I just finished reading a brief article in The Times about bullying, specifically the cases where children are bullied because of their religious beliefs.
Well bullying is wrong but why do these instances warrant a separate article simply because they’re spurred on by faith as opposed to being too tall, too fat, too black or wearing glasses or the inability to ride a bike? Kids pick on each other for any sign of difference. Why must a national newspaper – arguably the national newpaper – comment specifically on this?
To be fair, the article was linked to via the paper’s faith section. But why does the British paper of record have a faith section? As people in this country mature they almost inevitably lose interest in religion. Most are not as anti-religion as I but they don’t go to church or temple, they don’t pray and they don’t go through their lives asking ‘WWJD?‘ This is in sharp contrast to the children of England. In a survey quoted in the article, apparently 80% of primary school children say they believe in God. This neither surprises nor worries me. When I was in primary school I believed in God largely because I had been told to. My grandparents on both sides were religious (albeit over the near-indiscernible light-year wide gap that separates Catholics and Protestants) and one set gave me a Children’s copy of the Bible when I was young. I read it cover to cover and believed every word. Of course I did. This was a brilliant book that had been given to me by my family about that Jesus guy I’d heard about in church. And school.
My first primary school which I attended for less than a year as my parents divorced was a Catholic school (you can bet that went down well with Gramps) where I was told without room for wiggle that the stories in the Bible were true. My second primary school which I attended in the Scottish Borders took me to church for things like Easter and Christmas and every week we had a priest come in and tell us stories out of the Bible. Nowadays I’d perhaps object, if only because Judaism and Islam et al weren’t represented but at the time it was no big deal. The Bible was truth and this nice old dude who liked to pretend he was everyone’s dad was telling me about it. It also bears mention that in this small Scottish village school the closest we got to religious diversity were two English pupils so arguably I had no more need to learn about Islam than I did the ability to write in Arabic. I didn’t ever meet a black person until I went to Majorca and I couldn’t have told you what Asian meant, let alone where they come from.
When we moved down to England I studied at a Church of England school for a year. The C of E is to be honest, a joke. It barely qualifies as proper Christianity these days given that it appeases so many liberals. Of course at the time I didn’t know this but it irked me nonetheless. Partly because it said the E word and partly because by this point I’d had a conversation with my step-father.
You don’t need the family history but he and I shared few life-changing moments. Strangely then, particularly considering I was seeing my real father every fortnight at the time, my mother was around and I had a teacher who spent more time with me than most, it was him that led to me questioning my faith simply through one line.
“I’m not saying things in the Bible aren’t true, but don’t you think some of it’s a bit unbelievable?”
Eh? That struck home. Now you mention it, a guy holding up his arms and making the sea move does sound a bit fishy. Frogs from the sky? Walking on water? You might be onto something there, old man.
As I developed into the critical, questioning son of a bitch I now am religion bore a lot of this because there was so much stuff there that wasn’t properly explained. Once I began studying science properly and heard terms like, ‘Big Bang,’ things got worse and as I began to unwittingly identify myself as a social liberal, the intolerance preached through religion made my blood boil. Women, gays, infidels, foot fetishists. What’s the big deal?
I have grown to loathe religion in all its forms. An erudite atheist friend has regularly asked me, ‘if it gives people strength what’s the problem?,’ and it’s not a bad point but what sort of strength are you talking about? A person may well go out and help the world in the name of Jesus but if they’re that charitable, wouldn’t they do it without the catalyst? Even if the answer’s no, what about fundamentalist terrorists? Do you think Bin Laden’s followers want to kill me because I laugh at dirty jokes and do my best to sleep around or do they want to kill me because I don’t believe in Almighty Allah who made me and wants to love me? I’ve quoted it before and I never get tired of it (even if the exact wording is usually off) but I’m a paid-up subscriber to the idea that in a world without religion you have good people and evil people. In a world with religion you have good people doing evil deeds. Even moreso than this I agree wholeheartedly with Gene Roddenberry who said, “for most people, religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain,” even if I disagree with the sentence structure.
I loathe the very idea of religion. A belief that takes away personal drive because we all have a destiny in God’s plan. A system that purposefully discourages rational thought because that’s how it is in The Book. An international organisation that pro-actively encourages intolerance of others to the point of advocating the murder of non-believers. It disgusts me more than anything else and that includes people that slurp their soup.
