Monday, 19 September 2011

Why Abdullah Fandi al_Shammari should be spared

In January2005 I received the worst phone call of my life. It was telling me that my sister had been stabbed to death by a man she'd had a relationship with. Nothing could ever have prepared me for news like that, or for the effect it would have on who I am, and my life.

I had had a good deal of experience of grief: the loss of my mother from cancer, the death of my grandparents, a school friend who'd died in a road accident, a number of friends who died of overdoes or intentional suicide. I had also known the victims of violent death. I'd even had the experience of finding , someone I shared a house with dead. So I can, with experience, say that the death of a loved one, by violence is vastly worse than any of these experiences.

I was, in short, to experience a level of pain I could not have imagined. Though it would have been impossible for me to have done so I was burdened with the irrational feeling that I should have been able to protect my sister. I had a feeling of guilt which I knew made no sense but would not leave me. For about five years I could not have honestly answered yes to the question "Are you OK?" because I was not OK and could not even conceive of ever feeling OK again. I had times when the pain was so great that my whole torso ached with pain for days on end.

And yet I am arguing against the execution of Abdullah Fandi al_Shammari who was convicted of murder. The first point is that had my sister's killer faced execution it would not have lessened my pain in any way. It would, in fact, have added to the burden. I say this because waiting for the execution would have caused me to be constantly aware of my sister's killer. It would have also introduced the uncertainty of waiting for an unknown execution date. My grief was hard enough to deal with without introducing the idea that I could have only had "closure" after an execution.

Execution does not deter murder. If it did the murder rate would be lower where there was a death penalty. As the link shows the USA with a death penalty has 5.22 homicides/murders per 100,000 population. In the UK without it the figure is 1.57. This correlation between societies with a death penalty and a high murder rate is repeated again and again across the globe.

In a jurisdiction where there is a death penalty the state's act of intentional killing lowers respect for human life. It most clearly does nothing to make for a society safer.

I argue that the life of Abdullah Fandi al_Shammari should be spared because I am convinced that executions lead to a more violent society.

Abdullah Fandi al_Shammari is due to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia eight days from the writing of this blog post.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Confusing Believers with Facts

Let me start by saying something which seems to often cause deep offence: SHOW ME YOUR EVIDENCE. I know this is a very shocking thing to ask anyone to do, especially if the evidence relates to such sensitive matters as the existence of a deity. I mean, frankly, believers often act as though they couldn't be more offended if I asked them to perform some deeply erotic act.

The simply truth is most believers have never seriously considered the question of evidence for God. They were taught about God in early childhood and regard his existence as a self evident truth. They are very shocked when told that there is no more evidence for God than for Santa Claus. Often this simply fact causes them to get very indignant.
"Don't be ridicules!" they tweet at me.
I calmly reply by asking them to provide any available evidence for God.
"Well the evidence is all around you. Everything in the world is evidence for God."
"Like the Ebola virus," I helpfully suggest.
That stumps them. First they have to google the the word "Ebola", just to check. Then they have to explain how God can be responsible for everything but somehow evade responsible for the Ebola virus. Many stop tweeting at that point. They remember all the other important things the need to do rather than tweet. But there are the determined ones.
The determined believers argue sin is the result of the "Fall of Man." They tweet this proud of the clever answer they have come up with and certain they have put me in my place.
Unfortunately, for them, that answer does not end the matter. I point out that if there was an all knowing God he would have known everything that would have in the world BEFORE HE MADE IT. I further point out that any human who intentionally does something, knowing the consequences will be harmful, will be held responsible for it. That is what the word "culpability" means. I It can hardly be reasonable to expect God to have lower standards than humans.
"But evil came about as the result of free will."
"Precisely how can free will create viruses?" I ask. The memory of my schooldays, when I'd wished I could have developed a virus to get me out of Latin class, comes to mind. I wonder if perhaps if I'd only used a bit more free will. Sadly they never come up with the formula that eluded me .In fact, at this point, they frequently seem to lose the train of their argument.
"What about Stalin and Hitler?" they tweet.
As you can imagine I struggle to see the connection between this and my last questiont but I try to be helpful. I point out that Hitler wasn't an Atheist and even provide a link to a very instructive Youtube video featuring Christopher Hitchens.
Do you know there are some believers who just can't get this video to play? Anyway, asking them to view it shows how hateful and closed minded I am. Well they have a point. How can it ever be fair to argue with Christians simply by using facts? After all they've managed to maintain their faith for years and years without ever examining any.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The God of Irresponsibly

In the beginning God made the Heaven and the Earth Genesis I:I

It does not matter whether believers are creationists or not. Those of the three Abrahamic faiths all agree the world was intentionally created by an all powerful and just God.

This all powerful god would, by definition, be capable of creating any type of world he wanted to. He'd not be restricted by the laws of physics, which he would invent. He could make a tiny or gigantic universe. He didn't have to make humanity his central creation. Remember, being all powerful he could do whatever he wanted, any way he wanted.

When he decided to create humanity he could have made it as gentle as a kitten or like a bunch of hyenas. His choice. It is odd how often believers try to pretend God had no choice but if he was all powerful he had unlimited choice.

If someone drove a car recklessly and caused an accident, in which someone is killed or injured, that driver would be culpable for their behaviour. However, unless the driver deliberately set out to injure someone, they could claim they didn't know the consequences beforehand. God couldn't claim to not know the consequences. He knowingly created a world in full knowledge of every baby that would starve to death. How much more culpable would the driver have been had he or she known with complete certainly that they would kill and injure? How Culpable must the God of Abraham Be?

Christians argue God created free will. In that case, he did so in the full knowledge of all who would suffer as a consequence of free will. He knew everyone who would be killed and injured and abused because of free will. Christians argue that free will was necessary yet never address the question of why a just God would put the rights of wrong doers to have free will over the rights of their victims. How is that Just? In fact I have never heard any believers willingly addressing the harmfulness of their God's decision to create free will.

Assuming free will exists, which is a big assumption, why does it only apply to questions of wrong or right? An all powerful God could have given me the power to simply think I was in Paris and be there. After all, he supposedly set the laws of physics. Yet if you listen to the arguments of believers free will was primarily given to enable wrong doing. The logic of their argument is God intentionally created a humanity which he knew would largely disobey him; simply to see how many would be good. Essentially, he created humans as play things for a twisted game. He did this in the full knowledge of the suffering it would cause to the victims.

As a humanist I take a simple moral position: It is wrong to do something you know will cause harm, unless it is necessary to prevent a greater harm. An all powerful god could have created the world in another way but chose a suffering world. Those who believe in God cannot say that he is not responsible for his actions. If he isn't responsible he's no example to human morality and has no right to judge. Christians are quick to claim humans should take responsibility for their actions. Where is the logic in not saying God should take responsibility for his actions?

Those who argue that human suffering is caused by free will want to ignore that the logic of their own position; that God made a free will choice to create the world. He knew the consequences and yet freely decided to do things in the way he did. He had the power to create a world without suffering but made a conscious decision not to. The God they worship is, in short, callous and irresponsible.