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Bizarre and Offensive

They say that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Before criticising another person we should all be careful that we are not open to criticism for exactly the same thing ourselves. Some groups in society are more susceptible to this sort of thing than others. Those groups tend to be the ones who are not open to self criticism and don’t question their own assumptions. And yes, the first group which comes to mind is religious people!

I am thinking of a specific case here: an Auckland man who objected to a statue of the Hindu god Shiva being built by his neighbour.

He thought the marble statue was “bizarre” and “offensive” and that “Religiously and culturally it’s a bit insensitive to us and I can’t believe they’re able to do this. Part of our property looks at it and it’s part of a religion we don’t agree with.” Plus, bizarrely, he compared the Hindu god Shiva to a Nazi swastika.

Sounds like this guy is a bit intolerant of strange superstitious beliefs, doesn’t it? So it might surprise you to know that he is a Catholic!

So let’s look at his issues: he thinks the statue (and presumably the associated beliefs) are bizarre and offensive. He doesn’t like people displaying symbols associated with a religion he disagrees with. And he sees some connection with Naziism.

Here’s what I find bizarre and offensive: a God who tortures his own son (or himself depending on your interpretation of the myth) by having him nailed to a cross which is supposed to, in some undefined way, save believers from the sin which is an inherent part of their nature as created by that same god.

I find statues of a dude hanging on a cross bizarre and offensive. I find some silly myth about a virgin birth which is completely inconsistent with other myths of the same religion bizarre and offensive. And I find the belief that bread and wine turns into the body and blood of Christ which his followers then consume bizarre and offensive.

Actually, to be honest, I find those things bizarre but not offensive because how could I be offended by something so pathetically absurd?

I can see Christian symbolism in many public spaces around the town I live in, including churches and cathedrals which are extravagant and imposing symbols of Christianity. I don’t find these offensive though, in fact they are quite inspiring (not in a religious way I hasten to add). But even though I’m an atheist and less than half this country’s population is Christian these symbols of a religion I don’t agree with don’t bother me.

And let’s talk about the Nazis. Well first, any comparison between something you disagree with and Naziism leaves you open to disqualification as a result of various variations of Godwin’s Law. Plus there is ample evidence of cooperation between the Catholic Church (although some of it is overdone, I agree) and the Nazis but I can’t recall too much cooperation between Hitler and Hindus.

So why would any reasonable person who is a Catholic dare to even mention the subject of Hitler and religion? That is bizarre and offensive!

  1. July 11, 2016 at 11:16 am

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