A vast glorious apostasy? 4

Why are young Muslims leaving Islam? A new generation of educated Muslims is starting to question the fundamentals of their faith.

Hasan Suroor writes at The Telegraph (India):

The Economist narrated the story of an American Muslim boy of Somali descent, Mahad Olad, whose immigrant parents tricked him into going on a holiday with them to Kenya where they had made arrangements for him to go to a seminary to ‘restore’ his failing faith in Islam. He had no idea about his parents’ plans until he landed in Kenya.

As soon as he stepped off the plane on a family holiday to Kenya, Mahad Olad knew something was wrong. His mother, a ‘very devout, very conservative, very Wahhabi’ woman, was acting strangely—furtively taking phone calls when she thought he was out of earshot. His suspicions would soon be proved correct. Mr Olad’s family, Somali immigrants to America and devout Muslims, had discovered that he had not only renounced Islam but was also gay. The holiday was a ruse, an intervention to save his soul. (The Economist, 15 March, 2018)

When he got wise of their plan to hand him over to the care of Muslim clerics who would ‘restore’ his faith, he got so frightened that he managed to escape. ‘In the dead of night he sneaked into his mother’s room, stole his passport and was whisked away by taxi to the embassy, which eventually returned him safely to America. He has not spoken to his family since,’ according to the above report.

Behind Olad’s story hangs a tale we don’t usually hear about: how Islam is facing a wave of desertion by young Muslims suffering from a crisis of faith. The story we normally hear is of an Islam growing from strength to strength, and how for all the phobia that exists around it, it remains the fastest growing religion with 1.6 billion followers across the world and acquiring new converts on an almost daily basis. What we don’t hear is that it is also being abandoned by moderate Muslims, mostly young men and women, ill at ease with growing extremism in their communities. The ranks of ex-Muslims is reported to be swelling. ‘As the number of American Muslims has increased by almost 50 per cent in the past decade, so too has the number of ex-Muslims,’ The Economist report said, citing a Pew Research Centre survey according to which 23 per cent of Americans raised as Muslims no longer identify with the faith. Most are young second-generation immigrants, but there are also older Muslims ‘married to devout Muslim spouses and driving children to the mosque to study the Koran, at weekends to cover up their apostasy’.

And it is not just an American or Western phenomenon. Even deeply conservative countries with strict anti-apostasy regimes like Pakistan, Iran and Sudan have been hit by desertions. The Saudis were taken aback when the American journal, The New Republic, revealed the scale of Muslim conversion to atheism in their country, and more widely in the Muslim world. The numbers were eye-popping, ranging from hundreds to thousands in some countries. The Editor-in-chief of FreeArabs.com says (Invisible Atheists, Ahmed Benchemsi, The New Republic, 24 April 2015):

When I recently searched Facebook in both Arabic and English, combining the word ‘atheist’ with names of different Arab countries I turned up over 250 pages or groups, with memberships ranging from a few individuals to more than 11,000. And these numbers only pertain to Arab atheists (or Arabs concerned with the topic of atheism) who are committed enough to leave a trace online.

The journal cited a 2012, WIN/Gallup International poll which found that 5 per cent of Saudi citizens—more than a million people—self-identified as ‘convinced atheists,’ the same percentage as in the United States. ‘19 per cent of Saudis—almost six million people—think of themselves as “not a religious person”. In Italy, the figure is 15 per cent. These numbers are even more striking considering that many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Yemen, uphold the Sharia rule punishing apostasy with death,’ it pointed out.

It is claimed that the atheist-scientist Richard Dawkins’s God Delusion is the most downloaded book in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia. It is now being translated into Arabic and there are plans to offer it free to Arab readers. The trend is catching on despite the fact that in many Islamic countries, apostasy is punishable by death. Most Islamic countries oppose the universal declaration of human rights and have refused to sign it because it provides for the ‘freedom to change religion or belief’. 

The exact figure of former Muslims may never be known as most remain in the shadows to avoid detection. Those who have ‘outed’ themselves say they live in permanent fear for their own lives and safety of their families. In Pakistan, preachers have called for the houses of apostates to be burned down. They communicate through anonymous online forums claiming tens of thousands of followers, and loose global networks under the umbrella nomenclature, ‘Ex-Muslims’ and ‘Muslim-ish’. A Twitter campaign in Britain in 2015, had thousands of ex-Muslims from across the world tweeting their reasons for choosing to abandon their faith. These ranged from intolerance and inferior status of women to absence of freedom of thought and the idea of immutability of a seventh century doctrine. One -@Lib Muslim wrote: #ExMuslimBecause Misogyny, homophobia, stoning people to death, and killing apostates don’t suddenly become ‘respectable’ when put in a holy book. (Ali A. Rizvi, Huffington Post, 23 November, 2015)

Oxford University academic Faisal Devji has argued that by retaining ‘Muslim’ in their name, ‘ex-Muslims are recognizing the theological character of their renunciation’.

