Quran, ass, duct tape and I

I’m in the 4th grade of primary school. 8 in the morning, in the schoolyard. We are all in lines waiting for a student to start his tilawat of Quran. You see, in Iran, at schools, it is mandatory to start the day with tilawat of a surah of Quran. Usually done by a student or a teacher who’s a qari. They recite a short surah in a microphone to annoy the neighbours while students stay in lines silently, and pretend they listen to the words of Allah.

Well…I couldn’t! As a kid I always found it difficult to stay at one place or concentrate on one thing, particularly when that thing was Quran, which I did not understand, neither did give a shit about. My whole life was focused on how many Panini cards I had or what my best score in Sonic the hedgehog was! Mostly earthly matters just like other nine year olds I assume.

So, the student is reciting the Quran into a microphone and I am talking and laughing with my friends. Then, the qaari says “kun” which is both an Arabic and a Persian word with very different meanings! In Persian it means a butt. As a kid, it was hilarious to hear “kun” in that serious tone of the qari reciting the word of Allah. I start giggling and am trying not to laugh too loudly when something hits the back of my head hard and my eyes go black! After a few seconds, I realize that it’s the principal’s hand. A chubby hairy hand as big as a shovel. Then, he kicks me in the leg as I try to dodge, but I fail and his black boot hit my hip bone like a ramming train. It was so painful that made his other hits quite insignificant . The whole school’s watching as I am getting absolutely destroyed by the principal’s rage. Apparently, he has some sort of an MMA fighter inside him that he decided to unleash upon me. Throwing his hands and feet at me with utter disgust and hatred, he forces me out of the line into his office.

-“You little clown! What is it that you think is funny? Do you know it’s a sin to laugh while Quran is being recited? What’s your name you ass?” I will never forget his disgust towards me. My whole body is pain from the kicks, my ears are ringing from the smacks, and I am already planning my revenge on him, which would never happen of course! I mumble “Bozorgi” while I try to focus on any sudden movement so I can evade.

“Well… Mr. Bozorgi, you won’t be able to talk today!” He says with a grim which is hardly noticeable under that bush of a beard on his dirty ugly face, takes a roll of black duct tape out of his desk drawer, cuts a big piece, and duct tapes my mouth! Like a hostage! Then, he presses his big fat smelly fingers, which looked like Frankfurters that have gone off, on the edges to make sure it won’t come off “If you remove it, I will call your parents, now you can go to class.”

I am petrified, don’t know what to do, if I leave his office with that duct tape on my mouth, everyone will laugh at me forever! And if I remove it, they will call my parents which is even worse! (It wasn’t) So I cry ,a lot of course. Principal is quite content with his disciplinary action and he escorts me back to class triumphantly. I enter the class and am greeted the way I expect, with a wave of laughter. However, my classmates are more empathetic than my teacher. My teacher and the principal exchange a smile and a proud look as they have arrested the most notorious criminal of Iran.

Fun times! Having told you the story, I want to pinpoint how sacred Quran is Iran. Quran is the most important artifact of Islam. It is considered as divine and sacred. Not only the meaning and what it says, but the book itself. The book as a physical object and the words that have been printed by a photocopy machine. Everything is sacred about Quran in Islam. To the extent that you have to be “clean” while you handle the Quran. So, since I’m an atheist and considered as “unclean” in Islam, I cannot touch the Quran. A woman going through her period is not allowed to touch the Quran as she is “unclean” and the list goes on. Recently, I have seen a challenge started by some Iranians. It’s called burning the Quran challenge. Although, I don’t agree with burning a book, I totally understand the symbolic value of this movement which is to break the bubble of sacredness around this book. This book is an idol. We take it with us to our new house and car to bring us good fortune. We kiss it and touch it, when we are going on a journey to keep us safe. We all have one in our home. However, we have never questioned it!

Atheism is not a crime!

There are 13 countries in the world that punish atheism, blasphemy and apostasy with death penalty. There are also other countries that atheists, blasphemer and apostates are prosecuted and severely discriminated against. Please share and raise awareness. This needs to stop.

