Atheism 101: Atheism and the Koran


My last post discussed the Bible. This one will focus on the Koran. So what does the Koran have to say? And why don’t atheists agree with it? Please keep in mind, this post is about the Koran and not about how terrible Islam is. Please do not leave Islamaphobic comments. And, if you are a Muslim and are unwilling to read criticism of your Holy book, please do not read this post (though I’m assuming I’ll have a lot less people automatically jumping to the conclusion that I don’t know what I’m talking about with this post).

For one, non-believers are treated as criminals deserving of death simply for not believing. Sura 2:191 says “You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict thems whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder. Do not fight them at the Sacred Masjid, unless they attack you therein. If they attack you, you may kill them. This is the just retribution for those disbelievers.” Basically this is saying that it is okay to kill non-believers. Now, this isn’t exactly an odd thing for a religious book to say: Deuteronomy 17:2-5 says “If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant, And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel: Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.” However, the concept that a person is deserving of death simply for not believing is incredibly problematic. Sura 4:101 parrots the view that unbelievers deserve to be killed. It says “When ye travel through the earth, there is no blame on you if ye shorten your prayers, for fear the Unbelievers May attack you: For the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies.” The act of simply not agreeing with your religion makes us enemies? That’s a scary thought. Though, what’s even scarier is that some people actually agree with this passage. I can’t help but feel that any person who believes that my disagreeing with them makes me the enemy is dangerous, because I don’t know what they might do to me. Sura 5:33 says “Those who wage war against God and His Messenger and strive to spread corruption in the land should be punished by death, crucifixion, the amputation of an alternate hand and foot or banishment from the land: a disgrace for them in this world, and then a terrible punishment in the Hereafter.” What constitutes waging war? If this is referring to actual physical attacks, then, while I don’t agree with the methods, I do agree that defending oneself is acceptable. However, I do not agree that anything less than physical attack is deserving of this kind of treatment. The problem with this passage is that it doesn’t clarify what making war means, and earlier passages suggest that simple non-belief is enough to be considered the enemy. Sura 9:29 adds to this concern by stating that “Fight those who do not believe in Allah-until they pay the tax in acknowledgement of superiority and they are in a states of subjection with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.” Basically, attack non-believers for no better reason than because they are non believers, and make them submit to your will and become your slave. Apparently making people believe like this is easier than, I dunno, revealing yourself to the world? Sura 9.123 goes so far as to say “O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you.” Really? Kill your loved ones for no better reason than because they don’t agree with you? That seems a bit harsh.

The Koran also has some problematic things to say about the rights of women. In Sura 2:282 it says “Call in two male witnesses from among you, but if two men cannot be found, then one man and two women whom you judge fit to act as witnesses.” Basically, women are only half as trustworthy as men. And Sura 4:34 says “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them.” This is saying that women are created to be the slaves of men. Women are not allowed to be self-sufficient and instead must rely on men, and they must do as the men bid them do. Again, this is not an odd concept for a Holy book. 1 Peter 3:1 says “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.” And 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 says “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” The problem with this type of passage isn’t the context, it’s that people still believe it today. People still believe that women should be subservient to men. This is why these passages are a problem.

Like the Bible, the Koran also has some issues with its scientific accuracy. In Sura 12:4 Joseph apparently saw eleven planets in a dream he had. There aren’t 11 planets in our solar system. There are 8 planets and possibly as many as 100 dwarf planets (though there are at least 5). Sura 21:33 claims that the sun floats in an orbit around the earth. We know that this is not true. And Sura 27:61 says that the earth is fixed and does not move. Again, we know this is not true. The earth revolves around the sun. Like the Bible, these are only issues for those who take the Koran literally. However, there seem to be a larger percent of Muslims who claim that the Koran is scientifically accurate then there are Christians who say the same of the Bible.

