Intolerance is killing us

Image by zakir hossain chowdhury “protest at Dhaka after death of US blogger Avijit Roy” via Flickr


 UPDATE: The Secular Student Alliance will be hosting an even on Thursday, March 26th from 12:30PM-2:00PM in the FIU Green Library Breezeway to advocate against intolerance.

A man brushed off the still-wet blood of, Avijit Roy, the prominent American atheist blogger, who dared speak his mind in a country where freedom of religion equates to freedom of the religion we chose for you. The photo circulated on the web as quickly and as viciously as fire takes out a dry forest during a California summer; the vulgarity of the images making them spread all the more quickly.

The images were graphic: blood soaking the sidewalk slowly being brushed away with a hand-held, straw-like broom. Roy’s wife, Rafid Ahmed, soaked in the thick, red liquid and finally Haider’s body resting on a stretcher mangled, but recognizable.

Because of Roy’s death “free speech” rallies have broken out all across Bangladesh.

But is this a matter of freedom of speech?

There is no denying that a lack of freedom of speech in underprivileged countries can mean the difference between life and death; Roy’s murder expresses more than just a lack of tolerance with what people say, it expresses a lack of tolerance towards different ideas and beliefs.

As a secular thinker and as a human, I’m furious.  This intolerance, found in most religions, towards ideas and beliefs that don’t coincide with their own has to stop.

Religion has become a shield people hold in front of themselves to justify their sick need to carry out violent acts whether it be through spewing harsh words at those who don’t agree with them, or through more violent means, as Roy unfortunately found out.

Religion is a disease, a social form of bullying, and in some people’s minds a cause important enough to murder for.

Extremists whether they be: Christian, Muslim, Catholic and so on, have tainted the freedom to exist by punishing those who dare to believe ideas that do not follow the rules of their myths.

But free-thinking — and thus progression as a human society, not a religious society — is not only being smothered by extreme fundamentalists, but also by non believers.

Western people who have secular views have an unparalleled advantage that we should stop taking for granted.

Though we non-believers don’t fear being butchered to death when we walk out the door, most of us don’t express our ways of thinking for fear of other things: social outcast or judgment.

How do we expect to improve humanity if we do not speak out? There are religious people who seek to cut off our voice by scaring us into silence.

I won’t be silent. I will proclaim that there is no god and that the only thing I fear is the future of the human race if religion continues to suck the vitality out of the human race.

Avijit Roy is a martyr. He will not be forgotten. His death will not be in vain.


4 Comments on "Intolerance is killing us"

  1. Soumyadeep Mukherjee | March 24, 2015 at 3:59 PM | Reply

    I cannot agree more with what you have written. Thanks, Lauren, for the piece; for covering an incident that took place more than 10,000 miles away from here. I am with you about the bullying part…. it indeed is. Unfortunately, if you dare to say anything that challenges any of the religious claims, you are branded as being irreverent, disrespectful, that you are insensitive to people’s religious feelings. But how about when it happens the other way round? More often than not, the religious continually hurt and insult scientific/rational beliefs. And sometimes one has to pay the price with one’s life. I admire your commitment, “I will not be silent” None of us should be. It is time we be outraged about these things, before religion kills all of us.
    By the way, presently, the creationists are freely spewing venom and hatred against science and secularism in the GC Lawns. That maybe something for writers like you to take up.
    There is a small little students’ club at FIU that stands against religious bigotry. We stand for the separation of the state and any religious institution; for the protection of freedom of expression; and against the persecution of someone because of his/her beliefs (or lack thereof). I am the CSO representative of this club- the Secular Student Alliance @ FIU. (SSA@FIU). Here’s our official Facebook page where we try to make event announcements This is our social Facebook page, where we post various events, write opinions and discuss stuff. You can find a lot of sharing and writings by me there.
    Soumyadeep (Deep)

  2. While other groups are the target of religious bigots either by choice ( protesting) or by chance( reputation) there is a group of people that is the target of these intolerant individuals which do not merit the attention they receive. Specifically, I am speaking of a situation in Azerbaijan that defies logic:

    On December 5, 2014, two of Jehovah’s Witnesses—Irina Zakharchenko, a partially disabled 55-year-old widow, and 38-year-old Valida Jabrayilova, who is the primary caregiver for her mother—were sharing their faith with the residents of an apartment complex in Baku. The two women were offering without charge the brochure Teach Your Children, designed to help parents to teach their children Bible stories and lessons. *

    The police investigator criminally charged them with distributing Bible literature without “appropriate permission.” Specifically, the charge brought against the women was for a crime committed as an organized group, which carries a stiff fine, ranging from 7,000 to 9,000 manats (USD 6,690 to 8,600) * or two to five years’ imprisonment.

