Monday, November 2, 2015

Atheist Zealots

I was raised and indoctrinated with common Christian beliefs, so I came into my current state of non-belief in a god through a process of reasoning and questioning. Once I realized the true nature of our existence, I came to regard all who did not believe in a god or gods as highly intelligent, rational peers. I now understand that I've probably given some who have never believed much more credit than they're due.

I have learned that simply being an atheist does not automatically mean a person is intelligent, rational, or compassionate, because there are atheists who never had to go through a process of rationalizing, reasoning, and questioning what they understand to be true. Non-belief in a god is a default position; the belief in god needs to be taught, and especially at a young age before a child is old enough to reason. While it can be argued that religious teachings may stunt or delay learning about things like science and history, it does not inherently turn people into ignorant, bigoted, hateful zealots. In fact, there exists in this world atheists who are ignorant, bigoted, hateful zealots, in spite of the fact that some of the most intelligent people are those who have never held a religious belief.

One such demonstration of this can be found in a Facebook group known as "Atheist Republic." After accepting their invitation to the private group earlier this year, I noticed the group devolving from oppressing religion to becoming bigoted and hateful of people who hold religious belief. I wrote blog posts such as the Niqab debate in hopes to temper people's bigotry of Muslim women, but the vitriol continued. I decided to ignore their bloodless ideology until I got caught in the cross hairs of their witch hunt.

It started with a joke. I posted a picture of a baptism cake, with the caption, "The cake is a lie." This is a long-running joke with players of the original Portal video game, and in case you don't get this joke, "The cake is a lie" was a hidden message in the game used to convey the message that a promised gift is being used to motivate without any intent of delivering. In religion, there is a promised gift being used to motivate without any intent of delivering, but it isn't cake. This was an example of satire combined with irony that I enjoy.

The first comment appeared to be from a crank questioning my belief. I followed up with what I thought was sufficient clarification without ruining the joke, and even went so far as to stick with the religious-themed satire of the original while posting a picture from the game, in case this person sincerely didn't understand.

I thought that ought to be sufficient for anyone to figure the joke out, but this zealot was clearly on an anti-religious witch hunt, because instead of bothering to even look at my profile or google "The cake is a lie," he chose to insult me by calling me a troll.

Reasoning that he was a one-off crank,  I pointed out the simple fact that he just may be, in fact, a humorless twit; hardly even an insult, given the circumstances. That's when he called out the admins of the group by tagging them in his reply.

He had lobbed the first insult by calling me a troll for all to see, rather than questioning me or sending his concerns to the admins in private. As I soon discovered, he wasn't a one-off crank in this group; he was rallying fellow zealots in his anti-religious witch hunt. It was a mob mentality as they set their rifle sights on me: One of their own, and, as this blog demonstrates, one of the most outspoken atheists.

While certain atheists accuse religion for terrible things such as the Salem witch hunts, it turns out that this is simply an ugly, cancerous side of human culture, fostered by ignorance and bigotry, that can affect atheists equally as it does the religious. It's no wonder that, with behaviour like this, people believe atheism to be just another religion.

I have decided that, after being banned from Atheist Republic, to consider abandoning my atheism, and start a new religion. My religion will be cake. The cake is not a lie, even if it is written. Anyone wish to join me?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Niqab debate

I've seen a considerable amount of hateful opinions regarding the Niqab in Canada come across my Facebook news feed as of late, and while some concerns seem legitimate on the surface, every single one of them neglects a very critical question: Why do Muslim women wear the Niqab?

If we read the opinions of liberal Canadian hipsters who choose to wear the Niqab as a fashion statement, we would learn that they find it empowering, which is something I would not disagree with. Every year on October 31, many people, myself included, find it empowering to cover our faces as we dress up as Ninjas or Batman. In fact, it's a lot of fun, and Islam would seem, on its surface, to provide a legitimate excuse to enjoy this Halloween type fun all year round. However, I doubt very much that these fun-loving hipster bloggers do not constitute the majority of Niqab-wearing women in Canada.

