Solace.

It is a shame that as I grow older, I feel safer in areas away from people. This should not be the case, it has always been safer to hunt in packs. Now, the busier the venue, the more uncomfortable I feel.

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Shortly after hearing of last nights attack my mum called, as is often expected after such an event. She told me she was about to call my sister and wish her luck as she is going climbing today… and to stay safe. I reassured her that I am much more content with my sister climbing a mountain than walking through a city.

How perceptions change. I do not know if this is a sign of the times or my realisation that humans can be pretty awful, more than I knew in the bubble we all grow up in as children. Nature can be brutal, but it isn’t brutal to intentionally cause suffering. This is why I cannot hate a violent storm or natural disaster, as tragic as they may be I take comfort in knowing that it wasn’t due to evil. Lightening doesn’t strike to scare you and the rain doesn’t pour to bring you down. It may scare you and bring you down but without the sadistic intention. Some people may believe such events are repercussions for human decisions, not that I have time for those people.

I am having a 24-hour withdrawal from social media today and all of the opinions, claims and blames that will no doubt be forming after yesterdays news.

Today, give me a beach, calm waters and a dog and I am happy.

Ignorance

The walk must have been a mile from the subway station to the Maracanã Stadium. On route, there was an armed guard every 100 yards or so, observing every spectator walking through what must have been the most heavily guarded public road in the world that day.

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Not that I found this intimidating, I felt reassured if anything. Behind the soldiers, a tank or army vehicle. Behind that, a deserted residential area with what I can only assume were snipers or security with an advantageous view, standing on the roofs of high rises. It’s fascinating listening to debates regarding terror. Listening to apologists telling me that the threat isn’t enough for me to discuss religion. I found it hard to consider this opinion whilst walking through the Brazillian armed forces. I wasn’t going into war, just the opening ceremony of Rio 2016.

Look at the drastic measures needed to keep us safe. Admittedly, this was a huge event. It could be argued that such a presence would be necessary regardless of what age we are in and the societal problems that manifest, however as Manchester is a couple of hours drive from me, I wouldn’t be surprised to see armed police walking around my city today. I have seen such measures taken after similar events Europe, today will be no different.

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Last night, as I am sure you are aware, there was a suicide bombing during a concert in Manchester. Multiple deaths, many more injuries. I know a girl that attended, thankfully she posted on Facebook of her safety shortly after the incident. As much as I tried to prevent it, I glanced at the continuous posts related to the incident and got exactly what I expected. It always seems to be one of two extremes. ‘Extremes’ may be a little extreme, feel free to let me know of your opinion.

On one hand I see a lot of sympathy towards religion and believers, highlighting that many Muslim taxi drivers helped escort people to safety and that if all Muslims wanted death, we would indeed be dead. In the other corner, right wing memes and ‘Close the borders!’ style comments. Can I take a little middle ground? It is hard to stray slightly from the far left without being seen as someone sprinting into the racist/ bigot corner. Can I please talk about the fact that despite the kind actions of theists, theism breeds violence? A danger that is seen as a gateway to paradise for some? A gateway desired by one person that can affect the lives off hundreds, even thousands of people that fatefully cross such a path?

I want to talk about religion and the fact that both good and bad people can read from the same book, only different pages. I want to discuss whether or not such a book is relevant in today’s world. As much as I respect the taxi drivers that turned off their meters to ensure safety was a priority, I want to talk about 21st century life involving terrorists that wake up and feel it is a good day to explode. I want to ask why a criticism of religion is more of a threat to some than the religious minorities killing those that criticise religion.

I do not feel like a bad person for asking such questions, I just think about a world in which our children can attend sporting and music events without the risk of being blown up. If that offends instead of inspiring conversation, then that’s too bad.

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Tastes

I want to enjoy life as much as this lady is enjoying food. Have you ever seen so much joy?

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I admit that I was a little apprehensive when on my first visit to an Islamic nation. I did not know how much I would stand out nor what I would do that may be considered rude or disrespectful. Can I have a beer in public? Can I wear shorts? Not that I feel this should be the case, I have made it clear in previous blog posts that we are a world full of petty people that are easily offended. If I want a beer in public, why can’t I? Nations such as Saudi Arabia carry heavy punishments for smuggling or drinking alcohol in public, with public flogging or even the death sentence used as punishment. When sipping a beer is worse than flogging the drinker, I remember why I blog.

Malaysia did a great job of putting my mind at rest. Despite the obvious religious influence I went about my day as I would in the UK without turning any heads. Even in the areas in which I did not see another Westerner, it was as if I was invisible, in a good way. No one looked at me as any different or as an outsider. I walked around the great food stalls and enjoyed what was different about myself and the citizens of this beautiful nation.

Is it arrogant desire a free pass around nations without worry? I personally do not think so. If my tastes are different, great. If yours are too, fantastic. As long as we can address when our personal tastes affect the welfare of others. Sadly, I feel religion gets in the way of such discussion. Religious morality has already been decided. The words won’t change on the pages of scripture, just interpretations. This is why I left scripture behind, it made my life easier.

Too often I encounter the argument that without religion, morality goes out of the window. What morality? I hear of death and destruction everyday in a world made of up of an overwhelming amount of theists. This is conclusive proof that religion is not the recipe for a peaceful world. I don’t know how many times I have to walk past religious people without killing them before atheism is no longer a fear.

