I originally posted this on the anniversary of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, on my personal (secret and private) Facebook page, which is some time ago, but I loved it and I thought I’d share it with you even though it’s a bit outdated.
Mar 10 2014
Mar 09 2014
All religious minorities are repressed to some degree in Iran. I think the Bahai and the atheists have it worst, as they are barred from all social rights and they could face unusual punishments, and also Sunnis, who have it better on paper only but are actually persecuted mercilessly, and then also Jews, Zoroastrians, and Christians. However, you know of all of this, one minority you might not know about are the Darwish minority. They are Muslims, and Shiites, and they are not a different sect, but they only represent a different reading of Shiite Islam, so they’re basically a different school. They usually stress tolerance, and abandoning worldly goods, they strictly believe in the separation of religion and politics, and they celebrate god through a ritualistic dance. They’re a harmless and tolerant minority. But they’re not tolerated.
The have faced arrests for nothing but practicing their religion and their worship places has been destroyed by the regime. During the 2009 elections they endorsed Mehdi Karroubi, which was the first and last time, because he was one of the few prominent politicians who had stood for their rights. After the events of the election and the oppression of the protestors where Karroubi became one of the two leaders of the Green Movement and subsequently put under house arrest, they stood by people, defending their rights and freedoms, and they faced even more repression and troubles for that. The regime even arrested their lawyers for the “crime” of defending them in the court.
The situation is very important now, because right now the Darwish are staging a mass hunger strike, and a protest. The purpose of this protest is to ask the regime to stop abusing their political prisoners and to grant them basic medical attention. They have staged peaceful protests and more of them have been arrested, they have been beaten up by the riot police. Even children and the elderly are arrested.
The Darwish have said they have come to get their rights (again, they’re asking for nothing more than letting the prisoners have access to medicine and spend their prison time in a more humane situation) or to die. The situation is dangerous.
This merits international attention and attention from the international media. Please share this post wherever you can. Let us see some outrage from the world.
Mar 08 2014
Scott, a frequent commenter on this blog, asked me a question:
I took a class on Middle Eastern history in college, but my details are fuzzy–consequentially, my questions might come out a little obscure.
To my understanding, Iranian culture and tolerance was a little different before approximately 1976. I don’t remember the leader(s) name(s), but I think the last name was Shah. My understanding is that the environment in Iran, though still heavily Islamic, was far more westernized in nature, that education was more liberal, and that Iran was a safer place for people of differing world views.
1) Is my general understanding anywhere close to accurate?
2) If so, was Iran a “better” place, socially, for people like yourself (and others like me).
3) If so, what went wrong?
This is an important question because most westerners and many Iranians think that things were all better when Shah was the ruler of Iran, and forget one essential improvement.
Mar 07 2014
I read Dana Hunter’s article “Why I Wish Religion Away” today and it reminded of an issue that I have with many theists debating atheism. The basic issue is this: some theists pretend that we atheists are promising a utopia to humanity, and the they make us defend claims we have never made. Of course, atheists are not monolithic, but I don’t know of any famous atheist who has claimed “as soon as religion is vanished from the face of the earth a new golden era is begun with no sexism and no racism and no crime and animals will turn vegetarian”. Our whole shtick is not promising paradises.
Mar 06 2014
That’s a question that atheists are frequently asked, and they almost invariably answer with “evidence”. In the debate between Nye and Ham, they were both asked this question, and Ham answered “nothing” and Nye said “evidence”, and as far as our own resident radio show hosts are concerned that was the defining moment of the debate which illustrated the problem with creationism. It seems like a straightforward and reasonable reply, yet I struggle with it. Whenever I’m asked this question, I usually answer the same way, but I feel a little bit uneasy and dishonest about it. I prefer to say “nothing will change my mind”. I try to discuss my reasons for my uneasiness, and I welcome you to mercilessly poke holes in them.
