Let us kill all the teddy bears: Note to radical Muslims: I’ve now named my favorite coffee mug ‘Muhammad.’ Hope that helps
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Here’s what I like to do every time I see a throng of frothing religious zombies marching in the streets of Sudan or Pakistan or Colorado Springs or anywhere else in the world, carrying knives and torches and holding festering clots of fear in their hearts as they burn flags or photographs or copies of “The Goblet of Fire” or “The Golden Compass” or that sweet little book about the cute gay penguins in the Central Park Zoo and all screaming for the instant death of someone who dared to suggest that, say, Jesus was actually a liberal pacifist or that L. Ron Hubbard was a nutball hack or that it’s perfectly delightful to let sweet little schoolkids name a sweet little teddy bear ‘Muhammad.’
I try to remember. No wait, that’s not quite right. First, I get past the wave of nausea and sadness, that hot, palpable feeling that we are, still and forever, a baffled and insane and deeply doomed species and the world of man is indeed bleak and hopeless on far too many levels to count.
Yes. Must get past that.
Then I remember. I remember the remaining 1.2 billion Muslims of the world who are also reading about the Great Teddy Bear Blasphemy of 2007 and going oh holy hell no, please, Allah no, not this again, not these inbred fundamentalist jackals making us all look so horribly bad, and why does the media insist on showing such a harsh, fragmented picture of a generally peaceful (albeit overly militant) faith and is there really nothing we can do?
I remember how difficult it must be in this, the age of instant and global and yet often wrongheaded media coverage, for the average true believer of any of the world’s giant, confused religions to stay focused and faithful and full of piety, considering the increasing number of mindless zealots who so effortlessly poison their spiritual well.
Then I wonder: Do such events ever spur any sort of somber internal query among the faithful? Do these countless acts of terrorism and extremism, so common to every major world religion, ever stir up some sort of nagging notion that perhaps there really is something fundamentally wrong with how billions of people still cling to these codified, archaic systems of faith, so terrified as they are of change, of progress, so saturated in reactionary groupthink that they give rise to endless outbursts of hate and ignorance? Sadly, I think I know the answer.
Indeed, the distressed reaction from normal Muslims must be a very similar to what average Christians experience when they hear about yet another loud-mouthed gaggle of Bible zealots using Jesus as a weapon to attack and bash and impede, to go after gays and women and science and sex and terrifying little books about girls and magic dust and talking polar bears.
It’s a common Christian lament. It’s also a bit bogus, unconvincing, hollow. Because the fact is, the extremists of any religion merely serve to illuminate the fact that there’s always something inherently dangerous in giving yourself (and your national identity) over to such divisive, woefully dualistic systems that, no matter what your stance, absolutely insist that man is but a flawed, lustful animal that can never truly know God. Or to put it more crudely: The fanatics may like to pee in the pool, but religion built the damn pool in the first place.
Because then I think of how many senators and Bible-thumpers and Bush-bashed Americans who are seeing stories like this and snorting, “See? Murderous Muslim fanatics raging in the streets! This is why Christianity is so much better. This is why we should bomb the Middle East to rubble. Bush is right!” And they raise their flags and cock their Bibles and pat themselves on their arrogant backs, conveniently forgetting that the only real difference between radical Islam and Christianity’s own bloody, murderous past is, well, a bit of time, with a splash of geography.
Ah yes, the bloody crusades, the sadistic assaults on conflicting belief systems, the gay popes and murderous priests and boundless hypocrisy, the book burnings and witch burnings and pagan slaughters and a billion sexual oppressions, the mountains of guilt and shame and sin sin sin. Been there, done that, still doing a great deal of it but not quite as, you know, explicitly as before. Note to righteous Christians: That violent Sudanese march? Different branch, same family tree.
I think of Christopher Hitchens’ terrific stunt of book, “God is Not Great,” and also Richard Dawkins’ excellent “The God Delusion,” bestsellers both and both effortlessly revealing, by way of reason and scientific fact and sheer common sense, how organized religion has been, almost without fail, the single most successful impediment to mankind’s true moral, spiritual and even political progress throughout history.
To me, both are dead right, and yet also deeply missing the point, if for no other reason than that they both argue their perspectives straight from the mind, the realm of reason and logic, when spirit is, of course, a matter of the heart. To me, the greatest argument against organized religion is not merely that it makes no logical sense — this much is obvious. It’s how it puts the heart, the fluid and indefinable — and yes, hotly mystical — spirit, in a kind of theological cage, bound and gagged and fed only scraps of carefully censored truth, and dares to call it love.
All these thoughts swirl and dance when suddenly I read that the pope, perhaps the most dangerous, out-of-touch world figure in all of organized religion’s dour pantheon, has declared that atheists — atheists! — are responsible for some of “the greatest forms of cruelty” in history. I laugh out loud. It is a wonder that lightning did not strike him dead on the spot.
Pascal: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” Twain: “Man is kind enough when he is not excited by religion.” Tom Robbins: “A sense of humor, properly developed, is superior to any religion so far devised.” Salud, gentlemen.
And finally, I think of the eternal chicken-and-egg debate, modified thusly: Which came first, the radical fundamentalists who can’t walk and chew warm theology at the same time, or the overeager commercial media, ever in need of tales of shock and titillation and blood to get you to pay attention?
Or the existential version: If extremist hooligans march in the streets and there are no media to cover it, do they make a sound? Does it make a bit of difference? Does anyone care? If there are no cameras, will the zealots just stay home and masturbate to copies of “The Hills” on DVD? Then again, if the media ignore such eruptions, will they be accused of bias? Of neglecting their duties, especially if something truly dangerous occurs? If you were running a news organization in this age of fear and persecution and limitless media potential, what would you do?
As for me, I love Great Danes. Also Dobermans and Ridgebacks and sleek Lab mixes. Alas, I do not yet have a dog. When I finally get one, perhaps I shall name him Allah. Maybe I shall get a second dog and name her Buddha, my parrot Jesus, my new mattress set Shiva and Shakti, my car Dionysus, and my favorite Pyrex sex toy, naturally, oh sweet Lord. This is the plan.
For now, I shall do my part to defuse the raging drama of perceived blasphemy in the world by naming my favorite coffee mug Muhammad. I suggest you do something similar. Spread God around. Unlock the cage. Defeat toxic zealotry. After all, is God not everywhere, in all things at all times in every possible way? You bet She is. Really, why save her for just the teddy bears?