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

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Blogging: Making Friends and Influencing People

Last Thursday, I put out a call for guest blog posts. Well, Veronica Abbass from the Canadian Atheist was nice enough to submit a short ditty calling on Canadian bloggers to get their blog on and submit compositions to one of our fine Canadian blogs! (Note that non-Canadians are also quite welcome too!)

Veronica's post is below the cut! 

According to,
Since its release in 1936, [Dale Carnegie’s] How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold more than 15 million copies.
However, there are other ways to make friends and influence people: write and comment on blogs and websites.

Sean McGuire is looking for guest posts; Canadian Atheist, is looking for writers and guest posts. So here are a few reasons you should consider writing for and commenting on blogs and websites:
  • McGuire asks

    Feel like you have a topic you'd like to cover that you'd like thousands... hundreds... tens of dozens of people to read about? Is it vaguely related to atheism, secularism, LGBT issues . . .?

    If you do, don’t hesitate to submit a guest post to My Secret Atheist Blog or volunteer to be a writer for Canadian Atheist; in fact, do both!
  • Bloggers cooperate and support each other. McGuire supports and promotes Canadian Atheist, Friendly Atheist and other blogs and websites; Canadian Atheist and Friendly Atheist promote and support Sean McGuire’s My Secret Atheist Blog.
  • Bloggers and writers want need to know that people are reading what they write. While they have statistics to tell them how many anonymous people are reading their blogs or their posts, they would like to get feedback (comments) from their readers.
  • Comments can influence the writer and other readers. A commenter may even make a few virtual enemies through his or her comments; that’s one of the perks. 
So, while you’re imaging no religion, image writing about religion and about the bad and if you’re so inclined, the good of religion. Imagine having a venue for your musings and opinions about secularism, atheism and religion in Canada. Go ahead, write for or comment on a Canadian blog or website that addresses those topics!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Conrad Black Has Done It Again

What have we done?
If I recall correctly, it began when Conrad Black wrote something about the shallow shabby world of the militant atheist. I assure you, I put my best men on round the clock duty to decipher his prose and tease out any meaning they could find -- even that guy who portrayed Alan Turing in that movieBenedict Cumberbatch. Yes, no expense was spared. Eventually I contrasted Black's work with a screed against atheists by a Zimbabwe preacher. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

Other atheist bloggers processed the Rorschach Test in their own way. They took what meaning they could from Black's words and attempted to address inaccuracies and absurdities outright. This was a noble endeavour, but what is the real cost here? Could it have agitated Black into writing this equally bewildering response piece in the National Post: A reply to my atheist critics — they protest too much? Can the planet sustain more of this?
Not since I have written about cats and dogs has a column of mine in this newspaper stirred such a voluminous and highly charged response as my reflections here last week on John Lennox’s success in debates, as a scientific Christian, with the most articulate and learned atheists on the anti-God debating circuit. These exchanges have become almost an itinerant counter-ministry of the media and academia throughout the Western world.

Most messages I have received have been favourable, but the tenor of the unfavourable messages the newspaper and I have received is so generally vitriolic, and often abusive and bigoted, that they incite my return to the subject. Obviously, if I had any problem with people taking exception to what I write, I wouldn’t write for publication, and as I have probably been more severely and lengthily defamed than anyone in Canada since Louis Riel (where the calumniators often had truth as a partial defence), I am not bothered by it. None of the abuse was noteworthy and there were only three cyber-assailants who were so unrelievedly uncivil that I asked my IT adviser to ensure that I never received anything from their addresses again.
Is this translated into English from some other language?

I'm sorry. I just had to get that out of my system, having read the piece in its entirety. I'll spare you the play by play on this. If you're interested in a little pain to break up a boring Saturday afternoon, please be my guest and assign any sort of meaning to it you wish. Believe me, there's enough there to write a book.

I will share this. During his piece, I felt like Black was being a real tease. It often seemed that concrete proof or specific argument was just a couple of sentences away --- like a mirage -- perhaps just beyond this historical or literary reference -- perhaps hiding behind that rhetorical flourish. But when I got there... nothing.

It was only the last paragraph that I obtained enlightenment. I got to a real piece of meat and it really stuck in my craw.
The atheists’ domination of our centres of learning and information is a great vulnerability in the West: it creates acute resentment and dissent among the more religiously tolerant majority, separates learning and information from the greatest pillar of our civilization’s historic development, invites contempt from violently sectarian societies, especially Islamists, and is repugnant to the entire concept of freedom of thought and expression that our universities and free press are supposed to be defending. This is why people like John Lennox, who flatten the marquee atheist tribunes at every encounter, perform such a valuable service. And it must also have something to do with the reaction, like that of roaring and wounded animals, of a distinct minority of my correspondents last week. If God were dead, they would not still be trying, very unconvincingly, to kill Him.
What the hell is Black talking about? Do we not have enough churches and religious schools in this country? Those are the places for religious instruction -- the point of a university is to provide an environment of absolutely free inquiry and learning outside of some stuffy minister's dogma. Is it possible for people like Black to give us a second, an instant outside of religion? Apparently not. Instead, universities must turn into places of religious regurgitation.

Oh, not religious? Don't bother attending, or shut up, or open your mind so we may fill it with our fairy stories.

Yes, when schools teach students to think on their own it can cause resentment and dissent among the more religiously tolerant majority, whatever that means. If it means that it upsets those who would prefer to tow the religious line and let the faithful call all the shots, then good.

As for inviting contempt from violently sectarian societies, whose problem is this exactly? Is this some sort of veiled threat? Is this a brave call to surrender? Is this informing us that we should shut up our opinions and questions lest someone get hurt -- lest someone have to drink the hemlock? People who cannot control their violent actions when they have their religious sensibilities upset need to be locked up, period -- even Islamists.

Then there's this absurd doublespeak:
... and is repugnant to the entire concept of freedom of thought and expression that our universities and free press are supposed to be defending.
That's right. Universities that do not shovel dogma down the throats of students and encourage them to think and express themselves in pursuit of truth in ways that may be offensive to some is actually against freedom of thought of expression! Has someone been drinking the Kool Aid, because this is profoundly wrong and either disingenuous or delusional.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Interview With Atheist Porn Actress Shawna Lenee

Shawna modeling a new t-shirt for Reasonist Products. Check it out here.

Shawna Leneé began her career in adult films back in 2005. She left the industry after five years for what would be a four year hiatus during which she took college small business management course. Reinvigorated with her new found business skills, she returned to porn in 2014, master of her own destiny, having signed a contract with Brazzers.

All of this is pretty common knowledge. You’ll find this story all over the web if you google Shawna. What you may not find is any details about Shawna’s atheism. Just last year, she came out openly as a proud atheist and has even begun modeling secular clothing for Reasonist Products.

I was interested in some of the backstory behind Shawna’s atheism and, although she has a busy schedule, she was nice enough to answer some questions over email.

