Sunday, November 21, 2010

Same Faces Everyday


It's strange how you can see the same people everyday on the subway in such a large city like New York. I used to think that everyday I saw different people on my commute to work. I usually don't notice who I ride the train with, but recently I have started to see the same people on the subway everyday. I've gone through this routine of riding the train into the city every morning, so many times. I've almost always worked in Manhattan. However, it hasn't been until now, that I've started to notice the same faces on the train on my way into Manhattan.

There are so many immigrants where I live, mostly Asians and Latinos. They seem almost in a way, anonymous to me. Most of them are the rednecks of their country, if you will. They are from the countryside and rural areas. They come here to work, many of them illegally. Most are totally out of style, and can't speak english. They are the type of people that I usually never notice. They all look similar, and they all look different at the same time.

7 million riders everyday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Conversation


We sat talking at the edge of the bar, oblivious to the noise around us. She was a pretty young brunette who had just transferred here from California. I was an overworked, jaded New Yorker in need of some Friday night beguilement. "I work in advertising" she says, barely audible. "Oh nice" I respond, "So what's better, New York or L.A.?" This question is one I frequently ask everyone I meet who moves to New York from L.A. I'm always comparing people's experience of New York to that of where they grew up. "Well," she says digging deep into her little mind, "New York is more convenient because everything is close by. And, you don't have to drive everywhere." I feign interest and pretend like her point is something I haven't heard. Unfortunately, I've heard it all.

I, the jaded New Yorker, have had this conversation one too many times. It's gotten to the point where, I already know what they're going to say. To spice things up, sometimes I play the guessing game, where I guess where they're from, or their ethnicity or religion. Just the other week, I correctly guessed two girls were Jewish just by knowing what neighborhood they grew up in.

Then suddenly, the conversation got interesting....

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Over Employment


I have a new job, as a Technical Support Analyst, and it is taking a considerable amount of my free time. That's why I haven't been blogging as often recently. I am now over employed. It's quite the opposite from what 15 million unemployed Americans are currently undergoing. The job market appears to be getting better, but still not where it needs to be. My new job is with a software company, whose technical support is located in Manhattan. I've thought about why they haven't outsourced this position. A few years back, I got extremely infuriated when I began learning that many U.S. companies are outsourcing positions to cheaper labor markets.

It really enraged me to think, that even a college education, is no barrier to unemployment. A good paying job that required a college degree, or at least some technical training, could easily be sent to a person just as qualified, in another country. He or she will of course, be payed less than the person performing the same job in the U.S. This is a threat to millions of good paying, skilled jobs in the U.S., and a problem that will not disappear anytime soon.

For now I have a job and I'm making good money. I can move up the ladder using the skills I have learned to get an even better, higher paying position in the future. This country does reward hard work, and all I simply want is to make sure it stays that way.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Post Debate: Hitchens Vs. Ramadan


So I went and saw the Hitchens/Ramadan debate: Is Islam a Religion of Peace? After the debate I got the chance to get Hitchens' autograph on two of his books that I have. I even made him laugh when I joked that one of the versions of his book that is a different size was the King James version. I told him that I'm a huge fan, and he replied "don't be a fan, don't be a fan." He doesn't like followers or "fans." I'm not sure what term he prefers for those who respect him. I also managed to get a really, really bad photo of him and me as he was autographing the books, but it's so blurry it's almost useless. I shook his hand and said "thank you sir" and he gave me a weird look, almost that of discontempt, at my fawning over him. I don't think he wants his fans to worship him like a religious figure or god, like the ones he so deeply criticizes, rather I think he wants critics who'll challenge him.

About the debate itself it wasn't what I expected. I mean there was meat in it, no doubt, so I'm not saying it was void of substance. They never actually analyzed the Qur'an's verses itself, especially the really violent ones, and from that I'm a bit disappointed. Instead, Hitchens focused on critiquing Islam's claim to be the answer for everything, and to being impeccable on every level, while notoriously not being able to handle criticism very well. The audience was pretty much all for Hitchens, and they cheered wildly when he ended his rebuttal on saying what we need is a secular government, with a godless constitution, and not Islam.

