Preservation

I feel my blog posts can sometimes give mixed messages. This post probably won’t help, however I hope it can be relatable.

I watched a very eerie video today, I took two messages from it. Firstly, we are all hostage to time. Secondly, although I want to embrace the future I should not shun the past.

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The above image was taken in Texas, I cannot remember the exact area, it wasn’t far from Amarillo. A town with a pride in its history, the colours and design begging for my attention. Heck if history is something I want to evade, why would I spend so much time observing it? The truth being, I don’t want to shun history, I just want to see it as that. History.

As much fascination as I get learning of the Aztecs and Vikings, I would be pretty pissed off if I had to live like one today. I am more than willing to take aspects of history that are still of benefit today without feeling obliged to respect it all.

During the elevator ride up One World Trade Center, a fantastic animation displays New York City’s history in under one minute. St. Paul’s Chapel emerges very early in the animation and remains there for the duration. The Twin Towers emerge and fade away in a few short seconds.

It is astounding that a building designed in the 1700’s is still visited by tourists and a 20th century building was destroyed by terrorists with beliefs very fitting of the centuries past. I cannot deny the desire to keep such an old building standing. I can reject the beliefs that led to it being built.

I value history, always have and always will. Does this mean I should resort to history for answers to 21st century questions? Never have and probably never will. The future will be far too exciting. If we obsess over history we will never truly appreciate having what our ancestors didn’t.

 

Domination

Photo taken outside of the Texas State Capitol, Austin.

Many protesters we see on our streets are ones that are content with a world of sin, not asking questions of a God but of the sinful people that are a the direct result of Gods actions. I guess it could be compared to hating the robber that robbed your store although he had a gun to his head and had no other option…

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We are a species that fights for it’s rights, values freedom and evades oppression, usually when it is humans on the other end causing such inequality. Why not look at the person with the trigger finger? How effective would fighting for justice be in a world corrupted with sin overruled by a God that cannot do anything about it?

 

God and Death Row

I have been drawn into one of Youtube’s ‘Top Ten’ videos, I admit they are very addictive. The one I watched was ‘Top Ten Creepiest Websites… Part Two’. Judging by what I read I don’t want to check out Part One in a hurry. 

One website that got me was Goodbye, Warden. It is the last words of over 500 death row inmates. Some short, some made the most of their last breaths. Some remorseful, some still maintaining their innocence. Although I could not make my way through every single one, many that I did read were pretty religious. Here are a few examples,  some are just segments due to the length of their last words.

I just wanted to say thanks to all who have supported me over the years: Reverend Campbell, for my spiritual guidance; Aaron, the father of Darrian, my son; and Maurie, my attorney. Thank you everybody. This is not a loss, this is a win. You know where I am going. I am going home to be with Jesus. Keep the faith. I love y’all. Thank you, Chaplain

Grandmother, Lilia, and Robert; have hope for me. I am with God. Thanks for being with me and all of your love. Mom, take care of my daughter. Many kisses, Mom.

The guys back there waiting, keep the faith and stay strong and put your faith in the Lord. Many times in life we take the wrong road and there are consequences for everything. Mistakes are made, but with God all things are possible. So put your faith and trust in Him. 

From Allah we came and to Allah we shall return. I would like to give thanks for the unjust way my trial attorneys John Donahue and Frank Hollbrook purposely denied me a fair trial. I would like to thank Walter E. Reeves for bringing up claims that did not exist. Most importantly, I would like to thank John Hurley, who was suppose to be off my case but was granted to be back on. For those who kept agreeing with me, keep it real. y’all will always stay real in my heart. Barbara, I love you, Al and Paul, I love you. Jess and Chong, I love you now and forever. 

I am ready for the transition.

The inmates above were pretty religious, with the assumption that heaven is the fate that awaits them. It’s fascinating to read in a world in which many believers assume that religion is what keeps us from committing immoral acts. Are they believers because they have little else to cling to by this point, or were they religious all along? I guess we will never know…

An atheist in the Lone Star State

What does Bacon, Venus, Athens and London have in common? They are all places that some Texans call home. For a state that is capable of swallowing my entire country whole, it is no surprise that there are some cracking names to be found on the map.