Did you have a very religious upbringing and were your parents religious?
I did not have a religious upbringing at all- besides going to church a few times with my maternal grandparents and being given religious materials by my paternal grandparents (Bible cards, religious music, Jesus quotes). My parent's weren't devoted to religion really. Church was never a part of my childhood. My father refuses to step foot in a church and I find my mother's beliefs to be agnostic.
Were you ever religious?
I have never been religious. I didn't grow up in a church and I was able to view it with an outsider's perspective. It always seemed cult-like to me. The stories never made sense when I thought about them logically, even when my mind was still young. Science has always been a passion of mine. I always believed in science, but never in religion. Science won my heart very early on, sometime before 2nd grade.
Did you “come out” as atheist to your friends and family?
I "came out" as an atheist a little over a year ago. I actually had no idea that atheism was even a thing. When I found out that there were people who thought about things in similar ways I do, I was in shock. I started coming out by sharing atheist quotes, memes, and photos on Facebook at first. Only a couple of my friends were upset by this. They weren't close friends though, so it was easy to overcome. However, it is important to know that when I came out as atheist, I deleted my family from my Facebook. I just wanted to limit the tension before it started because I was highly unsure how they would react. I believe that my family is well aware that I am an atheist and that I am in the adult industry. They have had ten years to process my career choice, but atheism was a whole new element to make public.
What were the reactions to your coming out as atheist vs. telling your parents about going into the adult industry?
My family has always been supportive of me and my choices, as long as I am happy and am not partaking in destructive behaviors. By now, I think it would be difficult for me to shock my family. I am different from many members of my family. They attend church weekly and some of my cousins have attended religious schools. I feel so lucky that I attended public school (and a great one, I think). Because of this, the idea of teaching religion in school is absurd to me! Why would we teach children ideas without proof and try to pass them off as the truth? Why would be inhibit the teachings of real science? It's hard for me to shock my family because I was always a wild one. I never had an interest in fitting in. But one awesome and amazing thing about my family is that they never tried to change me. My family accepts me for who I am. I can't help but love them so much!
Was one more difficult or awkward? How did reactions differ?
What works best for me and my family is that we don't talk about our different beliefs. When my aunts, mother, cousin, and grandmother are having a little religion argument/discussion, I just listen from the other room and giggle to myself. My grandmother is pretty old-fashioned. I plan on marrying a woman one day. No idea who, but I will find out sooner or later. My grandma has stated to the family that she knows someone in the family will be gay, but she just doesn't want to hear about it. I assume she would feel the same way about my atheism. I will let her believe that I believe in a god. I just don't want to let her down. Basically, there aren't reactions to compare I guess. My family life has continued the same throughout my childhood. How lucky am I to have this? Very. I would be broken hearted if I was disowned or shunned for my career choice or lack of religious beliefs. This happens to people everyday and my heart is with them. I love speaking out about atheism on their behalf. I don't ever want anyone to feel afraid to say "I'm an atheist".
I’d like to thank Shawna for taking the time to answer these questions. I’ve already sent some follow-ups and I hope to present a part two with more insight from within the adult industry through the eyes of a feminist skeptic!

Shawna is currently modeling products for Reasonist Products. Go check out their site!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Openly Atheist & Pro-LGBT Candidate Running For Calgary Riding in Alberta's Next Provincial Election

Terry Lo (source)
Back in November, Calgary resident Terry Lo made the news by resigning from his position as VP of Communications from the far right Alberta Wildrose party because of their anti-LGBT platform.
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.
Well, Terry is back now and running in the same Calgary-Glenmore riding in the upcoming Alberta provincial election with a different party, centrist Alberta Party.  His website describes him as:
Foodie, Dragonboat paddler, supporter of local business and  charities, defender of equality.
His campaign Twitter, (@Terry4Glenmore) describes him as this, as well as a defender of LGBT rights.
@AlbertaParty candidate for Calgary-Glenmore and avid charity, local business & food scene supporter. Defender of #LGBTQ rights.
I hope Terry wins his race. Alberta may be the Bible Belt of Canada, but if there's anywhere in Alberta Lo has a chance it's its urban centre, Calgary. I've sent him a few questions for a short interview and I'll keep you all updated when I get feedback!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Muslim Group Demanding Bahrain Government Ban Entry of Feminist Atheist Lebanese Poet

Joumana Haddad (source)
I'm sort of ashamed to say that I've never heard of Lebanese poet and feminist activist Joumana Haddad (@joumana333). Not until Bahrain Salafist Muslim groups started waving their arms around screaming that they'll not have that atheist pornographer in their country!
Several people, mainly Islamists, led by Al Asalah, the expression of Salafism in Bahrain, had vehemently opposed the poetry recital by Joumana, accusing her of promoting atheism and of targeting Islamic values.
Yes, it's those Islamists again. They're really threatened by a single woman who writes poems, speaks out for the rights of women, and publishes a magazine containing the occasional nude photograph.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the disrespect by the Baca of the feelings of more than one billion Muslims and its challenge to the beliefs of the Bahraini people by inviting an atheist who advocates pornography and adultery to Bahrain to spread her sick mentality at an event of the Spring of Culture,” Al Asalah said in a statement.
We cannot have people's beliefs challenged now can we? That might cause people to question the assumptions they've had drilled into their heads since they were infants.

Of course, Joumana will be entering into the country on the back of a mighty steed, fully-armoured, with thousands of foot soldiers. No doubt she will overwhelm the local army and authorities, take over all radio, television and print media and force all citizens into forced atheist pornographic feminist re-education camps. Minds will be assaulted by the dulcet strains of her lyrical propaganda! No wait, that's the government that's doing all that! They score 87/100 for the least free press in the world.

Joumana's was just going to attend a freaking banquet!
Joumana was scheduled to present “a banquet of poetry and music” on April 6 as part of the Spring of Culture Festival organised annually by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (Baca), headed by Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammad Al Khalifa.
I know, Islamic groups! Why not give the banquet a miss! I'm betting you were never on the guest list to begin with.

Her pornographic magazine deals with issues of sexuality and art -- from the point of view of a feminist activist. These are parts of humanity and touch deep into our collective humanity humanity. Usually the only force which cuts into and diverts a healthy sexuality and appreciation of art is a sort of extreme religious fundamentalism. It appears that Bahrain has a significant strain of this godly prudism.

For the record, Haddad is indeed an atheist. So the local Islamists got that right, at least.

Conrad Black & Learnmore Zuze: Both Wrong, One Article Clearly Superior

Why not play logical fallacy bingo at home while reading these pieces?
By now I'm sure you've all read Conrad Black's dreadful piece over at the National Post and I hope you've all had your Bingo cards ready and you were playing along by keeping track of all the tired old debunked chestnuts of arguments as they came -- at breakneck speed.

Only a day or two before Black wrote about how inspired he was by a two hour conversation with Dr. John Lennox, I read a strikingly similar piece from Zimbabwe pastor by Learnmore Zuze who also quotes Lennox. 

