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

Monday, 26 January 2015

New Greek Prime Minister Proud Atheist & Firm Secularist

Alexis Tsipras. By FrangiscoDer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Last month, we heard about Greece's Justice Minister, Haralambos Athanasiou, who refused to even talk about same-sex marriage and LGBT parents adopting in Greek, because: religion.
He said: “Our country has structures. We have to look at it from the religious point of view, the political point of view, the social point of view. The ministry of justice will not, under the pressure of anyone, examine such an issue without calmness and composure."
This was after his Prime Minister had originally announced they would redress LGBT inequality but then caved to fundamentalist clerical pressure.
Following the judgment, the prime minister Antonis Samaras’s conservative-dominated coalition signalled that it would redress the wrong but got cold feet when rightwingers and clerics reacted in fury. Greece and Lithuania stand alone in refusing to grant such rights.
Well, Antonis Samaras and his party got thrown out in the last Greek election.  His conservative party has been replaced with SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left). When's the last time you heard a party that calls itself radical left win an election in Europe?

New Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras is openly atheist, which could very well be a first for Greece.
"As scores of news photographers clicked away, Alexis Tsipras took his oath of office today in Athens. He said he promised to uphold the Constitution and look out for the welfare of Greeks. Tsipras is an atheist, so he refused a religious oath — the custom in this Greek Orthodox country. He's the first prime minister to do so. He's only 40, so he's also the youngest leader in Greece since 1865.
So, this is about the strongest message he could have sent to conservative religious clerics in Greece. Further reports indicate that he is also not adverse to working with religious groups -- he hasn't an axe to grind -- but it seems clear, for now at least, that he isn't one to be pushed around by the church.
GREECE'S new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, made history within hours of his victory by informing the Archbishop of Athens, very politely, that clerical services would not be required for his swearing-in ceremony. An avowed atheist who has nonetheless made a point of dealing courteously with senior clergy, Mr Tsipras lost no time in making known that his oath of office would be a secular procedure. It was also explained that when the whole cabinet was sworn in, a more junior cleric (but not the archbishop) would be invited to assist those who wished to take a religious oath.

It's hard to overstate what a rupture this marks with the ceremonial culture of Greece. For as long as anybody can remember, every senior office-holder, from socialists to right-wing dictators, has assumed the post with a ritual involving Bibles, crosses and often holy water, sprinkled about with a sprig of basil. The opening words of the Greek constitution recall the theological formulas of the early church which predate by the Hellenic state by more than 1,300 years: "In the name of the holy, consubstantial and indivisible Trinity......" 
Tsipras is a committed secularist who seems willing to work with everyone in the country to bring about true and real state-church separation -- or so I've read. This is great news and we can only hope that, without religious excuses against it, LGBT equality -- including same-sex marriage and LGBT adoption -- will be not far behind for Greece.

Still waiting for an atheist to be Prime Minister of Canada.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Ontario Man Lodges Complaint With Human Rights Tribunal Against Public School Board

Monday evening, I started getting comments on an old post I did about Ontario resident, Rene Chouinard, winning his battle to get the Gideons the hell out of the District (Public!) School Board of Niagara (DSBN).
Rene needs to get a life and worry about bigger issues. He is trying to put teachers out of jobs at Eden High school. This is so crazy. Why can't he just worry about himself and leave others alone.
This comment, along with a couple of others, indicated there was something new afoot in the region and it likely involved the intentional promotion of more religion on public school grounds.

I turns out that Chouinard had lodged a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHMT) concerning the DSBN's continued close ties with Protestant Christianity -- e.g. Habitat for Humanity and Eden High School. There was an initial hearing on Monday to establish whether or not Chouinard had standing to proceed further.
In November 2013, Rene Chouinard filed an Ontario Human Rights Code complaint arguing the board "continues to exhibit preferences for Protestant Christianity" at its facilities, to the exclusion of other creeds and religious beliefs.

He says the most obvious example of this is the Eden High School in St. Catharines and its Protestant ties.

The complaint adds the board has "continued to allow other missionary organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, to operate Christian mission activities within its programs."
Eden is a public high school in St. Catherines, but they are not part of the Catholic Public School Board, they're Protestant. To my knowledge, only the Catholics have been constitutionally grandfathered into being a real public school system in Ontario. Protestants were not so lucky, likely because: Catholic privilege. 

A simple glance at the About section on Eden's website talks about their Spiritual Life Centre:
In addition The Spiritual Life Centre provides a meaningful program to assist in the development and support of Eden’s students’ wellness and personal life journey through a rich array of life activities. The Spiritual Life Centre is privately funded through parent and community donations; it is funded separately from Eden High School.
You mean privately-funded just like the Gideons who handed out their Bibles and religious literature on campus as well? Wait a minute, that's the same thing except this is even worse. Nice try, DSBN.

Take a look at this Spiritual Life Centre. It looks like a church website.
Along with our history of excellent academics and athletics, Eden offers students access to amazing programs and experiences through our Spiritual Life Centre (SLC).

These include:
  • Daily Chapel - 180 chapels during the year
  • One on One Mentoring - 800 + hours
  • Grade Retreats - 768 hours of off-site adventure
  • Additional connections including small groups, worship teams, coaching and participation in class trips
  • Missions Trip options - five month discipleship track with Take Flight and summer trips with Gear Up and much more. The Spiritual Life Centre is truly what sets Eden apart! 
On the page, they stress again that this centre is funded entirely by private donations -- you know, like a church! How is this any different than letting Gideons set up a freaking church in the school, to say the least of letting them distribute Bibles?

Meanwhile, Habitat For Humanity is an overtly Christian organization, something I never knew before now.

Chouinard is seeking the following compensation from the DSBN:
He is seeking $50,000 in compensation from the DSBN to run a long-term media campaign promoting the validity of secular humanism.

His non-monetary remedy, among a number of demands, is to have Eden disbanded and either rebranded as a secular facility or closed.
These are reasonable requests, in my opinion. The Board either needs to treat humanist organizations in like manner as Christian organizations -- which is similar to the request to be able to distribute atheist literature back in the Gideons case -- or this school needs to be rebranded. Another option, in my opinion would be that it be removed from the DSBN and stop receiving public funds.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Nice Mangos: World's Only Pakistani Sex-Blogger

By Asit K. Ghosh Thaumaturgist (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Did you know that the only Pakistani sex blogger lives right here in Canada and that she's also an outspoken atheist? has an excellent little interview with Toronto-based Pakistani sex blogger Eiynah (aka @NiceMangos).  It covers what it's like to be an ex-Muslim sex-blogging Pakistani woman living in Canada and also touches on the French Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks.

Her blog, Nice Mangos, talks about Pakistani sexuality and a whole lot more about life as an ex-Muslim atheist woman.  Here's a couple of her notable responses from the interview itself.

