Atheist in need of advice: How to cope with family?

I offered to post these letters anonymously to our blog to solicit more feedback from others who might have more, or better, ideas to help this person—to make it simple, let’s call him “John.” My offer was accepted, and so I’m sharing. In brief, John suspected that his mother was being influenced by religious relatives. And the relationship between him and his mom, which had been cordial, became strained. I suggested he not go on a hunch, but address this issue with his mom directly, to just ask what had motivated the change—so they could at least have a conversation based on whatever was actually going on. This is the reply I received after he took that advice: [Read more...]

Resources for Ex-Muslim Atheists?

More and more, we receive comments, questions or requests for help or advice from ex-Muslim atheists who are living in Muslim nations, or within Muslim communities/families abroad. As someone with no experience in the Muslim community, I feel inept, and sometimes even worried, trying to offer help or support in situations that are well beyond what I might normally hear from ex-Christian atheists in letters to TAE. The following is an example, but we have received much worse.

I am wondering if TAE might have viewers who are aware of resources or familiar with Muslim situations, sufficiently to provide better advice or help than the folks at TAE might be able to supply? While this thread uses this request specifically, I would ask that anyone who knows of a resource that could be helpful to any ex-Muslim atheists, please post it here. I would like to potentially build a thread that serves this section of our community, due to the, often dangerous, situations described. Thank you, in advance for your help with this. And here is the latest letter:

I am an Iraqi Atheist. I have witness loss of friends due to suicide bombing in Iraq, and have been displaced and forced to leave Iraq for a year due to my previous beliefs.

After becoming an atheist, one of the things I decided to do is exposing religion. My main goal is that if someone saw a criticism of Islam he would spend time defending it, rather than blowing himself up and killing innocent people.

I would like to know what would be the best way to achieve such a goal? Right now I am converting articles criticizing Islam to videos and posting them to youtube. However, some of these get mass flagged.

I don’t feel I am doing enough, and don’t know what should be done next. I was thinking of creating videos like you guys where I appear talking about religion, but I will have to go back to Iraq in the next few months, which places me in danger. In addition I fear for my family.

What is your recommendation?

World History Text Mentions Islam—Florida’s Christian Right Shits Itself

So, I see the headline, “Brevard School Board wants 10-member panel to compile textbook supplement,” and as I read just a little further, I believe I smell a religious rat. I want to be objective going in, but the accusation (including the level of response) that Prentice Hall would be selling a textbook with “pro-Islamic bias,” makes me suspect. It isn’t as though they hire Imam’s as their history subject matter experts (SME) or authors. Their authors and SMEs (usually pronounced “smeez”) are qualified, educated, reputable, and generally experienced suppliers of educational content in their areas of expertise. So, I was very interested in what sort of “pro-Muslim bias” they were being accused of selling.

Of course, the entire time, I’m thinking of the Texas School Board’s push for Christian bias, and how they might react to anything about Islam in a history text that isn’t entirely negative. I read further, trying to keep an open mind, but just waiting to hear these “concerns” (which spurred a review panel, a need to produce supplementary material, and legislator complaints) in more detail—because part of me just already knows this has “Christian Right having a tantrum over something idiotic” slathered all over it. And finally, here it is. Here is more detail about one of their “big concerns”:

“One of the big concerns that we’ve heard is that it talks about the five tenants of Islam, and it doesn’t talk about the 10 Commandments, because that was something that was covered in sixth grade,” Brevard schools spokeswoman Michelle Irwin said. “So they may have a copy online of the 10 Commandments.”

So, the world history textbook, for use in U.S. schools, apparently gives a very basic description of the fundamental foundations of Islam. It tells, not sells, the students about the five tenets of Islam. And that’s a “big concern” about “pro-Islamic bias.” Here, let me paraphrase author Katherine Stewart, who once said of the Christian Right, in a lecture I attended, “If they can’t own it, they’ll break it.” In essence, if you mention Islam, Christianity must have equal time. It doesn’t matter that Christianity was already covered in an earlier grade.

The problem here is that Christianity, from a historic perspective, is relevant. But that does not mean it’s relevant all the time just as much as other inputs in every historic situation. If the U.S. becomes involved in trade or military action with, or against, nations that are theocratic, that may make understanding those nations’ perspectives more historically relevant during the study of particular times and events. If the nations covered in the content are theocratic, then there is absolutely nothing problematic about describing their political and religious principles or leanings to students. That’s what education is all about: Informing people about the inputs that impact the situations, about which they are learning. So, in some cases, the founding principles of Islam can be highly relevant, where the founding principles of Christianity, may be not as much.

