Posted by Dan | Posted in Religion | Posted on 23-06-2010


So I’ve just learnt that this is ‘Humanism Week’.

I was invited along to a talk by Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association.  Not promulgated from the teachings of David Hume, but from the collective human race throughout history, ‘Humanism’ is essentially a nice word for ‘Atheism’.  I’m not a fan of the word as it frankly places an undue importance on humans, although I posed this question to Andrew and commend his retort: “But surely ‘Atheist’ places an undue importance on God, which is worse.”

It was a really good talk, focussing on common criticisms of Humanism/Atheism (the usual “But if you’re not religious, why aren’t you a rapist?” crap) and the majority of the audience seemed at least 30 years older than me which I found interesting.  When talks have ‘Atheist’ in the title they tend, in my experience, to attract a younger audience — while older people can still be found, they’re usually the ones waving protest signs by the door.  For this Humanism talk the only protesters I encountered were complaining against this afternoon’s budget announcements; there wasn’t a Bible in sight.

While the talk itself didn’t teach me anything new, I really took to heart what happened afterwards.  The group gathered for a photograph for the BHA News and one of (the few) younger people suddenly looked alarmed and ran out of view of the camera.  I didn’t appreciate the full significance of this until I was talking to him in the pub afterwards.  He was a postgrad student studying in the UK, an atheist who attended these gatherings to be around like-minded people, but his home was in Saudi Arabia.  He was terrified to appear in photographs linked with anti-religious movements for fear that somebody back home would see them as he could, and I wish I was exaggerating, be murdered for apostasy.  And, even if that didn’t happen, he would certainly cause an unbearable amount of grief and shame to his family.

Ever since I received an earful from a friend in Turkey after sending her a Facebook invite to ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad Day’ I’ve made a point to lay off Islam in my tyrades as I am admittedly far less knowledgeable on the topic than I am on, say, Christianity.  This friend took the time to teach me her views on Islam and I am grateful for it, as she gave a far more enlightened and intelligent argument in favour of the original text in the Qu’ran than any I have heard for quite some time.  It gave me a much-needed reminder that religion does have a number of redeeming features and can bring about a lot of good in people, and prompted me to sit down and read the Qu’ran cover-to-cover before passing any further judgement on Islam.  Tonight was a solid reminder that these texts are, at best, open to interpretation and when you add humans into the mix it’s only a matter of time before dogma brings about disaster.  I was furious as he told me about how he was a “rebellious teenager” in his youth — and by that he didn’t mean he smoked dope or bunked off school… he read books on philosophy.  He told me that he will never, ever be able to tell his friends or family back home that he doesn’t believe in God, and came to Britain just so he could have a few years of being as near to ‘himself’ as he could safely be.  He has two Facebook accounts (one for friends and family, and another – private, anonymous, one to express himself) , two Twitter accounts, and avoids cameras because he literally fears for his life.  He will be this way for the rest of his life.

Ain’t religion grand?

Btw — If anyone from the British Humanist Association is reading this: you need a better web presence.  You don’t even have a Twitter account.  I’m happy to lend a hand if you get in contact.

Comments (1)

Yup, like Christianity, Islam sure has it’s redeeming qualities. I feel so enlightened knowing that the Koran insists women are beaten for having their own minds, that the religion of ‘peace’ has a prophet who leads by example in torturing people for information and marrying and raping six year old girls. Oh, and according to the holy text, as I’m criticising Islam, I’m pretty sure I’d be liable to a stoning … if not death. Thank Google for freedom of speech … an unknown concept under Sharia law.

The idea that someone can look at a book like this and choose to ignore these things and concentrate on whatever few ‘peaceful’ statement they can find is ridiculous, as both the Koran and the Bible are unbelievably violent. There’s no such thing as ‘the real, modern Islam’ because every Muslim has their own interpretation – an interpretation that’s “the right one”. The same goes for Christians. There’s more gore in each texts than a Tarantino movie! So many Muslims and Christians are quick to hate atheists (or “humanists”) who criticise their religion because of a ‘generalisation’ but why don’t they use their energy to speak out against those extremists who created this stereotype?

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