Write For Rights – Free Raif Badawi

Saudi Arabia may have lots of oil and sand, but is seriously lacking in humanity.

Life is fleeting and precious, so it should be an imperative for humans to look out for each other. But religious madness more often than not demands that the poorly interpreted decrees of an invisible deity be held in higher reverence than human well-being and life itself. Such is life under Saudi Sharia law.

Raif Badawi, A Saudi national was sentenced in May to 10 years in prison and a thousand lashes. His crime – “daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression.” And according to the authorities, he is guilty of one other crime, one that is considered – no declared – an act of terrorism in Saudi Arabia; he is an atheist.

Badawi started a website writing blogs that called for religious tolerance and women’s rights. However the kingdom, no doubt spurred on by demented fundamentalist religious leaders hell-bent on perpetuating the inhuman Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam, declared this act (one all rational people would call noble) to be insulting to Islam.

As part of a campaign to raise awareness about the gross human rights violations perpetrated by despotic rulers (no doubt religion is a very useful tool), which includes a petition to free Badawi, Amnesty International released this moving clip of his daughter writing to him in prison.

For further reading on the despicable system of justice in Saudi Arabia, look no further than Wikipedia.

Non Belief or Unbelief? Does it really matter?

I stumbled across this YouTube video earlier today of Stephen Fry being interviewed on Big Think. The title “The Importance of Unbelief” left me pondering whether there is a difference or distinction between Unbelief and Non Belief, and whether it really matters in the larger scheme of things.

On the surface it appears that any distinction between Unbelief and Non Belief is merely semantic, but the antagonism towards New Age Atheism in recent years made very public by the Internets, seems to indicate that the difference is worth investigating, or acknowledging at the very least.

Now, I’m no philosopher or epistemologist or linguist even, but I have unwittingly placed myself in the centre of this apparent wrangle simply because I have chosen to label myself as an Atheist these many years. It used to be that being an atheist was pretty straightforward, but like with so many other things, the modern world contrives to complicate everything. Where once it was grudgingly accepted that there were shades of grey, it seems there is now shaded shades of grey.

In the quest for answers, I tried to follow this debate Does “Atheism” mean “unbelief or lack of belief in God” or “there is no God” ?, and I confess to being more bewildered than ever.

From what I can gather, Unbelief is closely associated with agnosticism, which is harshly regarded as the fence-sitter position. Non belief on the other hand seems to indicate a positive position which is more assertive and based on either certain knowledge, or rejection of asserted knowledge. I do admit that this I have adopted the latter position, not on the basis of certain knowledge, but on the rejection of positions asserted by those who do claim to have such.

But is the rejection of asserted knowledge enough to formulate a belief? Do I now also have to assume the burden of proof? But proof of what since the whole God concept is not clearly defined?

See, here I was thinking that atheism had simplified my life immeasurably, but actually thinking more deeply has opened up a whole new complication. But I guess such is the bane of introspection.

Does this mean that I will go back to believing because it is much easier? Hell no!

The things I do for the people I like!

I walked into a Christian bookstore today…. and bought a book. Yeah, that’s right. This atheist bought Christian literature.

I never thought I’d ever walk into a Christian anything, let alone buy their merchandise. Not even while I was still delirious… err religious.

Okay calm down now. It wasn’t for me. Don’t worry, I’m not falling off the wagon. It was for a work colleague who has been layed off due to the company downsizing. He was a good guy; pretty religious, but a good guy. I had to show my appreciation for the support he gave me to manage the finances on my various capital projects.

The book? It’s an Afrikaans book titled Seisoen van Hoop, which translates into Season of Hope. Don’t ask about the author; he’s not essential to my story. I thought it would be appropriate and give him [my colleague] comfort during this trying time in his life.

Now don’t you dare buy this book, and I don’t want to enter any into discussion about false hope either. We can all do something nice every once in a while and not analyse it too much.

Study finds that liberals and atheists may be smarter, stay up later at night and prefer just one wife

A study published in the March 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly, postulates that more intelligent people are likely to be atheists and liberals.

Evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Satoshi Kanazawa goes on to reveal from his study that more intelligent men, prefer sexual exclusivity, or the preference for one mate. [Note to Jacob Zuma: allowing culture to shape your decision to have multiple wives is not very smart.] An earlier study conducted by him also reveals that more intelligent individuals tend to stay up later at night.

General intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionarily novel problems for which they did not have innate solutions

As a result, more intelligent people are more likely to recognize and understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligent people, and some of these entities and situations are preferences, values, and lifestyles.

Now, I’m liberal, an atheist, I stay up late at night and I’m smart enough to know that one woman is about all the trouble a guy can handle, but I’m not saying that I’m more intelligent. I do acknowledge though that Satoshi Kanazawa, probably is.

Grab the full article published in ScienceDaily here.

Render unto Darwin the things which are undeniably natural…

Today is Darwin Day. Beyond that however, today, the 12th of February 2009, marks the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and the 150th Anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species.

Those of us who take an interest in Science and such things, will recognize and appreciate the significance of this day.  Most of us who do, are usually Atheists, but not necessarily so. Our choice to recognize this day and honor one of the greatest men who ever lived, will lead to us being accused of worshipping Darwin as our “god.” Consequently Evolution or Natural Selection will be labeled as Atheist religions. This is not new. Some of us may get hot under the collar and pass disparaging remarks about this religious indiscretion, but most will however just get on with enjoying the occasion.

I therefore call upon all rationalists to just take in the day, savor the significance, and revel in the pure joy of free thinking.