When in the course of human developments, current establishments prove to be unjustified and tyrannical to the requests of human dignity and rights, when these bodies only wish to subjugate, steal and dictate humankind, the individuals within a society most oppressed have the eternal right to dissent against, and revolt against, these establishments. Moreover, for those who wish to spectate to this injustice against human dignity, may it be known that those who are spectators of injustice are unknowing accomplices to tyranny. One has to take a stand when the moment demands it. One has to speak up to break the silence that comes from fear and inaction.
History shows that in every epoch, there are those who are willing to go against what a society deems ‘moral’, ‘traditional’ or—more condescendingly—‘normal’ in pursuit of their own identity; leading lives that inspire others to follow a similar course of action—from Rosa Luxemburg to Mona Eltahawy. These individuals do not choose their paths out of joy, but rather out of a desire to escape what is around them and to seek out or ‘create‘ a better realm. Often doing so as a part of a minority, these individuals nonetheless fight fiercely for dignity, autonomy, identity and other values that make for a better humanity. However, this journey is not easy and many face serious penalties for even daring to take the road less travelled. No better examples of the cost for dissenting than in those societies that depart from human dignity and rights, such as in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
One of the largest kingdoms in the Arabian Peninsula, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (abbreviated ‘KSA’) lays claim to many things; notably, Islam’s holiest sites—Mecca and Medina—and oil reserves that span across its large desert. For these many things, however, KSA also is home to an archaic system of laws that gets its reinforcement from culture, tradition and religion. Those who disobey or dissent from these laws have serious punishments to face, from imprisonment and lashings to execution via public beheading. (Dare to criticise the government and you will find yourself taken away by police, as was the case for blogger Raif Badawi who posted commentaries on Saudi Society and was sentenced to a thousand lashes and imprisonment in 2012. He remains in prison to this day, despite his wife Ensaf Haidar’s activism.) These laws reach all aspects of Saudi society and benefit those few who are wealthy and powerful. However, what is notable is the way tradition and religion play a large part in Saudi society, as both extend to the private sphere and defy the roles of men and women. Women’s role being the worse within Saudi Society, as is evident with the Male Guardianship system.
Slavery still exists and it comes in a variety of different shapes and forms: the Male Guardianship system is one. Male Guardianship is a system within Saudi Society that requires women to have a male ‘guardian’, which is usually a male relative, who has to accompany and give permission to a woman for her to be allowed to do tasks. From wanting to travel abroad to wanting to seek an education or even medical help, under Saudi law, a woman is required to have a Guardian who can grant permission. Furthermore, if a woman should be involved in a domestic abusive relationship with their guardian, then the guardian’s rights supersede those of the woman—under Saudi law. This means that should a woman complain to Saudi authorities of abuse by her guardian, the word of the guardian is listened to first. The Male Guardianship system is geared to favour Male Guardians. Denying autonomy, financial independence, identity and rights for women, Male Guardianship eclipses the life of a Saudi Woman and denies her a future by herself. It is a system that makes women slaves.
Moreover, the quality of a woman’s life depends entirely on her Guardian. There are guardians who are liberal in their approach and allow women to travel abroad, seek an apartment or work. However, and what must be noted, is that just because the quality of a woman’s life may be good in some parts in KSA, it does not negate the negative experiences of women who depart from said ‘good experience’. In other words, just because some slaves are treated better than others, does not deny what happens to the majority of slaves and the reality of slavery. As for every one woman in Saudi Arabia that benefits, there are at least ten others who do not. This must be recognised, as there are always apologists and PR spokes people that Saudi Government is more than happy to prop up, who will deny this and who will state how ‘nice’ women are treated in KSA. Others will justify the treatment of women by appeals to analogies, often along the lines of claiming Saudi women are ‘queens’ who must be protected. Even though queens are treated better than Saudi women are—having their own autonomy, as well as subjects to command—analogies like the ‘queen analogy’ still persist and the privileged stories of some Saudi women continue to be perpetuated, unknowingly at times, by writers.
Mona El-Naggar, an Egyptian writer based in New York, wrote an article in The New York Times called, ‘I live a Lie: Saudi Women Speak Up’ in October of 2016, about the experiences of Saudi Women in KSA. In it are many powerful stories, but one story stands out. Meeting a group of privileged Saudi students in Washington Square Park, Mona asked them about their experiences under the system. What was their response? “We don’t need to abolish male guardianship. We need to teach men how to be better guardians.” This is a slap to the face of those struggling under the system. By including this story, Mona unknowingly has undermined the piece she seeks to make. (Audiences have a tendency to think that a problem is not as big as it is when there are two sides to it.) Many Saudi girls have escaped from their home nation, many desiring ‘to feel the air on their faces’. One example of those who have escaped Saudi Arabia is Moudi, previously known by the online pseudonym, ‘Sinner’.
Using ‘Twitter’ as a means to raise awareness of the plight of Saudi women, as Twitter is just one of the few sites not banned in KSA, Moudhi—like many Saudi girls—sought to give both fellow Saudi women and foreign audiences a window into the life of a woman in KSA. In real life a law student studying in the USA, Moudhi wore a mask to protect herself from both her family and the system. (Saudi Law, especially when it comes to studying abroad, can send back Saudi girls on scholarships for even daring to criticise KSA.) After a long time of contemplation, Moudhi took off her mask and voiced public criticisms of the Male Guardianship system. Despite the psychological abuse that follows her, both by her own family and Saudi males, Moudhi continues to raise a voice for Saudi Women. Stories like Moudhi’s are not to be taken lightly, as they emphasise what individuals can do and have to undergo when speaking truth to power.
[Writer’s note: More stories will be touched upon later within this essay. However, there are a few stories attached in the appendix.]
Picture: Moudhi, normal face and wearing a veil
History of Oppression
Acknowledging the role religion, culture and tradition play into shaping Saudi Society is imperative, as it fundamentally means accepting reality for what it is and not what it should be. Saudi Arabia in the 60’s and 70’s, just like most countries in the Middle east during that time, from Egypt to Syria, was undergoing radical shifts in culture as more of its populace were experimenting with art and discussing new ideas, such as whether the ban on women driving—imposed in 1957—should be lifted. (What should be noted is that women can drive in non-public areas and only if their guardians allow it; however, they are not allowed to drive on public highways.) However, these shifts in culture did not come without their hostile reactionaries. Ever since its formation as a kingdom in 1932, Saudi Arabia—initially under the leadership of King Abdulaziz—had to deal with trying to synthesise both the non-religious and religious sectors of its nation. Prior to its formation, Al Saud monarchy had a close relationship with the ulama—religious body of clerics. The ulama adhered to a more orthodox version of Islam, ‘wahhabism’ and helped the conquest of Al Saud monarchy over most of the Arabian Peninsula throughout the mid-18th-early 20th centuries. This bond between religion and the state (theocracy) helped to create the kingdom, as the government got its religious legitimacy from the Wahhabi clerics in turn for the clerics being able to propagate the ‘Tawhid’ doctrine—monotheism. (An intertwining of religion and politics was crucial in maintaining KSA’s legitimacy.)
This changed when British imperialistic ventures in the Middle East proved to be an obstacle for the Saudi government, forcing a rigid drawing of strict borders with surrounding nations, KSA had to cut concessions to the ulama and instead pursue secular goals—non-religious national security and foreign policy goals. This would muddle relations between religion and the state. Well more technological and secular influences made their way into the country from western nations, and a ‘modernisation’ of the country began to take root, Mullahs and clerics condemned this ‘westernisation’ of Saudi Arabia in their mosques. However, these mullahs dared not delegitimise the royal family, and when Al Saud monarchy called upon religious justifications for its proposed state policies, clerics dared but refuse. (This contradiction remains, as clerics ‘criticise’ policy in theory, but legitimise it in practise for the state—highlighting something worth note: the power of the monarch.) After the abolishment of slavery in 1962, pushed by Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and in conjunction with international pressure from the United States and Britain, Saudi Arabia’s growing internal struggles and changes led to the abdication of King Saud and the appointment of his successor—King Faisal.
