Relaxing is pretty easy 

It has taken great effort to get to a point in which we can sit and have a coffee in relative safety. To gaze across the beautiful blue waters and distant hills without looking for an immediate threat behind us. It is something I try not to take for granted. Some of the worlds most beautiful landscapes are no-go areas for so many reasons, for how long is anyone’s guess.

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This could be due to war, secret government operations, radiation levels. I took this photograph in Rio shortly before my lunch arrived, in the same area as the featured image in this post posted earlier this month. I snapped the image as the person in front of me was using his phone, I don’t know what it is but it seems to add something. It is as if he was oblivious to the view he had in font of him, although I am sure he has seen it a thousand times before.

Thanks to the implementation of police and armed forces we can enjoy time that isn’t spent evading evil. An iced coffee by the sea or drifting in and out of sleep in a hammock. It doesn’t mean danger is never there. Someone holding an umbrella for you doesn’t mean it isn’t raining, even if you are doing little to prevent getting wet. For that I am incredibly grateful. This doesn’t mean that it will stay this way forever.

I was debating with a friend yesterday about what it is to be on the ‘left’. I consider myself a centrist, I have tried speaking to both the left and the right and on both occasions feel like I have been pushed into the centre. The left have been overly trigger happy when it comes to using labels such as bigot and racist and the right have been, well, too bigoted and racist. Where is the middle ground? How can being on either end of the spectrum give us a better overview?

I gave the following analogy, you can of course let me know your thoughts.

A serial killer has successfully escaped jail. Dark, I know but of course a reality. He is walking down a street of a dozen houses. He takes his time knocking on each door, waiting for an answer. Let’s say each resident has one of three views; far left, far right or central. On his first knock, a far right resident answers and kills the killer. There was little time to find out about the man knocking and no time was spared. You can probably tell already that depending on each outcome we have to rewind the clock to the killer walking down the street again, groundhog day style. So here we go again.

He is walking down the street again, on this occasion a far left resident answers. The resident has sympathy for the killer asking for shelter in the rain, invites him in for tea and is killed. Again, little time for discussion. In such a scenario, what is wrong with using the peep hole? Speaking through the door or upper floor window asking why he was knocking at the door at this specific time? If I had any bad feelings about this man, which neighbour would I warn? The right winger that will probably go on his own killing spree, hunting down people of a similar appearance or the left wing one that will accuse me of bigotry or a lack of compassion by refraining to fully commit? I feel the most productive decision would be to speak to other centrists. I know that I have decided to speak only of extremists on both sides, however even the apparent moderate-left have made it difficult to talk to.

Our minds are a wonderful thing, they can seek out irrational behaviour and allow us to calculate whether or not we should be concerned during an encounter. I certainly want to be able to use such an amazing human system, there is nothing wrong with a little unease. We have evolved to take everything with a pinch of salt and treat everything as a possible threat. It is natural and can be life saving. There are plenty of people out there with a strong desire to take this away from us given the chance and if anyone is willing to have conversation, I will make time for conversation. Opinions that contradict our values aren’t the threat, it is the unwillingness to sit down with someone and have that conversation. A lack of desire to understand the thoughts of someone that has a completely different mindset. I know some of my views may offend someone that has a different view, my duty is to realise this and listen, not accuse and evade.

I truly do hope that in the next few months of travelling I meet like minded individuals that will sit down with me and talk, regardless of differences. It seems like this world is increasingly shoot first, talk later.

Superiority 

There’s a difference between claiming superiority and fighting against the label of ‘inferior’.


I received the above comment last year, anonymously of course. I am not trying to make myself superior, I’m just trying to see humans in a more positive light, leaving behind the desire to submit or beg for some kind of forgiveness.

Rosa Parks was not claiming to be superior when she refused to give up her seat for a white person. Homosexuals aren’t attempting to make heterosexuals inferior as they resist being thrown from rooftops by religious fanatics. It is possible to want to rise from the trenches of societal acceptance and seek equality without claiming to be better than anyone else.

I am sorry for anyone that begs to be inferior, plenty of people do. Some people need a master to get through their lives, I can imagine if we were able to achieve a technologically-simulated Second Coming how many people would get down on their knees in an instant. I can also imagine the delight shown by the button-pusher as they receive instant control over billions.

Rejecting oppression will be cool one day, not today but hopefully soon.

 

 

Inferiority

‘If you think we’re walking lumps of meat animated by random sparks of electrochemistry then why would killing people be BAD – or evil? Or anything else for that matter?’

