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An Atheist Hate Letter Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Posted by h3nry in atheism, Christianity, discrimination, faith, fundamentalism, hate-crime, hoax, OUT campaign, religion, Sam Harris, statistics, Texas, United States.
19 comments

Update:

Several readers have kindly pointed out that the letter is actually a hoax – please see the comments for more details. My apologies for not being able to double check this before posting…

h3nry – 15 August 2007

Check out this reader’s letter to a newspaper – tell me if I should laugh it off or see it as some sort of hate-crime? Surely if we replace the word “atheists” with some other minority group, the letter would never have been published.

Courtesy of this page here (via Reddit). Unfortunately not much else information is given on this letter.

Reader Voices Strong Opinions on Atheists

The ending sentence exemplifies the prejudice and religious bigotry of the writer of the letter:

I don’t care if they have never committed a crime, atheists are the reason crime is rampant.

Those of you who have read Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation might remember the interesting statistics correlating crime rates in the more religious areas of the United States in comparison to the less religious areas:

Of the twenty-five cities with the lowest rates of violent crime, 62 percent are in “blue” states and 38 percent are in “red” states. Of the twenty-five most dangerous cities, 76 percent are in red states, 24 percent in blue states. In fact, three of the five most dangerous cities in the United States are in the pious state of Texas. The twelve states with the highest rate of burglary are red. Twenty-four of the twenty-nine states with the highest rate of theft are red. Of the twenty-two states with the highest rates of murder, seventeen are red.

where the “red” states are the conservative religious states and the “blue” states are the more liberal states.

It is worth noting that the writer of the letter is not anonymous – which I suspect by choice – which to me seems to reflect the general anti-atheist sentiment held by the majority in the US.

I suppose it is precisely because of this sort of hatred that the OUT Campaign is designed for – although not unexpectedly it has also convinced atheists to continue to hide their views.

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UK Flooding: Judgement from God Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-fundamentalism, Asian Tsunami 2004, Bible, Christianity, church, Church of England, flood, fundamentalism, gay marriage, God, homosexuality, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, United Kingdom.
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According to the senior bishops of Church of England, the recent flooding in the UK is a punishment from God because our society and government have become morally corrupt. One particular bishop says that the recent introduction of pro-gay legislation has prompt God to flood parts of the UK.

Says one bishop:

“This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way,”… “We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused.”

He blames the government in particular:

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Parents: Please Don’t Indoctrinate Creationism To Your Kids Monday, July 2, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-creationism, anti-fundamentalism, creationism, education, evolution, funny, humour, Sam Harris, video.
2 comments

Courtesy of A Whore in the Temple of Reason

The End of Faith – West of Eden Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Posted by h3nry in Africa, book review, Christianity, evolution, faith, fundamentalism, George Bush, God, politics, rationality, religion, Sam Harris, sin, stem cell, United States.
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After writing a chapter critising Islam, Harris proceeds to deliver assaults on the religious influence in the West, in particular in the USA political scene.

Harris goes on his attack with a plethora of disturbing examples, which includes a list of influential members in the government such as Dr. W. David Hager of FDA, General William G. Boykin of Special Forces, Tom DeLay of The House majority leader, Antonin Scalia of Supreme Court Justice – and “facts of this sort can be cataloged without apparent end…”.

All this is rather terrifying. Why? Because one would expect that in a civilised society – US being the only superpower in the world – reason and common sense should be the norm. But no, powerful men in the politics are making decisions more or less based on blind personal religious beliefs.

Harris goes on to attack the idea of “victimless crime” in the US – behaviours that cause no harm to anyone yet are punishable. Examples include prostitution and viewing obscene materials. He asks:

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Not Only In America – Evolution Science Endangered Worldwide Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Posted by h3nry in anti-creationism, anti-ID, atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Europe, evolution, intelligent design, Japan, rationality, religion, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, science, Turkey, United States, world.
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The scientific theory of evolution is under attack – and not just in the United States alone – but on a global scale.

Firstly, the result of a study published last year shows conclusively that the adult populations of US and Turkey are the least likely to believe in theory of evolution. The study was conducted over 34 countries which include Japan, US and 32 European nations. A question “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals.” was asked, in which correspondents could respond with true, false or unsure.

A graphical depiction of the study is re-posted here. Click on it to enlarge it. Evolution Less Accepted in U.S. Than Other Western Countries

Remarkably, but unsurprisingly, only a paltry 14% of the adult US population actually believes in evolution, completely outnumbered by the one-third who firmly rejects the idea.

Turkey, where 99% of its population is Muslim, represents another worrying trend. Using the result of this study, we can probably safe to conclude that the Muslim population, in general, reject the theory of evolution strongly. In fact, looking at the graph, one could also say that the ratio of rejection is quite high in comparison to US and the rest of surveyed countries.

