Friday, April 25, 2014

"There is a rich history of atheism and questioning the existence of God in Indian philosophy. Atheist philosophy can be found in fifth century BCE India, potentially even earlier. Early schools such as Carvaka claimed the Vedas (holy Hindu texts) were made up by men, had no religious basis and were generally sceptical about the existence of God. The Samkhya school of philosophy concludes there is no way to definitively prove God existed. This is not dissimilar to the views presented by Richard Dawkins who has admitted that whilst those who practice a religion cannot prove the existence of God, he is unable to prove that God doesn’t exist. Indeed, if one follows one of these schools of thought, it is possible to practice Hinduism in the spiritual sense, whilst not believing in God.

"Communities and groups on the African continent such as Pygmies and some Zulu communities also have a history of non-believing, as observed by American historian William Durant (albeit such analysis is contentious). Science, reason and critical thinking inform such philosophies.

"Indeed, atheist networks are becoming more common across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Not believing in a Supreme Being is not exclusively western, nor should it be viewed as such. However, prominent atheists such as the Nigerian Leo Igwe rarely get the same level of air-time as Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. These views and voices too often go unheard.

"Atheism, as presented by predominantly white men, is seen as a form of modernity achieved through white western liberal enlightenment. Despite there being a rich history and continuation of atheism in Asia and Africa it is widely believed that atheism is a ‘phenomenon with its roots in Europe,‘ seen by the new atheists as being the next step on from secularism in a progression to a more civilised society. This in turn presents a euro-centric view of events.

"Such atheism and associated ideas of white liberalism has become intertwined with right wing neo-conservatism. Sam Harris went as far as to say, "It is time we admitted that we are not at war with terrorism. We are at war with Islam." Indeed, Richard Dawkins doesn’t waste any time pretending to be subtle, once describing Islam as the ‘greatest force for evil in the world today.’

"Such atheism seems to specifically single out Islam, presenting a clash of civilizations, with western liberalism threatened by the innate backwardness and intolerance of Islam. [...]

"Behind this arrogance and obnoxious overtones there is a real lack of originality, which isn’t often picked up on. Dawkins positions himself as one of the forefathers of atheism presenting ideas in his book (as Harris and Hitchens did before them) as original and cutting edge, as obvious, as corroborated by… science and reason.

"They associate atheism with western science and reason and project ideas of white male superiority on other races and ethnicities presented as backwards in their analysis. This fails to acknowledge the advances of reason, science and logic made in communities and countries around the world. Rarely do we hear about roots of atheism outside Europe or about atheists from other parts of the world. [...]

"This white male ‘band of intellectual brothers’ have hijacked the atheist narrative. It is now time to reclaim it." - Amit Singh, All Atheists Are Not White Men

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