Keep in mind that as we innocently go about our daily lives, religious zealots never cease trying to insinuate and hopefully embed their surreal creeds and assumptions ever more deeply in the public square.
Below are some instances of how this occurs and a few where secular reason has pushed back against supernatural assumptions and prevailed outside the United States (although Americans continue trying to blunt evangelical overreach). Religious zealotry and intimidation is a global phenomenon.
Off with my head
For example, a Buddhist monk in Thailand earlier this month decapitated himself by repurposing a sword into a makeshift guillotine, according to the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail newspaper. Why? The monk, Thammakorn Wangpreecha, 68, had reportedly told others he hoped that sacrificing himself to his deity would bring good luck and lead to his afterlife status as a “higher spiritual being,” the newspaper explained.
You may recall the famous film and photos of Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thích Quang Duc setting himself afire on a Saigon street in 1963. Thích was protesting the U.S.-allied South Vietnamese Diem regime’s pro-Catholic policies and discriminatory Buddhist laws during the Vietnam War, in particular banning of the Buddhist flag.
Buddhists are doctrinairely nonviolent (at least toward others), but have a history — as I’ve noted — of doing unspeakable violence to themselves. Ironically, the man who founded the religion, Gautama Buddha, taught that violence is a primal source of human suffering and should be religiously avoided.
Insult the prophet, you die
Two Iranian men, one a father of three named Yusef Mehrdad, were sentenced to death this month in Iran for allegedly insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Radio Free Europe and other news agencies reported. The second man was not identified.
The men had been arrested and jailed in May 2020. A court in the city of Arak, capital of Markazi Province, convicted the pair of “insulting the prophet,” for which the penalty is death.
You may remember the 2015 murder of 12 staffers, including the publisher, at the offices of the leftist, Paris-based Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine for publishing cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. The magazine office was also attacked two other times, in 2011 and 2020. I wrote about the attacks last year in a post about France’s consideration of tough new laws to curb deadly radical Islamism in the country.
Clearly, radical Islamists want to lethally proscribe everywhere on Earth for everyone things they deem disrespectful to their faith.
Cartoons … again
Britain is having its own problems with unhinged Islamism and cartoons.
An unnamed teacher at Batley Grammar School in Yorkshire and his family are now in hiding after death threats and the school coming under siege by Muslims infuriated that the teacher in her religious studies class showed a cartoon lampooning the prophet Muhammad (see cartoon at start of this post).
Later, protestors demanded the resignation of Sabia Akram, a Muslim and elected Labor Party councilor for the city of Slough, who said she was “shocked” and “saddened” by the intimidation that led to the teacher and her family being forced into hiding, the Slough & South Bucks Observer reported. Adram didn’t defend the teacher’s “disrespectful” actions but recommended that he be forgiven, not threatened with death — and even offered to let the now-undercover family stay at her house.
“Anyone who disrespects our Prophet (pbuh — peace be upon him) has no position in our lives but Councillor has used her political position by welcoming him to Slough and offering to share her accommodation,” the protestor’s group wrote in a petition to local government.
This is how religious zealots attempt to control how people of other faiths and cultures behave in relation to their faith.
Teaching nontheism in religion class!
Oddly, the progressive U.K.’s public schools have long taught religion as a legal and traditional matter of course, even though its populace is now vastly secular.
So, when the city council of the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales decided to allow a humanist to sit on its commission that oversees public Religious Education (RE) in the vale, theists were shocked and pushed back, asserting that such education should be the sole purview of religious people and parents. This appointment coincided with the Wales government’s recent vote to scrap RE in favor of a new Religion, Values and Ethics (RVE) curriculum, which includes compulsory lessons in atheism and humanism.
Simon Calvert, deputy director of public affairs at Wales’ Christian Institute, was outraged, falsely warning that the new curriculum would impose:
“A one-way street that favours atheism over religion … groups like Humanists U.K., whose stated goal as recently as 2011 was to rid society of religion, are being given a veto on the content of RE. This is ridiculous. Parents are not going to like being sidelined from their children’s education on sex and religion.”
The head of Humanists U.K. dismissed that contention as nonsense.
Two things. One, religion (not irreligion) was long in the RE curriculum, so its spurious for theists to claim that the addition of atheism and humanism amounts to a veto of religious content. And two, in Christian countries, sex education is corrupted by religious squeamishness regarding all things carnal, and useless misinformation (like the supposedly superior value of unadulterated abstinence) is imparted to youth. In a religious context, sex and faith are tightly conjointed, so a bit more real-world-grounded sex ed is a good thing.
Hat’s off to Wales for broadening its children’s education to include reality along with fantasy.
Again, don’t forget as you go about your daily lives in the real world that there’s an army of religious zealots out there that are trying mightily to embed an unreal one in broad daylight — and the consequences can be severe.
It’s no time to rest easy globally when it comes to coercive faith, but especially in America, where the Christian Right would not only love to co-opt public education and sex ed — it has been trying mightily to acheive that for decades (if not centuries) — but also government at every level.