A second article written recently also adds worry that the anti-evolution movement is gathering pace worldwide. It lists a couple of examples of how evolution is being attacked. One case is that in Kenya, a bitter dispute is taken place as the plan of exhibiting a prehistoric human skeleton is being opposed by local religious forces. Another example involves a well-funded Turkish publishing house mass-distributing anti-evolution books to French speaking schools and universities across Europe. The article also shows an example from Russia, and of course, there is the well-known Intelligent Design movement that is currently taking place in the US.

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Debate on God between Sam Harris and Rick Warren Monday, April 2, 2007

Posted by h3nry in atheism, Christianity, faith, God, rationality, religion, Rick Warren, Sam Harris.
3 comments

This article, titled “The God Debate”, is a transcript of civilised discussion between one of the most famous atheists Sam Harris, and one of the most influential evangelical pastor, Rick Warren. The discussion covers atheism vs. religion, the Bible, morality, and of course, God itself. A discussion such as this is always too short, but it does contain pretty much the typical arguments you would expect from both sides.

Rick Warren Rick Warren

Warren starts off by saying:

“I see the fingerprints of God everywhere. I see them in culture. I see them in law. I see them in literature. I see them in nature. I see them in my own life. Trying to understand where God came from is like an ant trying to understand the Internet. Even the most brilliant scientist would agree that we only know a fraction of a percent of the knowledge of the universe.”

I think this summarises well the mindset of a God-believer – he or she believes in God simply because it is a personal experience, not because of evidence, reason and logic. A discussion on God, as many atheists have conceded, is a waste of time, because there can be no rationale and logic. The atheist and theist are talking about the same topic, but from completely different perspectives.

Warren does not believe in evolution, and as you would read further down the discussion, he seems to think that evolution is a theory of chance. This is very unfortunate reflection of the failure of the scientific education, because as any informed person on this subject knows, evolution is a blind and non-random algorithmic process – known as natural selection – in which chance and randomness is only part of it.

Moving on. Warren gives an example of how an answered prayer makes him feels like he is having a conversation with God, to which Harris predictably bites back and in effect saying what about thousands and millions of other unanswered and failed prayers? Warren doesn’t seem to have much to say except for offering a one-liner “That’s a misstatement there.” It is a shame that this particular thread of discussion is not continued further.

Sam Harris Sam Harris

Now, the discussion turns into morality. I am actually offended by this statement Warren made:

“Thousands died in the Inquisition; millions died under Mao, and under Stalin and Pol Pot. There is a home for atheists in the world today—it’s called North Korea.

Please delight me, what does North Korea have to do with atheism?

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The End of Faith – The Problem with Islam Thursday, March 29, 2007

Posted by h3nry in atheism, book review, faith, God, Islam, jihad, Koran, Middle East, Noam Chomsky, rationality, religion, Sam Harris.
3 comments

This is a highly anticipated chapter of the book. While Sam Harris focuses on faith as the main theme of the book, an entire chapter is devoted to Islam. Why so? Harris says that because at this particular point in history, we are at war with Islam:

“It is not merely that we are at war with an otherwise peaceful religion that has been ‘hijacked’ by extremists. We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran, and further elaborated in the literature of hadith, which recounts the says and actions of the Prophet.”

Harris mentions jihad. Jihad is translated literally as “struggles”, and there are two types of it – an “inner” struggle on one’s self, and an “outer” struggle which involves with struggles against infidels and apostates. Essentially,

“… the duty of jihad is an unambiguous call to world conquest.”

Harris devotes quite a number of pages of the chapter quoting from the Koran and hadith to support his argument – just take a look from page 117 to 123 – because he wants to emphasize on the root of the problem with Islam:

“On almost every page, the Koran instructs observant Muslims to despise non-believers. On almost every page, it prepares the ground for religious conflict.”

Suicide bombing, as Harris argues, is no aberration of Islam, given the tenets of jihad, martyrdom, infidels and paradise. The Muslim world today is comparable to the 14th century Christian Europe on the intellectual and economical fronts. A shocking statistics is that Spain translates as many books into Spanish each year as the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the 9th century (reported by UN in 2002)! I think this fact along has convinced me of just how stagnant the Arab world has become in terms of human knowledge – and this is a really grim picture, because lack of knowledge implies the reliance on the Koran and hadith, which are firmly rooted in a world that was thousands of years ago. Harris puts it:

“… I think it is clear that Islam must find some way to revise itself, peacefully or otherwise. What this will mean is not at all obvious. What is obvious, however, is that the West must either win the argument or win the war. All else is bondage.”

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The End of Faith – Reason In Exile Sunday, March 4, 2007

Posted by h3nry in atheism, book review, Daniel Dennett, faith, fundamentalism, God, Islam, Koran, rationality, religion, Sam Harris.
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This post is a commentary on the first chapter Reason In Exile of the widely popular book The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, which I have just started reading with immense interest and expectation. It is written by Sam Harris, who along with Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, is seen as one of the most “self-styled” populariser of the so-called “academic atheism”.

