Category Archives: Atheism

Get the sand out of your vagina

One Katy Perry has made a music video that involved turning people who did not please her Egyptian Queen persona into sand. It’s a bit odd really, but not objectionable . . . oh wait.

The first suitor, bedecked in gold jewelry, approached the throne and offered a ridiculously large diamond. For reasons that I didn’t quite make out, he did not please Queen Katy, and she turned him into sand and he blew away. Still not particularly objectionable, or not to me. But to Muslims, blasphemy has occurred. One of those gold chains bore the name of Allah, and turning the name of Allah into dust is not a popular move in the Muslim world. Protests erupted, and the video was carefully censored to remove the offending bit of bling.

This kind of protest frankly baffles me. As an atheist, there isn’t any holy symbol or text to defile, so I don’t have any real parallels to help me put myself in their shoes. But I guess that the reaction to this is so pervasive and strong that it causes huge protests. Maybe it’s just a Muslim ‘thing’ that I can’t quite fathom.

Predictably, where there is Muslim outcry there is secular and Christian backlash, which can sometimes be told apart, and others not. Today, I’m guessing that what I’ve found could be from either camp. It’s a photo meme, with a screenshot of the offending video and the caption

Dear Muslims,

It’s a goddamned necklace. Get the sand out of your vaginas. What are you doing watching Katy Perry anyway?

Sincerely, Rational People.

I find this reaction a touch problematic. It says ‘the best way we can insult you is by painting you as female’. What the hell, “Rational People”? Is a chunk of nasty sexism rational? Nope, and if you don’t see that you don’t have any business calling yourself rational. Intending to demean men by giving them female characteristics is not insulting to those men, but to the half of the world that are female. There are more women than there are Muslims, and you’re telling every one of them that their femaleness is just worthy as an insult. For shame.

This kind of thing is rife in secularist/atheist/rationalist/etc communities. They get so wrapped up in pulling down the walls of theism that other issues are allowed to creep in unchallenged. If they’re not core atheist/anti-theist concerns, then they’re not given the time of day.

The world of atheism and related fields is still one dominated by straight white men. That tends to mean that there’s not much time for women, or people of color, or LGBT/queer people. That’s changing slowly, but what we could do with in the mean time is for straight white men to start thinking a wee bit about issues outside their immediate environs. They don’t need to be feminist scholars, but they need to start noticing the small ways they denigrate and invalidate the groups pushed out to the margins of the white male world. Little changes would make quite the difference.

So, “Rational People”, hold fire on making your meme photos for a wee while, and think about the groups that should matter to you that you might be damaging. And if you don’t think it’s important to respect women as much as you respect men, then there’s probably wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters, and friends that would all like to have a wee chat.

Are you washed by the blood?

Wandering around today doing chores, a song fragment decided to rear its head into my consciousness. It’s a song that we used to sing in the church I went to. The bit I remember runs:

Are you washed, by the blood

By the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?

Are your garments spotless, are they white as snow

Are you washed by the blood of the Lamb?

When we used to sing it, I never really thought about the lyrics very much. They were familiar, they had some meaning – after all, Jesus’ blood cleansed us of sin, and that was what it was about, really.

Looking back now, the entire idea seems both disturbing and a bit bizarre. When you wash someone in blood, they are not clean. They may be ritually pure, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re coated in death waiting to attract flies. It’s pretty gross. Get that on a piece of white clothing and you sure as hell ain’t pure – you just have a long date with the bleach.

Purifying things in blood, is a very old idea, and it’s one that has fallen out of currency with most of the world. Christianity itself tried to stamp out the ‘pagan’ cults who still made animal sacrifices, because it was abhorrent to them. Gradually, the entire western world dropped sacrificial practices. Somehow, though, Christianity still clings to the idea of blood sacrifice, idealises it even.

It seems wrong that it’s idealised in the modern world. In an age where people argue over whether it is right to deprive an animal of life to feed human beings, there are people who celebrate that a human being was slaughtered to cleanse them of sin. To people who don’t believe in sin, heaven, hell, or damnation, Jesus’ death looks barbaric and pointless.

I don’t wan spotless garments soaked in symbolic blood. I want to symbolically end my life with the stains of the world that I’ve enjoyed. I don’t want to be pure – I want to live life.