Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Religion poisons everything

So folks, this is what all the fuss is about!

Any reasonable, rational person can see that the purpose of this cartoon is to make a political and (memorable) satirical point by provoking an emotional reaction; the clue is in the name, i.e. to provoke something you need to be provocative. Now, you may not agree with the point or the need for a cartoon or even the need for any kind of reaction at all, but if you're a person who has an apologetic bent and thinks "murdering people is bad, but..." you need to ask yourself a deadly serious question. Exactly how far are you willing to have your own views suppressed by (spurious) Islamic blasphemy laws? At what point do you start self-censoring; keeping your most heart-felt beliefs to yourself for fear of being attacked by aggressive intolerant people who demand that you submit to their parochial world-view? How about your religious views? Because let's face it, those will be the first to go.

Every single freedom we have, including religious freedom, had to be talked and written into existence, often accumulating significant human suffering along the way. Freedom of speech, the right to criticise, mock and question ideas underpins freedom of assembly, due-process, universal franchise etc. i.e. all the freedoms needed for a pluralistic and democratic society,  and without it we are lost to the whims of tyrants and confined to societies that are red in tooth and claw.

Do apologists and (left leaning) liberals really think this fight is about ink and pencil drawings or racism or unacceptable offence? Of course not, let's be honest with ourselves, it's about power. The crime of blasphemy was conceived by the powerful in order to exert authority over everyone else; a mechanism with which a ruler may exert his (because its always a "him") dogma over the ruled. The way it works is by exploiting the delusional spell cast over the credulous so that they fanatically suppress dissent in the name of the imaginary authority whose interests are magically aligned to those of the ruler. It's a perfect system, to question the rule is to commit the offence; any fool can see why free-speech is an anathema to blasphemy. Western secular societies realised this during the enlightenment three hundred years ago when the philosophical and ethical arguments were essentially won; it then took us two hundred years to (mostly) get rid of the offence from our various legal statute books (there are some anomalies - Ireland I'm looking at you!) There are of course non-religious forms of blasphemy (state-dogmas, like in North Korea), but since non-religious ideas are subject to scrutiny by universal logic and science (unlike religious ideas) they are much more easily shown to be spurious or proven beyond doubt to be wrong; the unfalsifiable nature of religious ideas makes them amenable to much more leeway in this regard.

Our challenge now is that we are living through the emergence of a dark hearted cult in the shape of Islamic fascism (ISIS, Boko-Haram, Al-Qaeda, Wahhabism et al.) who want to exert power on the world stage. Part of that plan is to force us to implement Islamic blasphemy rules within our secular societies, been there, done that, no thanks. We should not give an inch and I applaud every single publication here in the UK who have published this image and I noticed that even the (normally lilly-livered) BBC had a fleeting glimpse of it on their news report this morning (bravo!) hopefully someone in the UK will re-publish this magazine so that people who are pro-enlightenment values here can buy it here in volume, this isn't about insulting Muslims, it's about not accepting being told what to think!

When I think of the resources that will now have to be expended on security and all the money that will now be spent on weapons and training and surveillance it fills me with a sense of exasperation and foreboding for the future. I think about all the better ways that that money and energy could be spent; solving problems that our species actually has, for example climate change, energy sufficiency, health-care, education and so on, and my conclusion is that the divisive ideas underpinning religions, in the vast majority of their forms, truly do poison everything.

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