All of the problems I presented are reasons why atheists don’t agree with the Koran. Thugh the biggest reason is simply that we don’t find the god claim compelling. We do not believe that there is enough evidence to support believing in Allah, just like we don’t believe the Bible provides enough evidence to believe in God.

https://atheistforums.org/thread-5493.html
http://the-militant-atheist.org/quran-quotes.html
https://godkillzyou.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/an-atheist-me-reviews-the-quran/
http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Science/
http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/quran/science/long.html


Taxes are not evil. The Rant


Taxes are not evil, taxes are not bad, taxes are not good either. Taxes are a necessary part of being a member of a larger community. Taxes and tithes have existed throughout the ages and, in more recent history, have normally been collected through some form of currency. But there have always been some expectations that you will give back to your community. As our connections to our larger communities have grown more abstract, as a result of our communities swelling into massive cities, and it became simpler to connect with people all over the world, our sense of allegiance and to whom we feel indebted too also changed, as it becomes harder to appreciate how the work of the rest of our community impacts our lives. The most common place this occurs, in my experience, is in how people talk about taxes. “I don’t want no government stealing my money” is an attitude I regularly encounter both in my personal discussions about social policy and all the time on the internet. It’s as though taxes get taken and you never gain any benefit from them.

Now, before anyone bursts out, I understand that for any given system of taxation and the levels of corruption in a system you going to see different effects, and yes, I’m sure there are a few examples scattered around (the most obvious being certain aboriginal communities in North America) where people really don’t see any benefits from paying taxes. Accepting those exceptions doesn’t change a thing as I’m speaking in generalities. We as individuals benefit immeasurably from the social structures around us. With the dawn of enlightenment and the rise of concept of individualism, also came with a disconnection from more communal thinking. So while many benefits arose from that way of thinking (and we still get many benefits) it makes people more willing to think that they are “self made” and have not real conception of the benefits wright from a stable society as they are just assumed. The costs forgotten.

Yet the benefits wrought by a stable society cost a lot of resources and time. Though that cost is nothing compared to if every person had to handle themselves.

For example lets look at roads. Could you imagine a world where every person had to look over their own section of road? Could you imagine every single person having to organize and pay for the little section of road in font of their home to be paved? Assuming everyone on your street were willing to pave theirs? You’d still probably end up with a patch work of roads of various qualities and outside your immediate area you might lack plausible routes, and whole sections of road decay as no one maintains it. And there might be road taxes where people set up tolls to make their money for the roads directly from commuters. Now, of course market effects can take place, and some people will die out and others will succeed, but monopolies, and the resulting extortion, would run rampant and different groups would be able to control great swaths of road, allowing them to charge whatever they like for the use of their roads.

Now imagine that for every utility, water, gas, electricity, you could have any of it or you’d end up getting it from some Baron who has massive control over your area. Sure, you might collectivize to control your own local resources, but then you’re back to having a government. Sure it’s a small government, but you’re probably subsisting whomever runs the community’s organizational effort. You can’t escape the sort of efficiencies you get from controlling and organizing large amounts of resources from the single governing body, and, given human history, that generally means you either have some sort of democracy of changing leaders, or some kind of totalitarian government run by a single person and their immediate power base or some kind of council.

What’s the point of all this rambling? One way or another, unless you go live out in the mountains completely off the grid, you’re going to have to give up some of your resources back to the community you live in. That isn’t a bad thing, that’s the responsible thing to do. Most of you reading this will also lie in democratic countries with something like freedom of speech and the ability to have your voice heard. So if you don’t like something that’s being done in your local government, or you don’t think tax money is being used correctly, well, you’ll need to do something about it. Make some phone calls, and send some letters. Talk with some other people and convince them to do the same. The answer will never really be as simple a raising or lowering taxes, and getting rid of taxes is utterly impossible without dissolving society as we know it.

So next time you hear someone talk about how they don’t like paying taxes or complain about how their tax dollars don’t work exclusively for them, remind them they are not the center of the universe. Remind them that society is not made just for them. Remind them that they gain far more in benefits then they are forced to pay back (thankfully we are not playing a 0 sum game here). So if they don’t like taxes, they would go live out in the wilderness where the fruits of there labour can be hoarded without the “threat” of taxation.

Taxes are not Satan. Although, unlike Satan, taxes do exist.

Withteeth


Do Prayer Spaces Belong on Secular University Campuses?


If so, what should they look like (ie. should they be multifaith or for an individual faith)? And who should pay for them? And what rights issues might be violated by providing them?

If not, why not? What should the religious do if they find they must pray while on campus? And what rights might be violated by not providing them?


