Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

20 June 2017. You Can’t Make Up Shit Like This… “Atheists are More Intelligent Than Religious People”

Filed under: religious — 01varvara @ 00.00
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Now, I’ve seen it all. Read this. Actually, this is a sign that the secularists in the chattering class are running scared. “We’re smarter than you are! There! Now, shut up!” It’s true that Evangelicalism (and its related cousins in Catholicism and Orthodoxy… and its analogue in Islam, Wahhabism) is a movement of the terminally stupid, but that’s not the gamut of religion. Secularists tend to be fragmented… believers tend to gather in groups. Therefore, secularists see more danger in their intellectual opponents than believers do. More secularists are militantly anti-religious than believers who are militantly anti-secularist. That’s a sign of fear. “We’re more intelligent!” That’s more a sign of insecurity than anything else.

Don’t hate secularists… most aren’t militantly godless or terminally stupid. However, many in the chattering class are so, so have a care.



Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Iranian Atheists: Waiting to Come Out

01 Iranian family


Asked about atheism in Iran, a group of women at the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran said that they were unfamiliar with the concept. Eventually, an amiable elderly lady in a black headscarf said in a puzzled tone, “Maybe, there are people like that abroad. We wouldn’t know”. There’s no faulting her, given that atheists and agnostics don’t exist in Iran… officially. A 2011 nationwide census put the share of Muslims in the country at 99.4 percent, with Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians making up another 0.2 percent, and the rest… about 300,000 people… fell under the “other” and “unknown” categories. Yet, there were some doubts about the reliability of these statistics, and, certainly, there appear to be Iranians who question God’s existence… although they don’t speak about it openly, for a public coming-out to embrace Christopher Hitchens and his ilk could land them on death row.

Milad, an Iranian IT professional now living in London, said, “There are quite a lot of [Iranian] atheists, including myself to some extent”. Like all people interviewed for this article who acknowledged the existence of non-believers in Iran, he asked to have his name changed, fearing persecution. Milad is right to be cautious, despite residing abroad, because the government isn’t above cracking down on dissenters’ relatives, said Cyrus, also a native Iranian, who works in the American media. Cyrus said that he knows of at least one case where police arrested the Iran-based father of an émigré who ran a pro-atheism group on Facebook, releasing him only after the group was shut down. He gave no details. Nevertheless, arrest can amount to getting off easy, given that punishment for apostasy under Sharia… the prescribed standard for Iranian judges… is death for male apostates and life imprisonment for females.

One problem is that Iranians must spell out their religious affiliation in numerous official documents, such as college applications, relatively early in life. For the majority, that means formally-identifying themselves as Muslim. Once that’s done, there’s no turning back to embrace any other belief system. There have been no executions of atheists reported from Iran in recent years. However, apostasy is often cited among régime opponents’ crimes, lending extra weight to the accusations against them. In a high-profile case in 2002, a court convicted Professor Hashem Aghajari of apostasy just for criticising Iran’s theocracy and gave him a death sentence, later replaced by three years’ imprisonment.

Tempting Fate on Facebook

The administrator of the Iranian Atheists and Humanists group on Facebook (not the one that was shut down) wrote to RIA-Novosti in response to questions last month, “If you try to lie, or don’t say anything about your beliefs, no one will do anything to you”. None of the self-proclaimed Iranian atheists reached by RIA-Novosti agreed to in-person interviews. One of them quipped, “This would make me a very dead Iranian girl”. The administrator of the Facebook group, who wouldn’t even give his/her gender, added, “[But he] who dares, wins, so we’re acting anonymously”. There are several Iranian pro-atheism communities on Facebook, run in either English or Farsi, mostly focused on aggregating pictures poking fun at religious figures (not limited to Islam… for example, the recently-resigned pope also got skewered). The groups have anywhere between 2,000 and 40,000 likes each, although many supporters seem to be foreigners. This form of protest may seem toothless by Western standards, but it amounts to something more daring in the Iranian context. Whilst the apostasy punishments are by far the scariest stick in the government’s arsenal, there are more-mundane reminders of the risks for Internet activists… Iran blocks Facebook and local authorities don’t take kindly to irony; they’ve even banned toys based on Simpsons characters as “Western propaganda”.

