Category Archives: Muslims

Do Not Use Your Rock to Cause Harm to Others

I am an atheist, but? I am also? A Humanist. I want to share what I use as an analogy for beliefs in a god and following a religion and non belief in a god and not a follower of a religion. This is not attempting to insult believers, but I believe it is a great analogy to use.

I use the analogy that all religions and religious beliefs to a rock. YOU want to worship a rock (ie god and no I am not trying to be insulting on this to you) then fine. Worship your rock. Love your rock, live by the rules of your rock. But? Do not take your rock? And smash someones face in with you rock because that person does not believe in your rock, believes in a different rock than you do, or no rock at all. Do not use your rock to harm any other human being.

Those of whom you use your rock to harm? Have every right to defend themselves against you using your rock to cause them harm. Just like you have a right to defend yourselves against someone who is TRULY using their rock to cause you harm. What I mean by this is? You cannot hypocritically claim that someone is truly using their rock to harm you? If you are in fact? Using your rock to persecute them first. Then claim because they are standing up to you? They are then using their rocks to cause you harm.

History has shown? People have used their rocks to cause other people great harm. This? Has to stop. Especially when the rock believer? Tells us their rock is based on love, peace, non-judgment etc. Live your rock, yes, live the teachings of your rock on love, peace, non-judgment, etc, because who knows? If you truly live the teachings of love of your rock? You might change the world and make it a much more beautiful place to live, which we all desperately need right now with all the shit that is going on in the world right now.

People who have their rocks? Have to stop using their rocks to cause harm to their fellow human beings.

This? Is what the essence of being a Humanist is all about. Loving all people, no matter what rock they believe in, or not believe in. I do try, but some of you rock believers? Make it damn hard to do so.

The Simple Difference Between Atheists, Christians, Muslims and Other Theists

Atheists don’t have an imaginary fascist asshole “God” telling them they have to be fascist assholes towards others.

“Christians” have an imaginary fascist asshole “God” telling them they have to be fascist assholes towards others.

“Muslims” have an imaginary fascist asshole “God” telling them they have to be fascist assholes towards others.

“Orthodox Jews” have an imaginary fascist asshole “God” telling them they have to be fascist assholes towards others.

“Theists” for the most part, have an imaginary fascist asshole “God” telling them they have to be fascist assholes towards others.

That may explain some of the difference.

Here’s why atheists have to fight for their rights

Here’s why atheists have to fight for their rights
By Greta Christina
https://www.rawstory.com/2018/03/heres-atheists-fight-rights/#comments_section_start

“You atheists are just taking on the mantle of victimhood. There are laws protecting you — especially the First Amendment. Therefore, you’re not really discriminated against. And it’s ridiculous for you to claim that you are.”

Atheist activists get this one a lot. When we speak out about ways that anti-atheist bigotry plays out, we’re told that we’re not really oppressed. We’re told that, because we have legal protection, because anti-atheist discrimination is illegal, therefore we don’t really have any problems, and we’re just trying to gain unearned sympathy and win the victim Olympics. (I’d love to hear Bob Costas do the commentary for that!) It’s a classic Catch-22: If we speak out about oppression and point to examples of it, we’re accused of “playing the victim card,” and the oppression becomes invisible. And if we don’t speak out about oppression … then the oppression once again becomes invisible.

If you’ve ever made this “discrimination against atheists is against the law” argument, I have some really bad news for you. You may want to sit down for this, it may come as a shock:

People sometimes break the law.

Theft is against the law — but people sometimes steal. Bribery is against the law — but people sometimes bribe other people. Arson is against the law — but people sometimes set buildings on fire.

Anti-atheist discrimination is against the law; in the United States, anyway. But people still sometimes discriminate against atheists.

It’s illegal for public schools to prevent students from viewing atheist Web sites, while allowing them to look at religious ones. But the San Antonio Independent School District did it anyway.

It’s illegal to make atheists swear religious oaths when they testify in court. But the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Fort Myers did it anyway.

It’s illegal for the U.S. military to spend money evangelizing to U.S. soldiers, to demand that U.S. soldiers attend chapel, or to order U.S. soldiers to take a “spiritual fitness” test and order them to visit evangelizing chaplains when they fail it. But the U.S. military did it anyway.

It’s illegal for businesses to give church-goers discounts they don’t give to non-believers. But the Fisherman’s Quarters II restaurant in Asheville, N.C. did it anyway.

