When Idols are Offended

Posted on March 6, 2008. Filed under: Religi | Tags: , , |

The Jakarta Post, Wed, 03/05/2008

Many Christians and Muslims respect Jesus or Muhammad. They have given up learning and growing and instead seek strength in the reflected glory of their idols.

They are told that in blind submission lies virtue. In fact there lies only annihilation of the person’s creativity and individuality.

He becomes a soldier for his idol, eager to prove his devotion by smiting offenders whose reverence takes a different form, is directed elsewhere or is altogether absent.

For society, the outcome is a hierarchy built on fear, in which members of the smallest religious groups are beaten, persecuted or imprisoned by members of the largest group. The actual beliefs or practices of the persecuted groups are immaterial.

The persecution is just an outcome of the emotional need for dominance among the largest group. This is the context for the recent protests by Catholic youth groups against Tempo magazine’s cover parodying da Vinci’s ultima cena.

By intimidating an influential magazine’s editors, perhaps with court backing, they prove that they remain near the top of the hierarchy of fear, rather than down in the swamp with the deviant sects.

While their grievance may be genuine, appeasement of such protests is unhelpful.

Attacks perpetrated by religious groups against the weak and helpless are a symptom of the submissive-dominant complex outlined above. Conceding that anger justifies censorship gives protesters an incentive to prove the force of their anger through violence.

And it reinforces their sense that idolatry confers strength. Their dependence on mindless submission increases, and with it the corresponding urge to oppress non-conformists.

It is better to remember that historic and controversial figures are not the property of any particular group. And not everyone idolizes a prophet.

Accepting censorship does not promote tolerance. It only legitimizes repression.

JOHN HARGREAVES
Jakarta

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