Zuze's piece is far superior to Black's -- aside from not being penned by a convicted felon, as far as I know. Firstly, take a look at the titles. Black's: Shabby, Shallow World of the Militant Atheist alongside Zuze's: Atheism no smarter than Christianity. The latter lacks Black's air of pomposity and I can nearly get behind it.

Furthermore, although not directly related to the writing itself, Zuze's profile picture is that of a serious man in front of a clock at 11:35am, with the words The Final Hour inscribed upon it. Below the clock we have flames as well.

What I like about Zuze's work is his economy with words and his pragmatic use of simple language. This man gets to the point and does not waste time on metaphor.
This is precisely what the devil craves for the human race to believe. Atheism, by rejecting the existence of God, is nothing but a secreted way of propping up lawlessness, anarchy and transgression in the universe. Atheism represents the mindset that Satan (whom they think is imaginary), desires humans to have. Atheism, by design or default, is an adroit satanic ideology meant to promote immorality throughout the world. Where it not for space, I would have had readers realize the striking and salient similarities between verses from the satanic bible (written by Antony Lavey) and independent atheistic writings.
Compare this with something or other Black wrote.
This is a large part of the core of the atheist problem, and it is complicated by the vulnerabilities of some of its peppier advocates. Singer sees nothing wrong with bestiality and considers the life of a human child to be less valuable than that of a pig or chimpanzee. It is rather frivolous to raise Hitchens in this company; he was a dissolute controversialist who was a fine writer in his prime, had some enjoyable human qualities and fought to a brave death from cancer, but was a nihilistic gadfly who spent himself prematurely in an unceasing frenzy to épater les bourgeois. He entertained, until he became unbearably repetitive, but no one with an IQ in triple figures was shocked by him. Dawkins almost raves about the extremes that “faith” can drive people to, but was struck dumb like Zachariah in the temple when Lennox pointed out, in a very lengthy debate at the University of Alabama in 2009, that atheism is a faith — clearly one that Dawkins holds and tries to propagate with considerable fervour. In general, something a person believes and can’t prove is supported by some measure of faith.
Honestly, I could hardly read Black's composition. I kept wondering if he actually spoke like a bourgeois himself.
Communities untouched by religious influences have been unalloyed barbarism, whatever the ethical shortcomings of some of those who carried the evangelizing mission among them. Without God, “good” and “evil” are just pallid formulations of like and dislike. As Professor Lennox reminded me, Dostoyevsky, scarcely a naive and superstitiously credulous adherent to ecclesiastical flimflam, said “without God, everything is permissible.”
Flimflam, I say! 
When taxed with the extent of the universe and what is beyond it, most atheists now immerse themselves in diaphanous piffle about a multiverse 
Diaphanous piffle!
The two sides of this argument are asymmetrical. The atheists can sow doubt well, and spruce up their arguments with Hitchensesque flourishes such as the physical mockery of some prominent clergymen and the disparagement of the religious leadership credentials of Henry VIII and Borgia popes and some of the bouffant-coiffed, mellifluous and light-fingered televangelists. They rant against the evils of superstition and can still render a fairly stirring paean to the illimitable liberty and potential of the human mind.
Bouffant-coiffed, mellifluous and light-fingered televangelists!

I know, I'm not being fair and I could very well be guilty of doing the same thing myself. I honestly haven't read such language since my days back in University. There, I occasionally found myself reading forgotten treatises from distinguished professors of 'the' Classics from the 1920s. They exhibited similar language -- it was much more flowery than the easy to understand words from the likes of Will Durant. Words meant to be understood by all.

Our friend the pastor in Zimbabwe writes to be understood.
I have also realized that atheists, eccentrically, suffer from an extremely developed smarter-than-thou-complex. They claim to be more enlightened than the ‘manic lunatics of religion.’ A sister from Netherlands wrote, ”I have suffered much grief debating with atheists as they trash the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ and God.” This is not strange, personally I have debated with decorated atheists and one thing that surely stands out in the atheistic argument is their smarter-than-thou attitude. Atheists view themselves as having a monopoly over truth and knowledge, an accusation they ironically direct at Christians. Atheism is anchored in the belief that no deities exist. Building on this belief, atheists go on the rampage attacking everything in their path that is religion.
No fancy-smancy smarty pants words coming from him at least. We cannot say the same for Black. Zuze goes on to complain about how atheists are always demanding proof for God.
The ill-advised part of atheism is that it ridiculously demands proof of the existence of God by intending him to prove himself in a way they (fallible humans) have codified. They think of God as some petite being they can tinker with; they do not want God operating on his own terms. They want a God who would yield to their (warped) ideology of how he should operate before they validate him.
This is proof that was nowhere to be found in either his article or the piece by Conrad Black. The only difference between the two was that Zuze's piece was better written and much more comprehensible.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Atheists Made Us Do It

You know, it's little things like this peppered into articles that act like a million papercuts.

In an article about the Russian Orthodox Church's usual problems with the usual things,  Russian Orthodox Church concerned about legalization of same-sex marriage, abortion issue, and secularism in Europe, we get this ominous threat.
The metropolitan said "manifestations of aggressive secularism, hen believers' feelings and religious sacred things are insulted and mocked under the pretext of freedom of speech and expression" are dangerous to civil peace.
What's that supposed to mean? Is it the sort of thing a wife abuser might say to defend himself after losing his temper? Is it an admission that the religious cannot be trusted to control themselves like human beings?

Or take a look at Rise of Religious Extremism and Atheist: Ominous Signs for Bangladesh. Even the title puts atheism in the same category as religious extremism.
The recent developments in Bangladesh suggest an alarming and simultaneous rise of religious fanaticism and atheism, complicating the already volatile political scenario of the country.
What does this mean? Does it mean that we cannot have atheists because they complicate volatile political scenarios -- e.g. some believers become violent and murder an atheist blogger? How is this the atheist's fault?

Does it not speak volumes of the author's gross misunderstanding of atheism when he throws it into the same box as religious fanaticism? The sole commenter of the piece had this to say:
In what sense are the atheists you mention here “extreme”? What have they done beyond speaking their minds? What crime have they committed? Sorry, but when “intolerance” toward “anyone who believes in god” is restricted to words, that doesn’t qualify as “extremism”. It’s just free speech.

To imply any parity whatsoever all between these people and the political Islamists who are murdering them is disgusting. You may as well say: “Two extreme groups of young people are confronting each other: rapists, who want to rape any woman they see, and women, who want to walk outside.”
Agreed. I've seen these sorts of false equivalences recently growing in number. Another example is Pope Francis himself suggesting that anyone who insults religion should expect violence against them.

These are not the words and reasoning of adults who can control themselves. Such are words of reckless brutes.

Brave Atheists Dare to Exist in a Hostile 'Secular' Turkey

In less than one year of existence, the Atheist Association of Turkey has gotten hundreds of death threats -- some gruesome ones from Islamist groups. Just take a look at these 'dangerous' people! Many would like to see them dead simply for not believing in God.
Here's one for Andrew Bennett and his Office of Religious Freedom to say something about. In secular Turkey, less than a year ago, atheists got together and formed the Atheist Association.