    In the course of the investigation, the police investigator and the Ministry of National Security (MNS) repeatedly summoned the women for questioning. When the women once again responded to a summons from the MNS on February 17, 2015, they unexpectedly found themselves arraigned in a closed hearing before the Sabail District Court in Baku.

    After presenting criminal charges, the police investigator submitted a motion to place the women in pretrial detention because he thought that the women were likely to commit the act again and to “escape and hide from investigation.” The women’s lawyer objected, claiming that the detention was unjustified given the circumstances and the women’s cooperation with the authorities. Although the judge noted that the women had no prior convictions, he characterized their activity as a “threat to the public” and granted the investigator’s motion for three months’ detention in the jail operated by the secret police.

    The attorney for the women appealed the decision, and on February 26, 2015, police transported them in handcuffs from jail to the Baku Appeal Court in a vehicle with dark-tinted windows. In the closed hearing that followed, neither the prosecutor nor the MNS investigator presented any evidence supporting the need for pretrial detention. Nonetheless, the court denied the appeals, and Ms. Zakharchenko and Ms. Jabrayilova were returned to the jail.

    On March 6, 2015, two groups from the MNS obtained court orders and searched the homes of Ms. Zakharchenko and Ms. Jabrayilova, confiscating their religious literature, personal notebooks, a computer, and a mobile phone. On March 10, 2015, the MNS, the State Committee for Work with Religious Associations, and the police presented court orders to search the Kingdom Hall (house of worship) and the home of one of the congregation elders. Also, the MNS has summoned a number of Witnesses in Baku for interrogation in this case.

    In response to the detention of Ms. Zakharchenko and Ms. Jabrayilova, Jehovah’s Witnesses have prepared a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur and Arbitrary Detention Group requesting intervention. A local lawyer is preparing a motion in trial court to substitute pretrial detention with house arrest.

    Heavy Fines and Jail Sentences for Attending Religious Services

    In Ganja, authorities have imposed heavy fines on those attending religious meetings of the Witnesses and have detained some in jail. Fines have ranged from 1,500 manats (USD 1,433) to 2,000 manats (USD 1,911).

    In October 2014, courts in Ganja jailed three Witnesses and a man attending their religious services for nonpayment of fines imposed upon them for meeting for worship. Though they had made partial payments, authorities jailed them from 3 to 20 days.

    The man worshipping with the Witnesses states: “To me, 1,500 manats (USD 1,433) is a lot of money. . . . My initial reaction was not to pay the fine because I consider myself innocent.” Two Witness men also felt that their punishment was unjust and reported that the authorities treated them like criminals.

    The third Witness who was jailed, a woman, states: “No one took into consideration that my family has a very hard financial situation, that I provide care for my disabled mother, who cannot do anything independently, and that I voluntarily began paying the fine.”

    The four have completed their jail sentences, but the court still demands full payment of the fines. If they fail to satisfy the court’s expectation of timely payment, the court may again order their detention.

    Will Azerbaijan Uphold Justice?

    Officials in Azerbaijan have been using various methods to obstruct the religious activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Currently, Jehovah’s Witnesses have 19 applications against Azerbaijan pending with the European Court of Human Rights to address the intolerance they are facing. In the meantime, the Witnesses hope that Azerbaijan’s high authorities will correct the injustice of the pretrial detention of Ms. Zakharchenko and Ms. Jabrayilova. By rectifying this and other acts of religious intolerance, Azerbaijan can show respect for its citizens, its constitution, and its support of fundamental human rights.

  3. Islam is an intolerant religion and Muslims are killing everyone. Now ain’t that a shocker!

  4. I am also an atheists. That said I understand the differences between religions. And I understand intolerance. Lauren does not make these very real distinctions.

    She groups all religions together as one, as if Buddhism and Islam were more similar than profoundly different. And make no mistake about it they ARE profoundly different. All religions are different. Animism (most Animists have been killed by Muslims) is a unique religion. Judaism, despite sharing so much with Christianity is very different from it.

    And Islam? No religion is like it either, and thank the atheists God that this is so for Islam defines intolerance.

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