Her opinion about why fundamentalists get so threatened by her:
I receive all kinds of unacceptable threats. Death threats, rape threats, threats of violence. I hear from people who say I’m a coward because I will not share my address with them, so they can ‘come get me’.

It doesn’t actually take much for a fundamentalist to be threatened by one’s thoughts. They probably don’t like that I am open about being an ex-Muslim, an atheist. The fact that I am an outspoken woman or that I promote a healthy sex-positive attitude. That I speak out for women’s rights in our culture, most recently it seems to be my children’s book My Chacha is Gay which has upset fundamentalists from all faiths. Homosexuality is not acceptable in most mainstream, organized religions. I urge people to move past that. To look at things with human rights and equality in mind.
What's the deal with Western liberals seemingly never being able to admit that religion is part of the problem of radical Islam?:
Honestly, I don’t know. I feel like cultural relativism plays a large part in that. For the far left, being politically correct and inclusive of ‘diversity’ has gotten to a point where they cannot even point out clear human rights violations – like the burqa, because they assume it is part of our culture. I don’t think it’s fair to assume that such misogyny is ‘part of a culture’. It should be called out, and Muslims should be held to the same moral standards as everyone else. It can actually be quite offensive to see that many liberals from other cultures think we’re not capable of being as moral and tolerant as others. If we are not held accountable, how will our communities evolve? (Read: Charlie Hebdo and the Paris Shooting: The terrorists did have a religion – it’s called Islam)
Finally she touches on what it's like being an feminist atheist in Pakistan:
I live in Canada, fortunately. This is a country where freethinking people thrive; religion doesn’t come up much in the public domain. Equality is something we strive for in Canada too, while not perfect – we are doing pretty well.  When I lived in Pakistan, I found it difficult to adjust – more difficult than growing up in Saudi Arabia actually. I don’t think I could live there with the conservative expectations most people have. Being an atheist in Pakistan has to be a very silent thing. You certainly cannot declare it publicly, because there could be grave consequences. Being a feminist in Pakistan is quite depressing, every step of the way you are reminded of the inequality between men and women.
There's much more in the interview, go check that out!

Also, check out Eiynah's blog, Nice Mangos!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Egyptian Atheist Gets Three Years In Jail For Posting to Facebook

Egypt has escalated their government program to fight the spread of atheism in the countryKarim Ashraf Mohammed Al-Banna declared his atheism on Facebook, was subsequently harassed, went to report this to the authorities, got arrested by the authorities.
Ishaq Ibrahim, a researcher on freedom of religion and belief at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), told Daily News Egypt that Al-Banna declared his atheism on Facebook and subsequently was harassed in public. Upon seeking to file a report of the assault at a police department in Idku, Al-Banna was arrested.

He was arrested and has been held since November. Now, a three year jail term has been handed to Al-Banna -- he can delay with 1,000 EGP ($165 CDN). His own father supported the case against him and pointed out his son's "suspect" books.

Again, his crime is simply insulting the divine and contempt of Islam -- speaking out and questioning.
He is accused of using his Facebook account to publish articles that “belittle the divine”, according to the rights group Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).
As I've been reporting, Egypt is in the midst of a major campaign to eradicate what it sees as a threat to the nation: atheism, which they wish to stamp out. Just a few weeks ago they tore up a cafe in downtown Cairo because: atheists and Satanists.

Not much more information for now. I'll keep reporting as more comes through. Meanwhile, it looks like Egypt has taken the next step in their tyrannical mission to silence anyone who dares to question the dominant religion. Waiting for our Office of Religious Freedom to chime in now... cue the elevator music.

The punch line here is that apparently atheism is not illegal in the country. Of course, that won't stop charges of contempt of religion from being levied -- e.g. blasphemy laws.

Of course, this is all the more reason to get rid of our own blasphemy laws here in Canada. Check out more about CFI Canada and Humanist Canada's effort to do just this.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Songs of Courage By An Atheist Woman In Gaza

Singer Mariam Abuamer is standing up to religious oppression and surviving bombs from the sky in Gaza, one song at a time.
Editor's Note: This is a reprinting of a an item I posted back on August 3rd, 2014 (with one very minor redaction at Mariam's request). I took it down on the very next day because Mariam had concerns about her own security due to the dangerous climate in Gaza for atheists. I wrote about some of her concerns in a later post with her name redacted for her protection. The original International Business Times story about her was also taken down at her request while she was still inside Gaza. That's why the link is broken.

She has since managed to leave Gaza and has given me permission to publish about her situation. I will write more about her soon and this post is being 'resurrected' so I can refer to it in the future.

Over at International Business Times, there is an extremely compelling and inspiring story about one atheist woman in Gaza's refusal to submit to an oppressive theocratic Hamas government regime and resistance to Israeli occupation -- all while the bombs come raining down upon a city with no defense. You must read about this.

In Gaza, A Young Woman's Resistance To Hamas And Israel Comes In Music

Mariam Abuamer is 21 and lives in Hamas controlled Gaza. She dreams of leaving for Britain one day -- her singing in public which is illegal in there. She's also an open atheist.

Abuamer is one of the few women here who have spoken out in public against Hamas, and is visibly fighting cultural norms. She refuses to wear a hijab and dresses in what would pass as “hipster” clothing in New York. Although she does not proclaim it publicly, she became an atheist in 2012, when she said she “discovered things about religion that no one likes to talk about. The dark things -- like how the religion is set up to support a man, not a woman.”

Other women her age have begun to take notice of her atheism.

“They don’t like me because I am different. They gossip about me a lot,” she said. “There are some who are like me but are afraid to say anything.”

She is fighting the norm by simply being herself: wearing the clothes she wants to, proclaiming her atheism and smoking and cursing with journalists in public. And who wouldn't have a few things to curse about when your city is being ruled by those who would outlaw her passion of singing -- silencing expression (read: human rights violations) -- and bombs are falling from the sky killing hundreds of innocent civilians around you?
"Girls can’t really sing here. It is forbidden. You will be arrested.” Yet Abuamer sings, either in her room, at a friend’s house or at the French Institute, a cultural center run by the French government.

"It is the only time I am happy, it empties me of all the negativity and sadness I have inside of me,” she said.
Read this article -- the bravery of this woman is inspiring. Then subscribe to her Twitter feed if you want to see how gravely bad things have become inside the Gaza Strip.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Salon Writer Has a Big Problem With god

Salon has started off the year in true form with a short and hilarious essay by Richard (R.J.) Eskow who deftly points out that we live in a world of war, environmental disaster, economic inequality and, well, countless horrors and persecutions. Luckily, he has found a way to distract us all from these very real issues by shining light on yet another persecution many Christians must endure.

Some people do not capitalize the proper name God.

