Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tolerance?--Not From a Mob

The religious have no tolerance for us.  The recent case of an atheist Palestinian blogger shows this clearly.

Apparently, a young Palestinian man, Walid Husayin, came to realize that religion was literally myth and embraced atheism.  In his culture, and under the Palestinian government in the West Bank where he lived, this was taboo and even illegal.  He kept his apostasy secret but started to blog anonymously and had a facebook page under a false name in which he spoke of his thoughts and opinions.

He began to attract attention from the authorities and others in the Muslim world, but his anonymity protected him.  Until his mother discovered he was reading atheist materials on the internet.  She cut off his access.  He began to frequent a cyber cafe in his off hours where he attracted attention for the amount of time he spent there.  Eventually, a cafe employee took pictures of his computer screen and turned him in to the authorities.

Now, he will be lucky to get a life sentence for his "crimes".  Many Muslims want to burn him alive or otherwise execute him.

One telling detail is that at some point he sarcastically said "I am god" on the internet.  A sarcastic statement is one which the speaker knows is not true.  In fact, it is usually the exact opposite of the truth and is said to convey and emphasize the exact opposite of what is said.  Yet, in spite of the fact that he obviously didn't mean his words to be taken seriously, those who are howling for his head are apparently most upset about his statement and are apparently repeating his words as if he meant them literally.

This sort of thing happens frequently, but especially when religious people or others mobs gather.  The kind of people who make up mobs and religions are the kind of people who believe whatever they hear then react without bothering to investigate or try to understand.  They react in the way that "everyone else" seems to expect them to, and it is impossible to talk sense to them or correct the version of the facts that they think is true because "everyone knows".  Their separate identity, if they ever had one, is subsumed into that of the mob.

Such people generally have no critical thinking abilities or a conscience--just like the mobs they join.  To the extent any of them do have critical thinking skills or a conscience, it is switched off because they are no longer individuals--they are now simply a part of a larger whole.

That whole is formed and driven by anger or outrage and the individual parts no longer feel responsible because of the number of others around them.  (It has been shown in repeated studies that the more people there are around in an emergency, the less any one of them feels a responsibility to help.)  This is especially true when everyone around is actively participating in causing the "emergency" and most or all of them feel hostility toward the victim.

The article mentions the lengths to which the authorities in some Muslim countries will go to in order to prevent anyone from exercising what we in the U.S. think of as freedom of speech or religion.  If anyone doubts the need to fight against theocracy, let such facts clarify the situation for him or her.

Perhaps the best part of the whole article is the concluding paragraph, which quotes a local commentator who states the obvious implication to be drawn from such efforts:

       "Zainab Rashid, a liberal Palestinian commentator, wrote in an
   online opinion piece that Husayin has made an important point: "that
   criticizing religious texts for their (intellectual) weakness can only be
   combatted by ... oppression, prison and execution."

No comments:

Post a Comment