Showing posts with label freethought. Show all posts
Showing posts with label freethought. Show all posts

Monday, 2 November 2015

Wife of Hacked Bangladeshi Blogger is Canadian & Needs Your Help

Tareq Rahim and Monika Mistry
On May 30th, Bangladeshi secular blogger Tareq Rahim married Canadian citizen Monika Mistry. Because of the long history of brutal attacks on secular bloggers and their associates in this secular democracy, Monika feared for Tareq's life. On Saturday, her worst fears were confirmed. Tareq was slashed and left to bleed to death in a locked office by a pack of raving religious extremists.

CFI Canada has released a statement about Tareq and Monika - neither actual atheists, but rather secularists - imploring us to contact our government, to help Tareq somehow survive a country where even the police seem to drag their feet to protect anyone on the terrorists' hit list.
Monika Mistry is a Canadian citizen who was in contact with CFIC on the day of her spouse’s brutal victimization by people who can only be considered faith-based terrorists.  During a heart-wrenching conversation full of desperate concern and worry, Monika Mistry told us about the couple’s May 30th, 2015 marriage in Bangladesh.  Mistry and Rahim are a mixed-faith marriage – one of the couple being Muslim and the other Hindu. Although here in Canada such mixes are honoured and respected for their ability to spread diversity and tolerance, it is a situation that is often looked down-upon by the community and families in Bangladesh.

With their marriage so recent, Mistry was reluctant to see Rahim remain in unstable and dangerous Bangladesh, but their plan was to make-do until they could complete Immigration Canada’s paperwork that would enable the couple to reunite in Canada. Unfortunately the terrorists found Rahim first.

Mistry has told CFIC, “I am so frightened for Tareq. I am most afraid that when he is released from hospital that there are people waiting in the street to attack him again.”  In the hospital, Tareq Rahim has a modicum of security. On the streets and even in his home, protection is not available.  We know from the murder of Avijit Roy and the brutal assault on Rafida Bonya Ahmed that police and thousands of people will stand by as machete-wielding fanatics kill a target.  We also know from the murder of Niloy Neel that attackers will enter a person’s home to carry out their threats.
The most recent reports I can find, from sources I'm rather uncertain of, say that Rahim is still in critical condition and may lose an arm.

Through all of this, I am stunned at the relative media silence I've come across here in Canada - either in French or English. Meanwhile, we're seeing a protest in London by the Bangladesh Community Blog Alliance.

Publishers in Bangladesh are burning books in protest urging an apparently lethargic government and police force to take real action to prosecute and protect.
Rallies were also held in other cities and towns to demand more protection for publishers, bloggers and writers, some of whom have fled the country or gone into hiding.

“The people who have so far fallen victim to the attacks are thinking people, those who believe in freedom of expression, and those who believe in secular values. A series of killings have taken place but now the focus is on publishers ... I feel absolutely traumatised,” said Mohiuddin Ahmed, a publisher in Dhaka.
What can we do as Canadians? We can write our government and prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau. Remember that it's always better to use your own words, but a letter is always better than no letter, so CFI Canada has provided the following sample letter:
To the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

It has come to my attention that one of the victims of the October 31, 2015 attacks by faith-based terrorists in Dhaka, Bangladesh is the spouse of a Canadian citizen.  Mr. Tareq Rahim, an intellectual and blogger, was attacked for exercising what Canadians enjoy every day – the right to freedom of expression in an open, tolerant and secular society.

Tareq Rahim is married to Canadian citizen and resident, Monika Mistry; they have a mixed-faith marriage and had plans to enjoy their tolerant and diversity-inspired marriage here in Canada once they were able to complete Immigration Canada’s paperwork.  Unfortunately terrorists found Rahim first with an attempt to take his life.  I urge the Canadian government to assist Tareq Rahim and Monika Mistry to expedite this process and bring Tareq to Canada and his family to recover from this brutal attack.

I further ask you to answer the question put to CFI Canada by one of our Bangladeshi friends, “Is it really so hard for a country to provide protection for 40-50 people” targeted by known faith-based terrorists?  Is it really so hard to extend protection to intellectuals, secularists, humanists, atheists who have been strategically targeted to separate a country’s population from its secular foundations?

Prime Minister, let the first days of your new government include an act of compassion and concern for Canadians such as Monika Mistry whose greatest ambition is to enjoy Canada’s diversity, freedom and welcoming community.  Help us to reunite Tareq Rahim with his wife while he recovers from this brutal assault of faith-based terrorism.

Yours Truly,
You'll want to address it:
Justin Trudeau
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
His constituency information is also on that page. It's also likely you could leave him a message or fax it.
Telephone: 613-995-8872
Fax: 613-995-9926
Remember that Justin is plugged in to the Internet, unlike older politicians. So you can also probably send him the letter at or tweet him at

You can also send a letter to your MP. Just check here.

The blog where many of the victims of these brutal attacks posted, Mukto-Mona, has even reprinted the CFI statement. Their eyes are on Canada and as Canadians, we should take the lead and fight for freedom of expression in Bangladesh. We need to make a counter example - that our country believes in the principles of human rights and is willing to stand up against murderous religiously motivated terrorists.

