The beards of Berlin are long and thin,
Straight and curly, thick and swirly,
Black and brown, red and grey,
I saw a braided beard today!
Bearded knights and bearded dragons,
Bearded bikes and bearded wagons.
Bearded dogs and bearded birds,
Bearded thoughts and bearded words.
Bearded women – pregnant – groom
Bearded babies in the womb.
David Gates and Glen Campbell.
Boxes and walls,
But if nobody leaps
Then nobody falls
And nobody flies
And artistry dies.
In silence we scream,
But every creation
Starts with a dream.
A life without dread?
I’d rather be dead.
‘Bow your head’ the pastor said
‘And say this prayer with me:
Place your faith in Jesus
And he will set you free’.
Free to kneel before him,
Free to follow rules,
Written and re-written
By savages and fools.
Free to force his message
Upon a growing mind,
Old enough to question,
Young enough to blind.
Free to banish wonder,
Free to see his hand
In natural phenomena
We can’t yet understand.
Free to feel superior,
Free to spread the word,
No matter how inhuman,
No matter how absurd.
‘Bow your head’ the pastor said
But I could not comply,
Submission grants permission
To sustain an ancient lie.
Should Religion Be Sacred ?
I might start my own religion this afternoon. Well why not ? Every religion has to start somewhere with some one, doesn’t it ? For the sake of argument lets say I believe that the world was created by a giant invisible pussycat called Oscar who toys with us like mice at a cosmic level when he’s in a playful mood but is frequently asleep when we would like him to pay attention to us. Okay so far ?
At the moment I’m the only believer but numbers really don’t matter. I mean, just because only one person believes something doesn’t make it wrong and just because a few million people believe something else doesn’t make it right. Lots of people in the past thought that the earth was flat. Quite a few still think Elvis isn’t dead. Religions simply require belief rather than resting entirely on objectively verifiable fact, and we’ve already established that numbers alone confer no special credibility, so my religion must be as valid as anyone else’s.
What rights should I claim for my new religion (with it’s equal validity to all other religions) ? Should I demand that it influences government policy ? Should I seek to enforce my moral code on non-believers ? Should I feel free to force-feed any future child religious indoctrination from an early age so it too believes in Oscar the Invisible Cat ? If anyone mocks or disrespects Oscar should I demand the power to have them burned or stoned or whipped of dragged to court and charged with blasphemy ? Should I be able to dictate what sort of relationships people have and how they may express their sexuality ?
Personally, I don’t want to do any of those things and I’m sure people would laugh at me if I tried so why don’t they laugh at those claiming to represent every other religion that believes it has the right to interfere in their lives ? If the idea of me being able to dictate the kind of relationships others have is ludicrous (and it is) why is it not equally absurd when some other religion thinks it can do that ?
I have no problem at all with anyone laughing at me worshiping Oscar the Invisible Cat if they want. Good luck to them. The world needs more smiles. But equally its only fair that I should have the right to find their religion funny or objectionable and be able to satirize it freely and without fear. One of the best portraits of religion, for me, was Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’, which nailed so much of the absurdity and hypocrisy not just of Christianity but of organized religion generally.
Seeing a re-run of that old movie on TV at an early age was hugely influential in shaping the way I see our mad world and the religions in it but apparently there were serious attempts to ban it when it was first released. At least it got a viewing but there are still many parts of the world where saying the wrong thing about religion can get you harassed or hurt or imprisoned or even killed. There are still places where religion oppresses people and humor is one way, sometimes the only way, of fighting for freedom and greater human rights.
Rowan Atkinson, writer and comedian, said .. “To criticize a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous, but to criticize their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom. The freedom to criticize ideas, any ideas - even if they are sincerely held beliefs - is one of the fundamental freedoms of society.” I’ll go along with that. Humor can be thoughtful and help you see things in a new way or it can be be lazy and cliched. It can be risky or safe. It can lampoon the powerful or just dump on the powerless. It succeeds or fails on it’s quality and integrity and we can each make up our own mind about that. Attempts to police what subjects are permissable are often muddle-headed and always open to abuse.
As far as I’m concerned anyone is perfectly free to believe what they want and to live their life however they wish, as long as they don’t harm anyone else in the process. Under that proviso of not ‘harming anyone else’, though, I worry about the widespread religious indoctrination of children, attempts to impose religious beliefs on the education system, or government or the law, and efforts to censor freedom of speech or artistic expression. Those are all things where people go beyond their own personal spirituality (which they’re very welcome to) and try to force their beliefs on others. That’s about asserting power, not religion.
So should religion be ‘sacred’, in the sense of off-limits for humor or criticism ? Emphatically not. I don’t mind if you make jokes about Oscar the Invisible Cat (although he may claw your tights if you annoy him) as long as nobody else tries to censor or suppress jokes about any other religion. Sounds like a fair deal to me.
(cartoon by Paul Combs)
(Source: e-writing, via elledark)
Dave Chapelle at his best.
Learning gives me immense joy.
Over the last few years, I’ve found some brilliant online resources for expanding your knowledge, all of which are free.
The internet is full of rabbit holes, but there also exist many treasure troves hidden in plain sight.
For those of you already aware of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), there isn’t much new here. For the rest of you, I hope you relish these discoveries like I did.
Khan Academy - www.khanacademy.org
This is my favourite resource. There are videos courses covering a variety of areas in Science, Maths, Economics, Humanities, and Computing.
Their Astronomy section is amazing.
Coursera - www.coursera.org
Coursera have short courses (between 4 weeks and 12 weeks) run by prestigious universities all over the world. Short video lectures with weekly quizzes and interactive discussion forums.
I love Coursera. You can get statements of accomplishment and even course credits (in the U.S.).
Udacity - www.udacity.com
Mostly computer science courses (programming, software development, game development). Watch courses for free, or subscribe for full course interaction.
edX - www.edx.org
Similar to Coursera, courses on a wide variety of topics from universities all over the world. All free.
Open Culture - www.openculture.com
They call themselves “The best free cultural & educational media on the web”. Links to free online courses, certificate courses, free movies, audiobooks, eBooks, language lessons, business courses, and kids education. Really cool site.