“If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others… There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others. They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.” —Pope Francis
Can you imagine an eight-year-old ghetto kid standing in court beside an 80-year-old Vicar of Christ because both imagine that a “Yo mamma…” insult necessitates a violent response? Such is the shallowness of ghetto, Catholic—and Islamic—morality, yet they all agree that, as an atheist, I cannot be a moral person.
Religious people from one religion tend to hate those from other religions, yet they share an interest in censoring anyone who shows disrespect for any religion. That those who regard religion as a force for evil feel don’t feel such respect, or that religious people don't reciprocate the respect that they demand, is considered irrelevant because, as religious people see it, religious values come from God, and secular values from Satan. In his remarks, the pope did say that violence in the name of God is an aberration, but given his words about there being “a limit” to what one can say before an assault becomes necessary, along with his personal threat to assault anyone who curses his mother—much less his religion—it appears to be an aberration that he shares.
“One of Charlie Hebdo’s founding members blamed the slain editor for being murdered, calling him a “blockhead” and saying, “I really hold it against you.” —The Telegraph
If this “founding member” is consistent, I can but assume that he blames rape on women who wear short skirts, burglary on people who buy new stereos, and pedophilia on toddlers who kiss priests because, god knows, if the victims aren’t to blame, who is, their assailants bearing no responsibility?
The common ground to both of these news items is that people had damn well better back-off when it comes to criticizing religion because if they don’t, they can expect to come to a violent end, and it will be their own fault. Where does this leave me? I often criticize religion in ways that would get me fined, killed, or imprisoned in the 44% of the world’s countries that have laws against the defamation of religion. So, what do you think? If I should come to such an end, would you say that it was a travesty of justice by a people that despise free speech, or would you say I have no one to blame but myself?
When I hear about the latest Islamic atrocity, I often recall the centuries during which Christianity was no better, and I wonder if the world might not see a return to those times. When I heard the pope's latest stupid remark, I reflected that he and Islam are a lot closer than he and I when it comes to the ease with which they rationalize violence as a reasonable recompense for opinion.
*If you want to send your own message to the pope, here's the link: http://vatican.com/contact#