Others have expressed the opinion that the niqab protects them from the prying eyes of Joe public, so that only someone very special gets to see their beauty. Often, they regard themselves as a "Wrapped Candy" or some equivalent. It is a little disconcerting to me, as a supporter of the feminist movement, that a woman would relegate herself to a position of subservience to a man, to reduce herself to little more than chattel to be unwrapped only by her owner. Such a woman cannot expect to be treated as an equal in such a culture, and it saddens me to think that a woman would put such value on something as superficial as their appearance. Once again, I doubt that these women represent the majority of niqab-wearing women. If the majority do believe in this, I don't believe it's the primary reason.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and1.0 Generic license.
I believe the majority of niqab wearing women wear their niqabs out of fear. Whether their fear is based in tradition, superstition, or from a real threat is irrelevant. This fear is real for them.

Consider a person who has left their culture where they were surrounded by like-minded people to come to Canada. By and large, these women are not educated by no choice of their own, and are forced to come here with their husbands because they really don't have any say or choice in these matters. Quite often, they look forward to the promise of a better life for their children, something all of us would want. They already wore the Niqab in their culture because they feared what might have happened if they didn't, and it also gave them a sense of belonging to be around other women who were clearly in the same predicament. Now they're in this strange new world with alien cultures and ideals, and all they know is fear. We can hardly expect them to suddenly become enlightened.

Let's be honest here and start by admitting these women feel safer when hiding under their niqabs. This leads to another very important question: Are we really helping them by making them feel marginalized or challenged for wearing what amounts to their personal security blanket?

At a personal level, I disagree with the Niqab for fundamental equality reasons. That said, turning it into a national debate on the covers of newspapers and the top of Facebook news feeds only serves to alienate women who have possibly already suffered a great deal of abuse in their lives, and we may very well be driving them back into the arms of their oppressors. We should feel compassion for these women. Let them wear their Niqab if it makes them feel safe. Ours should be a culture of enlightenment.

Yes, I, an atheist, say, let these women wear the niqab, and let's show them that we accept them with open arms and uncovered faces. Over time, they will come to feel secure and may even come to recognize the niqab as something ridiculous and embarrassing as they assimilate into our culture. It may not happen overnight, and it may not even happen for a generation or two, but it will certainly happen a lot faster and easier if we can agree that marginalizing and criticizing these fearful women is not productive. Please join me and help them become part of our great multi-cultural country by opting out of sharing anything hateful about Muslim women in your Facebook feed.

Monday, October 12, 2015


Phobia Noun 

A persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.

Islamophobia is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean? Traditionally in the English language, the phobia suffix literally means fear. Thus, when we combine it with the Latin prefix of, say, Claustro (a door bolt), we get Claustrophobia, which is a fear of enclosed spaces.

Phobias are a fairly common trait that most people have. In fact, there is a web site,, that has made the attempt to list them all. Go ahead, have a look. Chances are you'll discover one or more of your own phobias on that list. What's not on that list is Islamophobia.

Islamophobia is a made-up word, with a made-up meaning. If we accept it at face value and use it like other words that end in phobia, the reasonable expectation is that it means a fear of Islam. Such a fear is not necessarily an irrational one; many people in the world today are afraid of Islam, as we have witnessed and continue to witness atrocities committed in the name of Islam. Fear is what keeps many people in the world in the Islamic faith. As such, a fear of Islam may be a very rational fear to have, and thus does not merit the use of the suffix -phobia.

The true origins of this word came from the popular use of homophobia, which is a real word with a real meaning. Originally, it was a fear of sameness or monotony derived from homogeneous, but then the LGBT movement took this word and assigned a new meaning to it, deriving homo from homosexual. This is actually quite clever, because both homosexual and homogeneous are Latin in origin, constructed the same way, and would translate exactly the same to derive a word that means a fear of homosexuals or sameness.

Some people didn't just fear homosexuals; there are those even today who outright and without rationale hate them. Hate isn't fear, and some of those people who hated homosexuals didn't feel compelled to avoid them. In fact, many of those who hated homosexuals would go out of their way to confront and attack them. However, people loved using the word, so the meaning became altered to be used to describe people who hate and become confrontational towards homosexual men and women. I don't consider this a great choice, as it dilutes the meaning of what a phobia is supposed to be, but they are fighting the good fight for equal rights and that matters to me. At least the definition of this word is very specific and makes sense.

