The stories on this page which caught my eye both concern religion. Go figure. In fact there are several strange stories about religious hysteria (what a surprise!), but I'll concentrate on just two.
The first is a story about a Muslim woman who is being publicly castigated for an online video clip of her washing her dog's legs. She appears to be making the statement that for her, respecting her animals is akin to respecting herself and other people. Her actions have been seized upon by other Muslims who seem to feel that this is a gross insult to Islam, and who are calling for her prosecution for disrespecting the religion.
This feels like we have slipped into a Monty Python movie; specifically The Life of Brian, where in an early scene, a man is being put to death by a crowd of bloodthirsty women disguised as men (because women are not allowed to attend such an event by virtue of religious dogma) for uttering the name of their god. It's a hilarious scene, wonderfully lampooning the nonsense of such beliefs in the bronze age. Obviously, however, the nature of such beliefs is still with us and the crazed zealots have leapt with fury upon a three year old video claiming religious insult, blasphemy, etc., etc. It's only a matter of time before crowds gather to chant in suspiciously organized ways to denounce the poor lady (even though she's religious herself I hold no ill will towards her) and call for her execution. The fact that the supposed 'insult' is not based upon any genuine Islamic teachings is neither here nor there; the group hysteria and thirst for 'belonging' to a righteously indignant mob will probably win the day. Salem Witch Trials, anyone?
The second story concerns the seemingly impending secular state's persecution of a couple who had the temerity to publicly call out and criticize - nay castigate - the rulers of Russia's Orthodox Christian church. This all male, impressively hirsuite gang has apparently recently found itself - rather surprisingly - in favour with Vladimir "I've got a bigger penis than you" Putin's neo-communist-capitalist-Stalinist regime. Oh dear. I'm probably in trouble now too. It seems that the middle aged couple are being pressured by shadowy authorities to bugger off to somewhere where they can't point out things (that bother them) to anyone else with a vote. It seems that the church is being placed on an equal footing to the state - to criticize the church is to criticize the state (and by inference, Putin's penis).
On one level it's reassuring to think that one blog can so upset the church/state that it attracts such a level of alarming response. On another level it's alarming to think the same thing - I have read about such persecutions before but I'm pretty sure that they tended to occur - in the main - several hundred years ago. What utter nonsense - alarming nonsense, I grant you - this is. For the machinery of state to step in to quash free speech about religious difference is yet another sign of how truly f***ed up religious intolerance of any kind really is. Obviously, politicians of the like of Vlad "The Impaler" leave a lot to be desired at the best of times, but when the church starts keeping those kinds of bedfellows, I can't help thinking that we'll soon be seeing the rise of other mediaeval practices such as selling salvation (oh yes, that still exists in the USA).
Religion has been a force for good deeds throughout written and verbal history. It has, however, also - and overwhelmingly, in my opinion - been a force for evil deeds in its own name. Uncounted millions have died, and continue to die, in the name of various organized religions, while many religious people tsridently try to make the case that without religion there can be no morality. Utter nonsense - in fact worse - complete bullshit.
Christopher Hitchens sets the world religions a challenge that has yet to be met (and I'm paraphrasing heavily and clumsily): name me an act of objective good that could not have been performed in the absence of religion, and at the same time name me an act of evil that has not been committed in the name of religion. The world would do very well to remember his challenge, and think long and hard about it.