Sunday, October 24, 2010

The disease metastasizes in Australia as well

The September 11 anniversary passed relatively peacefully and without incident in the United States, thankfully. I was quite apprehensive that the October 12 anniversary of the Bali bombings (among whose victims were Australians) would be marked by Islamophobic attacks and generalised hatred against migrants. Thankfully, that anniversary also passed without any major upsurge in xenophobic atrocities. The Bali bombings main victims and targets were Indonesians, but that point seems to have escaped the corporate media megaplex. But the main point I want to raise here is let's not become complacent and pretend the malaise has gone away. The hatred is still simmering beneath the surface.

So while I am on this topic of Islamophobic hatred, let's not forget that this disease is metastatizing in Australia, becoming a generalised xenophobia of migrants and refugees. The following is an excellent summary of the whole 'ground zero mosque' contrived uproar by Gary Leupp, a professor of history at Tufts University: chronology of a bizarre controversy.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a perceptive commentator on race relations, migration and politics in Britain. Her observations about the ongoing attacks on Arab and Muslim Americans applies equally to the Australian context.

It seems that we are just as two-faced as the United States.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The hateful underbelly of American life

Islamophobia is truly alive and well, exposed in all its grotesque horror in relation to the controversy over the proposed 'ground zero mosque', which actually is not a mosque, and is not actually at ground zero.

I was watching this controversy unfold from Sydney, and let me get this right: a plan to build Cordoba House, a Islamic complex which includes a child-care centre and an auditorium, is regarded as a threat why? Republican Right elements have launched a vicious racist campaign invoking the memory of the September 11 atrocities to stir up the ugliest anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments.

The Cordoba house is not going to be located at ground zero, but in a disused warehouse. So this vacant building has become 'ground zero' for Islamophobic hatred. We can expect the Republican Right windbags to whip up hateful sentiments. But what has President Obama done? He has done his customary flip-flop. After making some tame, weak comments to the effect that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as they see fit, he later 'clarified' his statements saying that he was not commenting on the wisdom of the decision to build the Cordoba house in its current location.

Well, as an atheist, I am opposed to religious ideology, but I will not join the racist, Islamophobic hate campaign. On the contrary, heightening anti-Muslim hate only makes society even more vicious, with various nationalities corralling themselves into tribal zones, ready to inflict damage on the perceived 'outsiders'. I think we are seeing the emergence of a 'green hate' campaign. While Islamophobia predates September 11, there is a new phenomenon rearing its ugly head. The simplisitic and hateful equation between Islam and violence - indeed that one equals the other - has gained new currency in the mainstream corporate-controlled media. This is something qualitatively new; a new level of acceptable hatred.

Well, I am going to link to this atheist cartoon, thanks to the Canadian Secularist.

It is easy to condemn the outsiders or foreigners for their purported intolerance, while actively encouraging the hatred taking root in our very midst.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Victor Stenger

Victor Stenger is a physicist and philosopher at the University of Colorado. I strongly recommend his articles and books because they are a brilliant exposition of the case for atheism and scepticism. One of the subjects that he takes on is the 'fine-tuning' argument.

The argument roughly goes like this; the complexity and orderliness of the universe cannot possibly be the result of pure chance, surely there was a designer, a god, who purposefully designed the universe and life as we know. Surely natural causes are not sufficient to produce the wondrous universe in which we live.

Normally I have linked to web pages, but today I want to link to an article in portable document format (PDF). Stenger does an admirable job of taking on the fine-tuning arguments, and will let the essay speak for itself. However, I want to make one point here. If the universe's constants are fine-tuned, why is the overwhelming majority of the universe a vast expanse of territory which is inhospitable (positively hostile) to the emergence of life? Humans have only been on this planet for a tiny minority of the Earth's 13.7 billion-year history. The Earth has been bombarded with asteroids, undergone mass extinctions, with the majority of species that have existed being wiped out in cataclysmic events. And all this time, the all-powerful loving god just sat there and did nothing? What kind of god is this that is omnipresent and omniscient, yet just allows massive catastrophes and calamities to befall their purported creation? Worse still, when life's very existence is threatened, this designer does nothing in their power to stop extinctions or do anything to avert a catastrophe.

Quite a cruel, sadistic god if you ask me.

You can read Stenger's essay here.