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Reasons for unbelief

The New Statesman asked several prominent atheists why they don’t believe in God, and then compiled their responses. I really like this one from human rights activist Maryam Namazie:

I don’t remember exactly when I stopped believing in God. Having been raised in a fairly open-minded family in Iran, I had no encounter with Islam that mattered until the Islamic movement took power on the back of a defeated revolution in Iran. I was 12 at the time.

I suppose people can go through an entire lifetime without questioning God and a religion that they were born into (out of no choice of their own), especially if it doesn’t have much of a say in their lives. If you live in France or Britain, there may never be a need to renounce God actively or come out as an atheist.

But when the state sends a “Hezbollah” (the generic term for Islamist) to your school to ensure that you don’t mix with your friends who are boys, stops you from swimming, forces you to be veiled, deems males and females separate and unequal, prescribes different books for you and your girlfriends from those read by boys, denies certain fields of study to you because you are female, and starts killing in­discriminately, then you have no choice but to question, discredit and confront it – all of it. And that is what I did.

Fundies might deny it, but in reality fundamentalist Islam, Christianity, Judaism, et al. are more alike then you think. Patriarchal religion has slowed the progress of women’s rights throughout history, and getting rid of it would be a huge step forward.

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Comments on: "Reasons for unbelief" (4)

  1. Although I agree that abandoning religions with misogynistic beliefs would be progress, I must take issue with your portrayal of islam as a religion that, like christianity, can be divided into various wings from fundamentalist to liberal (although you don’t write specifically about the latter). This is inaccurate.

    Whereas a believer in what can be called a more ‘liberal’ christianity believes in a less literal and more interpretive version of biblical scripture, few question that such an approach automatically renders this believer to be a poor and/or bad christian. But this is simply not the case with islam, where the spectrum of the kind of believer one may be does not reside in the interpretation of scripture but adherence to it. In other words, in islam a believer falls along the spectrum of being a good to a bad believer based solely on how well or poorly one adheres to direct teachings of the quran.

    Don’t take my word for it. Go talk to muslims. It may help explain why recruits for jihadists, for example, can be found from all walks of life, all nationalities, all cultures, all positions of secular authority.The recruitment process is pretty straightforward: are you or are you not a ‘good’ muslim?

  2. Interesting. Iran, not surprised. If it was possible, it would have been cool to meet Maryam coz she is probably a very interesting person. On the other hand isn’t faith a thing that should be entirely open, and a matter of choice? I mean, if people are allowed to support a political party or football club..surely a world where faith is ‘banned’ is going to be a little more than just draconian??

  3. @Tildeb:

    I agree that Qutbism/Radical Islamism are in the short and medium terms the most dangerous ideology in the world, but I must disagree with. Many people in Albania are Muslim. If one argues that Albanians are often nominal Muslims, then one tacitly admits that can</i. be different wings if Islam. If one rejects that and insists that Albanians are (true) Muslims, will then why isn't Albania overflowing with Jihadists trying to institute the Caliphate in the Balkans?

    A few years ago, in Foreign Policy someone (don’t remember his name) wrote an article about what the world might be like if Islam didn’t exist. His conclusion was that Eastern or Oriental Orthodoxy would come to be the dominant religion in areas now dominated by Islam. He also argues that many of the same issues in the Middle East would also exist in that world. In short, the world wouldn’t be that much different.

    Although a failure in other respects, for much of its history the Ottoman Empire had no difficulty ensuring the loyalty of its non-Turkish or non-Muslim inhabitants. Many of the problems plaguing the Middle East weren’t problems under it. The OI disintegrated due to the rise of nationalism. Lawrence aided an Arab Revolt. In Albania, an Albanian revolt broke out in 1910. The Young Turk Revolution, a key event in the dissolution of the OI, was in part due to Turkish nationalists. These three were in part Muslims fighting other Muslims. If religion was a key motivating factor, why were they fighting? And even if people were motivated to join in by religion, how can we be sure that the process wasn’t something like this:

    “To be a proper Albanian/Arab/Turk, you must join our Jihad against the Ottomans.” In this situation, religion merely reinforces one’s ethnic identity, but is subordinate to nationalism.

    In other words, non religious factors like ethnicity or nationalism are far more powerful motivators than religion alone. Religion may well enhance one’s in-group identity, but other factors are more important.

  4. @Gnstr:

    People should have freedom of religion, but Iran is a fundamentalist Shia theocracy.

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