The Muslims among whom I was raised in East Africa included many who refused to pray or fast and were openly critical of religion. It would never occur to them to renounce Islam and proclaim atheism as a new identity or mission, which would have catapulted them back into a theological narrative. 

No, it wouldn’t. It doesn’t make sense. Atheism is not a new religious identity and certainly not a mission. Not believing in a god is not a theological position. So they refuse to pray or fast but they go on believing in Allah? Such opinions are not worth canvassing or discussing.

Simon Cottee, a British academic, has documented stories of many former Muslims in The Apostate: When Muslims Leave Islam. In each case, reasons for their decision differ, varying from religious bigotry and oppression, to violence in the name of Islam. Sometimes, as The Economist wrote in the 15 March, 2018 report, it could be a reaction to certain Quranic verses or the Hadith—the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad.

Often the verses that trigger this are controversial ones about slavery or gender that family members and imams cannot explain satisfactorily. Coming across the writings of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens sometimes has the same effect. Some chafe at sexism or homophobia. 

According to Faisal Devji::

Whether the converts are repulsed by the violent forms Islam has taken in places like Syria and Afghanistan or are backing up their claims for asylum, the conversions occur quietly and rarely as a result of proselytism. Nor do they tend to be accompanied by any transformation in the appearance, behavior or language of the convert. Analyzing the news reports suggests that these conversions are characterized by multiple quotidian and ambiguous motives. (The New York Times, 15 August, 2017)

Brian Whitaker, a noted Middle East correspondent and the author of Arabs Without God, debunks the explanation that the phenomenon is a reaction to the violent acts being perpetrated in the name of Islam.

While researching my book…I spent a lot of time trying to find out why some Arabs turn to atheism and none of those I spoke to mentioned terrorism or jihadism as a major factor… That is not particularly surprising, because atheism is a rejection of all forms of religion, not just the more outlandish variants of it.

Benchemsi in his Invisible AtheistsNew Republic article mentioned earlier, pointed out:

For the vast majority of Arab atheists, the road to disbelief begins…with personal doubts. They start to question the illogicalities found in the holy texts. Why are non-Muslims destined to hell, even though many of them are nice, decent people? Since God knows the future and controls everything, why would he put some people on the wrong path, then punish them as if he had nothing to do with their choices? Why is wine forbidden, yet virtuous Muslims are promised rivers of it in heaven?  

It is a significant common thread running through most of the accounts of ex-Muslims I’ve read: that it was NOT an easy decision to make. Some mulled for years before they were able to make up their minds as they struggled to reconcile what they saw as the contradictions between all the nice things they were taught about Islam and how it was actually practised. Before jumping ship, most apostates claim they made sincere efforts to clarify their doubts and overcome their scepticism— some learned Arabic and went back to original texts to make sure for themselves that they hadn’t got it wrong. It was only when—on the basis of their own independent reading of the scriptures—they concluded that they could not honestly continue to cling on to their faith, that they reluctantly took the plunge.

Many are said to suffer intense emotional and psychological trauma afterwards in a sign of how strongly Muslims feel about their religious identity, and Islam’s dominant presence in their lives … The loss of that identity leaves them in a social and moral limbo. There is at least one documented case of suicide—a young British Muslim, Irtaza Hussain, felt so disorientated and depressed that he went to seed and ultimately took his own life.

The trend has been described as a ‘ticking bomb’ with a new generation of educated Muslims starting to question the fundamentals of their faith.

How many? Is it a trend? Is it possible that islam will become Westernized (and so, in effect, neutralized) before the West becomes Islamized?

Is a vast glorious apostasy about to be seen spreading over the Islamic world?

It is a development greatly to be wished. And wishing looks for confirmation. But there isn’t much of that to be seen, even here in this article, is there?

Posted under India, Islam by Jillian Becker on Monday, September 23, 2019

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Breaking the spell 44

We very seldom quote from a Leftist atheist site.

Today we do.

At Patheos, Shem the Penman writes in praise of Daniel Dennett. (You can find the whole thing here.)

We won’t discuss his contention that Dennett writes better on atheism than Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris, all of whom he apparently despises (although all of them were to some degree, or at least for a certain time, on the Left). We have given our opinion of their writings elsewhere. (See eg. our reviews of some of their books under Pages in our margin.)

It is something he says that Dennett says that we choose to examine.