But the Christian Right will not have it! You cannot talk about Islam, unless Jesus is right there, too, just as prominently, regardless of the point to be made. If information about Islam is clearly more relevant to the lesson, and information about Christianity clearly less so, that makes no difference. They must own the floor, every time, in all things, or else they have a “big concern.”

From a historic perspective, there are reasons Islamic nations have featured more prominently on the world stage in the last century, even the last few decades. Since we’re a culture saturated by Christianity—it’s far more necessary to teach U.S. children about Islam—this other religious-political environment we have been interacting with more aggressively the last few decades—than it is to teach them about the religion they’re soaked with in their day-to-day lives. Despite the fears of the Christian Right, U.S. children actually have heard quite a lot about Jesus, even without trying. They have, on the other hand, heard much less about Mohammed. Kids in the U.S. have actually heard of the 10 Commandments. There’s a movie on every Easter that tells us all about it, and monuments at some of our courthouses, and a Bible in most homes, and a church on nearly every corner with a sign telling us about Our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. And if those get past them somehow, there are the always the cross jewelry, the bumper-stickers, and the t-shirts letting us all know The Good News. And let’s not forget the block of television networks and radio stations devoted to proclaiming god’s Christian love for us all. So, the 10 Commandments—they get. Explaining five points to the students about Islam—the basic founding concepts at the very least—in a modern world history class—is not “bias” toward Islam.

Seriously—the Christian Persecution Complex is pure ridiculousness. It’s absolutely, unfathomably absurd.

Open thread on AXP #827, with guest, Rob Poole, MB BS, FRCPsych

I’ve embedded a number of links below, and I would urge you to explore them. I initially had included far more quoted material, but the post became too long, and I finally decided that links and brevity were best. However, the linked information is highly relevant. Most of the links are to summaries or small items I think you can investigate without too much time lost—so please review them if this topic interests you.

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Christianity: It’s Just About Being Nice to People?

Someone wrote to us from a “non-English speaking country,” to say that his friend asked him why he, as an atheist, objects to Christianity—since it’s only teaching people to be good to one another? The writer said he wasn’t very familiar with Christianity and asked me why it should be such a big problem for people to teach their children to be kind? What did I think about that? Here is what I replied:

 

Thank you for writing.

I encourage you to do a Google search for “Why do we need salvation?”

What Christianity teaches is not just to be a good person.

It teaches that all people are wicked. Many of the churches teach that even children are born wicked. Because of this, people need to be “saved.” If you ask “saved from what?” you will hear about some sort of punishment or torment, usually. Some sort of hell, or some sort of eternal separation from god—that is darkness and despair. According to Christians, this is what all humans deserve—sometimes even children deserve hell for being born sinful. Churches believe that human beings all deserve to die—not just that we will die, but we deserve to die. And some churches think every human deserves to be tortured for eternity—just because we are human, and that is how horrible every human being is.

I think that is a horrible lesson for children. I think people are good. Sometimes we can do bad things. But we are basically good people—most of us. We do not deserve to die. We do not deserve to be tortured or tormented forever. That is awful.

So, to show his “love,” god decided that he would send part of himself to Earth to become a human being. He was born, grew up, and preached to people for a few years. Sometimes he said nice things—like treat people nicely. And sometimes he was pretty bad—chasing people with whips and comparing one woman to a dog, because she was a different ethnicity. Sometimes he taught good things—like help people in need. And sometimes he taught irresponsible things—like do not prepare for your future, because god will take care of everything for you.

Then, after a few years, it was time to “save” everyone. And here was god’s plan: Since Jesus had not done anything bad, he was considered to be clean. In the Old Testament, the sacrificed animals had to be pure and not sick or lame. They were sacrificed to god as payment for all the wrong-doings the person had done. But god was tired of all these animals, and so he thought a really good sacrifice would be to have a perfect human being slaughtered for him. So he wanted a human sacrifice this time—not just more animals. And so he had Jesus beaten and tortured and crucified to death as a human sacrifice. Jesus had not done anything wrong—but other people had. And so god thought it was a good application of justice to kill an innocent person to pay for other people’s crimes.

So, Jesus was sacrificed to god, and god was happy with that.

Then after three days, Jesus came back from the dead to show everyone that he was more powerful than death. And when people saw it—they were happy because they believed him when he told them that they could be more powerful than death, too. All they had to do was devote their lives to Jesus and follow his rules and believe he would bring them back to life after they died. They had to follow him and be grateful that he was a human sacrifice. And they had to also admit they were worthless, evil creatures that needed to be washed cleaned in the execution blood of Jesus.