From Ex-muslim Council:

Egyptian Atheist and Youtube Vlogger Sherif Gaber has disappeared and is most likely arrested when trying to leave the country on Wednesday 2nd May. He sent a message to friends telling them he was stopped and taken to an interrogation room at Cairo airport and his passport confiscated. No one has heard from him since. The last message from Sherif on Wednesday 2nd May at 11:08 am Cairo time:

“I am suppose to be traveling to Malaysia at 12:05 Cairo Time, an hour from now. The police took me and made me wait in this room for 2 hours and I’m still waiting> they took my belongings and my passport. If I don’t update you in one hour know that I was arrested.”

We demand Gaber’s release. Atheism, Blasphemy, Apostasy are not crimes. #FreeSherifGaber

#AtheismNotACrime

#BlasphemyNotACrime

#ApostasyNotACrime

#بى_خدايى_جرم_نيست

#توهين_به_مقدسات_جرم_نيست

#ارتداد_جرم_نيست

#الإلحاد_لیس_بجریمة

#إزدراء_الأدیان_لیس_بجریمة

#الردة_لیست_بجریمة

#الحاد_جرم_نہیں

#توہین_رسالت_جرم_نہیں

#کفر_جرم_نہیں

#নাস্তিকতা_কোন_অপরাধ_নয়

#ধর্মেরসমালোচনা_কোন_অপরাধ_নয়

#ধর্মত্যাগ_কোন_অপরাধ_নয়

I am the atheist Seyyed

Since I remember I have always had problems with my name! Particularly since I have become an atheist! Not my first name though, but the religious title of “Seyed” which follows me everywhere I go in all official documents!

My first name is Maziar. I kinda like it! I prefer Maz though! Maziar originally belongs to a rebellion Persian freedom fighter in the 9th century AD who fought the spread of Islam (the spears wasn’t a peaceful one as you know) and the Islamic regime and eventually was killed by Abbasid soldiers. However, in my birth certificate “Maziar” is always preceded by “Seyed”. Seyed ( Sayyid, سید) is an honorific title given to people who are accepted as descendants of the prophet, Muhammad, through his grandsons Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali, who were the sons of Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah and his son-in-law/cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib. So, the title is common in Shia but not in Sunni, hence its popularity in Iran. So, as I have been told, my family tree shows that my ancestor was Hasan ibn Ali, although I have never seen this family tree. And Come on!… the sons of Fatima (12 Imams as they call them in Shia) fucked and created offsprings until they died and had trillions wives, they were worst than hamsters! Wherever they went, took a wife for a week, made a baby and left! How can you actually make a family tree? You will run out of paper and ink!

Now let’s see why I have had problems! Well…The problems began when my parents named me! As I was born in Islamic Republic of Iran, and my father had this title in his documents, it was mandatory to write it in my birth certificate! Then I became Seyed Maziar. Do you see the paradox too? Seyed a religious title, Maziar a man who died fighting the religion. After naming me, my grandfather went batshit crazy and had a quarrel with my father that “Maziar was a muslim killer, why have you named him Maziar?” And apparently he didn’t talk to my parents for a while. He was strictly Muslim you see! And I remember him calling me MuhammadAli or sth similar, instead of my own freaking name!

The problems didn’t end in the family though! When I was in school, I was bullied by teachers and students. My religion studies teacher always tried to avoid my first name, they either called me Seyed or by my family name! It wasn’t all bad! Once, a history teacher gave me extra mark because I was a Seyed! (Stupidity has no limit!)

When I was 19, I decided to remove the title, but I couldn’t as that would have been considered as apostasy! (WTF indeed!). Later, I moved to Australia, and guess what!?…the problem persisted in a different way! Now as the damn title is in my passport, everyone thinks that my first name is Seyed and Maziar is my middle name!! I was in VicRoads the other day, and the poor receptionist was looking for Seyed for 5 minutes, walking around yelling “SEYED” until I realised I was Seyed! She was a bit suspicious then, asked me a few tricky questions to see if I am actually the person in that passport! Seyed is everywhere, in my driver’s license, my insurance card, my bank card :(. Yep… I am the atheist Seyed! (Actually the atheist Seyed was my 2nd choice for the blog’s name). 😀

P.S. I couldn’t find a funny image for this post, if you have any idea please shoot!

Morality of religion… NO! Thank you!