He writes:

It may not be as popular on nonbeliever reading lists, or as packed with quotable quips about religion as God Is Not Great or The God Delusion, but Daniel Dennett’s 2006 book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon gives us a scheme for a scientific study of religion: how it developed and what it means to society today. Even on my first reading of it, I recall being impressed with Dennett’s thoroughness and seriousness in his task, which was much more subtle and empathetic than the standard demolition of religion delivered by cheap polemicists like Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins.

Such a study is important, Dennett knows, because religion represents a significant investment by believers in time, effort, and resources. Whether we think religion is a good thing or not, we have to come up with some sort of explanation for its development and survival throughout human history. In Darwinian terms, it has to justify its cost at every step of its evolution. …

Nowadays, the custodians of religion have come up with ways to ensure its survival that represent defense mechanisms for the meme complex. The first is the “spell” Dennett refers to in the title: the admonition against examining religion the same way we’d examine other human phenomena like sexuality or language. But there’s a more significant way that religion perpetuates itself in our era, and that’s through the belief-in-belief. In other words, whether people believe in the deities and tenets of their religion, they profess belief that the belief in them is a good idea. Religion perpetuates itself not by the belief it inspires, but by the behavior it motivates. Professing religious belief, in particular, is a behavior that significantly contributes to the perpetuation of the meme complex of religion.

This is the feature of Dennett’s thought that distinguishes him from a critic of religion such as Dawkins: while Dawkins focuses on the literal beliefs of religious people, Dennett points out that from the meme’s-eye-view, there’s no difference between a Muslim who prays five times a day because he truly believes in Allah and the truth of the Koran, and a Muslim who prays five times a day because that’s what Muslims do. …

There is a difference. The difference is as stated – that the one truly believes and the other merely conforms. And it is a fairly significant difference, because there is a better chance that the conformer can be dissuaded from his conformity than that the believer can be dissuaded from his belief.

In sum, what Dennett is saying (according to the writer) is that religions continue through the ages because they become conventional in this or that society.

True, and not a revelation.

In most societies, throughout the Third World, the notion that ideas can and should be critically examined did not arise. Only the West was taught this marvelous and simple exercise; first very early in its history, by Socrates in the 4th century BCE, and then, after hundreds of years of dogmatic Christian tyranny, by the Enlightenment thinkers of the 17th and 18th centuries CE.

With the Enlightenment, religion in the West began to die. To quote from our own Articles of Reason: Many a belief can survive persecution, but not critical examination.

It did not happen that everyone who was told to reason became a rationalist. For many who preferred to feel rather than to think, religion was replaced by Romanticism. But almost everyone came to accept what Science revealed and what its child, Technology, put to use. Almost everyone, that is to say, who was taught some science and whose lives were transformed by technology; those  who were TOLD about those ideas, who experienced their effects.

Sure, there are still millions in the West – mainly in America – who learn some science, use technology, and nevertheless continue to believe that their religion is true. But their number is dwindling.

Religion must be argued against. Especially, now, Islam must be argued against. Argument is the best weapon in our arsenal to use against Islam – without excluding any others – precisely because so many Muslims pray five times a day for no better reason than that “that’s what Muslims do”.

That is why Muslims fear critical examination, so much so that they are trying to get it banned by law in Western countries, and by the UN, where they have a bullying majority.

We quote a few passages from the essay Tell them listed in our margin under Pages

Why do millions of Americans “think” that economic equality is morally desirable? …

Why do millions of university students in America admire intellectuals who hate America, such as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and make an icon out of the sadistic mass-murderer Che Guevara?

Why? Because they’ve been told to. They’ve been told that good people do and “think” these things. They want to be good. They believe what they’ve been taught. …

Now millions of conservatives are waking up and are asking, how did this happen? It happened because people patiently, energetically, persistently planned it and made it happen.

What can we do about it, they ask themselves and each other.

What they have to do about it is change the minds of the believers. First they must be sure that they want the free republic the founders established; that they want to maintain free markets; that they don’t want a welfare state; that they do want to preserve national defenses; that they want indoctrination in the schools to stop; that they want to forbid the application of foreign law; that they do not want to go on funding an institution – the UN – that consistently works against their interests. Then they must decide that their political philosophy is right, uniquely right, and must be implemented at any and all costs. Then they must start teaching it. With energy, persistence, patience and fiery enthusiasm. It will take time. But that is the only way. Teach, preach, argue, use every method that works.  …

How badly does the conservative right want to win [and hold on to] power in America? How important is it to them that they should?

If it is important, tell the voters, tell the children that the free market is the only means of creating general prosperity, and why. Tell them that central planning of an economy cannot work, and why. Tell them why competition is good for everyone, producers and consumers alike.

Tell them what profit is and why it is essential for ensuring abundance.

Tell them that only where people are free can there be discovery and innovation, improvement in everyone’s daily life, better technology, the advance of civilization. Explain why. Show them the proofs of history.

