First of all, let me say that this is in response to and in support of the sentiment espoused by Maryam Namazie, with her blog entry on the reactions of Muslims to the caricature of Muhammad on the cover of Charles Hedbo.
First, after printing this oh-so-disgusting caricature (really?), they got firebombed… and then, in a move of spectacular attitude, they printed it again, just to prove a point. Personally, I admire their commitment, and wish American publications had this level of journalistic integrity.
It has been said many times, and by wiser men than I, that it is possible to attack the belief without attacking the believer. Personally, since my stance falls more in line with that of Christopher Hitchens, I have no problem with attacking the believer, either… but I digress.
None of these religious beliefs are or should be exempt from mockery or scrutiny. They should not be placed on a pedestal, much less locked in a sealed room where no one can get a close look at them.
I have said before (many times, in fact) during my numerous informal theological debates that religion is merely another set of ideas, and that every idea exists to be challenged and attacked, continually and mercilessly, from every possible angle and in every conceivable way. This can, will and must continue indefinitely. If the idea cannot withstand the assault, it will crumble to dust, as it should. If it can, then it will come out like the end product of a rock tumbler: with the detritus and rough edges gone, polished and beautiful… something that anyone could take out and show to others and say, “Look what I’ve got,” with the same simple, childish joy and pride of ownership that we had as children when we knew we had come into possession of something truly worthwhile.
No aspect of theological thinking, particularly and especially that of the monotheistic religions, can withstanding the kind of attacks that I’ve described above. The faintest touch of reason drops off large chunks of the whole, though the believer will desperately scramble to keep the crumbling edifice together through the force of sheer will, duct tape, and perhaps some Gorilla Glue. The joke is often made of very old cars, “If not for all the rust, I don’t know what would hold that thing together.” The comparison seems very apt, in my mind.
As hard as the theists try to fight back against the Enlightenment values that created the United States (and yet, that the Founding Fathers had to publicly suppress, in order to keep the masses in line), the world is a changing place. You cannot stop people from learning. Not even in an Islamic state.
Eventually, people grow tired of living under the lash. I commend the people at Charles Hebdo for doing what was right, rather than kowtowing to the will of religious zealots. Know that you have one more supporter across the Atlantic.
Entering the 90s, I was to discover the early days of the internet that we all know today. This predated the “World Wide Web,” when Windows 3.1 was king, Archie and Gopher were still around and relevant, and the ubiquitous acronyms (LOL and the like) were just beginning to take hold. Before there was World of Warcraft, there was Everquest, and before any of that, there were MUDs (Multi User Dungeons). Also, get off my lawn and turn down that danged music, you whippersnappers.
MUDs were the MMORPGs before the term became a buzzword. Text-only, thoroughly tedious and occupied by pretty much the same types as MMORPG fanatics are now. In addition to these, there were more social variants, known as MUCKs (Multi User Construction Kit, depending on who you ask) and MUSHes (Multi User Shared Hallucination, again, depending on who you ask). Some were geared toward role-playing, some just toward screwing around and a small social community.
Since I had pretty much worn through any love affair I’d had with role-playing back in the 80s, I just liked the social aspect of it. More interestingly, it was my first exposure to people outside of South Carolina. OMGINORITE. I even encountered a few other atheists, though mostly just in passing. The more significant encounter, though, was a fellow who (lamentably) shared my given name… and was a severely pious, self-righteous, proselytizing son of a bitch, who went by the screen name of “Absalom” (yet his real name was the same as my own).
I was mystified. I’d never encountered anyone quite like this before… save for, perhaps, my mother. This guy was absolutely convinced that all who did not believe as he did were going to Hell, and it was his sacred duty to spread the word of the gospel, all that good shit. Even my mother had not been the type to go around and parade her faith. Indeed, most of hers seemed to be for show; once my parents divorced, neither really went to church much. I’m pretty convinced that my father isn’t much of a believer, but he doesn’t wear the fact on his sleeve. But I digress.
This Absalom fellow was not shy about telling me how wrong I was in my atheism, which I was never shy about expressing. But this guy would simply never let up. Somehow, though, I was kind of glad of that fact. Suddenly, I had an enemy, sure… but that meant I also had a target. I had someone with whom I could duke it out, so to speak, and vent my frustrations with the religious obsession that permeated everyday life all around me.
We two had it out repeatedly in very public philosophical debates. I do wish I’d been better-read then, like I am now, but I think I acquitted myself well enough. Eventually, I remember that he said something that so disgusted me that I was momentarily at a loss for words… but at this late date, I am completely unable to remember what it was that so incensed me. I do recall part of what I said in response, though.
“I’m impressed. Never before has anyone actually made me ashamed to bear my own name. I hope you’re proud of yourself, Christian. *spits*”
Had I been in the same room with him, I probably would have spat on him. Very old-world European, I know, but I do remember thinking that there was no other way to convey just how much contempt I felt for him. I was pretty livid at the time. I don’t think I ever had any further contact with him, directly. I do know that he eventually did what most fundamentalists seem to do: he backslid and gave in to the “temptations” of premarital sex and all that.
It was gradually becoming more and more apparent to me: the ones who proclaimed themselves to be Christian were invariably the ones who never followed the teachings of the man they claimed to revere. To this day, this still seems to be true.
I’ve met a few atheists in the Carolinas, and I’ve even met a few good Christians. In my personal experience, it is always the latter which is the hardest to find… and they are never the ones with the audacity to call themselves that. As a matter of fact, I’ve found that anyone who refers to him/herself as a “good Christian” is doing so as a reminder… mostly to oneself, rather than to anyone else who might be listening. Alternately, it is with the intent of deceiving, which I’ve seen just as often.
I don’t trust anyone who describes him/herself as trustworthy… and “good Christian” is a massive red flag. Aside from the obvious failings of critical thinking and logic, it tends to bring with it certain issues of bigotry, and I simply don’t hold with that.
I’ve met exactly one person in my life who was a genuinely good Christian… and I think it was because she was a good person, first and foremost. That she was also Christian was merely happenstance. I will discuss her next time, I think.