Book Cover of “The End of Faith”

In this chapter Harris establishes one of the central themes of the book, which is best summed up with this quote:

We will see that the greatest problem confronting civilization is not merely religious extremism: rather, it is the larger set of cultural and intellectual accommodations we have made to faith itself. Religious moderates are, in large part, responsible for the religious conflict in our world, because their beliefs provide the context in which scriptural literalism and religious violence can never be adequately opposed.

Simply put, Harris argues that religious moderates are no better than extremists – the reason being that moderates provide the framework and tolerance to which fosters extremism. I have my reservations on this claim; however I have not given this claim much thought before, so I will continue to read the book with great interest.

Harris continues with his argument:

Two myths now keep faith beyond the fray of rational criticism, and they seem to foster religious extremism and religious moderation equally: (1) most of believe that there are good things that people get from religious faith (e.g. strong communities, ethical behaviour, spiritual experience) that cannot be had elsewhere; (2) many of us also believe that the terrible things that are sometimes done in the name of religion are the products not of faith per se but of our baser natures – forces like greed, hatred, and fear…

I completely agree with the second point. Religion, like no other forces in human history, has the unique ability to unite the many ugly traits of human nature. Yes, ethnic conflicts, power greed and territorial expansions have caused wars and human atrocities throughout history, but religion is often intertwined heavily – and worse, religion is seen as the acceptable and rightfulness justification – even today, at twenty first century! This is what makes religion unique in this regard.

Religious moderation arises not from religions within – not from the scriptures – but from the many cultural, scientific, political… etc advances we accumulated in the past few thousands of years. Stoning people to death is a good point in case, Harris argues, and well stated:

The doors leading out of scriptural literalism do not open from the inside. The moderation we see among non-fundamentalists is not some sign that faith itself has evolved; it is, rather, the product of the many hammer blows of modernity that have exposed certain tenets of faith to doubt.

Fundamentalists merely practice their religion to the words of the scripture, and their religious knowledge is often unrivalled, says Harris. The so-called moderates, are so because they balance their personal religious beliefs with advances in human knowledge, which has nothing within to do with God:

Religious moderation is the product of secular knowledge and scripture ignorance – and it has no bona fides, in religious terms, to put it on par with fundamentalism.

In other words, in religious terms, moderates are hypocrites (I am actually surprised that the word “hypocrites” has not been used at all in this chapter).

Harris throws some worrying statistics in the book, and I really mean, worrying:

According to Gallup, 35 percent of Americans believe that the Bible is the literal and inerrant word of the Creator of the universe. Another 48 percent believe that it is the “inspired” word of the same…

Some 46 percent of Americans take a literalist view of creation…

Admittedly this survey was conducted in 1996, which is very outdated – however, it does give a good indication of the scale “encyclopedic ignorance” [page 14] of the general American society. I would love to find out what the statistics is now…

Harris then writes about Muslim extremism. He argues that they are extreme in that they believe modernity and secular culture are incompatible with moral and spiritual health, that Muslims extremists appear to suffer a fear of being polluted by the non-Islamic cultures, as well as a feeling of humiliation. Harris goes to briefly argues that the literal believing of the Koran and the Islam religion itself are the simple reasons that can explain the extremism that we see today.

… the problem is that most Muslims believe that the Koran is the literal word of God.

I was slightly disappointed with the passage regarding Muslim extremism, as there are no substantial arguments and deep insights (unlike the rest of the chapter); most of it are more of a generalisation and even simplistic. For example, how and why do Muslims extremists feel humiliated? What is the basis for saying that “Muslims hate the West in the very terms of their faith and that the Koran mandates such hatred.” [page 31]. However, the good news is that there is a chapter completely devoted to this topic, so I am looking forward to that

Harris goes on to argue that a person’s view on afterlife largely guides how he/she lives, and ranted about how remarkable it is that even a hairstylist requires a certificate, yet the candidates of United State president cannot openly doubt the existence of heaven and hell – in fact, they do not have to be experts or knowledgeable in areas that matter, such as law and economics; they just need to be expert fund-raisers. This is a great satirical passage, true and sad at the same time.

Sam Harris concludes the chapter by stating that it is time we recognise the dangers of beliefs. Belief is no longer a private or personal thing; it is at a public matter at global scale. Action of a man utterly depends on the beliefs of a person.

I will conclude this post with a nice quote on reason and belief:

We cannot live by reason alone. This is why no quantity of reason, applied as antiseptic, can compete with the balm of faith, once the terrors of this world begin to intrude upon our lives… and reason, no matter how broad its compass, will begin to smell distinctly of formaldehyde. This had lead many of us to conclude, wrongly, that human begins have needs that only faith in certain fantastical ideas can fulfill. It is nowhere written, however, tat human beings must be irrational, or live in a perpetual state of siege, to enjoy an abiding sense of the sacred.

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