Since then they've gotten so many death threats -- hundreds -- that they've had to install three panic buttons wired directly to the police (who one hopes will be helpful) and three video cameras. They've got Islamist groups calling to have their president's hands cut off! Even their own president, emperor Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has managed to get their site blocked and has accused them of trying to take down his government and identified them as a terrorist threat.

It's a rough time to be atheist in Turkey -- it's really bad.

They plan to march in the streets of Istanbul on their first year anniversary. That's pretty freaking brave!

Listen to this short and depressing report (audio only) about the situation of atheists in Turkey and then why not tweet to Mr. Bennett (@freedomreligion) and ask him to express a little concern on their behalf.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Egyptian Cleric Discovers Where Atheists Come From

First known 'pornographic' picture on a computer. It was rendered anonymously on a $2,000,000,000 Cold War era US Defense computer. Afflicting the World Since 1956. (source)
Stop the presses! former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa -- who's said a few slightly controversial things in the past -- is finally totally right about where atheists come from!
The former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, told theTV channel CBC Sunday evening that watching porn leads to atheism because industry makers believe that the human body can be used in everything. 
I knew it! That's why Christians and Muslims never watch porn! But what about atheists who do not watch porn or do not like porn? Maybe they just thought about religion and came to the conclusion it didn't make any sense, I guess.

Gomaa makes the further claim that porn causes all affliction in the entire whole world! It's all because of that video you watched on the Internet -- look what you did!
"Pornography, which is made public and is circulated through magazines and movies and has its stars, was an industry initiated in 1960 in the US and is the cause of all affliction in which the world now lives," Gomaa added.
You would think that Gomaa's discovery might clash Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh very reasonable assertion that it's Twitter that is actually the cause of all evil and devastation. Would this cause a Grand Mufti Rumble? That would be awesome!

Alas, no. You just need to realize that the easiest way to total world devastation is porn(evil) delivered via Twitter(evil) over the Internet(evil) which turns people into atheists(evil). It all adds up to super mega evil.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Controversial Lebanese Model Comes Out Atheist

Myriam Klink
Today's Sunday so it's time for me to put my brain on hold and post something related to atheism but only vaguely relevant. To fulfill this goal, I present this story about controversial Lebanese bad girl model Myriam Klink.

Based on my limited knowledge of Lebanon, I think it's probably newsworthy to report that Klink came out as an atheist on her Facebook page while simultaneously accusing a priest of molesting her when she was 16.

While commenting on a video about molestation she confessed the following.
"When I was 16, a priest did the same thing with me, trying to touch my ass," she said. "I told my dad, but he didn’t believe me and punished me with cutting my allowance for a week." Myriam admitted that the priest is well known in Lebanon, and has blue eyes.

She attributed the incident as one factor that pushed her away from religion by adding, "And they keep asking me why I am an atheist. Religion and priests keep disgracing us every day."
She has a following of around 400,000 on Facebook, so I imagine she must have some public influence. 

Although I'm not so sure how Lebanese atheists will take this. After hearing she defended the war actions of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, I'd do anything not to be seen as similar in the public eye! So much for being a positive role model!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Canada's Christine Shellska Addresses UN Commission On Behalf of AAI

Back in August, I wrote a short post about how cool it is that the new Atheist Alliance International president is Calgary's Christine Shellska. Totally cool.

Here's a video of Christine appearing before the United Nations Commission for Social Development in New York City back on February 10th. I just heard about it recently on the Legion of Reason podcast and thought I would share.

She touches on subjects like accessible healthcare, secularism and separation of church and state and removing all blasphemy laws across the world.

Excellent representation of atheists! Great that she's a Canadian too!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

'Hidden Atheists' Within The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community

There is an extremely fascinating article over at Aeon by Batya Ungar-Sargon about the Double Life of Hasidic Atheists which deserves a read -- and deserved to be extended to a book. It's a collection of portrayals and interviews with people who know they are undercover atheists but, for many valid reasons, continue on publicly as Ultra-Orthodox Jews.

It tells the story of people like Solomon who realized he was an atheist during a train ride and then spent the following fifteen years trapped inside a religion which worshipped a god he no longer believed in.
And yet 15 years later, Solomon’s life looks exactly the way it did the day of that fateful train ride, give or take a few infractions. Solomon is still leading the life of an Orthodox Jew. He is married to an Orthodox Jew. His children are Orthodox Jews who go to study the Torah at yeshiva. His parents are ultra-Orthodox Jews. And so, with his new-found atheism, Solomon did nothing.

Solomon is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men and women whose encounters with evolution, science, new atheism and biblical criticism have led them to the conclusion that there is no God, and yet whose social, economic and familial connections to the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic communities prevent them from giving up the rituals of faith. Those I spoke to could not bring themselves to upend their families and their children’s lives. With too much integrity to believe, they also have too much to leave behind, and so they remain closeted atheists within ultra-Orthodox communities. Names and some places have been changed – every person spoke to me for this story on condition of anonymity. Part of a secret, underground intellectual elite, these people live in fear of being discovered and penalised by an increasingly insular society.
There is mild-mannered Yanky who's disbelief crystalised after watching a talk by Richard Dawkins.
That’s when his newly observant study partner took Yanky to a presentation by the British scientist and New Atheist Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion (2006). ‘It wasn’t so much that Dawkins was so convincing, or interesting even,’ Yanky told me between short sips of beer. ‘It was just, I was sitting there with this whole group of people who were having this one viewpoint.’ He experienced for the first time what religion looked like from the outside, a series of often ridiculous and always questionable ideas shattering its absolute hold on his psyche.

And something else crystalised at that Dawkins talk: Yanky had at that point hundreds of questions which no one had ever been able to answer to his satisfaction, ranging from scientific questions about the veracity of the Old Testament’s narrative (‘woman very clearly wasn’t taken from man’; ‘ancient humans were not vegetarians,’ he elaborated) to questions concerning the claims made in the Talmud (‘the laws of cooking on Shabbos and kosher cooking laws don’t match up with thermodynamics’; ‘bugs don’t spontaneously generate from plants’). It felt like there was a separate, unsatisfying answer for every burning question. And as Dawkins spoke, Yanky realised that there was one answer that took care of all of his questions – God did not write the Torah because He does not exist. ‘So that was basically it for me,’ he said.
Then there's lying to the children -- Moishe tells us the pain involved with having to act like a believer for his children and wife.
‘I’m desperate to tell my kids the truth,’ Moishe confessed. And yet, he doesn’t dare. Moishe is not alone. Many I spoke to stay inside the confines of their Orthodox lives for fear of harming their children, opting instead to let them continue to believe what they themselves now consider to be fairy tales.