I don’t- and hopefully will never-understand the link between life emerging  without a deity and a desire to cause suffering. There’s as much chance as me finding out I wasn’t the first owner of my current home and deciding to smash my neighbours windows. What thought process would be necessary to lead to such sadism?

I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that this is another lie we are told, as if religion has helped us refrain from inflicting misery. There are billions of believers in a world of countless religions, yet I still find it necessary to lock my door at night. We would be screwed if all religious people were bad, for sure. Even though this is not the case, religious violence is rife and therefore the fear of a decline in religion should be in fact optimism. Many nations with large non- religious  populations demonstrate enviable stats concerning healthcare and quality of life, low crime rates and freedom of speech. Many religious nations are so dangerous people risk their lives to flee, often to less religious nations.

On top of this, what happens if your God is found to be the rebellious child of another one? Falsely stating that he or she is the moral-providing leader, only to be exposed as the child of the actual God that left the room for a brief moment (that moment seeming to be a couple of millenia due to relativity). The new God chuckling to himself as he picks up little Timmy and sees the confusion he has caused to all the theists below on Earth.


What would then happen to your perceived morality? If the father had a completely different set or morals to the son that you worshipped? Would all worshipping change hands completely and immediately with this knowledge? What would then happen if yet another God was found above the two? 

Morality doesn’t have to come from above. Wouldn’t it be easier if we were to just talk and establish it for ourselves? After all we are the ones that have to endure this life, it’s a shame we make it so difficult.

Acceptance

I guess it’s ‘Human Appreciation Day’ in my head today. I’m trying to see the world in a positive light as best as I can before something lets me down. 7 billion people walking around Earth today, those that have been around the longest have only done so for several decades at most. That’s pretty damn freaky to me. We were suddenly born into it. No warning, no preparation, no desire.

Despite this, most people are good. Although most people have a belief system they are confident holds the answers, I really don’t know how confident the belief is to natural doubts and curiosity we gather throughout life. Billions of believers cry at funerals. Cry when their child develops a medical condition that surely must be a part of the greater plan. Why the tears?

Against all the confusion and pain, we get on with it. Getting through life on a rock that I only realised existed 27 years ago when I suddenly adopted a consciousness to acknowledge it. Listening to advice of parents that went through the exact same experience 27 year prior to me. I have to appreciate how stable society has been despite this crazy fact.

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I could also argue that we are frighteningly willing to adopt all of the rules we are handed in life. I was told at a very young age to go to this establishment called ‘school’ to learn about the life I will be heading into. Understandable. I was also told to sing songs to my master and if I didn’t, the teachers would take me away from all the other children during the singing/ praise session. That’s pretty fucked up. I find it very important to look at what is expected of us growing up with an open mind. What we agree is beneficial for the species and what can be removed without causing too much disruption. Billions on one side of the world live a life very different to a billion on the other. A billion people cannot be wrong, right? Well, the other billion seem to think so.

I am proud of a species that can accept a life that has an end, even if we use religion to get us through it. To take into consideration our own fate and that of our loved ones at all is surely the bravest thing we can all do, and we do it pretty well.

Proximity

It is an annual tradition that the Red Arrows perform a flyover of the quayside to signify the start of the Great North Run, the largest half marathon in the world. The Red Arrows make me happy. I feel a great sense of pride and awe when they do their thing, one year rudely waking me up as I slept in, the sound of those engines so close to the ground had me jump up in sheer panic thinking the building was collapsing. I checked the flight path this time around, instead of following the River Tyne from the west and flying over the famous seven bridges, they flew in formation from the north and directly over what would have been busy traffic had it not been for the 57,000 runners. I made it with a minute to spare (seriously, I was exhausted) to record them flying over. The above image isn’t a photograph but a screenshot of my video.

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I pass this hotel everyday. Sadly, two teenage employees went to Manchester on the 22nd of this month and did not make it home. I did not know them. I do however know two people that did make it back home safely. To think that world leaders and international superstars had these people in their thoughts in the past couple days is pretty surreal. As I have said previously with similar experiences, I am unsure whether its a sign of the times or spending longer on this planet that I feel such stories are seemingly closer to home.

I will be the first to admit I am incredibly lucky to live in a nation with relative peace and security. In no way do I believe otherwise. Some regions of Earth experience similar atrocities with relentlessness frequency and I can only attempt to fathom such hardships. This does not mean that I want to play down the severity of the losses experienced in Manchester, nor do I want to pretend I have no concerns of the potential for an increasing number of tragedies within the UK and Europe.

