Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dangerous Minds

Religion is dangerous.

It is not the religion itself, the bureaucracy we seek to put between ourselves and a perceived higher power, or God - any God - that want to destroy all of mankind. It's the people. And religion is one of the things that set people off, because it brings out the righteous animal in them more than anything else.

I am writing this, against my better judgement, because there is a growing number of people who are suggesting that we read the Koran. Rocky has the story. I find this to be quite worrisome.

They are inviting people from all walks of life, all races and all religious beliefs - even atheists - to read and understand the Koran, between now and Valentine's Day.

I am worried that though the intention seems good and nice, it might result in social breakdown. Anarchy. Moreso because it was a call made primarily to bloggers, i.e people who will voice their opinions online, sometimes anonymous, and quite possibly emotional or drunk.

I guess there is no better way to illustrate my concerns than painting this pessimistic views on how it will turn out:

Stage 1

The first few postings. Nothing major. Some people will point out that they've never realised that the Koran was written as a book of poems. That the verses are in iambic meters and that they rhyme.

Some over-eager Muslims will point this out as some sort of miracle. And that they are right and everyone else are wrong.

Of course, people reading translations will find none of this and start scoffing. Privately.

Publicly, those who want to be seen as open-minded and not the racists and bigots they are will say that they have ALWAYS thought of the Koran as a mighty book, and that they have no problems with the religion or with Muslims.

Stage 2

People start quoting passages that suit their agendas, whatever that may be. Feminism, terrorism, political ideologies, left-wing rhetoric, Anwar-worship. All, regardless of context.

Some jokers start to make fun of some of the verses. Usually people who read wikipedia articles and believe they know more than Malaysian Muslims who each have studied the faith for at least 11 years. In school.

Vitriol is flung at every side. The racists and bigots have a field day. The half-baked Islamists start back-pedalling and trying to explain something they hardly know anything about.

The hardcore fundamentalists start coming out of the woodwork and tell people that the answer is in the book and they have to study it for 80 years from multiple dead people before understanding anything.

Stage 3

Now on to nuclear war.

Honestly, I do not believe mankind has evolved past the stage where we can discuss religion in a civil manner, on a large scale. ESPECIALLY on the Internet. And no, I am not talking about YOU, but about the collective herd-mind.

And it only takes a few idiots to get people to start killing each other.

People would only be interested in showing others how WRONG they are, making them RIGHT in contrast. Like what I'm doing right now, but less intelligently.

There are only two possible outcomes to discussing religion on the Internet:

1. "We will respect your views on religion if you respect ours. Let's agree to disagree."

2. "We will kill you."

AFter 9/11, I went online and debated religion with the international online community. And when I say the international online community, I meant 14-year-old racists and bigots.

Years later, the community has not changed. Sure, the Malaysian online community possibly has a higher average age than the rest of the world. But they are all 14-years-old when it comes to religion. Well, when it comes to anything, really.

It is filled with people trying to prove you wrong. WHat do you hope to get from it, really? Will people agree with you?

People already have made up their minds. People, as a herd, are stupid. And obstinate. They will not change their minds. Which make me wonder why I'm writing this in the first place.

Why do we need to discuss religion, anyway? Openly or otherwise? It serves no purpose. Other than to incite hatred, fear, anger, racism, stupidity and bigotry. Mostly stupidity. Do we get brownie points from God? Do we get to convince people that we are going to heaven because we could copy and paste translations to certain verses?

DO we get to show how smart we are by showing people they are wrong? How RIGHT we are? Bla bla bla?

Look, in the 50s and 60s, there was respect between people of different faiths, even with people of no faith. They did not have an open dialogue on the matter. They just lived and went about their business. Without needing to convince people of anything.

If you want to believe, you believe. If you don't want to believe, you don't. That's all there is to it.

I am concerned that this move will in fact drive a larger wedge and could escalate into something really horrible. And it all starts when people - of different faiths and belief systems - push their opinion down other people's throats.

The alternative to this is simply letting the system continue as it is, where misguided clerics, priests and whoever we elect as super-powered telepaths and PIS-M affiliates decide how we should live our lives and who we should kill, and who we should hate.

Body-snatching will continue, and mothers will be forcefully separated from their children, in the name of God. Memali might happen again. Al-Arqam might have a resurgence - a few years back they tried to do it in Phuket, of all places.

At the end of the day, we are only looking at a few thousand dead, and several hundred lives destroyed.

With the 'open discussion', we might see more, really.

This is a potentially dangerous proposal, in my opinion, and I call everyone not to go through with it. At the very least, it will create some displeasure and heightened emotions. At the worst, it will kill people. On the flip side, IF it works, then Malaysia will somehow be transformed into a mature, informed, open Islamic society with a healthy, respected and respecting non-Muslim community.

Somehow, I doubt that.

So knock it off. I pray that this thing will not get enough of a buzz to spark something stupid.