Tell them the truth about life in the Third World. Not politically correct sentimental drivel, but the actual awful facts about life in most other countries.

Tell them why impartial judgment is the only means to justice; why all sane adult citizens must be treated equally by the law; why people must be judged by their actions, not their intentions or feelings.

Tell them why government should be kept small and its powers limited. Tell them what the essential tasks of government are: protection of the nation, of the individual, of liberty, of the rule of law itself. And why governments should not be allowed more power and money than it needs to fulfill its few essential functions.

Shout down the shouters.

Tell Muslims what is wrong with their creed and why American secularism is better. Don’t allow them … to shut out criticism of their absurd and savage beliefs.

Tolerate only the tolerant and tolerable.

It will take time. Start now. … Tell them.

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Thursday, April 19, 2018

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The lure of the West 3

A possible and excellent solution to the Islamization of the West presents itself: Muslims leaving Islam.

Having encountered the far better life, the far richer culture of the West; having felt the freedom; having seen the opportunities –  especially for women – many Muslims are daring to become apostates.

At least in America it is happening to a significant extent.

The Economist reports:

As the number of American Muslims has increased by almost 50% in the past decade, so too has the number of ex-Muslims. According to the Pew Research Centre, 23% of Americans raised as Muslims no longer identify with the faith. Most of them are young second-generation immigrants who have come to reject the religion of their parents. Some, however, are older when their crisis of faith arrives, already married to devout Muslim spouses and driving children to the mosque to study the Koran at weekends.

The vast majority, whether young or old, are silent about their faithlessness. One Muslim college student, who came home drunk one evening, was confronted by his father. Not thinking clearly, the son confessed to his father that he was an atheist, whereupon the father revealed that he too had lost his faith many years ago. Yet he still admonished his son for not hiding his secret well enough.

Publicly leaving Islam is difficult because many Muslims live in tight-knit communities. Many apostates are left closeted, afraid to put at risk their relationships with their parents, on whom they may still depend, or with their siblings and their friends. Non-believing Mormons, Hasidic Jews and evangelical Christians find themselves in a similar predicament. Within Somali enclaves in Minneapolis and Pakistani ones in Dallas, renunciation of Islam is tantamount to renunciation of an entire social circle. “The most frustrating part is living knowing that my life has to be guided by the rules I don’t agree with,” says one still deep in the closet.

Apostasy is different from apathy, but that is also growing among Muslims. Among believers aged 55 or older, 53% say they perform all five of the mandatory daily prayers — no easy feat, considering that the first must be done before dawn. Among Muslim millennials, that proportion falls to 33%. Few would be ostracised for missing a prayer, or not fasting during the month of Ramadan — so long as those misdeeds were not made public.

In broad terms, there are two types of ex-Muslims. Those who are from less religious families simply drift away and face fewer repercussions. “It was a progression,” says one such ex-Muslim, who stopped praying at the age of eight after noticing that nothing cataclysmic happened when she missed a prayer one day. Then she starting sneaking meals during Ramadan, before moving on to alcohol and premarital sex. At 18, she was an atheist.

Then there are those in more religious households. They tend to have cleaner breaks, sudden realisations while studying the Koran or the Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Often the verses that trigger this are controversial ones about slavery or gender that family members and imams cannot explain satisfactorily. Coming across the writings of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens sometimes has the same effect. Some chafe at sexism or homophobia. “I remember one Halloween, I wasn’t allowed to go trick-or-treating because I had to clean up after dinner, but all my male cousins and brothers got to go,” says one female ex-Muslim who is not out to her family (nor will ever be, she fears).

To cope, some look online, seeking solace in anonymous forums. One, hosted on Reddit, has nearly 30,000 followers. Here ex-Muslims trade stories of families kicking their children out after they confess their disbelief. But they also traffic in lighter-hearted fare, like taking pictures of booze-and-pork meals during Ramadan — enjoyed in the daylight, of course

Despite all the pressure of family and community, more ex-Muslims seem to be going public. Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA), an advocacy organisation, has pushed for those who safely can to publicly declare their renunciations. “The goal is to change things enough so that we no longer need to exist,” says Sarah Haider, EXMNA’s director. The group launched a university tour, entitled “Normalising Dissent”, which has attracted angry critics and required extensive security preparations. Though she must contend with death threats, and has to be quite vigilant about infiltrators to her organization, Ms Haider persists. “Condemnation is still acknowledgment,” she notes.

While the penalties for apostasy can be high in the West, they are much more severe in the Muslim world. In Pakistan, blasphemy carries a death sentence. In Bangladesh, atheist writers have been hacked to death by machete-wielding vigilantes. An atheist who recently appeared on Egyptian television to debate a former deputy sheikh from Al-Azhar University was dismissed by the host and told that he needed to see a psychiatrist.

