News from Norway

Nobel

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Sean McGuire at My Secret Atheist Blog has announced exciting news from Norway.

Jailed Saudi activist blogger Raif Badawi along with his currently jailed lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair have been officially nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair’s nomination was announced on the “Free Raif Badawi” Facebook page 7 hours ago.

An update to the Change.org petition asking the Norwegian Nobel Committee to “Give the Nobel Peace Prize to Raif Badawi!” exclaims,

Nominated!!!
Feb 1, 2015 — Dear friends, we are very happy to announce that both Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair are officially nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2015!!! Nominators were Norwegian MP’s Karin Andersen and Snorre Valen!
Please, share this petition and ask all your friends to sign it. We hope this will help then to get the Prize!
Thank you!

However, a nomination is just the beginning of the process. The names of the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize are not announced until October, but before that, world wide support is sure to motivate the Nobel Committee to choose Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair. Signing the Change.org petition is one way to show support.

Please sign the petition and ask your friends to sign it:

Give the Nobel Peace Prize to Raif Badawi!

 

“Goodbye Christ” by Langston Hughes

Today would have been Langston Hughes’s 113th birthday and Google has created a Google Doodle to celebrate. Hughes’s poem this doodle illustrates is I Dream a World, but I thought I’d put the first stanza of his other poem, written in 1932, called Goodbye Christ. You can read the entire poem here.

Listen, Christ,
You did alright in your day, I reckon–
But that day’s gone now.
They ghosted you up a swell story, too,
Called it Bible–
But it’s dead now.
The popes and the preachers’ve
Made too much money from it.
They’ve sold you to too many.

Greece’s New Godless Prime Minister

I’m encouraged by the victory of Syriza, a “far-left” party with very real communist roots, in the recent elections in Greece. Syriza took nearly half the seats in the unicameral Hellenic Parliament, and secured a majority by entering into a coalition with the “far-right” Independent Greeks.

The idea of a far-left-far-right coalition might seem far out, but I’d take it more as an indication of the gross inadequacy of a one-dimensional “political spectrum” as a framework for describing where parties and individual politicians really stand. Syriza and the Independent Greeks disagree on a lot of issues, but they’re united in rejecting the program of EU-imposed economic austerity that “centrist” politicians tend to favour or at least accept, albeit perhaps for primarily socialist reasons in the case of Syriza and primarily nationalist ones in the case of the Independent Greeks. Given that austerity is currently the issue in Greek politics, however, a coalition of anti-austerity parties makes perfect sense regardless of whether those parties are on the same page in other respects.

So why do I find the results of the Greek election encouraging? It doesn’t hurt that Syriza’s leader and Greece’s new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, is an atheist with a rather defiantly informal demeanour, although it has to be said that he’s an atheist who is a bit distastefully cozy with Pope Francis and deferential to the Greek Orthodox Church. Atheists can be as daffy as anyone, of course, not to mention foolish, unscrupulous, lazy, paranoid, and many other things, but at least their – or rather our – lack of religious convictions dries up one common wellspring of daffiness.

More importantly, though, I just want Greece to get out of the wretched economic mess that the country has been floundering through for several years now. Yes, the misery and grinding poverty are partly self-inflicted, a result of the chickens of tax evasion and a bloated public sector coming home to roost – but only partly, and in any case enough is enough. It’s been a long time since the days of Plato and Aristotle, and even longer since the days of Homer, if indeed the man ever existed. Nevertheless, ancient Greece was a fount of achievements in philosophy, mathematics, literature and many other fields, and probably has a better claim than anywhere else to be called both the birthplace of reason and the birthplace of Western civilization. As a Western rationalist I feel a great affection for the place, perhaps similar to the affection that evangelical Christians tend to feel for Israel. I hope Greece gets back on its feet, sooner rather than later.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a communist. I wouldn’t be surprised if Syriza has some pretty unrealistic ideas about economics and other matters, but nothing I’ve read about the situation in Greece has suggested that austerity is leading to anything but further agony and dysfunction. It’s about time that the Greeks got off their knees and started pushing back, and I’m delighted to see an atheist leading the charge.