Everything is bigger in Texas, right? During my 12 months there it was hard to disagree. Overly ambitious diners compete in the Big Texan 72oz steak challenge in Amarillo, the 102,000 capacity Kyle Field of Texas A&M. I doubt I will find a British equivalent. The English Premier League, the worlds most watched sports league, can only currently dream of a stadium of this size. It was interesting to compare the difference in sporting systems, university football (soccer) is unheard of in the UK, Google is quicker to find British University American Football teams.


The city skyscrapers, the vast canyons, the intense summer heat leading to miles of scorched fields and campfire bans, the unrelenting patriotism and national anthem at every opportunity, the State flag flown outside every other building… for my first experience of the United States it was by no means a let down. 


I lived in a college town in West Texas. I was offered an internship shortly after completing my university course, my J1 visa granting me 12 months of employment and one month to travel before flying home. I travelled with four classmates and it didn’t take us long to realise the English accent was a rarity there. Not that many believed we were English, our Geordie dialect is one they weren’t prepared for. For a bunch of twenty-one year olds, this soon turned into a blessing. 

As most of my time was spent with students from around the States, I wasn’t directly exposed to the Bible Belt belief of many locals. The contrast between the local community and students seemed apparent in a couple of ways. Humorously, I was watching an episode of the Jimmy Kimmel Show in which Lubbock was announced the city least interested in sex. A survey which can be read here on Lubbock Online was conducted by a dating site. This does not correlate with this Everything Lubbock article which suggests the cities STD rates are amongst the highest in the nation. Maybe it’s the city least willing to admit they have sex? Who knows. 


As the months went by, I found more and more examples of the high levels of religiosity I was expecting. I ended up collecting more Bibles than late night Whataburger receipts. The friendly Texan welcome was even seen in the Gideons after I told them I was an atheist. ‘I like you. You are going to Hell, but I like you’, was one response I received. Not that I particularly liked the person that was okay with this fate, I was at least able to have a two way conversation. 

I was comfortable telling people I was an atheist. It was still a shock to them, resulting in a reaction I was not used to in the UK. Even my then American girlfriend had questions and we had the occasional debate, this did not affect our relationship. I did hear stories of families being torn apart due to religion, well, more a family members choice to leave it behind. One of my colleagues knew of someone that was disowned by their parents for being an atheist.  How anyone can choose to abandon someone so close to them, choosing to remain loyal to a God that has never been so close, astounds me. Nevertheless it happens and this is why I blog. 

One road trip had us leave San Antonio for breakfast, hit Austin for lunch and end in Dallas for dinner. On route I remember a giant billboard spanning the road, reading:

‘They are commandments, not suggestions.’

Pretty eerie to encounter after hours of nothing but farms, fields and the occasional dustnado. Oh, and this huge replica of Jesus on the crucifix. I cannot remember where I found this, but it totally caught me off guard.


It still annoys me to think of that billboard. I would love to have met the church or organisation that had this put up, the anonymity of the sign meant my anger turned towards the Texan authorities for allowing such a message to further pollute the highway. Being on the road was an further eye opener to the levels of faith communities had. ‘Pray for rain’ was spray painted on the side of a barn, a message that clearly had little effect during the record braking heatwaves of 2011. Churches filled in their hundreds, I willingly attended a service one day in Dallas, sitting right at the back was no issue due to the widescreen TV’s and speaker systems. I opted out of putting money in the collection tray, well, because funding a religion that tells me I’m going to hell would be like an African-American picking a hooded hitchhiker up and giving him a ride to the next KKK rally. 

This being said, I loved the experience I had here. The people I met were some of the friendliest I will ever meet and I actually feel ashamed I have not been back. Texas is often given a hard time, on occasions this may be justified. Any destination is as fun as you make it and I made the most of what the Lone Star State had to offer. This wouldn’t have been possible without the awesome people I met there.