So I get slightly irked when my favourite newspaper has a faith section. In America though it would annoy me, I’d get it. America is a religious nation. Americans are more likely, going by polling stats, to elect a Mormon, a Jew, a lesbian or even believe it or not, a black man than an atheist. I think even a Muslim beats me as well but I’d have to check. In Britain though, religion is largely a non-event. Most of us don’t go to church or do anything actively religious at all. Despite this the conservative media (doesn’t have the same ring as liberal, does it?) regularly affords space to that nut-job, the Archbishop of Canterbury and other ‘religious leaders’ when the subject being discussed can get along perfectly well without them.
And don’t get onto defending the Archbishop because he’s a nice Christian. Because he’s a liberal. He may well have voiced support for gay bishops but what has he actually done for them, eh? Fuck all, that’s what. On top of that the daft bugger believes all you need for a decent street barbeque is a fish, couple of loaves of bread and a bottle of Blue Nun. He’s bonkers and yet thinks he has a right to talk to me about the environment and economy.
In fact there’s a real case to be made and I’m really not being facetious here, that overly religious people are mentally handicapped. There are people out there whose intellect far surpasses my own (not many, but you get what I’m saying), who are noted world experts in their field of study and who believe in a ‘Creator’ for which no evidence exists whatsoever. Is there an explanation besides mental malfunctioning?
It’s possible I may have drifted somewhat. Take it as a sign of just how much this pisses me off. To return to the bullied believer though… Why shouldn’t kids be picked on for believing daft things?
It sounds overly harsh and ridiculous of course. But say your son goes to school with some wee schmuck who reckons that flying planes into buildings is okay so long as they’re filled with infidels. In practice you’d likely tell Junior to avoid the kid and inform the teachers but secretly, wouldn’t you want the little bastard to be picked on? Perhaps not beaten up (or perhaps knocked senseless on a daily basis – I don’t know) but would you maybe want your wonderful child to stand up to this idiot and tell them exactly where they’re going wrong? Since arguing can now be classed as bullying, is it really that bad in this instance? I’m not advocating the instruction of kids in religious bullying here, just throwing it out there. Why should Believer Kid get to tell your child they’re wrong and going to Hell, but be protected from backlash?
I asked a friend once (a Jehovah’s Witness) what the difference was between me making fun of his football team as opposed to his religion. He responded by saying that religion was a deeply held belief. I said I deeply believed his football team were shite to which he responded, “that’s different.”
How, exactly? Is it the subject matter? Because one belief is about the ineptitude of a sports team and the other is about the inaccuracy of someone’s life view? Who’s to say one is more valid than the other though? What if my entire conscious existence revolves around the idea that his team is bollocks?
Sounds daft, doesn’t it? Have you read Scientology?
Why does religion get a free pass from criticism, particularly when it’s provably obvious that it’s vile, intolerant, controlling crap with no basis whatsoever in science? Why can I make fun of X for being a communist or Y for being Australian but not Z for being a Jedi? Why is freedom of speech suddenly curtailed when it comes to religion? Why has Geert Wilders been denied entry to the UK because he says that Islam’s prophet, Mohammed, would, “in these days be hunted down as a terrorist,”? You might disagree but it’s an educated opinion and Britain is supposed to be a land of free speech. If you go on the Prophet’s page on Wikiquote, a portrait of him has been removed because in Islam it’s (arguably) forbidden to portray him in any such way. Wikiquote isn’t a Muslim site though so why should it be bound by Islamic creed? Why were cartoonists faced with death threats because they parodied Islam and its prophet?
I don’t hate people who are religious. If I did I’d have to hate half my family. Almost all the religious people I know are put simply, good people. I completely and utterly detest the religions they subscribe to though. I hate the non-secular hatred and violence that is stirred in Glasgow and has wormed its invidious way into a sport that is supposed to unite people over common differences. I hate how the subject of unionism in Northern Ireland is now inseparable from religion. I am genuinely scared at the idea of a United States President believing God speaks to him and planning international action based on these hallucinations. I hate how the presence of religion in my workplace leads to an unavoidable grouping between people that is rarely broken down personally.
More than all of this I hate that I’m not allowed to comment on this, and I’m growing increasingly tired of keeping my gob shut for fear of offending people who believe in fairy tales.