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Going a Little Too Far

By Malcom Lagauce (Jeff Archer)
January 30-31, 2006

Popular auto bumper sticker in the U.S. I am an atheist and I neither hide the fact nor am I ashamed. My nonbelief comes from much research, thinking, and experiences in life. I have no mental problems about my atheism and I feel no emptiness inside, despite reading numerous articles from religionists saying we have no morals and we are bitter people.

A couple of years ago, a weekly publication in San Diego interviewed me about my opposition to a 43-foot Christian cross that has been paid for by public money since 1954. The magazine also interviewed a few Christians on the subject.

Each Christian denigrated atheists and said we are just bitter human beings. When it came to the part about me, the writer said, "Many Christians think atheists are constantly serious and bitter because of their nonbelief. Not so with Malcom Lagauche, however." He then went on to write about my sense of humor and encompassing philosophy.

My writing about religion sticks up for itself. I have questioned certain dubious historical points that religion seems to ignore or twist to their own advantage. I have criticized certain individuals for using Christianity as a reason for attacking Iraq. And, I have criticized many non-Muslims for their lack of knowledge of Islam and how they portray it as a "terrorist" religion.

Just recently, for the first time in my 10-year tenure as president of the Atheist Coalition of San Diego, I told a person he was not welcome and I would not allow him to attend meetings. First, he has never forked over the 20 bucks it costs for membership and second, I don't believe he is an atheist because he constantly spoke in a positive manner about the Christians taking on the "dirty Muslims."

Last week, a repair man was working in my house when he started telling how all Muslims should be killed. Within a minute, he was gone and I called his company to complain. The telephone conversation was fruitless because his boss agreed that Muslims should all disappear.

In the past few years, I have lost acquaintances who were anti-Muslim when I challenged their assessment of Islam. In other words, I have been one of Islam's best friends in discussing and writing about religious subjects.

However, I now have to state that certain Muslims have gone too far in disagreeing with those who would denigrate Islam. According to an article in Al-Jazeera news of January 29, 2006, called "UN Urged to Ban Attack on Religion,":

The Muslim world's two main political bodies say they are seeking a UN resolution, backed by possible sanctions, to protect religions after the publication in Scandinavia of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of Organization of the Islamic Conference, said in Cairo on Sunday that the international body would "ask the UN general assembly to pass a resolution banning attacks on religious beliefs." The deputy secretary-general of the Arab League, Ahmed Ben Helli, confirmed that contacts were under way for such a proposal to be made to the UN. Twelve cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, published in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten daily last September and reprinted in a Norwegian magazine earlier this month, sparked uproar in the Muslim world where images of the prophet are considered blasphemous. The cartoons include portrayal of the prophet wearing a time-bomb-shaped turban and show him as a wild-eyed, knife-wielding bedouin flanked by two women shrouded in black.

First of all, blasphemy can only apply to a believer. If a Muslim drew the cartoons, it would constitute blasphemy. However, if a non-Muslim drew them, it is definitely in poor taste and lack of knowledge of Islam, not blasphemy. I explain this constantly to my Christian friends. How can I blaspheme something in which I do not believe? In addition, to an atheist, blasphemy does not exist: criticism, vile portrayals, stupidity, ignorance, etc. apply, but not blasphemy. Only a believer in a certain religion can blaspheme that religion.

A Qatari cooperative society, Al Meera, has the right idea: boycott Danish and Norwegian goods. Already, some Scandinavian companies have said they are feeling the strength of the boycott.

Boycott the offending companies until the go out of business. Criticize the cartoonist so he looks like dog feces in his industry. But, don't go to the UN and have a resolution banning religious criticism. If a government openly denigrates a religion, then some form of sanctions should apply, but not for newspapers, writers or cartoonists.

I have heard many Muslims denigrate Christianity. So, if a resolution is passed, then they will be just as guilty as the nitwits who demonize Islam.

In the U.S., many Native American religious rituals are criticized by Christians. So are Hinduism and Buddhism. Many stupid cartoons have been published depicting non-Christians as mindless barbarians who believe in outlandish myths. Who calls the shots on placing an embargo on a country for religious bigotry?

A few months prior to 9-11, my group, the Atheist Coalition of San Diego, invited a Muslim to speak to us about the perception of Muslims in the U.S. He took a few weeks and researched data bases of newspapers and came up with some outstanding conclusions and proof of anti-Islamic reporting. He then added, "Before I was asked to speak, I knew little about atheists or atheism, so I researched the perception of atheists in the U.S. as well as Muslims. You guys are worse off than we are." Everybody laughed, but we knew he was right.

In the U.S., every day is a struggle for atheists. Despite 93% of the membership of the National Academy of Science being atheist and numerous great actors, philosophers, artists and writers also, we are looked down upon by most U.S. citizens, many of whom are miniscule compared to us in the area of intellect.

The cartoon at the beginning of this article is popular in the U.S., especially on automobile bumper stickers. To me, this is just as offensive as the depictions of the prophet by the Scandinavian magazine. We can not avoid such illustrations and statements. They abound in the U.S.

However, I would find it quite ridiculous and futile to take the case to the UN. It shows the blatant ignorance of those who think in such a manner. But, maybe it would be a good idea. Just think if the UN placed sanctions on the U.S. for bigotry against atheists (and there is much at all levels of society, including elected officials), the rest of the world would become much safer.

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