He denies wanting to start a shitstorm, but I cannot think of anything more incendiary than this. The article has so far generated 1,900 comments and it could very well cause a real schism in the atheist community! Dear god! Is this our golden apple?

Of course, in many a more backward country or time, taking the Lord's name in vain would most certainly result in more grave consequences than this. What I mean is more than a curmudgeonly write-up.
I understand why some atheists might want to write “god” instead of “God.” If you believe that the word describes a human phenomenon rather than a genuine and existent deity, it might seem appropriate to use the lowercase form. But it’s not.  If you are referring to the singular and all-powerful deity of monotheistic tradition, you are using a proper name. That means the capital “G” is a must.
I can understand Eskow's frustration when it's apparent the author does not understand these rules, but if the writer is in the know, then they have every right to suspend the laws of grammar if it is to make a point -- to express.

If the author wishes to demonstrate non-belief or an extreme disdain for something which is normally capitalized, then it's perfectly acceptable. This needs to be a very deliberate thing and it must be clear it is intentional. I've been known to lowercase god occasionally.

Would Eskow have similar problems with me referring to God as him rather than Him? Would he permit me freedom do this? Although E.E. Cummings did capitalize God, is it alright with Eskow for him to have left other words in small case?
The true nature of creation may be in dispute, but the proper usage in this case is not. Webster’s Dictionary tells us that a “god” is “a spirit or being that has great knowledge, strength, power, etc.” while “God” is “the perfect and all-powerful spirit or being … worshipped by Christians, Jews, and Muslims …”
Agnostic atheists like me know this from experience: dictionaries do not prescribe they describe.

Listen, I cringe every time someone says myself instead of me or yourself instead of you while on business conference calls. On some level, I get it.

There is also plenty of room for people to bend the rules. Let's not let prescriptivism limit expression. Just relax, okay?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

First Atheist Event In Saudi Arabia?

I've been writing a fair bit about Saudi Arabia lately and I've run into this graphic on Twitter several times now. It seems to be somehow related to Kuwaiti atheist D. Fatima Al-Jahra (@RevolutionQ8), who has been posting some very bold Quran tearing and stomping images on her Twitter feed.

If this event actually happened in Mecca, it's sort of a big deal.

I don't want to blow anyone's cover -- as this is obviously an incredibly dangerous thing to do in a country which equates atheists with terrorists. However, if someone could drop me any sort of anonymized news on this, I'd gladly spread the word.

 Then there is this video as well:

Saturday, 27 December 2014

CFI & Humanist Canada: Yey! ORF: Meh.

From left to right: Eric Adriaans, Kevin Smith, Andrew Bennett, Eric Thomas.
In April 2013, I posted about how CFI Canada representatives finally got to meet with Ambassador Andrew Bennett from a newly-created Office of Religious Freedom (ORF). It seemed like the government organization only agreed to meet begrudgingly, after some media pressure -- it was like going to meet the Wizard. I was still happy to see the meeting, but couldn't help but be skeptical.
It's just that I cannot help but be highly skeptical and pessimistic about this.  Actions speak louder than words and I won't take them seriously until they make a stand.  I have a hard time accepting that this office was oblivious to the IHEU report for example. What kind of international policy office on religion could have missed that?  And why did they not consult with atheist or even Muslim groups during their formative stages.
After that meeting, there was a general sense that the office was doing nothing substantial to help atheists and non-religious people. Although I do not have the link, I can recall a challenge made to Bennett to demonstrate his support for human rights of atheists and agnostics by speaking out against Saudi Arabia's horrific treatment of blogger Raif Badawi. We waited and, other than a few muffled whispers and nods, none seemed to come.

Well, on December 22nd, there was another meeting between the ORF's Andrew Bennett, Eric Adriaans and Kevin Smith from CFI Canada, and Eric Thomas from Humanist Canada.

I'm happy the CFI covered this on their site, because I see precious nothing at all on the ORF's press release page or on Bennett's Twitter feed! But then, this has been the story all along and nobody would expect the ORF to break decorum by going out of character.

So, is this new office doing anything at all to help non-religious people deal with persecution? I must now try to suspend the years of disappointments and look at the results as objectively as possible.

The CFI press release points out that Bennett has offered his support of their work. They are highlighting some bright points:
Since that meeting, CFIC has been pleased to observe Ambassador Bennett’s support of CFI’s work to support Raif Badawi at the United Nations Human Rights Council (CFI Transnational’s Michael DeDora advocacy work of June 2014) as well as his comments on the subject of freedom from religion
Allow me to give credit where credit is due.  CFI did a really great job chastising Saudi Arabia for their horrible disregard for human rights and for their inhumane torture of Raif Badawi. In fact, I think they did an even better job than John Baird or Andrew Bennett.

No wait, we got this tweet:
Yes comrades, I am not impressed. If this is progress, then may I please have my part of the office's 5M budget back so I can donate it to Amnesty International?

Oh, and no press release on the official page, of course. Furthermore, it wasn't even a protest against the Saudi government for their treatment of Raif. Technically, it was Bennett being proud that another Canadian defended the right of the Centre for Inquiry to speak out for Raif. Feel free to follow the trail of indirections on your own. Scribble it out on napkin with a graph, if you want clarity.

Doing a quick survey of Bennett's Twitter feed, I found a couple of retweets of Michael De Dora -- who is doing visible work -- as well (one, two). That's pretty good, I guess. I've been known to retweet other people's stuff too. Only takes a click.

Bennett has also seductively dangled supportive generalizations at the end of paragraphs as well. I'm afraid that I've already been unimpressed with his comments in the United Church Observer.
If we don’t have religious freedom in society, it’s very hard to also have freedom of expression, freedom of association. All these different human rights are linked together. When we look at freedom of religion, it’s the freedom to openly — publicly or privately — profess your faith. It’s the freedom to engage in public worship in peace and security. It’s the freedom to engage in missionary activity. And here’s the real acid test: does a country allow people to freely convert to another faith? Conversely, does it not force them to change their faith? There must also be an understanding that people should be able to not have religious faith.

Interview with the United Church Observer from 09.2014
He did say this during comments at a Toronto area talk, though. So I cannot fault him completely -- this was good. Too bad it was the comments to some speech and not an official press release or a television interview or in a major newspaper or a blurb on his website. Demanding aren't I?
In an obvious sense, the immediate objective for much of our advocacy work is to speak the truth about the plight of individuals and persecuted religious groups, to help build support for efforts that will alleviate their suffering. Including those persecuted for the choice not to adhere to a religious belief or to openly disagree with the established belief.
To be fair, he also said something similar in another speech in Warsaw. I guess this is good, but who actually sees any of this? You really need to dig and it doesn't help that his website seems not to mention any of this at all.

