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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Religulous

Posted by Tariq al Haydar


Over here, the weekend begins on Wednesday. So one Thursday a while back I was reclining, as one does, in my La-Z-Boy. Just decompressing after a week of lesson plans and not-too-bright students. And I happened upon the weirdest show...

It was a talk show, like a violence-free, Lebanese version of Jerry Springer or something, and the topic was, say it with me... People Who Had Undergone Exorcisms. They had this wide-eyed Egyptian dude who proclaimed to only eat raw meat because that's what the demon inside him allows him to eat. He even ate a plate of bloody meat on the air. Sensationalism at its finest.

And then they brought on this middle-aged Lebanese lady named Lara or Laura or something. She very calmly explained how she had been possessed by a demon since fifth grade. Luckily, she happened upon a priest some forty years later who "cast out the demon". Then the priest walked onto the stage, where he explained that, with the help of Saint Niccosias (or something) he had managed to beat the devil out of the lady. And they showed some footage of the "exorcism," which consisted of Laura screaming her ass off while a bunch of guys physically restrained her and the priest chanted some bullshit. All very scientific.

Finally, a psychiatrist made an appearance. Exasperated, he told everyone that patients who suffer from bi-polar disorder or other illnesses are actually harmed by these "exorcisms". Of course, the fat priest looked at him like he was crazy.

This all mildly amused me. I watched for about 15 minutes and then switched to SportsCenter. But then something disturbed me: it occurred to me that since 2002, the year I decided to practice Islam, many people have looked at me funny simply because I'm religious. Many times, I've encountered co-workers, fellow students, friends, and even relatives, who have viewed me as intellectually lazy because I'm religious. It seems that one must choose between being an intellectual and a religious person, because the two are mutually exclusive.

The irony, of course, is that I came to my current religious convictions by way of extensive intellectual search.

Now I'm not one of those salesmen who feels the need to badger others about their religious convictions. I really couldn't care less what others believe. You think the world was created by Ronald McDonald and the Hamburgler? More power to you. You find the idea of God or religion off-putting? Good for you.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've been in the situation where people (mostly other postgrads) have asked me about my beliefs, and then nodded smugly when I told them. It was as if they suddenly felt superior to me. Which would be fine, if they took the trouble to ask me WHY I believe what I believe. But more often than not, it's just a case of "religion = intellectually lazy person who is simply conforming to social norms". And I have to say that that sucks for me. But I guess it's understandable in a world where fat priests perform exorcisms for the Lebanese Jerry Springer.

34 comments:

Ryne Nelson said...

Tariq - I completely agree about the belief that those who follow religion are conformists. It's sad. By the way, have you seen the documentary Religulous? Its message essentially is we need to get rid of religion before violence and killing overcomes us all.

Tariq al Hayder said...

No, I haven't seen it yet, Ryne. I mean, I agree that a lot of negative things are attached to religion(s), but to me, that would be like attacking the Constitution every time an American did something idiotic.

Tariq al Hayder said...

That being said, I have NO PROBLEM with critiquing a religious text and pointing out any inconsistencies you might find in it. The Bible, Torah, and Qur'an...etc. are fair game in my book. Just be fair.

Eboy said...

I really liked this. Nice work, T.

Tariq al Hayder said...

Thanks, Eboy!

TADOne said...

Tariq studies Islam?

TADOne said...

It's funny Tariq, but some people here in the States look at you funny if you tell them that you don't actually practice any religion or go to church. Irony is a bitch.

John W. Davis said...

Maury: Ok Shawn, the test results are in. Shawn Kemp... You Are.... the Father!

Hursty said...

This article makes me go 'hmmm'
HOWEVA- I also find it interesting. Thankyou Tariq.

Icehouse said...

I just tell people that I love them. Fuck why.

I play for the name on the back of the jersey, not the front.

That said, if you want to come restrain me and chant shit while I scream my ass off, let's film it and get on this crazy show. I'm in.

Tariq al Hayder said...

TAD:
I read about all kinds of religions for years. I wasn't studying for school or anything.

And those people who look at you funny for not being religious... they probably don't think you're intellectually lazy.

TADOne said...

Tariq, sarcasm is my middle name. However, i'm sure you knew that. I knew what you studied my man.

Incidentally, I am intellectually lazy. But really, I just don't care most times. Reading is overrated.

