29 February 2008

Religion Watch #1: Marijuana

You know I often blog about religion, or rather, the bad things of religion in practice — fanaticism, intolerance, and the omnipresent, undue interference of religion in the lives of millions of citizens in Argentina. Every now and then a piece of ridiculous or outrageous news makes me feel I should devote a whole blog to exposing these issues.

Well, that might just happen soon (I need to meditate on a couple of things involved), but in the meantime, I'm opening a section here on D for Disorientation. I'm calling it Religion Watch. Things it won't be about include theology, abstract philosophy of belief, proofs or arguments for or against God's existence, or criticism of some or other aspect of religion. The Watch will be just that: a reaction to those things that every now and then show us the nastier aspects inherent in religion.

Today's post, the first, is about the fuss of the Church at the government-sponsored presentation of a magazine called THC in Chaco. The news article appears in Página/12 and is titled Polémica en Chaco por la presentación de una revista.

THC is, obviously for those familiar with this topic, a publication about marijuana (THC = tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive substance found in the Cannabis plant). It advocates the legalization of the use of marijuana. It's to be introduced during the Book Fair in Resistencia, the capital of Chaco Province, under the official sponsorship of the Culture Secretariat.

When the Church learned of this, they pounced on the government, requesting that the magazine be banned from the fair, and started spreading rumours that that had indeed happened. Two deputies, one of them the head of the Human Rights Commission, together with Jorge Lestani, the vicar of the cathedral of Resistencia, expounded their bigoted arguments against THC (the magazine, not the substance) and said that the government was going to cancel the presentation. The Sub-Secretary of Culture denied it, saying he would have "nothing to do with any kind of censorship". The vicar replied that "it's not censorship to stop an apology of crime" and that THC's publishers "should be thrown in jail."

This enlightened view was seconded by deputy Ricardo Sánchez, who claimed that THC was trying to infiltrate the cultural circles to promote the consumption of marijuana, and demanded "depuration" and "content control" for the next book fair. In passing he also commented that this (discussing marijuana?) goes against our values, and compared it to the current debates on gay marriage and abortion.

Finally, deputy Marita Barrios explained that "her motherly intuition" had told her that these are actually drug dealers in disguise, and that she and others are doing whatever they can to combat them. She invited society to discuss this grave matter, though from what she said, it seems that "society" is limited to "the community's parents and the evangelical pastors."

These people are full of fear, sick with fear. They fear their small, faith-sanitized world will be invaded by difficult issues where nothing is completely white or black and they might actually have to think hard to distinguish the shades of gray; they consider anything beyond their little circle lacking in taste, dirty, yucky. Their puny worldview would be shattered open if they consented to debating controversial topics such as the legalization of marijuana. You should note they never said: "What this magazine stands for we consider wrong because..." — all they said, all they ever say, is "We don't want to hear about it — we don't want to talk about it — take it away, for God's sake."

Thankfully, they're losing.


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