Am I a Heretic?
23 July, 2010
By Anwaar Hussain
There is something wrong with me.
I see the everyday killing of Shias, Ahmadis and Christians in my fatherland and something in me recoils in horror. While the gruesome acts of these killers are met with a mute applause by most of my countrymen, why is it that these revolt me?
They tell me I am a heretic.
I tell them to please open their eyes and look around. That they will find every city, town, village and family now infested with these bigots. That these pious killers appeal to the worst passions of the human heart. That they sow the seeds of dissonance and hatred wherever they go. That sectarian hatred is only the beginning and a time is not very far when, in the name of God, they will get brother to denounce brother, wives to inform on their husbands, mothers to accuse their children and neighbors to spy on their neighbors. I tell them that given the power these extremists will punish dissent with whip, chain, and slaughter. They laugh at me and tell me scornfully that I am a heretic. They say why should mercy be shown to someone whom God will burn in eternal fire? They promise me dark dungeons as my ultimate abode where my flesh will rot in the clasp of chains and flames will devour me forever.
I tell them that the bigots are living fossils embedded in the rock of faith. That they are as stuck in time as in that rock. That mentally this species can neither advance nor recede. That after exhausting all their energies on stopping people from advancement of any kind, they are left with none to improve their own lot. That the supreme desire of their heart is to force all others to adopt their creed. And that for this very purpose they denounces free-thinking as a crime, calling this crime as heresy and people like me as heretics. They tell me that I am a heretic and exile, imprisonment, torture, and death are the only solution to rid the country and the faith of people like me.
I tell them these extremists are a people that revere gods of death, murder and vengeance. That they kill innocent human beings, including women and children, on whims, and strike terror into the hearts of an average decent human being. That for them killing is not just a business tool but also a means with which to spread fear, perpetuate chaos and preach their dark gospel. That any ideology that asks for killing in its name is to be shunned like plague. I tell them to look around and see for themselves what blood-smeared mournful land our country has become. A once beautiful land, now it is torn and tormented, plundered and ravaged, disfigured by the scars of countless wounds, tottering at the edge of a dark bottomless abyss. They reject my misgivings sneeringly and call me a heretic. They say hell is my place for thinking what I think.
When I point out to them that for thousands of years the ‘sky religions’ have exhausted every conceivable punishment, that every nerve, every tendon in the human body capable of pain has been explored and pressed upon to force all people to hold the same religious opinions yet they failed and reason survived. They tell me I am a heretic for thinking just that and that God hates people like me with a pitiless and inestimable hatred. And whilst his vice regents on earth will persecute me while I am alive, He will burn me forever when I am up there–they say.
I tell them that from times immemorial every priest has regarded himself as the viceroy of God. They tell me I am a heretic. That he equates disrespect shown to him as an insult offered to God. They tell me I am a heretic. That he asks none to think but only to obey. They tell me I am a heretic. That he considers his word to be the word of God. They tell me I am a heretic. That the world has been at the mercy of ignorant and furious priests, whose eyes feasted upon the agonies they inflicted upon rational men. They tell me I am a heretic.
I point them to the words of Ingersoll, that great man of reason, who said, “acting, as they believed, or pretended to believe, under the command of God ; stimulated by the hope of infinite reward in another world— hating heretics with every drop of their bestial blood ; savage beyond description merciless beyond conception,— these infamous priests, in a kind of frenzied joy, leaped upon the helpless victims of their rage. They crushed their bones in iron boots ; tore their quivering flesh with iron hooks and pincers ; cut off their lips and eyelids ; pulled out their nails, and into the bleeding quick thrust needles; tore out their tongues; extinguished their eyes ; stretched them upon racks ; flayed them alive ; crucified them with their heads downward ; exposed them to wild beasts ; burned them at the stake ; mocked their cries and groans ; ravished their wives ; robbed their children, and then prayed to God to finish the holy work in hell.” They tell me I am a heretic and the same is in store for me here and in the hereafter.
Am I a heretic?