830 for the construction of the new orphanage, just take a look at all that's been achieved!:
  • A primary dormitory building was constructed, with glass windows, for 25 orphans and staff.
  • A 30 ft deep latrine was dug.
  • A pipeline to bring fresh water was installed.
  • A substantial portion of the orphanage's 7 acres of land has been seeded with crops for the sake of future self-sustainability.
Here's a photograph of the new crops. The smart white and red building is the dormitory (building 1) of the orphanage.

Crops planted around the new BiZoHa orphanage dormitory building.
Since then, a generous donor, Dr Bruce Chou, anesthesiologist from California, has contributed $1,000, which is going to construct a classroom for the children. Construction has already begun on this new structure.

This is amazing progress for this project, but more funds are required to see it fully to fruition. Now that the buildings are going up, supplies are required to get the orphanage off the ground and functional -- so that children can move in.

Full disclosure, I am an honorary fellow over at Brighter Brains. Here is a list of the items we want to raise funds for.
Items Needed Now for BiZoHa Orphanage: 
  • $1,200 - Kitchen construction, plus pots, pans, utensils, and appliances
  • $500 - Solar panels - for electricity! BiZoHa is on the equator, with daily sunshine
  • $350 - 1/2 year salary for orphan's "Mother" Guardian
  • $350 - 1/2 year salary for orphan's "Father" Guardian
  • $925 - construction of Roadside Stand (where farm produce and beverages will be sold for self-sufficiency) 
This comes to a grand total of $3,325 needed. The goal here is to use this money to kickstart the institution into self-sufficiency.
BiZoHa Orphanage will be economically self-sufficient in 1 year. This goal will be achieved by selling corn, beans, cassava, peanuts, and lettuce grown on its farm, and by selling drinks at a roadside stand, on the adjacent well-traveled road.
Remember Dopio Everlyne, the little girl whose picture is featured on this post along with a previous post in November when Bwambale provided her with a kikoy dress? At that time, her father had died and her mother was too ill with epilepsy to care for her. She was living with her grandmother. She will be one of the first children to be moved to the new orphanage.
Orphans will soon be moved to BiZoHa - from Muhokya, Kahendero (fishing village on Lake George), and Kasese (provincial capital). The orphans - like Dopio (top photo) - are 5-8 years old.

Muhokya is near the Rwenzori mountains and the Congo border.
As mentioned above, this will be more than just a place to take care of children. A classroom is being constructed and the orphanage will be affiliated with the Kasese Humanist Primary School.
BiZoHa will provide its orphans with an excellent education, because they’ll be instructed by the highly-regarded, science-based Kasese Humanist Primary School (KHPS). Many graduates of KHPS advance to secondary schools and universities.

Secular education and atheism in Uganda is supported by Atheist Alliance International , Foundation Beyond Belief  , PZ Myers , and other irreligious groups and individuals in Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, USA, and Canada (the “Godless Poutine ”)
Like the Humanist school, BiZoHa has the humanist logo on the side of its first building, celebrating its humanist pedigree.

In addition to all of this, there are amazing rewards for donations, ranging from a copy of Bwambale's e-book Orphans of Rwenzori: A Humanist Perspective to getting your name or photo on a permanent plaque on one of the buildings.

There will be more updates to this as the weeks go on. For now, I'll invite you to follow developments over at the Orphans at Kasese Humanist Primary School Facebook page. I also encourage you to make a donation to this cause for the sake of secular education in Uganda and to show the world that atheists really do run organizations which help the community.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Calgary Private School Possibly 'Inconsistent' But No Indication of Being 'Atheist'

Chris Selley wrote something over at the National Post about how if schools want to be atheist they should be consistent in their atheism. I think it's worth a look because it shows us that it's not only atheists (schools or people?)  who must be consistent, it's our entire system. Don't blame the atheists, okay?
If you run a private school with a position on religion, these are interesting times. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled Montreal’s Loyola High School was entitled to teach Quebec’s Ethics and Religious Culture curriculum from a Catholic perspective — that is, it said Catholics were not required to treat Catholicism as just another faith. You might ask: Why would anyone enrol his children in a Jesuit school expecting it to be neutral about Catholicism? Why would a government that strives toward neutrality in matters of religion allow churches to run schools and then presume to tell them how to teach about religion? But this is the country we live in. Many of our governments subsidize the religious schools they’re trying to nudge away from their faiths.
It all sort of breaks down with the very first sentence and Selley knows it. He tries to remedy things by tagging on the last sentence. Let's play it back without all the goop in the middle.
If you run a private school with a position on religion, these are interesting times. ... ... Many of our governments subsidize the religious schools they’re trying to nudge away from their faiths.
Well, that just about sums it up, doesn't it? A huge problem here is we're calling these schools private when they're being subsidized heavily per student by the government. Whether the school be a Muslim academy teaching girls they cannot do track (because running will make them lose their virginity) or a Catholic school teaching that a virgin can give birth to the son of a god whose body becomes one with your Sunday morning communion wafer, it just shouldn't be funded by the government. We definitely shouldn't have this deliberately obscured by calling it a private school.

