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Religious Fundamentalism: A PR Nightmare

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A lot can be said about religious fundamentalists: firstly – and I apologise to my politically correct friends for stereotyping – they’re misogynistic, homophobic, irrational, intolerant, indoctrinated, dangerous, occasionally murderous, and generally just nasty bastards. Secondly, the nice, normal religious types, who are only low-key homophobes and hopefully very rarely murderous, justifiably resent them for making their love-filled religion seem, shockingly, outdated and repressive. Thirdly, as promoters they are quite remarkably appalling.

As PR campaigns go, the destruction of a pair of major and significant buildings, resulting in numerous fatalities, in a country already with a superfluity of xenophobic and strongly Christian sentiments and a shitload of nukes, is certainly an interesting one. It’s been devastating for American Muslims and for American civil liberties in general, and resulted in America embarking on a sort of high-tech sequel to the crusades, heroically journeying to Muslim countries and causing the deaths of innocent civilians whilst searching for possibly mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Muslim extremists certainly got themselves noticed, but, as with the French Orangina ad featuring a gay humanoid cat who uses the drink as aftershave, although it is memorable and unexpected, it doesn’t particularly make me want to try the product. It makes door-to-door Jehovah’s Witnesses seem like marketing geniuses.

It’s also quite difficult to claim that your religion isn’t outdated or intransigent when you fiercely and single-mindedly deny evolution; that it’s not bigoted when you bear slogans so gloriously proclaiming ‘God hates fags!’ (by which, I feel safe in assuming, cigarettes are not meant, although maybe cancer rates could be reduced by threat of hellfire; perhaps it’s something the Department of Health should try.) Would your loving God agree that a women should be forced to bear the child of her rapist, or is He also confident in the female body’s magical rape-detection system that was explained to us by the dazzling Tod Akin? Either way, informing strangers online that, by turning away from the traditional and noble values of homophobia and the denial of strong scientific evidence, they are earning themselves a first-class ticket to Hell, is an interesting recruitment strategy.

Heaven sounds increasingly like a place full of the most fastidious, boring and irrational people imaginable; a borderline police-state, with no-one allowed to question the one who’s running the show, and with plenty of snobbery and superiority from its inhabitants about being there at all. I must say, my rejection of Christian dogma is seriously tested by the lure of the possibility of spending all of eternity with a bunch of self-satisfied sexist homophobes. Or perhaps heaven is actually a place where God awards suicide bombers with flocks of women as though they were livestock (were you the sheep-awarding sort and the recipient Welsh). In which case (I’m sketchy on the details): would I, as a woman, were I less of a sinner and more kamikaze, be presented to one such suicide bomber as a sexual gift? Gosh, sounds enticing, toss me a hijab.

You’ve got to feel bad for the moderates really, considering how much they’re putting into their attempts to convert our lost, free-thinking generation to their faith. The churches that from the outside look like doctor’s practices or health clubs and the music that sounds like boy-band crap with the occasional ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Jesus’ thrown in all seem rather futile when we are exposed through the internet to the louder voices of nutters raving about the evils of Harry Potter and how gays should just never experience romantic love, because for fuck’s sake how demanding can these faggots get? Creationism, cancer being the result of original sin and therefore fair enough, Muslim girls on YouTube using a paper plate to demonstrate how dating will ruin any chance you may have of a future harmonious marriage, mothers of five saying that they can’t see why gays can’t be celibate, people actually believing that abstinence-only education could lower rates of teen pregnancy; they inspire the same patronising snort as homeopathy or end-of-the-world predictions. It starts people doubting, people questioning: if that’s ridiculous, then, really, when we think about it, isn’t the idea that the one omnipotent being who allegedly created the universe did it for us, and cares about every one of us individually, equally unlikely? And just a tad arrogant?

As I said, there is a lot that can be said about religious fundamentalists; in my view almost all of it negative. But what extremism does do is drag the more politically correct bigots out of the closet, and expose the darker tones of religions that outwardly preach peace and love. Women have ‘a different role to play’ in society; we ‘hate the sin, not the sinner’ where homosexuality is concerned; we must ‘pray for’ those with different theological beliefs. The pretty words and niceties may be more palatable, but it certainly is satisfying to see polished facades shattered by people allegedly on the same ‘side.’

Modernising hymns and religious buildings whilst people screech hate and bigotry in the name of the same faith is like repainting the front door whilst the back of your house is in flames. Christianity and Islam need to do some truly magnificent PR if they are to live out the century, at least in this country.

I can’t be the only one rather hoping that they don’t.

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[images from www.godhatesfags.com]

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