From Blasphemies to Blessings in Disguise (Part 2 of 2)
[In Part 1, I have outlined how blasphemies have turned into blessings in disguise. In Part 2, we are going to explore how blind enforcement of anti-blasphemy laws is nothing more than a sacrilegious act to commodify God, which in turn, is a blasphemy in itself.]
Blasphemy seems to be the lowest common denominator among great historical figures, thinkers and artists. Throughout history, pioneers who dared to commit blasphemies had been confronted by hostile groupthink and holier-than-thou mob mentality of the Powers that Be. Prophets, revolutionaries, innovators and avant-garde artists had been criminalized, demonized, excommunicated, persecuted, crucified with impunity. Modus operandi of the status quo: claim to act on behalf of "God," then brutally persecute everyone who goes against the grain for committing blasphemy. We are always right, they are always wrong. Thomas B. Macaulay illustrated this thought process in Critical and Historical Essays (1870): “I am in the right, and you are in the wrong. When you are stronger, you ought to tolerate me; for it is your duty to tolerate truth. But when I am the stronger, I shall persecute you; for it is my duty to persecute error.”
These vicious cycles of persecution are indeed the cruelest irony in human civilization. The hunted became an even crueler hunter, the persecuted an even more brutal persecutor, the oppressed an even more violent oppressor. Early Christians were tortured, stoned, fed to hungry lions, and crucified by the Romans. Yet during the Crusades and Inquisition, their descendants persecuted Muslims, religious sectarianism and Protestantism with no less cruelty. Early Protestants were victimized by Roman Catholic church's persecution. One would think their descendants who migrated to North America to escape from religious persecution in Europe knew a thing or two about being tolerant. Well, they committed genocide on Native Americans, benefited from slavery, then later persecuted the Mormons.
Early Muslims were persecuted by the Meccan tribes who worshiped pagan idols, then later again by the Christians during the Crusades. Yet their descendants have a history to persecute Christian, Sufi, and Ahmadi minorities with no less brutality. Christian churches in Pakistan have been attacked and bombed. Sufi shrines and mosques have been destroyed; Sufi adherents have been killed. In Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, the Ahmadis have been defined as heretics and non-Muslim and subjected to persecution and systematic oppression. The Sunnis and Shiites have continuously persecuted each other within the last 1,300 years. The Jews are no exception. After being persecuted by the Romans and victimized during the Holocaust, their descendants have not shown any hesitation to persecute and evict the Palestinians.
The underlying root cause of these vicious cycles: primordial and evolutionary biological impulses for prejudice, aversion and revenge that are divinely packaged in anti-blasphemy theological dogmas. As expressed by Eric Hoffer in The True Believer (1951): "I doubt if the oppressed ever fight for freedom. They fight for pride and for power — power to oppress others. The oppressed want above all to imitate their oppressors; they want to retaliate" (emphasis added). Queen Mary I (1516-1558), a.k.a. “Bloody Mary”, burned 300 Protestants. Her successor (and half sister!) Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) then executed 300 Catholics. In the Henry VII chapel of Westminster Abbey in London, Elizabeth's coffin was later placed on top of Mary's one. Indeed a perfect "closure" for both — eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot — literally and figuratively. May they rest in peace together.
If God (or Jahwe or Elohim or Allah or Shangdi) is so Almighty and All Powerful, does He (or She!) really need so many paranoid proxies and anal retentive busybodies to fret on His/Her behalf? Implying that All Powerful is so fragile; isn't that an insult — if not a contradiction — in itself? Indeed to invoke a sacred name so often merely to keep an even score is to cheapen it. It is a sacrilegious act to commodify God, which in turn is "irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable."
We have all been the beneficiaries of spiritual breakthroughs and transformational changes that Buddha, Jesus, Washington, Gandhi, Mandela, Mozart and Monet introduced. The time has come to liberate ourselves from orthodox handcuffs and dogmatic shackles, and take an objective and impartial look at the true meanings of blasphemy, as well as the virtues of having a minority view. "What is a minority?," John B. Gough (1817-1886) once asked rhetorically. "The chosen heroes of this earth have been in a minority. There is not a social, political, or religious privilege that you enjoy today that was not bought for you by the blood and tears and patient suffering of the minority. It is the minority that have stood in the van of every moral conflict, and achieved all that is noble in the history of the world."
Most great ideas start out as a blasphemy — committed by a minority of one, against the oppressive tyranny of a majority, under the constant threat of persecution — yet eventually evolved into blessings in disguise. Meanwhile, what were once cruelly oppressed and persecuted minorities have, unfortunately, evolved into cruelly oppressing and persecuting majorities under the pretext to enforce anti-blasphemy laws. For every blessing in disguise, there is perhaps a wolf in sheep's clothing. God's name has always been exploited as the ultimate mantra — not for God's sake — but merely (1) to justify revenge, (2) to consolidate profane power, (3) to boost megalomaniac egos. Can blasphemies really disgrace the All Powerful, or do they merely shatter the fragile egos of insecure believers? "Shrine after shrine has crumbled before our eyes;" wrote Kakuzo Okakura (1862-1913) in The Book of Tea (1906), "but one altar forever is preserved, that whereon we burn incense to the supreme idol — ourselves."
Johannes Tan, Indonesian Translator & Conference Interpreter