Do you not use your brains?

The videos of the World Atheist Convention in Dublin are being uploaded on YouTube. Here’s a gem: P.Z. Myers and Aron Ra debate two Muslim creationists on embryology. Basically, these guys believe:

◊ The Qur’an states things nobody could’ve possibly known in Muhammad’s day – because pre-Muslim Arabs were just too stupid.

◊ There were only seventeen literate people in Muhammad’s hometown (and he clearly wasn’t one of them.) And no scholars.

◊ Pre-Muslim Arabs were desert cave people who knew nothing of the world, conjectured nothing and thought nothing. This view is consonant with the popular Christian propaganda that “pagans” were essentially amoral beasts, and the Jewish view with regard to Canaanites etc…otherwise what they call prophecy would carry no weight, if one could just as easily have plagiarized Aristotle as channel the Word of God.

“Do you not use your brains?” is a key quote from the Qur’an they which keep throwing at P.Z., which is hilarious. It’s an excellent example of how religious faith can distort your perception and turn otherwise intelligent people into blathering zombies. And it’s completely lost on them that they are making the exact same claims as Christian creationists, but coming to a wholly different conclusion.

Ex-Muslims speak out

Maryam Namazie put this video up the other day on her blog. Watching it, you just want to scream out, “Yes!” and wish more people had the courage to speak out as ex-Muslims. Note that these people are not saying, “Islam is stupid.” Plenty of other people are saying that. They are simply saying that people should have the right not to believe, a claim especially relevant now in places where Islam is hegemonic. Considering the brutal murder of Salmaan Taseer last week, such voices should be heeded far and wide.

No disagreement here: Garton Ash vs. Hirsi Ali

Another long, eight-part debate, this time between Timothy Garton Ash and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Garton Ash is a master of backpeddling and the “veiled compliment” (you’ll have to watch the whole thing for Hirsi Ali’s rejoinder and Garton Ash’s embarrassing comeback quip). He insists they agree 100% on everything – except what they disagree on. Also, around the end of part six – assuming anyone reading this is as interested as I am in watching the whole thing – Hirsi Ali says something I can’t make out, which is followed by a long bleep-out of Garton Ash’s reply. At the end of part eight, it is explained that this had nothing to do with the debate and was omitted at Garton Ash’s request. Does anyone know what was actually said? If so, please share this tidbit of information in the comments section below.

Something decent in the Guardian

Every so often the Guardian publishes something I like:

I am an atheist. I imagine that the typical Cif belief reader may not think this is a particularly big deal, but it is for me, because I’m not just an atheist – I’m an apostate from Islam. Apparently there are people who would happily kill me for making such a statement. But I’m not expecting to be killed, or even threatened; despite what the BNP and certain elements of the press might want you to think, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not rabid fundamentalists who respond with violence to every perceived slight.

Comments are always revealing, and sometimes they are incomprehensible. Like this one:

As it says in the Qur’an, there is no compulsion in religion. Thanks and good luck.

Well, either the Qur’an I’ve been reading was translated by Sam Harris, or this commenter has an extremely flexible idea of what “compulsion in religion” is. There’s scarcely any content in the Qur’an which is not explicitly compulsive. If indeed it can be said that this book is “about” anything, that something is the compulsion to faith. Unbelievers are cordoned off to one side and proscribed from the believer’s worlview. They must be fought with zeal and gusto.

If you don’t believe me, read the book for yourself.

Harun Yahya

It's a fishing lure, Harun.

According to this guy evolution is responsible for anti-Semitism. He’s apparently challenged “Darwinists” to come up with “just one proof” (sound familiar?) of a “missing-link”. Umm…try, like, a developing embryo inside its mother’s womb. I mean, we evolve every day a little here and a little there. Our fingernails grow out, our hair gets longer, kids get taller and old folks shorter. Life is one long evolution from birth to death. Why would anyone be so silly as to think we are all cardboard cutouts?

Harun Yahya is a big player in creationist circles. A Muslim apologist, he has gained renown for his concentrated attacks on science and reason. To most normal people (better than calling ourselves “brights,” don’t you think?) he’s a wacko. But he’s a well-funded wacko with the ear of the Turkish government. So he gets a lot of air time for his crapola.

And his name isn’t even “Harun Yahya,” either; it’s Adnan Oktar. You’d think that if someone can’t even come out with his or her real name in public when airing opinions, perhaps the opinions themselves are of questionable vintage. I mean, it’s not like he’s voicing support for atheism in Iran or anything dangerous. He’s telling traditional Muslims what they long to hear: the religion of Allah is Islam. Atheists are evil. Darwin is the devil’s helper. Zionists and Freemasons are conspiring for world domination. It’s the usual creationst rant with an Islamic twist.

If you’re really interested in him, this article in the New Humanist is a good place to start.

How Italians Argue

It doesn’t really matter if you understand Italian or not. For the record, these people are discussing Islam and whether or not it poses a threat to Italy. Just watch the devolution of discourse. Nobody gives anyone else the chance to speak a full sentence before jumping in with “Fascist!” or “Islamist!” Adele Orioli, representing  the non-affiliated, can’t even make her point that a truly secular society wouldn’t have to face such problems because no religion would have preferential treatment. She just gets drowned out by the blathering heads on either side.

The New Bronx Bombers

Ok, so you’re a loser. The world has been a tough place and your life didn’t turn out quite as you had planned. You’ve done jail time and maybe you’ve got drug problems. Welcome to the desert of the real, as my man Zizek would say.

So what do you do with yourself? How do you pick yourself back up and put the fragmented pieces of your failed life back together again? Well, people used to go in for all sorts of stuff like 12-step programs (“give me the power to accept the things I cannot change,” etc…), new age pseudopsychology, or good old hard work.

Now there’s a new alternative: jihad.

The four men who attempted to blow up a synagogue in the Bronx the other day seem to fit the loser model. One had a crack addiction. One read the Koran between shifts as a waiter. All are petty criminals looking to make it big in the world.

The answer: murder some Jews.

Then, the logic would have it, they will begin to pay attention to your “cause.” They will begin to listen. They will probably even–if you become a jihadi superstar–interview you in the New York Times. That’s Warholian fame for a small-time crook.

Would the world listen if you attempted to kill, say, a group of Southern Baptists or Mormons? How about Amish? They would label you a sociopath and throw away the key. But if you kill Jews, or get caught trying, you must inevitably have a grievance. Newspapers and bloggers will spend precious words looking for your “motivation.” Perhaps you are an Arab or a convert to Islam, and came under the sway of a radical mosque where they preach “Death to the Jews!” You will have learned that you can commit an act of homicide in this world and people will actually respect you more. You might, if you’re lucky, get invited to Iran or Lebanon for a hero’s welcome.

From the NYT:

“It’s hard to envision a more chilling plot,” Eric Snyder, an assistant United States attorney, said on Thursday in federal court in Manhattan. “These are extremely violent men. These are men who eagerly embraced an opportunity” to “bring deaths to Jews.”

Don’t call it anti-Semitism, though. Show some respect for Islam and its grievances against the West.

ps…I realize that neither waiters nor those who read the Koran (or Qur’an) are necessarily losers. Lighten up.