The CFI release points out that Bennett does believe in freedom to believe in a non-religious philosophy. Although, he seems to miss the point that for many people in this world -- including many people in North America who are literally recovering from religion  -- that people must have freedom from religion.
Ambassador Bennett informed us that he believes “freedom of religion must incorporate the freedom to not have a religious belief,” and while he does not believe in freedom from religion, does feel that people must have “the freedom to embrace a non-religious set of beliefs or philosophy.”
I'm not sure what to make of that. For those of us who have had religion crammed down our throats in our youth and see religion as a net positive harm for the world, freedom from religion is essential. It's actually something not to be dismissed -- many of us were indoctrinated as children and much of our lives were spent actively fighting for our own freedom from our childhood religions.

Here are the topics covered in the meeting.

  • ORF’s “The Religious Freedom Fund”
  • ORF’s duty to speak out against all faith-based discrimination, harassment, torture and human rights violations
  • Canada’s Blasphemy law (Criminal Code Section 296) and its symbolic relationship to blasphemy laws in other states (the blasphemy law is a domestic matter not within the purview of the ORF)
  • CFI Canada’s project to respond to international atheists seeking our support in repressive regimes
  • Work that CFI, HC and ORF can do together to provide education on freedom from religion

Good for the CFI and Humanist Canada. These are all worthy and they are the right groups to discuss it. If the ORF helped out with any of these, we may get concrete results.
Eric Adriaans, National Executive Director of CFI Canada said, “This was an important and constructive meeting. As educational charities and the leading voices for Canada’s atheist, secular humanist and humanist community – we must do all that we can to develop relationships within our movement and with government agencies such as the Office of Religious Freedom to ensure that our community is not left out.  Ambassador Bennett continues to work with us toward concrete outcomes from our working relationship.  I look forward to the work we will do together to ensure that the human rights of non-believer minorities are defended as rigorously as religious minorities.”
Still waiting for those concrete outcomes! Still waiting!

I understand that it makes more sense to build bridges than walls. So, I praise the CFI and Humanist Canada for meeting with the Office of Religious Freedom. It's also nice that Andrew Bennett has accepted another meeting.

However, I cannot help but remain skeptical and disappointed in the Office. It still seems to me like they're hardly even trying. When it comes to people (not philosophies) being in peril for their lack of religious belief across this globe, it really seems to be that groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Atheist Alliance International, International Humanist and Ethical Union and the Center For Inquiry are superior human rights watchdogs and are more effective at engaging people over social media.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Titles & Headlines Sometimes Tell a Story, Or Maybe Not?

Dante visiting the infidels and atheists in Hell.
I've found that, when it comes to articles, there's a lot you can learn from the title. Often the overall meaning, or the desired message has been distilled into the headline. Let's examine this one, for instance.

'Daughter of atheists now Anglican bishop tackling poverty'

The first thing this tells us is that atheists are presumably not too miserable to reproduce. They had a daughter. This is the least insightful thing.

Slightly more interesting is someone born in a non-religious environment becoming an Anglican bishop. This is only interesting because one seldom sees this go the other way. Many many atheists within the movement were born into religious families. Some even become humanist chaplains or atheist activists. What's newsworthy here is someone who's apparently been inoculated against religion in their youth becoming religious -- this, apparently, almost never happens.

It gets more interesting when you reach the end of the title... tackling poverty. I suppose, there is nothing unusual or newsworthy about an Anglican bishop doing this. This is practically their job. No, what's being implied here is that one has made a sort of voyage from being a stereotypical uncharitable atheist to become someone who is tackling poverty: an Anglican bishop, naturally.

Or perhaps her atheist parents are mentioned to paint a humble beginning. A lower place from which she was able to claw her way out of a pit of darkness to the light. Her path down to a gloomy godless existence was diverted, somehow, and now she's come so far, improved so much.

Let's dig just a little into the article itself now.
Her parents, confirmed atheists, actively discouraged religion but encouraged music in their young soprano. That was her window into Christian faith and it changed her life, eventually.
She was born in the UK and so her parents' atheism is not at all newsworthy either. The Anglican church has been on the wane there for decades. In fact, I don't think that there is anything newsworthy about their atheism at all.

I think the newsworthy thing here is this apparently wonderful woman who is doing good work to help people pull their way out of a real darkness -- poverty. The daughter of atheists bit is either click-bait or a small slight against atheists and atheism.

This mention of atheist parents does nothing but distract from an otherwise inspirational story of a woman trying to do good for her community and even head up a city council secular task force to work for change -- a truly (secular) Humanist endeavour worthy of praise. To bring the atheism up in the title seems like nothing more than a sort of wedge. Is the story really about this?

Then of course, I could be reading too much into this afterall. Perhaps, I am so focused on religious attitudes towards atheists, I am making something out of nothing at all. The mention just seemed rather unnecessary.

Note: If you check out the comments on this story, you'll find that I wasn't the only atheist who caught more than just a whiff of something that was 'off' with the title.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Cairo Police Shut Down 'Atheist Cafe' Due to 'Satanic Rituals'

The Egyptian government has been funny, what with them knowing precisely how many atheists there are in the country or attempting to ban televised belly dancing competitions. It's because recently the rhetoric has been ramping way up against atheists, who have been identified multiple times as the greatest challenge to Egyptian society which must be stamped out.

Well, the saber rattling seems to have given way to action this week. Cairo police raided and shut down an atheist cafe.
Egyptian security forces have stormed what they described as the "atheists' cafe" in downtown Cairo, raising fears of a renewed crackdown on freedom of expression in the country.

The popular cafe, located in the capital's Abdeen neighbourhood, was a nest for "Satan worshippers", according to Gamal Mohie, chief of the local municipality.
None of the authorities responsible were able to explain why people who do not believe in supernatural deities would ever be worshiping the devil -- having rituals and wild dancing apparently!
"There was no sign reading 'atheists' cafe' outside, as nobody would put up such a public announcement. However, it was popularly known as a place for Satan worship, rituals and dances. There were also Satanic drawings at the entrance," Mohie said, adding that the owner was arrested during the raid.
Right. If these pictures are any indication, it looks like there were Nazi swastikas drawn by someone outside of the entrance. These police are either very confused or are just looking for any excuse to either oppress potential political opposition or to cause a diversion from their own performance.

A story over at Morocco World News describes the situation further.
Egypti’s Youm7 quoted the head of Hay Al Abidin Jamal Mohi as saying that the café was located on Avenue Al Falaki in downtown Cario, and “it was a resort for atheists and Satanists who were spreading wrong ideas about religion.”

Jamal Mohi went on to add that local authorities decided to destroy the café after they received many requests from residents who live the café.

“Residents said that each midnight, atheists and Satanists in the café would start performing sort of satanic rituals,” he explained.

