Proximity

It is an annual tradition that the Red Arrows perform a flyover of the quayside to signify the start of the Great North Run, the largest half marathon in the world. The Red Arrows make me happy. I feel a great sense of pride and awe when they do their thing, one year rudely waking me up as I slept in, the sound of those engines so close to the ground had me jump up in sheer panic thinking the building was collapsing. I checked the flight path this time around, instead of following the River Tyne from the west and flying over the famous seven bridges, they flew in formation from the north and directly over what would have been busy traffic had it not been for the 57,000 runners. I made it with a minute to spare (seriously, I was exhausted) to record them flying over. The above image isn’t a photograph but a screenshot of my video.

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I pass this hotel everyday. Sadly, two teenage employees went to Manchester on the 22nd of this month and did not make it home. I did not know them. I do however know two people that did make it back home safely. To think that world leaders and international superstars had these people in their thoughts in the past couple days is pretty surreal. As I have said previously with similar experiences, I am unsure whether its a sign of the times or spending longer on this planet that I feel such stories are seemingly closer to home.

I will be the first to admit I am incredibly lucky to live in a nation with relative peace and security. In no way do I believe otherwise. Some regions of Earth experience similar atrocities with relentlessness frequency and I can only attempt to fathom such hardships. This does not mean that I want to play down the severity of the losses experienced in Manchester, nor do I want to pretend I have no concerns of the potential for an increasing number of tragedies within the UK and Europe.

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The same building can be seen above, between the Sage on the left and the Tyne Bridge in the center. I feel this building will be a constant reminder that terror is becoming more of a norm, paired with the heavy armed presence at every busy venue this week. I want to talk about that. The fact that I had rarely seen officers with guns growing up and now it looks like my children will grow up feeling strange if they don’t see armed police.

Strangely, the more attacks I hear of the more I am forced to respect religion or be labeled a bigot. The more I want to talk about the perils of blind faith in the 21st century I can’t without people losing it, and I’m finding more and more reasons to do so. Saying that, I live in one of only a handful of nations in which we can speak out as atheists freely. Most people here are non-religious, with a reeaaallly big urge to hug theism when religion demonstrates a hatred for diversity and a desire for death. I won’t blame a whole religion, just the aspects that deserve it. I will make the most of life in a non religious country to speak up about a religion that I guarantee so many people would do too given the chance. If flogging, beating, murder, honour killings, prison time, torture and slavery weren’t repercussions for questioning reality for some people, I would have a lot more time for religion. Millions more would have time to be free.

I don’t want the light to go out on free speech. I want to see red, white and blue trailed in the air from the Red Arrows, not lighting up the Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building in sympathy after another attack. This of course is how I feel about every nation, I can only talk of mine. I trust that many of you are doing a great job fighting similar battles, keep fighting.

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Gone

‘While people are struggling unhappily in the cities against the cruel authorities, a waterfall happily and cheerfully flows in the nature; there is happiness only if there is freedom!’- Mehmet Murat İldan

You could argue that a waterfall is also obeying laws. That it isn’t free at all. These are pictures I snapped from both the Brazillian and Argentinian side of the Iguazú Falls during my trip to South America.

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Have you ever watched a leaf or branch make such a journey down a fall? Within seconds it goes from the edge above to the plungepool below. The sheer size of this thing makes a roar, despite every droplet of water contributing for only a brief moment. Humans are very similar. Our lives are like a waterfall, we only experience life very briefly, we come, we go, the roar is made from the societies we build along the way. The jet engines and police sirens, the subways and the laughter. We contribute as individuals yet not enough to make the whole thing fall apart once our contribution has ended.

What makes every drop of water different? Nothing really. What makes us differ from one another? Do we differ that much? This is one reason why I left religion.

I can’t be too individual nor do I want to. I don’t mind the clothes I wear and the food I eat, enough to refrain from creating or finding my own. I need society as much as it needs me. I want to make the most of my life without completely adhering to everything that is expected of me. I am not an atheist to be rebellious. I do it because I cannot live my life like water during its descent, making up the numbers and fitting in. Life is too short to believe what you are told to and to enjoy life in the same fashion. Life is too beautiful to only consider enjoying after asking permission from oppressive, religious minds.

 

I can’t escape the end, I can look on from a distance until the day comes that I am eventually swept away with it. Enjoy life and every breath until then.

Uprising

This blog is my punching bag. Instead of unleashing my thoughts and views onto social media accounts, I wanted to find a community that actually seeks similar conversation.

Thankfully I have found that here.

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I have nothing against social media, other than it’s ability to draw me into endless scrolling. It is the escape that so many people need in communities that would not accept them otherwise. It is the place in which certain people can be heard or want to finally have a voice without worrying about a backlash.

I have seen so many people defend religion in the aftermath of events. Lets not blame every theist for religious violence but what about the instances in which such criticism is justified? Religion cannot be moral all of the time. Lets take into account the millions of people suffering right now as you read this sentence. Those without rights, those punished for not abiding by controlling religious laws whether they want to or not. The slaughter of humanist bloggers and the enslaving of schoolgirls, the homosexuals thrown from rooftops and women punished for being raped. This is where my priorities lie. I do not mind offending those that aren’t exposed to such lives if it makes us think about the real victims. Those that aren’t offended when I tell them their beliefs are false because they are too busy being forced to believe.

Lets remember that an Arabic translation of The God Delusion has been downloaded over ten million times online. Thirty percent of downloads in Saudi Arabia alone. That is a shit tonne of underground reading.

I personally cannot wait for this atheist uprising, sadly I won’t live to see the year 2567.

I hope they party hard.

Critical

As can be seen from my walk today, the universe couldn’t give two hoots that our terror threat level has been raised to critical. Not that this raise in concern is without justification.

Summer is finally here and there is an understandably low mood after the Manchester bombing. Not that the sun cares. From natures perspective it’s a glorious day, completely conflicting with the moods of most people this morning. I choose to highlight this with an aim to change the myth that the universe cares about us. Depressing? I don’t believe so. The less we feel we are prioritised by the universe, we may start to value ourselves a little more.

As I yanked open the door last night as I have everyday for the past four years, I almost pulled my shoulder out. It didn’t open. The door leading to the back office at work is usually unlocked as I have already input a code to get there. This time I needed to put a second code in to get to the office. With the UK’s terror threat being raised to ‘Critical’, the company I work for had strict measures in place to ensure we adhered to this. It’s fascinating how fast the measures are in place, it must have been an hour after the announcement last night. 21st century communication is amazing, we receive such updates instantaneously, something that would have taken months or even years to pass on between communities centuries ago and on such a large scale.

I noticed more of a police presence yesterday and the sound of a police helicopter flying overhead for a period of time. Whether or not this is another measure or a separate incident, I do not know. Waking up the next morning, I feel two forces at work. One of beautiful nature, treating me to glorious sunshine and a very relaxed state of mind. The other, a conscious threat of human depravity, a constant reminder that another attack may be imminent.

What a weird conflict of feelings in such a strange world.

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.