The attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris this past week have gotten me thinking about stuff, religious stuff. The good folks at Charlie Hebdo make a habit, some might say a bad habit, of skewering religion in the most pointed and harsh way possible. I can definitely say that from what I’ve seen their cartoons are at best irreverent. At worst, I think they may border on racism. Either way, however, I think the criticism of religion, like all other ideas, is a fundamental right that should never be abridged, by anyone.
While Charlie Hebdo picks pretty harshly on Islam and the other Abrahamic faiths, I do something similar here. I pointedly, and sometimes not-so-kindly criticize Christian Science. Does that make me Charlie? Can I honestly say “je suis Charlie”? The people behind Charlie Hebdo and other publications which criticize Islam know full well what they’re going up against. There are factions within Islam that will kill anyone who offends their faith, as was amply demonstrated this week in Paris. Salman Rushdie, who spent years living under the threat of death due to a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, could also attest to the very real threat those who step out against Islam face. So too could many a doctor at an abortion clinic in the United States, many of whom have faced violence at the hands of radical Christians. So too could Palestinians and moderate Jews in Israel who speak out against the more radical elements of Judaism. Scientologists who leave their faith and speak out against it sometimes face constant harassment from Church officials. I could go on.
Je Suis Charlie?
Which brings me back to my question: by doing what I do here, as the well-known hashtag translates into English, am I Charlie? Personally, I don’t think so. I do not fear for my life by doing what I do here. It’s unlikely that some crazy Christian Scientist will find my house and fill me up with lead or slash my throat. On that basis, I am not Charlie. I don’t speak out against Islam here, although I hold it and all other organized religions in the same contempt. I won’t be publishing cartoons of Mohammed here anytime soon–it’s just not my purpose here. I exist here to criticize Christian Science and expose it for the fraudulent system of healing it is. The worst I fear from what I do here is the loss of long-term friendships, which has happened, and having to potentially face withering criticism and anger from people I once considered colleagues and close associates. That’s a small part of the reason why I choose to remain anonymous. Because I choose to remain anonymous, I am definitely not Charlie.
“I see blasphemy not only as a right, but as a sacred duty.”
~James Morrow (in reaction to the Paris shootings)
However, I do stand in solidarity with those who do stick their necks out for freedom of speech and consciousness, some of whom lose their lives for it–even if I do think they occasionally step over a line of civility that most of us wouldn’t. I am not Charlie, but I stand in solidarity with them. Blasphemy is my right, and my sacred duty. In the context of criticism of Christian Science, I will continue to commit blasphemy as long as I see fit to.
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