Mohi also revealed that the local authorities destroyed the café amid local women’s ululations of joy.
Atheist activist Ayman Ramzy sees this all as a political ploy to divert Egyptians from meaningful questions of government policy.
Ramzy went on to add that local authorities should worry about the critical issues that Egypt is facing, such as the growing number of homeless children, rather than violating the individual freedoms of Egyptian citizens.
Just recently a French journalist and friends were detained and interrogated in a Cairo cafe for discussing politics after a woman overheard their conversation and contacted the police.

It seems to me that things are getting progressively worse for freedom of expression in Egypt for atheists and anyone who may have an opinion at odds with the official State sanctioned status quo.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Egyptian Government: There Are Precisely 866 Atheists In Egypt

'Now, how'd they figure that one out?'
The behaviour of the current Egyptian government has gone from goofy to downright erratic lately. It was all still sort of funny when the government attempted to block a belly dancing competition because it was dangerous like homosexuality and atheism. However, the government there seems to be completely overrun by mad clerics who keep repeatedly singling out atheism (and anything they'd like to call atheism) as the greatest threat to Egypt society (one, two, three, four, five, six). It really sounds like they are gearing up for a good Saudi Style purge in this country -- and remember what they did to Alber Saber.

Well, now here's a some ridiculous insanity to act as a bit of levity above the background of ominous government threats against atheists in the country. It turns out that the government knows there are precisely 866 atheists in Egypt!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Turkish Govt Committee: Compulsory Nursery-School 'Values Education' & Any Disagreement is 'Atheism'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - By Flagellvm·Dei (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Things seem to really be going downhill in Turkey, which is supposed to be one of the most reasonable, secular majority Muslim countries -- at least in the Middle Eastern region. This all seems to be pointing back to their increasingly spooky and highly religious president, Tayyip Erdoğan.

So far we're up to his government censoring genitalia and the proper names of genitalia from Biology textbooks; banning his military from watching nudie shows like Game of Thrones; rewritting history to make it more patriotic; taking issue with lip-o-suction kissing on daytime television; stating that feminists don't understand motherhood, which he believes he is primary meaning of a woman's life; and strongly pushing for a 'More Pious Youth' by replacing secular schools with religious schools and coercing parents to send their children to them. Doesn't he sound a little like some fundamentalist socially-conservative Christian groups?

Well, here's more information now on that last creepy education goal:

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Alberta Far Right Party Strikes Down Equality Statement: Atheist VP Communications Resigns

Terry Lo looking awesomely dapper in his outfit before attending Hullabaloo 2014. (source)
Terry Lo looks like a pretty fun guy, according to his Twitter feed. My cursory look at this, along with his blog, Calgary  Dreamer, really makes me wonder how he ever fit into the creepy, extremist and rather theocratic Alberta Wildrose Party. If I'm to understand Alberta politics, Progressives actually voted for the somewhat not crazy conservative party so these totally crazy social conservatives didn't get into power.

Well, just yesterday, Lo posted his resignation from the post of VP of Communications in a post on his blog.
Today, I made a small stand for what I believed in, leading to what probably was the shortest time I’ve ever held office as VP Communications for the Wild Rose Party in Calgary-Glenmore, and the end to my association with the party as well. Being the surrogate dad to a gay son, Asian, AND atheist, I was always an unusual member of the party. But a few events in the last year made me realize that I was in a place that was morally (to me) untenable. I resigned today with no reservations.
Uhm... yeah... not a great match. How does this sort of thing even happen? In his official resignation letter he points out the problems with this party.
As a member who is Asian, Atheist and parent of a LGBT son, I hoped to change the ill perception that resulted in the Lake of Fire debacle. When our leader, Danielle Smith, had championed the inclusion statement in the 2013 AGM, I had truly believed that I was a member of the right party, and it was in this spirit that I had made my decision to serve the party in the best way I saw fit.

But even despite what I saw as an appalling misstep in defeating the 2014 vote re: GSAs and the protection of LGBT youth against bullying, I still had hoped to help change the tone and give an inclusive message to the public at large. After all, if one such as me could be a member, then anyone can be a part.
But in the time between my election and now, several events at the Glenmore Rally and during the by- elections has led me to believe that I was mistaken, and as such, find myself at this decision. The final breaking point was the revocation of the inclusion statement at the AGM this past weekend DESPITE our leader’s own recommendation, and how it used to show that WR was truly an inclusive party.
Huffington Post explains how the party held a vote during the Glenmore Rally where they decided to remove a statement of inclusion that would essentially apply to all races, religions (or no religion), LGBT people etc. -- you know, human beings.
Party members on the weekend voted against adopting as policy a statement supported by Leader Danielle Smith that affirmed the rights of everyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation and other differences.

The expanded definition had been held up by the party for a year as the shining example of a new moderate centrism palatable to Albertans across the political spectrum.

Instead, members voted Saturday to go with a broader policy to recognize that "all Albertans have equal rights, privileges and responsibilities."

In the 2012 election, the party appeared to be on the road to winning when it was derailed by controversies that included comments by one of its candidates who, in a blog, had urged gays to repent or face an eternity in hell's "lake of fire."
That's right... "Lake of fire!" You'll find Lo's reaction to universal inclusion being dropped at the  Glenmore Rally in this picture he posted on the blog post.

Lo identifies as many atheists I know do -- as a fiscal conservative but a social liberal. I don't consider myself a conservative, but we need more conservatives like Lo! Really, the right wing has gotten downright nutty.
I’ve always seen myself as a fiscal conservative, but socially liberal. I believe in a balanced budget, responsible use of the public purse and more. But I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a strong supporter of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and a firm rejection of organized religion. I would suppose that would make me a moderate of sorts. I also try to emulate and follow a modern version of chivalry, whereas the highest aspirations of a person should be in service of others, and built a name in support of charity and goodwill in Calgary. I despise anyone who will not support the strength of their convictions, and I really do try to back my own acts come what may.
In actually, this breed of conservative -- the kind I can get along with -- is a rare breed these days in both Canada and the US... okay, especially in the US. Lately, conservative has come to mean Bible-thumpin', anti-choice, anti-LGBT, but this wasn't always the case. He felt out of place in the PC party for social agenda reasons and out of place from the NDP party for fiscal agenda reasons -- Wild Rose seemed to be an alternative at the time.
But being a member of a sports team with gay members, and looking around at random WR events, I knew this was far from the truth. What was sad was this was confirmed as I walked around. But in those several chats, what especially disturbed me was that LGBT people were described as “uppity” and “whiners”. This wasn’t a bad joke, or even a casual careless statement. Looking at each face, it was an honest belief. Needless to say, I was actually angry, no more like pissed and furious, on TV as I was positioned to stand right behind Danielle at the rally. I was close to storming off that day, but calmed down by the end of her speech.
Wild Rose also joined the Conservatives to vote down bill 31-19, which would have made it mandatory for schools to allow Gay Straight Alliances in schools (GSA). Lo's own son is gay -- preventing the formation of GSA groups is a blow against people like his son and rightly so. He thought there was some hope for the party even after this, but the removal of the equality statement was too much.
Ideologically, I believe now that the party is swinging far right again on social issues, and as such, totally in opposition to my own beliefs. And ANY party that visibly does not protect my son, is one that has lost my support, and in fact, earned my opposition.
Good on ya, Terry! I'm happy to see you dumped the party and you're unabashedly atheist as well!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

New Indonesian President Might Improve Situation for Atheists

By Credited to Indonesian State Secretariat [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Remember Indonesian atheist Alexander Aan, who got thrown into jail and nearly killed for posting stuff on his Facebook? -- perfectly reasonable stuff like "If God exists, why do bad things happen? ... There should only be good things if God is merciful."

