In the aftermath of the slaughter at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris this week, it’s impossible to think of much else. As I sit and write this, the two remaining radical Islamic assassins, as well as their comrade, were just shot and killed by French police.
Vive la France!
Sadly, three innocent hostages died in the process. The AP story insinuates that the hostages were killed by police. The sanitized term for that is “collateral damage” — the only way to neutralize the assassins was to sacrifice innocent people, for the greater good and safety of all.
It’s just sad. Very, very sad.
The Paris massacre is one more bead on a string of radical Islamic terrorism, most recently, the Islamic State beheading of journalists and a Taliban bombing in Pakistan that killed 145 people, mostly schoolchildren. The assassins yelled, “God is great” as they gunned down children.
And that’s just sick. Very, very sick.
Normal, kind, rational Muslims, I beseech you: Condemn this behavior. Loudly. Publicly. Declare it anathema. Excommunicate these murderers like the pariahs they are. Capture and punish them from within your own circle. Because if you don’t, you endorse them. Silence is collusion.
Meanwhile, the religious bloodshed trudges on.
Being of the “imagine no religion” camp, I sometimes fantasize about a religion-free world. It’s so beautiful. So serene. Nobody’s god beating up somebody else’s god, nobody forcing others to worship their god — or die. Better yet, I imagine a world wiped free of religion retroactively. All the pain, suffering and carnage — gone. No Crusades, no Inquisition, no jihad. It would be a world free of the biggest weapon of mass destruction of all: religion.
I also sometimes fantasize that I can fly. That ain’t happening either.
Sadly, even without religion, there’d still be bloodshed, but it would be over land and resources, not a battle for dominance between facets of the one God or Spirit or Universe, or whatever label you give that spiritual energy threading through every human being, and maybe non-humans too.
That’s the huge irony in all this religious bloodshed and strife — we’re fighting over which label to put on the same spiritual energy. A spiritual rose by any other name, if you will. Once we’ve won the labeling battle, we’re compelled to control everyone who labels it something else, whether it’s kindly Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on your door or jihadists gunning down children. It’s the same behavior, just a matter of degree: I’m right, you’re wrong, and will be ever so, until you believe the same things I do. One results in unwanted booklets hanging on your doorknob, the other results in people being assassinated for drawing cartoons. It’s all about the compulsion to control.
As someone working in the opinion business, the Charlie Hebdo massacre struck close to the bone. In the perfect world in my head, besides no religion, people could say, write or draw whatever they want, and others could agree or disagree, respond with applause or a middle finger, and then … just walk away. If they found the content offensive, they’d simply choose not to view it at all, treating it with as much insignificance as leaves in the gutter. People would understand the different between opinion and fact.
Opinions aren’t facts, they’re facets. Just like religion. A facet isn’t a complete picture of anything. It’s only the view from one angle. In my perfect little world, people would recognize that opinions have no power over them. Opinions, therefore, wouldn’t generate insecurity that ignites into outrage, which detonates into violence. The real root of religious terrorism, you see, is insecurity.
An insecure person is consumed with anxiety, fear and anger when confronted by an opposing belief system. He believes he must destroy the “thing” that makes him feel so uncomfortable, but incorrectly identifies that “thing” as the person holding the opposing belief when, in fact, the “thing” is internal: his own insecurity — stemming from an unthinkable fear that his beliefs might not be valid. In an unsophisticated mind, it becomes a simple equation: Silence the opposing voice and I won’t feel insecure anymore.
The ease with which religious fanatics can be made to feel insecure is the most baffling part of all. If you are devout in your beliefs, teachers and prophets, you should be rock solid. An opposing belief system should be irrelevant and completely insignificant.
Me, I’m rock solid in my spirituality. If someone refutes or ridicules it, or declares I’m going straight to hell, I just chuckle and think, “You poor pitiful, delusional, unenlightened idiot” and go on about my business. My beliefs can’t be rattled by mere opinions. I give no more credence to such nonsensical chatter than I would to someone insisting that I’m a giraffe. Their statements are preposterous, and I’m quite confidant that no matter how impassioned that person may be about my giraffe-ness, I won’t sprout a long neck and develop large brown spots.
So, to all you religious fanatical radical jihadist terrorist assassins out there, I extend my hand not with a sword but with a tool. We’ll call it Giraffe Power. When you see or hear something outrageous and you’re about to self-combust in wanton, senseless slaughter … pump the brakes on that a bit. Translate that egregiously offensive insult into “You’re a giraffe.”
Look in the mirror … is your neck growing? Little knobby horns sprouting from your head? Do you have a sudden craving for acacia leaves? No? Then you’re not a giraffe, regardless of what anyone else says, or writes or draws. More importantly, neither is your religion or your God or your Prophet. Those things are rock solid, so start treating them as such. Offensive statements are utterly meaningless. Opinions have no power unless you give it to them.
Don’t squander your power on fools. Chuckle and walk away from that poor pitiful, delusional, unenlightened idiot. That’s a show of real power, and it feels like the opposite of insecurity.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com