It is a feature of religions that when they first start their adherents are persecuted by the established religion of the day, but after the new religion gains sufficient adherents the persecuted become the persecutors. When Christianity started it was sport to have the Christians provide entertainment in the Coliseum in Rome by having them face lions and gladiators for the amusement of the populace. Later, when Christianity overturned the old pagan religion of Rome, the Christians were very keen to persecute those they thought might not adhere to their orthodoxy, and invented the Inquisition which tortured people into confessing imagined sins in ways as horrible as those practised in the Coliseum.
When Catholicism was threatened by a variation on the Christian theme, Protestantism, Catholics slaughtered Protestants, only to be subject to slaughter themselves in those places where Protestants prevailed. When Protestants were powerful they managed to persecute people who were different, accused of witchcraft and other imagined sins. Jews, of course, have been persecuted by many soi disant religious people, and Jews have also done their share of persecution.
Great fights and conflicts over apparently religious differences have occurred in most parts of the world, and many have died over what amounts to an argument which Swift conceptualised in whether a man should crack the big end of the egg or the little end.
The things that have tried to keep the great religions honest are philosophy, art, poetry, music, painting and drawing. Science, whose discoveries may threaten some traditional religious beliefs, about creation or even the position of the planets and stars in their courses, has also suffered persecution by religious ignorance. It is always ignorance which persecutes, never enlightenment.
It is not surprising, therefore when religiously motivated nut cases decide to punish those who mock them and their beliefs or those who argue against them. The events at Charlie Hebdo are simply the latest in a long line of religious inspired murders. They wound us deeply because of our proximity to them and because we can identify with satirical methods to expose folly and hypocrisy, but in truth they are no less shocking than the one hundred and fifty Muslims killed by other Muslims in the Middle East yesterday, and the day before and indeed every day for the past few years.
I am as much of a Charlie as the next person, and support the refusal of the French people to be cowed or frightened by the murders yesterday. Now is the time for newspapers and journalists all over the world to be brave, write what they truly believe, accept that they may be a target for fanatics and accept that willingly, if they genuinely believe in the freedom of the press being more than a freedom to make money.
“Il nous faut de l’audace, et encore de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace” has become a proverb of the French, and there was never a better time to follow its teaching than now.
Filed under: climate change | Tagged: art and religion, audacity, big ender and little enders, charlie, Charlie Hebdo, Christianity, Danton, established religion, Hebdo, intolerance, Jonathan Swift, keeping religion honest, pagan religion, persecution, philosophy, Protestants, religion, science and religion |