Gareth Cliff recently reported on the “Teddy Teacher” Gillian Gibbons, who was sentenced to 15 days in jail in Sudan, for the crime of allowing her class to name a teddy bear ‘Mohamed’. The case in itself raises a few questions, or at least eyebrows. Given that the children chose the name democratically, that the parents raised no issue with the name, that the entire school was aware of the name, and that the incident itself happened months ago, one may wonder what this single woman did to deserve this punishment when her entire class of six- and seven-year-olds, their parents, and the rest of the school staff, should have been in jail with her. Also, one may wonder why it is so terrible to name a bear Mohamed, but fine to name a child Mohamed? But I digress…
The point of this post is that 5fm DJ Gareth Cliff dared to say on his show that if a God is offended by the use of his name by a mere mortal, offended enough to make it a commandment, then that God is petty (can i get a gasp?). Personally, I find Cliff’s logic infallible. I would add that if a God is so injured by the taking in vain of his name that he has to ban people from doing so at peril of their eternal peace, then that God must truly be a weak, snivelling thing to boot. I would like to thank Gareth Cliff for his excellent insight.
But not so, 5fm listeners. No indeed, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and one listener wrote in to Cliff personally about his blasphemous ways, and then was shocked and apalled when he did her the courtesy of reminding her that there is no God, no Tooth Fairy, and no Santa Claus either. Given the number of exclamation marks in her original email, and her inability to spell the word ‘you’, I could have guessed that her reaction to that factual dissemination would not be good, and indeed it was not. Cliff is now facing a tribunal of the broadcasting complaints commission over the whole incident.
What amazes me is that people genuinely believe that the commission is meant to step in to shield them from insults against their imaginary friend, just because he’s popular. People honestly believe that religion, for some reason, deserves more respect than any other position a person may hold. You can insult people’s politics, their taste in movies and their choice of music, but woe betide anyone who dares to insult their made up stories about how the world works! No, indeed, as soon as someone starts going on about religion, we have to shut our mouths and nod respectfully. May I add that the next time someone expects this, you give them the respect they truly deserve: fix a smile on your face, hold your hands up to show they are empty, nod vigorously, and slowly start backing away until you are about 4 metres away from them, then break into a flat sprint in the opposite direction.
Because if the religious deserve any kind of respect, it’s the same respect you would give to the clinically insane.