This is hard to admit in a public forum, but I hope I can say this in the right way and get the discussion I think is necessary around this issue. I live in a very rural area so I don't know a lot of people who are Muslim, the ones I have met are fine people, but I have this negative feeling about the religion, that spills over into my feelings about people. It's there for other religions too, but not as strong. I think it's obvious that this is due to media and books I have read, I think Christopher hitchens and Sam Harris had pretty dim views. Also I've read salman Rushdie and Ayaan hirsi Ali and these authors informed my opinion. I see the news and what is happening in the Middle East, and it's frightening. Obviously I'm an atheist, I'm not interested in converting, but i would like to have a more balanced view, and I really hate being biased, racist, or anything of the sort. So I'm looking for positive stories about Islam and ways others deal with biases in regards to religion, as an atheist. I guess the first step in conquering biases is to admit them, so here goes nothing.

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I agree that the media does bias my opinion about Islam. I feel that though I know these resources come with a bias and are a overt form of sensationalism that if even 50% is true it is a horrible religion. I am curious about our fellow Atheists on this site.. How many of you viewers are ex-religious? How many are ex-muslim? and do you feel that the media portrays a reasonably good view of each faith?

I mean this also for Christians too, lets face it there have been lots of negative portrayals of various sects of every religion. Take the Westboro baptist church for instance...

I am also curious how many on here are atheist from the very beginning? I myself as a child was shown several Christian versions (Anglican, etc) but even then I could never really believe it.

Hey Erin,

I doubt this will be inspiring for you but I'll try. My mother grew up in a Jewish family in a Shia country and her entire family were strong atheists. She was in the middle of a meat-grinder. To your question, the positive thing that came out of this was my family saw what competing religions do to people; how they divide, cause conflict and abuse. So, they started deconverting. Today, they've deconverted (personally) over 1000 families in the last 70 years. Not much of a story but I think it is a positive story because some relative somewhere made a smart decision to 1.) keep atheism secret and 2.) deal constructively with differences like this by changing the community around them.

- kk

Good luck with finding that positive element of Islam. The one word that immediately comes to mind is misogyny. Remember the little girl in Pakistan who dared demand the right to an education and what happened to her.

The Koran should rightfully remain nestled on the bookshelf next to Hitler's Mein Kampf.

First of all, it's not racist. Don't fall for that. And don't let them tell you it's "islamophobia" either, because that is a false concept.

It's completely normal to be creeped out by people who follow a prophet who was a bloodthirsty rapist warlord. Who wed little children to old child rapists, by taking the prophet, who did the same, as their role model. Who for fun slaughter millions of innocent animals in cruel ways every year. The general hatred and enslavement of the female gender. And let's still not forget the whole flying planes into buildings thing. They can try to bullshit their way around it, but it's islam's fault no matter what they say.


You want a positive story? Ok. If they had it their way you would've been sold to a 50-something year old pedophile, whom you'd have to watch slit animal throats every year while the blood sprays all over your nice, expensive, silk burqa. But don't fret, you'll be too busy chanting allah's name to notice anyway. Oh and if you don't like it you can try talking to your husband, and if the old man's hearing is still intact he might even listen to you, and then proceed to invoke his islamic rights as a man: admonish you, sexually abandon you, then beat you. Great if you're into the whole 7th century roleplaying thing. But they, at least with such a firm hand leading the household, you can be assured that at least one of your 8 or 9 children will end up in the jihad business. Who knows?

"First of all, it's not racist. Don't fall for that. And don't let them tell you it's "islamophobia" either, because that is a false concept."

 

Agreed

I don't think it's biased to note the violent streak in Islam as it is currently practiced. The majority-Muslim countries are generally not healthy, functioning, modern democracies. It's a chicken-and-egg question whether these nations have been retarded by the religion, or the religion was corrupted by the socio-political development of these nations. It's probably a lot of both, but there's plenty of evidence from the Quran and Islamic history that Islam tends to be one of the more violent and intolerant of the world religions.

