The Problem Of Apostasy

So I have been check­ing laws around the world re­gard­ing Apostasy. And I have found ex­tremely trou­bling data on the ap­proach Mus­lims take to deal­ing with apos­tates. In most cases, pub­li­cly stat­ing that you do not, in fact, love Big Brother (speci­fi­cally, that you do not be­lieve in God, the Prophet, or Is­lam), af­ter hav­ing pro­fessed the Pro­fes­sion of Faith be­ing adult and sane (oth­er­wise, you were never a Mus­lim in the first place), will get you kil­led.

Yes, kil­led. It’s one of the only three things tra­di­tional Is­lamic tribunals hand out death penalties for, the oth­ers be­ing mur­der and adultery.

How­ever, in­ter­est­ingly enough, you are of­ten given three days of de­tain­ment to “think it over” and “ac­cept the faith”.

Some other coun­tries, though, are more for­giv­ing: you are al­lowed to be a pub­lic apos­tate. But you are still not al­lowed to pros­ely­tize: that re­mains a crime (in Morocco it’s 15 years of prison, and a flog­ging). Though pros­elytism is also a crime if you are not a Mus­lim. I leave to your imag­i­na­tion how pre­car­i­ous the situ­a­tion of re­li­gious minori­ties is, in this con­text.

How lit­tle sense all of this makes, from a the­olog­i­cal per­spec­tive. Forc­ing some­one to “ac­cept the faith” at knife point? For­bid­ding you from ar­gu­ing against the Lord’s (re­put­edly) ab­solutely self-ev­i­dent and mirac­u­lously beau­tiful Word?

No. Th­ese are the pat­terns of sedi­tion and trea­son laws. The crime of the Apostate is not one against the Lord (He can take care of Him­self, and He cer­tainly can take care of the Apostate) but against the State (ex­is­tence of a hu­man lord con­tin­gent on poli­ti­cal regime).

And the less­wronger asks him­self: “How is that my con­cern? Please, get to the point.” The point is that the pro­mo­tion of ra­tio­nal­ism faces a ter­rible ob­sta­cle there. We’re not talk­ing “God Hates You” pla­c­ards, or get­ting fired from your job. We’re talk­ing fire range and elec­tric chair.

“Sure,” you say, “but ra­tio­nal­ism is not about athe­ism.” And you’d be right. It isn’t. It’s just a very likely con­clu­sion for the ra­tio­nal­ist mind to reach, and, also, our cult leader (:P) is a rag­ing, bit­ter, pas­sion­ate athe­ist. That is enough. If word spreads and au­thor­i­ties find out, just ped­dling HPMOR might get peo­ple jailed. And that’s not ac­count­ing for the hy­po­thet­i­cal (cough) case of a young adult read­ing the Se­quences and get­ting all hot­headed about it and do­ing some­thing stupid. Like try­ing to pro­mote our brand of ra­tio­nal­ity in such hos­tile ter­rain.

So, let’s take this hy­po­thet­i­cal (har­rumph) youth. They see ir­ra­tional­ity around them, ob­vi­ous and im­mense, they see the waste and the pain it causes. They’d like to do some­thing about it. How would you ad­vise them to go about it? Would you ad­vise them to, in fact, do noth­ing at all?

More im­por­tantly, con­cern­ing Less Wrong it­self, should we try to dis­tance our­selves from athe­ism and anti-re­li­gious­ness as such? Is this bag­gage too in­con­ve­nient, or is it too much a part of what we stand for?