Tariq Ramadan replied, when asked during the Q and A if Islam's goal is to have the world living under Sharia Law eventually, he beat around the bush but basically answered yes. I almost couldn't believe it. It's been a fear of many critics of Islam, including me, that Muslims want to slowly populate the West, peacefully, and then when the time is right, when they have enough Muslims in power, try to impose their religious based laws on the people. I'm pessimistic of the future, when I say that I think the West and Islam are locked in an ideological battle, that might only just be getting started, that we and our children will have to be engaged in for our entire lives. That's why I think Atheist like me should become more outspoken, and shouldn't hide our beliefs, and when cornered, show the enemy no mercy.

Hitchens clearly won the debate, but even Tariq Ramadan and Hitchens both admitted that the question whether Islam was a religion of peace, was poorly chosen. Tariq said Islam is about life, to which war and death are sometimes a part of. Islam is suppose to encompasses everything, he says. Tariq is very good at giving very political answers and avoiding questions head on. He is also trying to take the position as the western-friendly, "moderate" Muslim, but I'm not buying it. I think his sympathy and loyalty will always be with Islam, no matter what passport he holds, or what cosmopolitan city he currently resides in. He may be cultured in the West, but he'll always be a Muslim.

So it was a great debate that I wish had lasted an hour longer. I fucking met Hitchens, my hero, and two days later I saw Sam Harris give a lecture on morality and science. So, this past week I saw half of the big 4 Atheists, the so called "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." I love living in the Secular Metropolis!

Here's a clip from the debate:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Religion: The One Issue That Just Won't Go Away (For Me)


Hmmm. How long has it been since I wrote about religion? Not that long. It seems most of my posts are about god and religion. I dabble in other subjects as well, but god and religion are my main themes. After all this blog is entitled "Atheism and the City," not "Atheism and the City and Other Things."

Islam today is with out a doubt the most controversial religion out there. I just wrote a critique about its beliefs in my last post "The 'Infidel's' Guide to Islam." I intend to make it into a pamphlet or a booklet to be passed out. The Islamic concept of god and the universe is one I have tremendous antagonism for. A Muslim friend of mine once gave me a book called A Brief Illustrated Guide To Understanding Islam by I. A. Ibrahim. He told me it has scientific explanations that "prove" the Qur'an is true. I took it home and threw it on a shelf were it sat, collecting dust for almost 5 years. Then, when my infatuation with religion and god sprang front and center a few years back, I took it off the shelf, blew several layers of dust off of it, and began reading it.

The guide is basically a vain attempt to try to convince the modern, post-scientific, yet impressionable individual, that Islam and the Qur'an can be scientifically proven to be true. It cites evidence in climatic, geographic and biological realms, that point to verses in the Qur'an that explain some previously unknown information. It asks how could Mohammad have known this before science confirmed it? Well the Greeks and Chinese made some hypotheses that later turned out to have been true before the advent of modern science. That doesn't prove any of them were prophets. In short, if you throw a lot of mud at the wall, some of it is going to stick. What about all the contradictions in the Qur'an (that you can read about in my last post) and all the beliefs it gets wrong? I'm not going to dwell too much on the supposed "proofs" in the guide because they are so superficial, that they are laughable to any person with reason and a tiny bit of skepticism.

The guide further explains some concepts about Islam that I had not previously known. It mentions that if one converts to Islam, all their previous sins are forgiven by Allah, just for converting. I see this as an obscene attempt to bribe believers of other faiths, that they can start out on a clean slate and suffer no consequence to any immoral action they might have performed, no matter how great. From the book it says "The Prophet said: Didn't you know that converting to Islam erases all previous sins?" What can be more immoral that that? You mean I can be a thief and a rapist, perhaps committed one or two murders, and my responsibility to these actions will simply be deleted, like so many useless spam emails, upon conversion to Islam? I guess the Muslims is forced to believe that whatever Allah does is moral, and is granted no opinion on the matter.

