Archive for November, 2014

Reza Aslan - April 2012-crI’ve blogged about religious scholar — and Muslim — Reza Aslan a couple times. He’s one of those militant theists who views the existence of outspoken atheists as a threat to his precious religionism — and perhaps to his very being. Like a lot of believers, he views religion as above reproach, and anything that ever makes a religion look bad, must be waved off or ignored, because religion is wonderful and perfect and never makes anyone do anything bad. He’s gone on record as insisting that anyone who criticizes any given religion just doesn’t understand it well enough (WebCite cached article). In his mind, there can’t possibly be any such thing as a well-informed religious critic.

After having sanctimoniously gnashed his teeth over what Bill Maher said (cached), in another essay published in Salon, Aslan trained his guns on another of the “New Atheists” he desipises: Sam Harris, widely but wrongly decried as an “Islamophobe” (cached):

Not long ago, I gave an interview in which I said that my biggest problem with so-called New Atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins is that they give atheism a bad name. Almost immediately, I was bombarded on social media by atheist fans of the two men who were incensed that I would pontificate about a community to which I did not belong.

That, in and of itself, wasn’t surprising. As a scholar of religions, I’m used to receiving comments like this from the communities I study. What surprised me is how many of these comments appeared to take for granted that in criticizing New Atheism I was criticizing atheism itself, as though the two are one and the same. That seems an increasingly common mistake these days, with the media and the bestseller lists dominated by New Atheist voices denouncing religion as “innately backward, obscurantist, irrational and dangerous,” and condemning those who disagree as “religious apologists.”

Having spent the last few months screeching to one and all about how horrible it is that insolent atheists have dared criticize religion, Aslan then trickles out this little dribble of disingenuity:

To be sure, there is plenty to criticize in any religion and no ideology — religious or otherwise — should be immune from criticism.

He says this as though we’re all supposed to ignore the fact that he’s spent the last couple months or so making mass media appearances and writing screeds bewailing the very idea that some insolent atheists could possibly have shown the chutzpah to dare criticize religion. Sorry, Reza, but I’m not stupid enough to buy this pretense. You might be able to fool others with this clever little caveat, but not me.

That said, the real gem within Aslan’s anti-Harris — and anti-atheist — diatribe is this bit, which is part of his explanation of the origins of the term “atheist”:

To the Greeks, an atheist didn’t necessarily reject the existence of the gods. He merely acted as though the gods did not exist or were unaware of his actions. Unfortunately, this historical connection between lack of belief and lack of morals is one that still plagues atheism today, despite studies showing atheists to be, as a whole, less prejudiced [cached], less willing to condone violence [cached], and more tolerant [cached] of sexual, ethnic and cultural differences than many faith communities.

Hopefully you immediately see the significance of this. If not, allow me to point it out: Aslan has continuously condemned atheism and promoted religionism — which presumes to make people better than they would be without it — yet admits, explicitly, that religion doesn’t actually do any such thing.

I almost wonder why Aslan included these sentences within his condemnation of atheism, since it so incredibly departs from the position he and the rest of his fellow religionists have staked out. But he said it, and I can only presume … especially since he added links to external sources (which I preserved above) … that he meant it.

I won’t even get into Aslan’s laughable claim that the “New Atheists” are “fundamentalists.” There’s a very simple reason they can’t be “fundamentalists,” because they have no “fundamentals” to rely on (unlike, say, Christian fundamentalists, whose “fundamentals” are their Bibles and their literalist doctrine). Aslan does predicate his declaration that Sam Harris et al are “atheist fundamentalists” on a definition of “fundamentalism,” but it’s one he’s cherry-picked to serve his wishes, and it veers quite wide of what the term actually means.

Finally, as a general observation, please note the vehemence with which Aslan condemns “anti-theists” on the grounds of their (as he sees it) irrational intolerance, without taking into account that his own anti-atheism has the same foundation of intolerance. This makes Aslan something of a hypocrite.

Note: To be fair, while I criticize Aslan in this post, previously I’ve defended his right to write about Jesus. But that problem — i.e. a Muslim like Aslan being told by American Christians that he’s not allowed to write books about their Jesus — is just one more example of the irrational and muddled thinking that religion promotes.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Militant Theist Unwittingly Indicts Religion In His Indictment Of Atheism

Medicine Man Yellow Plume, Roland W. Reed, 1912 Img172Most families will do everything possible to save the lives of their members. That is, after all, the rational thing to do. That said, not all families are that rational. Some place their metaphysics above everything … including life itself. Occasionally these lunatic nutcases even get help from others in their effort to kill their own members over metaphysics. The Hamilton (ON) Spectator reports a provincial judge just gave this sort of “help” to First Nations families in Canada (WebCite cached article):

Aboriginal children now have the right to refuse life-saving medical treatment in favour of traditional healing.

A “precedent-setting” ruling made that clear Friday in the case of a First Nations girl refusing chemotherapy.

But it has nothing to do with whether aboriginal medicine works.

Instead, it’s about Canada’s constitution protecting aboriginal rights.

Ontario Court Justice Gethin Edward has now expanded those rights to include traditional healing, saying: “There is no question it forms an integral part.”

It’s great to see judges so obsessed with adhering strictly to the letter of the law — as they see it — that they’re willing to make certain that people die, all over Canada, for no valid reason. Why let nasty little things like rationality get in the way of that? </sarcasm>

What makes this even worse than the fact that two little girls are likely to die soon, is the giddiness with which this decision has been embraced:

“This is monumental for our people all across the country,” Six Nations Chief Ava Hill said after the ruling in Brantford.

