Rather than have the sense and decency to keep its mouth shut

Nick Cohen tears into the pope and the pro-theocracy left.

The only respectful way to mark the first anniversary of the Paris killings is to honour the memory of the dead by fighting for the Enlightenment values they lived by and died for. Whether we can is moot. Anglo-Saxon societies have enjoyed the privilege of Enlightenment freedoms for so long our defences have fallen into disrepair. We fool ourselves into thinking we are in a post-Enlightenment world. The old battles appear dead and gone, even though all around us murderous fanatics remind us that they intend to fight the war all over again.

It’s like vaccinations all over again, isn’t it – we’re so used to our freedoms that we don’t realize how shit it would be if we lost them. We take them for granted, we assume they’ll always be there, we feel safe enough to throw friendly bouquets at those funny little men in Nigeria or Iraq or Bangladesh who aren’t going to come bothering us.

Charlie Hebdo was free at all times and dared to exercise its freedom in public. So many lies have been told about it by the regressive left that I must remind you that its journalists were at the forefront of the campaigns against the French far right and in favour of asylum seekers.

But it would not refuse to mock sharia law because polite society preferred to look away. Nor could its journalists in conscience lay into the Catholic church, while leaving radical Islam alone. Where is the satirical edginess in savaging the beliefs of Catholics, who will not murder you, while passing on Islamists who might?

So they were killed, and many on the “left” carry on blaming them to this day.

The pope responded to the murders of satirists by lecturing their corpses. You cannot insult or make fun of the faith of others, he said, as he came as close as he dared to blaming the victims. A man’s religion was like his mother, he added. And anyone who insulted his mother could “expect a punch”.

Last week, the Vatican changed its line without changing its mind, the tactic of every cornered propagandist in history. Perhaps it realised that the pope’s claim that you could not satirise militant religion without expecting a punch in the face or a bullet in the head might unnerve even the most uncritical churchgoers. Instead, it tried to pretend that militant religion had nothing to do with religion.

Hebdo had marked the grim anniversary by putting a cartoon of a blood-spattered God carrying an assault rifle on its cover. “The assassin is still out there”, read the headline. Rather than have the sense and decency to keep its mouth shut, the Vatican denounced Hebdo for “hiding behind the deceitful flag of an uncompromising secularism” – this about a magazine that never “hid” from danger and whose staff had been the victims of truly “uncompromising” murderers.

The “left” and the pope, attacking our secular freedoms from a place of safety.

It may be objected that the New Testament is less gory that the Old. But Christ no more forbad slavery, rape, torture and genocide than did the Ten Commandments. Christians in power engaged in orgies of persecution of one another, of non-believers, of witches and of Jews. Indeed, the true Judaeo-Christian tradition was the 1,600-year tradition of Christians murdering Jews. What civilisation Judaism and Christianity possess came from the outside. They did not reform themselves, which is why calls for a Muslim reformation so spectacularly miss the point. Civilisation came from the battering that religion took from the Enlightenment, from sceptics, scientists, mockers and philosophers, who destroyed their myths and exposed the immorality of their taboos.

Charlie Hebdo told us a truth that too many do not like to admit: anyone who tries to do the same to Islam today can end up dead.

While the pope discreetly cheers in the background.

4 Responses to “Rather than have the sense and decency to keep its mouth shut”