Mosques, Ground Zero, and Religulous

While watching The Today Show this morning and trying to get up to speed on the controversy over the mosque near Ground Zero debate, I was reminded of a film I watched recently: Religulous.

See, here’s what I’m thinking: There’s one thing that people all over the world geek out about, including many who’d never even think to call themselves geeks. And that one thing is religion. Do something that violates their religious beliefs and watch them go crazy. Defend a religion other than theirs and watch them squirm. And all of this is over a series of fairy tales that have been passed down from generation to generation. In many respects, you might say that the people who founded the various cults that have taken hold of our world were the most passionate geeks of all time. They heard a story, or embellished a piece of history they were a part of, and they built a following. And they did it without the help of any of the modern cult-building technology we employ today. It’s really rather remarkable.

But here’s the problem: a lot of these early geeks were geeking out about the same stories, just different versions of them. And, as we modern geeks know, there’s nothing more fierce than a debate between a Star Wars trilogy purist and a revisionist who thinks that the special editions represent the artist’s true vision.

A lot of this comes into play with one particular sequence in Religulous, where Bill Maher illustrates that many of the elements of Christianity that are taken so seriously today were cribbed from faiths and mythologies long since debunked as bogus and unbelievable. It’s the best part of really good film, and it’s the one part that every person, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof) should see.

So, people are geeky about religion—not all, but many. And, like many geeks, many of these folks neither know nor want to know anything about subjects of geekery other than their own. Thus, lots of non-Muslims identify the Islamic faith as nothing more than a religion for psychopathic, overzealous terrorists. And so, it’s no wonder that non-Muslim religion geeks are up in arms over the plan to build a mosque near the location of one of the most infamous terror attacks ever hatched by extremist members of that seemingly extremist faith. None of this is surprising or particularly revolting. People of different faiths have been getting pissy with one another for ages.

What is revolting is how much attention is being paid to this issue by another set of geeks: the political geeks. It’s not surprising, but it is disgusting.

With oil spills to clean up, wars to end, and people to put back to work, you’d think that our political and political television focus would have plenty of more important things to deal with. But, no. No, the news leads with more of this nonsense. Do I care where the President stands on this issue? No. Should any of us care? Again: no.

To paraphrase Bill Maher, the sooner we get rid of religion, the better our chances of averting the end of the motherfucking world. Let the damn Muslims build their mosque. And then let the Jews and the Christians picket the site of it if they have nothing better to do (as long as they don’t resort to violence). It’s a free country. Let’s let all the geeks argue about whatever they’re geeky about and move on. These arguments aren’t worth the ink or the pixels we give them and they’re never going to stop, so long as we pay attention to them.

The surest way to end an argument between geeks is to give them something new to geek out about, thereby rendering the old arguments irrelevant. For a moment, they may even agree that’s something is awesome, and the world might live in peace (until the dissenters rise up). So, let’s come up with something more interesting and helpful than religion. Religion has never solved a problem in this world without creating a dozen new ones in the process. Can we please move on?