200 people caused violence, mayhem and injury in Sydney on Saturday because of a shitty film.
Given the current state of Hollywood, and the rubbish that populates much of the television landscape, it’s a surprise that any of our cities are still standing if that is a reason for protesting.
But of course, that wasn’t the real reason these people were protesting. It’s because the film had religious content, in this case, a bad-taste depiction of the prophet Muhammed (like Candyman, merely saying his name seems to cause bad things to happen).
Sydney got off lightly: protests in other parts of the world have resulted in death.
Thankfully, moderate Muslims in Australia have already rushed to condemn the actions of the protesters, describing them variously as “a noisy minority” and “an embarrassment”.
But how much longer will we allow religious delusion free rein to cause mayhem in our society?
As a person with experience of mental illness, there are serious consequences if my brain misfires and I do bad things based on my sincere beliefs.
In fact, even if in an episode of mania my delusions were religious in nature, authorities would rush to restrain me.
Consider the irony of this case from the USA about a young Christian man who had a psychotic episode following a series of life traumas:
“After a loud argument with his pastor, Sam was asked not to return to church. This argument, prompted by Sam’s conviction that humanity was failing to follow the law laid down in Leviticus, ended with him accusing his pastor of being “a fake” and “an agent of Satan.” This would be the beginning of Sam’s legal troubles.
Sam became convinced that his god considered mixed fiber clothing sinful. He had seen the hate-mongers on TV condemning homosexuality but could not understand why they ignored the rest of Leviticus. He started harassing shoppers of the largest clothing store in town, eventually entering the store and damaging racks of mixed fiber clothing. He was arrested dozens of times, convicted often, and given antipsychotic medication which he refused to take.”
The only difference between Sam’s situation and the protesters on Saturday is that Sam was not part of a large organised group that (a) all believed the same thing and (b) are granted automatic respect for those beliefs irrespective of their rationality.
I found myself embroiled in an ill-advised Facebook discussion yesterday when a friend pointed out some logical inconsistencies in the Adam & Eve story. I joined in the discussion with my own thoughts – admittedly blunt but pointing out further bits of the story that don’t make sense – only to find myself being accused of being insensitive to faith, disrespectful and an “arsehole” simply for having an opinion.
“…religion remains the only mode of discourse that encourages grown men and women to pretend to know things they manifestly do not (and cannot) know. If ever there were an attitude at odds with science, this is it. And the faithful are encouraged to keep shouldering this unwieldy burden of falsehood and self-deception by everyone they meet—by their coreligionists, of course, and by people of differing faith, and now, with startling frequency, by scientists who claim to have no faith.”
And, it would seem, by people who are concerned about showing “human compassion” towards the beliefs of others while thugs simultaneously take over the centre of an Australian city and call for beheadings.
Over a shitty film.