(Image source)

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Bangladeshi Islamist Terrorists Hack Atheist Bloggers & Publishers

Slain publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan
Details are still a bit confusing, but it appears as if barbarous religiously motivated murderers have attacked two secular bloggers and two publishers in Bangladesh. All of this happened earlier today, virtually at the same time - which suggests a well orchestrated attack.

Here's what I've been able to figure out so far.

Faisal Arefin Dipan

Faisal was the publisher of Avijit Roy,  who was hacked to death by lunatics in February.  Faisal was cut down today by assailants who have obvious contempt for freedom of speech in his office.
Faisal Arefin Dipan, who ran 'Jagriti Prokashony', was hacked to death in his office on the second floor of Aziz Supermarket at Shahbagh on Saturday, blogger and online activist Mahmudul Haque Munshi told
He died at the hospital of his wounds.
'Jagriti Prokashony' manager Md Alauddin told " When I entered the office around 5:30pm , Dipan was lying in a pool of blood. There were deep cuts on his neck and upper shoulder."

Ahmedur Rashid Tutul 

Just hours before Dipan was murdered, another publisher, and friend of Avijit Roy, was killed. Two bloggers were with him at the time. All three were locked in the office from the outside and police had to break the lock to recover them.
Witnesses told that the assailants hacked Tutul before locking up him and a few others in the office from outside.

Ahmedur Rashid Tutul (File Photo) Ahmedur Rashid Tutul (File Photo) Police rushed to spot and rescued three people from the spot and took them to the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, Mohammadpur police OC Jamal Uddin Mir told’s Liton Haider reported from the spot that bloodstains were found in room. Residents of the building told him they had also heard sounds of firing.

Tutul had filed a complaint with police after being threatened with death on the Facebook following the attack on Roy and his wife earlier this year.
Word on the street is that the Bangladesh police and suspiciously ineffective in protecting these bloggers and publishers, who are clearly at risk.
Some secular groups also blamed the government for failing to provide protection.

Ganajagaran Mancha spokesperson Imran H Sarker said these attacks prove the "law enforcing agencies have totally failed".

"It is also not possible to carry out these attacks without connivance of some in the government," Sarker told reporters at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Last word I've found is that Tutul's condition is critical.

Ranadipam Basu

Blogger Ranadipam Basu was with Rashid Tutul in the office at the time of the attack. He was also badly hacked and posted a grim status update on his Facebook while he, Dipan and another writer were locked in the office, bleeding to death.

“Kubaise ami Tutul bhai ar Tareq” [They hacked us – Tutul, Tareq and me].
Last word I've found on Basu is he's undergoing treatment in the hospital for serious injuries.

Tareque Rahim

Rahim was the second blogger in the office with Tuhul. He was also seriously injured and was brought to hospital. Last word I have on him is he's still in hospital and his condition, like the now deceased Tuhul - is grave.
They all were hacked on the head, said Sentu Das, an assistant sub-inspector of the hospital’s police camp. Among them, the condition of Tutul and Tareque was said to be grave.
It's urgent that these bloggers and their publishers be saved from Bangladesh and brought to safer lands (note: I say safer not safe).

I don't have any more words for this yet, other than that freedom of speech, expression and religion (or lack thereof) in Bangladesh is now being hacked to death by religious zealots and the government there seems completely unable or completely disinterested in saving it.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

ORF & Blasphemy Laws - Bad But Probably Not Contradicting

I cannot believe that the Conservatives are in a dead heat with the Liberals less than a month out from the election. I thought Canadians had more sense, but I guess we don't and we'll get what we deserve. You can already see the NDP's lead evaporate and it will likely continue to shrink until lefties like me either fear vote Liberal (bad) or become once again disenfranchised and drop out completely (worse).

Meanwhile, there is an interesting opinion piece in the Calgary Herald by Derek James From all about what huge hypocrite the country of Canada is with still having an anti-blasphemy law - Section 296 of the Code - (Quebec is trying to put a new bad one in as well), while at the same time instituting an Office of Religious Freedom, which he believes is supposed to criticize anti-blasphemy laws in other countries.
The continued existence of this criminal blasphemy law places Canada in an awkward and hypocritical position when it criticizes other countries of religious intolerance, and more so now that Canada has an Office of Religious Freedom intended to promote religious tolerance.
More specifically, he mentions Stephen Harper's defence of freedom of expression after the Muhammed cartoons ten years back sparked mass riots and even murder.
The cartoons were republished by newspapers around the world and more than 200 people died as protests and riots erupted in response. Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded, saying he regretted that Canadian newspapers had also published the cartoons, but that Canadians had a right to freedom of expression.

Two years ago, the Canadian government opened the Office of Religious Freedom, mandating the new office to protect and advocate for religious minorities, oppose religious hatred and intolerance, and promote the Canadian values of pluralism and tolerance around the world.
He goes on to mention that Canada's blasphemy laws were originally meant to protect Christianity from any criticism, but this has been extended to protect any religion under a recent ruling of Section 296 of the Criminal code.

This is all fine and well, but I think From just needs to follow the money. You'll find some pretty deep silence from the Office of Religious Freedom regarding one of the world's most egregious human rights offenders, Saudi Arabia. You'll find a few peeps here and there - seemingly when it silence could result in a PR issue (Raif Badawi), but for the most part, it's all crickets.