King Faisal introduced ‘radical’ policies in the 60’s and 70’s to Saudi Society that would alter its structure. Through the pushing away of Wahhabi draconian rules and condemnations, Faisal was able to allow women the ability to seek an education and allowed for the creation of Saudi television—policies that cemented Faisal as a ‘reformer king’. This angered a great deal of Wahhabi clerics and religious fanatics, who saw these policies as a ‘perversion’ by the west on Saudi society. These clerics were not alone in their attitudes to westernisation, as religious fanatics throughout the Middle East were growing increasingly angry at their governments ‘capitulation’ to Western influences—seeing their nations going away from ‘pure’ Islam. (To those who were not fanatical in their beliefs, this growing change was increasingly affording women rights and public discussions were commonplace.) However, in 1975, Faisal’s reign ended with assassination by his deranged nephew—Faisal bin Musaid. After King Khalid’s ascent to the throne to fill void left by Faisal, KSA found it amidst turbulent political winds, as nations surrounding it were growing increasingly involved in internal struggles, from Iran to Iraq. These winds engulfed Saudi Arabia in 1979 with the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
Armed with guns smuggled in via coffins, a group of insurgents stormed the Grand Mosque in Mecca and declared that Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani was the Mahdi (redeemer of Islam), and demanded King Khalid to step down. Allegedly receiving word from Allah while in prison, Juhayman al-Otaybi believed Saudi Arabia to have lost its way and saw it as an imperative to not only rid the country of ‘western perversion’, but to also bring it back to a ‘purer’ form of Islam. Otaybi and his brother-in-law, Qahtani, gathered a group of a few hundred devotees to enter Mecca’s holiest Mosque during hajj (pilgrimage). Taking hostages, Otaybi demanded King Khalid to step down. This ‘mahdist’ group occupied the mosque (whereby it desired to establish a theocratic state), for nearly two weeks. It was quelled when French and Pakistani forces, scrambled together by the royal family in desperation to secure KSA’s legitimacy, stormed the Mosque, killing Qahtani and capturing Otaybi. However, King Khalid had to seek a ‘fatwa’ (religious decree) beforehand from the ulama to allow those forces to be given access to the Mosque to remove the insurgents. The ulama sought the opportunity to push for an amending of relations between the state and religion. In turn for allowing access, it wanted more power to affect policies, which it got after the recapture of the Grand Mosque. This increase in power meant that the Monarch gave Wahhabi clerics more decision making abilities and agreed to help export its religious ideology (Wahhabism) globally in the oncoming decades.
With the reforging of this alliance between the state and religion, Saudi Arabia started to reverse the modernisation that had gripped it in the 60’s and 70’s. The ulama began to impose stricter Islamic law (Sharia) upon the country: censoring media, enforcing greater restrictions on women and banning things like alcohol. Forcing women to cover up, either with an abaya or with hijab, KSA ended the liberal experimentation and started to enforce traditional roles upon Saudi women. King Khalid’s successor, King Fahd, allowed for the formation of the ‘Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vices’ (CPVPV), which intended to maintain these laws. It did this through the Religious police who were given greater reign to enforce dress code, sex segregation (aptly denoted by some as ‘sex apartheid’), the Male Guardianship system and ensure the domination of Islamic state policy. If a woman should be seen in public unaccompanied by her Guardian, then the religious police could take her and lock her up in a ‘care home’, which is a prison for women. In the education system, more schools had to have religious studies. In this way, the ulama wanted to regain Saudi Arabia’s status as an Islamic nation and ensure ‘Islamic values’ were spread to its populace—more orthodox values, as opposed to liberal ones. This ‘Wahhabi’ imposition on Saudi society did not come without its resistance.
Wherever there are those who are willing to subjugate others, there will always be a small pocket of dissenters willing to raise their voices against tyranny and defy state law. This was the case in Riyadh in 1990, where a couple dozen women drove cars throughout Saudi Arabia’s capital. Knowing perfectly well the risks, these women took their guardians’ cars and drove them—defiant of the law. Paying with the revoking of their passports and jail time, such a demonstration only shows the desire of women to have rights and sheer desperation of the Saudi government to keep its legitimacy through force. In addition, as it clamps down harder, there will be more resistance to it as women refuse to be silent. This ‘fire’ to have rights cannot be extinguished merely by physical force, as is evident with the continuation of such protests in the 21stcentury.
Picture: Wajeha al-Huwaider driving a car in 2008
Moving to end the Male Guardianship system
Movements have flurried with the advent of the internet and Social media, as more women gain access to platforms that allow them to voice their experiences under the Male Guardianship System. Despite KSA banning certain social media sites and apps, such as ‘Skype’, ‘Facebook’ and ‘Whatsapp’, sites like ‘Twitter’ and ‘Instagram’ remain, providing a venue for women to write and share videos of what life is like in KSA. Well there are many women who have to adorn pseudonyms to protect their identity from Saudi Authorities, there are those brave few who choose to come out publically—despite the costs. Saudi women activists like Wajeha Huwaider, a woman who was arrested for posting a video of herself driving a car in Riyadh in 2008, and Manal al-Sharif, a woman who launched ‘Women2Drive’ campaign that sought to teach Saudi women to drive in 2011, both have been in the public eye and have protested the ban on women driving. Aziza Yousef is another activist who is involved in the highlighting of women’s rights abuses in KSA. Highlighting a couple cases in 2014 (one of them being where a woman died on campus in Riyadh after not being given access to paramedics, all because of not having a Male Guardian), Aziza sought to petition the Shura Council with other activists to demand an end to Male control over women. These activists seek to highlight the grave human rights violations that Saudi Arabia is guilty of and have inspired many Saudi women to take up a new mantra. A mantra that has since gone on to define a movement: ‘I am my own Guardian’.
‘“When you are born a girl in KSA, you will feel that the only crime that you have committed is being born into the wrong sex.” I am forced to love someone I hate. However, I am not the only one. There are many like me in my country. Many women who suffer as I do. We want our freedom from this tyranny. We want the Male Guardian system to end. This is my wish. My name is Aisha. I am just another woman who lives in KSA.“-Aisha
[Writer’s note: full story, as well as many others that I have received, will be attached in the appendix of this essay.]
In mid-2016, Saudi women took to twitter to start a movement to end the Male Guardianship system. Tweeting under various hashtags, such as #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen, #TogetherToEndMaleGaurdianship and #سعوديات_نطلب_اسقاط_الولايه (Abolish the male Guardianship system), Saudi Women started to raise awareness of what harrowing experiences that happen in KSA. Many of these women, which included activists like Hala Al dosari, began posting videos and their stories of oppression, and began to demand an end to Male Guardianship and Saudi Women’s liberation. On its 159th day, at the time of writing this, #سعوديات_نطلب_اسقاط_الولايه this Arabic hashtag is the primary one that many Saudis use to voice their concerns. Some of the stories included in this hashtag are very horrifying and provide just a glimpse into the life of Saudi women. Many of these stories include domestic abuse cases, where the Male Guardian has subjected their daughters and wives to torture, psychological manipulation and rape, and have gotten away with it! (Human Rights Watch wrote an excellent piece in July 2016 called, ‘Boxed In’, which highlighted many experiences from Saudi women.) Highlighting the injustice and discrimination of the system, the movement to end Male Guardianship has a couple goals, which many of those involved would agree with:
- Abolish the Male Guardianship System.
- End the ban on Women driving.
- Acknowledge human rights for women.