Tariq al Hayder said...

I'm physically lazy.

AR said...

"intellectually lazy person who is simply conforming to social norms".

Lakers fans?

Tariq al Hayder said...

Alan:
Hey, hey, hey...being a Laker fan beats rooting for Motherwell!

P.S.
I know you're not Sottish, but c'mon... Irish and Scottish? That's like Dr. Pepper and Mr.Pibb.

AR said...

Tariq:I have no idea what Mr.Pibb is,not being Saudi-American and all.

We are a lot like the Scottish,I would say we're slightly less racist though.

Now if you wanna talk about religion,let's talk about the Irish people who support certain Scottish soccer teams.

Tariq al Hayder said...

Celtic?

AR said...

And Rangers.

Bad shit all around.

Moose said...

AR, your 12:08 comment was genius. And Tariq, interesting read. Thanks for enlightening us lately with your work.

Hursty said...

The Irish are pretty damn racist Izzo. Or culturalist (is that a word??)
The French are the worst though. Aint no doubt about that. I dont need reasoning. But Im pretty sure that blaming the French for something usually turns out right.

Tariq al Hayder said...

Thanks Moose!

Moose said...

Anytime, Tariq. Just keep it up and you won't see the bad side of me . . . :)

AR said...

An Australian calling another race of people racist.

Pot,have you met kettle?

TADOne said...

Race war!!!!

TADOne said...

By the way, are ya'll aware the US of A voted in a half black president? Pretty monumental moment I have heard.

AR said...

TAD:Really?!This changes everything!


PS:I'll admit I'm slow today,but I don't see your point.

Tariq al Hayder said...

Yeah me neither.

TADOne said...

Not sure I had one. It's been a LONG week for me.

Hursty said...

Hey kettle met pot many, many years ago fellas. Did you hear that our Prime Minister actually said SORRY to the native people? Yeh... bite it.

B. Long said...

I think it's awesome that you practice Islam. To me its just one of the infinite ways to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord. 8)

AR said...

Natives after Prime Minister's apology:"This makes up for everything!"

joeloholic said...

Tariq - your words "intellectually lazy person who is simply conforming to social norms" are spot on, and really struck home with me.

Often, people are born into a religion, and we can't see beyond the beliefs that we've accepted as fact for as long as we've known how to speak or read or write.

I'm a born and baptized Catholic, and I grew up in a place where you've got just as many Christians, Muslims as Taoists and Buddhists and Hindus, not to mention the many, many atheist friends I grew up with.

Often, I look at friends I've known who are born-again Christians or people who've recently converted from one religion to another, as mature young adults, and I feel a sense of envy for them. Because they've had the opportunity to grow up pretty much tabula rasa, and then subsequently had the chance to make a knowing and educated choice about their religion.

I was at a point myself a few years ago where I was seeking questions with no answers, and wondered if Islam or Buddhism would somehow offer the different perspective which I had sought. But I'm comfortable in who I am now and what I believe in.

What I'm trying to say (excuse the wordy comment), is that there are many people who're born into a religion, or to whom religion is simply not a choice because their entire cultural background or ethnicity is so closely tied to it. Many of these people don't have a choice and aren't capable of knowing better - but at the same time, like you said, there are droves of them who really are just lazily conforming to social norms.

I know it takes a lot of courage to make that literal leap of faith, and to question things that everyone else takes for granted. I've been through this myself. And I respect you for it.

So all the best and keep it up, and always keep believing in your, well, beliefs. Don't let the holier-than-thous ever get to you.

BETCATZ WITH A Z said...

I agree with you tariq.

We are studying the crusades in World History this week.
I find it very fucked up that what the Europeans did is not labled a Genocide.
Waging a war to kill all 'infidels'?
Sounds like genocide to me.

But anyway, good stuff. But i still dont think getting rid of the religion is something we should do. It creates a community to be a part of, a common cause, something you should contribute to for a greater good, something to motivate you to act right.

But thats just what i think.

Check my new(est) site, cause i am still waiting for Hibiachi to call me, and if they dont, it will turn into a group blog with some peoples of mine....

http://chugachugachugachuchu.blogspot.com/

BETCATZ WITH A Z said...

and yeah i shut down the cats meow. But i couldnt stop.
Stoners can put down joints,
but will always pick up blunts.
You dig?