Millions who were so fortunate as to have been born into freedom in the countries of the West, now despise and even hate their country and their culture. The Left’s grip on education has meant that they have been indoctrinated to feel guilty over their own history and heritage. But the truth is, thanks to the Enlightenment the West is the superior civilization. The West is civilization itself – fighting an intense political battle for its survival against the destructive ideologies of the Left and encroaching Islam.

The more Muslims who come to appreciate our civilization, the more who abandon their religion and adopt our ways, the better for us, for them, for all humankind.

Berkeley values Islam more than science 3

Richard Dawkins is inarguably a great scientist. His books on evolution are beautifully written and packed with fascinating information that every educated person should know.

Richard Dawkins is an atheist and an influential propounder of atheism, reaching a vast audience.

For all of that we highly value him.

Politically, he is a man of the Left. We regret that very much. But of course it makes no difference to our respect for him and our gratitude to him.

The Left is not so tolerant. Because Richard Dawkins, as an atheist, dismisses and despises the religion of Islam, he is in trouble with his fellow Leftists, who have embraced Islam as a Third World victim of (fictitious) Western colonialism, imperialism, and oppression.

From Legal Insurrection:

“I make no apologies” for condemning “the misogyny, homophobia, and violence of Islamism” – Richard Dawkins.

Richard Dawkins was slated to give a talk with a radio station in the city of Berkeley to discuss his latest book: Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Atheist.

However, the talk was canceled.

KPFA, the Berkeley radio station that sponsored the event gave the following reason:

Dear Richard Dawkins event ticket buyers,

We regret to inform you that KPFA has canceled our event with Richard Dawkins. We had booked this event based entirely on his excellent new book on science, when we didn’t know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam, so many people.

KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech. While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech. We apologize for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins views much earlier. We also apologize to all those inconvenienced by this cancellation. Your ticket purchases will automatically be refunded by Brown Paper Tickets.

Sincerely,
KPFA Radio 94.1 FM

So Islam ranks higher than science on the value scale of the Left.

A whimpering about the “hurt feelings” of  Muslims makes progressive compassioneers all over the West hang their heads in shame.  

Jihadis throw “hurt feelings” around as freely as they throw bombs. It’s the weaponization of emotion. Fake emotion, of course.

It would be good if this episode caused Professor Dawkins to change his political affiliation. But we don’t expect it will.

Posted under Islam, Leftism, Science by Jillian Becker on Sunday, July 23, 2017

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Richard Dawkins: mostly right but rambling 3

Richard Dawkins was unable to attend the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C. on June 4, 2016.

Here’s the speech he would have given:

There are those who fear reason as cold, bleak, cheerless, unpoetic. That’s not just untrue; it’s the very opposite of true. Science is the poetry of reality.

The fact that you exist should brim you over with astonishment. You and I and every other living creature are machines of ineffable complexity. This complexity and its powerful illusion of design is why so many people succumb to the God temptation. The temptation to evade, by invoking a designer, the responsibility to explain. The God temptation is an evasion of responsibility because it invokes the very kind of thing it’s supposed to be explaining.

I’m a biologist, so I speak first of the biological version of the God temptation, the false argument destroyed by Darwin. There’s also a cosmological version. The fundamental constants of physics are said to be “fine-tuned” so that, in the fullness of time, eyes and peacocks, humans and brains will come into existence. The God temptation here is to invoke a divine knob-twiddler to adjust the dials of the physical constants so that they have the exquisitely precise values required to bring evolution, and eventually us, into being.

“God did it” can never be an explanation for anything. It is sheer intellectual cowardice. If you’ll stoop to magicking into existence an unexplained peacock designer, you might as well magic an unexplained peacock and cut out the middleman.

Nevertheless, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for such cowardice. The complexity of a living body, every one of its trillion cells, is so mind-shattering to anyone who truly grasps it, the temptation is overwhelming. It’s like when you see a really brilliant conjuring trick. You have to smack yourself and say, “No!” However largely my senses and my instincts are screaming “miracle”, it really isn’t. There is a rational explanation. In the case of the conjuring trick, we know it’s not a miracle. And honest conjurers like Jamy Ian Swiss, James Randi, and Penn & Teller tell us so.

In the case of nature’s apparent miracles, Charles Darwin plays the role of honest conjurer.

But conjurers only tell us that it’s a trick. Darwin tells us exactly how nature’s trick is done: cumulative natural selection. Darwin’s brilliant explanation has withstood 150 years of sustained attack and emerged without a scratch.

Physicists are well on their way to disposing of the cosmic God temptation, too.

