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Apr 062018
 

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).

Old Metal 3

Jan 172015
 

In the wake of the murders of the Charlie Hebdo journalists there is a continuation of the debate over free speech (and expression). Amongst those making a contribution are those who say things like “I believe in free speech, but …”.

As soon as someone sticks a “but” into a sentence like that, you begin to wonder if they are really in favour or not. Usually it turns out they are not.

And one of the points raised after the stereotypical “but” is the issue of offence. Which is a tricky area because who likes being offended? Or to be more precise, who likes their personal sacred cows to be offended? And perhaps that is the tipping point – if your intention is to offend someone or a group of people, perhaps you should re-consider.

But if you are intending to criticise someone’s beliefs – religious or otherwise – it is perfectly justifiable. And yes using humour to make fun of someone’s beliefs is just as much criticism as a long, tedious, and boring blog posting. Any offence caused is a byproduct of the criticism, so perhaps this blog posting should be “The right to criticise includes the right to offend.”.

And in most cases the criticism comes in response to offence caused – if you create a religion that requires human sacrifice, you can expect a Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking your religion.

And all religions include ridiculous and offensive aspects. After all the depiction of a mythical sky-daddy and impugning the godless nature of the universe causes offence to atheists.

So if you want free expression like the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo banned because they are offensive, I’ll be asking for all those religious tomes like the bible and the koran to be banned because they are offensive – to me. Your rights as a believer in fairies, angels, and other imaginary and infectious friends do not trump my rights as an atheist. Just as my rights as a godless and amoral unbeliever do not trump your rights as a believer.

 

Jun 092014
 

The issue of certain faith-based schools is in the media today. Specifically whether certain schools in Birmingham were targeted for take-over by islamic extremists. Lots of allegations floating around with lots of denials.

Determining the truth of the matter is not likely to be easy – do I believe Tory ministers or religious nutters? By nature, I’m inclined to ignore both.

But there is a simple answer to this problem. Take any sort of faith out of all schools; schools are supposed to be about education and not about fairy stories. Any kind of faith activity should be classified as an extra-curricular activity that takes place outside school and has no interference with the normal school curriculum.

It is probable that most faith based schools are relatively harmless, although even the best will lead to a sense of exclusion for those in attendance whose faith does not match that of the school. And of course teenagers are probably the most likely group to change religion or reject religion altogether.

But whenever faith-based schools are permitted, there is always the chance that some form of extremism may creep into the curriculum. And that includes all religions – there are extremist christians who want to block the teaching of evolution as well as extremist muslims, hindus, etc.

Ban ’em all.

Jun 052014
 

Apostasy can be loosely defined as renouncing a religion either to become an atheist or to convert to another religion. It has been in the news recently because of a Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy.

Of course in her case it’s not apostasy, but following her childhood religion – her mother was a christian and her absent father was a muslim. But Sudan does not recognise the mother’s religion in such cases.

However you slice it, the concept of apostasy is ridiculous – it basically forces people who have “lost their way” to pretend to follow a religion. Forcing someone to go to a mosque (or a church, etc.) will just annoy and bore the victim. And yes listening to some holly roller prattle on about his imaginary friend is very boring.

It is noticeable that only islamic countries have a criminal sanction for apostasy, and probably only for deserting islam. In fact that is not quite true – other countries have had laws against apostasy … or herest which to an unbeliever is pretty much the same thing. After all apostasy is along the lines of “you don’t believe in what we believe” and heresy is merely a slightly different flavour of “you don’t believe what we believe”. The “best” example of a christian country executing someone for apostasy is probably Poland,

Although there are plenty of other examples.

But countries with a history of christianity have progressed on from a primitive medieval society that executes people for “crimes” as ridiculous as apostasy. Ignoring the rights and wrongs of it, apostasy is another group’s convert. And executing someone for being a protestant, a jew, a muslim or an atheist is nothing more than persecution of a minority group and will sooner or later (hopefully very much sooner) lead to all sorts of problems with such a society.

After all, a persecuted minority does not have much interest in protecting the status quo – they might well want to start a revolution and kick out the leaders.

Islamic law-makers need to look at implementing apostasy laws even handedly and prosecute christians, jews, and atheists who convert to islam – because they are apostates too. And of course babies are not born with a knowledge of islam, so they can be considered apostates as well. If you threaten to execute islamic apostates, then you need to threaten to execute all the other apostates too.

And then you might realise just how foolish laws against apostasy are.

Jan 162010
 

I was previously aware of the religious nutters being scared of the Harry Potter books, but before reading the Wikipedia article on the reaction I was not aware of just how much there was!

Anyone would think that the Harry Potter books were not fiction, and that children are such mindless idiots that they are likely to base their religious choices based on an entertaining story. The allegations that the Harry Potter books promote satanism, the occult, witchcraft, the Wiccan religion, amongst other things (including Christianity!).

These allegations indicate that the knuckle-dragging extremists either did not bother to read the book. or did not understand what was written within. Interestingly one of those bringing about legal action (several times in fact) to get the books banned, Laura Mallory has admitted that she hasn’t actually read the books themselves in their entirety. You do have to wonder why she should actually admit to such a weakness in her case, and why the conversation in the court did not go along the lines of :-

“Have you read the books?”

“No.”

“And you expect to be taken seriously? Case dismissed. <BANG>”

The interesting thing about those who are frothing at the mouth in fury at the Harry Potter books is that they all seem to have one thing in common. Whatever their religion – various forms of Christianity and some Muslims, the one thing they all have in common is that they are the sort of extremists who should not be allowed an kind of access to children in case they brainwash them.

The real mark of stupidity is that there are far more “dangerous” books out there than those written by JK Rowling. Other fantasy books contain far more favourable depictions of witches; with greater criticisms of organised religions. But the drooling idiots of the lunatic fringe of the religious right are not literate enough to realise this.

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