Every weekend after that, they all would meet together and drink wine and eat bread—that represented the blood and flesh of Jesus. And they would have a symbolic cannibalism snack to remind them about the bloody human sacrifice.

And this is the core teaching of Christianity.

 

The letter writer responded to say, “Thank you for taking your time and answered my question, it was pretty funny how you put it, about what Christianity is based on, hahahaha it made me laugh, and again, thank you and keep up with the show :)”

Why don’t I find Kalam Cosmology compelling?

That was the question asked by a caller that took up most of the show discussing Kalam last week. And as anyone who watched the show saw—or more likely already knew—there are 1,001 ways to approach problems or issues with this argument. But my main point of contention with Kalam was one that caller failed to understand. And it may have been my fault for not doing the best job of communicating it. During a three-way conversation with one party on a phone over a loud speaker, communication efficiency may not be at its peak.

But let me say there are a few issues that are problematic with a majority of apologetic arguments, that, to me, undermine their efficacy, and result in a situation where the premises of the argument become red herrings. I was trying to point this out, and early in the call I actually leaned over to Russell to say “Wait…he’s answering his own question.”

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Show #821 Russell and Tracie — Open Thread

I was asked by a viewer if I would discuss the treatment of gays in Iraq, on today’s program. I did some research, and I’m not sure there is too much to say. “The treatment of gays in Iraq is not acceptable by any standard,” would pretty much sum it up. I plan to mention it, but really it’s just one more drop in the ocean of religious harm. In summary, they are considered morally deviant, and the laws aren’t exactly clear on whether or not they are “allowed” in Iraq or protected at all, or much, from things like honor killings, bashings, and the like. It’s more of the same. And if simply adding “Iraq” to the list of places where religion makes it utterly suck to be gay–then I’m happy to announce that publicly. But outside of detailing some pretty horrible specific cases, I think that gets the point across.

Inviting pedophiles into homes with children, a good idea?

I promised to keep this person anonymous and also asked permission to share this. It’s a good message about common sense, child welfare, and how religion can be used to cloud people’s better judgement:

…My very religious Evangelical Christian mother-in-law called last night. Her husband, my father-in-law, is a pastor and their church hosts some refugees from [insert Third-World Nation here]. They are really involved in “ministering” to these refugees and dealing with them is the joy of my mother-in-law’s life at the moment…It really makes her feel that God is using her.

One of these refugees, a middle-aged man, allegedly molested a child. The child called child protection services, and the man was arrested. He is currently in jail until his court date.

As my mother-in-law was explaining, she kept defending the man. She explained how nice a man he is, how faithful he is and how, if true, it was simply a mistake due to cultural differences. She tried to tell me his life story, about how he had a hard life and was, himself, abused as a child, etc. She was making excuses for him, empathizing with him, and then giving him the benefit if the doubt. She proceeded to explain how she suspected the child was setting him up or lied, etc.

I was so angry inside as she was explaining that I had to ask her to hold as pass the phone to my wife to help regain control, so I didn’t bite her ear off.

I recently found out that when I was a kid, my parents used to have Bible studies at our house…they’d invite all the church misfits. People with psychological problems, etc. My Dad felt he was being like Jesus by bringing all the undesirables into our house. Many of them really creeped my brother and I out, but there was one we feared. He would come to chat with us in the basement and ask us personal questions about our bodies, etc. He never touched us. Well, my dad recently admitted this man was a pedophile, and he knew it at the time. But through the power of the blood of Jesus, felt he was taking a healthy risk in faith by bringing him into our home.

This madness infuriates me to no end. I no longer feel comfortable letting my children be in their care, because of this!

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Guess that was venting. There aren’t many people I can talk to around here about this stuff.

Open thread on episode #814

On the schedule today are Matt and Tracie.

As cohost, I need to talk here about what I’ll be talking about. Depending on call volume and what Matt’s in the mood for, I’d like to do another dice demo to examine the statement “X is possible,” and what we mean by that.

Is god possible? I don’t know…and I’d like to talk today about the idea “It is possible a god exists.”

Is it? If I have a small opaque bag and ask you if it’s possible for me to roll a 21 with the dice in the bag–can you answer that question without a peak in the bag? I can’t. I could, I suppose, assert that since that many dice could be in the bag, it’s possible; but if they empty the bag, and it’s just 2 dice…then I’m using “possible” to describe things that are actually *impossible*. What are the implications of  using the word “possible” to describe impossible things? Is it correct to say that if a thing cannot be determined to be “impossible” it must, then, be considered “possible”? Or is it more correct to say “we can’t say if it’s possible or not, because we don’t have sufficient information”?

Hope we can discuss it further on the program. We’ll see.