Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Atheists in an Alehouse

"The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley"

To a Mouse (1785) by Robert Burns

Ever wonder what a cabal of atheists do when they get together?

Last Saturday, a Sabbath according to Jewish traditions and some Christians denominations, members of the Malaysian Atheists, Freethinkers, Agnostics (and their friends) had one of their sporadic meetings at the Craft Brews Brewhouse & Restaurant at Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya. I arrived at the soiree a wee bit late, and I figured that since I didn't inform anyone that I was going to turn up in the first place, I'm allowed to be as tardy as I like. Right before the meet, I had tea with Jen and her man-friend - both of which happen to be non-religious - and I'd love to have them come as well, but I didn't think they are into unholy, godless assemblies as a spectator sport.

I tried to talk Terri into attending too since she is a member of MAFA but she was feeling less than enthusiastic about the proposition. I was hoping she would change her mind since there is always a real famine of the feminine in groups like ours.

Malaysian Atheists, Freethinkers and Agnostics Meetup at Craftbrews 25-06-2011
Godless sausage fest (pictures courtesy of Ramon Fadli).

The only woman there was Ie Tzan's girlfriend who, as far as I know, isn't a member. The failed atheist meet I organised in Penang last March actually boasted a better girl-to-guy ratio (2:3) even if it didn't have a stellar atheist-to-theist ratio (also 2:3). The deficiency of female participation is a well-known chronic problem of atheist and sceptical societies everywhere in the world, and it have baffled us for decades. While there are no real shortage of women who are critical-thinking, science-minded secularists (no lack of prominent ones either), most don't seem to feel passionate enough take up a more active role for the cause.

The meets held in and around the Klang Valley region almost always command a decent turnout - which makes sense since metropolitan communities have a greater access to information and are consistently better educated, and those social elements correlate well with the rejection of religion and superstitions. Most of us present were either respectable professionals or university students which, to our collective surprise, were quite unlike the debauched, depraved, deceitful, devil-worshipping, baby-devouring criminals that most religious traditions demonised us as. I mean, could the Bible and Qur'an be wrong about us?!

Whoa, we should totally try to be more evil to help them despise us more easily!

About 15 to 20 people showed, coming and leaving in a revolving door fashion so we couldn't feasibly get everybody in the group shot. There are also members who are still "in the closet" for occupational or lawful purposes, so they couldn't be photographed either.

Terence speaking at the Malaysian Atheists, Freethinkers and Agnostics Meetup at Craftbrews 25-06-2011
Terence (far left) organised this one.

We do plot and scheme, but being the intellectually independent individuals and unherdable cats we are, it's almost impossible to get us to arrive at any proper consensus. All the agendas proposed were defeated (except our devious plan for more future gatherings and more future beer - that one received unanimous support), but we still had a jolly good time hanging out. It's not often that we find ourselves in the company of literate and lettered people that have a working knowledge of philosophy, theology, cosmology, biology, psychology, ethics and human rights issues. It's almost a necessity for all of us to be well-informed laypeople on these subjects for us to survive one another. Seriously, every time you contribute anything to a discussion between rational, sceptical atheists, you must be prepared to back it up because we really have a very low tolerance for bullshit. Yes, there are irrational, unsceptical atheists as well, but they don't usually last very long.

And yes, as everyone probably suspects, we also swapped stories about our encounters with missionaries and holier-than-thou religious acquaintances who tried to witness to us, and had hearty laughs at their expense. There were some anger as well, since being unjustifiably condemned by most people around us as wicked heathens deserving of eternal torture in hellfire really doesn't do a lot to help our disposition.

As far as I can tell, our goals should be quite agreeable to most people, and it boggles my mind that they aren't universally applauded. We strive for a truly secular government which does not favour any one faith over another; the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion; the upholding of human rights and gender equality; and the promotion of science and critical thinking. In the case of our members who are Muslim only in name, we wish to fight for their right to leave Islam.

Now, it'll be nice if we can just agree on how we are going to achieve all those outstanding objectives.

All dressed up with nowhere to go,
k0k s3n w4i

1 comment:

Terri said...

Hey, I was BUSY that Saturday, BUSY!! I do have a social life you know!

What's the "cause" anyway? I'm pro-choice and I don't go to demonstrations or events for cause that either.

You can believe in something and not feel the need to assemble with like-minded folk about it T^T

Now the Bersih rally, on the other hand... :P