Since at least October, I had been planning to attend the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in London this month. It was called “the Glastonbury of Freethinkers”. I gather that Glastonbury is to the Brits what Woodstock is to Americans.
This looked like the event to attend! There were so many speakers! Many of them are already friends; many more I would like to meet–especially in London! The last time I was in London, I was invited to speak to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. They wanted me to talk about what it was like to grow up in a Mormon world.
I love London, but they have a way different issue with religion in the UK than we have in the US. This conference dealt with Islam far more than any I’ve ever attended. This was said to be the biggest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, and I read that some local Imams complained about that, wanting to censor it or shut it down. They think it hateful or hurtful that Islamic apostates are allowed to announce themselves publicly like that.
Religion is all about censorship. I’ve been to atheist conferences in foreign countries where there were groups of Muslim protesters confronting conventioneers out front, something we rarely see in America, but can be quite an issue in other places. So I really wanted to be at this event, to meet them face-to-face with strong anti-apologetics.
Alas, I just wasn’t able to make that trip this time, much the pity. So the organizers asked me to record a short video they could play at the conference in my absence, to show solidarity with all these ex-Muslims. I was happy to oblige.Under some legal systems, if you want to criticize Islam, you have to be very subtle about it. So that’s what I tried to do. I chose to show solidarity by pointing out that I can safely attack my own family religion of Mormonism. Safely not only because I won’t raise the ire of active Muslims, which is not really an issue in this country, but also because it won’t trigger fellow Liberals who may not understand the difference between insulting Muslims as people and insulting their ideology in an attempt to help some of those people. So most of the points I criticized about Mormon belief are the same failures Islam has even worse.
I know the beliefs and practices of every other faith sound absolutely absurd–except the ones you were accustomed to since childhood. But if you just change the name of the prophet or the angel or the child bride, you might realize that the belief you were raised in is also absurd and maybe even more oppressive than some others.
I don’t do subtlety well. So if you missed the intended message, as I already know some have, I’ll spell it out here. When I complained about Mormons having to be “clean cut” with short hair and no beard, adhering to expected dress, I’m acknowledging that Muslims have that even worse. When I talked about being conditioned for religious epithets, I’m reminding apostates of other faiths that this is what they’re experiencing too—more so with Islam than any other religion that I know of. Sometimes growing up in that kind of cultural conditioning, you don’t even notice how pervasive it is or the effect that it has until someone else points it out.
From all the tweets I’m reading of this event, I’m really sorry I missed it.