Let's get into the goo now.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled Montreal’s Loyola High School was entitled to teach Quebec’s Ethics and Religious Culture curriculum from a Catholic perspective — that is, it said Catholics were not required to treat Catholicism as just another faith.
As I've mentioned before, this is one class... just one single class out of many. This would be perhaps the only class where the school would be required to present alternate religious beliefs without trashing them. Is this really too much to ask? Ultimately though, the school got their cake and they get to eat it too.

Commentor fabuloso puts it excellently:
The Loyola school was not forbidden to "teach Catholicism from a Catholic perspective"; it was, according the the Que. ministry, required to add One Mandatory Course to its curriculum that dealt with religion from a neutral or non-sectarian angle.

That requirement was there so that the Loyola students could receive an accredited degree in public education, with a few comparatives. Similarly, a cult that thought the world was Flat would need to add one course that proposed the Round Earth Theory.
 Surely this must be some form of sloppiness on Selley's part. Now for some more goo.
You might ask: Why would anyone enrol his children in a Jesuit school expecting it to be neutral about Catholicism? Why would a government that strives toward neutrality in matters of religion allow churches to run schools and then presume to tell them how to teach about religion?
I wouldn't expect it to be neutral about Catholicism, most of the time. I would expect them to abide by the education ministry's rules to insure my child gets properly educated on world religions. I would expect that especially since public dollars go into the school.

Look, I don't know how things work in Ontario or the rest of Canada. Here in Quebec, the state has a mandate to ensure a basic level of education for the children. I wonder what Selley thinks about the Quebec government meddling in the education of extreme Orthodox Jewish groups. Should they stand aside and allow children to be taught nothing but the Torah and Yiddish? Why does religion get a pass with Selley?

The first step is to stop public funding of religious schools and subsidies to students, point finale.

Now let's move on past the first freaking paragraph to the rest of the piece. The details of this case are from 2011, predating this blog. This will be my working excuse for having never heard of it.

It seems that there is this prestigious private school in Calgary, Webber Academy, which is attempting to be non-denominational. I have really no idea what that truly means. It could simply signify Christian-lite. Anyway, this school forbade two Muslim students from praying anywhere on the premises. The students went before a human rights tribunal and won. Now the school is stuck with a $26,000 fine and the students can presumably pray in the school.
The Alberta Human Rights Commission fined Webber Academy a total of $26,000 for distress and loss of dignity after the boys were forced to hide at the school or leave the property during the city’s chilly winter to fulfill their faith’s obligations.
Look, as an atheist, even I agree with the commission. So long as it's not lead by the school itself and the students do not get any special privileges and do it discretely somewhere on the premises -- hey, knock yourselves out.

Selley rightly points out that this school was fine with headscarfs and turbans, etc. It just had a problem with the physical action of praying. This was the primary inconsistency of the atheist school.
But it’s not hard to see why they lost. Webber claims visible religious practice is a direct affront to its central ethos, but its ethos doesn’t seem to be very coherent: It allows students to wear turbans and hijabs, for example. The school tried to distinguish between garments as “a state of ‘being'” and prayer as “a visible activity,” which the tribunal kiboshed on principle; but in any event the activity wouldn’t have been “visible” had the school provided a private space. And Neil Webber, the school’s president, certainly did himself no favours by suggesting a student quickly crossing himself might not be a problem.
In the end it can really be a matter of degree but that's not my issue. Selley is here saying that it's those who wish to run atheist schools who are being inconsistent. It's just that there is no indication whatsoever that the school administrators are the slightest bit atheist.