‘To me, lying to my children was the worst part,’ said another undercover atheist – I’ll call him Yisroel. Yisroel has a very good job – he makes in the high six figures – and is very attached to his wife and children, the opposite of the stereotype that prevails in religious communities surrounding those who lose the faith, namely that they are ‘liars who want to do drugs, cheat on their wives and eat cheeseburgers’, as he put it. Yisroel’s greatest wish is that his children will learn to think critically and figure things out for themselves. But he has no plans to accelerate that process. ‘I take it one day at a time; I don’t have any long-term goal about that,’ he told me when we met in a Manhattan deli on a rainy afternoon.
I would quote the entire thing. It's powerful stuff. However, I instead invite you to go read the piece.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Censorship: Turkish Court Blocks Atheist Group's Website

Just look at these 'hateful' atheists! (source)
Don't the people in the picture above look like a friendly happy group having a harmless good time? Honestly, this could be summer in Montreal. Why not check out this Facebook photo stream where you'll find dozens of people having enormous fun, laughing, eating, attending lectures, participating in activism -- not a shred of anything even slightly threatening... unless you feel threatened by freethinkers unshackled from blind religious belief. This is Turkey's first atheist group to have acquired their own building, Ateizm Derneği (Atheist Association).

Well, a Turkish court -- no doubt influenced somehow by Lord Erdogan -- has decided that this vibrant group must be silenced online.
The Atheism Association, the first of its kind in any Muslim-majority country, was officially founded in Istanbul’s Asian-side neighborhood of Kadıköy in April 2014. However, the Gölbaşı 2nd Civil Court of Peace in Ankara has finally moved to block the association’s website, according to the group’s statement on March 3, 2015.

As of March 4, Turkish internet users could not access without using tools to bypass blockings, such as a VPN.

The court ruling cites Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Law, which forbids “provoking the people for hate and enmity or degrading them.”
I like that language, finally moved -- as if everyone expected it to happen. Right! Just look at this hate- and enmity-provoking behaviour!

You probably don't see it, right? These are my people, my tribe and I'm not absolutely certain but I'd wager they are your people too. This is a vibrant and thriving community who apparently know how to enjoy life and who are plugged into the political map of the country.

Oh, that could be it. They are an obviously viable secular progressive alternative to Emperor Erdogan's Brave New Turkey where secular schools are all replaced with Muslim religious schools, clerics are trying to ban soap operas because of excessive lip-o-suction and people are thrown into jail for offending him. Read all about it on my blog. The powers that be obviously found this group a threat.

Eric Adriaans from CFI Canada posted the following letter from Ateizm Derneği over at Canadian Atheist.
As I read your email, let me update you on what is currently going on over here in Istanbul, it seems to be right in line with what ICABL* was created for.  A Turkish Court in Ankara has recently ordered block[ed] Access to 49 web addresses, including several Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and the Association of Atheism (Ateizm Dernegi) web page.  According to the court order, blocked web sites are accused of “containing messages, images and drawings that openly denigrate the religious values of a part of the population”.

Among the 49 addresses, there are:
3 Twitter accounts
8 WordPress blogs, 2 other blogs
3 News sites
9 Facebook posts and accounts
10 online forum posts
1 Youtube video
1 Google plus page
10 other web pages
Charlie Hebdo web page in French and Wikipedia page in English
Association of Atheism web page and forum

Blocked content mainly consists of recent and historical drawings of Mohammed, posts about ISIS, drawings from Charlie Hebdo, and criticism of Islam and Mohammed. It appears that the collection is a result of extensive web research.  Association of Atheism web page seems to be the least offensive, since it contains only information about the Association’s activities and tasks. It looks like they couldn’t block the whole site. The domain can be accessed without ‘www’ in the beginning. Google links to sub pages also work fine. Blocking access to web pages is Turkey’s 21st century method of book burning. However, the block is only effective within borders of Turkey, which makes the method more clumsy and awkward. Association of Atheism has already been preparing to appeal the order.
*ICABL stands for the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws ( I've written about the new initiative before -- it's time you checked them out.

It's ironic to me that the association had to install a panic button, directly connected to the police because they were getting death threats. Who are the dangerous ones here? Who are the hateful ones?

With Turkey clutching desperately to what shreds of a secular society remains after years of Erdogan's push towards religious purity, groups like this could be part of a dwindling effort to keep freedom of expression alive in great Istanbul.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Interview With Founder of 'World's First Atheist Orphanage'

Five days ago, Hank Pellissier from the Brighter Brains Institute -- at which I'm an honorary fellow -- sent me information about an ambitious new project he was fundraising for. He is teaming up with Bwambale Robert, Director of the Kasese Humanist Primary School to build the world's First Atheist Orphanage in strongly religious Uganda.

I'll admit that at the time I was too wiped to check it out the piece he included in his email by VICE writer Zoltan Istvan, a futurist transhumanist who is also a fellow at Brighter Brains. (Note that this organization is open to both religious and atheist contributors so there is a fair bit of what many would consider woo. However, they have done excellent work in Uganda.)

You can find the GoFundMe fundraiser page for the new orphanage here.

A few days later, Hemant Mehta picked up the story on his Friendly Atheist blog. Although he was open to the idea of a secular orphanage, there was something about the active promotion of atheist values which rubbed him the wrong way.
"Pellissier, who considers himself open to spirituality, says that orphans who are religious will be welcomed into the orphanage. But the education, culture, and emphasis will be on an atheist and secular experience."

I hope this is just a case of sloppy journalism and that they mean the education and culture the kids receive just won’t be religious in nature… but if they’re crossing the line into actively teaching kids that God doesn’t exist, I’d feel very uncomfortable telling anyone to support them. If Christians did something similar, we’d call it brainwashing. Even though I agree with the Humanists on the God issue, it’s something the children must figure out for themselves.

Teach them how to ask questions. Teach them to respect the scientific method. But don’t teach them to reject God before they’re old enough to fully understand how religion works.

Atheists can help these kids without pressuring them to adopt a non-religious stance themselves.

The crowdfunding campaign page is here if you’re interested. I have no plans to make a donation.
This made for some colourful and energetic exchange on the comments section. I shared some of Hemant's concerns and so contacted Bwambale Robert to ask some follow up questions. You'll find the interview below.

I can see this possibly being a sort of rift issue in the atheist and Humanist community as it grows and increases its ability to provide education, child care and even healthcare to groups in need across the world. How much should we encourage the questioning of religion and normalize or even champion atheism within highly dependant and vulnerable groups?

Is it acceptable if the orphanage founders have as one of their mission goals the reduction of religion -- otherwise known as an increase in atheism? I would say yes, but many might consider this too much like religious orphanages with goals to indoctrinate kids. These people might only see organizations like Doctors Without Borders as being an acceptable model.

Meanwhile, for those who do see religion (read: superstitious belief) as part of the problem, goals to reduce its grip on younger generations may seem noble. It would then boil down to how secularism is actually implemented and how open and free critical thinking and unfettered exploration of ideas is encouraged. Are children with religious beliefs still respected or is atheist dogma forced upon them?

Of course, from an outside observer -- when the rubber hits the pavement -- a properly secularly run orphanage is indistinguishable from an atheist freethinker orphanage, regardless of anyones motives or personal religious beliefs. Religious and non-religious both can do secularism.

