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Mission Impossible

Denis Solomon • 1,082 words

A student once came to me and asked what linguistics courses she should take in order to be able to “go to Africa and develop alphabets for African languages”.

I can spot them a mile off, so I said “you’re one of those religious people, aren’t you?”

“Well” she said in embarrassment “I’m a Christian”.

“Listen” I said to her. “You and I are the stupid ones. We are the Africans who let themselves get caught, brought across here in chains and brainwashed by the Europeans with their religion. Now you want to go back and brainwash the Africans who were smart enough to avoid it in the first place? Africa will take care of itself. Forget about alphabets. Get your degree and look for a job with Neal and Massy”.

On Saturday mornings, when fat Jehovah’s Witnesses with umbrellas climb laboriously up the hill where I live in order to indoctrinate me into their beliefs, my reply, if I’m in a good mood, is to ask them whether they can teach me to cook, sew, build a house or plant a garden, all of which I will gladly learn from anyone who will teach me. When they say no, I answer “Then what the hell makes you think you can teach me the answers to the most important questions in the universe?”

If I’m in a bad mood, I say “We worship the Devil here, so get the hell out of my yard”.

They always leave as politely as they came, but if any of them dared to tell me that any god I worshipped was an “immoral and deranged vagrant” I would not hesitate to kick him physically back down the hill. Yet that is what a minister of the Thusian sect of Seventh Day Adventists called the Hindu deity Shiva.

I have always been amazed at the arrogance of missionaries. How can anyone be so certain of their beliefs that they can dare to try to impose them on others, far less brand others’ ideas of the cosmos as pagan, idolatrous or immoral?

In particular, I have always been amazed at the impertinence of Christian missionaries taking their “message” to India, the cradle of so many religions and the fountainhead of so much philosophy.

I don’t want to hear about the good that missionaries do in healing the sick and ministering to the poor. UNICEF or Médecins sans Frontières do the same thing without trying to convert anyone.

The most amazing mixture of ignorance and arrogance I have heard in a long time was the statement by another Thusian minister called Shannon Bartholomew who said that “it is our duty as religious persons to point out the religious wrongs of other religions”.

So when Sat Maharaj calls on Hindus to throw Thusians out of their communities, I applaud him. If forty imbeciles in Morvant take it upon themselves to tell followers of a three-thousand-year-old system of thought that they are pagans and idolaters, they deserve anything they get.

We should avoid violence but not shrink from it at all costs. It is a natural part of existence. The problem with Trinidad and Tobago is not just the level of violence. The problem is also that it is of the wrong kind. Murder by drug barons, child rapes, judicial executions are all abhorrent. But there are situations where a good cut-arse is the most natural thing in the world.

And if anyone deserved it, it is so-called Christians like Shannon Bartholomew, or Noel Emmanuel Jack with his provocative idiocy about “fighting” Hinduism “in a scholarly and intellectual way”. I join Sat Maharaj in urging Hindus to give him a scholarly and intellectual cut-arse if he continues with his nonsense.

But that’s about as far as it should go. To blow this piece of nonsense up into a holy war, as Sat Maharaj seems intent on doing, is to play politics with religion. All of the religious bloodshed that has ever occurred is the result of groups hanging their political discontents on the peg of religion. In the process, a lot of nonsense goes unchallenged.

Sat Maharaj, for example, has said that there is no law to “protect non-Christian religions against blasphemy”. Now it is perfectly true that the law here defines blasphemy only as blasphemy against Christianity. But it is ridiculous and tendentious to say that any law can “protect” a religion. Laws can protect specific groups against discrimination. Blasphemy may be insulting, but insult is not discrimination. Laws against blasphemy were designed to bolster the political power of the church by turning impiety from a sin into a crime. No church should have political power. Therefore there should be no law against blasphemy at all. The only sanction blasphemy should attract should be the kind of cut-arse Shannon Bartholomew and Noel Emmanuel Jack are calling down on themselves.

So when Sat Maharaj talks of blasphemy laws to “protect” Hinduism he is talking the same kind of political nonsense, and probably for the same reasons, as Jack when the latter talks of the danger of “a Hindu government trying to include a part of their Hindu culture in everything”. A part of Trinidad Hindu culture should be in everything Trinidadian, if it is not there already.

What Sat Maharaj is doing, and the Thusians are stupidly helping him to do, is provide Ramesh Maharaj with ammunition in support of his Equal Opportunities Bill, which under the guise of “protecting” religions severely restricts freedom of speech and freedom of the press. If it passes, it may prevent the Thusians from saying that Hindu scriptures promote immorality, but it will also prevent me from saying that the Thusians are idiots and child abusers.

We may have a “Hindu government” in the sense that the majority of the members of the government are Hindu. But there is nothing wrong with that. Nobody said we had a “Christian” government when the PNM was in power. We certainly have an Indian government in that it is intent on Indianising the public service and the statutory corporations. That is politically unfortunate, but it is no more than the other side of the PNM coin.

But we do not have a “Hindu” government in any theological sense. I am not sure that there can be such a thing, even in India, though I think Sat Maharaj would like to see something close to it.

Copyright © • Denis Solomon • Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association • www.humanist.org.tt/humanist/forum/solomonPage Top