It’s illegal to deny atheist organizations the right to advertise in venues where religious groups advertise regularly. But when American Atheists and the NEPA Freethought Society tried to place a bus ad in Pennsylvania that simply had the word, “atheists,” with the names and URLs of the organizations in smaller type, the transit system rejected the ad because it was “too controversial.”

It’s illegal to deny atheist students in public high schools the right to organize clubs. But it happens all the time. Talk to Secular Student Alliance high school specialist JT Eberhard. He spends a ridiculous amount of his working day pushing high school administrations to stop throwing up illegal roadblocks to atheist students, and to let them have the clubs they’re legally allowed to have.

And the list goes on, and on, and on.

Talk to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, or Americans United for Separation of Church and State, or the National Center for Science Education, or the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, or American Atheists. Ask them about the lawsuits they’re filing every month — heck, every week — about public school prayersbible instruction in public schools, public schools’ promotion of faith and religious activities as “developmental assets,” government displays of the Ten Commandments and other religious texts, city council meetings and other government events being opened with prayers, religious creationism being taught in the public schools, or any of hundreds of similar incidents.

And then tell me — or any other atheist — that we don’t experience discrimination.

Getting anti-discrimination laws and court rulings is hugely important for any marginalized group. But it’s only a first step. After that, you typically have to play a decades-long game of Whack-A-Mole, in which violations of the law pop up in local venues all over the country, and have to be smacked down again, and again, and again. That’s true of sex discrimination, racial discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination in states where that’s illegal. To give just one example among zillions: It’s illegal for banks to discriminate in lending practices on the basis of race… and yet Wells Fargo just settled a $175 million lawsuit over charging higher fees and rates on housing loans to racial minorities. Not in 1946, not in 1969 — in the last decade, in the years 2004 to 2009. It’s illegal to do that. It’s been illegal to do that for decades. They did it anyway. The mere existence of anti-discrimination laws is no guarantee that those laws will be obeyed.

So yes. Anti-atheist discrimination is illegal in the United States — and it happens anyway. I know. I haz a sad. And I’m going to have to hit you with even more bad news:

Standing up for your legal rights sometimes has ugly consequences.

Ask Jessica Ahlquist. High school student and atheist Jessica Ahlquist fought a legal battle she never should have had to fight: the battle to get her public, taxpayer-paid high school to take down a prayer banner from the auditorium. From a purely legal perspective, this was an utterly non-controversial issue: decades of legal precedent clearly supported her position, and to anyone familiar with the law, the ruling in her favor was almost entirely unsurprising.

But as a result of filing this lawsuit, Ahlquist was bullied, ostracized and threatened with violence. She was called “evil” in public by her state representative, and was targeted with multiple threats of brutal violence, rape and death. And this wasn’t just from hateful strangers trolling on the Internet — it came from her own schoolmates and her own community. This wasn’t in the Bible Belt — it was in Rhode Island.

And Ahlquist is hardly alone. When atheist student Damon Fowler tried to stop his public high school from having an illegal prayer at his graduation, he was physically threatened, publicly demeaned by one of his teachers, pilloried and ostracized by his community, and kicked out of his home by his parents. When atheist student Skyler Curtis tried to publicize his group at his high school, his posters were torn down, the local newspaper ran a letter from a parent calling his atheism an “atrocity,” and he received threats of violence. When atheist John Kieffer protested prayers at his local school board meeting, he was arrested.

Not everyone is able to fight these fights. Not everyone is able to risk hateful ostracism and violent threats from their community. It’s hard enough for a 16-year-old high school student like Jessica Ahlquist to face down this kind of venomous hostility. It’s even harder when you’re trying to hold down a job and support your family, and you literally can’t afford to alienate your bosses and co-workers and customers. Yes, the law is mostly on our side, and atheists and church-state separation advocates generally win these lawsuits. (Although not always — more on that in a tic.) But it doesn’t do much good to have the law on your side if fighting a legal battle is going to destroy your life.

And I have yet another piece of shocking news for you. I know, the terrible news just keeps on coming:

Sometimes laws aren’t enforced.

To give just one appalling example: It is — or it should be — illegal to deny custody to atheist parents, purely and explicitly on the basis of their atheism. And yet this happens, again and again and again. It has happened in states including Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas. According to Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy, “In 2001, for instance, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld an order giving a mother custody partly because she took the child to church more often than the father did, thus providing a better ‘future religious example.’ In 2000, it ordered a father to take the child to church each week, as a [lower] Mississippi court ordered… reasoning that ‘it is certainly to the best interests of [the child] to receive regular and systematic spiritual training.’”