Take Off That Scarf

Online dissent may be just the tip of the iceberg, the nameless Facebook administrator said, noting, “We aren’t alone. The population of people who’re atheist is growing”, adding that there are many atheists and agnostics in Iran among well-educated residents of big cities. These middle-class urbanites were the driving force behind the 2009-10 opposition protests in Tehran that, at their peak, brought three million people to the streets of a city with 12 million residents, according to Time magazine’s estimates. The protests… brutally suppressed by the authorities… were aimed against alleged election fraud believed to have robbed a reformist candidate of victory, and were the biggest civil unrest in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The protests had no outright religious agenda, but they called for more freedom… including personal freedom. In a telling gesture, female protesters removed their headscarves when camping out in Tehran’s city squares… a move that, under normal circumstances, would have likely led to immediate arrest for defying the country’s strict Islamic moral code.

Live and Let Doubt

Although no reliable studies exist, all the Iranians and Iran experts interviewed for this article (those who admitted familiarity with the concept, that is) said that explicit atheism appears to remain a rarity in Iran. Lana Ravandi-Fadai, a researcher in the Iran section of the Moscow-based Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said, “I’ve heard some friends say that they’re atheists or agnostics, but they don’t admit it publicly”. American-based Cyrus shared similar observations, saying that those who admitted atheistic views even in their own social circle could face a judgemental response. Nevertheless, several émigrés and Iran-based atheists said that religious practices have shifted, with more people giving up active worship whilst still embracing Islam as part of their cultural identity. According to London-based Milad, who said that he still keeps in close contact with relatives and friends in Iran, “Many have never even set foot in a mosque despite identifying themselves as Muslims”. Ravandi-Fadai said, “In my personal view, the local mosque often serves social and even psychotherapeutic functions in addition to its spiritual significance. For instance, I know many women who spend their days at the mosque in order to socialise and talk over problems with others”.

Nonetheless, politicians for whom Islam is dogma stir up more public ire than the little-discussed atheists, Cyrus pointed up, and others agreed. Ali, a native Iranian living in Moscow, said, “Some claim there are fewer true believers in Iran now than before the Islamic Revolution. People are put off by being forced to believe”. It seems, judging by a smattering of conversations at least, that ordinary Iranians’ identity-over-ideology approach to Islam leads to a spirit of live-and-let-live when it comes not only to other religions, but also even to the lack of any religion at all. None of the half-dozen religious Iranians interviewed by RIA-Novosti, including two Tehran clerics (they said they were unfamiliar with the concept of atheism), expressed any hostility toward non-believers. Reza, a 30-year-old taxi-driver from the southern city of Bushehr, said, “I’ve never met such people, but I’d just want to speak with them and understand them. I’m really interested in them. I’m not thinking I’m better than them just because of my religion”. He was visiting the Khomeini mausoleum with his wife and toddler son. Reza came to the shrine to “enjoy the calm and peace” (an effect to which his child seemed immune). Later, the family strolled along the enfilade of stores that ring the tomb of Iran’s great religious leader offering snacks, carpets, Parker pens, and other items as appealing to the religious as to atheists, if any happened to pass by.

19 March 2013

Aleksei Yeremenko

Mikhail Gusev



Thursday, 19 April 2012

19 April 2012. Atheism is On the Rise… and We’re the Main Culprits…

In God’s Country, That Is, The USA

N Kogout




Things haven’t changed much in some ways… we should turn our gaze not to notional “sinners” outside us, but rather to our own very real shortcomings and failings, and try to remedy THEM…


Atheism is on the march, and I believe that so-called “Christians” are the main cause of it all. Firstly, read this. Note the following from it:

Only between 1.5 and 4 percent of Americans admit to so-called “hard atheism”, the conviction that no higher power exists. However, a much larger share of the American public (19 percent) spurns organised religion in favour of a non-defined scepticism about faith. This group, sometimes collectively labelled the “Nones”, is growing faster than any religious faith in the USA. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers; 24 percent are lapsed Catholics and 29 percent once identified with other Christian denominations. …

