For many Muslims, God is not a stingy merchant engaged in debit-credit accounting or a partisan bully that enforces hollow rituals by threats of eternal damnation. For them ritual prayer is not about seeking material gains from a stern taskmaster but having an undying trust in the power of hope, mercy and compassion.
I don't talk about religion in our home. Or, at least, I try not to. This is how it works for everything. From bedtimes to toys to language to diet, you can set up the rules how you like them in your house, but once your kids get out in the real world, the rule book is out the window. But when your kids and my kids go to school, those different rules mix.
When we, as atheists, say that Islam is the problem with the Middle East, we aren't saying that Muslims as people are the issue, we really are saying that the root of the crisis is the system of ancient, outmoded beliefs. Belief in Allah is not merely an identity marker, it is a belief that is acted upon, and criticizing this belief doesn't make one a racist.
Freedom of religion and freedom of conscience are rights that are so fundamental to the maintenance of democratic principles of state that it calls for a fervent protection of the rights of atheists and religious persons, alike. The rights of atheists and the rights of religious persons ought not to entail persecution of said persons.
My decision to leave the Christian faith didn't just happen because of a few negative conversations, or a few isolated events -- my decision was made because I realized (and experienced) that the Christian faith, for many, wasn't a welcome place for the oppressed, and that, in fact, has been, and in many different ways, continues to be, an agent of oppression for many people. Five years ago, there would be no way in hell that I could ever conceive of leaving the Christian faith. But here I am today. Friends have asked me why, and how, someone who was as zealous a Christian as I could so intentionally and deliberately leave the faith, that I decided, I am in a good, and secure place... and I'm ready to answer why.
I understand the importance of free thought and the necessity for societies to allow for variant perceptions on God including atheism. It is for this reason that I, as a religious person, strongly advocate for freedom of religion and decry these nations who persecute those who, in the process of thought, arrive at different perspectives.
There are many differences between the platonic idea of secularism and the secularist statute proposed last week in Quebec. These differences will doubtless count against the Charter of Values, especially in English Canada, where a discrete conception of religious freedom and suspicions of sovereigntist motivations have elicited much scepticism.
Rex Murphy helped shape the way I think. He was a shining example of the type of strong rhetorician that this country rarely produces. Now, he openly deals in hateful diatribes cast down from the pages of the National Post. This means he has become what his critics have incorrectly accused him of being all along: a shallow, reactionary demagogue. And his latest piece will only prove them right.
In a frightening display of rising sectarian violence, an atheist suicide bomber blew himself up on a busy street in Stockholm three days ago; killing eighteen agnostics and wounding over thirty. Members of the 'Swedish Atheistic Liberation Front' (SALF) have claimed responsibility for the bombing. Declaring the attack as revenge against the explosive agnostic riots, which, last week, hospitalized several atheists and terrorized the atheistic community.
That Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins are disappointed that religion hasn't gone the way of the dinosaur perhaps speaks to the fact that religion provides something of great importance to human beings, an importance that is beyond their grasp. Science provides the cold hard facts of life. Religion provides meaning. Even Dr. Krauss agreed that we make the meaning in our lives. Why can't that meaning come from religion?
Many comments regarding the appropriateness and potential effectiveness of the Canadian Office of Religious Freedom have been made; however, with the exception of a few reporters, no one has noted the exclusion of Secular Humanist or atheist organizations from whatever consultation that occurred. The frosting on that cake was the failure to invite representatives from any Secular Humanist organizations to the press conference formally announcing the creation of the office and the appointment of Dr. Andrew Bennett as its ambassador.
On December 15th, I will turn 29. Sadly, my birthday will mark the one year anniversary of Christopher Hitchens' death. I will never be Christopher Hitchens, no one will, but he is a hero of mine. Hitchens had a massive intellect, and his writing skills were exemplary. His work had many admirers including myself. His writing, courage, and hard work is something I hope to emulate.
I began to question religion at a very young age. I suppose my early interest in science and constant observations of the mistreatment of women in Hinduism and Indian culture played a large role. Thankfully, I was raised by an intelligent, progressive woman who welcomed and encouraged my critical thought. Even as I started to question religion in general and mine in particular, I continued to celebrate Diwali. It seems to be the one day of the year where the whole country puts aside its trivial differences, lights up, and celebrates together as one. That's a holiday that even the most crotchety atheists, this one included, can celebrate.