My name is Mohamed Aly, I am a member of Oxford Humanists and an Ex-Muslim atheist from Egypt. It is extremely dangerous for people like me in my country and other Muslim majority countries. Many end up attacked or in prison on trumped up blasphemy charges or worse. I applied for asylum in April 2016 and, although they accepted that I was a genuine Ex-Muslim atheist, they advised me to go back to Egypt and “live discreetly”. This would be extremely dangerous for me and is tantamount to being against my human rights. It would be living in oppression, always afraid of being found out.
Fortunate to visit New York this summer, one morning we set off through Central Park to visit the memorial to John Lennon known as Strawberry Fields. As we climbed the path to the spot its first manifestation came in the form of a lady selling John Lennon and Beatles badges, with a slew of anti-Trump badges on the side. ‘Have you got any pro-Trump ones?’ our friend teased, receiving a good-natured but firmly negative response. Then, round the corner, we came across the actual roundel, made by Italian craftsmen from Naples in the style of a Roman mosaic, with the word IMAGINE at its centre.
I was born into Wesleyan Methodism. On my mother’s side there were Methodist ministers going back for generations, one was President of the Conference which is the Methodist equivalent to the Archbishop of Canterbury. My maternal grandmother was a formidable and gifted woman who when quite young would preach outside factory gates warning the workers about the evils of drink. When she came to stay my parents hid the sherry! For complicated reasons my grandmother and I, just 3 years old, went to Canada at the outbreak of war to live with relatives in Montreal. We always attended C of E church on a Sunday but
The recent death of Aretha Franklin has meant that the song called Respect, which she made famous, has received a lot of attention. Respect is a concept that, rightly or wrongly, is generally held in high esteem, but it is sometimes used as a weapon to discredit people who are deemed to show ‘insufficient respect’ over some matter or another, even though respect being deserved or not depends on your viewpoint. There are words I have a natural liking for, others that I don’t. For example, even among people who have no religious belief, the word ‘spiritual’ often receives a high degree of respect. Personally
I have always been attracted to religion. As a child attending a series of mostly C of E schools, I wanted to know God. Moses had his burning bush, the disciples had the feeding of the five thousand – of course they could believe in God. I actively looked for a sign It never came. In my student days I was still looking. I was soon picked up by the Christian Union people and taken to week-end retreats and prayed for. I attended a variety of the best churches that London had to offer. It just didn’t work for me. I am a rational person.
07 November 2015 My parents were ‘Anglo-Catholics’, this is the extreme ‘high church’ end of the Church of England spectrum. Naturally, as a young child, I believed everything my parents said; so followed their religion. However, I did start having doubts even before my teens; and never received satisfactory answers other than ‘God moves in mysterious ways’. I did question how people could become Christian before Jesus was born; and also realised I was only Christian because I happened to be born of Christian parents. If they were say Hindu, I’d be Hindu. Furthermore, all religions teach that all other religions are wrong; hence at
I became an atheist when I was about fourteen. My parents were both atheists, but I didn’t know that then, and was not brought up to be either an atheist, or religious. One of the attractive things about most of the atheists I have known is they don’t appear to feel a need to indoctrinate their children. They usually encourage them to think for themselves. My own parents tested my arguments by putting the opposite point of view, but never told me what to think. It was my job in life to decide what I thought. Lively discussion on a wide variety of subjects was