It is believed that religion is the ultimate model of morality, and whoever follows a religion is considered as a moral person within that specific religion.
Religion texts are ancient, and they reflect the values of the times when they were written”. Humans live and thrive on a corrective feedback system. We improve ourselves everyday. Thirty years ago, we used to smoke every where, now we can’t smoke even outside a restaurant in Melbourne. This is corrective feedback system. Now, do you think the values and morality of the past three milleniums have stayed exactly like how they used to be? The answer is an obvious no! You may argue that the Bible or Quran is God’s words and it is never-ending and it’s always true. In this case, I would offer you my counter-arguments with examples of both texts. As follows, the examples given are instances of social issues or behaviours which were believed to be moral or ethical, but in the modern world we consider them irrational and preposterous.
1- Slavery: Bible has numerous references to slavery. Not condemning it but basically giving instructions and guidlines as how to own slaves. For more info you can read Leviticus 25:44-46 where the guidlines of ownership are explained and Exodus 21:20-21 where how to behave with slaves is explained. Quran has the same situation. If you look at Quran 8:69, 24:32, 2:178, 16:75 and 30:50, you can see that Quran doesn’t condemn slavery, but appraise it. According to Quran, muslims are more than welcome to take war booty (women as sex slaves and men as slaves). Also, muslims can have sex with their slaves. They can also have unlimited supply of sex if they temprorarily marry them. Temporary marriages (Nikah mut’ah) are a dark side of Islam which I will discuss in another post. Also, there are numerous hadiths about slavery. Here I quote one of them: Sahih Bukhari (80:753) – “The Prophet said, ‘The freed slave belongs to the people who have freed him.'”
2- Homosexuality: According to the Bible, homosexuality is punishable by death (Leviticus 20:13). Quran 7:80-84 explains how God rained stone on ‘the people of Lut’ who were the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, because of their sexual practices. As they died by rain of brimstones, islamic clerics have interpreted that as a punishment for homosexuality. Thus, the punishment is stoning!
3- Adultery: According to the Bible, adultery must be punished by death (Leviticus 20:10). In Islam too, according to Sahih al-Bukhari, v.9,book 83, Hadith 17 the blood of a Muslim can be shed if a married person commits illegal sexual intercourse. In Quran, there’s no reference to capital punishment for adultrey, however, there are lots of hadiths that affirm such punishment.
4-Deconversion: In Islam, deconversion from Islam is punishable by death. According to Sahih al-Bukhari, v.9,book 83, Hadith 17, the blood of a Muslim can be shed if one leaves Islam.
5- Wife-beating: It is clearly stated in Quran that a Muslim man must beat his wife if she is disobidient. Quran 4:34 advises that if a wife is arrogant and disobedient you must first advise her, then forsake her in bed and then strike her.
Out-of-context argument: Many believers would argue that the mentioned texts above have been misinterpreted out of context. As a linguist, who has worked decoding and understanding layers of language in morphology, semantics and pragmatics, I have to say that the texts whether in context or out of context have the same meaning. They are stand alone sentences, following the grammar rules of their written language. The texts above are not phrases or clauses, they are complete sentences. Also, by pragmatics of language, they are prefectly meaningful. So the agument of out-of-context is a total fallacy.
Morality can perfectly exist outside of religion. As it does in animals. Moral standards are social constructs that change overtime. Morality by religion is argument ad populum. Since, many people believe in it and practise it, does not make it true! People believed that the Earth was flat. Did it make it flat? No!

Allegory of Cave: leaving the cave for actual truth

Imagine a cave where people have been imprisoned from birth. These prisoners are chained so that their legs and necks are fixed, forcing them to gaze at the wall in front of them and not look around at the cave, each other, or themselves. Just as we are born into a religion. We are indoctrinated in one specific religion constantly and we are not allowed to look at any other religion or ideology. In this analogy, we consider the cave as religion or a religious society which can be as small as a nuclear family or as big as a nation. The prisoners are the people who are born into the religion or religious society, and the outside world is the state of deconversion to non-religion.

