Because religion should not matter (too much)

Monthly Archives: January 2011

Zero tolerance for religious sense of humour

Well no surprise that Americans didn’t appreciate the sense of humour displayed by Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes. He made swipes at Charlie Sheen for liking alcohol too much, Hugh Hefner for liking 24-year-old women too much and scientologists for disliking gays too much. What caused the most outrage however, was his closing remark.

“Thank for everyone in the room for being good sports, to NBC and the Hollywood foreign press, thank you for watching at home, and thank you God for making me an atheist.”

By the following day, NBC had received dozens of complaints from all over the United States. The Corpus Christi group in Texas wanted to know why the blasphemy had not been bleeped out. The reason, apparently, is that organisers did not believe they would have to warn a professional presenter about being disrespectful to God in a family show being broadcast on the Sabbath. They were completely thrown by the remark, which on the European side of the Atlantic would not have raised an eyebrow. Many Americans are very touchy about religion and it can trigger fights with an almost zero tolerance policy.

The sensitive subject of religion in the US is also responsible for a premium advertisement being rejected for airing during the Super Bowl.  The website, a shop for selling products bearing the slogan “Jesus hates Obama”, created a video with bobbling head miniatures of Jesus and Obama. The frowning Jesus grins after Obama falls into water. It’s hardly blasphemy and you can see it on their website, but it was enough for Fox to ban the advert and in so doing generate even more leads for the online store. Seemingly the store has made enough money from selling these products to persuade a Venture Capitalist to fund the advertisement. A 30 second advertising slot during the Super Bowl costs around $30 million. Well as the TV evangelists know, “There’s money in religion.”

Piercings and Pot Carrying for Lord Murugan in Thaipusam festival.

Thaipusam PiercingAre you ready to honour Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war and fertility? If so you have probably been on a vegetarian diet and abstaining from sex for over a month, in preparation for Thaipusam. The Thaipusam festival follows the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai, which this year will be celebrated tomorrow on January 20th. Many people in Malaysia attribute conceiving children or surviving serious illness or accident to this god. The bigger the request that was answered, the bigger the ritual offering must be. On the day of the festival many followers will pierce their bodies with hooks carrying fruit and trek to temples, where the piercing will be removed and the debt is paid. Others carry their newly conceived babies to the temple for blessing and others carry pots of milk or wooden floats on their head. Some also shave their heads and smear sandalwood all over their bodies. In Malaysia the prime minister is attending the celebrations, which are expected to draw a crowd of 200,000. It all makes Sunday Service, or Mass, look a bit dull.

Cure for non Apathists

OCD ImageThere is now a cure for people whose psychological problems prevent them being Apathists. The condition, called scrupulosity, is a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), involving excessive guilt about moral or religious behaviour. Research is being carried out at Utah State University by Michael Twohig, an assistant psychology professor, and John Dehlin a doctoral student. Their psychology department is looking for individuals struggling with unwanted, disturbing moral thoughts, including excessive confession or excessive religious activity. Their treatment involves an hour or two a day over a 10-week period. Since last April, 2 people have been successfully treated. Scrupulous sufferers are overtly concerned that something they thought or did might be a sin or other violation. They have a compulsive obsession to follow religious or moral beliefs with integrity and exactness. The treatment does not try to change any religious or moral beliefs, but it does help patients stop obsessing about them and that is a good first step on the road to Apathism.

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