Capitalizing on the LGBT struggle for equality, Islamophobia was coined with a made-up definition. This definition is: "Dislike or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force." However, the problem with this definition is immediately apparent to me: There are Muslims in this world who have a legitimate dislike or prejudice against Islam. This made-up meaning for this made-up word ends up stereotyping people of a specific nationality, allowing those who might question their religious beliefs to be ostracized or worse. We already have perfectly good words to describe non-Muslim people who hate Muslims. My word of choice to describe this sort of individual is is misotramontanism.

Now consider someone who dislikes or is prejudiced against Islam as a political force. Would we then consider someone who doesn't like Liberals as a political force Liberalphobics? At this point, the very definition of the word Islamophobia continues to become further diluted, fragmented, and nonsensical. Once again there exists words in our language already that better describe this; for example, try misarchist. Or, to be more accurate in this case, perhaps misotyrannist is more apt.

So we have this made-up word that, when taken to its Latin root, doesn't make sense. Its made-up definition doesn't make sense. We already have words in our language to describe people who don't like people of other races or nationalities that are far more suitable. The only reason I see for the existence of this word is to silence those who would criticize Islam, to demonize those who would question this religion, including the very people who are trying to escape it, and to give the religious an unwarranted position of unquestionable authority. That makes this a very ugly word.

I'm going to join French prime minister Manuel Valls in purging this ugly word from my vocabulary when describing anti-Muslim prejudice, and ask that you do the same.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Martyrs of the Age of Reason

Martyr (noun): A person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause. (verb) To make a martyr of, especially by putting to death.


When we read and hear news coverage about the Charlie Hebdo shootings, we often see the gunmen had claimed to want to die as martyrs for their cause. Their claim is that they have avenged their long-dead prophet Mohammed in these killings. Had they laid down their firearms and surrendered to the French authorities after fulfilling their task of avenging their dead prophet and, as a result, had been executed for murder, one might see them as martyrs for their religion. They did not do this. In addition to killing the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, they also executed Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet, and then took a hostage and engaged in a firefight with the authorities.

The Charlie Hebdo murderers did not die as martyrs. The French authorities did not kill them because of their religious beliefs. They were killed because they were randomly killing people for no apparent reason after executing the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo. They were killed because they gave the French authorities no other option; failure to kill the shooters would have resulted in more innocent people getting murdered. I'm personally against the death penalty and police brutality, but this was a situation where the Charlie Hebdo murders left the French authorities no other choice. This is not martyrdom in any sense of the word; this was France protecting itself.

Being raised and indoctrinated as a Christian, there was one martyr that I was taught about, and that martyr was Jesus Christ. Yes, we are taught that he died for our sins, and he is the son of God, and through him all is forgiven, but consider the actual biblical account of how he was executed. For the sakes of argument, I'm going to skip over the contradictions in the Bible, and focus on what most Christians generally accept as fact.

It is generally accepted that Jesus never killed anyone during his short time as a mortal son of God. During his trial, Jesus was accused by Caiaphas for blasphemy, after which he was taken to Pilate's court, where he offended the Roman governor for claiming to be the "King of Jews." He was subsequently subjected to ridicule, torture, and then crucifixion by Roman soldiers.

Nobody would consider the Roman soldiers to be martyrs whenever they died for Rome; Jesus Christ was the martyr in this story. Fast forward to today. Islam is both a state and a religion. The state of Islam was offended by the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, just as the Roman governor was offended. The Charlie Hebdo murderers are clearly modern day soldiers of the state of Islam; they were well trained and had access to military grade weapons. The cartoonists, who, like Jesus Christ, had never killed anyone and simply wanted to show humanity that we could be free from organized religion, were executed by those soldiers. To better understand, let's look into the work they did and why it's significant.

