Pouring myself like a mildly solid liquid out of the car I returned yesterday from the tiring but moving Atheist Alliance International Conference in Köln. AAI once again put on a great conference. The organisers picked what normally is a music venue which afforded us with a healthy mix of good acoustics and seating in the conference area and an on site restaurant and beer garden in the sun for in between and after the sessions.
Although from my opinion the talks fed a little bit of red meat to the lions of atheism, maybe a bit too much affirming what atheists already mostly knew or wanted to hear, most of the talks were highly moving and evocative.
Leo Igwe atheist and Humanist spoke about leaving the Seminary his parents had put him. He was seeking time to think and doing so led him to become an atheist and humanist activist. He spoke of the hardships he himself suffered because of this choice as people and governments attacked him directly and indirectly through his family and friends. Even showing up and beating his father at one point so badly that he lost an eye. He spoke of some of the main passions of his mission such as saving children accused of witchcraft who were sold into sexual slavery for their crimes. He spoke angrily about the crimes he witnessed against humanity but always with a touch of his passion for the joy of life, joy of living and joy OF the living for whom he fights so hard. Talking to him myself in the beer garden afterwards I found that despite his long fight and ongoing adversity he still had a laugh so full of life and joy and infectiousness that it could reduce people within 20 metres to laughter even if they had not heard the joke.
Taslima Nasrin spoke of her “life” in Bangladesh… if such an experience could be called a life when you are born into religious chattelhood and considered inferior solely for the crime of being female in a society… before having to flee from there for speaking out on issues of human rights, humanism and feminism. Now living in New Delhi she speaks of her experience as being a woman without a home who wants to campaign for human rights but also wants nothing more than to speak her own language in her own country with her own friends but no longer can do so. Her experiences reflect much of what Salman Rushdie experienced with people putting a price in their own name on her head. While governments watched on condemning the novels instead of those calling for cold blooded murder and violence.
The most moving parts of the conference however did not occur on stage but between sessions as powerful relationships were formed, rekindled and brought together. Nasrin met a Pakistani doctor in the audience whose story of serving 3 years in a Pakistani prison for the imaginary crime of Blasphemy moved her so much that she brought him to the stage at the end of her talk and they shared a moving and tearful embrace on stage as she petitioned AAI organisers to have him tell his tale in a future conference.
Dan Barker a former preacher himself had much to say to Igwe around the beer garden as they compared stories of escaping the industry and making the journey to free thinking. Dan pressed a signed copy of his own book on the subject into Igwe’s hands who spent the rest of the day clutching it protectively as if it were a precious baby. I hope he enjoys it as much as I intend to and I have done something I rarely do and moved Barkers book quite a few slots up my now 200 strong “to read” book list. Normally I refuse to do this as since I am one of those “atheists” who actually does read books by theists rather than just the atheist stuff, if I did allow myself that pleasure I would likely move the atheists book up and the theist ones down and never get to them. So I try to hold true to the order the books appeared on my list when recommended by respectable sources.
The conference overall defied to me the straw man I hear so often from theists about the atheist movement… that we all just sit around talking about no god all the time and quoting our own religious leaders like Dawkins. The exact opposite of this was the case and not only did I fail to hear a single quote or reference to Dawkins or Hitchens…. what I found these people to be were highly motivated, highly compassionate people focused on the well being of fellow humans to the point that each had a life story to tell of hardship and adversity punctuated by love, hope and ideals. Stories that moved one to the certainty that if any of the many people who do want to see the likes of Barker, Myers, Nasrin and Igwe dead were to enter the room at that moment that there would not be the slightest hesitation of stepping between them and ensuring they had to go through you first. And this for no other reason than it is the right thing to do… and not because we are promised some after life of bliss, sexual exploits with multiple virgins, or milk and honey to press to our lips.
This month we learn from a study conducted in University of B.C. that the only group Religious people trust as little as rapists is…. you guessed it…. Atheists.
The study showed that such people think Atheists good enough to do waitressing but not any job which requires any level of trust.
The reverse does not appear to be true in the study however, as Atheists do not consider religion or atheism when deciding who to trust.
A nice nail in the coffin to all who doubt that Religion fosters distrust and out group hatred, which Atheism fosters faith in fellow man.
Spates of angry Amish hair cutting and Satan turning people gay in the womb were all brushed aside by a landslide victory from Iraq this month.
The story that so swamped our polls was of 17-year-old student Rand Abdel-Qader – beaten to death by her father for her crush on a British soldier.
The crime was made only more horrific by the fact that the father was not only unrepentant but expressed remorse that he did not murder the girl when she was born to prevent her becoming what she became: A teenager with a crush.
But none of this compares with the fact he appears to still be free. The law supports his actions of having stamped on, suffocated and stabbed his daughter for her crime of growing up and under going normal human sexual awakening. Sent home with the congratulations of the police for being a real man of honor, he now lives alone with his sons of whom he is proud as they helped him kill the girl. Though he does warn them that if they become infected with homosexuality the same fate will befall them.
Divine healing is the target for the ire of this months Award where on the advice of Evangelist Pastors three HIV sufferers have died following a cessation of medication. The women were advised to stop taking their drugs in favor of the healing of god.
In a world where one could be locked up if one leads a person to their death through trickery or lies… it is abhorrent that one can cause the death of another… let alone three others… in such a way without facing criminal charges.
But that is the world of religion where it is one set of laws for the religious and another set for the rest. Name calling can get you arrested in the heat of argument but standing premeditated on a church pulpit and calling all homosexuals “sinful” and “abominations” is ok.
Litter by dumping wood on the side of a road can get you arrested but hammer a wooden cross into the side of the road in a random place and that is all ok.