The answer? Follow the money to a 15 billion dollar arms contract with Saudi Arabia.

Note that the persecution in Saudi Arabia is likely directed equality towards all religions, but it's highly likely that the majority of victims are religious and they are dying at the hands of one of the world's most pernicious theocracy whose power is rooted in a strict adherence to Wahhabi Islam.

What about atheists abroad who are being killed and jailed for the very reasons of blaspheming? Well, one need only take a look at the original intention of Canada's blasphemy laws - protect religion and the oft stated goal of the Office of Religious Freedom - protect religion to see the answer. No action need be taken when the victim is not religion/religious, as there is no religion there to protect.

(Image source)

Monday, 10 August 2015

Days After Neel's Beheading, Bangladeshi Police Advise Bloggers to 'Stop Hurting Religious Feelings'

Niloy Neel
Just a few days after the fourth atheist blogger this year was murdered by religious lunatics - the blood not yet dry - Bangladeshi police have started up nice round of victim blaming.
Terming hurting one's religious sentiment as crime, Inspector General of Police (IGP) has advised the free thinkers not to hurt religious sentiment in their writings.

IGP AKM Shahidul Haque said: “According to laws if any one hurts one's feelings, he will be punished by the law.”

Advising the free thinkers, IGP said: “None should cross the limit.”
Basically, the eighty or so bloggers on the hit list - who are being killed off methodically - are screwed if they cannot get out a country where their own police force is either deliberated ineffective or completely incompetent.
 Asked about the prior list of the bloggers who might be under threat, he said they had no such list.
The terrorists who suppress freedom of speech and murder atheists need not do anything more - the police have just taken up their cause and have advised bloggers to shut up if they know what's good for themselves.
Before he was murdered on Friday, Niloy wrote in a facebook post that police didn't help him when he sought protection after he suspected that several people were following him.   
This is what the police did. They do not actually seem to help the bloggers, but rather let them get killed off. Then they do a pathetic job investigating the crimes. Now, just days after a blogger had his head chopped off, they are threatening the very ones most at risk with jail time if they speak their minds online.

Law enforcement appears to be either complicit or completely taken hostage.
According to Penal Code and ICT Act, hurting one's religious sentiment is a crime and according to the law one might be punished for 14 years for such offense, said the police chief.  
That just about settles it. Freedom from religion and free expression in Bangladesh are both apparently extinct. The bloggers need to be brought out of that country. Otherwise, we shall watch them be gruesomely murdered, one by one.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Charlie! Charlie! Freethinking Island Podcast Is Back!

Bathsheba, St Joseph, Barbados. (source)
Back in 2012, I wrote about my impression of the state of atheism in Barbados. Namely, I just didn't see any evidence of it at all.
A recent Google search brought me back zero Meetup groups, no Facebook organizations, zilch CFI or Humanist organizations.  Nothing.  I did find a few forum posts by ex-patriots like me living on the island who were feeling very isolated and alone.  These were given the advice to seek out Unitarian Universalist churches - that's the best advice.
There was some really scant evidence of some atheists on the island, but they were definitely not organized like they are here. If they existed, they were laying low.

Then I discovered fellow atheist blogger David Ince who blogs over at No Religion Know Reason. He contributed two guest posts (one, two) to this blog about the situation of atheism and religion on Barbados.

David was co-host on the only Caribbean freethinker podcast I'm aware of, Freethinking Island. This was a great show that truly outlined how matters of religion, atheism and critical thinking uniquely manifest themselves on the islands -- all of which are actually very different culturally. Things were good, but then the show went off the air last June.

Then that insanity about Charlie Charlie hit the island and they were shaken back into action!

Hosts David Ince and Joy Holloway-D'avilar are back! You can find episode notes on their Facebook page (subscribe).  You can listen on iTunes or on their page.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Militant Islamic Group Promises Not to Kill Non-Muslims if Sharia Law is Imposed!

Militant group is totally down with freedom of expression unless it challenges their religion. (source)
What a relief! Militant Islamic group Ansar al-Islam -- which considers itself a brother with Al Qaeda -- made a press release in the wake of those Bangladesh coldblooded broad daylight barbaric slaughterings of atheist bloggers, just to remind us that atheists are A-Okay, with some caveats.

They're totally cool with atheists and bloggers. Hey! You can blog all you like! However, blogging and atheism at the same time is probably not so cool. Just don't question Islam or Allah, you know - shut the fuck up or die, okay?
"We have no problem with the atheists bloggers, atheism or with other religions or belief but we will not tolerate anyone insulting our Prophet Muhammad. We are targeting those who are insulting our Prophet Muhammad in the name of atheism, the Ansar says.
I'll be looking forward to reading a whole new generation of Bangladeshi atheist blogs where people don't critique religion, God or anything, just to see how they'll get around having no content whatsoever.

Take comfort though, atheists. Because even if you are a Muslim, if you present Islam in a wrong manner through your writings or preach Islam the wrong way, you're also probably going to get hacked to death.
Those who present Islam in a wrong manner through his or her writings will be targeted. We will also target those who try and preach Islam the wrong way. You may be a well known writer or a poet. You have the right to think what you want, but you have no right to preach against Islam, the warning states. 
I know my favourite kind of poetry is self-censored religious fundamentalist terrorist group approved poetry. Yes, that's so inspiring.

