British gymnast Louis Smith has just been banned for two months by British Gymnastics after he appeared in a video mocking Islamic prayer. The video was in poor taste to be sure, and he apologised unreservedly for it.
But there’s an important point here. Religion, and religious practices deserve to be mocked and ridiculed. Take prayer for example – prayer is a practice where a person attempts to communicate telepathically with an invisible, iron age sky god. If it isn’t worthy of mocking, then I don’t know what is.
Any comparable belief would immediately be fair game for ridicule. If I told people that I firmly believed that Aliens were walking amongst us and that I could telepathically communicate with them, I would pay an immediate price. I would lose credibility, I would be ridiculed, I would be laughed at, I would be unlikely to get a job, I’d be lucky to get a second date. And rightly so.
But if I make the exact same claims about an invisible, iron age sky god, not only is this taken to be a reasonable belief, it is also elevated to a position where ridicule is considered bad form. This is something we need to push back against. Ridicule is a perfectly acceptable response to religious beliefs and practices. It might not be the most productive or desirable response, but it should be acceptable.