Lizzie Velasquez, who speaks in the video above, is a writer and a motivational speaker. She was born with a very rare genetic condition that makes her unable to gain weight no matter how much she eats. She has never weighed more than 28 kg, and this makes her look very “ugly.” She narrates in this video (8:30) the pain and emotional trauma she experienced when she found out—as she was still in high school—that someone had posted a video of her on YouTube describing her as “the world’s ugliest woman.” One of the commentators told her: “Lizzie, please, please just do the world a favor, put a gun to your head, and kill yourself!”
She, however, never allowed herself to be imprisoned in the image the people wanted to impose on her. Instead of hiding behind closed doors, she decided to become a motivational speaker and confront people face to face. She also wanted to become a writer and now she is about to publish her third book at the age 24. I strongly recommend that you watch this video, which is not only about her story, and not only about “beauty” and “ugliness”, but also about how to define yourself as a person instead of letting other people define you.
On facebook one can see all types of “culture wars” raging on. I have some 400 friends from different parts of the world and with different opinions and cultural orientations. Recently, a friend of mine, who is atheist, I believe, posted the above photo from a facebook page called “Syrian Atheists.” I think the page is supposed to represent Syrian atheists who support the Syrian revolution, but it seems that it is now, like the bazillion other facebook pages dedicated to the Syrian revolution, busy with ideological and cultural conflicts more than toppling the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad.
I don’t consider myself to be part of this culture war between militant atheists and religious militants. I’m neither religious nor sympathetic to the “holy cause” of eradicating religion altogether. But, due to my academic and personal interests, I feel that I should comment on these cultural and ideological confrontations. I will comment on the atheist side in this post, but this doesn’t mean in any way that I sympathize with the other side of the conflict, especially when it becomes equally extreme and naïve in its statements.
In this thought-provoking interview, Professor François Gauthier from the University of Fribourg gives his remarks on a variety of theoretical, methodological, and empirical issues in social sciences. It would be impossible to cover even a tenth of those issues within the limits of this brief article, so I will restrict my response to two themes only: defining religion and critiquing secularization theory and post-secularity.
Hasan al-Sabbah, the Lord of Alamut, and Morpheus from The Matrix
Note: There might be few spoilers in this post!
Last week I finally finished reading Valdimir Bartol’s and Slovenia’s most well-known literary work: the novel of Alamut. As I mentioned in my previous post, the novel is based on the historical legend of the Assassins: the radical Muslim sect that terrorized in the 12th and 13th centuries the Crusaders and local Muslims rulers in Iran and Syria with their assassinating daggers. According to the legend, Hasan al-Sabbah—the sect’s founder, ideologue, and military commander—used hashish to trick his would-be assassins to believe that he held the keys to Paradise, which transformed them into blind followers willing to embrace death instantly and unconditionally. The novel, however, is not limited to themes of murder, sexual lust, and religious manipulation. It is also an intellectual work that delves deeply into human beings’ conflicting quests for faith and doubt; for meaning and knowledge; for power and morality. Bartol draws on his knowledge of various currents of thought ranging from the philosophies of ancient Greece, through Nietzsche and Freud, to totalitarianism.
The cover for Black Sabbath’s single: God is Dead?
My previous post in this blog, Behind the Western Horizon, was perhaps very emotional and cathartic. It might have been the stress that I came under during preceding two weeks, when I often spent more than 12 hours each day in my office—staying sometimes past midnight—researching when, why, and how people choose to believe or disbelieve. So in a moment of personal fragility, I wrote down whatever thoughts and questions were “moshing” inside the walls of my exhausted head.
Today I noticed that these thoughts, interestingly, resonate with the lyrics of a song from Black Sabbath’s latest album 13, which I have been listening to very often—almost daily—during the past month. When I wrote my previous post, I wasn’t particularly thinking of that song, which is for me very aptly titled God is Dead? (note the question mark!) But it seems that metal music, as usual, speaks for me—at least with respect to religious themes—even when I don’t try consciously to relate my own thoughts about religion to it. This time, however, I will try to use the lyrics of this song to talk about some issues related to religion and belief.