No Repression Of Expression
The appalling events in Paris are still unfolding after the Islamic extremists’ attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine, but one thing is clear; around the free world a deep sense of outrage is overcoming the usual liberal breast-beating. The attitude of ‘Why did we fail these people?’ is for once notable by its absence. The barbaric deaths of writers and artists for expressing themselves within a free society is now facing further tests, as extremist parties become a magnet for the disenfranchised, the criminal, the embittered failures of society.
One of the two suspects at large is known to have spent time in a French jail on a previous conviction for terrorism, and it’s a mark of a civilised society that he did not face the kind of penalty that European nationals face in repressive states. The problem now is what documentarian Adam Curtis calls ‘Oh Dearism’, wherein the only public response to outrages is ‘Oh Dear’ and setting up a hashtag. The logical answer would be for millions upon millions of cartoon images to flood the world with the approval of mainstream Islam, but that will never happen.
As the son of atheist parents who worked in science and law respectively, I was raised to appreciate the needs of people who seek out systems by which they can live, but I must admit I find the trappings of religion utterly absurd, especially in extreme Christian or Muslim forms which harm others, and am tired of having to defend my own atheism. Every day, around King’s Cross station (now the de rigeur filming spot for any news team talking about ‘likely terrorist attacks’) I wade through a ring of people paid to hand out brochures encouraging me to believe in a fantasy figure who advocated stoning women to death.
Any religion based on fear, cruelty, arrogance, misogyny, homophobia, racism, cowardice, egocentricity and contradictory fantasies from virgins in heaven to demons in hell deserves to die out, and the sooner the better. Kindness, respect, equality, bravery, selflessness, fairness, humility and honesty are all concepts better served by concentrating on each other, our fellow men and women, instead of vengeful gods. It’s time now. Elvis has left the building.