Despite spending most of my life as an atheist, I have come to realize that spirituality is part of the human condition. So is the ability to think for oneself, to follow one's own moral compass and to challenge stereotypes that others have created for their own purposes. If you agree, you might have a spark of Vesta's ancient fire in you after all.
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.
The fact is that for such a 'religious' person, what they determine to be ethical comes from a system that may be totally independent from other systems. This can make dialogue effectively impossible for there is no point of connection. What these people accept as right or wrong is solely what the 'deity' in which they believe defines as right or wrong.
We need social reflection on the topic of religion to be able to separate superstition, fanaticism, and ignorance from legitimate expressions of religion. In learning about what true religion is, we can benefit from what it can contribute towards the progress of humanity and curb acts of ignorance and fundamentalism that are carried out in its name.
"How do I make my YouTube video/Facebook post/blog post/etc. go viral?" I was asked it twice last week alone. By now, one would think that people would realize that there's no magic formula. So in an effort to satisfy inquiring minds, and to finally bring closure to the topic, I have come up with the foolproof, two-step path to Virality.
Historically, prejudice of any kind could be freely expressed with few repercussions (emotional, legal, or otherwise) so long as there was a reasonable justification. Religion has often served as the justification, and has therefore facilitated an array of prejudice, from racism to sexism to homophobia. Over time, the use of religious beliefs to justify prejudice has tended to decline, but still persists -- especially when it comes to homosexuality.
Pushers for Trinity Western and its faith-based law school -- which is an oxymoron up there with civil war and old news -- would like you to believe this whole deal is about religious freedom. How can any law school be able to create, foster, and spit out our next generation of lawyers when it doesn't hold our values? Not just Canadian values but simple human-to-human values.
Who cares if an asshole is feeling ostracized for being an asshole? Isn't that sort of the point? If they stew on it and distance themselves from other people, that's a win. Who wants to spend time with an asshole? If they revisit their thinking in order to avoid being shamed again, so much the better; either way, we lose one asshole.
According to a Facebook post of his estranged son, Nathan, Fred Phelps Sr, the founder of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, is dying. In life, Phelps evaded prison on several occasions, and in my view at least he'll also escape the punishments of the non-existent hereafter. Westboro Baptist continues to picket funerals and to applaud every American misfortune, from earthquakes to school mass shootings, as the glorious work of an angry, hateful and vindictive God. But hate in all its forms is not the work of God, but instead of small and broken people.
This past week, the much lauded TV show Cosmos made its return to the small screen. Back in 1980, I was a 13-year-old immigrant kid, youngest in a busy, working class household of seven people, and attending a Toronto inner city middle school that was not exactly a model of academic excellence. Enter into that world Carl Sagan.
An article published in the Globe and Mail last week lulled readers into thinking that India is struggling to contain a growing Hindu fascist movement, carelessly employing reductionism and omission to present a distorted view of a country that is gaining economic and cultural importance for Canada.
Only days ago, news leaked that Penguin Books India had quietly settled a 2011 lawsuit filed against it by a conservative Indian education reform group, which required the publisher to withdraw and destroy all available copies of the Indian edition of University of Chicago professor Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus: An Alternative History.
I honestly can't think of a major religion that forbids men from meeting in public with a group of women. And honestly, if this restriction existed, how would you even function in the world? Regardless of whether the student's request is legitimate, let's talk about the fact that certain people quite high up in the university's food chain were willing to grant the accommodation that the student was seeking. A secular university -- I seriously cannot stress that point enough -- was more than willing to make an exception based on a religious belief that women were ultimately so different from men that the two genders could not interact in public.
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.
Imagine your child's favourite teacher. This teacher is known to provide her students with an enriched classroom. Now imagine that this exemplary teacher is a person who subscribes to a religious faith for which she dresses in a particular fashion. Should she remove the outward signs of her faith so that she can keep teaching?
At their age, the best explanation I can give my kids is that we are Muslim and that's why we don't celebrate Christmas. I know that as they get older, I can get into more detail but for now, that will have to suffice. We still wish our friends and neighbours who celebrate a Merry Christmas just as they wish us a Happy Eid when it's our turn and I hope to pass on this respect for other holidays and faiths to our children.
I refuse to be part of any organized Christian sect because my problem, I realized, isn't with God. It's with a lot of his followers. It's why I ended up leaving the church a few years ago. It's why I struggle so much with hatred and disgust when it comes to Christianity.But it changes at Christmas time.