My last few posts have been about the antics of militant Islamists in places like Mali and Syria, a topic that I think is pertinent to atheists all over the world for a couple of different reasons. First, some of the militants have global ambitions, and there’s probably a real correlation between their ability to carve out “havens” in Africa, the Middle East and central Asia and their ability to launch terrorist attacks elsewhere. Canada and its allies ought to be capable of foiling most such attacks, and of taking more or less in stride the few that will inevitably get through, but it still makes sense to minimize the problem by interfering with the haven-carving whenever feasible. Second, events in Mali and Syria are a good reminder that the world is still home to fanatics that can realistically aspire to topple secular (or at least secularish) governments in the name of religion. In this sense, the radical edge of Islam is sharper and more dangerous than the radical edge of any other faith.
However, it does bear pointing out that other religions can be nearly as vicious and oppressive as Islam. Take, for example, the Russian Orthodox version of Christianity:
Lawmakers have accused gays of decreasing Russia’s already low birth rates and said they should be barred from government jobs, undergo forced medical treatment or be exiled. Orthodox activists criticized U.S. company PepsiCo for using a “gay” rainbow on cartons of its dairy products. An executive with a government-run television network said in a nationally televised talk show that gays should be prohibited from donating blood, sperm and organs for transplants, while after death their hearts should be burned or buried.
The bit about burning or burying hearts suggests something beyond moral disapproval (misguided as that would be in itself, in my opinion) of red-blooded Russian bears who may want to hibernate together through the long, dark winter – that’s in the realm of naked, fundamental hate and loathing. The sources of that attitude may be only partly religious, especially given that male homosexual activity was flat-out illegal in Soviet times, but there’s no question that the Orthodox Church is right in the middle of the current anti-homosexual push in Russia. The Russian parliament is considering a bill that would ban “homosexual propaganda”, a term that would apparently (and quite ridiculously) include even same-sex public displays of affection.
As usual, though, Islam is a couple of steps ahead of Christianity even in Russia:
In other parts of Russia, gays feel even less secure. Bagaudin Abduljalilov moved to Moscow from Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia where he says some gays have been beaten and had their hands cut off, sometimes by their own relatives, for bringing shame on their families.
In the West, I suspect that various forms of Christianity – especially evangelical Protestantism – still pose the greatest threat to our social and sexual freedoms. However, it behooves us to keep a wary eye on Islam given what the more extreme adherents of that faith are putting into practice elsewhere.
With that said, I’m getting a little bored with all this stuff about radical Islam. I won’t avoid the subject, but I have plans to devote my precious blog-post-writing time in the near future to more cheerful topics such as Satan, torture and the gap in average income between the sexes. Stay tuned, and by all means let me know what you’d like to read about, because I really have no idea.