While I’m sure my constant ranting is just as annoying as being woken up on your day off by someone at your door wanting to talk about Jesus, days like today serve as a good reminder of why I can’t just shut up and mind my own business when it comes to religion.
The first thing I saw when I checked the news today was this parody of the Stonewall “Some people are gay, get over it” bus ad campaign. While I had mixed feelings about the original campaign [Patrick Neylan gives a good critique of Stonewall's marketing campaign here] I can safely say I prefer it to this poster, which was scheduled to go up on buses around London next week. The posters are funded by two conservative Christian groups that both support the idea of a “cure” for homosexuality.
This caused me to sigh a little, but I’m not hugely concerned about this: I’m a free speech advocate, and think these banners are little more than shouting matches between two sides. They’re annoying, but not hatred-inducing. And by this evening the international outcry surrounding this poster prompted London mayor Boris Johnson to announce he’s going to stop it going up. No doubt this will lead those who believe in its cause to feel suppressed and so strengthen their belief — perhaps creating a few homophobes in the process — but at least it’ll give the rest of us less of a headache.
But the next item I read raised my blood temperature a little bit closer to boiling…
There’s a statue of Jesus in Mumbai which has received a lot of attention lately because water has begun to drip from Jesus’ feet. This was quickly dubbed a miracle, and crowds have gathered to praise this dripping Jesus and collect vials of the holy water.
As miracles are something of a rarity in reality, one chap decided to study this statue in greater detail to see what he could learn from this fascinating artifact. He soon found that the cause of the water wasn’t divine intervention. It was a broken drain. He pointed this out to a few people and (here’s where the rage kicks in) is now facing charges of blasphemy due to numerous police cases filed against him for his sacrilegious comments. Don’t even get me started on the idea of blasphemy being a crime in the 21st Century.
Meanwhile in the civilised, secular Western world: death threats to teenagers! Yay!
Jessica Ahlquist, the American high schooler who politely pointed out during a school meeting that the prominent Christian prayer banner hanging in their gymnasium seemed in violation of church/state separation laws, received this charming letter from a fan yesterday:
That’s nice, isn’t it?
I had hoped that would be enough religion-induced rage for one day, but hopping on Twitter revealed something rather worrying: a number of prominent atheists had their accounts suspended without warning or explanation. Details are sketchy as to why, but it seems that a number of users had reported the accounts as spam and Twitter suspended them without really checking if the reports were accurate.
Follow #AntiAtheistCampaign to be kept up-to-date on this as it develops.
UPDATE: Thanks to Tim Farley (you may remember his blog from the Mabus fiasco) for confirming that the #AntiAtheistCampaign was, as I had hoped, not a campaign at all, but rather an unfortunate result of Twitter’s enhanced new anti-spam measures clashing with the popular Twitter sport of “bigot baiting“. The hashtag is still active, and users like Godless Spellchecker are still suspended at the time of writing.
And now I’ll leave you with a beautiful collage (click to enlarge):