The faithless faithful

Just this week, a young (oh, so young) woman was convicted of stabbing a Member of Parliament. She was deeply religious. Her motivation was, apparently, that the MP had voted for the war in Iraq, and the particular branch of her faith that she had embraced encouraged vengeance. Violent, bloody, vengeance. But they call it ‘martyrdom’. I’m not entirely sure how the old religious concept of being prepared to die for your beliefs became the new euphemism for being prepared to slaughter for them. We used to call that psychosis.

In America, well, chiefly America abortion clinics have been bombed, and last summer one of the few doctors prepared to save a woman’s life by doing a late-term abortion, rather than, say, let her die and her child die with her anyway, was shot dead at church. Killing is wrong, you see, but apparently some few deeply religious people think two wrongs make a right, so if they kill a ‘killer’, that’s OK (for the record, I am pro-choice. No one should be forced to have a child, at the cost of their health, their life, their sanity). Even though their own scriptures tell them the exact opposite. Thou shalt not kill. Turn the other cheek.

Now, I am not religious. I’m not even one of the doubting Thomasinas. More of a, ‘there is no God, and Richard Dawkins is not his messenger’, sort of person. But there are times when I think I have more faith in deities, Providence, The Universe etc. than a great many people who are extremely religious. Extremely. These are people who put their entire life, every hour, every spare penny, every thought, at the service of their God. And their family’s lives. And the lives of anyone else they can convince to join. To those of proselytising faiths, this kind of devotion is an ideal to be looked up to. I personally find it boorish and tiresome, and if not directly hypocritical in itself, then a lead cause of hypocrisy in others (which makes persisting in proselytising… hypocritical). People join extreme faiths when they are broken, anxious, rootless, fragile. Needy. People pretend to believe in extreme faiths under pressure from their family and community, out of fear. Fear of losing those they love. Fear of rejection. Fear, sometimes, of death. How is it not hypocritical to demand that someone believes with threats and menaces? How is not hypocritical to take advantage of someone’s loneliness and fragility to make a convert? How could any faith be honest and true under these circumstances?

But I digress. The main point I wanted to make was, why do some Extremely Religious people start using violence? I don’t mean violence to defend their very lives in a war zone. I mean those that bomb/stab/shoot people they’ve never met before, who were no threat to them or their faith (though I think claiming someone is a threat to your faith is like claiming someone is a threat to your thinking about pink elephants. It’s the inside of your head. Do with it as you please, surely (preventing someone practicing their religion by keeping them away from their sacred places etc. is, on the other hand, a shitty thing to do. It’s not a threat to faith, though. Not being able to physically get to a chapel doesn’t instantly stop you being a Methodist)). Where was I?

For example, I disagreed with the Iraq War. I was horrified when it started, and horrified that it was entered into on a fiction, and so angry I couldn’t think straight at the reports of abuse of prisoners, dead children, the selling off of the rebuilding contracts to wealthy pals of the American government before the war even began, the ugly, ugly cynicism of it all. I protested. I signed petitions, I marched in the streets of London, I argued with and (with wine on board) harangued people who were pro-war. I did not vote Labour in 2005. Many of the things I said about Tony Blair and George W. Bush and their cronies are, even by my lax and sweary standards, unprintable. And that was pretty much as cutting as I got. Why did I not try to rush into an MP’s surgery and stab him, now, in 2010, when all the worst of the war is over and done and unchangeable, given that I disapproved so much? Because I had no faith that adding to the violence would change a jot or tittle of it, or improve a second of it. Because I do have faith that humans can learn, try to redeem themselves, make some sort of amends, maybe. If they live long enough.

But these Extremely Religious people, they have no faith at all, not even in their God Himself. Where their scriptures say, ‘Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord’, they decide they can’t wait for God to take this vengeance in His own way, in His own time. They must tell Him His business. Who to take vengeance on. How. When. They have no faith that their God knows what He is doing.

And they have no faith that God will chose the right level of vengeance. To God, their scriptures tell them, a human life is the merest blink of an eye against all of eternity, and God will decide what happens to a person for all of that eternity. But this will not do. Suffering needs to be immediate and earthly. They kill, not only those they perceive as responsible, but any amount of bystanders, who could well have shared their beliefs. Hypocritally, that’s alright, because ‘God will know His own’. Oh yes, God doesn’t know who He’s supposed to be blowing to shreds in an urgent manner, but God will know which of the shreds are destined for Heaven and which for Hell. God won’t rip off the legs of an infedel sinner here on Earth and has to have it done for him by People of Faith who know, oh, how certainly they know, whose legs to rip off seeing as God won’t, but they trust him to give a consolation prize to any who have been maimed by mistake because they happened to be sitting on the bus. As if God where merely the orderly following on behind them with a broom and a sieve.

