Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Why the Live and let live approach doesn't work

It's hard to see all the religious people of the world giving up their push to have the rules of their religion legislated if all the vocal atheists of the world were to suddenly fall silent. 

This is the naivety of the 'Live and let live' approach when it's aimed at atheists. 

From my experience the vast (if not total) majority of vocal atheists are motivated through their desire to stop having religion impose its rules onto those who don't share those beliefs (including the children they indoctrinate). 

The most common example of this imposition, I suspect, is marriage equality. Australia does not allow marriage between people who are the same gender. The opposition to this is, from my observation, 100% religiously motivated. Our current Prime Minister is opposed to due his catholic beliefs. Our previous Prime Minister was once opposed, but declared that he'd changed his mind. He concluded through his 'informed Christian conscience' that allowing marriage equality was the right thing to do. His reasoning can be seen in full here. In what could be considered a strange situation, our Prime Minister previous to that had an anti-equality position on marriage, despite being an atheist. Her reasoning, however, was "...what comes from the Bible has formed such an important part of our culture."

If not for vocal atheists and secularly minded theists, this push for equality would not exist and there'd be no chance ever of marriage equality becoming a reality, and same sex couples would be forever told that their love isn't worth joining in matrimony. How can one consider this a live and let live approach? 

If all theists of the world were advocates of the live and let live approach marriage equality would have been a reality shortly after it was identified as an anomaly. But no, when it comes to progressive morality, secular humanism leads the charge and religion is dragged kicking, screaming, and protesting behind. 

The 'live and let live' approach is essentially what the vocal atheists I respect are aiming for but we can't do it first because it's not the approach taken by theists. As I've said before, the vocal atheist position is reactionary. It has seen a rise in recent times because of religion and what religion has done and continues to do to society. If we, the atheists and secularists, were to adopt live and let live, theism would march on unimpeded and unquestioned. Rules that have no place outside of ancient scripture would be pushed through as legislation, and advances in morality would be a thing of the past. 

Atheists and secularists will continue to speak up as long as theists continue imposing their agenda onto the rest of society - whether it's their anti-equality position regarding marriage, their intimidating protests outside Planned Parenthood and other such places where abortions are available, their insistence that their version of the creation myth be taught as fact in school, the practice of praying rather than seeking medical attention while children die, their burning alive of people they think to be witches, their criminalising of homosexuality, their intimidation of students wanting to form atheist clubs in school - the list is practically endless. Because if we don't speak up we'll be forced to live under theistic rules with which we want absolutely nothing to do. 

So the live and let live approach may work one day, but it has to be theists first. 

To put it simply - if atheists shut up, we'll still hear from theists. If theists shut up, they'll stop hearing from atheists. 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

On Miracles

When a theist is trying to convince me that the god in which they happen to believe is real they'll often cite miracles as evidence. 

Of course the first question to ask is 'what do you mean by miracle?' The answer which comes back is usually something like an event which can't be explained, something inexplicable. 

Surely this is where the argument ends - if they understand what they've just said at all. Of course you will most likely recognise this as pure argument from ignorance. They can't explain what happened, therefore they think god did it. 

We all know it doesn't work like that. To make a case for God, you need to demonstrate that God was responsible, not that you don't know what was responsible. 

One of the most common examples is the surprise recovery from serious illness. The person wasn't expected to recover, they were given a short time to live...but 5 years later, here they are, alive and well. Must have been God, right? No. For one, they're not considering that people recover unexpectedly *all the time*! Well...maybe not all the time - but unexpected recoveries do happen. At what point does it lose it miraculousness? 

People throw around the word miracle for a rare event, an extraordinary occurrence, something they didn't except, or even something everyday that they really wanted (I got my concert tickets...it's a miracle!). But as with prayers - miracles are never something that is demonstrably impossible without the involvement of a god. Where's the amputee growing a limb back? Where's going to bed with a normal back and waking up with wings? No, these things never happen. Miracles are always things that could have happened anyway. 

It comes down to something I've written about previously. Not understanding something doesn't mean a god is responsible for it.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Religion based Censorship

I'm sure you've heard by now that there was an outcry and petition regarding an image in the latest Katy Perry music video. 

It's the word 'Allah' written in Arabic hanging from a chain around the neck of a character who is then disintegrated by Katy Perry's character. 

In what is an almost expected response now, Muslims kicked up a fuss, started a petition and some 65,000+ signatures later reports say the YouTube version of the song has had the word edited out. See below for before and after: 

65,000 people signing a petition to remove this image is staggering - why would they care? Well they care because it's 'blasphemous'. Apparently. Now if they want to get upset about it, that's up to them. But how dare they demand to have it removed? Who are they to say what images can and can't appear in a music video? One hopes that these 65,000 people also signed petitions in favour of human rights or prevention of animal cruelty. But I doubt it.

This is close on the heels of the controversy caused when Maajid Nawaz said that Muslims shouldn't be offended by the below Jesus and Mo cartoon:

Mr Nawaz was harassed online - not because he called Mohammed a name, not because he drew Mohammed (something Muslims don't like) not because he insulted Allah. No, it was because he said Muslims shouldn't find the above offensive. That's all. Because of the outcry Channel 4 in Britain censored the picture and showed it like this: 

Again, who are religious extremists to say what cartoons can and can't be shown or drawn?

These are just two examples, there are many more and it's not just from Muslims. Monty Python famously caused controversy among Christians with their film 'The Life of Brian'.

The religious extremism here isn't the issue. Well it is, but that's not why I'm writing. Sadly, we've come to expect it. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be fought against, but it's just not a surprise now. 

No, the issue here is the pandering to it. Why should freedom of speech or freedom of expression be the casualty? Why is it more important that religious sensitivities be protected over freedom? There is no such thing as the 'right to not be offended'. 

If we allow this bit of religious extremism to have its way, where do we stop? Islam wants women to be covered in a Hijab or Burka. What happens if 65,000 Muslims sign a petition demanding that every woman appearing on YouTube or television wears a Hijab? Do millions of YouTube videos suddenly get removed? Does the look of television change forever? 

I know I'm leaning toward Slippery Slope fallacy here but the problem is the religious people who are offended by almost everything and I genuinely don't know at what point they'll stop trying to force their rules onto others. 

Censorship based on religious sensibilities is dangerous and is a real threat to the freedom of people who don't subscribe to the religion in question (and to those who do). It would be one thing to go into a religion's building such as a mosque and offend the believers, but no one is forcing anyone to watch the Katy Perry video. No one is being forced to read the Jesus and Mo cartoons. The only forcing here is being done by the religious extremists - forcing people to submit to their whims. They need to understand that they don't get to tell other people what they should find sacred. They don't get to tell other people what they should and shouldn't be offended by. 

If person x is offended by something but person y isn't the solution isn't to allow neither of them to see it - the solution is that person x doesn't watch. Simple. I don't expect laws to be made to protect my feelings

If you would like to voice your counter position to the Katy Perry video censorship, my friend Kevin ( ) has set up a petition at Change.org, which you can find here.