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Sunday 26 May 2019
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Bleeding shame



BILL MAHER, probably America’s most famous atheist, must have mixed emotions: on his first week of holiday from HBO’s Real Time until next January, the world throws up a religious human-interest story into which Bill could have sunk his secular figurative teeth: in deeply pious rural India, a teenage girl died literally because she was a teenage girl born into an Indian form of mumbo-jumbo.

The girl, identified as S Vijayalakshmi, is now gone forever because she had the immense bad luck of having been born female in a Hindu family roughly 13 years ago and having had her period at exactly the same time a cyclone struck her coastal village this week.

Because the most devout of believers in India consider all menstruating females to be “impure,” the poor child – a pair of words that, with another pair, “Hindu girl,” led directly to her untimely, unnecessary death – was banished to a separate, flimsy hut away from the rest of her family – to make her way as best she could, alone in a firetrucking hurricane!

Her parents, who may well have loved her deeply, loved God even more, and could not bring themselves to question what they were convinced, from their own disadvantaged, undiscerning and unprotected childhoods, was his wisdom.

Not even when God huffed and He puffed and He blew their house down.

Perhaps God’s greatest miracle is that he imbued his followers with the same unquestioning acceptance that led, in WWII, to the coldly efficient murder of six million Jews (and five million gays, gypsies, dissidents and others). The soldiers in German concentration camps in 1939-45 shared the same trust in the perfection of their decision-making as S Vijayalakshmi’s mother and father this week – except, perhaps, that the Nazi soldiers could actually see and hear Adolf Hitler, making him a far more reliable commander to act inhumanly than some intangible god or even some intangible pantheon.

Or perhaps God’s greatest miracle – we know He likes to do one thing by threes – was that He should have created so very many different “one true paths” allowing His believers to come directly to Him from Israel or Iran, Nigeria or Nebraska, Timbuktu or Tunapuna.

But God’s greatest miracle must surely be the raging, belligerent pride with which each of His many crackpot tribes declare their unswerving faith in their own faith, to the exclusion of all others. Without that divinely-gifted pride and/or stupidity, how could one believer deny the belief of others as foolish, irrational, unsupportable and false – when his own belief is founded on exactly the same grounds?

God’s greatest miracle, therefore, is that He makes His creations believe exactly what, in another religion, they recognise to be absolute nonsense.

To the point where they are prepared to fight to the death over them.

To a mind unbiased in favour of one religion or the other – ie, to the rational mind – the concept of “holy war” that led to the Crusades of the Middle Ages seems indistinguishable from that of the holy stupidity that led, this week, to the killing by negligence of S Vijayalakshmi by her own parents.

My believer friends often ask me why I, as an agnostic, question other people’s faiths. (They miss the foundation of agnosticism: that it is impossible to know, so one shouldn’t even waste time questioning a god whose existence is irrelevant. I don’t question faiths, in the plural; I question faith itself.) Why, my semi-Catholic friends ask, would I deny “old women the comfort of their delusion as they approach death"?

The old Trinidadian proverb answers them: what is fun for schoolboy is death for crapaud. That illusory old maid’s comfort also happens to be a death warrant for innocent children, a religious
ut non habeant corpus: you may not have the body – particularly if that body happens to have been born without a penis.

Every year, hundreds of children are stoned to death as witches in Nigeria, the most proudly religious country in the world, And this week, a 13-year-old child faced the horror of Mother Nature, and the disappointment of mother and father, on her own, and died alone in terror, so that a supposedly omnipotent God could avoid, as impure, the contemplation of something as natural and necessary as a menstrual cycle – which He Himself supposedly created.

If Bill Maher were at work today, it would be one of those that wrote itself: the “New Rules” would be the same as the old rules.

And God alone knows why he bothered to send Jesus with the New Testament when mankind remains stuck in the Old Testament.

BC Pires is in a hut by himself, if not a class by himself

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