Aan Update

Alexander Aan is in prison. His crime was questioning the existence of God on facebook. For this non-offense, he was sentenced to two years in prison in his home country of Indonesia. His case is the perfect example of why it’s important for secularists (from both atheist and theist camps) to speak out against theocracy. Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

He’s written a letter from prison to express his appreciation for the movement to get him released from prison. I’m not optimistic, but it’s nice to see that we can at least do some good for him. If you want to send support:

Atheist Alliance International is very active on this issue, and will forward messages of support to Alex if you email info [at] atheistalliance [dot] org with “Message for Alex” in the subject line.

It doesn’t matter what religion you are, you should be free to believe as you like. Talking about your faith can never be a crime, and governments cannot legislate belief. Alexander Aan is the innocent victim of a loathsome government. Let him (and your government representatives?) know how you feel.

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7 responses to “Aan Update

  1. From what I can see on the wikipaedia article, he did more than just not believe in God. He went after Muhammad and everyone who’s ever lived in an Muslim majoority country know that’s a strict no-no. I’m visiting my parents in one. Since I’ve been here, there have been numerous arrests and prosecution of people for insulting the sultan and “writing defamatory and insulting things”, etc. I just do my best to stay out of trouble. My point is that he has a right to say anything that isn’t morally wrong, but unless he had a pretty good reason for doing something that was sure to send him to jail, he’s incredibly stupid.

    That said, the Muslims might argue that what he said was in fact morally wrong and I can’t understand how you can speak about it. From what I understand about your beliefs about moral ontology, moral values are simply something you deduce from your own person subjective opinions. Why the people of Indonesia should care about your opinions is beyond me.

    i would sign the petition, but I’m not a US citizen. I’ll pray for him, however.

  2. Did I say he was arrested for being an atheist? I can’t find anywhere that I made this claim. As I said here, “His crime was questioning the existence of God on facebook.” This wasn’t like he was going out and telling people in coffee shops or day cares that there is no Allah. He made a post. Online.

    I am distressed by your second paragraph because it demonstrates that, even after our discussions, you still do not understand my position. That makes me sad.

  3. “He made a post. Online.”

    I’ll correct that, then. He didn’t just question the existence of God. One bad post would probably get me arrested too, and if it criticizes the Sultan, God help me.

    From what I remember of our conversations and your post, your view of moral values is that
    (1)they are preferences about actions. As such, they are subjective and differ with persons.
    (2)However, we can create objective standards by picking one (or more?) of those subjective values and making rules out of them. For instance, we can take the objective value “I want to be happy” and pass legislations making things which threaten my happiness ‘wrong’ and things which promote my happiness ‘right’.

    (3)Despite the fact that those things are objective, as you argue, they are clearly based on subjective values.
    (4)And as you say, no one is obligated to follow them.

    So, when you accuse someone of violating a law that is based on your (and maybe others’) subjective preferences, their response should be”so freaking what?”. They are not obligated to care about your thoughts, let alone follow your rules.
    Feel free to point out wherever I have your claims wrong. The numbered point are what I believe you said and the rest are my deductions.

  4. 2: Not quite. No moral system can elevate one individual above the rest. If you start with a system that focuses on “my happiness,” it applies to everyone else by extension. (If you’re concerned with just yourself, you’re clearly being selfish, not moral.)
    3: No moral system is entirely objective. Even Christianity starts with the subjective value “God should be obeyed.” There’s no avoiding this core of subjectivity.
    4: Did I say that? I rather hope not because it’s obviously false. There is a social obligation to be moral, although “free will” kicks in to allow people to deviate. What I remember saying is that “the rest of us are not obligated to let you abuse us.”

    If they are a sociopath, their response will probably be “so freaking what?” If they’re decent human beings, however, they should be concerned with others’ well-being. This really is not a controversial suggestion.

  5. “Mutual predation leaves both sides bruised and bloody, if not dead. … As soon as one side tries to prevail on the other not to injure him, he has no choice but to commit himself not to injure the other side either. As soon as he says, ‘It’s bad for you to hurt me,’ he’s committed to, ‘It’s bad for me to hurt you,’ since logic cannot tell the difference between ‘me’ and ‘you.'”
    —Steven Pinker

  6. I know of no Christian who teaches that “God should be obeyed” is subjective but for the purpose of this conversation, we can focus on what I think and what the Bible teaches and as far as I know, the Bible teaches that God should be obeyed as a matter of fact, whether people believe it or not. It is therefore, not subjective. The reason I have identified your moral values as subjective is that you say they are preferences and preferences are subjective by nature.

    The fact that people agree that people should care about others’ well-being I agree with. But your view amounts to the claim that we are obligated to follow your subjective preferences, even when they are different from ours. Now, that can’t be because you are God, so how do you justify the view?

    It is no use saying that it is uncontroversial that we ought to care about others’ well-being because (1) That is not an answer to my question, (2) As we have seen, people do disagree with you like in Aan’s case. They might not argue with you when you say they should care about the well-being of others because they agree with that value, but when you suggest that they ought to follow your rule when they disagree with it, the claim borders on ridiculous. Unless, of course, you can justify it in some way.

    “If they are a sociopath, their response will probably be “so freaking what?” If they’re decent human beings, however, they should be concerned with others’ well-being. This really is not a controversial suggestion.”

    That people should care about others’ well-being? No, it’s not controversial. However, when you begin to say that this is your own preference, you lose the ability to say that people ought to follow it. And those who do disagree with it and refuse to follow the rule are no longer doing anything wrong. Afterall, you have no right to dictate to any of us, what we ought to do. I can believe that people who disagree that they ought to care about the well-being of others are wrong, because I do not think that what is right and wrong is merely what people think.

  7. You can call it a “matter of fact” all you like, but the idea that you should care what the Biblical god has to say is a subjective one. You can’t merely call it objective to make it so. Sure, the Bible itself can be regarded as an objective source in the same way that laws are objective sources of behavioral guidelines, but the decision to follow it is rooted in a subjective value.

    “Unless, of course, you can justify it in some way.”
    Discrimination is bullshit. That’s my justification.

    “However, when you begin to say that this is your own preference, you lose the ability to say that people ought to follow it.”
    Absolutely not. I prefer not to be shot or stabbed, and other people should not shoot or stab me. What a ludicrous claim.

    “Afterall, you have no right to dictate to any of us, what we ought to do.”
    I have every right as the member of a social species to speak out against injustices committed against other intelligent creatures. The fact that you may disagree does not remove my right to condemn someone for committing or endorsing atrocities.

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