Wednesday, 21 January 2015

South Africa: Humanism, atheism and general non-belief

I've started a new group for atheists in South Africa, to discuss, not only non-belief, but also other factors of humanism: i.e. the rational and empirically-based reasoning for not believing in gods.

It may be found here: Association of South African Humanists

To further examine the role of humanism, or atheism/agnosticism in Africa, generally, one of the members linked to this 2012 paper on freedom of religion, and discrimination against atheists, globally:

Freedom of Thought

Few people realise that despite most developed countries' claim that they are "secular" and have freedom of religion, atheism is still frowned on socially, and certainly in societies that practice religion in public, while their "constitutions" name them to be secular.

We are bombarded with "but atheism is just another religion!" and "where do you get your morality?" every time we express our disbelief in gods.

Any attempt to explain the difference: religion requires a holy text, rituals, spiritual leaders and so on, is met with "well you have those in science."

This post is not intended to discuss these arguments, but merely to point interested readers to the Facebook group and to link to the 2012 paper.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

In the wake of the shooting of cartoonists in Paris...

I've not said anything about how I feel about the attack on the French satire magazine yesterday. Mostly because the lengths to which fundamentalists are prepared to go to punish those who point out the absurdity of their behaviour baffles me. I shouldn't be surprised, and yet I still am shocked. 
I fully support the right of anyone to believe anything they choose, no matter how unsupported by evidence, or how asinine the belief, as long as they don't try to impose that belief on other people, or restrict the right of other people to believe whatever inanity they choose to support, or not to support.
I also fully endorse the right of all people to do with their bodies, whatever they choose, and to wear whatever outfits they choose to wear, again, as long as they don't punish me for my choice of dress.
To lose all logic and reason because of what you believe, and to be prepared to die for the absurdity you support is criminal, and more so if you seek to impose that on innocent children, or to kill other people who satirise your belief.
Beliefs, and I mean belief in the strictest sense, i.e. the conviction that what you hold dear, despite there being absolutely no evidence whatsoever for its validity, is true, does not come with any protection from the ridicule of others who do not share your belief. You cannot claim special treatment because your belief is based on ancient writing. That is simply ridiculous and would be the equivalent of my demanding that the book recording the history of the Peloponnesian War, is sacred, and as someone who has studied this particular document, and who respects it as a true account of a well-documented historical event, if I demanded that my book should be sacrosanct, and Thuycidides be held to the status of a deity, and it should not be questioned, I would be as absurd as the people who took automatic weapons and killed cartoonists yesterday.
I don't want the perpetrators of this vile act to be lynched. I want them to be taken to prison, and there to be forced to live in the secular world, away from the indoctrination of their leaders, and to be made to study the real world, and themselves, learn to undo the brainwashing that made them into killers.
However, this is against the laws of humanity. We don't treat people that way. We put them in prison, and treat them and their faulty reasoning with respect, because that's the decent thing to do. We don't take them out and behead them with machetes, the way they would do to me if I said what I've said here in their country. 
Because I think of myself as a humanist, I hold dear the right of all people to believe whatever they want to believe, I will support the humane punishment that the French government will mete out to them. 
Still, I'm sad. I hate that the world has come to this. I hate that there is so much hatred for people who don't hold ancient writings to be sacrosanct. I hoped that by the time my own life was ending, I would leave behind a world where my grandchildren will be safe. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to leave that in the hands of their parents. I won't see peace in my time.

I'm editing to add my condolences to the families of the people injured, and killed, and to link to this piece.
Do not overreact to the shootings.