Atheist Climber Prominent People Project

September 24, 2010 § 7 Comments

Atheist Climber Blog is turning One year old on October 10! Yay! And I remember like yesterday thinking “Do I have anything to write about? Will anyone care? Will anyone read it?” I just wish I had taken more baby photos!

Well you have all spoken to me by visiting and commenting on my blog. My measure of success has been reflected in the blog stats with over 60,000 page hits, over 100 subscribers, and more than 1500 comments for the 100+ articles and videos I have posted. This far surpasses my expectations and for that I thank you all.

To celebrate, I am in the process of interviewing a selection of prominent figures in humanism, atheism, science and critical thinking. Most of these will be in the form of written interviews, but who knows? I might, down the track, do some video or audio interviews too. This will be dependent on how these interviews are received by my readers.

I don’t want to say too much at this stage, but suffice to say, I already have confirmation from a few very prominent and important people who I’m sure you’d recognise. More information to come. So stay tuned!

The first interview will be published on Atheist Climber Blog’s first birthday, October 10, 2010. So come celebrate with me, and feed your brain with the words of some great thinkers.

Thanks again,
Atheist Climber

Burning Religious Texts

September 11, 2010 § 10 Comments

There has been a lot of stink over Pastor Terry Jones and his proposed 9/11 Qur’an burning party, so I thought I’d throw my opinion into the ring and see what comes of it. I’d be interested to see what you think too.

Pastor Terry Jones is a religious nutjob, part of a cult which is not only openly anti Islam, but also openly homophobic. As he is a Charismatic Christian leader, I hold his opinions as extremist anyhow, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that someone like him would be proposing such a stunt.

I don’t have a problem with burning the Qur’an, just as I have no problem with PZ Myers and his treatment of the Christian sacrament. The book is just a book, and that’s that. It’s a physical object, nothing more. While he’s at it he can throw in all his copies of the Bible also. Makes no difference to the world. The media have brought so much attention to his proposed bonfire, and all over a little book-burning. This is not a Fahrenheit 451 situation. He owns the books, and if he needs something to cook his hamburgers over, so be it. Who am I to say what a whackjob like him can do in his own backyard?

As a symbolic act though it is quite sickening to see this man using the tragedies of September 11 to justify his hatred of other people. The tragedies of 9/11 were perpetrated by people who were Muslim, true. But the broad brush of “they are all terrorists” is just not acceptable in today’s society, just as it would be remiss of me to say that all Christians are waiting for the Rapture to come so they can sit with God in heaven while the heathens like myself burn below.

All  this hype about 9/11 and the Muslim community is a little unsettling. I am by no means defending Islam as a good thing, in fact I’d say it’s more than a little backward in this day and age. However all the Muslims I know, apart from following Islam, are decent and kind folk, and I can forgive them for their faith as they were indoctrinated into it at a young age, as is done in their communities. It’s the “eye-for-an-eye” attitude of this pastor that gets my goat. He thinks that by burning the Muslim holy book (like I said, whatever) he will somehow prove that he and his faith, and America for that matter, is better than the Muslim community? And this is about MUCH more than the Islamic community center proposed for a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero.

Ground Zero is not a holy Christian site. It’s the site of one of the most heinous acts to be perpetrated on humanity in living history. The fact that, so some people, it has become synonymous with their Christian God is a little more than unsettling. Not every one of the people who perished in 9/11 were Christians, in fact there were people from all faiths in the buildings when they came tumbling to the ground. Every life lost on that day was a tragedy. Every one, regardless of their faith.

So the argument that Islam is somehow provoking a backlash by proposing this centre is moot. Sure the hijackers were Muslim, but does that speak for every Muslim? There was an Islamic prayer room on the 17th floor of the Twin Towers, and there is a pre-existing Islamic prayer space much closer to Ground Zero than the proposed Islamic community centre that’s been there for years. It makes no difference in the long run to have a community centre there, in fact it may be helpful in healing some of the bad blood that 9/11 has brought to the surface.

The proposed Qur’an burning is supposedly a reaction against this Islamic community center to try to teach Islam the lesson that “You cannot mess with America!” But the only thing it will achieve is that extremist Muslims will see this act of stupidity as a provocation, and because of all the attention this has received from the media, they may well act upon it in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

This is not about “Freedom of speech”. This is about “Should this idiot be allowed to possibly provoke the people of Islam into a mindset of revenge upon Americans?” He can say anything he likes, because he is an American, but he is throwing stones for the hell of it. And the Islamic faith is much more easy to agitate than that of most Christians.