This might sound like double speak bordering on the ridiculous. Or like some sort of completely psychotic threat...
The Ansar says that the targets are not the non-Muslims. Every non-Muslim has a right to live and think the way he or she wants. Being a non-Muslim does not make you our target, the Ansar says.

However if anyone is trying to advocate against Islam or trying to change the mind of the people, they will be targeted for sure, the Ansar has further warned.
Hey, you can go right ahead and say whatever you like. Just be aware that if you express your beliefs in public, we'll have to kill you.

Well, that makes me feel much better. Thanks for the reassuring message!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Finally a Book to Teach Your Kids Christian Mythology as Mythology

The book cover features the Hebrew myth of Lucifer being thrown out of heaven. (source)
Near the very beginning of my blog, back in 2012, I wrote about teaching religious mythology to son. Even though he was only two at the time, I was already thinking about what kinds of resources were out there and how I should expose him to often violent or misogynistic texts. I started with the story of Noah, then the Battle of Jericho and then the whole twisted idea of Easter.

Since then, I've been keeping a keen outlook for books about Christianity that aren't merely watered down Children's Bibles with the goal of spoonfed indoctrination. That's why I'm happy to see a Kickstarted campaign for Christian Mythology For Kids -- A Secular Family's Guide To Modern Christianity by freethinking mom Christine Trooien.

Watch this introduction video.

From their Kickstarter page:
Today, more than ever before, parents are raising their children free from religion. We have very few secular tools to teach our children about the Christian religions that still surrounds us. Secular children encounter bible stories from their peers, through pop culture, and from well intentioned relatives. Oftentimes the message that is delivered along with these stories is one of fear, promises or simply trying to convince young minds that these stories are somehow historical.

We wanted to introduce our children to christianity in a way that doesn't threaten them or coax them into thinking these stories are real. Children's books about Greek and Roman Mythology are wonderful, exciting stories that inform and entertain. Christian Mythology for Kids follows this format, but with a religion that some people still view as true. 
I've got a degree in Classics, and so I've studied the Greek and Roman mythologies. I've also read some Hittite and Sumerian myths as well. There are plenty of great children's anthologies of these myths out there and they do a good job of inoculating children from actually taking them seriously -- while teaching them valuable moral lessons (Aesop) or to never give up (Odyssey, Argonautica, Gilgamesh). 

A perfect analogy to this book would be a collection of Hindu mythology -- much of which would still be believed by millions of Hindus.
Exploring and discussing common Christian myths in a safe environment gives children an unbiased understanding before they encounter it in their daily lives. Christian Mythology for Kids also answers questions that children may have after hearing what their friends or relatives have to say. This book tells the story of each myth, followed by a brief logical or scientific explanation as to why it is mythology
At first I thought that this last part would surely be overkill. Why not just keep it to the story and let the child process it like any other myth? Then my wife reminded me that here in Montreal, we don't have people trying to cram it down our throats as being the slightest bit historical. I might run into the occasional it's a nice myth sort of Christian here in godless Montreal.

Based on the Kickstarter, Christine is located in Arizona -- quite different than secular Quebec! In places like Arizona, much of the United State south and much of Canada books like this would be absolutely necessary to provide children with the sorts of rebuttals necessary against even their school peers.

It would be different if there weren't people at every level of society pushing these fairy stories as fact!

Did I mention it also looks pretty entertaining for us grownups too?  Check it out!

Also go ahead and Like their Facebook page.

Monday, 4 May 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 1 May 2015

Egyptian Atheists Mobilizing Against Oppression With New TV Station

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

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

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

There is also a direct donation page using Paypal.

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

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

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

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, 8 January 2015

Canada Office of Religious Freedom Ambassador Officially Condemns Saudi Treatment of Raif Badawi

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.
Just today, I ended my last post about how jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi will receive public lashings just for blogging stuff -- likely in a matter of hours now -- like this:
I've been very frustrated with our government's apparent blindness to the monstrous human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps they will not be able to ignore the problem now.
I most recently expressed this frustration and pessimism in a previous post about how CFI Canada and Humanist Canada met with Office of Religious Freedom (ORF) ambassador Andrew Bennett in December.
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.
Well, it looks like they've finally done something they've never done before! They're finally denouncing Saudi Arabia's treatment of Raif!
Canada Denounces Flogging of Saudi Activist

January 8, 2015 - Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today issued the following statement:

“I am greatly concerned by reports that Saudi human rights activist Raif Badawi will tomorrow begin facing a punishment of 1,000 lashes, along with a 10-year prison sentence, for exercising his right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

“The public flogging outside a mosque in Jeddah each week for 20 weeks, with 50 lashes administered on each occasion, is a gross violation of human dignity, which I strongly denounce.

“Canada strongly upholds the fundamental freedoms of freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of association, among other inalienable human rights, as a basis on which society is established, thrives and progresses.