He got released after serving his completely unjust sentence nearly a year ago and I'm uncertain how things are going, but I suspect he's trying to keep a low profile for his own safety.

Well, there's been news coming out of Indonesia lately that perhaps the Law, in theory at least, could be more on his side in future. This probably won't improve his overall safety, but it might keep other atheists from getting thrown into the slammer for expressing their disbelief in Islam. Well, maybe.
In this Sunni-majority country, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim has announced that a new law is to be introduced within six months to protect minorities from attack and to ensure that all citizens have the same rights. He also promised a change in regulations to make it easier for minority groups to obtain permits for building places of worship.

On Wednesday (5 November), Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo met with representatives of minority religions, something which they have long appealed for, but which had been rejected by his predecessor.  It is significant that this was the Minister’s first official meeting after being sworn in on 27 October. Christians, Shia Muslims, Ahmadis, Baha’is and followers of the native religion of the Sundanese people were amongst the minorities present at the meeting. The government also wants to give protection and equality to atheists, who have not previously been recognised under Indonesian law.  The 1945 constitution established a philosophy called Pancasila, according to which it was compulsory for every citizen to follow one of five named religions; atheism was not allowed.
The reforms would also involve removing religious identification from identification cards, which is something I've seen used in other Muslim countries to force public allegiance to Islam. Iran is one example of this.

Apparently, this is all coming because a more tolerant president was elected  in October, Joko Widodo.

Now, it seems like the only originator of this story is Barnabas Aid, which seems to be a nice enough organization concerned with helping persecuted Christians across the world. This story looks plausible enough, but I wouldn't take it at 100% until we see an actual news agency confirm the atheist angle. I have yet to find this. I see other stories referencing equality to minority groups, but nothing else actually coming right out and saying atheists are included. We all know that religious groups often forget atheists when they talk about freedom of religion. So, we'll need to wait and see.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Egypt's Muslim & Christian Leaders Uniting Against Atheism

By Daniel Mayer (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Religion has been the cause of so much conflict and harm in this world. Alas, if only they could find something to bring them together, to unite them! Well it turns out religious leaders in Egypt have found something to set aside their differences over and finally come together! Halleluja!
Christian churches in Egypt say they are joining forces with Egypt's Al-Azhar, a prominent center of Sunni Muslim learning, to fight the spread of atheism in the country.
Everyone gang up on the atheists, now.

I suppose this is a step up from arresting and brutalizing atheists, which is what they've done with bloggers, including Alber Saber, who managed to get away. As I've written before, they plan on using psychologists and stuff to persuade kids not to be atheists... and maybe throw them into jail later if that doesn't work.
For his part, Ahmed al-Tayeb, Egypt's Grand Imam and leader of the Al-Azhar, said on state television last month that atheism was a "fad" borrowed by Egyptian youth from the West.

"The atheism trend is new to the Arab world and Egypt," al-Tayeb said. "It is regretful… that some young people now openly brag about being atheists."

He went on to say that atheistic and "materialistic" ideas were "shallow by nature."
These 'apparently existential threats to society' fads that are so shallow! Don't worry though, freedom of thought is in the constitution! Based on their history so far, I'm totally confident there will be no problem at all.
Freedom of thought is enshrined in the Egyptian constitution. However, a handful of Egyptians have been prosecuted in recent years for "defaming religion" on social media platforms.
Oh right... just a handful -- the ones we actually hear about. It only takes a handful of people being brutally persecuted to keep the general population in line.
"The Church and the Al-Azhar are drafting a constructive mechanism to address atheism," Poules Halim, a spokesman for Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, told Anadolu Agency.

His statements came following a two-day conference, organized jointly between the Al-Azhar and the church, aimed at forging a "scholarly response" to atheism, which, Halim said, had been "spreading increasingly" in Egypt over the past three years.

This article definitely lacks any sort of explanation of what they actually talked about and what this constructive mechanism is. I'm waiting to see what sort of nonsense they'll come up with. They've had hundreds of years and I'm still waiting.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Up For a Little Bingo?

By English: Cpl. Timothy T. Parish [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Feeling kind of bored or lethargic on this Friday? Why not drag your sad butt over to Guardian Liberty Voice and play a little Chestnut/Canard/Strawman Bingo!

In Atheists Fail to Understand Both God and Man, Graham Noble seems to hit pretty much every old canard and chestnut ever when it comes to arguing for God and against atheism. Get your Bingo cards ready.
Atheists have elevated their profile in the western world – particularly in the United States – to one of a, supposedly, persecuted minority and, in doing so, have exposed their failure to understand both man and the very concept of God.
I can only assume the supposedly must refer to the persecuted. Given that a majority of Americans seem more willing to vote in anyone but an atheist for president, I'm not sure if Noble has really looked into this at all. Does he think the strong stigma against coming out atheist is merely illusion?
Their bizarre and desperate need to stamp out Christianity...
Atheists by definition do not wish to stamp out Christianity. They just don't believe in God. Now, I'd love to see Christianity and all religions relegated to the same sort of dustbin as Greco-Roman religion in the West, but that's just me. There are plenty of atheists out there who are happy just not believing and going about their lives. Just look at Sweden.
An atheist is someone who professes a belief in two basic principles: First, the non-existence of a deity, or deities; second, the belief that man is the only master of his own destiny and that only through a true understanding of humanism will mankind reach its full potential. 
No. An atheist is someone who does not profess a belief in any gods. Please try to grasp this difference. Someone who is atheist may well believe those other things but this doesn't make an atheist.
A fair starting point in the argument over the existence of God – a Creator, a higher power, a supreme being or whatever label one chooses to apply – is the acknowledgement that the existence of such a being, or deity, has never been scientifically proven and, perhaps, never will be.
Thank you! Are we done now, then? No, apparently not. We need to state the obvious about something for which there is no proof it exists.
Such a statement, however, demands the caveat that the non-existence of God has also never been proven, nor could it ever possibly be proven. 
Yes. It is impossible to prove the non-existence of something like a god, unicorns, robot frogmen on the planet VeeedyVeedy 6 .. etc..

