I was recently involved in a bit of a twitter spat when I ‘came out’ as an atheist in a religious thread. I was agreeing with a sentiment that a religious moderate put out (except for the “god bit”).
In response, I had two religious fruitcakes going on about how I would find god if I suffered enough.
No, I won’t.
And how condescending is it to assume my unbelief is only skin-deep, and at the first sign of trouble I’ll start asking for help from an infectious imaginary friend?
Put the boot on the other foot: Do christians give up their god at the first sign of trouble? Do muslims? Imagine ‘coming out’ to an atheist that you’re a christian, and the response: “Never mind; maybe sometime you’ll regain your sanity and become god-free”
The phrase “Islam is a religion of peace” gets bandied about a great deal these days – either by those saying that it is a religion of peace and islamic terrorists are an aberration, or by those who question whether islam is a religion of peace at all.
To be honest though, the phrase is irrelevant. You can have the most peaceable religion in existence and yet fundamentalist followers of that religion will resort to violence, and yes you can have a religion that calls for the torture to death of all non-followers, yet if the followers of that religion are peaceable nobody is at risk.
Questioning the religion as a whole is all very well (and as someone who would prefer that all religions disappear in a puff of logic, usually to be encouraged), but it does tend to encourage the kind of idiot who normally goes in for racism into attacking all muslims (and often sikhs as well) because of the sins of a few.
Muslims are just people; people with the disadvantage that they have been indoctrinated into a faith – not much different to christians, sikhs, hindus, jews, or zorastrians (and if I’ve left out your religion, yes I mean you too). Some are good people; some are bad.
But in the words of Steven Weinberg: “but for good people to do evil—that takes religion”.
But truisms like that are overly simplistic; religious terrorists are people who are convinced that they are good – probably better than their coreligionists – and who want to enforce their beliefs and standards of behaviour on others. And are prepared to do so in ways that most of us would call psychotic.
These people – the religious terrorists – are in all likelihood only a tiny minority of all muslims (or christians, …), and in a surprising number of cases are not especially well educated in their religion. In fact many of them are petty crooks, with a burning desire to be more significant than they deserve.
In the end, debating whether islam really is a religion of peace or not is pretty much a waste of time because it is irrelevant – even the religions with the most peaceful reputations have terrorists (major religions only).
Today came the news that Stephen Hawking has died, which is a loss to England, Britain, the United Kingdom, and the whole world. Well worthy of having a spot in Westminster Abbey. Yet as soon as his death was announced, we had bad christians (and at least one muslim) crowing about how he was going to spend all eternity in hell.
Yes, atheists know that christians think we’re going to hell. There’s no need to shout about it on twitter.
Apart from anything else, it makes christians and muslims look bad – is it any wonder that religion is losing ground to secularism when we have such noxious examples of the religious?
Now I’m not one of those atheists who thinks that all religious people are evil; a bit deluded perhaps, but not necessarily evil. But we do not see enough religious condemnation of bad christians from the good christians, or bad muslims from the good muslims.
It’s always worth remembering that evil words and deeds speak louder than good words and deeds, so good christians and good muslims need to flood their bad co-coreligionists with enough condemnation to drown out their evil words and deeds.
Waking up this morning, I find news of a terrorist incident in the US; except that it was not called a terrorist incident. It was announced as a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic. For those who are not aware, in the US, Planned Parenthood clinics sometimes perform abortions.
There are those who protest about the abortions using methods up to and including murder. And whilst leaping to conclusions is not something to be encouraged, this incident has all the hallmarks of being a "pro-life" terrorist killing.
Given that the media is quite happy to label as terrorist incidents other killings, what is special about this incident?
Perhaps it has something to do with who the perpetrators are – they are not wild-eyed revolutionaries, nor are they islamic fanatics; they are christian fanatics. And it seems that christian terrorists get the benefit of the media not labelling their outrages as terrorism. Why?
There are approximately 1.6 billion muslims in the world today, so there are 1.6 billion different versions of islam; in most cases the differences are trivial (at least to "unbelievers"). In other cases the differences are rather more obvious.
Each muslim supposedly reads the Qur'an differently and consciously or unconsciously gives different conflicting verses a different emphasis: The obvious being :-
…slay the pagans wherever ye find them
whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.
Any normal person is going to emphasise the second verse whereas murderous psychopaths will emphasise the first.
For those who think that only the qur'an is like this, take a closer look at the bible – in particular deuteronomy 17.
As a wooly minded liberal, I have a problem with certain aspects of certain flavours of islam :-
Apostasy. A number of those versions of islam have no place for god in them; if you become an atheist in certain islamic countries it is safest to go through the motions. Because being stoned to death for apostasy would ruin your entire day. And atheists are the lucky ones – it is possible for us to go through the motions and pretend.
Women's rights. I'm not happy with anything that believes in second class citizens.
Criticism. I'm human and I've got a right to criticise anything which I see has issues. Calling it "blasphemy" and threatening me with stoning isn't a sensible way of facing criticism.
But the main problem is of course that a tiny number (in comparison to the total) of versions of islam support terrorism. Interestingly there are suggestions that many terrorists have an extremely limited understanding of islam.
Mainstream muslims protest that the terrorists aren't real muslims and that islam is a religion of peace. Fair enough.
But perhaps they should go a step further and declare that supporters of terrorism and terrorists are apostates, and need to talk with a qualified iman about rejoining the faith.
For those who think that this is a uniquely islamic problem, you should read up on christian terrorism.