Dutch Infidels

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Dutch Infidels

Finally something that Muslim fundamentalists, Roman Catholics, devout Protestants, and orthodox Jews here in the Netherlands can agree on: they all hate a program that had its debut last night on Dutch national (i.e., public) television.

A peek at the program's website should give you an idea of why that is. Of course, the title alone would have been sufficient (dayenu, as we Jews would say). It's called God Doesn't Exist (all translations from the Dutch in this post are mine and therefore of questionable accuracy, but I'm pretty sure about translating the show's title, God Bestaat Niet).

As I understand it, the premise is that our supposedly secular, rational, free society is being taken over by fundamentalists of various faiths bent on coercing others into accepting their beliefs, and that they're doing it by using the very democratic freedoms that they want to eliminate. That would be a pretty controversial theory at any rate, but it is intellectually respectable and not unheard of in polite circles.

But the skits in between the serious bits are what's really causing the uproar. The photographs on the website will give you an idea of how crude and offensive they are. The "Jesus on a Leash" sketch is the one that made the papers today. You can also, if you have a taste for that sort of thing, click on the links for video highlights--I haven't seen them myself (the video links are the ones that say Bekijk de leader: God Bestaat Niet and bekijk de promo).

Some excerpts from the descriptions of the six episodes that are to air:

Episode 1 (about brains and religion): ....The intensity of spirituality is genetically determined, and [brain researcher] Dr. Swaab can induce a near-death experience with an electrode. Many prophets were epileptics who could have been treated in that fashion.

Episode 3: ....Religiously based education should be forbidden and religion should be banned from public life. Freedom of education and freedom of worship have been misused in order to indoctrinate children so that it's as if they had no freedom of education or worship.

Episode 6: Why is respect summoned up for something as moronic as faith? That never happens in science. Maybe it's because believing is a bit pathetic. We can easily afford to give some respect to their powerless, childlike world. Be happy that life is meaningless; that way, at least you have a chance to make something of it yourself.

Remember, this is a country where a man was famously murdered last year by a Muslim fundamentalist after he produced a TV program in which verses from the Koran were painted onto a woman's naked body. I hope the two guys behind the new show are well-insured.

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