Tuesday, February 15, 2011

St. Valentine's Day

Imagine you're a young adult, and on February 14, 2011, you've decided to spend time with that "Special Someone" in your life. The two of you are both consenting adults, and have both never been married nor have any children. You pack a picnic basket and agree to spend a leisurely evening enjoying a picnic dinner and each others company at a local public park after work, to get to know one another better. The two of you have barely finished your egg salad sandwiches when men in uniform announce they are the morality police, and the two of you are under arrest. You now face up to two years in prison.

The scenario sounds like bad fiction along the lines of a dreaded Orwellian future, but this is no fiction. This past Monday evening, this was reality for over 80 people in Malaysia. The picture I painted in the above paragraph omitted the fact that the people involved were Muslim, and that they were deemed to be celebrating Valentine's Day; however, these omissions are simply labels. These people did nothing to hurt anyone else.

As an atheist, I don't observe religious days, and have come to regard Valentine's Day as little more than a marketing device for retailers to sell overpriced flowers, chocolates, jewelry, and folded pieces of paper with drippy poems written on them. In modern Western culture, St. Valentine's Day has lost all religious significance much like Halloween has, and so I partake in this blatant effort by retailers to goad me into proving to my wife how much I love her by giving them my money for this crap. There's no real harm, and it makes her happy as we remember this day as our excuse to get to know each other better before we were married.

Not everyone celebrates Valentine's Day, and for perfectly valid reasons. They are free to choose to not celebrate, just as I am free to celebrate. I don't think any less of them, though perhaps they might think I'm part of the herd, guided by the marketing forces; a criticism I fully accept. I digress. I live in a culture where consenting adults are free to choose to be with each other, and can choose to observe whatever cultural or religious traditions they want, so long as it doesn't affect the free will of another. It's these freedoms that are fundamental to peace in our society.

There are people who choose to be Muslim in western culture, and I am at a loss to understand why. As an atheist, I find all religious beliefs to be absurd to one extent or another, but the Muslim faith is one that really concerns me. This goes beyond people willingly giving up some of their own fundamental freedoms that people have fought and died for - and I'm not talking about soldiers fighting wars overseas; I'm talking about people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Madalyn Murray O'Hair. It's one thing to give up your own freedom of choice to do what men who lived thousands of years ago think you should do. It's quite another to incarcerate someone else because they didn't give up their freedom to choose.

This is yet another example of why I believe Islam to be a tyrannical religion, and I will resist it and its influences in my culture as I would any tyranny. With any luck, acts like this will both scare people away from Islam and serve to slow the reproduction of the faithful, because the only power this religion has is from the people that believe in it. There is no God, Gods, Allah, or Holy Spirit. There is only doctrine created by people who didn't understand a lot of things we know today and needed to control masses of people.

Protest Valentine's day? Absolutely; I think everyone should have the right to protest something like this, for whatever reason they want - even religious ones. These protests make people like me aware, and perhaps I may decide that it really is a silly idea. However, we should all be wary, regardless of our religious beliefs (or lack of), when protest turns into tyranny.

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