A Burmese atheist who takes inspiration from George Carlin and Bart Simpson

Jan 19, 2016

Photo Credit: Naomi Gingold

By Naomi Gingold

When Kyaw Moe Khine was in 9th grade, he told his parents that he was an atheist. His parents didn’t quite get it, he says.

They didn’t even know what atheism meant.

Kyaw Moe Khine, who goes by the name “Bart,” is from Myanmar, frequently referred to as Burma, and it’s a pretty religious place. Most Burmese are Theravada Buddhists, but there are also plenty of religious minorities that have been there for centuries, from Catholics to Muslims of diverse origins all over the country.

Bart says now that he’s 19, his mom knows about atheism, but she still hasn’t come to terms with his new “faith.”

Occasionally she still says things to him like, “You’re going to burn in hell! Allah’s going to punish you!”

He laughs: “Yeah. She says stuff like that.”

Bart was raised Muslim, but even as a kid he questioned everything: in Islam and the Quran, and in the Buddhism around him. He even read the Bible to see what it had to offer.

But he says in all of these faiths, people seemed as if they were just robotically following rules, mostly out of fear; and the rules didn’t make sense in the modern world.

He did find some kindred spirits, though.

“When you read people like [Friedrich] Nietzsche or when you listen to people like George Carlin, they’re really making a point. And those books are not!”

Yes, the George Carlin, who regularly ranted about religion as “utter bulls—.”

Bart wholeheartedly agrees with that.

The first time Bart deliberately broke a religious rule he described the feeling as “emancipating.”

So he kept going.

As you might have guessed, Bart takes his name from the cartoon character, Bart Simpson. And like his namesake, the Burmese Bart has always had a rebellious streak.

It started when he was young. He liked to draw — a lot. (He’s now an artist.) And he was always getting in trouble at school for drawing in books, in class. Teachers would confiscate his drawing pads; sometimes he would steal them back. It was a constant battle, he says.

“That’s where the rebellious nature came from, I guess. The more they me busted me, the more I would react. It became bigger and bigger; from school to religion,” Bart says.

There was something else pivotal in Bart’s experience growing up in Yangon, Burma’s main city.

“In school they would treat Muslim kids differently,” he says. “The teachers and even the kids, they would bully kids. I got bullied for being Muslim.”

While there’s long been anti-Muslim discrimination in the Myanmar, recently, it’s climbed to almost a fever pitch with the growing strength of the Ma Ba Tha, a group of extremist Buddhist monks who’ve been preaching anti-Muslim rhetoric. There are even new laws prohibiting interfaith marriages, laws primarily enacted to target Muslims. And the Muslim Rohingya population in the West have faced severe persecution.

Bart, himself, has plenty of Buddhist and Christian friends and has for years. But it all made him wonder, “Why am I Muslim and most people are Buddhists? That’s the question. Why am I different — in a way that’s not… good?”

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14 comments on “A Burmese atheist who takes inspiration from George Carlin and Bart Simpson

  • if there was any place on earth right now that a Muslim might find a path to atheism Burma would have to be high on the list.

    It’s just so totally saddening that the country that gave the world the person who had most to do with popularizing Vipassana (dhamma.org) is also where the worst of Theravada is to be found and where the most heinous treatment of any people might be found ( Rohingya).

    Rohingya people are slaves in Thailand – you see them on the streets begging – often disfigured, often with little children, often bearing signs of recent beatings that might have been delivered just to elicit compassion from tourists or the few Thais that do help them.

    The crap Rohingya are put through is beyond evil – press-ganged into slavery on farms and fishing boats, building sites.

    When they try to escape Myanmar to get to Malaysia they are treated terribly. I have Thai associates who treat them like animals, condemn them, accuse them all of being false. Buddhism is supposed to be a religion of compassion but there’s little or no compassion for Rohingya.

    Being a Burmese Rohingya Muslim would have to be about the worst thing you could be.

    If i was a Burmese Muslim and I had a decent brain and I saw no solace in any religion available to me (not Buddhism because it’s not a religious issue – it’s an ethnic issue – it would make no difference if you bowed to Allah or did Wai – you’d still be identified for what you are – shit dalit cast that once owned all of the sub-continent and now have no rights anywhere (thanks a f*#king heap Australia))

    i’d be a comic strip character who gave the finger to the whole pitiful mess

    good luck Bart

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  • “Being a Burmese Rohingya Muslim would have to be about the worst thing
    you could be”

    NOT EVEN CLOSE– This is what those gentle, peace loving people are supposed to believe,
    on pain of death- just a small sample of the hate-filled Koran.
    No wonder Islam induces hatred of those who practise it.

    Koran 9:123 “When opportunity arises, kill the infidels wherever you
    catch them. … Koran 3:85

    “The Jews and the Christians are perverts fight them.”. ….. Allah’s
    curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!

    Muslims are harsh against the unbelievers, merciful to one another. –

    Muhammad is Allah’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the
    unbelievers but merciful to one another. Through them, Allah seeks to
    enrage the unbelievers. – 48:29

    Prophet! Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal
    sternly with them. Hell shall be their home, evil their fate. – 66:9

    The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn
    forever in the fire of hell. They are the vilest of all creatures. –

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  • i guess you agree that they should all be wiped out (as do a bunch of Myanmar’s “Buddhist” monks)

    i suggest reading for a few days on the history of the Rohingya people – go backwards til you get to India

    pretty sobering


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  • 4
    Trondesson says:

    Wow, with 19 years this guy already shows more wisdom than EVERYONE who calls him- or herself religious, regardless of what Religion they follow and regardless of where on this planet they live.