However, in order to achieve these goals, Saudi Arabia needs to acknowledge the abuses of its government upon its own people. The Saudi government is reluctant to do this and at times denies its treatment of women. This is evident with it saying one thing to United Nations Human Rights Council, but doing another thing within the Kingdom. (It is a sad state of affairs when KSA is Chair of the Human Rights Council of the UN, as it currently is and has been ever since 2015.) Prior to the current King Salman, King Abdullah had made small concessions to international pressure to give women greater rights. Electing thirty female members to the Shura Council, more as a publicity stunt than anything else, Abdullah made snail progressions that are still not enough. There needs to be more action.
Within the movement, there are both non-Saudis and Saudis alike who do their part to raise awareness of the plight of Saudi women. Those who are against the movement claim it to have a ‘western agenda’ in mind, because of the involvement of western individuals. This ‘rationale’ follows the same conspiratorial mindset of those who claimed that Otaybi’s zealots, such as the Ayatollah of Iran, were ‘CIA-backed agents’. In other words, it is ridiculous at best and seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the movement at worst. There is an international presence within the movement, but what must not be forgotten is that the movement is for Saudi Women’s liberation. Saudi women come first and their concerns for rights are the focus of the movement. In a nation where a woman can have her entire life dictated to by a Male guardian, where this guardian can take away her rights to go to school or seek medical assistance and so on, it is imperative to raise awareness of her struggles and seek justice to end them. Not just because she is Saudi, but because she is human. The struggle for Saudi Women’s rights is a part of the larger struggle for a better humanity.
The fight for Saudi Women’s rights is just one of the many fights that exist in the Arab world. Across the Middle East, women undergo their own struggle against oppression, whether it be from the totalitarian forces of ISIS to the theocratic imams of Iran, each one battles for freedom. In each case, there are those who have no personal stake in an issue, but choose to take the side of the victim and aid them in their struggle. Being motivated by a fire that burns within, these humans take up Bertrand Russell’s injunction to ‘Remember your humanity and forget the rest’. Refusing to be spectators of injustice and doing what they can to help. Reminding those facing oppression to continue to raise their voices, as silence is what gives tyranny power. Never forget the power of words.
The government of Saudi Arabia cannot ignore forever its populace’s voices.
Though it may try to, it will not win.
Saudi Women are too strong for that.
Never forget that.
Artwork: Ms Saffaa’s art for the #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen movement
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson (11/12/2016)
-Aisha’s story: http://philosophyismagic.com/a-womans-struggle-aishas-story/
I do not care anymore for this life.
I have become empty inside, as a result of the abuse around me.
Everyone is against me and accuse me of doing sexual things that I have not done!
They make me out to be an oppressor, but it is they who support an oppressor!
When I was nine years old, my father sexually abused me. But I didn’t stay quiet, and I told my mother about what he did to me. It was the worst thing that I did, as he only became angrier and acted crazy. He expected me to be quiet, but I refused! Mother told me to tell her if anyone touched you inappropriately, then I had to always speak up. I never expected it to be my father!
As a result of me speaking up, he became very abusive to me. He would deliberately scare me and try to kill me, but my mother would stand in his way and she would threaten him that she would tell everybody about what he did to me. I was only a child and I would not sleep for some nights because I was afraid of him as he always threatens to kill me. He would tell me, “by god I will nail your head to the floor!” When we moved to another house I was relieved to find the room me and my sisters shared had a lock. I started locking the door each night but he would still threaten me that he would insert a gun from the window and shoot me from there. I spent nights sleeping in the corners of the room so the gun wouldn’t reach me. Why does he do this?
I want to understand why this happened to me? I’m a person who hasn’t done anything wrong, I was a ‘model’ girl. I did what I was supposed to do, from prayer to listen to my mother. As the years went on, he continue to deny me things. He tied to prevent me from going to school, but I would go each year and felt involved in a constant fight! Some days I was afraid he would see me and hit me infront of my friends. When I would come off the bus, he would slap me. Even my bus driver tried to stop him. These efforts were in vain, as he would continue to humiliate me and abuse me by telling how he wants to take me out of school.
He wouldn’t give me an allowance even. Everything I owned were hand me downs from my sisters and mother since I was a child. I used to wear my brother’s shoes at school because he was the only one who was close to my age at the time and I remember the girls in school would make fun of me since they were boys’ shoes. Even my name he put it in his company so he can prevent me from supporting myself (I never understood why he did this.) He refuses to support me and doesn’t allow me to support myself. I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m experiencing severe depression. I’m always thinking about suicide, especially in the last couple of months. But I always think about my mother and my siblings and I don’t want to leave them alone.
He doesn’t even allow me to go to the hospital. I have asthma, and a many time I get severe attacks where I can’t breathe and my mother tells him take her to the hospital but he would say No, let her die. I want her to.
My father is just despicable. He’s the worst person ever.
He would lock me up in my room for days. My mother would bring me food from the window. Even the bathroom, I would only go when he’s not in the house and if he’s back I could never go in. I would avoid drinking anything so that I don’t need to go.
He’s always helping everyone, even some of his friends’ daughters so that one would believe us. When I call the police after he hits me they would ask me, what did you do? Then they would give me numbers to call none of which I get a response. So I lose hope.
When I called human rights, they called him and he lied to them and told them that he loves me and cares about what’s best for me and that he needs me at home and the worker believed him. He’s a liar. And when the worker called me again to make sure, my father threatened my mother, that if I don’t shut up he’s going to get an official form that proved I’m crazy and that they would take me forcibly to a mental institute.
By god everything I told you is nothing compared to what he’s done to me. I literally want to die. He’s not allowing me to live. He intervenes and prevent me from everything even what I wear. I dreamt of being a teacher. Or to just live a normal life like every other girl. God has gave him many things. He has many foundations under his name. Sometimes I feel that god is unjust. This oppressive man who’s stopping my life and future is just so blessed.
The word ‘Daesh’ is an Arab acronym for ‘al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham’ (داعش), which translates to the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ in English. The acronym ‘Daesh’ is the Arab equivalent to using the English acronym ‘ISIL’. They literally both are different ways of using the same label for the same Islamist organization—The Islamic State.
This need to be politically correct and not outright label the Islamic state for what they call themselves, namely ‘The Islamic State’, is just a tedious exercise in doing nothing to stop them. Politicians need to stop pussyfooting around and start naming the organization, labelling the ideology of Islamism and start acting out against it. They are, after all, on the front line in talks over this important issue—’the political fighters’, if you will.
In addition to the above, it also has to be said that people need to stop being so afraid of offending others by saying that, “Islam has something to do with ISIS”. There is a great tendency for liberal minded individuals to not want to bring offence to those Muslims they might know, as not to damage relationships with them by mentioning Islam and The Islamic State in the same breath. We have to stop being fearful, as we are doing what exactly the Islamists want us to do—remain silent. If one does not speak out against totalitarianism, then one will eventually become another oppressed victim of it. In other words, it is best to point out the serpent in the weeds before it bites you than to become a victim of its venomous fangs.
These jihadists are doing what they do because of their interpretation of Islamic scriptures—their ‘wahhabist’ interpretation. What ISIS militants want, after all, is to establish a global Islamic caliphate where Sharia Law is the law of the land. Where infidels, homosexuals and apostates are killed and people are subjugated. All in the hopes that they can one day bring an end to open society and bring about an “apocalypse”. This is not a ‘neo-conservative’ statement to make; this is a statement coming from a classical liberal. I am simply speaking from my observations of ISIS; my readings and study of Islamic scripture; my understanding of Middle Eastern history and Islamic history, as well as what is going on in Politics currently. I am also speaking from a non-religious perspective—an atheist perspective; an ‘infidel’ I am.
Time after time, these jihadists have told news outlets worldwide their motivations and have provided most atrocities they do with Hadith and Qur’anic scriptural justification. When the Paris attacks happened, for example, The Islamic State not only took pride in admitting it but they also sent out a statement that denounced the ‘crusader nations’ and their “Crusader campaign”; further promising to continue attacks on these “crusader nations”. It should be clear by now that what they are doing is a part of their Islamist ideological campaign. To deny this is to deny reality.