My book The God Delusion, celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2016, provoked a score of what came to be called “fleas”: religious books with plagiaristic jacket designs and parasitic titles like The Dawkins Delusion or Deluded By Dawkins. The flea name came from a line of W. B. Yeats: “But was there ever dog that praised his fleas?”

Some of our best theologians, if indeed theology is a subject that can be good at all, if indeed theology is a subject at all, some of our best theologians pathetically tried to argue that, far from being complex, God is simple. There is no limit to the explanatory purposes to which the simple God’s infinite power is put. Is science having a little difficulty explaining X? No problem! Don’t give X another glance! God’s infinite power is effortlessly wheeled in to explain X. Along with everything else. And it’s always a simple explanation, because, after all, there’s only one God. What could be simpler than that?

The effrontery of it is beyond astounding. This supposedly simple God had to know how to set the nuclear force 1039 times stronger than gravity. He had to calculate with similar exactitude the requisite values of half a dozen critical numbers — the fundamental constants of physics.

Do you, with your prodigiously complex brain, understand quantum mechanics? I don’t! Yet God, that paragon of ultimate pure simplicity, not only understands it but invented it! Plus special and general relatively. Plus the Higgs Boson. And dark matter.

Finally, the icing on the cake: On top of being the ultimate mathematics and physics genius, this “simple” God has enough bandwidth to listen to the prayers of billions of people simultaneously, in all the world’s languages. He hears their confessed sins and decides which would be forgiven. He weighs up which cancer patients shall recover, which earthquake victims shall be spared, even who shall win a tennis match. Or a parking space.

God may be almighty, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, but the one thing He cannot be, if He’s even minimally to meet His job description, is “all-simple”. The statistical argument against the divine designer remains intact and inescapably devastating.

God also presents a temptation to laziness that may define our allegiances.

I am Christian! Well, of course I don’t believe in any of that supernatural stuff, but I was baptized, we go to church at Christmas, and I’m certainly not Jewish or Muslim, so I guess that makes me Christian!

By 2050, the population of Mauritania will be predominantly Muslim. It’s simple demography. Just compare the birthrates of the different communities in Mauritania.That makes the lazy assumption that a child of Muslim parents is defined as a Muslim.

Would you define a child of logical positivist parents as a logical positivist?

Would you define a child as a Keynesian on the basis of her parents’ economic school of thought?

One of the reasons I formed the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science in the United States is to combat America’s legendary religiosity, a form of obstinate backwardness that has serious implications for the rest of the world.

What church do you go to? The question is presumptuous to the point of rudeness, yet informant after informant tells me how often it’s thrown at newcomers to certain neighborhoods in America, as casually and automatically as a comment on the weather. That the newcomer might not attend the place of worship at all simply doesn’t cross the friendly neighborhood mind. It doesn’t cross the mind of a typical American politician, either, which is why they drag God into every speech, why they bend over backwards to appease religious lobbies when taking important decisions on abortion, stem cell research, and the teaching of evolution.

The Reason Rally is the antidote to all this. Today, in Washington, we celebrate science and urge the retreat of superstition. It is people like you, people who have traveled far to be here, who support secular organizations with your time and money, who are courageous enough to make their atheism known, that are the hope for the future.

I’m sorry doctor’s orders stop me from being in Washington today, except by this minor miracle of science, but I hope to see you at the next Reason Rally!

Although we agree with him by and large (of course), we don’t think it’s a very good speech. It is not sufficiently coherent.

The population of Mauritania is right now 100% Muslim. The children of Muslims are defined as Muslim by Muslim tradition and law. If Dawkins wants to say that the child of Muslims does not have to remain a believer in Islam, he should say so, but he doesn’t make the point. In fact from then on his speech rambles.

We like best the part we have emphasized in bold.

Dawkins was apparently kept from making the speech in person by “a small stroke”. We hope the stroke has not permanently impaired his fine brain. While we have always opposed him on political issues, we have read his books on evolution with much pleasure and learnt a lot from them.

Posted under Atheism by Jillian Becker on Friday, June 10, 2016

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Openly secular 0

Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science is a new book by Richard Dawkins.

It is mentioned in this video as a sequel to an earlier book, An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist.

They are two parts of an autobiography.

Not much about either is said in the discussion filmed here. There is much more about his first book The Selfish Gene. 

As always when he talks about evolution, Dawkins is rewarding to listen to.

Posted under Science, Videos by Jillian Becker on Thursday, October 15, 2015

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Dawkins disproves design 2

The last argument for the existence of a creator god is that the material universe is intelligently designed.

Richard Dawkins demonstrates that it isn’t, in this fascinating video from November 2013.

Posted under Religion general, Science by Jillian Becker on Friday, December 26, 2014

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Speaking of atheism 0

A chat about atheism, religion, and science. Recorded December 14, 2010.

Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens.