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The same building can be seen above, between the Sage on the left and the Tyne Bridge in the center. I feel this building will be a constant reminder that terror is becoming more of a norm, paired with the heavy armed presence at every busy venue this week. I want to talk about that. The fact that I had rarely seen officers with guns growing up and now it looks like my children will grow up feeling strange if they don’t see armed police.

Strangely, the more attacks I hear of the more I am forced to respect religion or be labeled a bigot. The more I want to talk about the perils of blind faith in the 21st century I can’t without people losing it, and I’m finding more and more reasons to do so. Saying that, I live in one of only a handful of nations in which we can speak out as atheists freely. Most people here are non-religious, with a reeaaallly big urge to hug theism when religion demonstrates a hatred for diversity and a desire for death. I won’t blame a whole religion, just the aspects that deserve it. I will make the most of life in a non religious country to speak up about a religion that I guarantee so many people would do too given the chance. If flogging, beating, murder, honour killings, prison time, torture and slavery weren’t repercussions for questioning reality for some people, I would have a lot more time for religion. Millions more would have time to be free.

I don’t want the light to go out on free speech. I want to see red, white and blue trailed in the air from the Red Arrows, not lighting up the Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building in sympathy after another attack. This of course is how I feel about every nation, I can only talk of mine. I trust that many of you are doing a great job fighting similar battles, keep fighting.

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Uprising

This blog is my punching bag. Instead of unleashing my thoughts and views onto social media accounts, I wanted to find a community that actually seeks similar conversation.

Thankfully I have found that here.

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I have nothing against social media, other than it’s ability to draw me into endless scrolling. It is the escape that so many people need in communities that would not accept them otherwise. It is the place in which certain people can be heard or want to finally have a voice without worrying about a backlash.

I have seen so many people defend religion in the aftermath of events. Lets not blame every theist for religious violence but what about the instances in which such criticism is justified? Religion cannot be moral all of the time. Lets take into account the millions of people suffering right now as you read this sentence. Those without rights, those punished for not abiding by controlling religious laws whether they want to or not. The slaughter of humanist bloggers and the enslaving of schoolgirls, the homosexuals thrown from rooftops and women punished for being raped. This is where my priorities lie. I do not mind offending those that aren’t exposed to such lives if it makes us think about the real victims. Those that aren’t offended when I tell them their beliefs are false because they are too busy being forced to believe.

Lets remember that an Arabic translation of The God Delusion has been downloaded over ten million times online. Thirty percent of downloads in Saudi Arabia alone. That is a shit tonne of underground reading.

I personally cannot wait for this atheist uprising, sadly I won’t live to see the year 2567.

I hope they party hard.

Tastes

I want to enjoy life as much as this lady is enjoying food. Have you ever seen so much joy?

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I admit that I was a little apprehensive when on my first visit to an Islamic nation. I did not know how much I would stand out nor what I would do that may be considered rude or disrespectful. Can I have a beer in public? Can I wear shorts? Not that I feel this should be the case, I have made it clear in previous blog posts that we are a world full of petty people that are easily offended. If I want a beer in public, why can’t I? Nations such as Saudi Arabia carry heavy punishments for smuggling or drinking alcohol in public, with public flogging or even the death sentence used as punishment. When sipping a beer is worse than flogging the drinker, I remember why I blog.

Malaysia did a great job of putting my mind at rest. Despite the obvious religious influence I went about my day as I would in the UK without turning any heads. Even in the areas in which I did not see another Westerner, it was as if I was invisible, in a good way. No one looked at me as any different or as an outsider. I walked around the great food stalls and enjoyed what was different about myself and the citizens of this beautiful nation.

Is it arrogant desire a free pass around nations without worry? I personally do not think so. If my tastes are different, great. If yours are too, fantastic. As long as we can address when our personal tastes affect the welfare of others. Sadly, I feel religion gets in the way of such discussion. Religious morality has already been decided. The words won’t change on the pages of scripture, just interpretations. This is why I left scripture behind, it made my life easier.

Too often I encounter the argument that without religion, morality goes out of the window. What morality? I hear of death and destruction everyday in a world made of up of an overwhelming amount of theists. This is conclusive proof that religion is not the recipe for a peaceful world. I don’t know how many times I have to walk past religious people without killing them before atheism is no longer a fear.

In Malaysia, atheism is illegal. It is also punishable by death, however I would need insider knowledge as to what lengths authorities go to prevent people leaving religion. I feel strange praising any nation that takes away my right to think. How am I expected to respect this world when so many regions would happily kill for a difference of opinion?

I try my best. Thankfully citizens are often more tolerant than the governments they are ruled by, thank you for that.