By Adi Chowdhury
“To appreciate satire, sometimes you need to lay a whole foundation of acceptance of criticism by others. And being at peace with being put on the spot and being responsible for your actions. Sadly, many of these elements are not present in that part of the world. And this is why satire could be viewed as an insult, or a direct attack.”
–Basssem Youssef, Egyptian satirist
Organized religion has not shied away from voicing its vehement resentment of “blasphemy.” (Or, more aptly, organized religion has not shied away from ending the lives of those who commit “blasphemy”.) It is not altogether surprising to note this, in fact–authoritarian, oppressive forces have never exactly appreciated criticism against itself. Critics must be decimated, their mindsets lead them to believe. Blasphemy is treason.
I’m fond of placing the word blasphemy in quotation marks (like “blasphemy”) since the act of “blaspheming” entails that the person has committed some kind of a crime. And what crime has he or she committed? Criticizing religion. I find that laughable. I find it laughable that simply criticizing religion deservedly earns you death threats, or death itself. I find it laughable that organized religion you has mangled the concept of skepticism and curiosity to make it seem like a “sinful” act. I find it laughable that an all-powerful deity would ever be offended or disgraced or even intimidated by a mere human criticizing His holy book. I find it laughable that a god, if he really is as wise as he professes himself to be, will prefer us to blindly submit to him and believe every claim he makes on just the basis of faith, rather than analytically evaluating the word of God and using the sense of logic that He claims to have given us. Established religion spurs us to appreciate and use the wonderful gifts and abilities granted by God…except for the sense of reason and skepticism. No, when it comes to God, always suppress logic. Never doubt. Always believe.
Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian satirist and television show host, is featured in the Big Think video above, expressing his understanding of why satire and criticism deals stunning blows to authoritative, oppressive governments and forces in power. Here’s a well-put excerpt from his eloquent and heartfelt speech:
“…Fear is an incredible mover of the masses. It brainwashes people. It makes people accept and even vote or something that’s against their own personal interests totally out of fear. And speaking about that particular point, it is the same reason why fascisms have a very poor sense of humor because when you have satire you’re not afraid anymore. They don’t want you thinking – they don’t want you to think and laugh, they want you to be in constant state of fear. If you’re laughing at them you’re basically laughing at their brainwashing techniques, at their use of fear and it’s not effective anymore, but if they don’t want that.”
Though Basssem Youssef in this video is elucidating his thoughts on fascist governmental systems rather than organized religion, chilling parallels between the two are hard to miss. Both the latter and the former have amassed notoriety due to their intolerance of dissenters. Both have suppressed the sense of skepticism and preached blind submission. Neither are known for hosting civil discussion and dialogue pertaining to its policies. Rather, the practice of suppressing doubt and promulgating the message of just believe has become synonymous with fascism—as well as the authoritarian nature of organized religion and evangelism.
Youssef, who himself was persecuted in his nation for his so-called “criticism of Islam” (although he himself is a Muslim) and satirical portrayal of the government, explains this issue far better than any writer on this blog can. Watch this enlightening video about why exactly fascist, oppressive forces are so intimidated by satire and “blasphemy.”