Thursday, January 07, 2016

Standing up for Secularism

It's exactly one year to the day that free speech and secularism was directly attacked by gun wielding Neanderthal faith-heads in Paris at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. I'm pleased to see that the paper is still going strong and as irreverent as ever. The anniversary issue featuring the cartoon representation of a generic "God" as a terrorist with a headline claiming that the "assassin" is still on the loose is out now.

Of course, religious people of all stripes will now be straining at the leash to counter this with "not all religious people are extremists" and "that's not my God" but frankly, so what? That's not the point, God's of all colours, creeds, fashions and flavours have been providing evolved primates on this planet reasons to kill and discriminate against each other ever since they were invented, and let's be honest with ourselves, all Gods were invented in the minds of men (except your own of course!). Religion and Gods are ideas and more often than not they're political ideas created and fashioned from the delusions and desires of men. It's a cold hard fact that they can't all be right and another fact that what ever religion you follow is simply an accident of birth. Sure, we can all cite outliers to this, the sociopathic loosers who convert to Islam because they break into a sweat at the idea of handling guns and having sex with 12 year olds (or goats) but generally if your parents were Catholic, you're a Catholic, it's just a meme, a tradition, an in-group mind virus passed from generation to generation without serious rational scrutiny. Sure, a lot of religious people are intelligent and very nice and do good things; again, so what? This fact has no bearing at all on the truth claims of whatever religion they happen to belong to and the fact that a consistent percentage of ALL segments of society are naturally charitable and ethical simply proves this point. Religion and faith has little or nothing to do with morality (usually the opposite) and much more to do with the evolved behaviour of our species as a whole, without empathy, cooperation and reciprocity our species wouldn't have made it out of Africa; a million years before Yahweh was invented.

As the current editor of Charlie Hebdo pointed out this morning in a radio interview, there is a critical difference between attacking people and ridiculing ideas, especially political ideas like religion. As he said, who would argue that we shouldn't criticise the regime of Vladimir Putin because it might offend his Mother? The sooner we all get to grips with this (forgotten) wisdom then the sooner we'll be able to get off the back foot in the ongoing battle against theocracy, tyranny and fascism. 

Secularism and the hard won freedoms of the enlightenment that we tentatively enjoy (especially religious people!) like individual rights, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and freedom of conscience all need defending, and we need to stand up now more than ever, who is Spartacus?

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