From Hip Hop to Heavy Metal: A Story of Conversion

I wrote a draft of this post two years ago (March 2015) in my notebook, but only now that I have edited it and posted it online. I have avoided making any substantial changes, so that it remains true as much as possible to my thoughts back then.

Brother Ali

Album cover of Borther Ali’s Mourning in America: Dreaming in Color – one of my first favorite hip hop albums.

Those who know me personally or have read some of my posts here (Oriental(ist) Metal Music or “Is God really Dead?”) know me as a dedicated heavy metal fan. For 15 years, almost half my life, I listened almost exclusively to heavy metal music (along with few hard and progressive rock bands). I have also been a dedicated concert-goer, sometimes travelling to other countries just to attend a metal band I like. Heavy metal was in fact more than just music for me. It was, for most of these 15 years, an identity and an influence on the way I think and behave. I even wrote my MA thesis, back in 2010, about heavy metal in Syria and for a while I was thinking about doing a PhD in this field. As a faithful metalhead I looked down at all other styles of music, especially hip hop, and bragged how heavy metal surpassed it in sophistication, authenticity, anti-commercialism, and fan-dedication. In fact, two months ago, I would not have been able to name 10 hip hop songs, and if you asked my what was your favorite hip hop song, I would have said Gay Fish.

So after all that to turn to hip hop within less than two months came as a surprise to me personally before anyone else. So I have spent the past two weeks reflecting on this “radical” change and trying to understand how come it ever happened and why hip hop and not any other style of music. What has changed in my life or my environment that helped make this transformation? I will try in this post to give some answers to these questions.

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Two Christianities in Two Booklets: Impressions from a Visit to a Swedish Church

Earlier this year, on a cold January morning, I was walking around in the snowy streets of Stockholm, not sure how to spend the few hours before the departure of my bus on an 18-hour journey to the far north of Sweden, when I came across a big brown church in a side street near the main train station. Being interested in religion, I decided to walk in and have a look in order to get an impression of Swedish churches.

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Two different Christianities in two booklets

When I went in, which was few minutes after it had opened its doors to visitors, there were already 5 or 6 people inside. Some of them seemed to be homeless people who spent the night inside protected from the freezing cold. They wore rough clothes and had blankets and mats with them. There were also two people praying and another person sitting near the door, who, I assume, work for the church.

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Bribing to (dis)believe – How Dawkins is teaching children to “think for themselves”

Believe not in unicorns and receive a £10 note consecrated by Dawkins

Believe not in unicorns and receive a £10 note consecrated by Dawkins (image source: “Invisible Pink Unicorn”, Wikipedia)

Right after I published my previous post about how Dawkins is creating a cult of personality around himself and using it to scam his atheist followers, a friend of mine mentioned the following article “Richard Dawkins launches children’s summer camp for atheists,” which was published by The Telegraph in 2009. The article reported that Dawkins was setting up summer camps for children akin to those organized by churches and other religious organizations, which suggests that Dawkins “makes atheism look even more like the thing he is rallying against,” according to a spokesman of the Church of England commenting on Dawkins’ plans. This article confirms exactly what I have said in my previous post; atheism, especially the one preached by Dawkins is less the absence of religion and more an alternative religion.

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Not only religion, but atheism too can be used as a scam – Dawkins as an example

You can buy this

You can buy this “Religion – together we can find the cure” T-shirt from the Richard Dawkins Foundation store for just $22.95 and contribute to the spread of reason, rationality, and progress!

Last week during my journey back from Prague to Leipzig, where I live, I had a conversation with a German lady who was sitting opposite to me in the train. When I told her that I study religion, she remarked categorically that religion for her is nothing more than a scam on a grand scale to rip people off and take their money away. It is not surprising to hear such a view from a person who grew up in East Germany—the most godless place on Earth—and it is arguably an opinion that is shared by many atheists around the world, including the neo-atheist “saint” Richard Dawkins:

Imagine a world with no religion. Imagine no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as ‘Christ-killers’, no Northern Ireland ‘troubles’, no ‘honour killings’, no shiny-suited bouffant-haired televangelists fleecing gullible people of their money.

The God Delusion, p. 23-24

I am not writing here to argue against such a view of religion. It is true that many preachers, clerics, and religious organizations collect money from people dishonestly to enrich themselves, although I believe a lot of the money raised via religious channels is used for fair and charitable purposes. I would like, however, to point out that atheism too can be converted into a scamming enterprise, and Dawkins is apparently doing just that.

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From “the world’s ugliest woman” to one of the world’s most inspiring examples

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.

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Atheist Criticism of Religion – Why does it often miss the point?

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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.

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Heavy metal as religion and secularization as ideology: a sociological approach

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A promotional T-Shirt for the “Heavy Metal As A Religion Census Campaign” by British heavy metal magazine Metal Hammer.
Credit: facebook page of the campaign

This is an article that I wrote for the Religious Studies Project in response to their interview with Professor François Gauthier from the University of Fribourg.

Link to original article: http://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/2013/10/09/heavy-metal-as-religion-and-secularization-as-ideology-by-mohammad-magout/

Heavy metal as religion and secularization as ideology: a sociological approach

By Mohammad Magout, University of Leipzig, Germany

Published by the Religious Studies Project on 9 October 2013, in response to François Gauthier’s interview on Religion, Neoliberalism and Consumer Culture (7 October 2013).

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.

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