“The punishment being administered to Mr. Badawi is inhumane and is unbecoming of a society which seeks to advance itself within the family of nations. Such advancement must be predicated on respect for freedom of religion and other fundamental human rights. May clemency and mercy be shown in this case.”
It seems like multiple human rights groups have had to climb mountains to get to this point. This part is unfortunate, but Andrew Bennett has gone a ways to redeem himself in my eyes. It's literally the last minute, but I suppose there could have been other efforts going on behind the scenes and now they're going public because those have gone nowhere -- well, I'd like to believe that at least.


GREAT work, Mr. Bennett!

I'm also thinking that CFI Canada and Humanist Canada may have had something to do with this as well. They clearly explained the issues to Bennett back in December.

If you would like to speak up for Badawi, I would strongly recommend you call the Saudi embassy of your country directly. Here are instructions about how to do this here in Canada (bottom).

You should also consult the Amnesty International page on Badawi for more information about how to help!

- Thanks to Canadian Atheist's Veronica Abbass for bringing this to my attention.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Help CFI Canada Help Atheists at Risk!

Josh Estey/AusAID [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
If you're on the Centre For Inquiry Canada mailing list, you would have received an important email today announcing a new two-year initiative by the CFI. Being an atheist blogger, who covered the plight of persecuted atheist bloggers around the world, I thought I'd write about this here and quote a bit of it. It really does have the potential of becoming a pretty big deal.

The initiative centers around protecting free-thinkers around the world who dare to speak honestly about religion and their own non-belief. You know, countries where posting a picture of the Flying Spaghetti Monster just might get you into jail, a body part hacked off, or dead.
Here in Canada, expressing our opinions is a right we enjoy every day. Unfortunately, it's not the same everywhere. There are still many places where speaking out carries the threat and reality of torture and death. Centre for Inquiry Canada is taking a hard look at this issue and exploring what may be done to assist individuals who think and speak freely and as a result must seek asylum to avoid persecution for their opinions.

CFI Canada is embarking on a two-year project to research current legislation dealing with asylum seekers and refugee claimants of different sexuality, religious/non-religious, racial, and cultural backgrounds.
The ultimate goal of this project is to defend those who must seek asylum from governments and societies that would have them killed for coming out as free-thinkers. Three levels of support are envisioned as being crucial for its overall success.
  • question the rationality, and the fairness, of current legislation in the way it treats asylum seekers who are at the highest risk of having their cases denied because of an immigration prosecutor's personal bias, instead of the facts
  • educate Canadians about the facts of free-thought and free speech as life-threatening acts
  • mobilize the Canadian free-thinking community to provide support and information for individuals who are desperate for their lives.
This is more than simply speaking out against human rights violations and suppression of free expression. This is a call for mobilization to individuals across the country.

Listen, people are not being asked to quit their jobs and become immigration lawyers, lobbyists or social workers here. Everyone has skills they can bring to the table to make this work. For now, the best way anyone can help is by donating some money -- enough to get some infrastructure in place, to get things started.
Our financial target for this program is $200,000 over two years to cover staffing, research and legal costs as well as materials and equipment.  We also want to be in a position to provide material support and assistance to atheists and bloggers who are successful in reaching Canada.

We currently need $30,000 to launch our efforts: if every person who receives this message gives only $10, we can start immediately.
If you're skeptical about what the CFI could do to help people in immediate need, take a look at some of these e-mail correspondences from individuals at risk.  These are people are reaching out to the CFI for help. Now the goal is to put CFI into a position of being able to provide these people with real concrete support!
"I am atheist for about a year in secret because I live under Islamic domination. I am planning to apply for asylum in Canada do to threat of death in case of exposed. I wonder if your organization offers support for cases like my case or guidance," April 10, 2014.
Is there anything that can be done to rescue this young man from this desperate situation? From what I have read of the Canadian immigration process, he wouldn't stand a chance of qualifying for entry into Canada, Is there a chance he might qualify as a refugee on the grounds of 'religious' prosecution? Is there someone within the Canadian system that might help me?"
Here's a chat conversation I had with a Gaza atheist who was outed in a news article which I has posted about on my blog. Since then, both my post and the original article have been taken down to protect this person's safety.
hey, I'm sorry u put my life in risk now

i cant express that in front of Gazans people
edit ur blog

my life in risk

the islamic goverment here would kill me if they found out
Over the past few months, I have been trying to help this person the best I can. Asylum on the grounds of religious persecution is being explored and it looks like progress is being made, but I am just an atheist blogger!  There is a real need for organizations, right here in Canada, who can help with situations like this as people in oppressive countries out themselves or are outed as atheists. 

Religious would-be refugees sometimes have religious and ethnic communities within Canada to which they can reach out. However, dynamics can be seriously affected when the asylum seeker does not share the same religious belief as existing grassroots support networks within Canada -- like my Gazan friend above.

The threat doesn't even stop when asylum is achieved. Last year, I posted about Sharif Ahmed, an Ex-Bangladeshi atheist blogger who successfully got asylum here in Canada. Not too long afterward, I was asked by him to remove his picture from the post -- he was concerned for his safety right here in Canada.

The cases come in faster than I can report. Just recently there were the Saudi atheist bloggers who have dropped off the radar completely since being arrested.  There's Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who is in prison getting lashed every week in front of the mosque. The list goes on.