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  • This is what those gentle, peace loving people are supposed to believe,
    on pain of death- just a small sample of the hate-filled Koran.

    Stick with it, Jimmy, until they properly understand what they are supposed to do. You’ll be as effective as any Imam one day.

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  • Phil, I hope only to make people aware of what Islam IS, what it’s aims ARE & how it means to achieve them. Presuming your sarcasm is intended, you need to overcome your
    confirmation bias and actually read that damned book.
    I trust I haven’t misinterpreted your intention?

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  • ah, if only life was so simple

    if all we had to do to 100% understand everything that the United States is was to read the Constitution – my my how easy things would be

    and if all we had to do to understand everything there is to know about Christianity was to read the Gospels and the Old Testament – how easy to then judge all of those billion or so Christians

    and if all we had to do to understand all of what India is with its more than a billion people was to read the Bagavad Gita or the Mahabharata – gosh how easy life would be

    but at least, for some of us (like you for instance) it’s a no-brainer to understand completely, thoroughly (and condemn, expel, and i assume bomb, starve, etc etc) a billion people by reading book written a millennium and half ago

    gee, life must be sweet


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  • Perhaps you/d care to tell me WHERE I advocated “wiping them out”??
    Otherwise, please stick your wild accusations where the sun don’t shine.
    I note fro your many posts your fondness for unsubstantiated claims and
    failure to stay on -topic.
    It would be the best possible outcome if both sides could see the truth.
    Religion is a nonsense; but Buddhism is LARGELY peaceable whereas
    Islam is the total opposite- which is why I posted a few Koranic verses
    pointing out why it is nothing like any other religion…

    There are two sides to every story and from the clip below you may note
    that the ‘peaceful’ Rohingya were not entirely innocent victims.

    The 2012 Rakhine State riots were a series of conflicts primarily
    between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in northern
    Rakhine State, Myanmar, though by October Muslims of all ethnicities
    had begun to be targeted.[5][6][7] The riots finally came after weeks
    of sectarian disputes including a gang rape and murder of a Rakhine
    woman by Rohingyas and killing of ten Burmese Muslims by Rakhines.[8]
    10 June 2012 Rohingyas started to burn Rakhine’s Buddhist and other
    ethnic houses after returning from Friday’s prayers in Maungdaw
    township, More than a dozen residents have been killed in a riot by
    Rohingya Muslims.[9]

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  • Stop with the juvenile accusations.

    The whole problem is religion and Islam in particular; hopefully you can
    understand the difference between an ideology and those who practice it?

    Well, apparently NOT. Try to think more broadly than ‘mass extermination’- YOUR suggestion, NOT MINE.

    [Edited by moderator to bring within Terms of Use.]

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  • Two points I forgot to address–

    The worst place to be a Muslim ANYWHERE is probably an Islamic theocracy-
    or Iraq/Syria at present.
    What is the connection to Australia?

    (thanks a f*#king heap Australia))

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  • Your mechanism is incomplete. The Koran is certainly more cohesive than the committee edited bible. It served a rather military expansionist requirement and has a little more effectiveness as a result.

    But the book isn’t spooky in its powers. Most folk (even with the wretched thing sitting by their bed night and day) given the chance, would wish rather to enjoy their family, their friends, their lives than serve it.

    It is the bullies, the Imams, inserted into all their lives that are the uniquely dangerous difference. The book is their cudgel. We need to stop fehtishing a mere book and start noticing the bullies who far more directly influence folk and their thinking. It is also the simple sexism giving men power that underwrites these bullies activities.

    As you know the negative and violent comments of the Bible outnumber the Koran , its just that the Koran is less than half the length and has a higher density of nastiness.

    Focussing on the book is politically unastute as it helps defensively cohere a group (despite its varieties of interpretation) that need, rather, to be split. Pointing to the parasitising of a people by bullies is properly divisive.

    Rather than insisting what the definition of Islam is, it is wildly more productive (in my argumentative experience) to encourage the idea that it can be what its adherents want it to be. A religion as lived is what its adherents wish it to be. We need to sell this idea whilst we directly attack the bullies.

    I find your approach re-herds the sheeple, just as they (mainly through education, particularly of women) are starting to think differently one from another. I sincerely wish you would change tack.

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    We have removed a number of posts that were in breach of our Terms of Use.

    Would all users, long-standing or new, please remember that the site is intended for reasoned, rational, thoughtful, constructive discussion and disagreement. Whatever the point being made, it is never made more rational or more convincing by being rude to those who don’t agree with it.

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  • @ JimJFox

    We have talked a lot about the hard wiring of human beings with things like morality being part of our makeup. Is it right for you to take the religious writings of the koran, as a worse case scenario, and not add other factors to produce a more accurate sliding scale which, we all know, is the reality of the sitution? There is a fundamental flaw in your analysis in that it is incomplete.

    Koran 9:123 “When opportunity arises, kill the infidels wherever you
    catch them. …

    Numbers please! How many adherents?

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