The same commentor, fabuloso sums it up well again.
The Webbers aren't "atheists", they are people who ban visible expressions by students of adherence to any particular religion. As most Christians are not required by their churches to pray out loud, or wear big crosses, this ban is a free pass for Christians. But for faiths that do require a daily prayer, as the HR council said (in one of the few moments when it has fulfilled a lucid purpose), the ban is a ban on Muslim students enrolling in the first place. Which makes Webber a nice, white, suburban, discreetly Christian academy in the near suburbs of Calgary.
It seems to me like the problem with Shelley's piece is not merely in the first sentence. The issue exists even earlier on, in the title itself: Want to be atheist? Be coherent first.

Atheist where, who?

The word atheist makes for good click bait though.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Pope Singles Out Secular & Atheist 'Threats to Society' to Jewish Leaders

Pope Francis (source)
It's interesting how you can take something really bad, like say, rising European antisemitism as a primary portion of a short speech and just slide a little something about atheism and secularism being a 'threat' in at the same time. It makes for interesting headlines, like this one: Pope warns Jewish delegation of ‘threat’ of atheism and anti-Semitism

It's neat because you're not actually saying they're the same thing -- oh no! -- but if they're practically the only two things in your short speech, they kinda end up being linked somehow inside people's minds -- even if it's at the subconscious level. I'm sure there was no intention of that, though. Especially since the likelihood a Nazi being an atheist was and still is rather low.

Here's the full speech, Address of his Holiness Pope Francis to Members of the Delegation of the "Conference of European Rabbis", quoted off the Vatican website:
Dear Friends,

I welcome you, members of the delegation of the Conference of European Rabbis, to the Vatican. I am especially pleased to do so, as this is the first visit by your Organization to Rome to meet with the Successor of Peter. I greet your President, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, and I thank him for his kind words.

I wish to express my sincere condolences for the death last evening of Rabbi Elio Toaff, former Chief Rabbi of Rome. I am united in prayer with Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni – who would have been here with us – and with the entire Jewish Community in Rome. We gratefully remember this man of peace and dialogue who received Pope John Paul II during his historic visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome.

For almost fifty years, the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community has progressed in a systematic way. Next 28 October we will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate, which is still the reference point for every effort we make in this regard. With gratitude to the Lord, may we recall these years, rejoicing in our progress and in the friendship which has grown between us.

Today, in Europe, it is more important than ever to emphasise the spiritual and religious dimension of human life. In a society increasingly marked by secularism and threatened by atheism, we run the risk of living as if God did not exist. People are often tempted to take the place of God, to consider themselves the criterion of all things, to control them, to use everything according to their own will. It is so important to remember, however, that our life is a gift from God, and that we must depend on him, confide in him, and turn towards him always. Jews and Christians have the blessing but also the responsibility to help preserve the religious sense of the men and women of today, and that of our society, by our witness to the sanctity of God and human life. God is holy, and the life he has given is holy and inviolable.

Anti-Semitic trends in Europe these days are troubling, as are certain acts of hatred and violence. Every Christian must be firm in deploring all forms of anti-Semitism, and in showing their solidarity with the Jewish people (cf. Nostra Aetate, 4). Recently we marked the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the concentration camp which has come to be synonymous with the great tragedy of the Shoah. The memory of what took place there, in the heart of Europe, is a warning to present and future generations. Acts of hatred and violence against Christians and the faithful of other religions must likewise be condemned everywhere.

Dear friends, I heartily thank you for this very significant visit. I extend my best wishes to your communities, with the assurance of my closeness and prayers. And, please, do not forget to pray for me.

Shalom alechem!
Just fifty years? What on earth were they doing for centuries before this? I'll let you do the research. Get back to me on this one.

Meanwhile, we have atheists -- or at least their metaphysical position, which many religious zealots could equate as essentially one in the same -- being stigmatized as a threat to society by the leader of the word's largest Christian denomination to leaders of what's very likely the most stigmatized and persecuted religion in history.

Am I the only one who sees this as at least a little ironic?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Even Michael Coren Doesn't Think James Lunney Is Being Persecuted

Do you remember James Lunney? He's the Conservative MP that left his party and became an independent in Parliament so he could devote the rest of his time in office protecting his Christian faith (read: anti-(macro)evolution beliefs (read: creationism)). He's been increasingly against militant atheists lately.

Hey, remember Michael Coren? He was sort of like a Bill O'Reilly-lite that had his own show on the now defunct Sun News Channel (Canada's Fox News). He's written against those pesky militant atheists too!

Well now even Coren has essentially told Lunney to stop whining about being persecuted for his anti-evolution creationist beliefs.
As for "militant atheists", of course there are atheists out there and some of them are trying to influence the body politic. As someone who is a fairly prominent Christian, I have been debating with such people for years now. We all have the right to try to influence the culture but none of us has a right to assume we can dictate the result. And on a personal note, every time a Christian defies scientific truth it makes Christian apologetics all the more difficult.