It is time that people realize what they are up against. These jihadists are not simply rogue individuals that can be labelled as such and thrown to the corner. These jihadists are organized ideological fighters who wish to kill for their religious ideology. Make no mistake; the events that have happened since early last year are all a part of these jihadists trying to bring about a greater ideological goal. It is time that we—people of open society—recognize that and act accordingly. Islamism needs to be crushed as an ideology and all those who follow it must be denounced for supporting it. We have to denounce both the political Islamists and the jihadists—both of which desire the same goal: A global Islamic caliphate.
Islamism is a serpent that needs to be killed, as it is biting and poisoning the conversation and stifling action. In order for us— those of us who value the continuation of open society—to stop this, we need to face the threat head on. We need to cut the head off the serpent… But How? There is no clear-cut solution, but a good start would be to fight the ideology. In order to kill the serpent, one needs to start highlighting the threat of Islamism, its relation to Islam and start fighting the ideology through education and force. Education in the form of promoting free thought, liberalism, secular humanism, reform in Islam and so on; force in the form of crushing ISIS.
This is only the start, but I hope it will help give rise to more discussion on this topic. For it is through the discussion of ideas in open society that change can come about. It is with this said that I close with the following words: Name the threat and kill the serpent.
Artwork by: ‘Thor in Hymir’s boat battling the Midgard Serpent’ by Henry Fuseli (1788)
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
-Islamism: The political imposition of Islamic fundamentalism upon society, as manifested by organisations such as ‘The Islamic State’, ‘Hamas’, ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’, ‘The Muslim Brotherhood’ and ‘Boko Haram’ to name a few. Individuals who support the political overthrow of a government, through either military coup or democratic elections, can be considered ‘political Islamists’. Those who wish to fight violently for their goal and those who genuinely believe it to be true; can be considered ‘jihadists’.
-Islamic Caliphate: An Islamic government based upon the doctrines from the Qur’an and Hadith.
-Wahhabism: A sub-set of Sunni Islam that interprets the Qur’an in a literalist lens.
Dustin Arand is an American lawyer and a Philosopher with an apt for rigorous philosophical enquiry and formulation. This is no more evident than in the book ‘Truth Evolves’- a book like no other in its field.
Dustin’s book delves into epistemology, ethics and the nature of ‘truth’ with startling detail and insight. ‘Truth Evolves’ takes the reader on an intellectual journey through the various philosophies of knowledge, mind, biology and ethics in the attempt of engaging with the reader on an intellectual landscape. (Dustin opens each chapter with a brilliant quote.) In ‘Truth Evolves’, Dustin applies evolutionary theory to epistemology and accounts for the constant adaptation of truth, and the helpfulness of this adaptation to humanity’s development. This helpfulness is reiterated in the concept of ‘corrigibility’; “corrigibility refers to a property of any institution, be it political, academic, professional, or otherwise, and to the language (or languages) prevailing within and between such institutions, such that they are capable of adapting themselves to the changing demands of the environmental conditions that constitute their raison d’être [a property’s purpose]”. This concept weaves itself throughout the book and is an important element in the understanding of the author’s thesis. Furthermore, the author emphasises the need for individuals to adjust their mentality towards a deeper understanding of reality, and expresses the consequences of intellects that depart from this deeper understanding.The means by which Dustin expresses this is through modern day examples such as the civil rights debate.
Now, the book does have to be read more than once – once for feeling and the second for analysis – and it can be hard to read at certain places. However, like Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ the book is not meant to be read in one’s leisure, it is instead meant to be analysed and thoroughly assessed. Overall, the book is a good read for anyone interested in epistemology, ethics, morality, truth or evolution.
Read From: May 26th-June 15th, 2015
Rating: 4.5/5—I definitely recommend it for those interested in Evolution and its relationship to epistemology.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
Link to Goodreads Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1320419632?book_show_action=false
Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz’s ‘Islam and the future of Tolerance: A Dialogue’ is an informative and hopeful dialogue on a number of pressing issues of today, ranging from islamism to Islamic reform. With wit, intelligence and scrutiny all rolled into a short and succinct book, Sam and Maajid effectively take head on these issues and come up with effective strategies to answer them. Easily read in an afternoon, this book is meant to be read in conjunction to the growing political, philosophical and cultural issues occurring in the world today—such as the culture war over Islam, the conflicts against ISIS in the Middle East, the growing rise of neo-Nazism in Europe and the intellectual debates centred around reform in Islam. In addition to this, the book provides a list of helpful sources easily verifiable, as well as provides a further reading information list for all those interested in the topics discussed. (It may not be very helpful to me, since I have read most of the books listed, but I am sure it will be helpful for new individuals entering the discussion.) There is very few things to criticise, as the book is very well written and its contents are discussed in a manner that provides little room for arguing.
It is a dialogue that needed to happen, as both individuals have been engaged in trying to provide discourse on Islam. However, both have been labelled as ‘bigots’, ‘Islamophobes’ and ‘Racists’ by those of the left (regressive leftists) for criticising Islam. Sam Harris himself has been for the last year and a half trying to combat these baseless accusations; hence is why I am glad that he addressed them in this book, as well as pushed past them in informing individuals about what really needs to be discussed. Maajid Nawaz was brilliant in this book, as his writing was more on point and his counter-points to Sam did provide room for further discussion and thought. In addition to this, Maajid has improved on his writing, as his last book ‘Radical’ was rather a disappointment in terms of writing.
As for the ideas being discussed, Islamism and regressivism are by far the most pressing concerns of today. Islamism is the political imposition of Islamic fundamentalism upon society, as manifested by groups such as the Islamic State. Maajid’s informative identifying of sub-branches within Islamism, such as jihadism and political islamism, was by far the most informative aspect of his part of the dialogue on this topic. Sam Harris’ critiques of Islamism, and by highlighting the fact that beliefs do matter, were also enlightening but I do feel that both could have done a more in-depth explanation of Islamism than they ended up doing. (Maajid’s distinction between traditional and conservative Muslims does appear to be misleading, but I trust that he is onto something when he distinguishes between them.)
Regressivism (Coined by Maajid Nawaz) is the political philosophy that has emerged from progressive politics and post-modern ‘Identity politics’, as of late. It is identified by individuals defying classical liberal principles, such as free-speech, freethought and individual autonomy and responsibility, all in the ideal of equality. This has resulted in ‘regressives’ (to use a term from Sam Harris) protecting Islam from criticism and has also resulted in the silencing of critics by regressives. This is truly evident in the west, because regressivism—especially in reference to Islam—is a by-product of Islamist apologetics and Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Maajid Nawaz and many others have been victims of this regressivism. This is further expressed in the book.
Maajid Nawaz makes reference to Dr. Hasan, who is a Islamic scholar and Quilliam, throughout the book. However, I do think that he needs to not fall prey to the false belief in trusting an authority figure too much, because even they can be wrong. This leads into another thought as well, and this is in regards to Maajid’s ‘relativist’ interpretation of the Quran and hadiths. If there is no ultimate interpretation of a text, then there is no right or wrong interpretation of a text. This is problematic for obvious reasons, as it creates stagnation and creates misinformation where there need not be any.
The above-mentioned paragraphs are just some of my thoughts on the ideas discussed in the book, as there are plenty more ideas that were discussed in the book, but I will allow individuals to explore those ideas for themselves.
Read from: October 19th-November 7th, 2015
Rating: 5/5 stars—This is definitely my book of the year so far.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
Link to Goodreads Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1387295946?book_show_action=false
-Is religion and science compatible? (Is faith compatible with science?)