Tricking someone into death can get you arrested but causing the death of people by tricking them out of medication in favor of godly healing is a-ok. Yet the world has seen enough of the result of god’s healing.
If we are to have laws, should we not prosecute them equally?
This month in the worlds clear bastion of love and equality known as Saudi Arabia a woman is to be whipped for the heinous crime of driving while being under the influence of…. being female. This in a country that does not yet allow women to vote but has finally announced a willingness to allow this. Maybe. But not until 2015.
Still with the vote coming and many women taking to cars despite the ban it is clear that theocracy is no longer enough to control our planets women like pets.
Guest post by Atheist Ireland member GT.
In a recent letter to the Irish Independent a correspondent noted that the Irish state’s new law term on the 3rd of October will commence with a roman catholic mass attended by representatives of the legal profession, judiciary, An Garda Siochana and the Defence Forces.
Why the Irish state should pay judges, policemen and soldiers to attend catholic mass in this day and age is beyond me. But I was not surprised when I recalled the religious worship forced onto me and colleagues in a previous occupation…that being a member of the Defence Forces.
Back to form after last month’s horrific pedophile story being a clear winner, there is a two way tie again this month in the voting for the August prize, which should add to the horror of trying to pick an overall 2011 winner in January.
The LA Times this month carried a story on Catholics who still have an issue with Galileo for trying to take away the teachings they still hold on to from 4 centuries ago about the earth’s position in the universe.
Matching it at the number one position this month however is Christian Midwife Hannah Adewole who thinks she should be exempt from wearing the same uniform as all the other people she works with because of her faith. Deuteronomy in her mind bans her from wearing trousers or any clothes “meant” for the opposite sex.
Clearly god with his infinite powers, intellect, knowledge and goodness finds cause to worry about who wears the pants down here on earth. Sure what else would god have to worry about? Probably not the muslim girls being raped merely because they are “capable” of having sex. No. Trousers are much more important than that.
Unusually there was one clear winner this month but the surprise fades away when one realizes why as it is yet another example of Religion being involved in the sexual abuse, and justification and/or cover up of the sexual abuse, of Children.
Despite some votes going to Austria for acknowledging the religious rights of it’s citizens to follow their Flying Spaghetti Monster religion by wearing a colander on their head in their Driving license photos…. and to Poland for hosting a meeting of Exorcists against Vampires…. top spot was taken this month by a new Saudi Fatwa that defends Pedophilia as “Marriage”.
Dr. Salih bin Fawzan the issuer of this particular fatwa is keeping his options wide open by declaring that even girls „in the cradle“ are old enough to be married off.
One can only hope that the rest of the world continues to be able to tell the difference between the words Pedophilia and Marriage. And between the words consummate and rape. And will realize that people like Mohammad did not “consummate” a marriage with a 9 year old. He raped her.
The sick pedophiles concerned simply declare that sex is not permitted until the child is “capable”. One wonders whether they have any concern for the child’s capability to refuse.
In the true style of it being impossible for Atheists to agree on just about everything, Junes believer award was a three way split between the comical, the serious and the tragic showing that the vagaries of religion can leave us open mouth at just how badly the religious can mess the world up in just about every way.
The tragic has my thoughts going out to the family and friends of 58 year old taxi driver who was so infected with his own true belief that he nailed himself to a cross in an act of self-crucifixion. All too often those who spout religious beliefs are lending credence to those amongst us who have genuine medical issues and start to hear voices or have delusions of religious grandeur. Rather than seeking medical assistance they attach false significance to their symptoms and here we have yet another victim of that mindset. The blood of this man’s death is on the hands of all those that spread the lies of religion that allow such people to interpret their symptoms in the light of such lies and follow through with them.
The serious comes from Trevor Phillips the chair of Britain’s Equality and Human Rights commission who… with all the concern of a man interested in Equality and Human Rights… claims that churches should be free to discriminate against anyone they like from women to homosexuals. I will leave others to pick over that one and it’s implications on the role he holds.
Finally the comical or as comical as something can be when it is also actually a tragedy but sometimes one can only laugh in the face of the tragedies religion brings to our world… I speak of laughing from despair not mirth…. A pastor in South Africa was murdered by people who accused him of possessing…. A Magic Penis. Not before his wife metamorphosised into an animal to terrorize the community. Her animal of choice being a snail. Terrifying creature indeed, but clearly not as terrifying as what religion and superstition does to the human mind. They should be more terrified of what their ignorance and religions have turned them into.
Another month of two winners. Can Atheists not agree on anything. Herding cats indeed
The first of the winners is Kirk Cameron… the guy who on a hot day once started talking to himself in cars and decided that rather than this meaning he required serious medical input into the state of his mind…. decided instead that this new development meant there must be a god. As he tells it he started talking to himself in a car one day and “I opened my eyes and realised something had changed in me”. Damn right Kirk. You had just become the kind of guy who sits in hot cars alone on the side of the road talking to himself. Something HAD changed very fundamentally, and it needs to be diagnosed.
How did he come to the attention of this months award however? Well it seems that he has decided to take the sum total of all his scientific notions and to apply them to the works of Stephen Hawking, which he sums up by saying that Hawkings idea only get a free pass because he is in a wheelchair and this makes other scientists too embarrassed to critique him and it would be like bullying a blind man to do so.
Joining him in first place with the lunacy stakes is recent Stroke victim Harold Camping who… possibly fueled by whatever medical condition affected his brain in such a way as to have him hospitalised, decided that the Judgement day would fall in this month, followed by the end of the world sometime in October. The money he has made from this canard in the form of donations or devotional offerings is likely currently funding his medical bills…. showing that on one level at least he had his timing JUST right.