Try to imagine a judge in this country denying or limiting custody to parents, explicitly and specifically, because they were Jewish. Because they were Mormon. Because they were Baptist. And now, try to imagine a judge in this country denying or limiting custody to a parent, explicitly and specifically because she’s an atheist. You don’t have to imagine it. This is real. This happens.

It is illegal. Or it should be. But custody laws vary greatly from state to state — and family court is something of a special case, where judges have far more leeway than they do in other courts. So this is a very, very difficult legal battle to fight. The laws against it exist — but they are very difficult to enforce.

And finally, I have one last piece of earth-shattering news that will almost certainly shake your worldview to its foundations:

Not all bigotry is illegal.

The fact that atheists are the least-trusted group in America? Totally screwed-up — and totally legal. The fact that atheists are the minority group Americans least want their children to marry? Totally screwed-up — and totally legal. The fact that only 54 percent of Americans think atheists could share their vision of society? Totally screwed-up — and totally legal. The fact that only 54 percent of Americans would vote for an atheist for president — a lower number than any other group? Totally screwed-up — and totally legal. People have the legal right to not vote for an atheist… just like they have the legal right to not vote for a woman, or an African American, or a Muslim, or a Jew. It’s still discrimination. It’s still screwed-up.

And it’s still worth fighting.

Plus, of course, all of this is just in the United States, where we do have a Constitution that ostensibly gives us the legal right to not be religious. In much of the world, the situation for atheists is far worse. In much of the world, it is literally against the law to be an atheist, and to say so, and to say anything critical of religion. To give just one example of many: In Indonesia, atheist Alexander Aanwas beaten by a mob, arrested, convicted, and sentenced to over two years in prison — for stating his atheism on Facebook. (There is currently a petition to the White House, asking President Obama to speak out about the Alexander Aan case and call on the Indonesian government to correct this gross violation of human rights.)

Is anti-atheist bigotry as bad as homophobia or racism, misogyny or transphobia? No. Almost certainly not. Not in the U.S., anyway. It’s worse in some ways — we consistently show up in polls as the least trusted group in America, and the least likely to be voted for — but atheists don’t seem to be subject to the same level of physical violence as gay or trans people, or the same level of economic oppression as women or people of color.

That’s not the point. Here is the point.

If you were mugged, nobody would tell you, “Quit whining — there are laws against mugging, you have legal protection, you don’t have anything to complain about.” The fact that there are laws against mugging did not stop you from getting mugged. It is reasonable for you to say something about it, and to express distress that it happened. And if muggings are happening a lot in your town or your country, it is reasonable to ask your community to pay attention, and to do something about it.
Atheists are getting mugged. Atheists are experiencing real, law-breaking discrimination. The fact that it’s illegal does not always stop it from happening. It is reasonable for us to speak out about it. And it is reasonable for us to expect people to give a damn. It is reasonable to expect our friends, our families, our colleagues, our communities, our country, to pay attention — and to do something about it.

Third atheist blogger killed in Bangladesh knife attack

Third atheist blogger killed in Bangladesh knife attack
Police say Ananta Bijoy Das was attacked in Sylhet city, months after fellow bloggers Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman were murdered.
By Saad Hammadi
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/12/third-atheist-blogger-killed-in-bangladesh-after-knife-attack

A secular blogger has been hacked to death in north-east Bangladesh, the third such deadly attack this year.

Police said Ananta Bijoy Das was murdered as he headed to work at a bank in the city of Sylhet, an attack that fellow writers said highlighted a culture of impunity.

Kamrul Hasan, commissioner of Sylhet police, said a group of about four masked attackers pounced on Das with machetes at about 8.30am on Tuesday on a busy street in Bangladesh’s fifth-largest city.

“They chased him down the street and first attacked his head with their machetes and then attacked him all over his body,” Hasan told Agence France-Presse. The attackers fled into the crowds and Das was taken to hospital but declared dead on arrival, police and medics said.

Hasan would not be drawn on the motive for the attack but fellow writers said Das had been on a hitlist drawn up by militants who were behind the recent killing of a blogger who was a US citizen.