The notion that religion and science are compatible is simply incorrect, religion and science are not compatible, they both explore means of understanding the world in different lights, religion in a different light to science; both express notions of what is, and both define the world differently (science in the light of evidence, religion in the light of revelations). This creates tension, as religion does interfere in scientific inquiry and science in religiosity. It is this contention as well the conclusion drawn from this that makes the NOMA model proposed by Stephen Jay Gould, simply impossible. It is the interest of this piece to express why this is and to explain the reasons why it is this way. So let us begin.
interesting it is to explore the pages of history especially that of natural history and the subsequent individuals involved in its making. History whose pages express the vast theories and scientific discoveries of the early Greek scientists, the first of the many natural philosophers to take upon a cosmic perspective of the universe, and investigate the physical dimension of reality, as opposed to the yearnings of illusory Images made from those physical entities trapped within it. The philosophers and researchers who mapped out the stars, discovered the atom, how the planets rotated and so on. Natural history is a very interesting subject to do research into; it was in this research that one (such as myself) found well looking up the origins of life, Palaeontologist Stephen jay Gould’s essay titled “NOMA” written in march 1997. It was at best to the reader (such as me) something of a no-show “Is this a pandering to religion?” having read this in 2013, it still makes good taste for discussion. So what better way to share those thoughts then in a piece on the subject matter? As mentioned before the essay was published by Stephen Jay Gould in March 1997 and can be found in “Leonardo’s mountains and the diet of worms” (1998) book (as well as “rock of ages”). At the time of the release of the essay, there was still dormant much less criticism it would seem of evolution and biology by the religious then there is today. In the essay Gould captures this brilliantly with a discussion that he had in 1984 well speaking with Jesuit priests in the Vatican well attaining a meeting on stellar science. He mentions how the Jesuit priests found it hard to believe that there was something as ridiculous as “creation science” or “Intelligent design”, even remarking to Gould that Evolution did not lay doubt in their faith. The essay expands on this discussion and the subsequent investigation of Pope John Paul the 2nd remarks in favour of evolution (1996). Yet the heart of the essay deals with the question “Is faith compatible with science?” (Though not in those words directly), a very interesting question to ask and an even more interesting way Gould answered it. In this essay Gould expresses the argument that religion and science are both mutually compatible with one another, and even essential to complement one another. He summarized this contention in the view that science and religion operated different realms of teaching authority (or “Magisterium” in Latin, plural “Magisteria”) and thus were both compatible and did not come into conflict with one another. This gave rise to the principle of NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) that argues both realms do not overlap with one another. The reason for this conclusion rests at the principle that…
“No such conflict should exist because each subject has a legitimate magisterium, or domains of teaching authority-and these magesteria do not overlap…The net of science covers the empirical universe; what it is made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value. These two magisterial do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry…“ (Natural History, Stephen Jay Gould, 1997)
NOMA has since then been used as a Segway by both prominent religion and science individuals to express the given neutrality (or alluded) neutrality between the two teaching authorities. Very much to the contention of many this attempted neutrality was been brisked and promoted (however one suspects for different motives then broadly accustomed to; for instance at the time in the USA the “creationist” movement was starting to lay a significant problem to science education, throughout the essay to the rest of the world evolution was a settled thing. Yet in the united states, protestant fundamentalism was gaining traction, so what would be a way to solve this by promoting the example of NOMA that faith and science were compatible, it could work…right?) Later in that same year astronomer and author Carl Sagan took this essay to the Vatican (even the Catholics had no issue with NOMA, given that not too long ago they were the ones burning those who promoted ‘wack’ theories) as (which one can only say) a sign of good “faith” between the two sides. Yet over fifteen years since the paper’s publication (and subsequent republication in the New York Times in 1998) and almost twelve years since the death of Stephen Jay Gould, this principle still raises much discussion and much criticism (as one can imagine if one is really were to put two forces on equal footing). Theologians, cosmologists, astrophysicists, authors, polemicists, rhetoricians and other academic and amateur individuals have expressed either disdain for NOMA or reverence of its notion. For the interest of this piece, the focus will be put on the principle of NOMA and on the subsequent question “Is religious faith compatible with science?” What will be explored is the epistemological conflict that exists between religious faith and scientific inquiry, the metaphysical naturalism that underpins methodological naturalism and the subsequent contrast to that of the theological underpinnings that reside with religious faith, the political ideology surrounding religion, moral argument, with the final verdict being made that religious faith and science both overlap with one another (P1-P4), and thus both magesteria will and in fact, do come into conflict with one another. This is made known beforehand as to provide a structured approach to the NOMA principle and to the question and baggage that it carries whenever it is discussed by contemporaries of either religion or science.
Now one must express at most that the notion that faith (that which will not submit to reason, change, or evidence and instead trust superciliously to the bitter end) is compatible with science (that which uses reason, logic and evidence to explore the reality of the universe, in the means that it is and revising always closer to a better understanding) is simply misleading. There is very much a conflict, and it is between two different means of acquiring knowledge; science on the one hand uses means of investigation of the natural paradigm of existence in order to come to understanding of the world. Knowledge is acquired through justifying one’s beliefs, and this justification for science and for rational individuals’ comes in the form of evidence that goes beyond PBB (proper basic beliefs, common axioms of philosophy), this evidence comes from the natural paradigm of existence. A deeper understanding allows for a deeper knowledge of the world around you, this is what natural philosophy (methodological & metaphysical naturalism) seeks to do. Faith deals with different means of acquiring knowledge this of course is different for every religion, but the general summation usually goes in the tone that some sort of divine revelation permitted by a deity is the means by which knowledge is acquired. Others mandate faith in a deity (ies) as central to acquiring knowledge of the world, this means in most cases believing the ancient writings of nomadic tribesmen, prophets and speakers for faith. The great monotheisms (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) promote the path to knowledge as one of divine revelation, this being through the written testaments of prophets of classical antiquity who had trust and devotion to God(s), who were revealed to them. When one seeks to come to knowledge of the world through two different means, they will conflict with one another, and religion does that with science. Religion claims all answers, or paths to answers through its doctrinal teachings, science seeks to explore the world by the use of the natural sciences to come to knowledge by the justification of beliefs. If one seeks but to believe the word of the leaders as to attain knowledge that most certainly will come into conflict with the epistemic line that knowledge is acquired through inquiry and investigation as opposed to faith and divine revelation. This is but the first point as to why both science and religion are not compatible, and do overlap with their alleged “separate realms of teaching authority”. Yet there is a further note to be raised here, the epistemological conflict that rests with acquiring knowledge from different means (natural philosophy versus theology) is impossible, there is only one means by which to acquire knowledge and that has to do with justification of beliefs and the means by which we do that is through not just empirical means but rational means that all spring from the physical (natural paradigm of existence) realm of inquiry; through an investigation of what is as opposed to what we wish, knowledge can and most emphatically “is” acquired through the means of investigation; something that faith does not permit, as faith is the belief without proof, any definition is but a corruption of this meaning for all people who now use the word “faith” use it as a means of “undying trust” which again raised even more issues. Some of these issues lay in the stark contrast at how these two different realms approach learning. Religion and the notion it rests on which is “faith in God(s)” (speaking about monotheism strictly here, pantheism, and other forms of henotheism and polytheism diverge on different aspects that one could consider not faith but simple equivocation of trust with faith) has a negative view towards learning, anything that is not in benevolence of the deity is “poisonous” to it and thus should not be even approached. The major issue this stirs is confirmation bias, science holds to the notion of peer review and scrutiny; something that is completely opposite to religion! The approach to learning and knowledge from religion goes in direct conflict with the means by which science approaches learning and knowledge; and thus the magisteria overlap.