Except for one thing. Unlike any other orphanage, when a child or parent asks a caretaker a question in confidence about a god, the answer here will be unique. Those working at this institution will be the first in the country to not be afraid to honestly answer, as atheists, that there is not evidence for a god; that they are atheists and that's Okay -- they are still good people. I wonder how often these words are spoken in a country like Uganda.

Now, without further ado, the interview. This was done informally over email and Bwambale's mother tongue is not English. Aside for a couple of very minor corrections, I left the responses intact.

1) Describe the primary goal of this new orphanage and what sets it apart from other orphanages in the region.
To improve lives of orphaned children in our community through allowing them have access to the basics of life and enjoy a better life like the rest of children.

What sets it apart from other orphanages is that its foundation is secular in nature where we shall allow children to grow freely without any dogma or indoctrination whether Atheism, Humanism or religion.

We shall however expose the children to the scientific method where we shall enlighten them on the usefulness of science in attempting to improve life on this planet. We plan to promote evidence based learning in compliance our government policy of promoting science and technology in combating global challenges.

Children from our orphanage will be well versed with ideas from anything that might come across their minds ranging from religion, religions, our universe and what is beyond. We shall emphasize a lot on promoting critical thinking.

There will be no worshiping of any religion, performing rituals or orphans putting on holy signs as done in religious based orphanages but we shall try as much as we can to respect their religions and if the children so wish will be allowed to practice their beliefs in nearby places of worship but not at the orphanage - On this point, we shall be available to defend ourselves why such practices are not considered important.
2) How old will these children be?
Orphans into the orphanage will not be more than 18 years. Only vulnerable orphans will be considered after thorough screening. We will try as much to keep the numbers low but we shall try help out other orphans outside the orphanage access education or skills training at the orphanage.
3) Will there be religious instruction of any kind? Will there be any discussion of atheism? If so, how will religions and atheism be presented?
There will be No religious instruction of any kind, yes, there will always be a discussion on Atheism, Religion, Humanism, Free thought and Science.

Religion will be analyzed on comparative terms as they are so many and children should have a right to information. The same goes to Atheism, Humanism or Science.

All in all, we shall not be recommending children to take to any side like most religious founded orphanages do but will be up to the orphans to make decisions of their own when they grow up.
4) If a child professes their faith in a God or religion, how would the caretakers react?
If a child professes their belief in a god or gods, we shall not stop him or her. It will be there right to choose what to believe in.
5) If a child asks if God or religion is true, how would the caretakers answer?
If a child asks if God or religion is true, we shall simply say, we don’t know because we have no tangible evidence that proves he or she exists, we are not even sure whether god is male or female or both. Keeping that side, there is existence of multiples of god so far invented and so it might be very hard for one to know which god you are talking about.

On the side of religion, it remains the same story as there exists very many religions, some believing in one god and divided still, while others believe in other gods and each religion claiming to be the most right with a ticket to heaven or eternity. The same explanation applies. It will however be a greater task for us to enlighten children about the different types of religions we have all over the world.
6) Will the orphanage use the word 'atheist' in its name in Uganda? If so, is there any danger incurred to caretakers or children for using this word?
The orphanage name is BiZoHa, its an acronym of 3 personalities who have done commendable work in the world of charity, am actually the one who proposed that name, i decided it as i wanted a neutral orphanage that will welcome people from all walks of life whether you are a believer or non believer. 
7) How does instruction at this orphanage differ than the school?
The Orphanage will be no different from the stand and vision of Kasese Humanist Primary School, as usual no dogma, no indoctrinations with an element of religious tolerance.
8) Now that the fundraising goal has been met, where will the orphanage be situated physically and how close will it be to the school? Has the building been constructed yet?
The orphanage will be situated in Muhokya along Mpondwe - Fort Portal road, a distance of 10 Kilometers from the KHPS Main campus at Railway and 15 Kilometers from the KHPS Permanent home in Rukoki, Kasese District.

Constructions of the orphanage commences on April 15 this year. We are beginning with a dormitory to house 15 orphans and will be supervised by a caregiver with good reputation. Other buildings on the orphanage site will be constructed in the future as funds permit.

At the orphanage, we plan to put some classes for learning to help out orphans there access education but this will be strengthened in the course of the year, we plan also to put in vocational skills training to help out vulnerable youth acquire skills to pave their way to economic self reliance.
9) What are the next steps for moving forward with the orphanage? How can people get more information on this? How can they help?
Next step for moving forward with the orphanage requires full support of this noble project, it does not matter whether you are religious, Atheist, Humanist or Non believer, the concern here is to rescue the orphans so that they get chance to live meaningful decent lives.

More information about the orphanage can be sourced out by following the Brighter Brains Institute website for updates. You can send your donation through their website. People can be of help by donating finances generously to this cause via the Brighter Brains Institute USA.

Spreading the message about the orphanage to friends and families on social networks.
Liaising with us by holding fundraising drives in your respective areas in support of BiZoHa Orphanage.

Choosing to volunteer at the orphanage and get chance to motivate the orphans that they are very important in nation building.
10) are there any other concerns -- specifically from the article at Friendly Atheist and its comments -- you would like to address?
I thank Hemant Mehta of being concerned by making a simple write up on the orphanage on his blog however i was almost turned off when he came out with a title saying that he can’t donate to this orphanage. I guess the word First Atheist Orphanage was the catchment word that turned off most readers, as friends in the struggle for secularism, those were his opinions but i think he rushed to air out that, i know some people in the free thought world are not comfortable with the tag Atheist..... This has to stop.

We all don’t subscribe to fairies, fables or myths and i think we should all unite and support causes of this nature. The plight of Orphans in Uganda needs attention and we as people of no belief, we have a role to play in saving this.

Most of the concerns on the Friendly Atheist Blog were attended to by myself, i realized there was lots of concerns aired out which is good and very important. Your comments were eye openers.

Like I said, we are breaking the monopoly that religious people alone have no right to own orphanages, people with no belief also care about orphans. I think this will send a signal to religious people that we are not sitting back when we see some injustices committed in the name of religion; we have had of pedophile priests, pastors defiling children, children made to do hard labor, children being molested or abused.

At BiZoHa Orphanage, we shall try our level best to protect the orphans from these upheavals, we shall try to expose them to the world view where they will be made to understand better the world around them, how to be morally upright, how to think big and be beneficial to developing ourselves to mention but a few.

On this platform, i thank very much Sean McGuire for being concerned to ask me these questions and will try my best to ensure this orphanage is on track and in line with the mission and goals of Kasese Humanist Primary School.