Imran Sarker, head of a Bangladeshi bloggers’ association, said Das was an atheist who wrote blogs for Mukto-Mona, a website formerly moderated by Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-born US citizen who was stabbed to death in the capital, Dhaka, in February.

Sarker told the Guardian: “They [the government] should not stay in power, if they are not able to bring the perpetrators to justice. One after another incident is happening and they are not able to do anything.”

Debasish Debu, a friend of Das, said the 33-year-old banker was also an editor of a quarterly magazine called Jukti (Logic) and headed the Sylhet-based science and rationalist council.

Debu said Das had been receiving threats for his writing and that their frequency increased after the killing of Roy. “He had written about superstitions, but he wasn’t among the writers that would hurt the sentiments of religion,” Debu said.

According to the Mukto-Mona site, Das won the publication’s annual rationalist award in 2006 for his “deep and courageous interest in spreading secular and humanist ideals and messages”.

While most of Das’s output for Mukto-Mona focused on science and evolution, he wrote a number of blogs that criticised some aspects of Islam and also of Hinduism. He also wrote a poem eulogising the famed Bangladeshi secular writer Taslima Nasreen, who fled to Europe in 1994 after protests by Islamists.

In comments on Facebook posted early on Tuesday, Das criticised the local member of parliament from the ruling Awami League party for criticising one of the country’s top secular and science fiction writers.

His murder comes a week after al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent claimed responsibility for Roy’s killing on 26 February in which his wife was badly injured. An Islamist has been arrested over his murder. Another atheist blogger, Washiqur Rahman, was hacked to death in Dhaka in March. Two madrassa students have been arrested over that attack.

Bangladesh is an officially secular country but more than 90% of its 160 million population are Muslims. There has been an increase in attacks by religious extremists in recent years. Supporters of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, which is banned from standing in elections, have been accused of being behind a spate of firebombings this year aimed at toppling the government.

Since 2013, at least five bloggers have been attacked by Islamists after another hardline group, Hefazat-e-Islam, publicly sought the execution of atheists who organised mass protests against the rise of political Islam.

Hefazat, led by Islamic seminary teachers, also staged a massive counter-protest against the bloggers in May 2013 that unleashed violence and left nearly 50 people dead.

Religious violence is on the rise. What can faith-based communities do about it?

Religious violence is on the rise. What can faith-based communities do about it?
By Robert Muggah and Ali Velshi

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/02/how-should-faith-communities-halt-the-rise-in-religious-violence/

Religious violence is undergoing a revival. The past decade has witnessed a sharp increase in violent sectarian or religious tensions. These range from Islamic extremists waging global jihad and power struggles between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East to the persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar and outbreaks of violence between Christians and Muslims across Africa.

According to Pew, in 2018 more than a quarter of the world’s countries experienced a high incidence of hostilities motivated by religious hatred, mob violence related to religion, terrorism, and harassment of women for violating religious codes.

The spike in religious violence is global and affects virtually every religious group. A 2018 Minority Rights Group report indicates that mass killings and other atrocities are increasing in countries both affected and not affected by war alike. While bloody encounters were recorded in over 50 countries, most reported lethal incidents involving minorities were concentrated in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, India, Myanmar, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Hostilities against Muslims and Jews also increased across Europe, as did threats against Hindus in more than 18 countries. Making matters worse, 55 of the world’s 198 countries imposed heightened restrictions on religions, especially Egypt, Russia, India, Indonesia and Turkey.

How is it that religions – which supposedly espouse peace, love and harmony – are so commonly connected with intolerance and violent aggression? Social scientists are divided on the issue. Scholars like William Cavanaugh contend that even when extremists use theological texts to justify their actions, “religious” violence is not religious at all – but rather a perversion of core teachings. Others such as Richard Dawkins believe that because religions fuel certainties and sanctify martyrdom, they are often a root cause of conflict. Meanwhile, Timothy Sisk claims that both hierarchical religious traditions (such as Shi´ism) and non-hierarchical traditions (such as Buddhism) can both be vulnerable to interpretation of canon to justify or even provide warrants for violent action.

 Religious violence has been rising for years
Religious violence has been rising for years Image: Centre for Security Studies/RELAC/Svensson Isak/Nilsson Desireé

For millennia, every religious tradition has either fallen victim to or sanctioned violence. Consider Saint Augustine and Saint Aquinas who laid the foundations of the ‘just war’ doctrine in the cases of self-defense, to prevent a tyrant from attacking, and to punish guilty enemies. Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others have long invoked violence in the name of religion. In some cases, as when state and religion are intertwined, mass violence may arise. Unfortunately, the risk of sectarian violence is unlikely to go away: more than 84% of the world’s population identify themselves with a religious group.