Oh, I would also recommend The Atheist Experience for any Texan atheists, or anyone looking for fun debate. Located in Austin they welcome anyone onto their show for discussions, sometimes with very interesting encounters. Their website can be found here.

We cannot choose skin colour, but we choose our religion 

Whilst the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed is still fresh in minds and making headlines, I would like to add my two cents.

To summarise, a 14 year-old muslim schoolboy designed a clock and took it to school. An impressive project indeed. The problem is, if this clock was left in a shopping mall or airport it would result in an evacuation. Then again what unattended item wouldn’t cause concern? The fact that it was a box containing wires turned heads and led to an arrest. Some say his ethnicity and religion turned heads quicker.

This didn’t stay a local headline. He has since been invited to the White House by President Obama.    

Many huge names including Mark Zuckerberg have supported Ahmed to keep building.   

Hilary Clinton tweeted that his arrest was a product of Islamophibia. Many believe teachers and police officers made some bad moves and were only fearful because he was indeed muslim.

The list of tweets with the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed is endless.

Dawkins has taken a seperate stance, refraining from using the above hashtag to the anger of many. He believes that Ahmed may be a fraud and that it could all be a hoax. A kid that knew what he was doing and now reaping the benefits from huge corporations. The problem with this stance is that if it isn’t true and Ahmed is genuine, it is bound to cause a lot of offence. 

I feel bad for Ahmed because he built a clock and was arrested as a result. If homework was handed out by teachers to build something and bring it to class, he did his homework. If he built it out of the blue and brought it in to the schools surprise, that is a different story. He is only 14 years old and kids do these things. Unfortunately kids don’t bring work outside of school into class enough.

If a major factor in an arrest is skin colour, this is wrong. People do not choose an ethnicity and their appearance should not be of concern. Religion is a choice. If religion plays a factor in an arrest we have to look at the reasons why such stigma has been attached to a religion. 

Bill Maher has caused mixed reactions from his take on the story which can be seen below.

Jorge Ramos states around the three minute mark that you cannot judge young Muslims for what others have done. Bill wants a little perspective on the incident and claims that one culture has been ‘blowing shit up’ more than others, meaning that teachers are justified to be cautious when a Muslim brings in a questionable package. The three other men on the panel, Chris Matthews, Mark Cuban and former Gov. George Patak seem to side with Bill. Why didn’t the kid state straight away what it was? Why let it get so out of hand? There are so many sides to the story any reasonable conclusion will have to wait until we know what exactly unfolded. Many YouTube comments question why the arrest was needed if they established it wasn’t a bomb, which is evident from the absence of bomb-threat procedures being carried out.

Bill isn’t putting this down to skin colour. He is putting it down to the belief system Ahmed chooses to believe. And this is something I can agree with. Religion isn’t something we are stuck with from birth. It is a lifestyle choice and a desision we make. Hopefully Ahmed is from a fairly moderate family and hasn’t been forced into belief, I would need to see evidence of that to assume. 

It is a shame that people are judged for what others of the same religion do, but that is why I left religion! I don’t want to be associated with anyone carrying out immoral acts. I am white British, I would hate to be associated with those that have bombed innocent civilians in the Middle East in an apparant war on terror. But would I be offended if someone from that region showed concern at my presence? No. We created that stigma, so I look at my fellow British and Americans to change our image. But we choose religions, and understand the stigma that is associated with said religion. I didn’t choose to be British.

Showing a little concern at actions made by someone of religion isn’t immoral in my opinion. So long as we do not make false claims or treat people unfairly. I am aware persecution and discrimination exists in this world and if this is down to ethnicity or sexual orientation, refrain from doing so. 

Religion should not be free from ridicule, the above should. I agree with Bill when he says Ahmed deserves an apology. But when we choose religion, we have to accept that stigma may present itself and on many occasions that does not develop externally, it comes from within the belief.