Sorry, Mr. Lunney but your cries of persecution just don't stand up to scrutiny. It seems there may be some, well, evolving to do around this issue.
Wow, I agree with Michael Coren. Amazing. I suppose a stopped clock is really right a couple of times a day.

Egypt Forming 'Special Awareness Groups' to 'Inform' About 'Atheist Threats'

I've been covering Egypt's mission to stamp out atheism for awhile now. Best I can tell, they see atheism as a form of extremism, on one end of a spectrum. You've got extreme (not-good) Islam on the one end (Islamic Brotherhood) and extreme not-Islam on the other (atheism).

Well, just recently, the Orwellian Religious Endowments Ministry has put out a plan to form special anti-atheist, anti-drug, anti-bad-Muslim crack squads -- let's call them special awareness groups -- which, I as far as I can tell, will travel the lands spreading information in mosques. This is sort of like those odd roving bands of motivational speakers and actors that would come to my high school every so often, I think.
During a meeting with his deputies from different governorates on Tuesday, Religious Endowments Minister Mohamed Mokhtar Goma’a said those groups will hold small monthly gatherings between the evening prayers in mosques.

“The groups will include one Quran reciter, one chanter and two speakers,” ministry spokesman Mohamed Abdel Razek told Daily News Egypt. “The gatherings aim at spreading awareness on the threats of atheism, Shi’a, Baha’ism expiation, killings, and drug addiction.”
Threats of atheism, indeed. Lovely to be lumped in with killings and drug addiction. The last time atheists were cracked down on was in a cafe. Yes, they were drinking coffee. THREAT! THREAT!

The sole comment on the article had a pretty good point:
What, exactly, is the compelling reason for trying to force people to share your own religion beliefs using force of law? Imagine how you'd feel if atheists took over and criminalized belief in deities. Would that be wrong to do? Yet, the Egyptian government does the same thing, criminalizing a particular religious opinion.
Ah yes, but the atheists are wrong(tm) and the (specific kind of non-government-threatening) Muslims are right(tm)! Well, I'm glad that's cleared up.

Monday, 13 April 2015

James Lunney Blasts 'Militant Atheist Evolutionism' in National Post Piece

Today's Monday and I have a migraine. So, I'm just going to offer you some extracts from James Lunney's dramatic piece in the National Post today: Christianity under siege (!!!!!). If you need to know more context about Lunney, read about it on my blog! He started out being anti-(macro)evolution, but now he's become a social conservative Christian warrior against MILITANT ATHEIST EVOLUTIONISM! Oh yes, he's turned up the rhetoric against militant atheists lately.
Bigotry and intolerance are the trademark of militant atheism and its adherents’ campaign against God. Conrad Black exposed as much in his eloquently written and defended articles recently. As a multi-racial, multicultural, multi-faith society, Canada has been known to a world in conflict as a standard for respect for diversity and inclusion. However, a religious defence of science seems to be the vehicle for the most vitriolic, pejorative, vulgar campaigns of intolerance and ad hominem attacks in Canada today.
Lunney is here referring to two flamboyantly written pieces also in the National Post. I write about them here and here.

My head hurts though, so back to Lunney. Here, he colourfully compares militant atheism to militant Islam.
These public shaming assaults are not in keeping with the nature of scientific inquiry or the character of an otherwise extraordinarily tolerant nation. They are the hallmark of scientism and evolutionism bearing all the hallmarks of religion, but unrestrained by any modicum of respect for anyone who contradicts the tenets of the faith. In this regard militant atheism is more akin to militant Islam than any of Canada’s multi-faith communities.
Only with regards to just this one thing, of course!
The notion that belief in God is incompatible with pursuit of science is a falsehood clung to by a dwindling cadre of atheists in the science community today. It began with Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, a brilliant scientist in his own right; and the father of eugenics. While Gregor Mendel, was laying the foundation for modern genetics, Galton was promoting the concept that belief in God was an impediment to the advance of science.
We all know who was big on eugenics? Lunney mentioned it before on an interview. I won't say who -- but why not guess? I'll give you a hint: Godwin's Law. With regards to just this one thing, of course!
Evolutionism is based on a false construct from another century; it is as repugnant as any other form of bigotry. If this campaign for a godless Canada were successful, the Canada that would emerge is one that few Canadians would recognize and most would not want to live in. The “shabby, shallow world of the militant atheist”; it couldn’t be better stated.
I just don't understand how Lunney could believe that he's the guy who really understands evolution -- in opposition to the vast majority of scientists out there. Science isn't a religion or a philosophy or some sort of political statement -- it's the result of centuries of investigation and examining the data.