Worse, these Extremely Religious think that human flesh is expendable. The flesh that according to them God created with such love and tenderness, they will tear apart again just to make an incoherent scream of rage, like a toddler smashing his toys in a tantrum. The great gift of life, that their scriptures so treasure that they all prohibit killing, they will batter to pieces and then throw the pieces in their God’s face. ‘I did it for God’ they say, ‘In His Name’. If a grown man smashed the, the, oh, I don’t know, something expensive, let’s say television, you’d just given him, and then claimed to have done it for you because a newsreader said something sarcastic about you, you’d think he’d gone barking mad. Check that, you’d know he’d gone barking mad. And what’s more, you’d know he didn’t really care about you, in fact, possibly shared the newsreader’ low opinion, given that he valued your gift so little.

And another thing, why the hell does it bug the Extremely Religious so much if someone makes a joke or a sneer or a nasty little swearyness about their God? OK, so it’s not nice or polite, but why the killy-stabby-burn-in-effigy frenzy? Is their God really so pathetically little, and their faith in him so pathetically fragile, that one good joke would shatter it? Isn’t their God big enough, powerful enough, and self-evidently good and glorious enough for all the blasphemy and sarcasm in the world to roll right off Him leaving him spotless and perfect as only an omnipotent and omniscient Creator could be? If God is so great, why does he need some paranoid, hysterical and deeply, deeply needy delusional teenager to do his dirty work for him?

So. Fundamentalists of the Bomb and Shoot and Stab and Bloody Mayhem and Vengeance variety, that’s your dirty little secret, isn’t it? You have no faith in your own God. At all. You can’t even read your own holy texts, you ignorant little shits.

I leave you with this clip of Robert Llewellyn, who put it rather well.

This entry was posted in NaBloPoMo 2010, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The faithless faithful

  1. SG V says:

    I so very much believe this should be standard curriculum in schools all over!

  2. Ed says:

    Hey, I read it too.

  3. I am religious, or at least I do have a faith which I hope informs everything I do and choose. If I were suddenly unable to go to church on a Sunday ever again, it would not alter my faith or beliefs, because religious observance is, I feel, less important than living life in accordance to my faith, trying my darnedest to act in the way in which God would want me to act. However, I most certainly do not have the right to judge others for living a lifestyle which (in whatever way) differs from the way I have chosen to life my life. If they do not believe in the God I believe in, then why on Earth should I expect them to do what I believe He would want them to? The thought is utter, utter madness.

    As for killing in God’s name… Well, I am ashamed of parts of the history of the Christian church for doing just that. Crusades, witch hunts, persecutions and pogroms are shameful, even evil episodes. Martyrdom, as you say, is the willingness to die for your beliefs, not to kill for them. Would I confess my faith in God if someone held a gun to my head and told me to renounce Him? I don’t know, but I’d like to think I would. But putting a gun to someone else’s head because of their beliefs or the way that I perceive their actions with regard to my beliefs? Never. It is wrong, and no religion would truly teach that this is right.

    My God is indeed big enough to stand parody and mockery (I seem to recall Jesus coming in for quite a bit of the latter according to the gospels). People like Christian Voice (an ‘organisation’ which consists of one man, as far as I can tell) who get news coverage for their opposition to anything vaguely anti-Christian (and for other things) make me cross. Particularly Christian Voice, who holds some views I find deeply offensive and not very Christian.

    The Bible (both Old and New Testaments) forbids murder. Shooting someone who has performed an abortion is murder. Pure and simple. Disagreeing with his actions is possible (and my goodness, there are a million nuances to the abortion question and I have no right to chip in), but killing him for it? Firebombing a clinic? Utterly unacceptable acts, both societally and religiously. From my perspective, the people who carry out such acts have got things very wrong. If they do have a genuine faith, then they have warped it beyond recognition, and it saddens me deeply.

  4. Reed says:

    Thank you very much for your long and thoughtful comment, Singing Librarian. See, now, I feel that you, and people like you, do have faith, or Faith, rather, and that your faith is a beautiful, noble thing, even if I don’t share it. I wish people like you had more of a voice in religious debate. It always seems to be the Lunatic Fringe versus people who just enjoy upsetting them. The nice quiet life-affirming world-saving positions of ‘I’m an atheist but yes I do actually have a great deal of respect for theists of whatever faith’, and ‘I’m a believer, even a devout one, but I would never dream of forcing my views on others or despising them for disagreeing’ get completely drowned out in the shouting. And then nobody knows the good guys are there.

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