Mar 05 2014
Ben Baz Aziz introduces himself on our own Avicenna’s blog, Million Gods. Here you can read his introduction. Also, Ophelia Benson has interviewed him before, and you can read the interview here. I of course have unending admiration for Ben Baz and his bravery. I don’t know if posting this really helps or not, since I’m the new blog linking to two well-established (and fantastic) blogs. So maybe everyone who sees this already knows Ben Baz. But, if this helps even a few people get familiar with Ben Baz that’s good enough. Please, read the posts, and share them around.
Mar 05 2014
A bit of warning: this post contains some frank discussions about fear of death, and also some detailed description of violence. If you feel you might be disturbed, please don’t read.
One of the claims that theists make, that is not rational at all is that religion helps people cope with death. Which means that atheists must have a difficult time coping death. This argument is not rational, because that doesn’t put any forward any evidence that religion is true. It might provide evidence that religion is good, but I don’t think it does that as well, as I don’t think a culture that relies on duping people with wish-fulfillment and values comfort over truth and facing the truth no matter how bitter is good. I think deception is unethical, whether you deceive others or yourself is immaterial. However, that is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about dealing with death, accepting it, living with its shadow looming over waking moments. And I can’t do that, and I am not OK or comfortable with the fact that I’m going to die, and I’m far less comfortable with the fact that others are going to die.
Mar 03 2014
Today I had a debate with an atheist friend who’s very lenient towards religion, and says that religion is a very valid need of humanity. He says: “Nowhere you hear the word ‘god’ more than in a cancer ward. When people who are lost in a frozen land, seek a shelter, why do you try to take that shelter away from them?” And then he accused me of disrespecting and humiliating theists, and ignoring people’s legitimate need for a shelter.
But the truth is, if that shelter is actually non-existent, and it doesn’t protect you from the icy storm, but you think it does, it only kills you faster. You’re better on the run, aware of the danger. But other than that, I actually think attitudes like this are disrespectful.
Many claim that in order to “respect” the believers, we need to refrain from debating them. I think to refrain from debate is disrespectful. It implies that person cannot handle criticism and must be shielded from the truth like a child. That we need to sugar-coat our own ideas so it can be understood by their lesser minds. No. Believers deserve to be treated as intellectual equals, to have the chance to hear your uncensored and honest version of truth. Point is, the so-called “nice” atheists don’t even realize how condescending their attitude is.
Mar 03 2014
I’ve seen many arguments again pot legalization and I have found none of them convincing. The prize for the strangest argument goes to the liberal governor of California, who seems to be a very admirable politician in all other regards. HuffPo reports:
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said Sunday that he is not convinced legalizing marijuana is a good idea because the population needs to “stay alert.”
“The problem with anything, a certain amount is okay,” Brown said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “But there is a tendency to go to extremes. And all of a sudden, if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”
This is a very strange argument because the counter-argument is exactly right there, in the argument itself. It looks like as if Brown is arguing with himself, but he fails to listen to his own rational argument and sticks to his irrational position. Which is confusing. When someone says “we need to be alert” the answer is “well we also sleep, no one needs to be alert 24’7″ and then he says exactly that. Then he says potheads are distracted all the time to which one would answer “well without excess it’s good” but then he says that too, which naturally means it shouldn’t be a crime. Like, alcoholics or game addicts don’t make a good argument for banning alcohol and video games, no?
Anyway, I don’t think liberals and democrats should let conservatives run away with this issue. They should “evolve” faster, or like gay marriage they’ll find themselves chasing after an already more progressive nation than themselves.
Mar 02 2014
I’m not 100% certain that there is no god. I AM certain that there is no god, but not 100%. However, I’m 100% that Yahweh, Allah, or the historic gods such as Amon Ra don’t exist.
I dislike the attitude of people like Jonathan Haidt, and I find it an annoying, simplistic, and superficial fad. Which is to claim every “certainty” is bad, that people are either fundamentalists or spend their entire life in a state of constant uncertainty and suspended judgment.