And don't expect our government to do anything at all. Their Office of Religious Freedom seems perfectly happy to allow governments like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bangladesh all the freedom they like to brutally abuse and torture atheists bloggers. Nope, not a peep from them.

So, interested in helping people like you and me who happen to blog or express themselves in environments who would see them killed for it? Check out this blog post over at CFI!:

Atheist Bloggers Risking Their Lives

You'll find a small donate button at the bottom of that post. People are being thrown into prison, tortured and killed in this world for speaking their minds... for doing what you do on Facebook every day. You can help us help them!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Man Is Like A Lobster

Queen Silver (source)
Paragraph from her talk Pioneers of Freethought, delivered by Queen Silver at age of 12 (1923).
Man is like a lobster, or a crab, anyway. When a fisherman catches a bucket of these shellfish, he does not have to put a cover on it to keep them from escaping. As soon as one crawls up to the top of the bucket, and seems about to gain his freedom, all the other crabs and lobsters proceed to, grab hold of his legs and pull him back down into the bottom of the bucket. In this way they are all kept safe for the fisherman. They save each other from freedom, and ultimately all of them get boiled alive, because they did not have brains enough to help one another. Have you not seen men act just exactly like these lobsters? When a man, or a woman, or a child, advances a step further toward free development of the mind, are there not plenty of other men, and women, and children waiting, watching and trying by every means in their power to drag down the one who has made the upward advance? Why, that is what William J. Bryan is doing, what the preachers are doing all the time. The lobster nature, inherited from their shellfish ancestors, who lived a hundred million years ago, makes them try to drag down their fellow men into the mire of superstition, from which they themselves do not want to escape.
 I'm reading up on her, so expect more later.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

$10,000 Goal Met! Thank You!

Because of funds coming in from other sources and is forcing all fundraisers to shut down May 23rd,  I brought my goal down to $10,000 and put out an appeal to donors to help me reach it. I was at around $9,000 at that time, so this would be one last push to the finish line!

Well, the donors came through!

Here's the Victory email I sent out to the donors just a few minutes ago.
VICTORY! $10,000 Goal Met! Thank You!

Less than a year ago, I started up this fundraiser with the goal of raising enough money to build classrooms on newly acquired land in Uganda for the Kasese Humanist Primary School.

The original goal was an ambitious $35,000, but donations began to pour in directly through Atheist Alliance International's donation page as well!

I would like to thank bloggers like Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist and Veronica over at Canadian Atheist; musical contribution by Australian singer Shelley Segal; moral support by Noam Chomsky; radio support by the folks at Ask An Atheist; parallel funding by KidsHeartKids; parallel support by Swinburne University; recent parallel funding by Humanist Canada; a recent donation by the Rationalist Society of Australia (which put us over our goal!); Atheist Alliance International for tirelessly wiring the funds to Uganda (all funds I collect go to AAI); Pathfinders Project; all organizations I've no doubt forgotten, and of course our 117 private donors! THANK YOU!

The new campus is now more than half complete and some buildings are already in use and serving the community.

As you can see, we're well on our way to making this new school a reality. Our original goal was $35,000, but this got adjusted down to $26,000 because of funding from the above external sources. However, there was another motivation as well.

This fundraiser also has to be shut down May 23rd because is switching its payment system on that day and all fundraisers in my class will be affected. When I learned this, I was at just over $9000 and so decided to shoot for $10,000 and our donors came through!

This means there is likely more fundraising left to do in the future. It depends on how much parallel funding comes in from other sources: Atheist Alliance International (which is where this fundraiser feeds into) and Humanist Canada. I will continue directing anyone within earshot to these excellent organizations.

Remember, I regularly update about progress over at my blog:

Although this fundraiser was a resounding success - THANK YOU! - there is still work to do to help spread a rational, science-based approach to education free from dogmas. By building this school in Uganda, we can plant seeds of freethought for future generations.
Thank you donors and helpers to this cause!  Over the next few days, I'll be redirecting my landing pages for the banner on the side and other places to point to ongoing donation pages to the project. Construction is not yet finished and there are still more funds needed. I'll also be evaluating other platforms for fundraisers and networking with other fundraisers at Humanism at Work this summer. So I'm not done yet! Watch this space.

But for now, I will likely take a short breather!

If I factor in the chicken coop fundraiser (~$2,500), the electification fundraiser (~$600), the new land fundraiser (~$7,500) and this most recent fundraiser (~$10,000), our motley crew of bloggers and podcasters has managed more than $20,000 of funding to build educations for hundreds of children! Breathtaking! Good job, everyone!

Thank you everyone for your donations, spreading the word and other help! Together we can make this world a better place for free inquiry and unfettered reason-based learning!

Remember you can still help by donating directly to Atheist Alliance International or at Humanist Canada!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Students of Kasese Humanist Primary School: Kunihira Anifar

KHPS student Kunihira Anifar, 13
Some students over at the Kasese Humanist Primary School have written letters about Humanism and the school they attend. So, over the next few weeks, I'll post them for you.

If you're new to this blog, you may wonder why students at a Ugandan school are writing me letters. Well, they're not really for me but readers of this blog along with all the many donors who have helped the school along over the last few years! Chicken coops, new land and electrical hookups have all been funded thanks to your help!