And one last thing. Religion in this form is dangerous. Hatespeak is dangerous. People who breed this hatespeak are dangerous. This is because these things are not done in their own names, but in the name of their God. No responsibility will be taken, because this is the way they interpret the “wants of God”. Surely it’s not that Pastor Terry Jones is a narrow-minded, bigoted, nationalistic, bible-thumping reactionary himself, is it? Seems all too convenient, don’t you think?

EDIT: See what Olbermann and Obama have to say about this outrage.

God says you are a fraud!

September 7, 2010 § 27 Comments

It’s that time of the month again, and Outreach Media have released their new poster, which this time is an interesting one, and on a topic I have been thinking a bit about lately.

It can be forgiven

It can be forgiven - from outreachmedia.org.au

Basically this month’s billboard tells us that we are all forgiven for WHATEVER we do, as long as we take Christ into our hearts. OK, I disagree with this from the outset, but it’s the article that accompanies it that really gets my blood boiling. From the article:

“But the Bible’s opinion is that we’re all bad. For example, Jesus declares that our anger makes us all murderers at heart. Jesus makes it clear that God is only interested in those people who […] are ashamed and appalled at their sin.

“Is that you? Are you quietly dying inside? Is there something you’ve said, thought or done that’s ripping your insides out? Are you struggling to be around people because you feel you don’t deserve their company and they probably know you’re a fraud anyway?”

That’s right, you are a fraud! And don’t you try to pretend otherwise.

What really gets me about this whole attitude that the bible portrays is that firstly, you are corrupt and can ONLY find your way to truth if you put your trust and faith in God and Jesus, and secondly, that it doesn’t matter what you do, if you put your trust and faith in God and Jesus you will be forgiven for whatever you do in life. So many christians try to tell me that this is not what the bible means when it says these things.

What kind of incentive is there to actually take some responsibility for your own actions if you are just going to be forgiven for them when you “give up” everything to Jesus? What sort of incentive is there to be kind to your fellow-man if you can just repent at the last moment, feel some fleeting regret and instantly be forgiven?

And what sort of incentive is there for people to feel good about themselves if they are fraudulent, lying and born sinners? What sort of attitude is this to pass on to our children?

According to this, feel bad about yourself, and do whatever you please but as long as you believe in God and Jesus, you will be rewarded with a beautiful afterlife at God’s side.

I don’t know about you, but I was born right the first time. As were we all. I don’t need a Christian re-birth in heaven to make me perfect, I am perfect with all my human failings.

Sorry am I missing something?

EDIT: Added links to Outreach and the offending article.

Thinly Veiled Racism

August 17, 2010 § 2 Comments

The upcoming election has skirted around just about every topic I actually hold as important. Sure they need to address topics such as the economy and the security of the nation. This election campaign has been particularly boring and skirts across topics with rhetoric and empty promises. Internet censorship, (where opponents of the filter are accused of being in favour of child pornography as a matter of course), the denial of same-sex marriage are topics that we the public want to have some movement on, but every day we hear the same thing, and so often in language that panders to the Christian and conservative lobbies. Julia Gillard, for instance,  is a self-proclaimed atheist, and yet continues to promise money to things like the School Chaplaincy Scheme. Tony Abbott is a fervent believer, and he often spouts sexism and ideals from the middle ages, so I won’t bother to talk too much about him.

But one particular political football that both sides are guilty of kicking about is that of asylum seekers. The politicians know that they can play this card to leverage off the xenophobic ideas that the media have fed people since the 9/11 attacks and the Bali bombings, and the message is clear. “Australia is in danger of being overrun, we must stop these people, because they might be terrorists.” This is a thinly veiled racist attitude dressed up as political astuteness.

And all the attention is on the boats, when illegal immigrants mostly arrive by aeroplane. Anyway, it’s a blog piece in itself, but I thought this campaign from Get Up was a really good explanation of the fear-mongering and misinformation we have been fed throughout this campaign about refugees coming into Australia.

Stumble This!

Further Reading about this election and the “promises”
Why are we robbing our littlies to preach Paul? by Leslie Cannold, August 16, The National Times

Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions

June 15, 2010 § 10 Comments

Here are a couple of the more powerful statements he made in this TED presentation:

“Is it a good idea, generally speaking to pain and violence and public humiliation as a way of encouraging healthy emotional development and good behaviour? Is there any doubt that this question has an answer and that it matters? Now many of you might worry that the notion of well-being is truly undefined and seemingly perpetually open to be re-construed, then how therefore can there be an objective notion of well-being?”

“Consider the great problem of women’s bodies. What to do about them? Well this is one thing you can do about them . You can cover them up. Now it is the position generally of our intellectual community that while we might not like this, we might think of this as wrong in Boston or Paolo Alto, who are we to say that the proud denizens of an ancient culture are wrong to force their wives and daughters to live in cloth bags? I mean, who are we to say even that it is wrong to beat them with lengths of steel cable or throw battery acid in their faces if they decline the privilege of being smothered in this way?