Another problem I have with the Islamic concept regard attitudes aimed at the non-believer, which I have already mentioned in my last post, but I'll add further. In the Islamic concept, no non-believer can ever be moral. The way to salvation in Islam is toward Allah. An analogy would be as if we are all on a giant highway headed toward Allah, who is at the end. There are various exits to the left and right that lead to sin and lead away from Allah, some of them being other religions. This is an example I heard from one Islamic scholar. There doesn't seem to be a path one can take that is righteous, that doesn't involve Allah. Take a person, for example, who volunteers with out pay to help those less fortunate, stays committed to their spouse, and never hurts anyone else intentionally, basically an all around morally sound person. But, they don't believe in Allah. Where is this person on the highway analogy? They haven't deviated with sin and hedonism, they just don't accept Islam. According to Islam, to my humble knowledge, Allah has no mercy for those who disbelieve, and he affirms this over and over again. I don't think he makes an exception even for those righteous, noble and humble. No, rather the Islamic concept of non-believers is that they are all filthy, corrupt, evil-doers who deserve to be thrown in the hellfire forever.

Finally, the idea of eternal hellfire is another concept, though not unique to Islam, that I have tremendous disdain for. The idea of anyone, being tortured in the most horrible ways imaginable, for eternity is something I just can't wrap my head around. The most horrible, evil person I can think of from history would have to be Joseph Stalin. He organized the mass murder and torture of tens of millions of his fellow countrymen, and then some. And all of this, with complete and utter indifference to their suffering. Stalin was a megalomaniac sociopathic madman. But even he in my opinion would only deserve a finite amount of torture and misery for what he did, say, a life sentence for everyone he had killed. But the idea, that an atheist child who happens to die in an accident, who was not a believer, gets the same amount of torture for the same amount of time, as Stalin or Hitler, is somehow justice under an infinitely intelligent and moral supernatural being, is I think itself, immoral. Recently Christians and Muslims have negated this by saying god makes exceptions, and judges individuals by what they know, and their overall morality. This stands in stark contrast to what theists have been saying for hundreds of years, and that is that the only way out of hell is through one religion and the teachings of one prophet. Now, some theists are backing away from this in light of our modern liberal moral ethics. Furthermore, if god made frequent exceptions that righteous non-believers can get into heaven, then there is really no real need to be a Christian or a Muslim, or religious at all. All one would need to be would be morally sound. So the theist who takes the new approach on divine judgment, is in a way negating the advantage of their faith. Hmm. These are problems for the theist to reflect upon, not the atheist.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The "Infidel's" Guide to Islam



Introduction

When asked, “Is Islam a religion of peace?” what should one reply? We are often told by the politically correct western media, that Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by extremists who have perverted it, and have used it to justify violence. In a way that’s the media’s job, but those who aren’t in the position of having to make everyone happy, as our news media and politicians often are, can say with confidence that the aforementioned assumption is simply not true. Islam is clearly not a religion of peace by definition, because it justifies violence and unfathomable hatred. A religion that ever justifies violence cannot be considered a religion of peace.

The purpose of The “Infidel’s” Guide to Islam is to educate the nonbeliever or “infidel” (as some Muslims say), to the truth about Islam and what it says. Here you will find the information you need to contradict the lies often told by those who profess the faith, and its sympathizers. This pamphlet is not urging any violence or discrimination towards Muslims in any way, shape or form. Rather, this pamphlet will arm you with knowledge and debate as your primary weapon over the false claims made that are used to spread this religion, and lie to its critics. Do not be the stereotypical ignorant westerner who knows nothing of Islam or its history. Muslims are counting on you being ignorant of the truth of Islam, its history and its culture. This guide is designed as an introduction for non-Muslims to be educated for the ideological debate between Islam (submission) and western liberal democracy (freedom) that simply have irreconcilable differences. How long do we have to tolerate the intolerant?

-Surely the vilest of animals in Allah's sight are those who disbelieve -Surah 8:55

Islam on “Infidels”

What does Islam say about those who don’t blindly submit to the “revelation” of Mohammad? Islam contains two sacred texts, one is the Qur’an, the central book considered by Muslims to be the literal word of god (Allah), and the other is the Hadith, which are the written sayings and teachings of the Islamic “prophet” Mohammad. When one reads the “holy” Qur’an he or she will quickly find a plethora of insults, hatefulness, and utter disdain towards all non-Muslims. In the Qur’an, Allah has absolutely no tolerance or sympathy, and has reserved a special place in hell for the infidel. All the good deeds any non-believer does is worthless in the eyes of god (5:5). Behold what this supposed “religion of peace” says for the fate of non-Muslims:

Those who deny their lord, for them will be cut out a garment of fire: over their heads will be poured out boiling water. With it will be melted what is within their bodies, as well as their skins.