As I've mentioned before, a new school is currently under construction to help better serve students and the community. See how I shamelessly plug my fundraiser?

Hopefully these letters will directly communicate what a difference this school is making in the lives of children. In a week or two, I may also have some letters from parents who might go into some of the economic and community benefits of the school as well.

So, here's the first letter from 13 year old Kunihira Anifar. It's in the form of a kind of poem or anthem for the school, complete with refrain Humanist! Humanist! Humanist!
Humanist! Humanist! Humanist!
What a good school is this! 
My name is Kunihira Anifar.
I am in P7 class. I have 13 years old and I was born in 2000.
I go to school at Kasese Humanist Primary School.
Oh humanist it is a good school. It was introduced by (?) 
Humanist! Humanist! Humanist!
How good are you 
You give us knowledge.
You give us a logo badge.
You have good teachers like Director, head teacher and other fellow teachers. 
I like studying science, english, math and humanism. 
We learn humanism on Wednesday. 
Humanist! Humanist! Humanist!
Oh a wonderful school is this! 
We study humanism in order to know how living things
and non living things are made. And humanist means
being a rational human being.
Humanist is a freethinking school,  a school with freedom
I like my school humanist. We say with science we can progress so come and join us.
Here's the original letter which I very likely mis-transcribed somehow.

I think a couple of things are worth mentioning even if I'm sure most people probably get it.

First off, remember this letter was written by a twelve year old who may not be a native English speaker (she mentions taking English class and her region appears to speak Bantu dialects). So keep this in mind.

Secondly, some may not appreciate Anifar's thankfulness at having a school uniform. It's probably a pretty big deal in a community where some children may not own very many if any nice clothing of their own.

Anyway, I'll post another next Wednesday!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Guest Post, David Ince: Trying to get attention above the din: Giving a voice to Caribbean non-believers

Barbados 2012 Crop Over - My Secret Atheist Blog
Barbados 2012 Crop Over (image source).
Guest Post by David Ince (aka Caribatheist)

Some time ago I reached out to David for some information about the Caribbean Atheist and Freethought community.  He responded by writing a wonderful first post about the state of disbelief in his native Barbados.

In his second contribution, David talks about the differences between Caribbean and Canadian culture when it comes to Religion.  He then describes how Atheism and Freethought are beginning to take root and flourish in this unique cultural milieu.

Last month I was happy to write as a guest on this blog about the challenges of being an atheist in Barbados. Today I look at the wider Caribbean perspective and the challenges we face in making ourselves heard as a 'freethinking' movement with religion being so much of a force.

The Caribbean is a place of self expression, we are all about enjoying, letting our emotions hang out and wearing our hearts on our sleeves. You can see it in the clothes we wear, hear it in the music we play and taste it in the foods we eat. It's all about richness in flavour, colour and vibrancy that shines as radiantly as the sunshine that we never seem to be without for long.

We talk animatedly, we laugh loudly, we shout across crowded streets to get one another's attention. We use a car horn more often to give each other a friendly greeting, than as an alert to imminent danger. Watch a celebration of someone like Usain Bolt and that tells you what being a West Indian is all about. The Caribbean is about expressing yourself, being who you are and expecting others around you to live with it and love it.

It is the reason why during something like Crop Over in Barbados or Carnival in Trinidad it is  pointless to complain about music being too loud or intrusive. In the Caribbean, if you get a knock on your door at 2:00 am during a party from an angry neighbour, it is far more likely that she is complaining about not getting an invitation than seeking to have you turn down the racket so she can get her nightly slumber.

All over the Caribbean, you can hear the beat of our music in the maxi taxis. Don't think about asking the driver to mute the sub woofers either. He will let you know that you can put in ear plugs or catch some other form of transportation if you don't like it. It's as simple as that. This type of mentality runs counter to the reality that I face now living in Canada. There is a joke in this country that when you step on the foot of a Canadian, he apologises to you for his foot being in the way. It's an exaggeration, but only just a bit.

A steelpan player on High Street in Trinidad and Tobago. 
(image source)
Canada is like 'inverse' Caribbean in that respect. You act only when you are comfortable that the action you take is not going to discommode another. You don't even do a hand wave without thinking about whether it might affect someone's sensibilities. Generally, if there is any doubt about the impact of your action you simply refrain from doing it.

This basic cultural difference between Canada and the Caribbean is palpably illustrated in the way you experience religion. In the self expressing Caribbean, religion plays into what is inherently a 'loud' culture. Even as the music plays and people dance with spontaneity, sermons and testimonies can pop up anytime from anybody.

You could be standing in a line at a bank, having a 'lime' in a rum shop or walking on your way to the carpark to drive home after work.  Wherever you are, you are liable to hear a perfect stranger telling you about something in their life that Jesus has delivered them from, have them proclaim to you that he is the Lord of their life and that you should accept him too if you haven't already. It's not that they are necessarily trying to convert you or pressure you into anything. They are just talking, talking about things that happened and that matter to them. Letting you know the beliefs and principles they hold dear. They see the love of Jesus as one of the great things in their life and they want you to know it. They just want to share and they just can't fathom that anyone in the world would not love their Jesus too. For them that would be like being repulsed by a steel band playing, a reggae bass line or mass on carnival day.

