Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Martyrs of the Age of Reason

Martyr (noun): A person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause. (verb) To make a martyr of, especially by putting to death.


When we read and hear news coverage about the Charlie Hebdo shootings, we often see the gunmen had claimed to want to die as martyrs for their cause. Their claim is that they have avenged their long-dead prophet Mohammed in these killings. Had they laid down their firearms and surrendered to the French authorities after fulfilling their task of avenging their dead prophet and, as a result, had been executed for murder, one might see them as martyrs for their religion. They did not do this. In addition to killing the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, they also executed Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet, and then took a hostage and engaged in a firefight with the authorities.

The Charlie Hebdo murderers did not die as martyrs. The French authorities did not kill them because of their religious beliefs. They were killed because they were randomly killing people for no apparent reason after executing the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo. They were killed because they gave the French authorities no other option; failure to kill the shooters would have resulted in more innocent people getting murdered. I'm personally against the death penalty and police brutality, but this was a situation where the Charlie Hebdo murders left the French authorities no other choice. This is not martyrdom in any sense of the word; this was France protecting itself.

Being raised and indoctrinated as a Christian, there was one martyr that I was taught about, and that martyr was Jesus Christ. Yes, we are taught that he died for our sins, and he is the son of God, and through him all is forgiven, but consider the actual biblical account of how he was executed. For the sakes of argument, I'm going to skip over the contradictions in the Bible, and focus on what most Christians generally accept as fact.

It is generally accepted that Jesus never killed anyone during his short time as a mortal son of God. During his trial, Jesus was accused by Caiaphas for blasphemy, after which he was taken to Pilate's court, where he offended the Roman governor for claiming to be the "King of Jews." He was subsequently subjected to ridicule, torture, and then crucifixion by Roman soldiers.

Nobody would consider the Roman soldiers to be martyrs whenever they died for Rome; Jesus Christ was the martyr in this story. Fast forward to today. Islam is both a state and a religion. The state of Islam was offended by the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, just as the Roman governor was offended. The Charlie Hebdo murderers are clearly modern day soldiers of the state of Islam; they were well trained and had access to military grade weapons. The cartoonists, who, like Jesus Christ, had never killed anyone and simply wanted to show humanity that we could be free from organized religion, were executed by those soldiers. To better understand, let's look into the work they did and why it's significant.

Historical milestones are generally measured as "Ages." Very old religions have survived, and perhaps even caused, multiple "Ages," but Christianity is considered to have its roots in the Apostolic age, between 30 and 100A.D. Then there are periods like the Islamic golden age, which occurred at around 750 to 1258C.E. However, the age that is relevant here is the Age of Reason, which started in 1794. At its heart, this calls for the challenging of institutional religious beliefs and the bible. While not a religion, it is based on principles and represents a cause that focuses on liberating people from the tyranny of organized religion. This was precisely what the people working at Charlie Hebdo were doing; their work was meant to challenge religious beliefs, to help liberate people from the tyranny of organized religion. They did this through the peaceful act of putting out a publication filled with relevant articles and satirical cartoons.

The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo who were killed never killed anyone in their lives. They strove to make humanity better, by freeing us from the tyranny of organized religion by way of peaceful satire. They understood their lives were at risk by committing blasphemy and challenging established institutions. Each and every one of them are to us today as Christians portray Jesus Christ, but they were executed by Islamic soldiers instead of Roman soldiers, and I think it's possible that, if these cartoonists were alive today, they would tell us to forgive Islamic terrorists, for they really know not what they do, as their minds are held hostage by the organized religion of Islam. And so, I present to you the most recent martyrs of the age of reason, in no particular order:

Jean Cabut (Cabu)
"Cabu 20080318 Salon du livre 3" by Georges Seguin (Okki) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

This man spent time in the military, and based on his first hand experience, became anti-militarist. This is a clear sign of someone who will question authority and put himself at risk for what he believes is morally right. His main focus in his life has been the selfless act of educating through is art, in spite of criticism from the "Status Quo."

Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb)
"2011-11-02 Incendie à Charlie Hebdo - Charb - 06" by Coyau / Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

This man was the editor of Charlie Hebdo. He was 47 years old. He had received death threats and was under police protection. He once told France's Le Monde newspaper that he had no kids, no wife, no car and no debt, and would rather die standing than on his knees. He knew the risk he was taking, and he did it for us, so that we could be free from religion. I will stay free, Charb.

Georges Wolinski 
"G. Wolinski dédicaçant à la fête de l'Huma 2007-02" by Alvaro - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Another martyr of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter who oppressed organized religion to the bitter end, this great man had received the Legion of Honour for his work.

Bernard Verlhac (Tignous)
"Tignous 20080318 Salon du livre 1" by Georges Seguin (Okki) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

This man was a member of "Cartoonists for peace." His work was well-known for its attacks on hypocrisy. It's sad that he was also the father of four children, who have had their father ripped from their lives at the hands of Islamic soldiers. 

Philippe Honoré
"Philippe Honoré, dessinateur de Charlie Hebdo (crop)" by User:Mpayot - →This file has been extracted from another image: File:Philippe Honoré, dessinateur de Charlie Hebdo.jpg.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons -,_dessinateur_de_Charlie_Hebdo_(crop).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Philippe_Honor%C3%A9,_dessinateur_de_Charlie_Hebdo_(crop).jpg

This martyr regularly campaigned against injustice and cynicism, he was a "Kind and gentle bearded giant." 

Bernard Maris

Bernard Maris was an economist, writer, journalist, and a shareholder in Charlie Hebdo. In 1995, Le Nouvel Économiste awarded him the "Best economist of the year." In December of 2011, he was appointed as a member of general council of the Banque de France, and had numerous publications. This wasn't just someone wanting to poke fun at religion, this was a well educated and knowledgeable man who drew from a significant depth of knowledge and understanding.

Elsa Cayat
"Elsa Cayat" by Via Wikipedia -

The only woman who was murdered for her participation in fighting for our freedom from religion, Elsa Cayat wrote a bi-weekly article in Charlie Hebdo called Charlie Divan," which translates to "Charlie's Couch." As a psychoanalyst, she would write about topics such as parental authority and couple sexuality. She had been threatened before for being Jewish.

Mustapha Ourrad

Mustopha was the copy editor of Charlie Hebdo; he made sure each issue was free from errors to ensure the message they sent out would be as clear as possible.

There were other victims, but these eight are the ones who were targeted specifically because of their cause of freeing minds from the tyranny of organized religion. They knew there could have been consequences like this, but these were principled people, driven to do what they felt was right thing to do for the benefit of us all. They died for our freedom from religion. Their deaths instantly galvanized freethinkers everywhere. Within hours, Facebook profile pictures everywhere changed to "Je Suis Charlie," or "I am Charlie." Vigils were held all over the country and the world in honour of these martyrs. World leaders came together in a march in Paris because of their deaths.

Look at their faces and know who they were, so they can live on forever in our collective memories as martyrs for the age of reason.

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