Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion

This is our official response to the backlash against the Atheist Republic in Malaysia, first shared on our Facebook page on August 14, 2017. Please read and share.

Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion

It is alarming that one of Malaysia’s ministers, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim has called for Malaysian atheists to be “hunted down” vehemently by the Malaysian public.

What sparked such a call? A photo of an atheist meeting organised by an international group, the Atheist Republic, in Kuala Lumpur that had gone viral online. The photograph sparked anger because it appeared to feature young Malay Muslims.

The backlash is troubling. Online responses have called for the government to arrest these alleged apostates, with some even going as far as to suggest beheading the group’s founder, Iran-born Armin Navabi.

For a long time, God (or to the atheist – the notion of god) has been seen as the source of morality, and atheism equated to the lack of moral values. For perspective, a Pew Research Center’s global study in 2011, of 230 countries and territories found that 16% of the world’s population is not affiliated with a religion.

Globally today, there is still considerable hatred towards atheists and Malaysia is not the only country where such hatred exists. The government of Saudi Arabia has equated atheists to terrorists, and Bangladeshi government’s inaction in reining in atrocities towards atheist bloggers, real or suspicious are but two.

The notion that atheists are immoral simply because they do not believe in a God, is nonsense.

THE MYTH THAT ATHEISTS ARE IMMORAL

The Humanist Society (Singapore), a community of atheists and agnostics in Singapore, had organised more than 150 gatherings since its inception in 2010.

The Society had long known about the presence of atheist groups in Malaysia. Many Malaysian atheists who had travelled to Singapore for Humanist Society events are well-educated, articulate and forward thinking Malaysians. These Malaysians are also very respectful of the rights of all people to hold religious beliefs or none. There are many Malaysian atheists working and living in Singapore, too, as productive members of the cosmopolitan Singapore society.

Photo below: The Humanist Society organising a Charity Book Sale to raise funds for the needy:

Atheists are capable of being good people, doing good things and living in harmony with religious people. People do bad things regardless of race or creed. Many freethinkers still share universal human values with the religious, such as the cardinal rule of treating others as one would like others to treat oneself.

The two largest charitable donations in the history of the world were by atheists: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates donated US$30 billion and US$11 billion of their wealth respectively to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The rest of the list is long, and many of them atheists.

The religious often ask: Where do atheists get their morality from?

A growing volume of scientific literature is shedding light into the origins of our morality over the course of our evolution into human beings. It is found, for example, that many mammals are also capable of empathy and kindness, just like human beings.

Evidence suggests that humans have an innate capacity to do good for goodness sake. While there are many instances of selfish behaviour around the world, the bulk of human beings is generally good, regardless of race and religion. This includes atheists too.

Young children, with limited capacity to understand complex religious ideas, have demonstrated kindness and empathy towards fellow children, adults and animals at a tender age. Children can sometimes display selfless and selfish behaviours, and as atheist parents, we encourage the former and dissuade and educate them away from the latter. This is moral education that emphasises on treating other humans and living things as equals.

MUSLIMS AT ATHEIST EVENTS IMPROVE SOCIAL HARMONY

The Malaysian government, public and religious clergy have expressed alarm at the presence of Malays who are officially Muslims at the Atheist Republic event.

Firstly, Muslims do not become an apostate simply by mingling with atheists.

In Singapore, Muslims have visited the Humanist Society (Singapore). We have also visited Muslims during Iftar to reciprocate their gestures. Over time, friendships have formed and we talk about a great deal many things, such as culture, history and language.

Photo below: Humanists and atheists with interfaith activist Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib, at one of the Iftar talks held at SCWO during the Ramadan of 2016.

These Muslims have remained Muslims and the atheists have remained as atheists. Not every interaction between people of different beliefs has to be about conversion, but it must be about understanding.

Muslims at atheist gatherings act as a valuable bridge between Muslim and non-religious communities. For example, Muslim visitors can clarify misconceptions about Islam and offer religious points of view.

We feel that Islamic leaders should applaud, rather than condemn, the efforts of well-meaning Muslims. In Singapore, we have very vibrant interfaith initiatives, led by the government as well as civil societies, with the aim of forging even closer ties.

Photo below: Singapore regularly conducts interfaith gatherings, with representatives from ten different faiths taking part.

Secondly, if any person wishes to change his or her religious beliefs out of pure conviction, not even the most eloquent atheist or religious person can change his or her mind, and neither will the largest atheist or religious gatherings change their minds. However, just like there will be people who will take up religion or switch religion, there certainly are people who may eventually leave religion, through their own volition and needs, and there has to be a legal path to that which does not involve being threatened by death.

As Gus Dur once said – God, can take care of himself. Freedom of religion, as enshrined in Article 11 of the Malaysian Constitution, is not as narrow as a one-way street – it includes freedom from religion and the safe passage of people between religions or non-religious, at least of faiths other than Islam. No single group should be singled out for prosecution or persecution.

