Since the birth of social Media we have seen the rise of the meme as a divisive tool against the religious propaganda. An innumerable amount of anti-religious memes can be found in daily circulation around twitter, Facebook and indeed other social media platforms. In recent times I have been responsible for putting out some of my own memes as a social experiment, regrettably, none of them have exploded with popularity. Despite this fact I still find it interesting to note the amount of outrage and passionate debate they start with the immediate recipients. It amazes me how sensitive religion has become to 2 clever paragraphs posted on a satirical background.
Where do memes get off of anyways!
The modern meme is certainly not the first and only divisive tool used to combat religious propaganda. These memes, like most things in existence has a genealogy that can be traced back to age old effective methods of survival. Artistic satire in recent history has proved to be a powerful and effective tool against propaganda of any kind; this has been most visible in the political arena. I often like to think of satire as a critical faculty of society that helps us almost identify bad ideas. For year’s cartoons, acting, music and comedy have been at the forefront of shining a spot light on the institutions that govern modern society; however a public audience was only granted to a select few. The internet and social media has served as a catalyst to this phenomenon, granting a worldwide public audience to anyone who has something to say. Giving rise to the wild fire that we see today.
You Can’t Say That!
No virus goes down without a fight, and if we were to imagine satire to be a societal immune response, then the sometimes harsh outrage it sparks in preservation of the status quo can be seen as a symptom of this conflict. Those who put forward satirical media against any established institution are often met with harsh and fatal retaliation. Even though this is more the exception than the rule, I’m still amazed at how warranted satire is often received in its most benign forms. In a Q&A session at one of Richard Dawkins presentations, an audience member mentioned to him that he had never felt so insulted and enlightened at the same time. Dawkins replied with something to the effect of; why do you feel insulted? I insulted God not you. I imagine that it is this deep personal connection that people often make with their ideals that result in these varying degrees of outrage, the worst of which are perpetrated by radicals the world over. In 2015 last year, 12 people were killed in France, a land of free press, for drawing the Prophet Mohammad. In 2010 Molly Norris an American journalist, had similarly been sent into hiding by the FBI after being threatened by Islamic radicals also for depictions of the Prophet. In 2015 Two men were shot dead at the Everybody Draw Muhammad Day Free Speech Rally after opening fire on security offices at the event. Similar outrage, death threats and offers to get fucked in the ass where extended to the Atheist Republic after they created a meme depicting a rainbow colored Kaaba. There have even been bounties issued for these cartoonists by prominent members of the Islamic clergy, in addition to being added to the radical group wanted lists. 2012 Christians issue Death threats to a 16 year old girl who filed a law suit to remove a prayer banner from her school. This reflects the extent of irrational behavior normal human beings are willing to go to in defense of nothing more than a flawed opinion.
Freedom Of Speech?
Freedom of speech is only valid when it does not amount to what is essentially hate speech. This is the argument that most theists will give against speaking out or ridiculing religion. Similar to Dawkins, I too find it hard to draw the connection as to how very specifically insulting God/Religion automatically translates to personally insulting people. Furthermore free speech is not free speech if you have to say only things that are favorable to a select group of people. It is this special pleading that is one of the fundamental problems with religion. You are simply just not allowed to question it, no matter how destructive it may be. There is no accountability for the consequences of its actions and existence. No other institution is held to that standard. This special pleading is simply outrages when considering that its effects on society are as real as politics, economic and environmental issues which everyone is allowed to openly have an opinion about, even to this day satire is used against these institutions… To rightly criticize religion is viewed by the world at large as an abuse or perversion of freedom of speech.
Keep Them Coming
In some branches of Science a meme is referred to as: “Behavior and ideas copied from one person to another by imitation”. This does draw attention to an interesting trend that we have seen over recent decades, that being the rapid desensitizing of religion. Radicalism obviously still exists, but on the whole people have become admittedly less sensitive about religion. Most theists will even go as far as to say: “Religion is not what it used to be”, as to suggest that it somehow much more mature or tolerant. This is evident by the public platforms that contradicting ideas are given without the threat of inquisition or hanging for blasphemy. The internet is a powerful Tool, and should rightly be used as a medium for the spreading of rational ideas in favor of harmful superstition. In previous articles I mentioned that we are right to hold religion accountable for the damage it causes, it is not beyond reproach or contestation. Satire in many ways sets out to do just that, and I believe that it might yet save us from religion in the same way that it has saved us from many other illegitimate and damaging ideals.