Or who are we NOT to say this? Who are we to pretend that we know so little about human well-being that we have to be non-judgemental about a practice like this? I’m not talking bout voluntary wearing of a veil, women should be allowed to wear what they want as far as I’m concerned. But what does voluntary mean in a community where when a girl gets raped her father’s first impulse rather often is to murder her out of shame?”

I think this should be shared around as much as possible, and I really think every person should see it.

Crimes Against Women and Children in the Name of Islam

June 12, 2010 § 9 Comments

Mohammed, the prophet of the Islamic world, married his last bride Aisha when she was just six years old, and the consummated the marriage with her when she was just nine years old. In Islamic states, partly because of this precedent, this practice still happens in fundamentalist countries like Afghanistan.  Muslims will say that a child of six or seven is almost certain to be a virgin. Mohammed was at least 50 when he married Aisha.

The practice of forced marriages (as opposed to arranged marriages) in some Muslim states such as Afghanistan is very common. Some reports claim that somewhere between 60-80 percent of marriages in Afghanistan are forced upon the girls involved or without the consent of the girls. These marriages are seen as a way to resolve conflicts between families, or as a way to absolve someone of a wrongdoing. The girls are treated as they would treat cattle, and are given to these men as offerings.

Some reports also estimate that 57 percent of Afghani girls are married before the age of 16, and it is unusual to find an unmarried girl older than 18 years of age. The practice is justified twofold; that the girls are helping to keep the peace between families, and that the Islamic prophet Mohammed had set this precedent.

In Afghanistan the legal age to be married is 16, but many people ignore this law or claim they were unaware of it. The children in this situation are robbed of childhood, and as you will see, many are robbed of their life. This practice is abhorrent, and any civilised culture will see it as such.

In Nigeria, a 49-year-old Muslim Senator has reportedly married a 13-year-old girl, and has allegedly previously married a 15-year-old in 2006, citing that he paid a dowry of $100,000 to the parents for her. Although looked down upon by other ministers in Nigeria it is still happening.

Women in Islam have no rights, especially if they are non-Muslim, and these men get away with their evils because people are too afraid to stand up against the barbarity of the culture which the religion they follow has instilled in them. Threats of death are imposed upon those who would stand up against this. In Lahore, a man and his entourage of Muslim lawyers has threatened to “burn alive” anyone who will come to the defence of a 12-year-old servant of his, whom he raped and murdered.

Many girls will find themselves in a marriage with a man much older than they are, and will be given the sole duties of looking after the household and giving offspring to the man. Some men have multiple wives, and the women become a harem for that man. The men are often abusive to these girls, sometimes to the point where the girl should be hospitalised, but often is not. The beating of wives is seen as the “honourable thing to do”, for the wife must be kept in line with the wishings of the man and of Allah.

Often these girls will find themselves in these abusive relationships, and will seek a way out.  But the way out is a problem in itself; if the girl were to leave she would bring shame upon her own family and her husband’s, and would be hunted down and possibly stoned to death or just beaten withing an inch of her life; if she stays, she may be beaten thus anyhow. Sometimes out of pure desperation, a girl seeking to be free from the bonds of this abusive relationship will choose self-harm rather than bringing shame upon her people.

In Afghanistan, it is believe that more than 10 women and girls choose self-immolation (warning very graphic content) as the escape from their bondage. Around the web there are numerous stories of women who, feeling there was no better way, have chosen to set themselves on fire rather than continue living in such conditions. Some girls die from their injuries. Some do not but are so badly scarred so as to lose their legs, or are severely disfigured by these burns. Those that live may wind up on the streets, homeless.

The culture in Afghanistan is such that women are treated as slaves, and in some cases, worse than dogs. Not only do they wear the burqa in public at all times, they are not allowed to leave the home alone, not allowed to speak to anyone they don’t know, and not allowed to make their identity known nor engage with any of their husband’s friends they may meet in the street. They are not treated as second-class citizens, rather as livestock that can produce more sons for the family.

People blame Islam for these practices. And yet, there are many more Islamic people who don’t practice this than do. Islam itself is not to blame wholly for these atrocities, rather the culture that bases itself upon Islam, then justifies these stone-aged practices based on the words of the Koran or the Hadeeth, saying it is God’s will that this be done. When a culture is poor and has little or no access to education, these kinds of barbaric practices continue to happen.

The culture in Afghanistan is sick. The barbarism and sheer disrespect for human rights that occurs there is all so often backed up by the perverse and outmoded words of their holy books. This illness in the Afghan culture continues, even after the ousting of the Taliban, who were ultra conservative and would set upon women with batons for showing ANY skin, but it is not much better now.