In Malaysia, atheism is illegal. It is also punishable by death, however I would need insider knowledge as to what lengths authorities go to prevent people leaving religion. I feel strange praising any nation that takes away my right to think. How am I expected to respect this world when so many regions would happily kill for a difference of opinion?

I try my best. Thankfully citizens are often more tolerant than the governments they are ruled by, thank you for that.

 

 

Clarity

‘He has made it quite clear to you that he exists. You are acting like a fool.’

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It was only when I uploaded the above image onto this blog post that I realised this wasn’t a photograph at all. It looks more like a painting. Did I take it and change the filter? Did I take a snap of a painting? I have many photos from a similar height and location, I am just unsure of this one. With the bright sunshine pouring onto the main road below and onto the roofs of every building around it, I wanted to associate this with the comment I received recently.

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Another that I found from the same day, it seems to be the image quality after upload. It adds something to the image I guess. But I don’t want to drift away from the original claim that I am a fool. Let’s get back to that.

The sun is shining.

Check.

I am aware that the sun is shining.

Check.

It would seem to be a foolish move to associate this with anything other than nature. Countless religions and civilizations have claimed this to be the work of their God. I am pretty damn sure, given the chance to converse with anyone from any of these belief systems, I would be considered a fool for not coming to the same conclusion as they did. The problem is, which God is making it clear that he exists? Amaterasu? Apollo? Mithras? Ra? Your God makes it as clear as any other of his or her existence. The problem is, he or she does not make it clear at all, or at least as clear as any other.

I will never be satisfied with such a God. If a deity can only prove his or her existence through nature, it is not clear that he or she exists. That is, unless your God looks like a yellow ball in the sky and requires you to wear sun-cream. I can claim that Ra is my God and already I have an argument of equal validity. It is obvious isn’t it? All you need to do is look up, just remember to put your shades on. He speaks to me, he hasn’t spoken to you? Maybe you aren’t listening. Pray harder.

The problem isn’t that I am foolish enough to ignore the signs, it is that the signs are so vague they can be associated with anything. Please do not be foolish enough to see signs when there aren’t any.

A God needs to clarify their own existence if they truly want to prove themselves against the competition. There is a reason why so many deities still exist on our small world, a lack of such clarity.

Superiority

For a species that believes it is superior, nature gives humans very little time to prove it and finds an incredible number of ways to wipe us out. I took this photo in a park in Rio, I’m unsure what tree it is although I was fascinated by the size of its roots. The people below aren’t exactly noticeable.

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We are the best. The most intelligent, or so I’m told. On many occasions it’s justified. Despite this the universe only gives us a mere few decades to prove our claims of superiority, nowhere near the lifespan of a bristlecone pine tree or a giant tortoise, the former outliving civilisations and countless beliefs systems with that. 

I don’t think it is depressing to think so, more humbling. We need to be humble, the more willing we are to accept this the less we will try to prove our worth by making false claims about our place in the universe.

I’m proud of my species, it’s just crazy to consider the sheer number of things that out-live us, without having a book dedicated to them either. 

Fear

Before any flight, I have a few drinks at the bar. I am no alcoholic however if I was to have a job requiring frequent air travel, I may well become one.

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I’m not the guy in the above photo, by the way. It is a friend looking pretty relaxed on our way to a festival a couple of summers back. The sunshine didn’t cease, sadly neither did our sunburns. This weather is always a shock to our northern English skin.

I fear flying, I also love flying. I am no good with heights and the fact that -50c temperatures, 600 mph windspeeds and a 35,000 ft drop is right outside the window I’m looking out of, both astounds and terrifies me. The most extreme of extremes right there, with the odd temporary distraction whilst cabin crew hand me an orange juice. I understand that flight is so reliable that this is a pointless worry. It doesn’t help. Despite my concerns I make myself look out of the window. I tell myself that I am one of the first generations of humanity to ever experience what earth looks like above the clouds. I can travel anywhere within a day if I can afford it, to lands that my ancestors didn’t know existed.

For this reason I make myself fly. I want to experience what is unique to modern day humans. At the same time, it is frightening to consider how far behind we are. To consider that I will fly over nations that would have me killed for my opinions. Some nations still burn ‘witches’. Our technology is growing faster than our own intelligence, distance and tolerance need to coincide. With more and more people travelling overseas I can only hope we are forced into a more tolerant mindset, I guess I could advertise blogging to those that are easily offended by a differing culture. It is better to vent anger in words on a blog post than to blow up the interior of an aircraft mid flight.

Who knew militant atheism could sound so good?

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I appreciate anyone that is willing to read my ramblings of life, travel, religion and atheism. Last night I received my four hundredth follower, and for that I am very grateful. If I was to invite you all to a party in celebration it would take a couple of 757’s. Or enough people to fill 400 of our bright red British telephone boxes. It sounds great to say that 😉

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Photo Credit: Daryan Shamkhali at Unsplash
Hopefully when I fly on an A380 in September to Sydney via Singapore I can boast a following that would be enough to fill that, too. One can dream and no-one can stop that!

Cheers everyone,

Sam