That’s Not A Real Feminist Issue


I see this comment made a lot in the comment sections of feminist pages. If a woman says that she was blamed for an accident because she’s a woman and the man who hit her was in the military, people will say “That’s not a feminist issue, it’s an issue with military power.” Yes, it is an issue with military power. People act as if people in the military can do no wrong. People in the military do have privileges that the rest of us don’t have (though I’ll happily keep my lack of military privilege in exchange for not having PTSD). But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t also a feminist issue. People don’t automatically assume that the bad driver ahead of them is male. They don’t tell women “you drive like a man” in a mocking tone when they mean “you’re a bad driver.” The perception that women are bad drivers because they are women is a feminist issue because the assumption is sexist and leads people to treat women differently than they treat men.

Likewise, other “not real issues” are in fact real issues, and they really are important if we want to create a world that is equal for everybody. Men taking up to much space is a real issue. Why? Because your dick does not need so much room that you get to take up two seats worth of space while I’m forced to squeeze into half a seat. I used to ride the train for an hour to school and an hour back home again 5 days a week for two years and yes, I did experience this issue. Transit seats are already too close together. On a full train, I’m already forced to sit of stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers. When I have some asshole sitting next to me putting his leg over the line dividing his seat from mine, that’s infringing on my space. And it’s something men do. Don’t believe me? Go take a ride on a bus or a train and look around. Most of the women will have their legs crossed and their arms resting over their laps. Why? Because women are taught from a young age that this is polite and this is how ladies sit. The men, however, will often have their legs spread out crossing the line dividing their seat from another, regardless of whether or not someone else is sitting in the seat. Men and women also behave differently regarding where they put their bags and how they talk to their friends on transit. Women put their bags on their lap unless they are too big. Men almost always put their bags between their legs, which is often in the way of people getting on and off. Men shout over top of people to continue talking to their friends, but women generally stop talking if they are separated from their friends in the train or bus. So why is this a feminist issue? Because it’s a matter of entitlement. Men feel entitled to the space even if they are negatively affecting someone else to use it. Women feel as though they must make themselves small so as to have as little effect on others as possible. This is how we are raised, and it is a problem. Men shouldn’t feel entitled to the space other people are in, and women shouldn’t feel as though they should disappear in order to make room for others.

Are these minor issues? Yes, but that doesn’t mean they have no roll to play in larger issues. The same issues that lead grown men to not realise how much space they are actually taking also play a role in the “boys will be boys” attitude that people use to ignore a boy’s aggression and in the belief that men can’t control themselves when women dress provocatively. It’s all the same issue of “men are aggressive wild beasts that need to be tamed” that hurt both men and women. And the military privilege is much the same. Women in the military are treated like infiltrators who shouldn’t be there. The privilege is mostly enjoyed by men because they fit the strong warrior trope that all men are supposed to fit (even if they actually don’t). So yes, these are real feminist issues. They are feminist issues because they are yet more privileges that men get to enjoy that are denied to women. They are feminist issues because they help create a world of inequality. And they are feminist issues because size doesn’t matter when it comes to inequality. If something is unequal, it’s unequal. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a little bit unequal. And it doesn’t matter if other people have it worse elsewhere. African women being raped because they want to go to university doesn’t mean that the inequality I face here doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter. My inequality is still inequality. To say otherwise is to allow systematic inequality to persist. And small issues add up to create major issues. Personally, I’d rather deal with them while they are small.

Oh, and I can oppose that rape of African women, and other major inequalities faced by women, at the same time as I oppose the minor issues. So why would I have to pick one or the other? To say I should ignore minor inequalities because they are small is beyond ignorant. So, before you use the “that’s not real feminism” line, actually think about the issue. Think about what the person is saying about it, listen to their reasoning, and think about how that issue can play into other issues. And stop telling me that my experiences and my issues don’t matter.


What Atheist Conferences are You Looking Forward Too?


The Atheist Conference season has started. From March until September hundreds of Atheist Conferences will be taking place (of course there are conferences that happen throughout the year, but this is when most of them take place). For those of you who intend to go to a few of them (or just one), which ones do you intend to go to? Why did you pick that one, or those ones? And why do you want to attend them, or attend conferences in general?

This year I will be attending Gateway to Reason in St. Louis and Secular Women Work in Minneapolis. I chose those two because Gateway to Reason has a lot of speakers and was relatively cheap, and Secular Women Work is a new conference that looks well worth supporting. I go to conferences to meet people and to go some place that I wouldn’t otherwise go to. Those two will be the fourth and fifth Atheist Conferences I will have attended (followed by TAM, INR4, and LogiCon).