Now, prepare to be shocked, amazed and confused.
Herein, then, lies the utter rejection of that first tenet of atheism: One must take, for context, the idea that a ‘god’ is a being of all-encompassing power and possibility; a being that has created everything that exists and possesses all knowledge; a being that defies the very laws of physics, as they are understood by man. A simple – and very short – leap of logic, then, brings one to the realization that, in order to be certain that such an omnipotent being does not exist, one would have to be an omnipotent being. How else could one possibly know, with certainty, that an all-seeing, all-knowing deity – existing beyond the physical grasp and sight of man – does not exist unless one actually possesses all the known and unknown knowledge of the universe – and whatever is beyond? In short; only if one were God could one say that God does not exist – and then, of course, one would be denying one’s own existence.
That a single human mind can contain the above paragraph without imploding immediately is a testament to the power of millions of years of evolution. I'm sure some long lost humanoids may have thought of things like the above and their heads did implode or severe internal hemorrhaging or stroke could have occurred.

As a thought experiment, let's replace the not exist with exist from the above quoted:
A simple – and very short – leap of logic, then, brings one to the realization that, in order to be certain that such an omnipotent being does exist, one would have to be an omnipotent being. How else could one possibly know, with certainty, that an all-seeing, all-knowing deity – existing beyond the physical grasp and sight of man – does exist unless one actually possesses all the known and unknown knowledge of the universe – and whatever is beyond? In short; only if one were God could one say that God does exist – ...
Wow, it makes just as much sense as the original! This only demonstrates a parlour trick called shifting the burden of proof. Place your Bingo chip in the appropriate box, please.

Bonus marks if you noticed that only his God seems to require a solid disproving. 

All-powerful propellor-hat wearing rhinoceroses living deep inside the crust of Pluto do not seem to require such a vigorous disproving. Neither do less outrageous claims like Satan is actually in charge around here rather God -- that would explain a few things -- or that it's all actually space aliens after all.

This sort of business is called begging the question. It's putting your God into a special category -- because he's God -- that requires us to disprove it while other gods apparently do not require him to disprove them, the burden is completely on these other believers to make their case.

Now comes the classic argument that humans have always been religious and believed in god, which proves absolutely nothing.
Having established, therefore, that atheists do not understand the nature of God, it is worth examining the ways in which they also fail to understand the nature of man. The mere fact that belief in God – or in multiple gods – has been with mankind from its very beginning demonstrates a faith and a need which is beyond understanding and, certainly, beyond eradication.
Do we have Bingo yet? Get your chips ready because they come in fast and furious from this point forward.

Atheists want more than separation of church and state. They want total eradication of Christianity.
In the US, atheist groups have gone far beyond what they are claiming to be pushing for, which is the complete separation of church and state. Their goal appears to be nothing less than the complete eradication of Christianity from American society.
Although true for some atheists, I'm sure. This is not technically correct. Atheism means no belief in god. There are plenty of atheists who are perfectly happy with religion existing. And many just don't want it imposed on them via state mechanisms.

Next comes the all too common question: If you don't believe in God then how could you be offended by Christian symbols?
Their obsession with bringing lawsuits aimed at removing Christian symbols from public display begs the question: If one does not believe in God, how can one possibly be offended by the idea that other people do? Not believing in something implies a lack of feeling or emotion, regarding that something. It is simply not possible to be offended by a concept in which one claims not to believe.
Of course, he leaves out that it's Christian symbols on public land. Atheists are not offended that you believe in your God although they may find this bizarre and they may very well be offended by your concept of God.

I'm also pretty certain he doesn't understand what begs the question really means.

Now, here's one I've never, ever, heard before!
There can be only one possible explanation of why atheists become so agitated at the very idea that others put their faith in God; it comes down to politics. Atheist groups in the United States are merely Socialists in disguise and, like all Socialists, they insist that only loyalty a citizen should have is loyalty to the almighty State. religious faith stands in the way and that is precisely why Socialist governments always persecute those who believe in God.
Mr. Noble, I believe you need to be introduced to a rather large atheist Libertarian segment. I'm sure they would have a few things to clear up with you!

He tries to clear things up in the next paragraph by stating that not all atheists are Socialists making me wonder how many other assertions some atheists may be pardoned from.
That is not to say that all atheists are Socialists; those who simply choose not to believe should be distinguished from those who join groups which try to force others not to believe.
Do you have your chip ready? Did you catch the subtle choose not to believe? People don't choose to believe or disbelieve anything. If they are, then I can only guess they're trying to somehow brainwash themselves!

If you've not got a row yet, maybe this next section will help. He moves on to revisit the Constitution and the establishment clause.
Atheists have maintained, for some time, that separation of church and state is enshrined in the Constitution. This, however, is a myth. There is no part of the Constitution that demands such a separation; the First Amendment is very clear on the subject. The religion clause within the First Amendment prevents the government from interfering in religious matters. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” It is as clear as it could possibly be: The government is prohibited from forcing any one religion upon the people; nor can it write laws that promote any one religion over another; nor can it write any laws that restrict an individual’s right to worship in whatever way they choose.
A myth that the Supreme Court and countless judges have also apparently fallen for.  I guess they're all atheists too. Apparently, the amendment was written to protect the religious from imposing their religions onto other religious or having religions imposed upon them.
Atheism, in truth, is a religion in itself; it is the religion of Statism and its lifeblood is fear and intimidation.
Uhm... Oh well.

There is some fancy footwork having to do with the First Amendment only applying to Congress but not really, or sort of... therefore it's fine to preach Jesus in the public schools. It confuses my foreigner Canadian brain and I leave it up to you for your homework this weekend to figure out. It is after all, Friday.

Did you win?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Patheos Blogger Takes Friendly Atheist to Task for Finding Little Girl Adorable

Thomas L. McDonald is totally not impressed with his fellow Patheos blogger Hemant Mehta. It's because Hemant liked this video with a little girl heckling a street preacher.

Hemant acknowledged that yelling at obnoxious street preachers is an uncouth and obnoxious thing to do but that he has never seen a more adorable annoying child.

He's right. She is adorable and this video is, in fact, absolutely hilarious. I laughed, my friends laughed. The 'Jesus blah-blah-blah! Jesus Blah-blah-blah!' was the most amusing bit and, as one commenter pointed out, it would make an exquisite tshirt.

Yes, everybody laughed except for McDonald because he actually took it seriously, or something!
This video is very obviously staged (the girl keeps looking at someone off-camera), but why it was staged and what message the videographer hoped to convey was a mystery to me.
Maybe a little girl like this isn't allowed to wander the streets alone heckling street preachers without parental supervision? I can only hope it's her father holding the camera and she simply wanted to express her dislike of this guy blasting his voice over a loudspeaker. Not quite my style, personally, but I won't fault her for it.

