Thursday, 29 November 2007

Don't name the teddy bear

Emotional religious agitation

This is sometimes a minefield in which a minesweeper would be blown to smithereens. The standards and rules that govern the interpretation of religious norms or in this case whims.

So suddenly in the last few years the sensibilities of certain old Middle-Eastern religions have been so easily bruised that our modern and civilised world is dragged back to the middle-ages of hysteria and histrionics fuelled by unscrupulous leaders of thought who test their influence by inflaming the mob.

This was evidenced in the cartoon riots of last year where I wrote a series of blogs starting with one which seeks a humorous God, a God that can laugh and sometimes laughs at the delusions of puny human-beings.

Flags in wrong places?

One nation belies a readiness for controversy and contempt by having symbols of God on its flag; they condone the trampling and burning of other nation’s flags and it would be unthinkable the outrage that would be mustered if the same action is meted out on their flag.

The mob was then gathered to protest the presence of the Saudi Arabian flag amongst all other world flags painted on footballs donated to Afghan kids. One would think the anger should have been directed at the Saudis for creating a situation where the symbols of faith might be denigrated in unintended and benign circumstances.

Naming a teddy

However, nowhere has this religiosity taken on a more bizarre twist than when a teddy bear named after a child in a class which by happenstance is the name of the prophet – the teacher of that class is now in danger of a fine, corporal punishment and jail.

The charge sheet reads like we have a terrorist on the loose; insulting religion – in the 21st Century? Showing contempt for religious beliefs – one wonders what is more contemptible the reaction or the lack of a global authority on the core elements of Islam apart from reading the biorhythms of the local imam who feels to excite his people to insurrection rather than exhort them to peaceful co-existence in a global village?

Obviously, we can ignore the sentiment that the said teacher had left the enlightenment of the West to help children in a war-torn region realise a place in our global village – but that is of no significance – enlightenment in an educational setting takes second-place to religious temperament which is never subject to logic, common-sense or reason – it is the supreme fount of discord.

Taking apologies for God

Whilst international condemnation has been made of this absurd tendency to be offended in general without being essentially committed to the real tenets of the faith, the idea that an apology can be made to assuage tension is interesting.

Someone somewhere seems to be able to take apologies for God or the prophet – it reminds me of one story in the Bible where the people took so much offence at the breaking down of the altar to their symbol of worship; reason seeped into the reckoning and the people were persuaded that if that god was so angered, the god might as well visit wrath on the offender - thereby people can still be at peace with each other and that very powerful god can show strength that would bring enemies to their knees in worship and obeisance.

It might be so easy to say that these mobs are technically taking on themselves personification of God or the prophet for the self-aggrandisement – it does nothing to promote their religion; rather it heaps opprobrium from possible adherents on their faith, beliefs, convictions, integrity and allows all to question their sanity.

The NOT dogma

What we have is a simplistic dogma codified in – see not, touch not, feel not, hear not, read not, think not, write not, draw not and speak not – obviously, this means no one gets offended and surely no progress in humanity and we recede to the stone age from whence we came – it does not augur well at all.

Are we on the path to true religion when we pander to such dark-age inquisitions masquerading as holy anger that simply is public insurrection by those too idle to do worthwhile things in their communities and for humanity at large?

Addendum

That Bible story (Judges 6:28-32) The Message version.

28 Early in the morning, the people in town were shocked to find Baal's altar torn down, the Asherah pole beside it chopped down, and the prime bull burning away on the altar that had been built.

29 They kept asking, "Who did this?"

Questions and more questions, and then the answer: "Gideon son of Joash did it."

30 The men of the town demanded of Joash: "Bring out your son! He must die! Why, he tore down the Baal altar and chopped down the Asherah tree!"

31 But Joash stood up to the crowd pressing in on him, "Are you going to fight Baal's battles for him? Are you going to save him? Anyone who takes Baal's side will be dead by morning. If Baal is a god in fact, let him fight his own battles and defend his own altar."

32 They nicknamed Gideon that day Jerub-Baal because after he had torn down the Baal altar, he had said, "Let Baal fight his own battles."

My reading of this is simple, someone caused great religious offence that the adherents were ready to go out and kill the offender - reason intervened – let that religious entity fight its own battles if it feels so offended.

Sometimes, we need to let God, Mohammed, Jesus or whoever else we dare to worship fight their own battles rather than allow ourselves to become instruments of riot, death and discord.

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