Disclaimer: 1. Once again Max’s laptop/internet in t’ north has been playing up so he’s been unable to publish on time. Appropriate punishment will be enacted accordingly.
First off, I’d like to pay my tributes to the recent murder Drummer Lee Rigby last Wednesday. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
In light of the recent events it became apparent that the murder of Lee Rigby was in part inspired by radicalised Muslims (I forget what the names of the suspects are if they have been released). I then deemed it appropriate to point out the outright dangers of religion and how they influence tragic events like this with a video on my own Facebook/Friendface profile (what? You want to see my personal profile and the status itself, pfft, Nash and I are going to retain our semi-anonymity for now). The video in question is a clip from ‘The Now Show’ on Radio 4 from the 21st July 2007 with Marcus Brigstocke (brilliant comedian) ranting about the three Abrahamic Faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam).
This was followed with my own status saying:
“Tragic events in Woolwich. It’s vital that we ask ourselves how these fanatically religious inspired events came to be.“
There was then a surprisingly quick response in the comments thread by none other than Anna Lawton, former Anti-Racism and Facism Officer at the Guild of Students (ARAF):
“Such bullshit, all these people who love blaming religion for all the worlds crazy people need to take a look at history again“
Sadly, Anna never did suggest which period of history I should look at again or present any coherent case for her argument. I then responded:
“You didn’t watch the whole video did you? The video doesn’t blame religion for everything and neither did I.“
To be fair, it turns out she had seen the video, though sadly, she seems to have hastily jumped to conclusions:
“Well I’ve seen it live and I did watch the whole video… And the whole ‘stop smashing up the world and blowing shit up and give us our planet back’ kinda makes the point pretty clearly…
I wasn’t saying that you were blaming religion for everything but I think he and many others give too much war, death etc. credit to religion when there are so many nutcase ideologies out there contending for the blame“
Once again, Anna fails to point out who (aside from Marcus Brigstocke) lays the supreme blame on religion for the majority of war, destruction, death, etc. My own rather (if I say so myself) reasonable final response:
“I agree there are many other ideologies that do just a fine a job at inspiring destruction as religious fanaticism. The difference being, there was only so much propaganda Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany could pump until people began to realise that despite all the promises there was no proof in the pudding. Religion has no such checks on it as the proof in the pudding isn’t supposedly found in this life but when we die which armours it from most criticism to the followers. Yes, economics, politics, racism all do a very good job at causing destruction, but when a suicide bomber blows themselves up in the name of Allah and an Evangelical murders an Abortion Doctor in the name of God, we have to take their sincerity at face value. In regards to the quote, there’s absolutely nothing to suggest that it’s a universal statement but rather put in for comic effect.“
Sadly, Anna never responded to this post. I suppose she was busy making vague assertions elsewhere.
Please don’t think this post is some platform for me to vent about some petty squabble I may have had on my own Facebook/Friendface profile, there is a wider message (honest).
The video itself was a brilliantly refined comedic critique of the role religion and (more specifically) the three Abrahamic faiths and how they influence violence, religious rights in schools and how moderates effectively prop up extremists. To me (but what the hell do I know), it all seemed completely reasonable. There was not a single mention that religion causes all violence and destruction and after all, it was a comedy piece so it was sometimes lacking in detail. To think otherwise would be highly naive.
As Anna was unwilling to provide any detail, I’ll happily provide examples where religion (including religious moderates) have f*cked it over for the rest of us.
The Troubles in Northern Ireland
Yes, I know, the troubles didn’t start out as a religious conflict and it wasn’t always that simple in the 20th century. The origins of the conflict were very much economic and political in nature with Scottish and English settlers buying up/taking lands in Ulster to transform into profitable plantations. However, this inequality may have not been sustained if the two groups were allowed to freely mingle and integrate. With the vast majority of Northern Irish children being educated in faith schools (I forget the exact number, but it’s at least over 80% or so), no such opportunity was presented and the country developed into a segregated society. Yes, mostly non-religious causes, but religion proved to be an excellent tool in dividing up a society.
Suppression of Gay rights
This is a pretty obvious one really. When we have religious leaders selectively pick and chose Bible passages to oppose gay rights on a world scale it’s not a recipe for success. With the former Pope using his considerable influence to denounce Gay Marriage and with Homosexuality punishable by death in five countries (Mali, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Yemen and Niger) under strict religious rules, it’s no wonder the video almost speaks for itself (almost).
Now I could quite easily go into detail on many many more religiously inspired acts of destruction or where religion really hasn’t helped an already troubled situation as this post is long enough already (doesn’t stop me simply listing off some of my ‘favourite’: Catholic Church covering paedophilia, burning ‘witches’ in Africa, the shizzle in Afghanistan, the partition of India and the subsequent troubles there after, the Israel/Palestine conflict, forcing prayer in schools, forcing your children to be defined by your religion, whitewashing history, rejecting science on a ridiculous scale and many many more).
Like the video points out, while most of this is the extremists at work, the ‘moderates’ still have to shoulder some responsibility. There’s a good chance we still have some people who believe that the Greek Gods are real, yet we never have any religiously inspired problems from these folks. There are individuals who believe they are Napoleon, but no one buys it so we lock them away in mental hospitals. Moderates, you are the power base for the nutters and extremists. Like it or not, you both follow the same holy book and you both have poor reasons for believing what you believe (and don’t even bother getting into the ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy).
This is what happens when we live in a society where an individual’s faith and religious beliefs are regarded to be above criticism. If you promote a culture that advocates not challenging individuals who believe stupid ideas for terrible reasons simply because they hold these ideas as important to them, then I’m sorry, it culminates in the tragic deaths of individuals like Drummer Lee Rigby.