It’s primarily a backlash against the religious Right, say political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell. In their book, American Grace, they argue that the religious Right’s politicisation of faith in the 1990s turned younger socially-liberal Christians away from churches, even as conservatives became more zealous. The churches’ Old Testament condemnation of homosexuals, premarital sex, contraception, and abortion turned off the dropouts. The Catholic Church‘s sex scandals also prompted millions to equate religion with moralistic hypocrisy. Putnam and Campbell wrote, “While the Republican base has become ever more committed to mixing religion and politics, the rest of the country has been moving in the opposite direction”. As society becomes more secular, researchers say, doubters are more confident about identifying themselves as non-believers. Author Diana Butler Bass said, “The collapse of institutional religion in the first 10 years of this century [has] freed so many people to say they don’t really care”.


Now, let’s look at a possible reason. Read this. Here’s some of the guts of that:

The Catholic Church is up in arms over President Obama’s upcoming rule requiring “Catholic institutions” to provide free contraceptive coverage in their healthcare plans. That’s hogwash because the institutions themselves aren’t Catholic. They’re business entities, not living humans with brains, and, as such, can hold no religious belief. They aren’t Catholic institutions. They’re institutions run by Catholic people.

The Catholic Church is really objecting to Catholic executives being unable to impose their dogma on others. Question: Whose religion prevails if the employee’s religion requires sexual acts? The CNN report also mentions the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) releasing a document called Our First, Most Cherished Freedom that repeats the claim that religious liberty is under attack. Unless “freedom to impose your religious will on others who do not want it” is the definition of religious liberty, it isn’t under attack at all.


Let’s not put too fine a face upon this. The Catholic Church is upset that it can’t ram its beliefs down the throats of employees of Catholic institutions, people who may NOT be Catholics. This isn’t about religious freedom at all… it’s about the Catholic Church being above the law. Look at how they dealt with their paedophilia scandals. That certainly doesn’t raise one’s confidence in their credibility, does it? The Catholic hierarchy REFUSED to deal with the scandal until they were dragged kicking and screaming into court. Indeed, the current ranting about “religious freedom” is an attempt to divert people’s attention from the rather sorry state of the Catholic Church in the USA. The only thing that saved their gnarly arse from penury is that there’s no “Catholic Church in the USA, Incorporated” registered as a legal entity in any US state. Legally, nothing exists above the individual diocese in the Catholic Church. Therefore, no court can recover damages from any body higher than that.

Here’s something for Orthodox to think about. Legally, “umbrella” corporations DO exist, such as the “Orthodox Church in America” and the “Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’ (to name two). This means that a court CAN assess recovery for damages against a national body, as it’s a “legal person” with “legal existence”. The “Catholic Church in the USA” certainly has an existence in actual, objective, and existential terms, but it has no legal embodiment, ergo, no one can make claims against it. So far, we’ve “dodged the bullet”… I think that’s ending. I’d watch the Storheim case in Canada carefully.

Why is atheism rising? One reason is that we’ve failed the test, as far as character, honesty, and honour goes. Another is that we’ve allowed the “loudest” faction to grab the wheel, making it appear as though the Church is more in favour of the Radical Right agenda than it actually is. Lastly, we’re allowing mewling infants to speak for us; putting us in the same boat as such Sects as White Evangelicals, Mormons, Moonies, and Pentecostalists, just because they’re part of the American Right.

The Church is the Big Tent… it isn’t Gideon’s Band… it isn’t the Little Flock. Christ came for all us sinful-ginfuls, and the conventional goodthinkers of his time saw to it that He was tacked to a cross to die slowly, painfully, and horribly. Today’s “Christians” would do likewise, to speak bluntly. That’s why atheism’s on the march. We’ve not lived up to our profession of faith. Why should anyone put credence in those who demand freedom for themselves, but deny it to others? I’m not alone in wondering that…

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Thursday 19 April 2012

Albany NY

Thursday, 26 January 2012

26 January 2012. THIS is What I Hold…


I adapted the words from a saying of Isaac Asimov… the fact that he was an atheist bothers me not in the least. THIS is what Pro-Life is all about… not waving placards, shouting slogans, and pandering to slippery politicians…


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