Science as mentioned already, is natural philosophy, and as so is under the presuppositions of metaphysical naturalism. Now there must be a note here, and that is methodological naturalism uses the means of the natural sciences and the tools of humanity to investigate the natural realm, and in principle is different to metaphysical naturalism which insists that the natural realm is all there is and thus works on specific laws that are unchanged; things such as supernatural entities and the supernatural realm cannot exist, as anything in the natural realm of existence is in reality; as reality is anything that is in existence within the natural. For if the supernatural realm existed with entities capable of amazing feats, then they would have to exist in the realm of nature, and that would then demote them from the status of gods, to normal material entities with abilities explainable to science. For if they existed outside existence, they would not exist at all, so terms such as “non-temporal” are but baseless claims. Methodological naturalism only concerns itself with investigations of the natural realm (that is it). Methodological naturalism however comes from the basis of metaphysical naturalist thought and thus has similar presuppositions 1) The future will be the same as the past 2) the natural laws govern the cosmos and everything within it 3) on the premises of these laws nature can be explored and knowledge of the known universe justified 4) the empirical method is the best means of attaining knowledge of the natural realm (and so on). These presuppositions are both current in methodological and metaphysical naturalism and thus are the basis of science. Religion works differently, it works on theology and the various means by which to secure, protect and validate the faith at the centre of the religion. In monotheism (specifically) Christianity has a religious text, as does Judaism and Islam, all of these texts are professed to be the spoken word of the deity who allegedly created the universe and all within it (through different means and so on). Theology is a means by which the various revelations that the writers of those religious holy text, can be understood in means of allowing a suitable framework for the faiths to have organization leading to active worship and dedication by those faithful. Religion lays origins to the supernatural as opposed to science who lays its origins to the cosmos (the natural), religion wishes to say that the natural arose through means of the supernatural and thus the world can be explained through the supernatural well science wishes to say that life arose from the natural and can be explained through the natural. As one can see both realms are again in conflict. A very good example is expressed in the NOMA document about the discussion that was sparked over the “evolution versus creationism” debate going on in America.
Now the theory of evolution is a well-established scientific process that explains the origin of species and the vast diversity within life, this includes individual organisms, DNA, proteins, molecules and species; a theory stating that organisms (and the all other aforementioned subjects) adapt to environmental pressures thrust upon them by nature actively selecting the best of those organisms to pass adaptation characteristics to other generations over successive generations. Those species thus will have greater chances of reproducing their genes in the gene pool and surviving their environment. Different environments mean different adaptations, and it is these adaptations over time that lead to the vast complexity we have today; random mutation (so far as we know it to be) will occasionally occur with a species giving it certain characteristics that may or not be useful. It is thus all species and all of life holds a common ancestry with one another, a “universal ancestor(s)”. This theory proposed by Alfred Wallace and revolutionized by Charles Darwin is not only factual but has like all good scientific theories the margin of predictability and determination. On the opposite side of the “argument” (not really being a serious danger) is intelligent Design, the simple notion that all of life is too complex and intricate and must therefore have a designer. Both ID and evolution deal with the field that NOMA states science should have dominion over, and it is this point that I raise that religion seeks to impose over science’s ability to accurately explain the natural realm, ID is just another argument thrown out by the religious community to try (and successfully is falling in support) and bring religion into the scientific class room. ID is not science it is pseudo-science, it does not hold to an accurate model of predictability, no explanatory value, no margin for experimentation it is just an assertion based on ignorance, speculation and psychological need and thus is not a valid (in any form) scientific theory.
One more point that needs to be raised is the political ideology that surrounds religion, unlike science which has no dogma (and to all those shouting ‘scientism’, there is simply no such thing, the whole notion of scientism is a philosophical pandering to religious critics who are saw that religion is being denigrated from social sphere of influence and now heading out with astrology, alchemy and all the other means by which our infant species came to first understand the world) as if it did it would not change for anything, unlike religion, science revises itself constantly finding better and more efficient ways of exploring the cosmos. Scientists spend long hours, and constant research that then will be peer reviewed and scrutinized vigorously; to say science is dogmatic is a pandering to religious paranoia. Scientists actively revise their thoughts in light of new evidence, always seeking to follow the evidence where it leads and making sure that what the findings they get are accurate. It is in this light that science (and one will have to repeat for sceptics) holds to no dogma and political ideology. Religion on the other hand holds sternly to the notion of not revising its dogmas, organizing collectively the downward notion that man is the subject to the gods. The purpose of this life (monotheism specifically) is to worship the deity and prepare for the next life, it is thus in this notion that religion holds a very stern (and has held a very stern) notion against progression. It silenced Galileo when he proposes that geocentricism was wrong. It burned those who dare question its dogma, killing individuals who spoke out against the church, imposed itself against the rights of women and the rights against LGBT. It continues to impose itself against the individuals rights, in places such as Iran Homosexuals are hung for committing sodomy, apostates are killed for denouncing Islam, homosexual and lesbian individuals are not allowed their fundamental liberties (in places such as Australia, their still exists excessive bigotry from the liberal government, with their obvious Christian conservatism). Religion holds an active political ideology to instigate control over civil society, and it has shown to do this time and time again. Religion as it stands has no interest in progression, whereas science is interested in progressing knowledge, religion is not, it stands at every single step of the way for scientific inquiry. Its supporters adamantly detest any inquiry as to go against religious dogma and doctrine, always trying to lay claim to scientific revolutions and twisting the light of reality to the illusory images promulgated by religious doctrines.
The final point that will be raised is the issue of NOMA’s principle, Religion is said to have teaching authority over meaning and morality, which Stephen Jay Gould fails to realise that what he instead is instigating is moral philosophy. Science can study human behaviour and morality and meaning have to do with human behaviour so in this aspect science does and can comment on alleged “religious concerns”. Religion is not in complete authority of meaning, science can explain the physical world and what is, but why cannot it comment on the why? Different cultures of religiosity have different meanings; in Buddhism (which is a philosophy and not a religion) reaching a state of Nirvana is considered fulfilment of the individuals’ inner sanctum. In Christianity meaning is found with a faith in God and an active serving of him, this may involve attending church spreading the gospel and preparing for the next life. Religion in these respects is not interested in finding meaning at all! Instead it wants to give you the meaning, science is different. In science the main understanding is to grow a greater understandings of the workings of natural existence, in these respects science wishes to find answers to unanswered questions involving the natural realm. Stephen jay Gould expresses that religion deals with “taking people to heaven” whereas science deals “discovering heaven”. This of course fails to realise that religion in most respects was our first aspect of discovering the world around us, the first ways at which to understand the world. Moral philosophy is different to religion, yes religion will deal in aspects of moral philosophy such as the origins of morality and what is moral. But science can provide means of finding efficient ideas about the true nature of morality, and can document (not yet, still a work in progress) where morality comes from, its use, the ideal system of morality and so on. In this respects Science (science of morality) does come into conflict and does overlap Religions alleged “teaching authority” (magisterium).
So what can be said so far in conclusion? Is faith compatible with science? Does NOMA work? In short the answer is no. Faith and science do come into conflict at a fundamental level, both deal in ways of attaining knowledge of the world, the one relies on divine revelation and unwavering trust in a deity for knowledge and the other deals with inquiry and revision into the realm of the natural. Faith deals with the belief in the supernatural, and science deals with investigation into the natural, which is all there is. The margin for belief and faith in a deity dwindles as scientific inquiry progresses, resulting in an ever dwindling regression to the point at which the need for faith and the supernatural inevitably become null and void. Faith undermines learning and progression, as religion seeks to avail a constant monopoly over the “Truth”, which is never changing and never growing unless with the deities’ permission (or the dear leaders of the sects’ permission) whereas science is interested in investigation and inquiry into the world always ready to progress and learn more about the cosmos. The underpinning aspects that science holds onto, the metaphysical natural perspective and has inevitably no draw of the supernatural aspect that religion plays to, as to the natural philosopher the supernatural realm just cannot exist as it would underpin science itself. Religion holds to a political ideology that undermines the individual’s right to his body, his voice and to his mind, whereas science holds no such constraints and no such dogma. The final nail in the coffin as to why science and faith do not work as well as the NOMA principle is because science can explain meaning and morality, and religion is not interested in pandering to progression and discovery more interested in the already pre-made product. Non-overlapping magesteria, the principle that religion and science hold to two different realms of teaching authority and thus do not overlap is simply not true and it is because of this fact that the model fails completely; as there is a conflict. The fact of the matter is (in the perspective of this writer) religion needs to die for progression and science to truly take off; across the globe there are quasi-religious states, with religion undermining the rights of the individual and pandering to the illusions of grandeur who seek not peace and not acceptance but seek separation and control. It is this reason as well as all the aforementioned reasons why religion and science can never truly be compatible with one another, and it is this understanding that only one is permissible and for this writer that has to do with the naturalist perspective, as it, is the only perspective truly valid. All others are pandering to the illusory psychological needs of the individuals. It may sound abrupt and it may sound prejudice but it is the truth, an inconvenient truth.