Atheists are found in every country on Earth, from every era and from all walks of life. No society has been completely religious. The fact that Malaysia has atheist gatherings is nothing unusual. If the situation were reversed, that a country was to unilaterally ban all religions, the humanists and atheists will be the first ones to denounce such draconian moves.

Humanists and atheists have a fundamental understanding that borders are man-made and ideologies see no borders. We hope there can be space for Malaysian atheists to form supporting communities in their own country. In our view, Malaysian atheists are great ambassadors for Malaysia. Rather than sidelining them, they should be celebrated as part of the diverse richness of Malaysian society.

Tan Tatt Si
President, Humanist Society (Singapore)
For Humanist Society (Singapore)

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Humans of HumanistSG

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Who is behind the Humanist Society? What kind of people are they?  What are their respective roles in keeping the humanist movement alive? Our executive committee members share some of their thoughts here!

If you are inspired to contribute to the HumanistSG like we did, you can easily do so! Membership is free for students and retirees gets 50% discount! Join us today!

If you are already a member, you should nominate an existing member for office before the Annual General Meeting, which happens every year around March.

 

 

Annual General Meeting 2017

The Humanist Society (Singapore) invites all our members to our Annual General Meeting (AGM).
If you want to find out more about HSS and our activities, our past events in 2016 and our future plans for 2016 and beyond, do join us on 4 March 2017.
We will also be electing several key appointment holders for 2017 (see below) and we would certainly appreciate your support.

Date
04/03/2017

Time
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Location
OnePeople.sg
381 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh S319758
Singapore

AGENDA
  1.  Introduction by President
  2. Events and Activities in 2016/17
  3. Press and media coverage in 2016/17
  4. Auditor and Treasurer’s report
  5. Constitutional ammendments
  6. Election of New committee members
    1. Vice-President
    2. Secretary
    3. Committee Member

To attend the AGM, you must be a member of HumanistSG. You can sign up https://humanist.org.sg/membership-faq/membership/ on the day of the AGM or renew your membership to attend the AGM.

For members who wish to vote for committee members, but are unable to attend the AGM, please e-mail secretary@humanist.org.sg to request to vote by proxy. We will forward details concerning the nominees and further information about proxy voting to you by further e-mail.

Nomination for Executive Committee 2017/2018

Dear members,

We are calling for our Annual General Meeting for 2017. We would like to invite our members to be a part of the Executive Committee.
The positions in the Executive Committee for the year 2017 are as follows.

1) Vice-President: Open to members of the society for a minimum of 1 year and must be a Singaporean citizen / permanent resident

2) Secretary: Open to members of the society for a minimum of 1 year and must be a Singaporean citizen / permanent resident

3) Committee Member: Open to members of the society for a minimum of 6 months

The length of term for all offices is 2 years.

For a description of the roles and responsibilities of the above roles are outlined in The Society’s Constitution, which can be accessed at https://humanist.org.sg/about/our-constitution/

Members are free to nominate themselves or another member of the society.
Nominations must be seconded by another member of the society.
Please submit the following details for the nominee, the member recommending the nominee, if not the same individual , and the member seconding the nomination

Title: Nomination for HumanistSG Exco 2017/18

1) Full Name
2) IC number (for Singaporean citizens / permanent resident)
3) E-mail
4) Contact number

Please submit the details to secretary@humanist.org.sg by the 30th of January 2017. Any submissions after 2359hrs on said date will not be applicable.

Please feel free to contact us at secretary@humanist.org if you have any further queries concerning the nomination process.

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This (last of series of three) is appropriately timed for Dr Paul Hedges’ book launch on Friday 14 October 2016.

These videos, where our president had a conversation with Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib from LeftWrite Center,

Round 3 : Wrap up on religion
Speaker :  Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib (Co-Founder, Leftwrite Center)

Wrap up on atheism
Speaker : Tan Tatt Si (HSS President)

Perhaps the most memorable phrase outlining the spirit of the conversation, came at the very end of this video : “What is one god between friends ?”

A/Prof Hoon with his closing remarks
Speaker : A/Prof Hoon Chang Yau (Singapore Management University)

HumanistSG thanks you for tuning in, and endeavour to bring more such conversations to our followers.

 

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The event, jointly planned by the newlyweds and the celebrant arm of HumanistSG, consists of these parts : the ethos of Humanism, the pathos of the couple and their friends, and finding unity in what all experienced in life so far and in lives henceforth.

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This is a summary of the film director Chris Johnson’s visit to Singapore on Sept 16-17, where he took part in two separate screenings of “A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy & Meaning in a World Without God”.

Instead of just criticizing religion and the damage it does, the atheist movement should present meaningful alternatives such through the good lives they led and communities they built, according to ‘A Better Life’ film director Chris Johnson in Singapore last weekend. [Read more…]

Our first celebrant service

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By Tan Tatt Si

On August 28, the Humanist Society (Singapore) performed our first celebrant service. While we had other humanist services in the past, this was the first time we are doing it in our organization’s name, ushering in a new chapter in humanist celebrant service here. [Read more…]