With Science, we can progress.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Saudi Authorities Tackling 'Extremism' In Schools

When you've got a country with a special police force for raiding florist shops on Valentine's Day, and it arrests Christians -- including children, and it throws bloggers into jail for simply stating that everyone should have access to free speech, and it has a crack squad of witch police to round up witches and people who use magic so they might be routinely beheaded, and said country claims to be tackling extremism -- well, it's really time to take notice at precisely what the hell they consider to be 'extremism!'

recent story in the Saudi Gazette recounts how authorities in the Kingdom are meeting to explore how to protect schools from extremism -- which comes from education!
EXTREMISM, a pioneer school investor said, has unfortunately been a product of education. Therefore, he said, there must be a comprehensive pre-admission observation of individuals at pedagogical colleges which prepare them to be future teachers.
At first I thought they're just threatened by secular, freethought education (they are). However, they also seem to be talking about fundamentalist religion -- which is ironic because as a country, they are hard to beat on that department.
There is a trend now, said experts among youth. This trend, they said, has two extremes. While a group pushes toward extremism in religion, others push their extremism to atheism
When it came to radical religion in educationI thought of the very real risk of religious extremist schools all over. Just last year, six schools were identified in the UK as being too radically Islamic and just recently, a whole village just outside Montreal was discovered to have nothing but extreme Orthodox Jewish teachings which ill-equipped students for the real world.

When it came to secularism in education, I thought of places like Sweden or Japan. It's hard for me to figure out what the threat is.

Not to hard in Saudi Arabia, where atheism has been classified as terrorism! The story specifies that terrorism tied to Islam is only extremist Islam -- it made no reference to what sort of atheism it is that compels atheist terrorists. I guess any atheism does.

Here is, apparently, how this understanding of extremism first manifests itself.
Farida Farsi spoke to Saudi Gazette about encouragement earlier accorded to students bragging about their efforts in smashing a television set at home, or cutting what they believe is indecent clothes of their mothers and other female family members.
Right, that sounds like extremist or radical religion to me. It's unlikely a radical atheist would do this. Apparently essential teachings of Islam (tm) will resolve this. Furthermore, if the person has swung too far into religion or too far outside, one religious scholar believes that a little negotiation will help.
Ali Badahdah, a religious scholar, said that based on his observations and review of some 22 studies conducted on extremist individuals, various efforts to negotiate with them have provided positive effect. He said nothing stands impossible and these people can still have room to come back and change their views.
I wonder if the negotiation with a young atheist might go something like this?:

Scholar: Are you an atheist?
Atheist: Yes.
Scholar: This means you're a terrorist and you'll be killed by the state. Are you still an atheist?
Atheist: No.

Given the country's atrocious record on human rights and freedom of expression and their brutal suppression of any religion other than Islam as well as atheists, I find this part of the article the punchline.
This, she said, is seen as each person does not accept anything other than his/her own thoughts. “We have to focus on accepting others as they are and seek happiness for all.

Al-Harthi believes that the national dialogue is an achievement as it provides a platform for people coming from different backgrounds and carrying different believes to sit at the same table and respect each others’ views.
You mean so long as everyone's point of view matches state-sanctioned religious beliefs and opinions? Right. Keep working on that because you have a long long way to go.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Greek Clerics Claim Figure of Jesus Started 'Crying' After First Atheist PM Elected

The tears appear to be pretty much all over the icon (source)
Jesus Wept! Or perhaps more accurately, sweated profusely.
A religious icon of Jesus Christ in a small village in Greece has been “weeping” ever since the anti-austerity party Syriza won the Greek elections at the end of January, witnesses say.

According to Corinth TV and the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, the icon, which dates from early last century and is housed in the church of St. Nicholas in the village of Asprokampos, Corinthia, has been secreting an oily liquid since the left-wing party leader Alexis Tsipras, stormed to power on January 26th.
The Pappas Post connects a couple of dots for us:
According to local news sources, the icon, which dates from early 20th century and is housed in the church of St. Nicholas in the village of Asprokampos in the region of Corinthia, has been secreting an oily liquid since Alexis Tsipras— an atheist, became the country’s new prime minister.
I've reported about this first atheist Greek prime minister before. Nothing makes idols of Jesus more sad or anxious than an atheist in charge.

Apparently, locals are now guarding the icon and are refusing anyone from taking any samples of the tears while a senior church official would like scientific tests to be done. Naturally, all we know for now is there is liquid on a painted icon.

One journalist, Yiannis Baboulias, says that this sort of icon crying business is pretty common behaviour for some religious groups in the country. It seems possible they do this sort of thing whenever they feel sad and need a hug.
Many Greeks have dismissed the news story as little more than a joke. The Greek investigative journalist, Yiannis Baboulias, told Newsweek, “The weeping icon is an urban legend that resurfaces every now and again in Greece. Stories like this happen all the time, and this one is really funny.”

Baboulias says the aim of stories about ‘weeping’ religious icons are usually a way for the Greek Orthodox Church to attract more attention and followers. “What is really happening,” according to Baboulias, “is simply that the paint on the icon is starting to leak due to environmental changes.”
Well that's a better theory than, well, magick. Let's tentatively posit that.

Baboulias also suggested that the caretakers of this icon are a rather political lot who might just project their own sadness that the extreme right wing Golden Dawn party didn't win the election and some marxist atheist is in charge.

Jesus really cares about politics in Greece but he's too tied up at the moment to do anything but cry about things.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Oops! When Egyptian Government Said Less Censorship They Actually Meant MOAR CENSORSHIP!

Before and After story images from the CairoScene story about Egypt's big censorship backpedal/clarification.
In the past couple of days, Egyptian cinephiles were excited about the government promising not to nanny them so much by cutting out all the nudie bits of movies and banning things left right and centre. There was some hope. Well, cynicism was pretty high.
Initially we here at CairoScene were jumping in joy when we heard that films would no longer be censored, however reading into his statements leaves one to believe that nothing has really changed. Hopefully, there will be a noticeable difference come April, however we aren’t holding our breath and will believe it when we see Scarlett Johansson's boobs in an Egyptian cinema. 
Well it turns out the censorship board in Egypt were only fooling. There will be no Scarlett Johansson breasts bared for Egyptian movie goers. Actually, the government actually means to censor more -- the words just came out as less because I guess that helps PR or something.
Lost in translation, the Chairman of the Censorship Bureau has spent the last couple of days clarifying what he meant when he attempted to explain the implementation of the PG system. His initial announcement was misinterpreted to suggest that they would stop censoring or deleting scenes from films, however that is not the case as Abd El Sattar Fathy clarifies that “Of course, if it is a scene of explicit sex it will be removed, images of male and female genitalia as well as nudity scenes will also be removed."
Sex is bad. Penises are bad. Nudity is likely codeword for that unmentionable female pubic region, women's breasts, everyone's bums: all bad. This is pretty tragic, but there is more.
Fathy continues to hammer the message home saying that “any movie that is clearly promoting pornography, homosexuality or that is damaging Egypt’s relations with some specific countries will still be rejected,” adding that the new measure "would not prevent" deleting scenes of "atheism" or that incite "sectarian strife." That would suggest that they would have banned V for Vendetta, which was released and beloved by Egyptians during Mubarak reign, who in turn started selling the iconic masks in Tahrir during the uprising. 
Indeed, on top of all the other expected hangups with things which are, frankly, not a problem, they add that they just may need to delete scenes of atheism... whatever that is. The minister in charge got ticked off when challenged.
... who is going to protect anyone going to the movies or watching tv?
Dude, that's the whole point of a rating system! It's so that I can feel reasonably safe taking my five year old to a movie and so I'll know that it would be best he not watch Nymphomaniac II, Game of Thrones, or The Ring. Does he believe Egyptians are children? Does he think they are like a flock of dumb sheep?
The short answer to his question is yes, we do want you to cancel censorship, as we are old enough to make our own decisions and with access to the internet will watch what we want uncensored anyway. The new changes to be implemented will largely be used to prevent children from watching films not suitable to their age group.
Adult Egyptians wear their big-boy and big-girl pants. They're grown-ups who want to make up their own minds about what they can or cannot watch using rating systems as guidelines. Whatever the government is afraid of, they are stuck in another era. Egyptians are already watching what they want to on the Internet. Other than total isolation North Korea-style, there is no stopping this now.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Egypt to 'Relax' Censorship of Foreign Films -- Unless They're Porn or 'Atheist'