Beware the church militant redux! 28

A writer by the name of Enza Ferreri has written an article against Reason. She probably doesn’t see that that is what she’s done. But that is what she’s done. She writes:

It’s all very simple. We can’t fight Islam in the West without fighting the enablers of Islam in the West, namely the Leftists.

So far, so good.

And, since the Left has many different and separate aspects, we have to fight against each one of them. Secularism, environmentalism, global warming alarmism, homosexualism, militant feminism, sexual relativism, multiculturalism, anti-Christianity, Islamophilia, post-nationalism, internationalism are just as important targets to attack as Marxist economics, the expropriation of the capitalist class (or, in its modern reincarnation, redistribution of wealth), and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The words we have put in bold mark the issues we dispute with Enza Ferreri.

We don’t know what “homosexualism” is, or “sexual relativism”.

We consider sexual choices to be private matters (unless they involve children). They are certainly not dangerous threats to the survival of the West.

But while we agree with the author on her other “targets”, we emphatically disagree with her when it comes to secularism and anti-Christianity.

First, secularism:

Secularism is not the same as Leftism. Between the founding of the United States of America and the dawning in the 1960s of this Leftist age, there was a very long stretch of secularism, liberty, and prosperity.

But in those times and those countries where a church (in the widest sense) has been the ruling power, there has always been tyranny. What greater tyranny can there be than the imposition of an orthodoxy on every mind?

Communism and Nazism also impose orthodoxy, and punish dissent as cruelly as a theocracy. That is one of the reasons why we class these ideologies as religions. Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China were not secular states; they were orthodoxies, as tyrannous as the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, or the newly declared Islamic State now.  

The secular state, and only the secular state, is a free state.  Secularism is freedom. Freedom is only possible in the secular state. 

Next, anti-Christianity:

In a free, secular society, people are free to be Christians. But people are equally free to criticize Christianity.

Neglecting any of these fronts is like fighting a war leaving a battleground to the enemy, like fighting on the Western front and leaving totally undefended the Eastern one.

Secularism and atheism are certainly the first lines of important wars.

So she contends that the prime enemy in her war is freedom. That being so, she has no case to make against Islam or Marxism.

For all that she seems to be speaking for tolerance (being against Islamophilia) and reason (being against environmentalism, global warming alarmism, “militant feminism”); and against Islam (aka multiculturalism) and Marxism (redistribution etc.), she is actually speaking for her own choice of intolerant, irrational, orthodox tyranny.

A secularist West will always lose to Islam, because it will have enough compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence that are the remnants of its Christian heritage, but it will have lost the ideals, the passion and certainty of fighting for a just cause that were once part of Christianity and have disappeared with its erosion.

Her assumptions are arrogant to an extreme. Compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence are not the legacies of “a Christian heritage” but of enlightened reason.

It is pointless to try and fight one irrational belief, such as Islam or Marxism, by setting up another irrational belief, such as Christianity, in opposition to it. There is no better reason to believe in the Trinity than in Allah or the inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Two quotes here serve as epigrams. Robert Spencer wrote in his great work Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t: “People who are ashamed of their own culture will not defend it.” And Dennis Prager said during one of his radio broadcasts, “Only good religion can counter bad religion.”

We admire much that Robert Spencer and Denis Prager write. And we think Spencer makes a point here worth thinking about. But to Prager’s assertion we say, nonsense!

Some people claim that there won’t be a religious revival in Europe because we are past believing in God. That this is not true can be seen by the high – and increasing – number of Westerners who convert to Islam. Many of them give as a reason for their conversion the need for absolutes, boundaries and well-defined status. A journalist writing for The Spectator on this subject explained why she is Catholic:

But above all, I like the moral certainties. I don’t mind the dogma one bit. I would rather dogma and impossible ideals than confusion and compromise. In that sense, I do identify with those who choose Islam over the way of no faith, or a seemingly uncertain faith, like the woolly old C of E.

Confusion and compromise is inescapable. How can dogma – which is to say being incurably wrong –  and “impossible ideals” be better than admitting the truth of scio nescio: I know that I do not know? It is as if the culture on which such persons as the quoted Catholic and the author of the article have been raised was never affected by Socratean doubt, the Enlightenment, the assumption of ignorance upon which all true science proceeds.

William Kilpatrick, in Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West – a book I thoroughly recommend reading -, writes: Brian Young’s friends said he was troubled by the decadence of Western society. David Courtrailler’s lawyer said, “For David, Islam ordered his life.” These are the sorts of reasons ordinary converts to Islam give. A common refrain from converts is that Islam provides a complete plan for life in contrast to the ruleless and clueless life offered by secular society. As Mary Fallot, a young French convert, explains, “Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it’s easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points.” If you look at the convert testimonials on Muslim websites, they echo this refrain: Islam brings “peace”, “order”, “discipline”, and a way of life that Christianity and other religions fail to offer.