(Edit 2014-11-07 00h07: The original source says the camera holder was not one of the girl's parents.)

McDonald continues:
But then I saw that the “Friendly” Atheist blogger thinks this horrid little child is the bees knees, and I realize: they actually think this is cool and funny and useful to their cause.
He thought the kid was adorable and the video was compelling and they are. He never said she was the bees knees. He never said this was cool and useful to their cause.
I’m usually not a fan of people out-obnoxious-ing street preachers in order to get them to stop… but somehow, when this little girl does it, I can’t stop watching
It's a funny video which pretty much mirrors what would be going through my head if I were forced to be near a street preacher like this. Their message of repent or burn in Hell is rather offensive to me and I can see where she's coming from. 
Christians should love this video. It proves once again that evangelical atheism is the ideology of rude, hateful little children. They don’t have anything to say but “shut up.”
Checkmate, atheists! This screaming little girl pretty much proves that atheism is nothing more than people saying 'shut up!'

Well, maybe if we got some sort of decent proof there is a God, we wouldn't get so tired of hearing the Jesus Blah-Blah-Blah Jesus Blah-Blah-Blah! In fact, the street preacher there wouldn't need to bust his butt yelling and screaming because we'd all believe.

He titles his post Future Patheos Blogger Engages in Debate. I can only surmise that he means she will grow up to be just like Hemant Mehta which makes me wonder if he's ever actually read Mehta's blog!

Okay, I get it, he really just didn't like the video and he doesn't appear to be all that friendly of a theist, does he?

Monday, 3 November 2014

Things Are Getting Absurd & Dangerous In Egypt

Religious Endowments Minister Mohammed Mokhtar Gomaa (source)
It's fun and all writing about Egypt's whacky reactions to belly dancing on television, but things really do seem to be going from bad to worse there when it comes to human rights.

What's particularly concerning to me is how the government wishes to stamp out anything they think is atheism (which includes actual atheism) alongside throwing eight gay men into jail for getting married. I'm pretty sure both of those things are human rights violations. They're playing atheism up as being the largest threat to their very existence with homosexuality a close second.

Well back in September, as incoherently as ever, government minister of Religious Endowment Mohammed Mokhtar Gomaa declared that he knew where the sudden wave of atheists and homosexuals are coming from. It's sort of predictable. Actually, I'll give you one guess.
Interviewer: How do you explain the spread of atheism in our society? Has it become a widespread phenomenon?

Gomaa: Yes, it has. There are two reasons for this atheism. One reason is the hijacking of religious discourse by extremists and terrorists. Some people have their own opinion about our religion. The other reason is the colonialist Zionist force, which sponsors and supports atheists and atheism, and finances homosexuals and homosexuality, in order to fragment this society. They want to undermine the stability of our region any way they can -- by means of terrorism, of atheism, of nihilism, and of deviance. So we must confront atheism, nihilism, homosexuality and moral depravity the same way we confront nihilism and terrorism. Our society cannot thrive unless we take a moderate approach.
Israel and the Jews, naturally. Only days ago, I wrote about a Malaysian politician who was blaming the Jews, New World Order, atheists, --- insert anyone who's not Malaysian and Muslim here -- for moral decay there.

Moderate approach? Like, arresting gay people and throwing them into jail for three years? Or do you mean throwing Alber Saber into jail for being an atheist -- atheists can get five years in jail just for being atheist.

This tone seems a bit more ominous and, frankly, fascist than the cuddly and misguided government initiative to deal with atheism.
The ministries of Waqfs (Religious Endowments) and Youth have said they will launch a nationwide campaign to tackle atheism in the predominantly Muslim country. The planned drive will recruit the efforts of moderate clergymen, psychologists, sociologists and political specialists to address the youth, according to local media.
With these statements by Gomma, we have a clear identification of threatening elements of the country's population.  Mere disbelief in god or one's sexuality is characterized as radical or terrorist or impure, the enemy to the stability of the region and a threat to society.

It's sounding very xenophobic and as if Egypt is really gearing up for a Saudi-style culling of 'undesirable elements' in their population. It sounds like something dreadful is about to happen. It looks to me like atheists and LGBT people are the most threatened minority in Egypt today.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Why I Love Ricky Gervais

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Rising Atheism Identified as 'a Key Challenge' facing Egypt

Egypt has had many challenges recently, like the Arab Spring or that whole military coup back in January.

For mercy sake, the country is still reeling over that televised belly dancing competition, which surely shook society to its very limit! With all these belly dancers on television, is there any hope? Does anyone have any time to consider the political situation in Egypt when pelvises continue to oscillate on national television?

Keep calm, though. Even with belly dancing not completely resolved, the Egyptian government and senior clerics have bravely identified the rise of atheists as truly the largest, most dire threat to their entire civilization.
 In a sign of unprecedented concern, Egypt’s top Islamic official recently warned against the spread of atheism in the traditionally religious country.

“Atheism is no longer a marginal issue,” Shaikh of Al Azhar, Ahmad Al Tayeb, said on Egyptian state TV. “It has become one of the many challenges facing the country. There are agencies and institutions in the country concerned about this issue.”
And because education, employment, healthcare, poverty, secularism and democracy are 'just fine thanks', the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Ministry of Youth have teamed up to ensure young people are 'thinking right' and 'believing the right.'
The ministries of Waqfs (Religious Endowments) and Youth have said they will launch a nationwide campaign to tackle atheism in the predominantly Muslim country. The planned drive will recruit the efforts of moderate clergymen, psychologists, sociologists and political specialists to address the youth, according to local media.
I guess there are two positive  points here. It's obvious that atheism is making some progress in Egypt and it appears to be at least moving the discussion towards a more moderate point. They've even taken to banning fundamentalist Islamic clerics from giving sermons, which seems rather overbearing and unconstitutional to me, frankly.

Like lots of religious people who do not understand atheists, a Christian representative thinks this whole atheism business is some sort of rebellion against tradition.
“After revolting against the political regime, attention is turned to rebellion against the family’s authority and then the religious authorities represented by clergymen. Some people believe that as long as the ruler of the country is deposed, why not depose the chief of the world too.”
Also according to him, high unemployment and materialism is also a cause. Shouldn't the government be concentrating on the unemployment situation? Maybe a little materialism might help in coming up with concrete solutions to jobless rates rather than these pie in the sky witch hunts against belly dancers and atheists.

Apparently, there is an estimated 2 million atheists in the country out of nearly 90 million which is hardly a sizable minority.

If you're caught, you get up to five years in prison as well. That should be the real story here. Maybe Egypt should also concentrate a bit on their human rights and freedom of conscious problems as well.