My favorite dinosaur

The mighty Triceratops!

From “The Cow” to “The House of ‘Imran”

God has hardened my heart. I guess he wanted it that way, otherwise I would be a Muslim.

By now I’m far enough into the Qur’an that its repetitiveness is beginning to wear thin. “God is compassionate to each” is frequently followed up with the usual asides about the fires of hell being stoked for the unbelievers, blasphemers and the like. We are the scum of the Qur’anic earth.

Bible stories retold in digest version are recast as Islamic fables. Pious Jews and Christians are really Muslims, because Islam is the only true faith of the pious. The others are imposters, pious frauds, evildoers. It’s difficult to imagine a more polarizing conception of humanity.

Piety, faith, blah blah blah. There are some fair poetic passages reminiscent of the Psalms, but they are outweighed by the Qur’an’s obsession with the People of the Book. If you feel this book represents truth on any scale, and you wish to be among the pious, you might just devote yourself to its message. The alternatives presented here are dire.

Money quote: O believers, do not adopt as intimate friends those outside your circle. I guess that explains why I don’t have too many friend requests from Muslims on Facebook.

Another atheist reads the Qur’an

Alright, so I finally bought a copy of the Qur’an with the intention to read it. I was inspired by the fact that two new translations have recently been published by those erstwhile publishers of the world’s best books, Oxford and Penguin Classics. The Oxford edition is weighted down by lots of notes and footnotes, and the text is cluttered. That’s no way to approach a book like the Qur’an for the first time. After much reflection, I opted for the Penguin, which has the advantage of alternating between prose and verse. The pages are neat and there are spaces between the paragraphs. So Penguin won my hard-earned 10 euro.

For the record, I’m not out to diss the Qur’an. So no death threats, please.

Update: Halfway through the sura The Cow – which is the longest one – I’m getting a bit tired of being called names. Deaf. Dumb. Blind. I do not understand. I am as dumb as an ox. Why? Because I ask too many questions. The Qur’anic message thus far is, believe because I say so. Oh, yeah? Even the Bible tries to draw you in with finely woven tales of God’s miracles, good and evil behavior, natural wonders. It makes an attempt to convince. It goes out of its way to persuade. The Qur’an is the realm of absolute certainty, utter piety and eternal fire for the unbelievers.

Nonetheless, I’m enjoying it despite pronouncements like, “Your women are your sowing field; approach your field whenever you please.” That wouldn’t go down well in our home.

How low can you go?

Pharyngula had a Draw Muhammad Day* last week, and now some pious Muslims have decided that they are going to deny the Holocaust in order to save face. There’s really nothing like ignorance, bigotry and complete disregard of the historical record to make a case. Whenever you want to distract attention from yourself, just say something silly or offensive about the Jews. Then hope people go back to ragging on them for a change.

Michael Peck adds:

I despise Holocaust denial and Holocaust deniers. But if that’s the price that I must pay for the right to free speech, the right to satire, the right to speak our minds without fear of violence, then I can endure it.

*Correction: Draw Muhammad Day was not PZ Myers’ idea. Here is the background, in case you missed it.

More on Paul Berman’s new book

This time Christopher Hitchens chimes in, from Tablet. You knew it was coming.

“Look here upon this picture, and on this …” In the left frame, a privileged young Swiss-Egyptian academic, whose father and grandfather were pillars of the Muslim Brotherhood and who has expressed strong sympathy for the jihadist preachings—and social and moral precepts—of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, purveyor of fatwas and self-described “Mufti of martyrdom operations.” In the right frame, a young woman from Somalia who has endured genital mutilation and forced marriage, made her escape to Europe, spoken out for the rights of women, seen a colleague of hers murdered for the same advocacy, abandoned religion for the values of the European enlightenment, and now conducts her life under permanent police protection.

Which of these two individuals garners the most respectful attention from our liberal intellectuals?

WordPress has a problem

WordPress has a problem with formatting poetry. I recently changed templates hoping it would be easier, but to no avail. So back to posting about politics and atheism. If anybody reading this has any suggestions on how to format poetry on a WordPress blog, I’m all ears.

God His true self did reveal:
“Avoid all the false gods with zeal.”
He made one mistake:
All the others are fake
But gave us no hint which is real.
-A. de Paoli

Atheist limericks: “My Daughter’s Question”

What parent hasn’t asked themselves just what they will say when asked that most proverbial of all questions? Clearly many recycle answers even they don’t believe. “God has mysterious ways.” That kind of thing. Others of us wonder if perhaps there isn’t a better solution, one approaching intellectual honesty. Thus, the following limerick.

“My Daughter’s Question”

If God is benevolent, why
do all living things have to die?
One day I’ll be asked
such a question, and tasked
to resist all temptation to lie

The art of the biblical limerick

A few years ago the Guardian posted a story on Rev. Christopher Goodwins, who rewrote the Bible in limerick verse. Readers of this blog know that I’ve been working up my own repertoire of atheist limericks, some of which deal with biblical themes. First, the Rev. Goodwins:

An Ishleham vicar called Chris
wrote scripture in limericks. “This
should help people read,
about Jesus, indeed,
and enjoy it – not give him a miss.”
Now me:
The Bible’s a book full of stories
of God’s wrath at human vainglories,
of murder and war
and oh, so much more
you’d feel sick if you heard what the score is.
I think we’ve managed to read two different books with the same title.

Atheist limericks: “Unintelligent Design”

Today’s limerick is on (un)intelligent design. Proponents of so-called “intelligent design” are always rambling on about watchmakers and 747s being whipped up by the Maker from the junkyard of spare biological parts lying around. They make it sound like everything is so intentionally, wonderfully designed that there can only be One Answer as to how things are as they are. But they never seem to distinguish the miserable from the horrible, as Woody Allen once said. We are all miserable. But why would an “intelligent” designer design my deviated septum? Or my wife’s intestines? Or my mother’s knees? Why such horror?

“Unintelligent Design”

If life on this earth was designed
with all of us neatly in mind
why isn’t it clear
just why we are here,
not to mention the crippled and blind?

Atheist limericks: “The Pope”

Limericks are flooding my notebooks, yielding all sorts of interesting results. I write them in the train on the way to work, over breakfast, in my sleep. I’ve even committed a few pornographic limericks – the truest to the form – which you won’t read here, to memory.

Again, feel free to cut and paste in the comments section of your favorite atheist blog, or tweet them, or put them up on your own blog. Or read them and forget about them, or whatever. Here’s today’s limerick.

“The Pope”

He once ruled over vast wastes of land
with a nonchalant wave of his hand
but confined to an isle
of protected square mile
now he broods in his kingdom of sand.