Behind the prisoners in the cave is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway with a low wall, behind which people walk carrying objects or puppets “of men and other living things”. The people walk behind the wall so their bodies do not cast shadows for the prisoners to see, but the objects they carry do (“just as puppet showmen have screens in front of them at which they work their puppets”). The prisoners cannot see any of what is happening behind them, they are only able to see the shadows cast upon the cave wall in front of them. The sounds of the people talking echo off the walls, and the prisoners believe these sounds come from the shadows. Socrates suggests that the shadows are reality for the prisoners because they have never seen anything else; they do not realize that what they see are shadows of objects in front of a fire, much less that these objects are inspired by real things outside the cave which they do not see. Let’s go back to religion. When people believe in a religion, they consider it as the ultimate truth, fact, reality! Any type of shadow that the religion casts in front of them is their reality. They have not seen outside the religion. They have not seen or been educated in anything else but their religion. One thing which is really important to consider in the allegory of the cave is the lack of education.

Plato then supposes that one prisoner is freed. This prisoner (a believer in our case) would look around and see the fire. The light would hurt his eyes and make it difficult for him to see the objects casting the shadows. If he were told that what he is seeing is real instead of the other version of reality he sees on the wall, he would not believe it. When someone questions their religion, and is trying to walk out, it is painful! The information outside of religion is overwhelming. Yet, you won’t consider it as truth, because the reality is still the religion. Plato continues, the freed prisoner would turn away and run back to what he is accustomed to i.e. the shadows of the carried objects, religion in our case. Plato writes “… it would hurt his eyes, and he would escape by turning away to the things which he was able to look at, and these he would believe to be clearer than what was being shown to him.” Coming back to the familiar reality of religion is way easier than leaving it with the overwhelming facts questioning the reality that we have known since birth. So one would never leave the cave so easily.

Plato continues: “Suppose… that someone should drag him… by force, up the rough ascent, the steep way up, and never stop until he could drag him out into the light of the sun. Slowly, his eyes adjust to the light of the sun. First he can only see shadows. Gradually he can see the reflections of people and things in water and then later see the people and things themselves. Eventually, he is able to look at the stars and moon at night until finally he can look upon the sun itself .” Only after he can look straight at the sun “is he able to reason about it.” When the person outside of religion gets used to the harsh facts, and realizes that his shadows were not real, he looks at the bigger picture. He remembers, analyses and reflects. Then, he can distinguish the reality, no matter how harsh it looked in the begining.

Now that the man is outside of the cave/religion, he thinks that the world outside is superior “he would bless himself for the change, and pity [the other prisoners]” and would want to bring his fellow cave dwellers out of the cave and into the sunlight and show them the reality outside of religion. However, as his eye are accustomed to sunlight now, he would be blind when enters the cave. The cave would be too dark for him to see. Nothing inside the religion would make sense anymore. So, the prisoners, according to Plato, would infer from the returning man’s blindness that the journey out of the cave/religion had harmed him and that they should not undertake a similar journey. Socrates concludes that if the prisoners were able, would therefore reach out and kill anyone who attempted to drag them out of the cave.

Leaving one’s religion requires some extensive force, whether internal or external and it does not happen overnight. It’s a difficult process where one must leave their familiar reality for a new and often harsher reality. When you eventually leave religion, you come back to tell others about the actual reality and how beautiful it is. However, you sound so strange to them that they would assume that the world outside of religion was dangerous, galling and antogonizing. The believers would defend themselves by verbally or physically abusing you, and in extreme cases would kill you if they could.

Reference: Plato. Rouse, W.H.D., ed. The Republic Book VII. Penguin Group Inc. pp. 365–401.

Why is God so angry?

Growing up in Iran, I had been exposed to constant Islamic indoctrination, and I had questions, lots of them. Mostly simple ones. What has always fascinated me was the questions of Why god is so angry at us? If he loves us (which I found that he doesn’t love anyone but himself in the most egocentric way possible), why he threatens us? What kind of sick game was this? Why would my uncle go to hell for drinking wine if wine is offered in heaven in abundant (actually in rivers!!)? Why shouldn’t I read the translation of Quran in Farsi so I can understand? If this god is so omnipotent, eternal and ever-present and immaterial, why does he bother himself with a man biting an apple, or drinking wine or? Half of my childhood was filled with fear and questions. But, I finally have the answer! and no fear of course!!