On Mental Health


Lately my mental health has been poor. I’ve been over-stressed because I had 4 assignments due and a midterm all last week, both of my clubs are struggling due to campus-wide apathy, and I haven’t yet recovered from the stress caused by the conference in February. All of this came together in my being unable to deal for the last little while. As such, I thought it would be a good time to talk about mental health.

In an event I attended today, we talked about how different things are in different communities, namely the queer community in my city, compared to mainstream society. I don’t know how things work in other places, but queer communities are generally meant to be safe spaces. As such, a lot of really personal information gets shared that you wouldn’t hear about in mainstream society. For example, mental health isn’t really discussed in mainstream society, or, if it is, it’s generally discussed in a “we must end the stigma” kind of way. People don’t generally sit down and talk about their mental health. But mental health is a much bigger deal in queer communities. Where in straight society (ie. groups with mostly straight cis people, or classroom settings, etc.) it is difficult to determine if anybody else has a mental illness, in queer communities you can almost assume that 1/4 to 1/2 the people there have some sort of mental illness. In fact, LGBT people are more likely to have a mental illness than straight people: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201124355.htm, http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-statistics/. In my community, it is common for people to talk about their mental health very openly. Everything from who has the same psychiatrist to what medication people are on to who had the latest break down gets talked about. It’s not a taboo subject, and everybody feels safe because we have created a safe space. To a lot of us, this is normal. We find it more odd that other people don’t talk about mental health so openly. Especially since hiding mental health issues is very damaging.

I wish mainstream society would adopt this openness with talking about mental health. I wish people stopped seeing mental illness as a taboo and started seeing it as a part of life. That’s what it is: something that some of us have to deal with while simultaneously leading ordinary lives. Mental illness isn’t scary until it’s not dealt with, and it isn’t allowed to be dealt with in a society that tries to hide it. But it’s just another part of life when it is dealt with. When it’s dealt with, it can be lived with.

So talk about mental health. Make it something that can be talked about. Make it something that’s okay for your loved ones to talk about, especially if you suspect they might be dealing with an undiagnosed illness. Create the safe space required for everybody to feel okay about who they are, and to seek the help they may need. And don’t be afraid to share your own stories, or your own issues. Even if your family and friends don’t understand, someone will. And talking about it helps those who don’t suffer from mental illness to understand what you’re going through. It can be tough to come out and share your story, but it’s worth it.


There Is More Than One Interpretation of the Bible


So why do so many people assume there is only one?

Whenever I make any post on the Bible, I inevitably get a ton of responses telling me that I don’t understand and I’m misinterpreting what the Bible says. I even get this from atheists. To a certain degree, this is amusing, but mostly it’s just annoying.

Yes, I understand that Christians are taught one interpretation, and they are taught that theirs is the only true interpretation, but they still need to understand that others disagree with them. As to you atheists out there who react the same way the Christians do: why do you think that yours is the proper interpretation? You may want to think about this before you cry “you don’t understand.”

I say this as a historian. The Bible was written thousands of years ago. We are able to get a basic understanding of the Bible, and we can determine it’s relevance in the modern world, but it has been translated so many times and into so many languages that even scholars who study the Bible debate proper translation and meaning of various parts of the Bible. I’m not saying that I know exactly what the Bible is saying, and I’m not saying that my version is right, but I am saying that these attacks of “you don’t understand” are misplaced and show there own level of misunderstanding. I’m not a Biblical scholar, and I don’t trust my own knowledge of the Bible to criticise it without help, so I got help in that area. Thus why I add sources when I discuss the Bible: I want to know that people who have looked deeper into the Bible than I have are asking similar questions.

I’d also like to point out that, while I do look to others to double check my issues, I’m also reading the Bible for myself without anybody telling me how to interpret one thing or another. I double check my criticism to make sure that I’m not completely off base, but my criticism is also based on what the Bible means to me. Again, this will not be perfect, but I am putting in the effort. So instead of attacking me and making assumptions about my understanding, my knowledge, or my intentions, do you think that you could actual read what I’m saying, take my words at face value, think about them for a day, and then tell me why you disagree rather than simply telling me I’m wrong or accusing me of things? That would be much appreciated.


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