I am of the opinion that as long as you don't let what you know about someone's religion prejudice you toward that person before you get to know them, you're in the clear, morally.

There is nothing positive about popular religion.(not just muslim)  All it does is create conflict and violent resolutions to those conflicts.

The reality is that Islam is the most dangerous, violent, deranged, honour-raping, gang-raping, bat-shit, upside down morality, backward, "throwing acid in the faces of girls who want to read", misogynistic, homophobic, "death to all infidels", anti-scientific religion which exists at this present moment. So no, any positivity that may exist is more than drowned out by the aforementioned lunacy. 

I think it is hard to not be biased when it comes to the views of others. You don't have to agree with them, or even say to their face "Hey, I think it's great that you have this in your life." If they don't disrupt your day to day life I would say live and let live. If they start to interfere with how you chose to live, your safety, your family, then that's an issue. Having religion doesn't give one the right to make their needs more "important" than yours. But I would also say that if it is akin to other common minor annoyances (that check-out girl at wal-mart who talks without taking a breath), just ignore it and move on.

There is nothing wrong inherently with stereotyping - it is as natural and critical a response as the xenophobia that often goes along with it to turn it into a negative thing.

Humans stereotype each other in order to form a basis for social intercourse. It would be absurd to approach each and every interaction as if it were a blank slate - it takes too long to really get to know someone and figure out how they work. Stereotyping aggregates physical and social attributes and returns a "best fit" model that allows us to start a dialogue more readily.

Xenophobia is also natural - We join social groups for a variety of reasons; protection one of the most elemental of them. People who DON'T belong to our group are potential competition, or perhaps enemies. There is an evolutionary advantage to excluding, or eliminating outsiders because of this.

When the two behavioral axioms are combined you get negative stereotypes which are not necessarily invalid. In fact in the case of Islam it is VERY valid - there are a significant number of individuals who are self-identified with that creed that are willing to commit mayhem and destruction. There are very few religious movements who are exempt from this - it just so happens that at this point in history that Islam is the stand out instance.

As for your Islamic neighbors - of course not EVERY member of a group seeks to do you harm. You would probably get along with them just fine if you interacted with them more and discovered you had many interests in common.

I grew up in rural parts of the Mountain States where I think I could have counted all the African American families on both hands. Because they were a significant minority, they were of course discriminated against to some degree. I never really got to know them very well or understand their culture (in as much as black culture is different from white culture). When I finished college I moved to Washington DC where there is a much larger variety and quantity of cultures and groups. There I found that I could relate to the local black culture much better than any other. I found that other than differences accounted for by geography, population, etc. the mindset was more similar to what I grew up with than the local suburban white culture.

I wouldn't say that my stereotype went away, but the xenophobic part of it was mollified, and I was able to enrich my model so that it was more accurate. Stereotyping only becomes a problem when the associated xenophobia prevents you from overlooking the implications on a case by case basis to assess an individual, or prompts you to engage in harmful or unjust behaviors towards the individuals as a result.

Thanks everyone, some really great ideas. I tend to be afraid that I'm a racist because I notice it in others, and some say that what you don't like about others is usually because its something you recognize in yourself, projection, I guess is the psychological term. Also I went to a school in grade four where I was the only white kid, and I experienced racism and found it very painful, so I don't want to do that to anyone else. But you're right, thinking someone's religious views are crazy does not equal racism. This is something a lot of people don't talk about in the circles I'm in, whether its because they aren't worried about it, don't know anything about it or just don't care I'm not going to guess. I certainly appreciate this forum, it's really very interesting! Lots of super smart people.

Islam is a religion, not a race. It encompasses all races and ethnicities. There are lots of Caucasian Muslims. Most of us here feel all religions are wrong. We dislike religion and what it does to people. We only hate those religious people who do bad things.

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