Sunday, March 30, 2008

A little common sense among the madness

I wrote the other day about Madeline Neumann, the 11 year old who died of curable illness while her parents prayed for her to get better. There has been some more news. It seems that the authorities have seen fit to remove the other three children from the home. So that's the good news. The bad news is, the wackjob parents don't seem to be in any hot water. The police chief even says "There is no physical evidence of abuse or neglect," yeah because letting your child die in front of you instead of taking her to a doctor is great parenting.


I can feel my blood pressure rising as I write this, so I'll just leave you with a thought. What if they practiced homeopathy, instead of prayer? Would they be still be free? I doubt it, personally. Why are we so frightened by the prospect of offending someone's religion that our society will forgive this type of behavior?

Note the disconnect: they take the kids away but claim there was no neglect. Of course it was neglect. Anyone can see that plainly. But as a society we continue to fear critiquing religion. If the death of a child isn't enough to change that, maybe there is no hope at all. The DA for that area still has to decide whether to file charges. Maybe someone will speak for Madeline. Maybe we can redeem ourselves as a nation that isn't filled with backward nonsense. Certainly it would help our standing in the world. Perhaps if people were more concerned with this world, rather then with another that is not there, we would be better off.

{as a side note, The Coptic Atheist is now listed on the Out Campaign's Atheist Blogroll, so head over there and check out some of those sites}


Saturday, March 29, 2008

I've been blogrolled

So, this blog is now a part of Mojoey's Atheist Blogroll. So check out the list of other blogs on the right. Enjoy!

-Coptic Atheos

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Another Fatality of Faith

I've blogged before about the fatal consequences of people who put their fate into the hands of fate, while eschewing medicine. But this is a really gut wrenching story. A young girl died recently when her family prayed for her instead of taking her for medical treatment. From what I could glean, it seems like she had type I diabetes melitus (I do not claim the ability to diagnose from a distance, least of all from a news article, I'm just making an observation). It is not a pleasant disease but it is treatable. People with DM 1 live long lives, when managed by simple medication. This girl didn't get medicine, she was kept at home and prayed for. It didn't work. Imagine my surprise.

What really gets me is how she died. Ketoacidosis is a complication that takes a long time to develop in uncontrolled cases. I have no doubt that this eleven year old child died a needless, excruciating, and drawn out death. A complication that could have been reversed by medication and proper attention.

Where were the parents? Praying over her! What is the state of education in this country, how foolish can people be to watch their child die and do nothing? Why not at least pray over her at a hospital, you lunatics! Then you could have thanked god for saving her and ignored the doctors and nurses and techs who did the heavy lifting.

Alas, reason and logic do not have fatalities. Faith does.

This is the outcome of "putting it in God's hands". For all you Egyptians out there, this is the outcome of inshaallah. True, most sane religious people would have prayed over her in a hospital, ignored the docs (and students, et al) and thanked god for the miracle.

This child, living in the richest country in the history of the world, needed help that has been available for to people in every nation decades, her parents didn't see it that way, and in doing so, they denied her her life.

They sought a modern miracle. And when their daughter died, they thought it was because they didn't have enough faith! It seems to me to be complete madness. It seems to me to be negligence, perhaps murder of this innocent child. Of course, the local authorities don't see it that way. Otherwise they wouldn't have left these two awful excuses for parents retain custody of their three other children.

I sincerely hope none of them get sick.

[Update: So, about 2 minutes after I published this post, I found a relevant article on one of my favorite blogs, Skepchick. I only mention it because Elyse actually knows the name of the young girl who died. This fatality of faith was Madeline Neumann.]

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A valuable community

So I've been increasing my forays into Facebook recently when I came across a very interesting group. It's called Coptic Freethinkers. And here I thought I was the only one! I put in my 2 cents on one of the discussion groups. I chose my zone of participation wisely though, I think my take on strict theology might be somewhat unpopular among a group that seems, by and large, to still be faithful. Of course there are the standard critics who blast the group's existence entirely as sin and folly. Why do people like that join these groups (or try to reconvert me, or threaten to pray for me...). There do seem to be quite a few progressive members, so if you are so inclined, I'd urge you to check them out (you have to be a facebook member) here.


Friday, March 21, 2008

I want to help!

Hello, my name is Atheos and I am addicted to atheist blogs.
Hi atheos!

So one of my favorite new blogs is the Friendly Atheist, the author, Hemant Mehta, strikes a nice balance of snarky and serious, and that's right up my alley.