The Campaign to Abolish Blasphemy Laws, Worldwide

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http://iheu.org/end-blasphemy-laws-a-new-campaign/

Everything you need to know about “The Campaign to Abolish Blasphemy Laws, Worldwide” is available on one website: End Blasphemy Laws. The “About” section explains,

The End Blasphemy Laws Campaign is run by the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws and brings together individual people (like you!) and organizations that share the same goal: campaigning to repeal “blasphemy” and related laws worldwide.

CFI Canada and Humanist Canada have joined forces to lobby against the Canadian “blasphemy law” they, along with Association humaniste du Quebec and the BC Humanist Association, are the Canadian partners in the international coalition against blasphemy laws. A post on the CFI Canada website invites you to visit the End Blasphemy Laws website to access information and updates on “the world’s biggest anti-blasphemy coalition and campaigns.” As one of the founding members of  the international coalition against blasphemy laws,

CFI Canada is proud to be working with organizations around the world to call for an end to all blasphemy laws.

The international coalition against blasphemy laws has issued an invitation:

If your organization — whether religious or secular, human rights-based or otherwise advocating freedom of expression — supports the aims and strategy of the End Blasphemy Law Campaign, then please get in touch and join us.

As Eric Adriaans, National Executive Director of Centre For Inquiry Canada says,

“We defend and promote everybody’s right to discuss, criticise and ridicule ideas and beliefs, even when this offends other people. We have rights, our beliefs do not. We respect the right of people to democratically debate their opinion on freedom of speech issues.”

Let’s all be part of the We.

Recommended Reading

Ever since the odious terrorist attack against the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo on January 7th 2015, we have been told repeatedly that the cartoons published in that magazine are offensive, vulgar, provocative, etc. Is that really the case? David Rand

Atheist Freethinkers’ new site Atheology features David Rands blog post: “Charlie Hebdo Cartoons: Respectful of Muhammad.”

Rand

“Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists,” says, “It isn’t easy being liked by idiots…

Rand begins his post by saying,

The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo had and continue to have a reputation for producing drawings that shock. This is sometimes true, but it is far from always the case. In particular, the depictions of Muhammad in the magazine reflect on the contrary a very human and often friendly image, even a flattering one.

First, Rand outlines his “goal” in writing the post

to set the record straight regarding the nature of the controversial cartoons, i.e. whether and why they might be considered shocking. Or not. At the same time, I will explain how the refusal of many media to publish the cartoons is even more cowardly than one might think.

and explains,

I must emphasize that my purpose here is not to claim that these artists were and are “innocent” of producing offensive cartoons, as if to do so were a crime deserving of murderous repression. They are neither innocent nor guilty because blasphemy is not a crime in France and should not be one anywhere. There is absolutely nothing that could possibly justify the fate of the victims of this attack. The massacre was an atrocity; a religious, Islamic, Muslim atrocity perpetrated in the name of Islam; anyone who denies that must be morally and intellectually bankrupt. (My emphasis)

Rand goes on to fully support his claim that many of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons are respectful rather than offensive with an analysis of selected cartoons:

The cartoon below

shows a saddened and compassionate Muhammad.

#2and in this cartoon,

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Muhammad

is a jovial, good-natured chap

Rand concludes

As atheists, and thus rationalists, confident in the individual’s ability to practice free criticism, we do not hesitate to analyze objectively that which is put before us, rather than following the trend of demonizing that which others would hide from us. To judge the cartoons, the best approach is to display them and expose them to critical scrutiny, which is exactly the opposite of the religious attitude – and we know to what obscurantism such an attitude leads. In the West, freedom of thought and the right to express it are fundamental values which everyone should be proud to exercise: to defend and assert these freedoms is a necessary consequence of respect for oneself and for one’s own dignity.

If we do hesitate to analyze objectively that which is put before us because what is put before us makes us uncomfortable, we should analyze why we feel discomfort.

Is this cartoon offensive and vulgar?

Pope

tinyurl.com/nmqqdj5

No? Then tabarnac, why would people think the cartoons of Muhammad published by Charlie Hebdo are offensive and vulgar? Are they cowards? Are they intellectually bankrupt?

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