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The problem of intellectual dishonesty, wilfully deceiving the public and of just plain making things up so people could be swayed to your side is endemic to the human race, but it has a specific malignancy associated with it in countries like Pakistan. Pakistan, a largely illiterate country, where even the educated elite themselves aren’t exactly up to the mark can easily be swayed by a few choice buzzwords. Combine this with the constitutionally theocratic nature of the country and a basic conservative mindset, and you have a recipe for disaster.

I recently came across this article by a “political analyst”, analysing the growing movement of apostasy and atheism, by claiming “According to scientific research, the overt atheist, or those who are believed to be suffering from The Misfit Syndrome, may carry a genetic defect”. This claim, questionable as it is, was then followed up by just as questionable evidence: a choice of quotes that were tangentially related to the topic; and a “study” from a German university without any link to the actual publication. The study, in fact, doesn’t really exist.

So let us get to the basic point first: A fabricated study. The level of authoritarianism is so high in our population that we will believe anything that a supposed man in white coat tells us. However, we are not stupid, no. We will not believe anything that goes against our pre-conceived beliefs. This phenomenon is more commonly known as “confirmation bias”. This confirmation bias makes us believe that those damned dirty atheists must really be mentally ill. How else could they think anything other than what we are taught to think, collectively?

This study was supposedly conducted by a supposed Dr. Hans Zimmerman MD PhD at University of Hamburg. A cursory search of the University of Hamburg faculty lists only one Dr. Zimmerman, and that is a Dr. Michael Zimmermann who teaches at the “Numata Center for Buddhist Studies”, a far cry from this mythical Social Scientist and Medical doctor who supposedly spent 22 years on “overt atheism”. There is a Hans Zimmer, excellent musician, but even he doesn’t fit the bill here. Deeper searches into the various research paper databases, like PloS One, NIH and JStor turn up no other published papers on this and no evidence of this person even existing in the scientific community.

However, it would be wrong to say that this study, or this person, never existed. It did, but only in the fanciful brain of one Damien, who posted this on his personal blog on 17th of August, 2012 in an article titled ATHEISM AS A MENTAL DISORDER OR ILLNESS? NEW STUDIES SAY, “YES.” The piece in question was basically lifted from that article, which is equally baseless and provides no evidence of this supposed study whatsoever. The fact that our “analyst” lapped it up is a testament to how gullible we are and how much we are subject to our confirmation biases.

The rest of the article, beyond the content of this fictional study is basically what would amount to hate speech against atheists in a civilized country, and an extremely poor way to “prove” the existence of a god, at best. Among the “evidence” cited, is a quote from Maya Angelou and the “fact” that it has never rained on a Princeton Graduation Ceremony. Again, all of those are words that have, at best, a tangential relation to the topic in the title.

Finally, we have this specific section that I am quoting directly from the blog post:

“Nevertheless, stressed/sickened individuals create an atmosphere of stress and sickness in collective consciousness that reciprocally affects the thinking and actions of every individual in that system (same frame of mind)…..Collective problems of society are more than just the problem of sick individuals—-such problems are more fundamentally symptoms of stress/sickness in collective consciousness (of the society) pushing our youngsters towards—Avowed-Overt- Atheism.”

This, here, is a problem. Our problem isn’t the odd liberal or atheist saying what they believe on Facebook: Our problem is the man who is willing to kill a person for speaking his mind. Our problem is the gang of thugs that will shoot at fifteen year old girls because they want to go to school. Our problem is the militant religious issue that left one hundred and forty one children dead when they went to school. If you think that an atheist is a problem, and somehow they are mentally ill, you have serious priority issues, my friend.

We are all human beings that can, and should, be allowed to hold different beliefs. If one of those beliefs is that the existence of a god is not probable, or that there is no evidence for the existence of a deity, then let it be. Focus on what you are doing yourself, for if a god exists, surely he, or she, will prefer that you did good things to your fellow humans rather than prostrating five times a day and thanking him for allowing you to blow up children.