Category Archives: Hindu

Acceptance of science – dangerous for some

In the UK The Independent is reporting that a Muslim scientist is being threatened for his acceptance of evolutionary science (see Scientist Imam threatened over Darwinist views). The scientist is Dr Usama Hasan, a physics lecturer at Middlesex University and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. His “crime” – he delivered a a lecture on “Islam and the theory of evolution” at his East London mosque, Masjid al-Tawhid.

Dr Usama Hasan, a physics lecturer, has received death threats from extremists - Credit The Independent

His lecture was disrupted by fanatics who distributed leaflets claiming that “Darwin is blasphemy”. Dr Hasan told The Independent: “One man came up to me during the lecture and said ‘You are an apostate and should be killed’” .

Hasan has now been forced to retract his claim that evolutionary science is compatible with Islam. His father has also issued a statement to the mosque saying: “”I seek Allah’s forgiveness for my mistakes and apologise for any offence caused.” And his family has urged him not to return to the mosque, where he is a prominent imam, because of their concern for his safety.

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Another chance to ignore our true religious diversity

nz-religious-diversity-bookI have written about New Zealand’s National Statement on Religious Diversity before. In fact, the problem of the discussion and formulation of this document was one of my initial incentives to start this blog (see Religious diversity includes “non-believers”).

This statement was prepared under the sponsorship of the NZ Human Rights Commission. The working group was composed of only representatives of religions and submissions from the non-religious (about one third of our population) were ignored. The final document almost completely ignores the existence of the non-religious. (For example artice 3: “THE RIGHT TO SAFETY. Faith communities and their members have a right to safety and security”).

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Police ignore non-religious

police-diversityWhenever I read about religious diversity these days my automatic reaction is that real diversity is going to be ignored. A big part of our true religious diversity is the fact that one third of New Zealanders declare themselves as non-religious. When these are ignored then our true diversity is ignored.

This happened with the National Statement of Religious Diversity which only gave lip service to this fact. It, for example, declared that:  “Faith communities and their members have a right to safety and security.” What does this imply about the safety of the non-religious?

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“Interfaith” blindness

There is a strange attitude towards religion in New Zealand. US President Obama can acknowledge that the pluralistic society includes people of various faiths and people with no faith (the non-religious). However our main political parties (National and Labour) seem unwilling to face that reality. At least, that’s how it appears in their interaction with the country’s “interfaith” movement.

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Mystical atheism!

Following the statistics of  a blog or website is interesting. One thing I have noticed is that the largest numbers of hits and comments occur during working hours. Obviously many people find blog activity an entertaining way of filling in their time at work.

Perhaps this is a healthy way of getting by. I’m all for it, anyway. But you can understand employers wanting to restrict this activity so as to extract even more surplus labour from their wage slaves. (On the other hand, I have a theory that employers often like to turn a ‘blind eye’. After all, an employee who feels guilty that they may be ripping the firm off is less likely to protest about the things that really matter – like wage levels and working conditions).

But have a look at this report – Council ban on atheist web sites. Apparently the Birmingham City Council has decided to block staff from accessing atheist web sites at work, while giving their blessing to those who wish to pursue their religion on-line. Lots of employers control access to the internet. But what about this explanation:

The authority’s Bluecoat Software computer system allows staff to look at websites relating to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions but blocks sites to do with “witchcraft or Satanism” and “occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism”.

Surely they have it the wrong way around. Surely “Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions” belongs with “occult practices, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism”.

We know that atheism doesn’t!

While on the subject of corporate IT – have a look at this video on the medieval help desk

Help desk – introducing the book (2 min 40 sec)

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Non religious in Australia and New Zealand

Australian-New Zealand CensusHere’s an interesting question?

New Zealanders and Australians have a lot in common. We think of ourselves as sibling nations. We often tell jokes about each other (I must say, however, that Australian jokes about Kiwis usually involve sheep and don’t seem funny to me).

But look at the figures for religious affiliation taken from census data. Why are the “no relgion” results lower in Australia than New Zealand? And the “Christian results correspondingly higher?

NZ Religion question

(OK, we may have jokes about this – but seriously).

Well, have a look at the actual census questions about religion asked in the two countries.

Notice that the “no religion” choice is at the top of the list in New Zealand question (number 18 – grey) but buried at the bottom in the Australian question (number 19 – orange).

Do Australians opt for a religion in their census answers because they don’t , at first glance, notice the “no religion” option?

Does the Australian census overestimate religiosity?
See also:
Christianity – a declining population.

Similar articles:
Religious diversity includes “non-believers”
Trends in religious belief in New Zealand
New Zealand supports evolution
God’s not as popular as we thought

Interfaith dialogue to fight against human rights

I have usually argued in favour of interfaith dialogue – but with the proviso that the dialogue should also include the non-religious. What is the point of discussing issues like human rights, terrorism, etc., without including representatives of all ethical beliefs?

In fact, interfaith dialogue which specifically excludes the non-relgious could have dangerous consequences.

This possibility is raised by the appeal of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for “a dialogue among monotheistic religions.” He sees this dialogue as having the purpose “… to come up with ways to safeguard humanity.”

This sounds all well and good – until you discover what he wants to safeguard humanity from: “the disintegration of the family and the rise of atheism in the world – a frightening phenomenon that all religions must confront and vanquish.”

According to the King this “is an unacceptable behavior to all religions, to the Koran, the Torah and the Bible. We ask God to save humanity. There is a lack of ethics, loyalty and sincerity for our religions and humanity.”

“Disintegration of the family” are codewords in some religious traditions for the extension of human rights to women.

So we have an appeal for interfaith dialogue with the express purpose of removing the human rights of women and the non-religious – or preventing establishment of these and similar rights in many countries.

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The future of religion

Two recent newspaper articles provide some hope for the future. They deal with the changing nature of religion throughout the world and in the USA.
Alan Wolfe in his Atlantic Monthly article The coming religious peace writes that although many people fear the possibility of rising religious fundamentalism and conflicts “many areas of the world are experiencing a decline in religious belief and practice.” Wolfe argues that although secularisation may not appear inevitable to many commentators the facts do indicate “that material progress is slowly eroding religious fervor.”

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Secular believers

The teaching of religion in schools is currently under discussion in New Zealand (see NZ Human Rights Commission discussion document Religion in schools). For many there is a conflict between “religious instruction (the old way limited to Christianity) and teaching about religion (where children are taught about all the relevant religions). Teaching about religion should provide opportunities for encouraging tolerance and understanding. It would also fit well into values teaching as described in The New Zealand Curriculum (see also
In Praise of the New NZ School Curriculum).

However, teaching about religion would be a travesty if the non-religious or secular ethical systems were ignored, given the large numbers of non-religious in our society (see Trends in religious belief in New Zealand and God’s not as popular as we thought). Unfortunately many religious and political leaders make this assumption of exclusion and the Human Rights Commission discussion document also ignores this group. Maybe this indicates that many religious people still fear secular ethical beliefs.

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Religious diversity and human rights

Over the Solstice/New Year holiday, and while blogging activity is low, I am reposting some of my previous articles. Comments are still welcome.

The United Nations Organisation can do it. The Norwegians can do it. But the USA can’t. Neither can we in New Zealand. I refer to the ability to recognise the common values of humanity, irrespective of religious belief, and therefore the possibilities of common action to overcome social and political problems.

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