Historical milestones are generally measured as "Ages." Very old religions have survived, and perhaps even caused, multiple "Ages," but Christianity is considered to have its roots in the Apostolic age, between 30 and 100A.D. Then there are periods like the Islamic golden age, which occurred at around 750 to 1258C.E. However, the age that is relevant here is the Age of Reason, which started in 1794. At its heart, this calls for the challenging of institutional religious beliefs and the bible. While not a religion, it is based on principles and represents a cause that focuses on liberating people from the tyranny of organized religion. This was precisely what the people working at Charlie Hebdo were doing; their work was meant to challenge religious beliefs, to help liberate people from the tyranny of organized religion. They did this through the peaceful act of putting out a publication filled with relevant articles and satirical cartoons.

The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo who were killed never killed anyone in their lives. They strove to make humanity better, by freeing us from the tyranny of organized religion by way of peaceful satire. They understood their lives were at risk by committing blasphemy and challenging established institutions. Each and every one of them are to us today as Christians portray Jesus Christ, but they were executed by Islamic soldiers instead of Roman soldiers, and I think it's possible that, if these cartoonists were alive today, they would tell us to forgive Islamic terrorists, for they really know not what they do, as their minds are held hostage by the organized religion of Islam. And so, I present to you the most recent martyrs of the age of reason, in no particular order:

Jean Cabut (Cabu)
"Cabu 20080318 Salon du livre 3" by Georges Seguin (Okki) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

This man spent time in the military, and based on his first hand experience, became anti-militarist. This is a clear sign of someone who will question authority and put himself at risk for what he believes is morally right. His main focus in his life has been the selfless act of educating through is art, in spite of criticism from the "Status Quo."

Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb)
"2011-11-02 Incendie à Charlie Hebdo - Charb - 06" by Coyau / Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

This man was the editor of Charlie Hebdo. He was 47 years old. He had received death threats and was under police protection. He once told France's Le Monde newspaper that he had no kids, no wife, no car and no debt, and would rather die standing than on his knees. He knew the risk he was taking, and he did it for us, so that we could be free from religion. I will stay free, Charb.

Georges Wolinski 
"G. Wolinski dédicaçant à la fête de l'Huma 2007-02" by Alvaro - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Another martyr of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter who oppressed organized religion to the bitter end, this great man had received the Legion of Honour for his work.

Bernard Verlhac (Tignous)
"Tignous 20080318 Salon du livre 1" by Georges Seguin (Okki) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

This man was a member of "Cartoonists for peace." His work was well-known for its attacks on hypocrisy. It's sad that he was also the father of four children, who have had their father ripped from their lives at the hands of Islamic soldiers. 

Philippe Honoré
"Philippe Honoré, dessinateur de Charlie Hebdo (crop)" by User:Mpayot - →This file has been extracted from another image: File:Philippe Honoré, dessinateur de Charlie Hebdo.jpg.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons -,_dessinateur_de_Charlie_Hebdo_(crop).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Philippe_Honor%C3%A9,_dessinateur_de_Charlie_Hebdo_(crop).jpg

This martyr regularly campaigned against injustice and cynicism, he was a "Kind and gentle bearded giant." 

Bernard Maris

Bernard Maris was an economist, writer, journalist, and a shareholder in Charlie Hebdo. In 1995, Le Nouvel Économiste awarded him the "Best economist of the year." In December of 2011, he was appointed as a member of general council of the Banque de France, and had numerous publications. This wasn't just someone wanting to poke fun at religion, this was a well educated and knowledgeable man who drew from a significant depth of knowledge and understanding.

Elsa Cayat
"Elsa Cayat" by Via Wikipedia -

The only woman who was murdered for her participation in fighting for our freedom from religion, Elsa Cayat wrote a bi-weekly article in Charlie Hebdo called Charlie Divan," which translates to "Charlie's Couch." As a psychoanalyst, she would write about topics such as parental authority and couple sexuality. She had been threatened before for being Jewish.

Mustapha Ourrad

Mustopha was the copy editor of Charlie Hebdo; he made sure each issue was free from errors to ensure the message they sent out would be as clear as possible.

