The problem with Middle Eastern countries is not Islam, it’s zero separation of church and state

Secularism is the key to a mature and successful democracy. Well, lately I hear that socialism would be better, but let’s keep it simple…

If you look at countries where people are guaranteed basic human rights, where people of colour and of the LGBTQ community are treated fairly and not persecuted, what you find is secular countries, countries with a division between church and state via a secular constitution. No countries are perfect, but one can observe that this is true.

So the reason that Middle Eastern countries are places where people suffer, where women and gay/transgender people are treated badly, is not “Sharia Law”. It’s that those who hold power are religious leaders. Islam happens to be the religion there, but Christianity would be just as bad, if not worse. And it used to be that way centuries ago. If you actually read their holy books, the Bible when you stop cherry picking the good bits, is just as bad, if not worse than the Quran.

That’s why it gets to me when I read people carrying on about Sharia Law and immigrants, people who assume that every Muslim is a terrorist. That part of it is a clear fallacy of composition… A terrorist is Muslim; therefore all Muslims are terrorists. (Bullshit!) Of course it’s more than just that – you have to cherry pick and ignore all the acts of terror and murder committed by people who aren’t Muslim.

It’s not just Christians who think this way. I spend a lot of time in atheist groups on Facebook, and have noticed this blind hatred for Muslims has spread everywhere.

One has only to look at the US to see that I am right. Donald Trump and his minions with their Make America Great White & Christian Again… The longer they are in power, the more harm they do. While they’re unlikely to destroy a mature democracy, they sure are doing a bang-up job of fucking it up. Christians are calling for women to have no rights over their own bodies, with the euphemistic name of “pro life”. LGBTQ people have rights there, but not for long if the evangelical Christians have their way. And so many of those Christians make hateful statements about their former president just because of the colour of his skin. Even Trump, buffoon that he is, believes in the conspiracy that Obama is Muslim and not American. The Donald is a fucking joke. But a joke with power. A joke that stopped being funny a year ago.

Anyway, my point is this: Imagine a US with its secular constitution dissolved… Imagine America with a Christian government, ruling with Christian law. What you have then is even worse than Middle Eastern countries. Islam is not the enemy. Lack of secularism is. And if Donald Trump carries on doing his thing for much longer, that means the US is the enemy of the whole world.

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Walk the Talk 2017

Yesterday I participated in the 2017 Walk the Talk 8km walk, with a team from SASS. (South African Secular Society)

Here are some photos…

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Me before the walk. (Above.)

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Me after the walk. (Above.) Don’t be fooled by the smile… When I got home, I slept for the whole afternoon.

And lastly, here’s one of the team… It was a bigger team than last year, and unlike last year when I unfortunately went to gym (for the very first time) the day before and struggled with the walk, this one was enjoyable and relaxing, except for a couple of places where there were bottlenecks and I felt claustrophobic walking in the large crowd.

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There’s one more photo I’d like to get, but it’s on the phone of that guy to my right, and I’ll ask him for it as soon as he accepts my Facebook friend request.

Edit… eventually got it.

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Smoke Meth & Hail Satan?

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of references to this shirt online…

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I think it’s quite funny, so I share it myself when I see it, but maybe it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t supposed to be taken literally, just like Satanism itself. It’s a message about nihilism.

But it did get me thinking about Satanism, especially after a friend shared an image with me about coexistence. This one (cropped because it was mostly black):

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Well, how would you feel about coexisting with Satanists?

It’s an important question, because it raises the issue of what Satanism actually is – something that religious people often don’t realize. Satanism is not the belief in or the worship of a literal Satan. It’s not about devil-worship. Satanists are atheists, like me, and Satanism itself is a parody of religion. Their version of the Ten Commandments contains all the important moral lessons left out of the Christian one, such as rules about consent (don’t rape), not having slaves, not treating women like property, and so on.

In fact, nobody in history has ever worshipped the devil. If you believe in the Bible, then you believe that backing Satan would be to back the losing team. So if you believe in Satan, there is no way in hell that you would worship Satan. It makes zero fucking sense.

