Quite frankly, if someone believes that children must be deprived of blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses), or of all medical care (Christian Scientists), or that women are the property of men, or that gay people are sodomites who are all going to eternal hellfire, or that disabled people are suffering the results of our evil and atrocious deeds in the past…
Then that concerns me very deeply.
But on the other hand, if someone personally believes that Jesus literally turned the water into wine, that Muhammad made the moon split in two, or that Sri Krishna performed many wondrous miracles, then in all seriousness, that does not trouble me in the least. There are more important things in life to worry about.
But even so, concerning ‘limits’ to satire, I will affirm that I do reserve the inalienable right to treat religion as not pristine, as not above theoretical critique, or above satirizing, or above ‘blasphemy.’
And I have little to no respect for anyone who makes religion exceptional, in terms of the inalienable right and sovereign prerogative to criticize and satirize; an entitlement and a ‘privilege’ that can and must be shared be all like, without neither cavil nor complaint.
‘Shame on me,’ indeed!
Oh, and on that note, have you ever seen the passionately committed post-match comments of Andy Tate, the Manchester United supporter? If you have seen his devotion and commitment even once, is it possible to believe that religion is somehow more ‘precious’ or ‘sacred’ than any other love or ideal or commitment?
But what about politics? What about sports? What about the arts? Or indeed one’s own family, one’s own friend, one’s own romantic partner or spouse? Why not one’s work? And why not life itself, one’s own life, one’s own death, one’s own very self?
Clearly, for the sake of consistency, there can be no exception made for religion. There is no reason to treat religion as being ‘more important’ in most people’s lives than any other ideal or value. At least on this point, if not on some other points of significance, I lean towards the New Atheists. (This topic of ‘religion as an exception’ is discussed, for example, in The God Delusion by Dawkins).
I would say, however, that contra some arguments, or at least implicit notions in New Atheist literature, religion is difficult to classify as primarily ‘good’ or ‘bad.’
And I would also say that religion cannot be cleanly cut and severed into ‘good parts’ and ‘bad parts’ in some simplistic manner. The latter fallacy is what I call ‘Proudhonism,’ after the saying in Karl Marx’s critique of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon:
The problem to be solved: to keep the good side, while eliminating the bad.
No. Religion is here to stay, in one way or another, and rather than either deplore this as a misfortune or gloat smugly as one clutches one’s one-way ticket to a tainted Heaven, it is good to look at religion with a fresh eye.
An eye neither jaded with cynicism nor wide-eyed with naivety.
As someone once wisely said to me some years ago:
God can take it.
Well, perhaps ‘God’ does not mind criticism so much?
Perhaps there is nothing more insulting to God than the notion that one must walk on eggshells around him and consistently massage his ego and generally condescend towards him and infantilize him.
Any self-respecting spouse who was treated in such a juvenile and patronizing manner would be filing divorce papers within half-an-hour of the honeymoon.
And any self-respecting romantic partner would be deeply insulted.
‘God,’ if you will, doesn’t want your flattery. If there is any God worthy of the name, he wants you to treat him/her/it like an adult, and not like the spoiled child that God has often been represented as being.
Blasphemy is the greatest tribute that can be paid to a loving, just and reasonable deity.
But false honor and sycophancy is the most wounding insult of all.
And if this is by any chance vaguely implausible, look at your own life, and the lives of those close to you.
Don’t treat your God, your Goddess or your Deity in a way you would be horrified to see your own family members, spouse or romantic partner treated.
Surely the Deity you worship deserves better than that?