Knowledge is power
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
We all at some point in our life when discussing religion or some aspect of belief, will be asked the trivial yet important question, “Do you believe in a God?”. To some the answer is “yes”, to others the answer is “no” and then there are those (especially igtheists), that question the meaning of the word, “God”, which they argue needs first to be defined before any enlisted answer can be provided. Generally to those who answer this question with a “yes”, they are presumed to have an active belief in that God and they are generally referred to as a “Theist” (an individual who holds a belief in a Deity); to those who answer with “No”, they are generally referred to as “Atheist” (an individual who are without a belief in a Deity or ‘lack a belief’ in one.). These are the only two positions when it comes to belief in a God, you either are actively believing in one (or many) making you a theist (or any branch attached to it) or you do not actively believe in a God, making you an atheist. Simple is it not? Yet some people, even academics, seem to be fine with theism but not atheism…why is that? Let’s find out shall we.
We are all born not believing in any notion particularly associated with a God/Gods; implicit atheism, is what we all are born with. We all are born with an absence of belief in a God/gods, this is the default state of belief for every child born into this world. Generally the notion of a God is introduced via cultural means; either one will learn it from parents, learn it in a religious studies class and so on. No matter where we learn the term it is still introduced from the culture we are born into, if not, another culture, but culture none-the-less. It is only when faced with the notion, that one can either accept it (with good merit and reason; as no one chooses to believe or not believe in anything, they are brought good reason as to either reject or accept the notion, this goes for the god notion as well) or reject it (with good merit or reason etc); however it should be noted that before the introduction of the notion, the default stance is non-belief i.e. atheism. When one rejects the notion of a God, with whatever reason or argument; they are enacting explicit atheism, which is the active rejection of belief in a God/gods (disbelief). Agnosticism (the epistemological position concerned with whether we can know a notion to exist or not) can be associated with atheism; as agnosticism concerns knowledge (a subset of belief) well atheism concerns belief itself. One may ask the question how this is possible, in which the reply can be that atheism rejects the belief in the notion of a God/gods, well agnosticism concerns itself on whether that notion of God/gods can be known at all to exist. Agnostics may wish to distance themselves away from atheists but the fact is this; if one actively believes in a God they are a theist (or any branch of theism) if one does not believe in a God, they are an atheist. There is no middle position when it comes to belief, either belief or non-belief, they cover all positions. Agnosticism is thus not mutually exclusive to atheism, rather it is compatible with atheism; as it concerns (and here it will be repeated) itself with whether we can know a God to exist at all, whereas atheism concerns itself with lack of belief in that notion, not on whether it exists or not.
“This is where the difference between ‘Agnostic’ and ‘Atheist’matters: Theism and Atheism deals with belief. Gnosticism and Agnosticism deals with knowledge. Gnostic think they KNOW the existence/nonexistence of a god, agnostics claim to not know. Theists and Atheists can be on either sides of that, were they believe or not believe in a god while also either claim to know or not know for certain if that belief is true. There are agnostic atheists, agnostic theists, gnostic atheists and gnostic theists.”-Fooly’s Mind
Positive atheism is where the problem resides, it is the explicit or strong conviction that a God/gods do not exist. This is what most anti-theists (or those actively who hold a disdain for religious beliefs.) hold when they refer to their atheism. Negative atheism includes all forms of irreligion or non-belief, from the absence of a belief in a God/gods and so on. Both positive and negative atheism are but two side to the same coin, they are both ways of defining non-belief or “atheism” (as already mentioned); they are both varying degrees of the same thing such as the case with hot water and warm water. The problem really resides around those who look from the outside into atheist thought, they may have the tendency to view it as a religion (which, if so makes them under a grievant misapprehension) by the way it may conduct itself in the world; it may be called “dogmatic” or by more ‘sower opponents’ as “dogmatic as religion”. Yet, let one dispense with the critics; to all those who do not believe in a God for whatever reason, you are an atheist. One can take this as a breach of one’s ‘personal beliefs or lack of’ but that is the fact. It is more common to see fellow atheists criticize atheism itself by the way many who hold to the title may act. Yet, many may hold to their non-belief as ‘a means to an end’ or may promote it, however the case it must be noted that atheism should only be considered a block of non-belief. It should not press issues, it should not be given so much attention as it has been given (this goes for theism to); it should not be even mentioned. Now this may seem strange given the previous words and advocation in the last couple sentences of this piece, but let me explain what I mean. Atheism, as already mentioned almost countless of times before, is simply “the lack of belief in a God/gods” that would be the end of it, yet so many individuals have labelled those who do not believe in their god as being ‘atheist’, this is why the word exists at all! And for this reason it is important that those who do hold onto the word must understand why it exists, and what it means now. What atheism means today is the stance against oppression; the stance of those willing to not be contempt in their thinking, it is the stance against those willing to die for their belief; for the word ‘atheist’ may be a ‘means to an end’ for some, to others it is simply another way of promoting defiance when needed and the stance against oppression (this is not an over-exaggeration of the word either, given its history, atheism has been on the receiving end of tremendous intolerance). Yet, It does not affect political beliefs (not by itself), what one does when he gets up in the morning, It is the starting block. Those who live their life as if there is no notion of a God existing are known as practical atheists or apatheists, and one can say that there are a great deal of practical atheists in both the non-religious and religious circles.
Nietzsche gives an important note on belief in God as “not being necessary any longer”; does one see those who believe in a God, when crossing the street, look both ways? Yes. It seems that everyone now in the modern age lives as if there is no God. Believers put on their seat belts, look both ways well crossing the road; they live their lives as if the belief in God is not necessary. Putting the cross on, on Sundays, and flipping it upside down on Mondays. the notion that is often promoted by believers is the façade “You need god to have meaning in your life” but what is the gross double standard they are setting? Atheism, is the underpin of all religions, no one actively believes in a God twenty fours a day, seven days a week, do they? Of course not! If one really had to do a study on the amount of “prefaced believers” in this world one could almost certainly say that the numbers of “real believers” would be “0”; as no one actively can believe in a notion every hour of every day.
New atheism, (a movement started from the post years of 9/11, popularly called a movement by the media) Is a movement set on the notion that; religious belief should be held to the same criticism as any other belief, and it should not be given respect just because of its own sake this means it must be laid to the same standard amount of scrutiny as any other subject. “The End of faith” and “Letters to a Christian nation” (2004) can be credited as the books that started the movement. This breed of atheism is a prolific atheism the kind at which wishes to dispense with religion. Yet, despite such vitriol by the religious to this “new” form of atheism, it must be noted, that if the religious think their views are untouchable and thus cannot be scrutinized; then let it be said that such “privileged delusion” needs to be quelled effective immediately. New atheism does not attack the belief in God per-seas, then it attacks what the belief in God does to individuals; atheists who are a part of this movement do not care what the individual believes in, they care about what the individual does with that belief. This is why the aim in recent times has been for social justice and equality, to replace organized belief that demands it cannot be criticized, with practical humanism. To dispense with the notion, that you need a God to find meaning and happiness, that the universe can only have come from a deity and morality could only be dispensed by a deity; is to dispense with the final hook that holds man in his infancy. The modern atheist movement seeks to show that individuals can indeed be good without God, find meaning in their lives, and gain a greater understanding of the world through enquiry. New atheism brings with it, not just atheism, but secularism, humanism, liberalism, gender equality and the slogan “Good without God”. They argue that “Religion and the belief in the supernatural have crippled society, crippled the need for enquiry and scepticism, resulting in the overall denigration of progress among humanity and thus must be made rid of as soon as necessarily possible.” Religion as it stands has morphed into a form of practical humanism, and any good that the religious hold, is in fact a goodness of humanism and the two are not to be confused with one another. Science and healthy scepticism is overall better than an impermeable faith in a God, this in a sense, can be summed up as the movement’s main aim; which is to push the need for religion out of society.