Lunney's ability to believe that he's got the truth vs the vast majority of the scientific community reminds me of something Tara Hill, ex-anti-vaxxer from Ottawa said on her blog.
I just didn’t trust civic government, the medical community, the pharmaceutical industry, and people in general.  By default, I had excluded all research available from any major, reputable organization.  Could all the in-house, independent, peer-reviewed clinical trials, research papers and studies across the globe ALL be flawed, corrupt and untrustworthy?
Could they?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Godless Girl

Last week, I posted about Queen Silver, child prodigy atheist orator. In 1927, the middle of an anti-Russian scare in America, she started a high school atheist club. Just a week after founding the club, she made headlines in Hollywood by spreading atheist pamphlets around her high school advertising a meeting in one of the dingier parts of town.
The meeting was held in a dingy office on Spring Street. A group of religious high school students confronted the Junior Atheist League leader, a girl lecturer, who owns, edits and publishes an atheistic magazine, demanding that she quit trying to shake the faith of a Christ-loving school.
Christ-loving school, indeed. This event inspired famous filmmaker Cecile B. DeMille to produce his last silent feature film The Godless Girl just one year later.
This drama features a romance between two different teenagers: a young atheist girl, Judith Craig, and the male head of a Christian youth organization, Bob Hathaway. The two leaders and their groups attack each other, starting a riot that kills a young girl. Followed by a goofy boy, Bozo, the three are thrown into a juvenile prison with a cruel head guard and bad living conditions. The film maker makes a point of talking about the truth of prison cruelty in the middle of the movie.
I won't give away the rest of the plot. Let's say atheism predictably loses. Interestingly, the movie did poorly in the United States of Christendom but really really well in the Soviet Union and in Germany -- so much so that the lead actress, Lina Basquette received fan mail from Adolph Hitler!
In January 1937, Basquette was offered a contract with the Universum Film AG studio in Germany, after the Nazi Party had taken power. After arriving in Germany, she was driven to Berchtesgaden, where she met Führer Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, and Joseph Goebbels. She later claimed that Hitler made a pass at her, and she kicked him in the groin. When he persisted, Basquette told him that her maternal grandfather was Jewish. She left Germany the following day.
Incidentally, Basquette actually married one of the Warner brothers and had a child with him. She ended up losing custody of her daughter and never got it back.

Anyway, as I alluded to above, it doesn't go well for atheism from pretty much mid way into the movie until the end. Of course, this is only to be expected for 1928 America. What strikes me as fascinating about this film is how nearly 90 years have gone by and pretty much nothing has changed. It's both compelling and sad to see how very much the same people and ideas were back at the beginning of the 20th century as they are now at the beginning of the 21st century.

Greg F. over at Cinema Styles begins his review of the film like this:
I went into The Godless Girl with a bit of trepidation. After all, it was made in 1928 so I wasn't expecting to find a fair, even-handed assessment of the rejection of religion and belief in God, specifically Christianity. If anything, I was expecting to find the demonization of atheism and pretty much that's what I got, up to a point. The Godless Girl is to atheism what Reefer Madness is to marijuana, that is to say, a ridiculously wrong-headed portrayal of the subject at hand.

I think the comparison goes a little far. However, Greg is right in pointing out that the film redeems itself somewhat by showing the Christians as being just as bad. I would go further and say that the Christian youth at the beginning of the film were far more depraved than an atheist club which forced its members to renounce the Bible while placing their hands on the head of a monkey.

I mean, the Christian group broke in and disrupted the meeting. Why can't they just leave the atheists alone?

Atheist girl Judith asks idiot Bozo to renounce the Bible while placing his hand on a live monkey. This is a
direct reference to Queen Silver's speeches in support of evolution in the Scopes Trial.
I've been digging around the web for the past hour looking for an old article I had describing the reception of the film in America. What most descriptions leave out is that, although the general public was either cold or lukewarm to the film, atheist groups in the country were totally gung ho. It was reported that during screenings, atheists would cheer at appropriate times during the beginning sequences of the film.

Not much changes.

Here's the first five minutes of the film. Visit your public library for a DVD of the rest. I was able to find it at mine.

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