Friday, July 02, 2010

Freedom of conscience in the US and elsewhere

Freedom of conscience, what we non-theists call freethought, is called arrogant in these our United anti-intellectual States. Elsewhere in the world, however, the exercise of such freedom threatened with execution.

In thinking about Ron Rosenbaum's silly appreciation of "the New Agnosticism," I have been self-consciously this week evaluating my own "militancy." Am I one of those rude New Atheists who has never learned to live and let live, who takes pleasure out of calling other people wrong in their beliefs.

(The kind of New Atheists that many blogs and articles call-out for being so antagonistic.)

I think not; I'm proud of the work I've done to examine my beliefs,knowledge, and values, and not ashamed of having strong reasons to be confrontational against religious belief and religious authority. This video from P. Z. Myers blog gives me good reason to think that a confrontational attitude isn't just acceptable, it is essential.

About the video: "In the Muslim-majority nation of Maldives, a man stunned an audience during questions and answers period in a lecture given by an Islamic cleric, by stating that he had chosen freedom of conscience not to follow Islam. The man, Mohamed Nazim, was promptly attacked, taken into custody, and has been threatened with death and beheading, or other punishments for choosing his freedom of conscience. Maldives media are reporting that it is the first time in many hundreds of years that a Maldivian has publicly renounced Islam, since Sultan King Hassan IX converted to Christianity in 1552 and was deposed."

It is very easy, in our democratic republic, for members of the majority culture to confuse their numbers with their superiority. In a country with near-universal religious belief, it is possible for a speaker (as in this video) to dismiss a freethinker with the most feeble of arguments, and be supporting by rounds of enthusiastic applause. The same audience that endorses this dangerous nonsense will shun the freethinker, and not come to his defense when the police take him into custody, when public figures denounce him, and when his life is threatened for his minority beliefs.

Thinking about the Fourth of July, In view of Sunday's holiday, I recommend we all think about what it means to be a member of a dispossessed and unorganized minority community, one which is labeled as depraved, subversive, immoral, and arrogant.

When I sent a message to the Boston Atheists mailing list, to share the news of Nazim's situation, I told the list members -- I really like you arrogant, militant, atheistic people. And I am glad none of you live in the Maldives.

Thanks for P. Z. Myers for the critical, confrontation, conscientious work he does at Pharyngula, the source of the links I use above. More information about the incident of apostate Nazim can be found at