Every time you and I see the news about yet another atrocity committed by one group of human beings upon another, we will react in different ways and along a spectrum ranging from complete disinterest to a burning need to avenge the victims in one way or another. Most of us are somewhere in the middle but feel powerless. We are outraged but need to peel potatoes for dinner. It makes us sad but we still need to get the kids ready for bed or finish that job for work tomorrow. So, we post our thoughts on Facebook or Twitter, we change our profile pictures (or use the latest Facebook filter), we talk about it at work, we read the newspapers for the latest development, and we move on with our lives. In the aftermath, after the initial reaction, we begin to form opinions about the event – or, more usually, are influenced by the opinions of various talking heads or columnists which varies according to our political persuasion and levels of literacy.
In the aftermath of the Paris bombings, and of those in Beirut, Baghdad, and various other places (watch this space), there is a natural tendency to blame religion for this atrocity – and perhaps with some justification. This is nothing new. Fundamentalist Christians have been committing terror acts since the time of the Crusades – European history and the history of every place colonised or conquered by European settlers is a bloody tapestry of militant Christianity and the gory fate of those who resisted conversion. Fundamentalist Muslims have been committing acts of terror all across Asia, North Africa, and Southern Europe since the fateful day an illiterate merchant acquired a religious fervour and declared himself the final and most important prophet sent by his version of a God. After we blame religion, there is then the inevitable call to ban religion.
Christopher Hitchens wrote an entire book on this subject and, to my mind, did a fair job of justifying his premise that “religion ruins everything”. Sam Harris has written multiple pieces warning about the evils of religion, calling for an end to all theocracies across the globe, and generally warning us all about the perils of ignoring the beast of fundamentalism in all its forms – although I feel he is getting “a bit carried away with it” of late. Those who have read anything written by these two, or indeed by Dawkins, Dennett, or any other influential atheists, will be familiar with most of the arguments regarding the abolition of religion. I really don’t want this essay to stumble into the territory of being a book review, or a “compare and contrast” exercise regarding the positions of these people; I merely wish to nod in their direction and apologise if I seem to be regurgitating any of their ideas.
In perhaps another caveat, I also want to make my own position clear. I was raised a Roman Catholic but am now an avowed atheist. I do not believe that I am an apologist for religion – I can rant and rave complete with flying foam-specked spittle when it comes to the cherry-picking Christians who chose to ignore the yucky bits of the Bible, the hypocrisy of the Roman church when it defends the paedophiles within its ranks, the unadulterated stupidity of redneck yokels who claim it is their divine prerogative to be utter arseholes to those who do not fit their excessively narrow definition of what it means to be an acceptable human, and all the other dreadful inconsistencies that can be found in the general behaviour of a large number of theists. I hate the fact that children are indoctrinated at a young age when their abilities to discern truth from fantasy is very limited. I do not believe for one moment that any church or church-related activity – especially education but not including charity – should be exempt from paying tax on derived income, bequeathments, or any other remunerative sources, or be considered exempt from common law or “normal’ social expectations. I don’t like religion. Those who have read my Facebook posts and the previous incarnation of this blog are muttering “no kidding” at this point.
While I stridently deny that atheism can be labelled as an ideology or at worst, a theistic position, I do live my life by a personal ideology. I don’t have a label for it, nor do I feel a need for one. I can, perhaps, be described, at least in part, as a socialist, a humanist, an idealist, an environmentalist (at a stretch), or at one point in my life, as an “angry young man”. I am, like the rest of us, a deeply flawed human being but I try to act in a conscionable manner and to confine my actions to the general moral code followed by most of us in “Western” society – the social contract to which we all adhere (more or less – or at least try to – most of the time anyway). This personal belief system contains within it a deeply held conviction that everyone possesses the inalienable right to form an assembly, to speak their mind, and to hold any convictions they please. The assembly should always be non-violent, your convictions should never impinge on the rights of your fellow human-beings, and you do not possess the right to inflict those convictions on any other person – including your own children. The bit that relates to “Freedom of Speech” is still a grey area to me – and will be discussed at a later date. To sum up, I do not believe that I have the right to tell any other person what to believe or what not to believe. I do not have the right to tell them not to gather at their preferred places of worship or not to engage in non-intrusive religious activities like the Salah. In short, I think banning religion is morally objectionable.
I could, at this juncture, just stop writing. I haven’t expressed anything particularly new, and those who I know read my blog would, for the most part agree with the core of my message. Some would profoundly disagree with many aspects of my paragraph about why I dislike religion but most would agree, for the most part, with the previous paragraph about why I feel banning religion is morally objectionable. I might even get a comment about some of this.
I have started and re-started this section of my essay quite a few times now. I am trying to segue smoothly from the last paragraph of Act I with a seamless movement into Act II. So far, I haven’t managed this. So, I will blunder on (and perhaps have a blinding revelation during the editing process). Please excuse the literary “clank”.
I mentioned earlier today on Facebook about my usual habit of reading and sometimes bookmarking, many articles from a variety of sources across the internet before I begin to write. I read articles by those with whom I agree, by those with whom I mostly (or even partially) agree, and by those with whom I vehemently disagree. By this method, I hope to learn more about my topic, perhaps clarify my own position on a contentious issue, and often it is an attempt to understand alternative viewpoints. My intention is to write an intelligent, if somewhat opinionated, article that may provoke thought or even discussion. If nothing else, it becomes something to read. This morning, however, I found that reading the thoughts and opinions of the “other side’ actually brought me to tears. I became so depressed and disconsolate that I dismissed the idea of writing this article because I am fully aware of the ineffectual, futile nature of my efforts. My readers are not those who would ever give credence to the dictums of disenfranchisement that are actively promoted by so many websites, organisations, and political parties; the members of whom would burn every mosque to the ground, deny shelter or any form of succour to those who aren’t aggressively and obviously “’Strayan”, and whose world-view effectively denies the existence of a world beyond the limit of Australian territorial waters – except perhaps for the antics of those Kardashian critters or the more photogenic in-breds from various vestigial monarchies. However, I decided to continue pissing into the wind because once I divested myself of sadness, I felt the need to yell into the empty void of the internet and shout out that I want no part of their hateful creed. I know I am wasting my breath and my time. Those for whom this is written would never read anything I write.
Muslims are the current bogeyman used by politicians to create fear amongst the uneducated, the gullible, and the plain stupid. The monstrosity that is ISIS and the bombings on Friday night in Paris are all fuel to this fire and have elicited the usual ill-conceived, unconsidered, and ignorant responses – from Jeb Bush’s statements about only accepting Christian Syrians as refugees (seriously?), Donald Trump’s asinine remarks regarding gun control in Paris, and, at home, the unconcealed joy of far-right simpletons like Pauline Hansen as they brutally, callously, and unashamedly form a metaphorical pile of dead Parisian bodies into an opportunistic soapbox from which to deliver their hateful, indiscriminate and bigoted diatribes against any and all Muslims here in Australia and overseas.
Pauline Hansen and Donald Trump. I could go on but I won’t. Seriously? They get votes? Sigh
I have a planned structure on another page when I systemically denigrate and disintegrate all the reasons for burning mosques and blah blah blah but I’m bored. I’ve been yelling about this for ages and it doesn’t make one lick of difference. The haters are gonna hate and the pig-ignorant are going to remain as dumb as fuck. I thought on this subject all night and in the end I told myself to shut up.
Oh look! Kittens!
My friend Mick is right – puppy attacks are so much more fun.
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