However, if Satanism is recognized as a religion, which it is, and your constitution allows freedom of religion… and a bunch of Christians hand out leaflets to proselytize their religion in a school, then all other religions, including Satanists, have equal rights to hand out their own. And what do you think is going to happen then? Christians don’t really want to coexist – they don’t want to allow Satanists to hand out leaflets. (I shouldn’t generalize. My apologies. But there have been many well publicized cases, especially in the US, where Christians clearly only believe in freedom of religion when it pertains to their religion. So you’re free to practice your religion as long as it is Christianity. Any recognition of other religions or even their religious holidays is perceived by these people as an attack on Christianity. Think of the nonsense around their Starbuck’s cups controversy, or their opposition to the phrase “Happy Holidays”, or the persecution complex behind movies like God’s Not Dead.) In my hypothetical example of leaflets being handed out, to oppose Satanists doing likewise, Christians will simply stop doing so themselves, and introduce rules banning others from doing so (1), and that is the objective of “Satanist” activists – secularism, the separation of church and state.

Which gets me wondering about the underlying sentiment in a message that asks for coexistence… If the message is sincere, then I’m all for it. Of course we all have the right to believe whatever we want, to practice our religions, or not practice any religion, and not be persecuted for whatever our choices may be. However, if the message really means “leave me alone and let me continue imposing my religion on others”, then fuck that. Nobody has the right to impose their religion or the rules of their religion on other people. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.

Personally, I don’t like hiding secularism behind a veneer of Satanism. I think it’s counterproductive. Many religious people tend to see things as this simple binary: “You either worship my god, or you follow my devil.” Every other religion, and anyone who doesn’t see things their way, is automatically a Satanist in their view. So calling yourself a Satanist, in my opinion, serves only to encourage their false dichotomy.

(1) The other issue I have with this, by pushing equality of Satanism to force Christians’ hands, is that it often results in Christians, who are in control, from imposing rules to prevent any religion from doing what they want. So while it stops them from proselytizing at schools or having their invocations in public meetings, it doesn’t really take religion out of the equation – it just forces them to prevent what they see as another “evil” religion from having a fair chance. While it achieves its objective in the short term, it allows them to delude themselves into claiming some sort of moral victory, and also further perpetuates the idea that Satanists are evil, and to those who realize that Satanists are really atheists, that atheism is also an ideology (which it is not).

“My Religion” homework for my son in second grade?

I posted this to a local atheist activist group, and received a great deal of support… might as well post it here too. Note that my message to the teacher is not aggressive… I am merely pointing out that proselytizing in school is not something that should happen. (It’s illegal but I have not pointed that out.) I expect a positive response from the teacher.

The issue here is that we live in a secular country. I understand that teaching our children about religions and cultures is a good thing, so I can see this was done with good intentions. However, the phrasing assumes that everybody is religious, and in the case of someone like Josh, the only one with an atheist parent in his class, this leaves him immediately feeling uncomfortable, and sets the tone for religious discrimination. (He has been upset by this for days and delayed from filling it in until the night before it was due.) An eight year old is never old enough to have independent views about religion, and thus is always going to reflect the parents’ views… which generally means those of his or her religious indoctrination.

In addition to this, Josh was in foster care until last December, and although he says he doesn’t think god is real, this is confusing to him. Surely such lessons could be introduced without this thoughtless and unnecessary pressure being placed upon the child?

Here is the post as made to the activist group…


Am I overreacting?

My son Josh, in grade 2, got this homework asking about “My religion”.
He has been stressing about it for days, and has been afraid that he will get into trouble because he doesn’t have a religion.

I don’t mind if he is taught about all religions, as long as nobody preaches to him. And he has mentioned before that his teacher has told the class she is a Christian. But this has caused him a lot of stress. So I wrote a letter to the teacher… in a hurry.

It’s very untidy and was written in a rush last night, and reads as follows:

Josh does not have a religion because I am an atheist.

He is worried that he will get into trouble for being honest.

This is putting him under a lot of unnecessary pressure.

I believe in separation of church and state and that religious proselytization has no place in school.

Please emphasize to him that there is no pressure for him to have a religion, and that you are only teaching him about religions in general.

Thank you

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Update: The teacher didn’t respond to me, but she did exactly as I asked. She explained to Josh that it’s “perfectly fine” for him not to have a religion and that the lesson was meant to teach the children about other religions. I don’t think she gets it though, because she also told him he can use atheism as his religion (when he presents it to the class today – the first half of the class presented yesterday). So she’s in the “atheism is also a religion” camp, despite those homework questions and answers making it clear that he does not have a religion and doesn’t worship or pray to a god. But at least she did reassure him that he wouldn’t get into trouble or lose marks for answering differently. So while I am not happy with the way the homework was phrased (the subject could have been raised without it), overall I am happy with the outcome.