Bi Any Means Podcast #82: Leaving Islam and Toxic Concepts with Farah Shah

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My guest for today is Farah Shah. She’s an ex-Muslim born in Pakistan who now lives in Canada, and she contributes to Kaveh Mousavi’s blog On the Margin of Error. Today we’re going to talk about her backstory, her writing, and why cultural appropriation is a toxic concept.

As a head’s up, the audio in this episode isn’t the best. Farah kept breaking up on her end—and yes, even with Zencastr—so I tried to salvage the audio as much as I could. You can hear about 85% of what she’s saying, but there’s about 15% that’s still hard to decipher, especially the part where I asked her about her about the article she wrote on cultural appropriation. Here’s a link to that article so you can fill in the gaps yourself.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #82: Leaving Islam and Toxic Concepts with Farah Shah” on Spreaker.

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The Biskeptical Podcast #4: Why Pride Month Matters

Today’s episode comes in the aftermath of the shooting in Orlando. Plenty has been said about it already, but being that this happened during LGBTQ Pride Month, it’s time to remind our listeners why the struggle isn’t over yet. We’re gonna discuss news items, blog posts, and stories from listeners, so you don’t want to miss this!

(And I promise to write an actual blog post in the near future. I’ve just been busy right now)

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Bi Any Means Podcast #57: An Ex-Muslim in Iran with Kaveh Mousavi

My guest for today is Kaveh Mousavi. He’s an ex-Muslim living in Tehran, Iran, and his blog On the Margin of Error can be found on the Patheos network. Today we’re going to talk about his story, what it’s like being an atheist in Iran, and how to be better allies for ex-Muslims.

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Dogmatism is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

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In light of the recent terrorist attack in Brussels, I’m sharing a blog post I wrote a few months ago shortly after the Paris attack.

Remember that thing I wrote the other day, about how everyone thinks their interpretation of reality is the right one? At best, this mentality leads to petty arguments on the Internet, but at its worse it leads to yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris.

I really don’t want to debate whether Islam is “a religion of peace” or “a religion of dashing your enemies to pieces” because a) I’d rather have ex-Muslims like Heina Dadabhoy and Sadaf Ali tell their stories instead of talking over them, and b) neither statement tells the full story. Like the Christian Bible, there are several ways to interpret the Quran, ranging from liberal Islam to Islamism. However, just like with fundamentalist Christianity, fundamentalist Islam has its roots in scripture. So I don’t agree with Reza Aslan; religion did play a part in yesterday’s attacks, along with other factors.

Instead I want to talk about the one thing that ties Christian fundamentalism, Islamism, and other dangerous ideologies together: dogmatism.

Google defines dogmatism as “the tendency to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others.” Most people use the word fundamentalism as a synonym for dogmatism, but there’s a slight difference. Fundamentalism, as Google defines it, “upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture.” This is why, as James Croft explains, there’s no such thing as a “fundamentalist atheist” because atheism has no Bible.

Dogmatism, on the other hand, can happen with any ideology, whether it’s religious or secular. It’s what happens when one is so sure that one’s own interpretation of reality is the right one, and everybody else is wrong. Of course not all beliefs are automatically dogmatic. After all, as the diagram below illustrates, when use beliefs and truths to gain knowledge:

Epistemology

However, sometimes our beliefs do not align with the facts. I can believe all I want that I’m a millionaire, but one look at my bank account will show that’s not true. But what if I refuse to acknowledge the facts? What if I still believe that I am a millionaire, and I keep spending money like one? Eventually I won’t have any money left, and I’ll be shit out of luck. That, my friends, is how dogmatism works.

This is why epistemology and skepticism are so important: they remind us that we could be wrong. It’s scary to think we could be wrong because we wrap our entire identities around our beliefs. But as Ricky Gervais famously said, “Beliefs don’t change facts. Facts, if you’re rational should change your beliefs.” Plus, with the events of Paris and Beirut, the only alternative, dogmatism, is literally killing us. As Sam Harris wrote in The End of Faith, “If religious war is ever to become unthinkable for us, in the way that slavery and cannibalism seem poised to, it will be a matter of our having dispensed with the dogma of faith”