The Qur’an further says, as if that’s not enough torture:

In addition there will be maces of iron (to punish) them. –Surah 22:19-21

Only the sickest, most sadistic reader gets pleasure by contemplating the torments of non-Muslims, and rejoices in their discomfort. I wonder what goes on through the mind of the Muslim when he or she reads these verses.

When it comes to Jews and Christians the “holy” Qur’an says:

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled. The Jews say, "Ezra is the son of Allah "; and the Christians say, "The Messiah is the son of Allah ." That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?  
 –Surah 9:29-30

The Qur'an says that Christians and Jews are to be trusted or tolerated (2:109) but also says numerous times that they are not to be trusted and association with them will lead to unbelief (3:100) and that it is better not to befriend them (5:51). These contradictions are more evidence that the Qur'an is man-made and comes from the mind of one deluded man.

And to polytheists the message is somewhat more severe:

Fight and slay the Pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers, and pay Zakah (charity), then open the way for them, for Allah is oft-forgiving, Most merciful.              
-Surah 9:5


There is a complicated relationship we are told in the Qur'an of how Muslims are supposed to deal with polytheists. Before Islam, Arabia was mostly full of polytheists, and when Islam got started it castigated the perceived idol worship of many pagan traditions. This lead many to see Islam as a threat to their ways and conflict inevitably broke out. Treaties were created and the Qur'an says that if the pagans honor the treaty they are not to be harmed (9:4) but as Surah 9:5 says above, once the treaty period is over, the pagans are to be killed if they do not submit to the codes of Islam.

It seems to be that the wager one must make, given a powerful Islamic force is: Islam, or death. True the restrained infidel has a choice and is not physically forced to convert, for it must be sincere. However, given the circumstances, who can argue that this is really a free choice, when the alternative is death? So as you can see, there is clear justification for violence and war against non-believers, and lethal intimidation for conversion to Islam.

Sure you’ll hear the opposing view that in the Qur’an it says “if any one slew a person…it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people” (Surah 5:32). I’m not denying that there are messages of peace in Islam, but the messages of hate toward the non-Muslim far out-weighs the few messages of mercy. In truth the Qur’an is full of contradictions to its own claims, which I will address in a later chapter. The Islamic god is a god who hates, whose love is purely conditional. One can literally pick a random page of the Qur’an and start reading and within a few pages or so, hit a sour note on Allah’s view toward the non-believer where sadistic details ensue. Eventually it gets to the point of utter redundancy.

If you’re a non-Muslim, it means that Muslims worship and condone a god who quite literally gets off on the idea of you being sadistically tortured forever upon your death. Some Muslims no doubt rejoice on the thought of the infidel’s fate. So can I be accused of misrepresenting the Qur'an? Can I be told that I’m making this all up? That I’m taking it out of context? I urge all of you to read for yourselves the full verses to get the full story. There are dozens of not hundreds of more quotes I can use to make my point. I don’t expect you to read the entire Qur'an, that’s why I’m summarizing it for you. Be educated and learn.


As for those who have converted to Islam and choose to leave it (apostasy) the Hadith unequivocally states the penalty for those who leave Islam:

Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him. -Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57


This is said to have come from the mouth of Mohammad himself, a man considered so noble and honorable in his ways, that he was chosen by god to reveal to the world his final and unalterable revelation. I think it’s pretty clear that Mohammad had a pretty warped sense of morality, as you will find out more about later. Now let’s see what this “prophet” said about the fairer sex.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Got My Hitchens Tickets!!


My tickets to see the Hitchens/Ramadan debate just arrived in the mail today and I'm so excited!

Plus there is another video of Hitchens kicking Dr. David Berlinski's ass in a debate entitled, "Does Atheism Poison Everything?" In it Hitchens appears a bit weak from the chemotherapy, but he still has his signature articulate atheistic audacity, which appears to be stronger than ever. This will make his debate over Islam all the more interesting.

Watch here:


http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/id/232872

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