Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sticks and stones may break my bones ...

... but bad words cannot hurt me. At least, that used to be the case with people with a sturdier psyche. Last week, the catholic pope said a few words about atheists and muslims at the Regensburg address, and among those words were some quotes from Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The response was predictable: The Pakistani parliament unanimously demanded an apology, as did various other muslim voices. Equally predictable were the actions by the usual resident geniuses. You remember them; they were the ones demonstrating extremely loudly in the Muhammed Cartoon Wars, stating that islam's image ban was absolute and extended even to infidels - all the while sporting t-shirts with the image of Osama bin Laden. This time, the geniuses stated, in effect: "Retract your statement that islam is violent, or we will kill you." To show they really meant this message of peace, they killed a nun and torched two catholic churches. Oh wait, those were anglican and orthodox churches. But hey, it's hard to keep track of such subtle differences when one is a genius.

It was all over so quickly that the editors of the world's newspapers must be chewing on their fingers by now. Lost sales and all that. The pope simply apologized and restated that the quote from the Byzantine emperor was just that: A quote. Not the pope's own opinion. That's what he said, anyway. And the muslim voices said that that was a fine apology. End of story.

But the other half of the matter was not addressed: the pope's badmouthing of atheists. I feel like demanding an apology on behalf of all humanistic atheists for his claims that atheism leads to feelings of alienation and to society falling apart. If that's exactly what he said. We have learned that accuracy of quotation doesn't matter much in the face of hurt feelings. Anyway, he probably meant what I said, and has probably said something himself to those precise effects before. So we demand an apology! If not ... if not ... ooooh, how angry we will be. Unfortunately, humanist atheism tends not to attract the kind of resident geniuses that are overly fond of public chemistry, so we'll have nobody to set fire to the Mormon tabernacle to show the pope that we really mean business.

But let's leave the pope. He's not alone. All of Christianity badmouth the godless, and their priests do it every sunday in their official capacity as church leaders. So we should demand an apology after mass - every Sunday. But hey! I want some apologies from the muslims, too. Don't try to tell me that they praise the atheists in their friday prayers. They badmouth the godless, the humanist atheists, at least as bad as do the Christians. So we demand an apology from the muslims, after every friday prayer. And while we're at it: Don't think the jews will be let off that easily. Apologies every saturday, after synagogue. Rabbis: We know what you've been saying about the humanistic atheists, about the godless.

Well, I could make such a demand, couldn't I - on behalf of all secular humanists? The only trouble is that I'm no secular humanist. I'm an egoist and therefore not all that humanistic at all times. And the secular humanists badmout us egoists, the same way the jews, the Christans and the muslims badmouth us. "Tear out the egoism from your midst," and all that jazz. I don't think the humanists pick a particular day for badmouthing us, so I will demand an apology from them each and every evening. Well, except on fridays, saturdays and sundays, when I will be busy receiving apologies from the other faiths.