The Bible contains scenes of gratuitous violence, genocide, incest, bestiality, sex, suicide, drugs and alcohol, revenge, voyeurism, lawlessness etc. I constantly wonder whether most people who call themselves Christians have even read the Bible from cover to cover because of this. Surely no one who has read the things that their supposedly benevolent creator has done and the human rights violations he has forced human kind to both commit and endure can call themselves a true, loving Christian by the end.

A recent Atheist rally on the University of Texas campus in San Antonio has bravely attempted to highlight this gross and morbid contradiction in the most blatant, outspoken way possible within the constitution: By offering to give people porn in return for their religious texts (Bible, Quran etc).

Bibles for Porn Stunt Draws Crowd at UTSA
Trade in Holy Text For Porn (translate text from Indonesian to Engl...

“A college atheist group is offering students pornography in exchange for Bibles.
Atheist Agenda calls the exchange "Smut for Smut," prompting prayers and protests from Christian students at the University of Texas San Antonio campus.
Student Monica Cornado says it's offensive to compare pornography to "the Word of God."
University officials say the atheist group has the right to conduct the swap.
UTSA spokesman David Gabler says, "As long as students are not violating laws or violating the Constitution, they have the freedom of speech and assembly."
The Atheist Agenda started at UTSA in 2005, and their first Smut for Smut Campaign blew up into a national media sensation, reports CBS affiliate KENS in San Antonio. Past president Thomas Jackson was deluged with interview requests, and debated Tucker Carlson, the bow-tie-wearing conservative pundit, on MSNBC.
This year, organizers said a group of Christians amassed to protest the event, and one protester ripped a sign from someone's hands. But police kept a watchful gaze over students involved in heated debates, and did not report any violence. “

I do not know what the reaction to this is in an American context, so once again I write from a South African one. I strongly predict that a rally like this would have quickly turned ugly here, unless it was held on a campus as it was in San Antonio. Campuses are considered safe havens for students to express themselves more openly and freely than elsewhere in many instances. Perhaps it’s because universities are acknowledged as mature places of learning and are respected as such, or perhaps students are merely tolerated and university life is regarded as a simple learning curve and a place where children go to get pent up energy out of their systems. Either way, if this rally was not held on a campus here in SA, it either would have not happened at all or it would have quickly turned into a mud-slinging match.


The 15% non-religious group seems like a much higher number on paper than it is in reality. Most non-religious people I have encountered consider themselves religiously apathetic or simply non-theistic rather than atheistic, so they are not outspoken against religion. On the other side of the same coin are the people who identify themselves as anti-religion and/or as atheists. Most of these people I have encountered keep their religious orientation securely behind a locked closet door. I am sure there are people out there who are outspoken about their atheism and proud of it, but the majority of people I have encountered are more frightened of persecution by friends or familial estrangement than of the hold religion has in SA. (Please note that a more recent census shows a decrease in the non-religious section to 8%, as well as noting a slight drop in the level of Christianity).
As a result, during a fifteen minute drive in the suburbs it is not uncommon to ride past about three or more churches. The city centre has a Hillsong church, one of the largest congregations in the country, and all manner of strange religions are represented in town, including Scientology. There is no other way to describe Christianity in SA other than rampant. It is an epidemic, and nothing seems to be slowing it down.

The University of Cape Town has an Atheist and Agnostic Society, as does Rhodes University in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, which I attended for four years. These societies, however, are both just a couple of years old and have very few members in comparison to the larger religious societies such as the Judaist, Muslim, Hindu, Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian etc Societies. Not only that, but when these societies do hold events they are usually in the form of philosophical movies with an atheist inclination such as Waking Life. My current university has made numerous mentions to the possibility of public debates happening this year, but I have yet to hear of anything.

As atheists we need to take ourselves more seriously. We do not want to be branded as militant or fundamentalist, but it is not okay to let religion permeate our society the way it continues to. I have felt the pressure of holding hands and praying around a table at dinner time, even in a restaurant. I know what it’s like to not be able to say, “No thanks,” to friends who stop you in the middle of the street to pray for your sore throat, and I know what it’s like to grow up in a Christian high school as a “devout” atheist and be the only person in the entire assembly not singing the weekly hymns and praises. Passive atheism is dangerous and pointless in an activism setting because my being passive about your beliefs (or lack thereof) you are silently condoning the actions of the majority, and by condoning those actions you are supporting religion and all of the fantastical, medieval beliefs that accompany it.
It is not okay that these inane pressures are the consequences of religion. So long as there is a multitude of religions there will never be religious tolerance. Religious tolerance is not someone saying, “I respect your religion." It is society responding by not having religiously segregated schools, by acknowledging the intellectual contributions of science, by eradicating bizarre billboards such as “If God isn’t your driver, swap seats” from our highways, which dangerously promote the meekness of humankind and our inability to do anything for ourselves from our own abilities and strengths, and that includes our capacity to define our own destinies.

Religion is the norm, just as heterosexuality is the norm, or the majority rather. It will be a blissful day when children need to come out to their parents as being straight or theistic. But until such a time as these things are treated as being on equal ground, we need to work towards changing statistics. We need to make a noise and let people know that atheism is real and is not a myth as so many people believe. We need university students and the youth of South Africa to make their voices heard. Where is South Africa’s youth when Julius Malema, the African National Congress Youth League leader, sings perverted songs like Dubula amabhunu baya raypha (Zulu for “kill the boers, they are rapists.” Boers is an Afrikaans word for white farmers)? Where are they when he sings this at an ANCYL rally? Where are they when he sings this on the University of Johannesburg campus? Why are we afraid to try to change the face of our country? We have survived Apartheid and one of the most horrific legislated segregations in human history. Surely that knowledge should make us braver, not more fearful and anxious. Why do we leave political satire to Zapiro when we have the ability to be a strong, respected voice in our country as well? It’s at least reassuring to know that the Texas youth are outspoken when placed in context with the post about Bill Nye being booed in Texas for saying the Moon reflects the sun and does not emit its own light. Blog post by Morgan Matthews.

One day protests like the one held in San Antonio will happen in South Africa too and I suspect that, as always, we will be the last to eventually succumb to the obvious logic of atheism. Until then we have open avenues available to us in which to explore ways of expressing our opinions peacefully and respectfully, and ways of making sure society hears us. Not our government, but our society. We do not need to seek legislation of any kind, or at least not yet. Our government has a thousand much more serious issues to deal with at the moment that are not primarily linked to religious fundamentalism. But we need to let the South African population know that atheists are moral people and that we will not be smothered by an oppressively religious country anymore.

Views: 16

Tags: Oppression, SouthAfrica, intolerance, statistics

Comment by a7 on March 23, 2010 at 5:18pm
nicely put

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