There were other victims, but these eight are the ones who were targeted specifically because of their cause of freeing minds from the tyranny of organized religion. They knew there could have been consequences like this, but these were principled people, driven to do what they felt was right thing to do for the benefit of us all. They died for our freedom from religion. Their deaths instantly galvanized freethinkers everywhere. Within hours, Facebook profile pictures everywhere changed to "Je Suis Charlie," or "I am Charlie." Vigils were held all over the country and the world in honour of these martyrs. World leaders came together in a march in Paris because of their deaths.

Look at their faces and know who they were, so they can live on forever in our collective memories as martyrs for the age of reason.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Religion is not a race

Listening to the CBC radio this morning, I heard some ignorant comments from fellow Canadians regarding the Charlie Hebdo shootings. Essentially, many of them equated the satirical cartoons that criticized Islam and the prophet Mohamed to racism and anti-Semitism. In this article, I will explore how they might have come to such an illogical conclusion, and demonstrate why this is a fallacy.

The Canadian Human Rights Act lists 11 prohibited grounds of discrimination. This list includes: Race, national or ethic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, and a conviction for which a pardon has been granted or a record suspended. Since religion and race appear on this list, some assume that they are one in the same, which they are not, just as race and sexual orientation are mutually exclusive. That's why they're listed separately. All this act does is prevent discriminating against a person based on something like their religious beliefs or a disability. Being critical of religion does not go against this list any more than would being critical of marriage, as long as the criticism isn't used to discriminate against a person.

The comparison to anti-Semitism suggests that, since Judaism is a religion of the Jewish people, race and religion are intertwined. Besides the fact that this ignores the fact that a person of any race can become a Jew by converting to Judaism, there exists many prominent Jews who proclaim to be atheists and agnostics. Clearly, there exists a distinction between Judaism and Jews. Anti-Semitism is defined as hostility towards or discriminating against a Jewish person or Jewish group of people based on their religion, ethnic, or racial group. Judaism is not a person or group of people; rather, it is simply a set of beliefs and practices observed by people. Therefore, it is possible to be critical of Judaism without being hostile or discriminatory towards the people who follow that faith.

Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and all other religions are ideas that came from the minds of men. These ideas are not people, and the progress of humanity is based on the concept of being critical to ideas. It's how we move forward and how things like vaccines are created. Old ideas about diet and nutrition are constantly replaced with new ones, as well as ideas about exercise and sleep as we endeavour to live longer, healthier lives. We ridicule the idea that smoking cigarettes can be healthy, even though this was once a commonly held belief.

Some people have a difficult time recognizing that criticism of their particular brand of religion is not an attack on them; in fact, it's not uncommon for a person to take offence whenever they hear or see criticism of anything they like. People become attached to cars, trucks, fashion, political parties, and even computer technology in much the same way. The guy who loves Chevy trucks and always buys nothing but Chevy trucks might want to punch you out if you say anything bad about Chevy trucks. That doesn't mean people shouldn't be critical of Chevy trucks just in case they might offend someone. What it means is that, if a person has made Chevy trucks so much a part of their identity that they might be prone to violence, they should probably avoid people and publications that might be more honest about their truck of choice than they are until they can sort out their anger issues. Along the same vein, someone who doesn't like Chevy trucks probably shouldn't discriminate against or be hostile towards people who drive Chevy trucks; it's a choice that really doesn't affect the other person.

Love the person, hate the religion. I don't believe Islam has a single redeeming value, but I believe some people who observe this religion are good people. On the grounds of discrimination, I consider religion to be more like a disability, along the same lines of alcohol and drug addiction. I believe the religion continues to do more harm than good like drug and alcohol addiction, but that good does comes from the people in spite of their religion. That's why atheists shouldn't take up arms against the people of Islam, but absolutely must continue, through satire and otherwise, be critical of Islam itself, because some truly wonderful people will recognize the truth and get better as they convert to no belief at all.

If you'd like to read more on this subject, I recommend the following:

Charlie Hebdo: The truths that ought to be self-evident but still aren't by Spectator Blogs
Confusing race and religion is dangerous by Psychology Today
What is Judaism? by Judaism 101