Saturday, November 21, 2015

Why I Will Not Pray For Paris

In the name of God Almighty, the army travelled southwards, across the treacherous sea and barren desert Swords glinting in the sunlight, they charged forward at the enemy gates, murdering all that stood in their way. Their mission? To burn away all traces of the crescent, and erect cathedrals bearing the cross. Their destination? Jerusalem, the Promised Land.

That was centuries ago. Countless Christians and Muslims died.

Today, the ghost of the Crusades still haunt us. Only now, the tide flows in reverse. The shining cities of Europe besieged. Not from rampaging warriors and catapult-hurled boulders, but from gruesome terrors igniting deep within the city walls.

War... war never changes. And neither does religion, sadly.

Bad time to be a Christian

Prayers Fuelled This War

After the killing spree in Paris last week, social media was splashed with the words "#PrayForParis". A touching show of solidarity indeed. But rather unnecessary and pointless, I'm afraid.

Prayers? You are dedicating your prayers to a secular society - one that prides itself on banning headscarves from public spaces? Thanks, but no thanks. They don't need your prayers. As one distraught Frenchman tweeted shortly after the killings: "Please don't pray for Paris. Think for Paris. Love for Paris. Laugh for Paris. Have sex for Paris. We've had enough religion for one night."

Now, I know what you are going to say. It wasn't caused by Islam. It wasn't Islam's fault. The attack was orchestrated by IS, which does not represent Islam. That all may be true, but that's not the point. This is really not about Islam nor IS.

This is about religion. How religion fuels hate. How religion sways innocent people to do nasty and unspeakable deeds. How religion can be a deadly weapon.

And the Paris attack has everything to do with religion.

Moderate Muslims will wipe their hands clean and doth protest: "But they're not one of us!".

Seriously, they're not one of you? That's all you can say? A crazy sect uses the name of your Almighty God in vain to kill innocents time and time again, and that's all you can say? Have you spoken up against them? Have you urged your local leaders to denounce such deviants? Have you acknowledged the failings of Arabic militant regimes instead of piling all the blame on scheming Western interlopers?

Middle-East is a mess. There's no hiding that. "Those countries are in chaos," said President Obama during his Malaysian visit yesterday, "because of this notion that somehow, if someone worships God differently than you, they're less than you." He's right. The notion is not only silly, but toxic.

Religion is like nuclear technology. Both can serve a peaceful purpose, but also set off a chain reaction that kills thousands of people (just like the Crusades did). When religious folks propagate their religion freely, they make their religion available to all - the good, evil and clinically insane. It's like releasing engineering blueprints of a nuclear reactor over the Internet. What if a psychopath picks it up, builds a nuclear bomb and drops it on a city? Wouldn't you feel responsible at all? Wouldn't you be thinking "Hmm, perhaps we should have been more careful spreading explosive stuff around"?

All religion radicalises people. Islam and Christianity (remember the Spanish Inquisition days?) included. Hence, it's the duty of its followers to ensure their fellow brothers and sisters in faith don't sway off the path and do crazy things.

Religion may not have started this war. But religion has certainly escalated it. Last week, IS attacked France. Tomorrow, it could be Boko Haram slaughtering Nigerians and MILF executing hostages in the Philippines. The flames of religious extremism has spread all over the world. Nowhere is safe.

Why am I singling out religion here? Aren't there are other causes to war, like racism, capitalism and technology? Yes, so they are. And what do we do about them? We put checks on them. Just like how most civilised countries have laws to prohibit discrimination, provide social welfare and ban dangerous chemical and nuclear weapons. Just like how France - true to their secular roots - tried to put a check on religion.

(And not only that. France sent forces to the Middle-East to help 'degrade and destroy' IS. Yes, France is helping to put out the religious flames that is tearing the Middle-East apart, yet tragically suffered for all their troubles.)

So please, put your prayers away. More religion is the last thing the world needs. What the world needs, more than ever, is rationality (which was what put a stop all the Inquisition nonsense in Medieval Europe).

Sorry, prayers not accepted.

Prayers Won't Stop This War

Fine, regardless of whether the Paris attacks had anything to do with religion, what good is praying on social media? Besides fulfilling your own urge to pray as your religion so requires, I mean?

Have prayers brought angels down from heaven to stop any wars lately? Stopped any genocide? Stopped any nuclear holocaust?

Have the Pope or any religious leader stopped any war lately (though they were very good in starting the Crusades)? Stopped any genocide? Stopped any nuclear holocaust?

Let's be real, let's be honest. Prayers will not keep terrorists at bay. Prayers will not raise back the dead. Prayers will not bring warring factions to the table.

I'm not saying that you can't and shouldn't pray. Yes, you can, and if you believe you should, then go ahead. All I'm saying is that you shouldn't stop just at praying. Please pray, but pray privately (after all, prayers are for God, and God can hear your prayers very well without tuning into social media)

I didn't pray for Paris. But I did think a lot about Paris. Still, I didn't post "#ThinkForParis" on social media. What's the point? Thinking alone don't do shit. Anyone who's seen and read the news must be thinking about Paris. Why the need to prove to the world that I have?

Instead, I chose to act. By writing this article, to exhort people to act. It's not much, but it's a start.

#ActForParis... Yes, that's what we all need to do.

Speak out against religious extremism. Root out deviants in your midst. Reach out to other religious believers and join inter-faith dialogues. Stop fuelling religious hate. Stop being terribly defensive about your religion. Stop scaring people to embrace your religion, on the basis that your religion alone can take them to paradise and all other religions are shit.

If you're truly against extremism and exclusivity, then show that you are. Not just on social media, but in real life. Talk to your neighbours, talk to your colleagues, talk to your friends. Tell your leaders to wage war against those who hijacked your precious religion for nefarious ends. Act, don't just pray.

Together, we can end this senseless bloodshed.

Peace out, bro!


Have we not learnt enough from history? From rationality?

That religion is a portent weapon - dangerous in the wrong minds, destructive in the wrong hands.

That religious radicals are tearing the world apart, and that moderates should not shrug, stand aside, and abscond all responsibility.

That prayers alone will not save the word, but powerful action will.

So enough of praying. Paris doesn't need your prayers.

Now's the time to act.

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