While this culture is deeply ingrained in their societies, these practices in the name of Islam  shows it toi be, in its extreme, nothing more than an ultra-conservative ultra-violent “boy’s club” where it members all look after each other. And as sickening as all this is, nothing seems to be getting better.

These girls stories are the same story I have heard again and again of extreme desperation, of girls who see their only escape from forced marriage as being self harm. It is gut-wrenchingly sad to see such lives destroyed by the greed and stupidity of men. Here is an example of one girl’s account of the horrors she has faced at the brutal hands of an extreme Islamic patriarchy.

It’s OK, it’s part of my religion

May 29, 2010 § 46 Comments

As you know, my universe has no room for the possibility of a god. And in general I don’t care what other people think and believe as long as their suppositions and practices don’t affect me in any way. You can believe in fairies and unicorns and believe you have to bay at the moon 2 times a night to stop from imploding, and I wouldn’t care less. I’d probably call you a nutbag, but it wouldn’t affect me in any way.

But unfortunately, religions don’t work like that. In particular the religions of Islam and Christianity are guilty of believing that their religion is the ONLY way, and are more than willing to kill and die for it. People of faith not only believe that their religion is the only true way, but they also believe that they have a moral right and obligation to try to make others believe them too. Somehow, the fact that they are “saved” from a fiery fate in the afterlife gives them a duty to tell others about it, and in some cases, kill them if they don’t believe. This affects me, but not directly, as I don’t live in a heavily religious country, I am reasonably well off, and am not threatened by others for not believing their stories.

What got me thinking about this in particular was a report from the ABC that stated that Australian doctors were considering allowing a “ritual nick” to placate those who wished to have their female children “circumcised”. This later turned out to be a false story, but it got me thinking about the way religious people foist their ideals upon not only society, but their own family members. Some of these practices are particularly barbaric, and really deserve to be called out for the brutality it is. And more often than not these atrocities are enacted against women.

Both Christianity and Islam reveal themselves to be anti-women if either of the religions are studied and deeper than the surface edicts of “killing is wrong, stealing is wrong”. Women are not only treated as second-class citizens in both religions, but are treated with unequaled disdain in Islam. The burqa is an example where men choose to force the women of their society to cover themselves up so as to be out of the gaze of other men. They say that it will protect the women from the lecherous eyes of the men around them, citing the fact that men can’t be trusted, but in reality it is the women who are untrusted. They claim this is to give the women some sort of security, but really this is an example of men jealously guarding their “possessions”. Women in this situation have often been quoted as saying that this type of behaviour is not only their wish, but the wish of their God. I can understand that if this is all that a woman had known her whole life, and had never been told otherwise that they may really believe this lie.

In the Christian faith, it is the “original sin” which keeps women down. The fact that the bible, which was written by a man, states that ALL the evils in the world stem from the act of “eating an apple from the garden of Eden” is testament to this fact (this piece of prose is also the root of societal ideas about sex being wrong, bodily functions such as menstruation as a punishment for mankind etc.) Women were also “created” not from mud or dust, but from the rib of a man. A very convenient concept, meaning that women are lesser than men in the first count. Idiocy like this trickles down through all Christian cultures, and is one of the main reasons that women have been kept down. This kind of stone age storytelling came from someone’s imagination, not from God.

If my partner or wife decided to disobey me, would it be just to beat her, stone her to death or set her alight? It’s OK if it’s part of my religion! What about pedophilia? Is it OK to sleep with a 12-year-old? Muhammad had a 12-year-old bride, do you think he waited til she was 16 before he had sex with her? And what does this say for the members of the numerous societies who truly believe that not only are his words the true word of God, but that all his actions are infallible?

Men wrote these “holy books”, not God. Men, who were making decisions based on their own views of the world many, many years ago wrote these texts based on what they would like to see in the world. Women had no say. And who is allowed to make official interpretations of these texts? Men only.

And the main problem here is that the world has changed, and our understanding of the universe has grown exponentially. These ideas came from people who believed that the world was flat, that the sun was carried across the sky in tha back of God’s chariot, that every species of animals on earth fit on a single boat. These ideas are fanciful, antiquated, barbaric, unjust and male-centric. We have grown up a lot as a species. We have increased our knowledge beyond just how to herd goats. We now KNOW so much more, and yet people still depend on these ancient and misogynistic texts to guide their lives.

The idea that we can justify something on any level of barbarity based on the fact that it is either part of a religion, or that someone’s interpretation of a religious text says it is true, is no longer acceptable. The fight for freedom from religion is the fight for freedom for women from oppression at the hands of men. We all need to take a stance in this, and to point out to the wrongdoers that we do not accept that kind of behaviour, nor will we tolerate barbaric “religious” practices and longer, just because we fear to tread on the toes of a few religious extremists.

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