Lebanese pop star Haifa Wehbe's latest film was banned in Egypt for being too risque. (source)
It seems like ratings for movies in Egypt have always been stuck at 'G'. You can forget about watching Nymphomaniac in Cairo -- well, you likely can watch it but all the sex scenes will be cut out mercilessly. What's the fun in that?

It seems that recently, the government's censorship board has discovered that Egyptians adults do not wish to be treated like babies -- and they have access to the Internet, where they can watch the uncensored movies anyway.

So now the plan is to stop hacking and slashing films and introduce a rating system similar to Canada and the United States. The article calls it the PG rating system. This is all well and good, I guess, except it seems like they could actually be going to use this to just ban films outright which are pornographic and atheist.
This announcement has been something Egyptians have wanted forever, however there is still reason to be skeptical as the chairman explains "we are not going to censor movies anymore, and we are not going to delete sexual scenes, but we are not allowing any movie that calls for atheism, or porn movies."
Perhaps what's really meant is anything more mature than PG will simply be banned? So now Egyptians are being seen as 13 year olds rather than 5 year olds then? As for atheism, I've reported before about how Egypt is at war with atheists. Interesting how this policy trickles all the way down to popular cinema.

The writers at CairoScene suspect that this is just more of the same government censorship and control. Because the government agency ultimately gets to decide what's pornography or atheism.
It is hard to know exactly if that means anything will really change, as the labeling of any film as atheist or pornography is left to interpretation, and may just result in the film being banned as opposed to releasing a censored version. As it stands, the chairman points out that he has only banned one film, Ridley Scott’s controversial film, Exodus. The decision to ban the film was made after talking to historians who pointed out inaccuracies, and was ultimately refused for a supposed Zionist message.
Historical inaccuracies indeed.  I tend to agree with the writers that it will be a cold day in hell before they can see Scarlett Johansson's boobs in an Egyptian cinema. 

North Carolina Atheist Murders Three Muslim Students

Deah Barakat (left), Yusor Mohammad (centre), Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (right).
Edit: Foundation Beyond Belief is collecting money in honour of the three victims of this crime. The money is being collected for the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation as Deah Barakat was passionate about this cause (see bottom of post). So far, over $5,000 has been raised.

Last night, Craig Stephen Hicks, brutally murdered innocent people.  He slayed a young married couple and the wife's sister -- shot execution style. The three victims are Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

This is absolutely horrendous, and my thoughts and condolences are with the families of these people, who were senselessly murdered by what by all appearances is a mentally deranged individual.

The story is still stabilizing in the media, but so far, we know that Hicks has stated that he killed them over a parking dispute.
But in a statement released at 10 a.m. Wednesday, police said they believe the murders were caused by an “ongoing neighbor dispute over parking.” Police said Hicks is fully cooperating with the investigation.
There are also legitimate concerns that this was a hate-motivated crime because the victims were all Muslim and Hicks was virulently anti religious. I hope his wife may fill us in further on Hicks' motives in the coming days.

Needless to say, this is not even close to an appropriate excuse to murder anyone. I would never even consider killing anyone over something so trivial, nor would any reasonable human being. I've had parking disputes with my own neighbours over a shared lane between our houses. No Parking signs were erected in windows and city documents specifying property lines were exchanged. Both sides remained civilized throughout and we worked things out.

These neighbours are Muslim and I am an atheist and an anti-theist.

I'm bringing this up because Hicks is an atheist and an anti-theist, just like me. He runs a Facebook page where he spoke up for equality for atheists, LGBT rights and the problems with religions and superstitious belief -- just like I do. In fact, other than the gun fetish, any outside observer wouldn't be able to tell who was more radical based a comparison of his Facebook and my blog -- I suspect I might actually be seen as more radical.

So, he's one of us, I own that. You will not be hearing any No True Scotsman arguments from me. I'm even willing to admit that his disdain for Islam could have made it easier for him to pull the trigger on the three Muslims he killed last night. I would never even consider doing such a heinous thing myself, but I can understand this on a purely intellectual level. I'm not certain how much religion had to do with Hicks pulling the trigger, but things usually do not exist in a vacuum.

What's different between him and me -- and the vast majority of atheists and anti-theists out there, is that my beef is not with people, it has always been with certain ideas. Being an anti-theist doesn't mean you are against theists, it means you are against the whole notion of a god and you believe it is harmful to society. Murdering people over their beliefs is never right. You are killing the free exchange of ideas, you are going against Freethought. It makes you no less despicable than the barbarians who run ISIL.

Hicks is a violent man. This has nothing to do with his atheism.

I can see the atheist community owning this and loudly condemning it. It's good. I keep asking myself what we can do as a community to make sure this doesn't happen again, but I just cannot think of any way. I can't see any tell-tale red flags in hindsight. There is no kill the Muslims doctrine in any holy books to point to. All I can do is offer my sorrow and condolences to the families of these innocent victims. It just doesn't seem like enough.

One of the victims, Deah Barakat, was running a charity to help provide dental relief to Syrian children (he was studying Dentistry). This morning it was at 50K, but it's now reached over 100K. Perhaps donating to that is something we can do to try to make things not so completely broken.

UPDATE: Wife of Craig Hicks, Karen Hicks just had a press conference where she stated her husband's actions did not have anything to do with religion. Either way, this action was completely insane, heinous and unjustified.
UPDATE 3:15 P.M.: In a press conference, Hicks' wife of seven years, Karen, said she "never would have expected this," but said that the shooting had nothing to do with race or religion, and everything to do with parking problems.

"This incident had nothing to do with religion or victims’ faith but instead had to do with the longstanding parking disputes that my husband had with the neighbors," she said, choking back tears. "He often champions on his Facebook page for the rights of many individuals. Same sex marriages, abortion, race, he just believes that everyone is equal. Doesn’t matter what you look like or who you are or what you believe."

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