First of all, let’s see who created our God. The answer is a man. I particularly discuss about the Abrahamic god who is a man himself. He is anthropomorphized as a man or a father figure, and is referred to by masculine pronouns in the “holy books”. In my mind, when I was a child he was a man too, someone like Zeus, powerful and dominant, sitting on a bed of clouds. Abrahamic god is indeed a dominant despotic male god, and it roots from our nature.

Humans just like some other animals, particularly primates, live in groups, and instinctively a group requires an alpha to lead the group, to help them survive. Following the alpha and submitting to him has been in our nature, as it was a way of survival. Humans wouldn’t have survived without this way of life. Submission is in our nature! I know it sounds harsh because we want to be unique, rogue and free, but well… we are not! Throughout the history of man, the alpha have always had the power of food, sex and territory. As our cognitive abilities evolved, men in power such as kings secured more power for themselves by calling themselves gods. Then, they had the ability to authorize violence and oppression. Take ancient Egypt for example. These man-based gods, as they were the dominant male of their tribes, concerned themselves only with food, sex and territory. The three main requirements of survival. To ensure security of them, aggression, intimidation, territorial acquisition, sexual control and violence have been practised by all gods since then incontrovertibly!

When societies developed and moved forward, from nomadic to agrarian and to more complex societies, the role of the gods changed to reflect new life styles and concerns. The power of the gods grew to control greater masses of people (I highly recommend you to study the history of Israel, from polytheism to the Crusades.You will find rich examples on this matter). Just like Greek or Nordic gods, the Abrahamic god started with scaring people of natural forces, punishment and offering some sort of vague prize and then it evolved to a pervert but smart businessman in Islam. The god of Islam, Allah, monopolized sex, food, territory, commerce and money flow for one dominant male in the Arabia, Mohammed! I think we all know how he became dominant by presenting one dominant god! After Mohammed, the story continued, Muslims captured territories, women, food and wealth.

Religions have been created and empowered by monarchs throughout the history to ensure survival, from Stone Age untill now, particularly by likes of David, Constantine, Mohammad, Suleiman, Ismael I, etc.

So, next time you wanted to say prayer, go to church or keep the sabbath, just think who’s controlling you, who’s the alpha? Is it really about morality and salvation or is it about power and survival? Are you a pure soul in the eye of God or are you just a pawn in a game of power?

Coming out as an Iranian atheist

My deconversion was not an overnight process, just like others. However, I reached a point in my life which I could not tolerate Islam or any other religion anymore. So I started my deconversion.

When I was a child I was exposed to a paradox. On one side were my parents, siblings and relatives, and on the other side was the outside world, the government, media, school, common people. Islam almost had no place in our home. My mom never wore hijab at home, although she had to wear it outside. My family never said prayers or read Quran, except for occasions during Ramadan when my mom used to do the rituals.  However, in the outside world, everything was different. I was exposed to Islam indoctrination. At school, they gave us prizes for saying prayers, and frightened us from Hell and God’s wrath. So I grew up believing the outside world and seeing that my family were going to Hell. So I prayed every night! to save my parents! I was a 9 year old boy, and not that bright.

Anyway, I grew up and my faith out of fear started to fade. I started reading Kafka and Camus, and started listening to Metallica! Then, faith became an unfamiliar word for me. I doubted everything. By 18, I was a total agnostic atheist, although nobody knew.

Later in the university, I felt like a rebel. I needed to go against everything. And I did! I educated myself. So that you know, in Iran, even in undergraduate years, we study Islamic subjects as general subjects which must be passed and have a great impact on our overall. I failed most of them at least one. I remember failing Islamic Ethics twice! just because I didn’t believe in what they believed. Later, I was arrested and in the prison I lost my last drops of faith. When I came out, I was a new man. A man who has never again believed in a supreme being. I felt anew, I felt free and I improved in every aspect of my life.

Although, I had never come out as an atheist only until recently. The only reason was fear! I was afraid of Iranian Government. As you probably already know, deconversion/conversion is treated by capital punishment in Islamic Republic of Iran. You’ll be fine as long as no one knows but stating it publicly and writing about it as I am now, would get me in trouble.

Coming out feels great! I am telling everyone, and I get mixed responses, but that only motivates me to go forward.

So, if anybody is out there who is doubtful of coming out. I would highly recommend you to come out and state it publicly. However, if it puts you in risk, be patient. You will find your window of opportunity.