Violence inspired by religious intolerance is easier described than defined. It spans intimidation, harassment and internment to terrorism and outright warfare. Usually it arises when the core beliefs that define a group’s identity are fundamentally challenged. It is ratcheted-up by ‘in-group’ communities against other ‘out-group’ communities, often with the help of fundamentalist religious leaders. Some researchers such as Justin Lane refer to the sense of threat among insiders as “xenophobic social anxiety”, which – when combined with political and cultural exclusion and social and economic inequality – can escalate into extreme physical violence.

Religious leaders are often criticized for not doing enough to stem religious violence. By not publicly condemning every act of extremism, entire faith communities are presumed to be somehow complicit. This is unfair. Indeed, there are millions of people of faith who are actively involved in helping the poor and marginalized and fostering reconciliation in the aftermath of war. They may be mobilized through their churches, mosques, synagogues and temples, or work through international humanitarian agencies and missions overseas. While regularly accused of fanning the flames of sectarian violence, religious leaders are frequently trying to do the opposite, including mediating peace agreements and promoting non-violence.

In an era of turbulence and uncertainty, interfaith action may offer an important antidote to religious violence. Religious communities can and do offer a reminder of the core principles of our common humanity. While not the exclusive preserve of faith-based groups, the conscious spread of values of empathy, compassion, forgiveness and altruism are needed today more than ever. The persistent calls for patience, tolerance, understanding, face-to-face dialogue and reconciliation are more important than ever given today’s spiralling polarisation and the dangerous anonymity provided by social media.

In fact, ecumenical groups have played a behind-the-scenes role in some of the world’s most successful peace efforts. High-level mediators like Archbishop Desmond Tutu helped lay the groundwork for peace agreements, from mediating between rival South African factions in the 1990s to averting a bloodbath in Kenya in 2008. The World Council of Churches and All African Conference on Churches have also played a role in mediating peace agreements since the 1970s. Italy’s Sant-Egidio has supported interfaith dialogue and campaigns to prevent and resolve conflicts and promote reconciliation from Albania to Mozambique. And groups like Islamic Relief, among others, have long supported mediation and reconciliation activities in war-torn communities.

Faith-based groups have also frequently led the way in shaping international treaties and social movements to make the world safer. While far from the media headlines, Quakers, for example, have helped launch treaties banning landmines and other weapons of war, supported the development of protocols to outlaw child soldiers, and instigated action on conflict prevention, peace-building and human rights. While religious groups have adopted varying positions toward capital punishment, many of them are unified in their opposition to the use of torture, advocate for banning nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and support grassroots campaigns to promote human rights and reconciliation.

With notable exceptions, interfaith efforts to prevent violence and promote peace suffer from a credibility problem. Part of the reason for this is that religious groups frequently adopt a ‘thousand flowers bloom’ approach to peace-building – fielding multiple activities without solid evidence of their effectiveness. According to Catherine Osborn, interfaith institutions can be effective, but success often comes down to the extent to which religious leaders can work with the ‘internal policers’ within their communities to cool down hotheads and prevent escalation. In the end, religious groups must hold themselves to the highest standard. This requires, at a minimum, doing no harm. It also means being accountable about what strategies work, and which do not.

A related challenge is that most interfaith measures to promote peace and reconciliation are seldom documented, much less evaluated. As a result, the persistent and patient support provided to high-level policy initiatives goes unrecorded, with other organizations often quick to take the credit. A number of today’s most successful arms control and peace-building norms are the fruit of interfaith dialogue, even if this is not always acknowledged. This gap could be bridged, however, by developing partnerships with universities and undertaking robust monitoring and evaluation. This way, interfaith groups could better understand what aspects of the peace architecture are working, and which activities to discard.

Finally, religious groups and the interfaith community could usefully get more proactive about peace-making. This will require leaving the safe zone of like-minded religious organizations and engaging more fulsomely with international agencies and the business community. Religious leaders should also become more literate with new technologies, not least social media, finding ways to promote positive values both on- and offline. And successful instances of interfaith cooperation – including through powerful networks like Religion for Peace – need to be better marketed. This is because signals and symbols of collective action across religious divides are needed more than ever in our disorderly and fractured world.