Islam brings peace!  He – and she – can say that with a straight face? While IS (ISIS, ISIL) is rampaging through Syria and Iraq mass-slaughtering, impaling, crucifying, decapitating, raping, enslaving; while Hamas is firing thousands of rockets into Israel; while civil war rages in Syria; while Yezidis, Kurds, Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, other Muslims are being daily killed and constantly persecuted by Muslims?

Astonishing that some women crave the “order” and “discipline” of subjugation; when the “discipline” is exerted by enslavement, beatings, whippings, stonings, legal discrimination.

Human beings will never be past the need for believing in something bigger than themselves, because that need is part of the human mind.

Where are there human beings who do not know that natural forces are “bigger than themselves”? Who among us does not know that we are mortal?

She continues in the same vein. We’ll not irritate our readers with all of it. She is a true believer. And what she believes is that Christianity is good and true.

We will skip to what she quotes as wisdom from a Catholic primate:

A clear direction was given by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy. As early as 30 September 2000, before 9/11, when very few in the West even thought of worrying about Islam, he delivered a very forward-looking speech, which included this premonition:

… Either Europe will become Christian again or it will become Muslim. What I see without future is the “culture of nothing”, of freedom without limits and without content, of skepticism boasted as intellectual achievement, which seems to be the attitude largely dominant among European peoples, all more or less rich of means and poor of truths. This “culture of nothingness” (sustained by hedonism and libertarian insatiability) will not be able to withstand the ideological onslaught of Islam, which will not be missing: only the rediscovery of the Christian event as the only salvation for man – and therefore only a strong resurrection of the ancient soul of Europe – will offer a different outcome to this inevitable confrontation.

The culture of reason is not a “culture of nothing”. It is a culture of rational humility; of admitting ignorance and trying to find the truth, even if one can never be certain one has found it. Skepticism is the only engine of discovery.

“Freedom without limits”? Freedom of action always has a limit. In a free society, everyone’s freedom is limited by everyone else’s under the rule of law. But indeed the freedom of the mind has no limits, nor should it have any.

Notice the snide swipe at riches and “hedonism”. Do you think that he, as a cardinal, pigs it in some hovel?

By “truths” he means the  patent absurdities of Christian theological belief.

“Libertarian insatiability”. What the heck does that mean?

If the Western culture of reason, secularism, liberty, skepticism, science, cannot withstand the onslaught of Islam, it will be because that culture has been abandoned by people like Enza Ferreri.

She goes on to blame shrinking birthrates on secularism.  Then she ends with this:

Militant atheists à la Richard Dawkins have not really given enough thought to the long-term consequences of their ideas, which we are beginning to see.

And of which we are reminded whenever, for example, we read in the news of doctors and missionaries who die of Ebola while assisting affected patients for Christian charities. Not many atheist charities are involved in that work.

How many cures for diseases have been found by scientists among whom atheists are in a huge majority? The medical researchers who eliminated smallpox; those who found how to detect the beginnings of cancer and treat it before it becomes lethal, and how to restore wholeness to lepers and replace a faulty heart or kidney …. the list could run on for hours … cure more people than all the martyrdom-seeking self-righteous preachy Christians out to save their imaginary souls by “assisting affected patients” have ever done or could do in a thousand years.

As a reminder to readers who have a strong stomach of what happened when the Christian Churches provided “order” and “discipline” to Europe and wherever else they could reach, we recommend The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual by Jonathan Kirsch, and our own post Calvin: a chapter in the terrible history of Christianity by Jillian Becker, April 25, 2010. (Put the title in our search slot.)

Nothing IS (ISIS, ISIL) is doing now in the name of Islam is worse in type or degree than what those Christians did in the name of Christianity.

The world needs saving from religion.

Religion in the twenty-first century? 7

This video, published in February 2013, is a film of a debate held by the Cambridge Union on the proposition: “This House believes religion has no place in the twenty-first century”. (Organized religion only is meant.)

It is over an hour and a half long. Is it worth watching?

We think it’s worth hearing what Richard Dawkins has to say in support of the motion. And also for what another eloquent atheist says – Douglas Murray, who surprisingly opposes it, but for quite different reasons from those of the other two opponents. They are a pair of downright villains: the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who campaigned for sharia to be introduced into Britain; and his friend Tariq Ramadan of the Muslim Brotherhood. You’ll only get an earful of pious poppycock from each of them.

There is no argument over theology. No one mentions the wars of religion raging in the Middle East.

We came to one certain conclusion: religion may linger on a while yet, but Oh, it will be dull!

 

Posted under Religion general, United Kingdom by Jillian Becker on Sunday, August 17, 2014

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