“This is precedent-setting for us.”

First Nations spectators in the standing-room-only courtroom burst into applause and tears as Edward dismissed an application by McMaster Children’s Hospital to have the girl apprehended by Brant Family and Children’s Services and forced into treatment.

“I feel I’ve transcended something bigger than all of us,” said the girl’s aunt when she phoned the mother to deliver the news.

These people have doomed not just one, but two girls — as well as unknown numbers of future children — to certain death. And they’ve got the audacity to applaud themselves over it. How fucking disgraceful!

Justice Edward errs by viewing the effectiveness of conventional medicine as the “western medical paradigm,” or a mere cultural viewpoint. The truth is, it’s no such thing, and for the Justice to say so is a lie. Science-based medicine is not a paradigm or “viewpoint,” any more than — say — the laws of gravitation are just a “viewpoint”: One doesn’t merely opine or fantasize that an object will fall to the floor if one drops it, one knows it will, because the mechanism of gravity has been worked out and it’s predictable. Similarly, science-based medicine works toward rational conclusions based upon objective evidence. There’s nothing “viewpoint-y” about it. Treatments are evaluated and their effectiveness measured.

Metaphysical medicine, on the other hand, has no objective basis whatsoever. People just conjure shit up and do it, then tell themselves it worked, without understanding physiological mechanisms, and without even caring about effectiveness. They rely on appeals to tradition as well as other fallacies, confuse the placebo effect with actual recovery from a condition, and bellyache and whine about how “Big Pharma” profits from conventional medicine, therefore it must all be a lie (conveniently failing to mention that a lot of alternative-medicine practitioners make a lot of money peddling their bullshit, nonsense, and lies).

Put bluntly, wishing (as I do) that First Nations children all have an opportunity to survive into adulthood, is not an imposition of western cultural values on Canada’s aboriginal peoples. It’s a desire that they live, so long as it’s possible … and nothing more.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Ontario Judge Lets First Nations Families Kill Kids For Metaphysics

Burned Quran Pages - Flickr - Al Jazeera EnglishLately it seems the stories of primitive Islamofascist barbarism emanate mostly from the hinterlands of Syria and Iraq, with ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood. And it’s true they’re responsible for a lot of it. But we can’t afford to lose sight of the fact that primitive Islamofascist barbarism can be found in other parts of the Muslim world, too. A case in point is this NBC News story about a Christian couple in Pakistan who were burned alive (WebCite cached article):

A mob accused of burning alive a Christian couple in an industrial kiln in Pakistan allegedly wrapped a pregnant mother in cotton so she would catch fire more easily, according to family members who witnessed the attack.

Sajjad Maseeh, 27, and his wife Shama Bibi, 24, were set upon by at least 1,200 people after rumors circulated that they had burned verses from the Quran, family spokesman Javed Maseeh told NBC News via telephone late Thursday. Their legs were also broken so they couldn’t run away.

“They picked them up by their arms and legs and held them over the brick furnace until their clothes caught fire,” he said. “And then they threw them inside the furnace.”

This is yet another example of the murderous, sanctimonious rage that kicks up within Muslim communities whenever they get the notion that someone has burned a Qur’an (or might do so, but hasn’t yet). I’ve gone on the record as saying book-burning of any kind is stupid, mostly because it doesn’t do anything except display one’s anger over something — and there are almost an infinite number of other ways to express anger, if one is convinced one must do so. But going as far as burning people alive over it is — obviously! — excessive. After all, even though it’s a useless gesture, by the same token, book-burning doesn’t actually harm anyone or anything. If one burns a copy of a book, all one has done is to burn a copy of it; the book itself, and more especially the ideas within it, remain. This is doubly true in the case of the Qur’an, one of the most widely-published books on the planet.

I’m sure Islam’s defenders will claim this heinous double murder was the act of just a “lunatic fringe” (cached), a mere handful of extremists who don’t represent Muslims generally, or even their local community. In this case, however, that’s absolutely untrue; 1,200 people set upon and murdered them, in a spectacularly savage way that none of them possibly could have been ignorant of; e.g.:

Bibi, a mother of four who was four months pregnant, was wearing an outfit that initially didn’t burn, according to Javed Maseeh. The mob removed her from over the kiln and wrapped her up in cotton to make sure the garments would be set alight.

At this point, I can’t see how anyone can rationally avoid admitting that there is quite obviously a problem within the Muslim world, if events as large and as barbaric as this can occur. It’s not really the “religion of peace” it’s frequently said to be. Yeah, I know the prime minister of Pakistan has promised “justice” in this case, but the fact that a huge mob of 1,200 people could have done such a thing in the first place is where the real problem lies; how the government reacts hardly matters, after-the-fact. Making it all worse, Pakistan’s courts have a strong Islamofascist bias, to the point I doubt much will happen to any of the folks who’ve been arrested over this incident. So the prime minister’s promises largely ring hollow.

As my own protest against this kind of religiofascistic savagery in the name of preventing “blasphemy,” I’ve used a picture of a burned Qur’an at the top of this post. If this decision angers you, that’s fine by me. Go right ahead and be angry, if it makes you feel better to do so! Throw a tantrum, if you’d like. I don’t fucking care.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Pakistan: Still Home To Howling Islamofascist Barbarism