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At the age of ten, I set my heart upon learning,
And at twenty planted my feet firmly on the ground.
At thirty, I no longer suffered from perplexity.
At forty, I knew the order of Heaven,
And at fifty heard it receptively.
At sixty, I could muse on the dictates of my heart.
And now at SEVENTY, no longer in fragment,
I see the best is yet to be, the last of life,
For which the first was made;
That fairly and freely, I may reflect,
Of all what I have learnt,
And of all what I have missed.
by: Mirza Iqbal Ashraf
August 11, 2012
Jerry Dewitt a preacher for 25 years in De Ridder , La, decided to quit preaching and join Atheists. During his 25 years as a priest he found it difficult to believe that prayers do anything more than console the sufferers. He belonged to a long line of preachers on both sides of the family. The author, Robert F. Worth, writes in his article ‘From Bible-Belt Pastor to Atheist Leader’ in NYT :
“He was 41 and had spent almost his entire life in or near DeRidder, a small town in the heart of the Bible Belt. All he had ever wanted was to be a comfort and a support to the people he grew up with, but now a divide stood between him and them. He could no longer hide his disbelief. He walked into the bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. “I remember thinking, Who on this planet has any idea what I’m going through?”
Dewitt researched at internet, read books by Bertrand Russel, Richard Hawkins and Christopher Hitchens and converted to atheism. He started to preach Atheism, just like he was preaching Christianity. The author writes:
“After a few months he took to the road again, this time as the newest of a new breed of celebrity, the atheist convert. They have their own apostles (Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens) and their own language, a glossary borrowed from Alcoholics Anonymous, the Bible and gay liberation (you always “come out” of the atheist closet).
DeWitt quickly repurposed his preacherly techniques, sharing his reverse-conversion story and his thoughts on “the five stages of disbelief” to packed crowds at “Freethinker” gatherings across the Bible Belt, in places like Little Rock and Houston. As his profile rose in the movement this spring, his Facebook and Twitter accounts began to fill with earnest requests for guidance from religious doubters in small towns across America. “It’s sort of a brand-new industry,” DeWitt told me. “There isn’t a lot of money in it, but there’s a lot of momentum.”
The author argues that atheists and secular are no longer considered eccentric and the movement is spreading with organizations and clubs spreading in colleges, universities and neighborhoods. The author writes:
“The reasons for this secular revival are varied, but it seems clear that the Internet has helped, and many younger atheists cite the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a watershed moment of disgust with religious zealotry in any form. It is hard to say how many people are involved; avowed atheists are still a tiny sliver of the population. But people with no religious affiliation are the country’s fastest-growing religious category. When asked about religious affiliation in a Pew poll published this summer, nearly 20 percent of Americans chose “none,” the highest number the center has recorded. Many of those people would not call themselves atheists; “agnostic,” which technically refers to people who believe that the existence of a higher being can’t be known by the human mind, remains the safer option. The godless are now younger and more diverse than in the past, with blacks and Hispanics — once vanishingly rare — starting to appear in the ranks of national groups like the United Coalition of Reason and the Secular Student Alliance. “
Pastor Dewitt paid heavy price for his conversion to atheism. He was divorced by his wife, lost job and rejected by the community where he spent most of his life. He was a native son of that community. The author writes:
“At the same time, DeWitt is something of a reality check for many atheists, whose principles rarely cost them more than the price of “The God Delusion” in paperback. DeWitt refuses to leave DeRidder, a place where religion, politics and family pride are indivisible. Six months after he was “outed” as an atheist he lost his job and his wife — both, he says, as a direct consequence. Only a handful of his 100-plus relatives from DeRidder still speak to him. When I visited him, in late June, his house was in foreclosure, and he was contemplating moving into his 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser. This is the kind of environment where godlessness remains a real struggle and raises questions that could ramify across the rest of the country. Is the “new atheism” part of a much broader secularizing trend, like the one that started emptying out the churches in European towns and villages a century ago? Or is it just a ticket out of town?”
After reading the article, the question I was pondering was;
Devout religious people are willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of religion, and some may call it cult mentality. Pastor Dewitt sacrificed everything for the new belief/ideology and is preaching the atheism as he was preaching religion. Atheists also have their gurus/apostle, Richard Hawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Bertrand Russell. Atheists are also much more organized now holding rallies and sessions. What is the difference-getting freedom from one ideology and being enslaved by the other?
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This article was forwarded by Nasik Elahi. It is a thought-provoking article and commentary on why the efforts to stop terrorism are failing both by the concerned Muslims as well as by the West. The author argues that fear mongering always wins-both by those in West who are creating Isalmphobia and by those who claim that Islam is in danger and propagate Jihad to save Islam and Muslim populace. The author writes about Muslim populace;
“Thus, a global enterprise works to create an Islamic populace, whose members think of themselves as “Muslims” and nothing else, who revel in their supposed victimhood and live perpetually in fear of physical and cultural survival. We look at the rest of the world as an enemy we are at war with, an enemy we must fight and kill―even if it means dying in the process. “Martyrdom”, in fact, is hailed as the highest virtue we can aim for.
Depending on individual factors, Muslims the world over are persuaded by this message to varying degrees. Most of us buy the idea of victimhood; we live in fear, talk to friends, family and children about it (thus spreading the message further), but basically get on with our lives. A few are persuaded enough to join the “war” ourselves.”
Some in the West use the same tool to scare their populace. The author write;
(To be sure, there is a similar Us-Versus-Them communication being propagated in the West by credible “experts” such as social theorists Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington, and popular commentators such as Glenn Beck and Daniel Pipes. It is remarkable how much the two opposing sides in this war―Islamists and Islamophobes―agree with each other, and how well they work in tandem, helping each other out by validating each other’s “fear-arousing appeals”.)
The author argues that same time tested method “fear”, as described by Hovland in his 1953 book “Communication and Persuasion” should be used to be successful against terrorism. The Author writes;
“A crucial reason why communicators of peace find it difficult to have greater impact is that the content of their communication is not “fear-mongering”, identified by Hovland as being the most persuasive. This problem can be overcome if they present terrorism not simply as a misinterpretation of Islam but as a mortal danger to Islam. Much is written on how Islamophobia encourages terrorism―the opposite is also true. We need to say more on how terrorism creates the very conditions that Muslims fear, and how this fabricated atmosphere is, in fact, driving a number of Muslims away from Islam. Another way our communicators can challenge the credibility of Ladens and Naiks is by questioning the obligation for we, the audience, to see ourselves as Muslims first and Muslims last. Of course we are Muslims, but each of us has a lot of other identities at the same time―sexual, racial, regional, national, linguistic, professional, and so on. Why can’t I see myself more as a journalist, more as an Indian or more as a cricket enthusiast, and less as a Muslim?”
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