I was writing a couple of days about about the meaning of life, and pointed you at an article written by Tom Chivers that was a result of him asking atheists how they found meaning in life. Tom has another great article that is now up and in this one he asks “What is it like to be an atheist surrounded by religion?”. What this does is to expose the abuse and intolerance dished out by the religious, and to also highlight the real physical threats faced by some for simply not believing absurd nonsense. I’m not exaggerating, there are 13 nations today that officially have a death sentence that specifically targets those who do not believe, and so now that you know that, I guess it will not be a surprise for you to discover that they are all Islamic.
This might perhaps be a cue for somebody to suggest that I’m being a tad Islamophobic, but the term “Islamophobic” is strictly speaking describing an irrational fear, and there is nothing irrational about criticising people who seek to murder you on the sole basis that you do not believe the precise things that they believe.
For the curious, the list of nations that have a formal death penalty for blasphemy and apostasy is: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Extracts from Tom’s new article
You can find the full article here, and below are a few small extracts that illustrate what happens when individuals dare to take a stand for what they know to be true …
“The day I decided to declare my atheism and discuss it publicly was the end of an era of my life. Some of my friends from the pre-atheism-declaration era won’t accept me any more. – Kacem El Ghazzali, Morocco
“Ever since I have come out openly, I have lost lots of friends, and even some relatives have kept their distance. I have received death threats and even [been] confronted physically for my views – but I am not fazed. What matters to me is speaking out so others like me will know they are not alone. – Bamidele Adeneye, Nigeria
“I was arrested. I spent weeks in a psych ward, in June 2014, after suffering months of punishment, including violence, from male relatives. My family think my atheism is a demonic possession, a delusion, or a mental illness. My father tried to have me sent to Saudi Arabia as a patient. – Mubarak Bala, Nigeria
my thoughts were unacceptable. People would even refuse to continue discussions by declaring ‘this is kufr [blasphemy] and therefore there should be no discussion’ – Anonymous, Egypt
“In 2013, after the murder of atheist blogger Rajib Haidar Shovon [one of several such murders in Bangladesh in recent years], I, along with other activists, bloggers, and campaigners, was targeted by the Islamists. They declared us atheists and wanted us dead. Old friends unfriended and blocked me on Facebook, very close relatives stopped contacting me, and some even threatened me to make me stop – Ajanta Deb Roy, Bangladesh
Ideas are related to behaviour
It can perhaps be tempting to suggest that believing things that are not actually true is generally harmless, but clearly it is not because bad ideas do indeed inspire and motivate bad behaviour and so criticising bad ideas truly does matter.