Well Hemant has started a campaign. His goal is to be more popular than Ken Ham, one of the dullards behind the Creation "museum" (here's a test, does your institution show dinosaurs with saddles on them? If so, you get quotes around museum).

Anyway, I fully support Mr Mehta in this endeavor, we must rise up against irrationality and form personality cults around bloggers we like! Okay, maybe not, but I will be his homeboy.

(De)Conversion Story

Part One - The Good old days

When I was young, church was everything. God was everything. The mind that would later be dedicated to biochemistry and anatomy, readily absorbed theology and canon. I learned every hymn, read every text in the church bookstore, and accepted it all. I used my voice to proclaim the word every week. I honestly felt contentment in my life. I don't have a horror story about evil priests or wicked congregations. I belonged to one of the well known Coptic communities in the US. I have no doubt that if I mentioned it here, people from around the country would recognize it. For a while, things were ok.

Part Two - Doubting Atheos

As I grew up, I found that I had a talent for arguing and logic. I had many "logical" explanations for various doubts and contradictions, ("They weren't 7 literal days of creation!", or my favorite "the apostles wouldn't let themselves be martyred for nothing!"). After a while, things piled up. Certainly evolution was in sharp contrast to genesis? Certainly abstinence only sex ed was a failure? What about all those other gods? Woah. See that was the one that got me. What about those other gods. I could keep evolution/creation on a doublethink see-saw, I could acknowledge that condoms were the way to go and the church was just old fashioned. But that other-god-thing stuck. Thousands of gods have been worshiped by people throughout history. What is intrinsically different about the Christian God. Nothing. Born of a virgin? So was Horus! Did my ancestors have it right?! Doubtful. Even if one conceded the existence of a god, what tremendous arrogance it would be to suppose that one had, by shear luck, been born into the faith of the right one! That is, of course, if one is right to begin with.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. These doubts nagged on me. I prayed and read but found no peace. Reason is the enemy of faith, and I had unleashed the former on the latter. So I went to church a little less, I found the word a little more out of touch, and then something happened.

Part Three - Please listen closely as our options have changed

It is quite embarrassing to note that, by this stage in my story, I didn't consider atheism. I drifted away from the church and expressions of faith which I found hollow. But for some reason atheism didn't occur to me as an option. Around this time, I read 1984. For some reason I owned the book, but had never had to read it. So I picked it up on a lark and found religion. And not in the way people on death row "find" religion. I FOUND it, in the doublethink of the Party. Slavery is Freedom, fear as a control mechanism, the bashing of dissent. Certainly this was a hyperbolic version of religion, most of us are not tortured in church basements (Scientologists?), but the oppressive dogma stood out to me. 1984 is social commentary, but I think that makes it better for this purpose. Let me demonstrate: try explaining how patently obvious evolution is to a creationist. When that fails, explain gravity, and its theory. I doubt they'll balk at that, even though it is far more complex and has changed more recently (Einstein) than the theory of evolution has (Darwin, duh). By removing religion from the conversation, the mind is free to consider fact. You cannot be an apostate by discussing gravity. So too, 1984 took dogma out of a religious context for me. It allowed me to view dogmatism, and quickly religion, objectively.

Then the doubts about those other gods (see above) weren't so scary. This objective view of religion was essential, it made atheism possible for me. All I needed was a little more encouragement. I found it when I read the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. He said everything I thought, only smarter and in a British accent. I don't think I can overstate the effect it had on me, intellectually. There was very little in his book that I didn't know. I knew about comparative religion, I knew about biology, I knew the lies people told about atheists to be just that. Some of the stories and storytelling was new, but that wasn't it. It's hard to express how relieving it is to have someone else think like you. It's easy when you're in church every week. Far harder when you first leave for a would of reason. Harder still when you do it alone.

Epilogue - A tired med student wraps things up so he can get back to the books.

So that's my story in a nutshell. I'm sure I left some things out, but those three phases were very real to me. Writing about it was nearly as cathartic as living it. But it's not all sunshine on this side. Someone once said, Religion is the opiate of the masses. If he wasn't a despot, he might well have been a biologist. Religion is remarkably adaptable, evolutionarily. People of faith are said to be happier. I don't doubt it. But being happy because you have faith doesn't mean your faith is right. After all, I suspect the worshipers of Horus in the old country were happier than any atheists that were around. The point is, times have changed. We can explain the events in our world without gods in our equations. We invented religion, and for many of us, it has outlived its usefulness.

(ps. I'd like to thank some very kind email corespondents, you challenged my mind enough to make me tear myself away from my books for a bit and write this post)