Re-humanising the religious victims of the Revolution: Admitting the truth is step one

Recently a group of Islamic State sympathisers entered a Catholic Church in Normandy, France, during Mass, took hostages and murdered a priest.

Naturally, the French authorities condemned this violent act. This line in particular caught my eye:

François Hollande, the French president, promised to win the war against terrorism. In a televised address to the nation he said: “To attack a church, kill a priest, is to profane the republic.”

The republic? The irony here was a little rich. The republic, established by the French Revolution? The revolution in which clergy were literally being killed by those advocating atheism and reason, because the clergy represented allegiance to a foreign power? The republic whose violent birth is still celebrated on Bastille Day, commemorating a day of shocking violence, killings and beheading? Surely there is a fundamental disconnect here. I mean sure, of course I get that Mr Hollande condemns the attack. I don’t doubt his sincerity. But there doesn’t seem to be much careful, consistent thought to this statement in a French context, that an attack on the Church is an attack on the Republic.

I took to Twitter thus: “A Muslim kills a priest and he’s bad. Atheists murder the religious and people celebrate Bastille Day because of it. You silly Frenchies.” Yes its short and snarky, but such is Twitter. Continue reading “Re-humanising the religious victims of the Revolution: Admitting the truth is step one”

Why are you quoting Sam Harris on Israel? (Religion is not the problem!)

Why are we all suddenly going to Sam Harris for insight on Gaza?

Intelligent Design advocacy groups are doing it. Some of my Christian friends on Facebook are doing it. People are gleefully quoting some recent comments from Sam Harris about why he doesn’t criticise Israel but is sharply critical of Hamas. Here’s the snippet being passed around like reefer at a Green party conference: Continue reading “Why are you quoting Sam Harris on Israel? (Religion is not the problem!)”

Questions about Gaza

Everywhere I look on social media I’m bombarded with passionate stories from every direction about the conflict between Hamas and Israel in Gaza. It’s positively wearying, although of course not wearying in any way that compares to how weary the people who live there are weary of the violence. As Jon Snow recalls, actually being there is a horrendously life-changing experience that forbids you from ever forgetting.

From one Facebook user to the next and from one blog to the next, people are wearing their “allegiance” on their sleeve on this one. Not everyone is doing it, mind you. There are some who are expressing the fact they feel genuinely torn. Torn about which side has any moral high ground, torn over just what they can believe in light of the prevalence of propaganda and photographic deceit and so on.

I have thoughts about who I think, on the whole, is the worst in this conflict (I struggle to say that I have thoughts about who is right) and who bears the lion’s share of guilt. I’m not going to preach to you about that, but you’ll probably be able to tell where I stand (roughly). I’m going to describe some facts that I think any of us must accept and I’m going to put some questions out there. Continue reading “Questions about Gaza”