What is the point of a belief in God, when individuals who preface such a belief as being the “be-all-to-end-all”, are not even acting as if there is a God in their daily life? This incipient need to believe in that which, at the end of the day, does nothing overall to affect one’s character; is useless. If one harbours any form of belief or disbelief for not any good particular reason or any particular justification, it can be said that such individuals have no reason to be who they proclaim they are. Those who wish to keep their belief for the sake of security and moral fulfilment, need to realise that they are holding onto to the notion of a God for the sake of psychological need, and not because of whether it is true or not. Belief in anything is acquired through substantial evidence to prove and good reason to accept that evidence’s notion, non-belief comes as a default from not finding that evidence substantial and zero reason to believe in the notion. This is with all claims, we believe because we have substantial evidence to provide good reason, which is the standard ‘evidence’. Without evidence in the form of justification to believe in any notion that departs from justification, no matter sincere, is done so for stupid reasons. No amount of belief in the prospect of any notion makes that notion so. Every adult and child has to come to this realisation that you only believe in something because of justification and good reason, and you stop believing in something when the notion or belief departs from that. This is why non-belief will always be the default when it comes to notions like God(s), anyone who says otherwise has no idea what he or her are talking about. No one chose to not believe in anything, as they did to believe in something, they were given good reason to believe, and zero reason not to believe, it was not an active “oh I’ll decide not to believe” or ‘I’ll start to believe” are brains do not work like that, and it is naïve to think they do.
Every individual expressing their belief in any form of matter will need to know this when talking to an atheist of any sort unless to foolishly lump an atheist into a camp or an ideology he/she is not a part of. Though criticism (valid ones) have been made by people like Sam Harris, who say non-belief should not be given a label, just like not believing in Zeus should not be given the label “A-zuesist”. Valid criticisms like these do highlight the point that labels do carry baggage, sometimes unwanted baggage. For example, when theists use the argument that atheists are immoral because Stalin was an atheist, and he killed in the name of no God. Though this argument (if it can be called that and not a grievance whine) is not true, Stalin was indeed an atheist, but he had other motivations for doing the things he did that are too multiple to mention here. This goes for both atheist and theist a like who make claims that certain “bad guys” in history killed because of their faith or lack of it, must remember that there are a lot of facts that go into each event and each context, that it has become naïve to try use the Crusades to lump the evils of Christianity, or communism to lump the evils of atheism and so on. Ladies and gentlemen from across the aisle, hear me when I say that the only way we are going to unite, is if we dispense with belief being a dividing block on issues (this may be hypocritical given the amount of things that I write against “organized religion”, but that can be justified as I am against social injustice perpetrated by theocratic fascists) we should try to help one another and care for the merit of arguments alone, and not on whether they are uttered by a believer or a non-believer. We should love all despite what they believe, and only hold them accountable for their actions. This is why one has to say that humanism is the greatest uniter of both non-believer and believer, and that is what we should all aim for, a state by which we can obtain some form of unity based on humanism.
Knowledge is Power
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
Society that devotes itself to the benefit of itself without the benefit to superficial sources, such as man made Gods and other such delusions of grandeur. Are generally considered to be secular. as secularism deplores religiosity and instigates, that one should hold indifference towards religion, and not promote any mandate of theocracy and religiosity on the people within society. Secularism is the separation of religious organizations from state or governmental institutions, it is the principal by which no government should run on the basis of religious dogmas or texts, and instead should run on an indifferent scale towards religion; not dealing with the sole bias of a single religion. Secularism works on the basis of ideas such as socialism, libertarianism and egalitarianism. Secular societies generally run on constitutions that have democratic leanings; such leanings give the individual the right of choice, and the liberty of ideals. such ideals include; freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of choice, freedom of press etc. These ideals are called “liberties” as they are rights the people are privileged to have that do their best to work among society.
Humanism is closely related to secular thinking, as it denotes the value and emphasis of human interactions within the natural world. The idea of humanism ethically goes that reason and scientific inquiry within the natural plain of existence are more prevalent and more important then a belief of God or superficial sources. Purpose or value comes from the interaction between our species and the consideration of the world around us. Humanistic thinking takes the position that theology and anything to do with God or any form of grandeur is not necessary. To put into perspective here are a couple words on humanism that have been prepared.
“Every single interaction you have, say its with your mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, granddad, grandma, son, daughter etc. Whether it be a shake of the hand, a kiss of the cheek, a conversation with loved ones, a last goodbye to an old friend. Those are the interactions that matter. Humans are a social species, that may appear at times to promote devastation and hatred towards one another; who hurt and may kill one another. who may lie, cheat, steal, ridicule or despise one another. These interactions regardless of whether they are good or bad, are actions we commit, and that we are responsible. We are responsible for the hate we show to one another, but we are also responsible for the love that we show to one another. Humanity, our species and the world we inhabit. This is us, and we are here, and whatever meaning we derive comes from this world we inhabit.
There is no one to shift the blame to, no one to point the finger for destruction and chaos; if it starts with us, it can end with us. we are responsible for everything we do! So many wish to throw burdens of guilt and responsibility to superficial sources in the hopes to forget their guilt, but realize this we are all responsible for things we do. We are responsible for the lives we lead, the smiles we make, the tears we cry. It is us…it is we, who make the discoveries known, it is us who end wars, it is us who cure diseases of our own making. We are the ones who build bridges of determination and ample them with the supports of visions and good wishes, it is us who clime the mountains. we are the ones who make meaning in our own lives, we are the ones who express love and hatred, laughter and tears. It is all us!
Altruism and doing good for goodness sake coupled with empathy are the means by which we show feeling towards one another, the emotions we emulate are understandings between ourselves and each other. Reason, which implore intuition and deduction allow us to reason the world we see and distinguish from what we see as a “good” act to what we deem a “bad” one. Just few of the principals by which we live. The call to a superficial God, is a call to childishness, a call to insecurity. We created the Gods in our image, and we painted them to resemble us and our selfish virtues. As people living in the now, with the world of billions, we have to start acting sensible towards one another for this is the life we lead. Scientific inquiry and seeking answers to questions about this world, implore us to go up and beyond our ability. To awe at the majesty of the universe we inhabit and evermore move forward over the cosmic event horizon and step into the unknown. For the sheer fact we can.
we are just one in millions of species on this planet, and though we should take priority to ourselves, we should also care about the world around us and the creatures that inhabit it. To be a humanist is to take on responsibility for your own mistakes, to be a humanist means to be a helper of your fellow man, as well as fellow beast; if they require help. These things are things of beauty that we can lay claim to, we don’t need a superficial delusion to create meaning in the life we bring meaning to. ”
Secular-humanism, puts society and the planet into perspective. To be a secular humanist, you just got to realize your potential and the potential around you. Not seeking the above magistrate that we at times wish to throw the blame and devote the love to. what you got to realize is the people around you need help, and that help comes from what you do, what you say. There’s a lot of people out there who don’t feel nice or fine, who have it tough and are wasting their lives on cons. As a Secular humanist, a naturalist, an individual living now, the greatest value I get is from interaction with people and the things I do. Taking full responsibility for my wrongs, and taking full ownership of my rights, for living life depends on what you do in the now. this life, this existence is the only thing we have, this is the point all secular humanists stress. You have one life, live it right, don’t live it ignorant of others, live it acknowledging your responsibility and your triumphs.
Seize the day
Not just for yourself, but those around you.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson