March 27, 2006

100th POST! The atheist and the moderate Muslim

The atheist and the moderate Muslim (via Atheist Revolution)

Those angry protesters were really, really going at it. They rallied and yelled and said the artwork "sew[ed] evil into people," made a mockery of their god, and that, "there should be freedom of speech but there should never be freedom for desecration."

Said indignant Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, "If this show portrayed Mohammed or Vishnu as homosexual, ridiculous and ineffectual, it would never have seen the light of day."

Oh, I'm sorry. Did you think I was talking about something else?

No one died during this particular protest, mind you, but apart from that there's not much difference between Christian Brits recently protesting Jerry Springer: The Opera and Muslims protesting those Danish cartoons.

Both groups were offended. They were upset. Their feelings were bruised. As sullenly explained by Pakistani regional chief minister Akram Durrani, "Nobody has the right to insult Islam and hurt the feelings of Muslims."

Hurt feelings? Are you fragging kidding me!?

It used to be mommy would get you a cookie when your feelings got hurt if nobody wanted to play with you because you wore the wrong clothes or had stupid hair. It is sort of cute and appropriate when you're a toddler. It's not so cute when grown men call for shows to be shut down or for the hands of artists to be chopped off, because they've been offended!

If you're Oprah Winfrey and your feelings have been wounded by an author whose tall tale you couldn't see through, surrounded as you are by the haze of the cult of self-help, you take that author to the public woodshed and spank him for an hour. James Frey has been a bad, bad man for hurting Oprah's feelings.

But at least he's not a filmmaker, who, like Ang Lee, has made a movie "morally offensive" to Catholics. Or a British insurance company whose employee incentive program, consisting of bottles of wine, resulted in a Muslim employee ending up with "hurt feelings." And let us not forget the music teacher in Colorado who showed students clips of the opera Faust. It "glorifies Satan," an outraged and offended parent said.

Well, of course it does, dear.

When a misunderstanding had it that Britney Spears was to appear in a guest spot on Will & Grace as a right-wing Christian, The American Family Association said the role, "mocks the crucifixion of Christ." Would you like a cup of warm milk and a lie-down?

It's comforting to know there are people out there who try to shield other sensitive souls from being offended. Like the Suffolk schoolteacher who asked that the crosses be removed from the cafeteria hot-cross buns so as to not upset pupils who are Jehovah's Witnesses. Or, bless their hearts, our very own CHFI radio, which will not run an ad that uses the word vagina, because it might make their listeners "uncomfortable" or make children ask questions, something that must be discouraged at all costs.

So, to sum up: pastries, cartoons, vaginas, opera, literary licence, free wine, cowboys romping and Britney Spears. I have to say that, apart from Britney, there's nothing there I find even slightly offensive.

Hot-cross buns are yummy. Editorial cartoons are a quick and smart way of making a point in a world increasingly attention-span-challenged. Without vaginas none of us would be here. Opera is, granted, an acquired taste, but once you get it... . Literary licence is not against the law and can lead to evocatively interesting prose. Who doesn't like free wine? Good-looking guys who are into each other? Pretty.

Even Britney is kind of amusing in her idiocy. Point being, if you don't like bread and female genitalia and fat singing ladies and gay love and wine and authors who lie, don't look. Don't listen. Don't read. Don't go to the opera. Turn away. Shrug your shoulders and go enjoy whatever it is that calms your fragile psyche.

Just spare us the nonsense about the hurt feelings and the offence taken. What are you? Five?

Think very hard about whether your personal sense of hurt and feelings of being entitled to an existence never rocked by doubt or discomfort is worth the risk of works like The Life of Brian, The Satanic Verses and The Last Temptation of Christ being made.

Consider carefully the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.

Here's a radical thought: Instead of getting upset by ideas, check out the old guy who is right now freezing to death under the overpass. Or consider the thawing of the polar cap. Or check out those videos of people getting their heads sawed off. There is plenty of real stuff to pour all that outrage into.

I work hard, as an atheist, at not being angered by the increasing inclusion of this, that or whatever god in areas of life that should be secular. I succeed because I tell myself it's none of my business what people believe, although every time they pray on Survivor or I hear another one-hit wonder thanking God for His direct hand in securing a People's Choice Award, I do feel the need to say a dirty word. Just to counteract.

I happen to think religion is destructive, oppressive and overburdened by silly hats. I also think the only reason Christianity has more adherents and respectability than, say, the Raelians or the Scientologists, is that the Christians came along first.

Don't let that keep you from looking heavenwards. Do what you will in the comfort of your own home or place of worship and rest assured that when I visit I will behave politely, cover up whatever vile parts of my body offend your particular god, and refrain from eating ham sandwiches while you pray.

If being offended is such a necessity to your enjoyment of life or your sense of self, think about the censorship you implicitly advocate. Consider that you may not be the one who gets to decide what is offensive and should be banned.

Maybe it will be me.

I guarantee you wouldn't like it.