In Canada it's so different. Religion is something you almost never here spoken about in day to day life. You work, you workout, you play, you relax, you interact with people for years and often have no idea about what they believe or don't believe. Religion is personal and although I know from going to one or two churches that adherents here can be just as devout as any back home, it's just something they tend to keep to themselves. The lack of visibility of religion to a large extent in Canada, often makes me wonder what we are fighting or challenging when we get together as atheists in our various meet ups.

Then I remember what the wider world picture looks like and that gets me going again.

In the Caribbean, of course it is different. Religion is much louder, more persistent, all around you everyday. Surrounded by Christianity bringing us such a pulsating rhythm, our cultural tendency leads us to do our own dance as Caribbean non believers and respond in kind. Poking back at those on the other side as calypsonians do in the popular artform of picong. Alas, what we who carry the banner against faith find is that sound and noise is not welcomed as much when it comes from supporters of the opposing team. It's so easy when you are in the majority to think that all around you enjoy your same freedoms but as we know so well, that is not the case.

It is a frustration to have a culture of self expression that tells you to go out there and show what you feel and then have to stand in the corner with emotions bottled up. Thankfully things are changing. Not changing because we have been given more leeway to turn up our volume by those in the ascendancy. Things are changing because we have decided that we need to go ahead and scream and shout anyway. We recognise that even if our noise doesn't get noticed, sitting quietly in the corner as we did before is not going to get us anywhere.

Freethinking Island podcast.
So we are raising our voices. One of the main ways is  through the podcast  Freethinking Island.  There I join Joy in bringing voices from all over our region who have also had enough of sitting in the band counting 'bars rest' while others get to play whatever they want, whenever they want.  The people we have had on the 'island' so far have spoken with passion, with resolve and a desire to make sure that we're not left chipping along behind the music anymore.

I hope that those of you listening also feel that level of emotion and enthusiasm that is being brought from a culture that prides itself on enjoying itself without the  level of self consciousness that others have. I hope that you also realise why such a high energy response is needed from us. We are up against religious people who are every bit as passionate and determined to take the Caribbean back for Jesus, we just simply can't let up.

Happily the momentum is building for us and the development of the Caribbean Atheists Facebook page and the Caribbean Freethinkers' Society blog highlights that fact. We have seen islands themselves getting more visible too. Jamaica Atheists United being one leading the way and at the regional education level, there is an online group of (University of the West Indies) UWI Freethinkers. I see evidence of the various activities and groups feeding off of each other and this is heartening. I am gradually hearing discussion of freethinking and atheism entering into the discussion on Barbados call in programs and I expect that similar is happening in other islands.

However, we still have a long way to go, when you think that we have a government senator actively endorsing a German Pastor who the senator and many others in the island are absolutely certain has the power to raise human beings from the dead. This pastor is guaranteed a sellout crowd in Barbados and will rake in contributions in the thousands at least, at a time when the country is still in a serious recession.

So, we have  to keep clearing our throats and stepping up the decibels to be heard above the din. You have to yell if you want to be heard in the market. Whether it's a Caribbean fish market in Castries, Bridgetown, St. Georges, Kingston or Roseau or in the marketplace of religious ideas where many have been selling at their stall years before we freethinkers made it in to town.

David Ince is a Barbadian who nows lives in Calgary Canada where he is completing a doctoral degree in Renewable energy, focusing on the Caribbean.

Check out David Ince's Bio Page or jump directly to the Caribatheist blog.

And of course, start listening to freethinking island!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Yey! Eschaton 2012! What a Great Way to End the World!

Yours truly, awkward tall guy with unkempt hair, with PZ
So I arrived at the gala of my very first convention - the gala night at the Canadian Museum of Nature that features a talk by PZ Myers at the Eschaton 2012 event in Ottawa!   I was a nervous, awkward newb!

Unfortunately, I need to get back to Montreal tomorrow morning, but I had a great time!

Veronica from Canadian Atheist was nice enough to introduce me to PZ Myers.  I then got to meet Heina DadabhoyIan Cromwell, Hank Fox, Ania Bula, Vyckie Garrison, Seanna from CFI Ottawa, and Kevin Smith and Michael Payton from CFI Canada!  And many many more awesome people!

Not only were you guys happy to chat with nervous old me, but you all were happy to let this conference nube feel welcome.  Heina even taught me some dinosaur facts I'd not know and suggested a cool book for my son!  I think it's this one! Thanks, Heina!

PZ delivered a very informative talk on Chance in Evolution.  It started out with a laugh when it was discovered someone had edited his introductory slide to read PZed Myers (Most Canadians pronounce the letter 'Z' as zed.)  The talk itself taught me a lot about evolution I had never known before.  The fascinating thing is the one-hour talk seemed to fly by and felt like just 15 minutes to me.  It was very entertaining!

I was very impressed by how cool and inviting everyone was!  You all made me feel welcome and it was nice to be in the company of people who see the world like I do.   I'm terrible with names, but you all know who you are!  Do leave a comment and I'll thank you on the blog!

You can bet I will come back for another conference!  Thanks, all of you!  You're all awesome!

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