A few years ago, I worked at a major satellite TV broadcasting and media company. I was a developer in one of several teams working on a project named “EVOLUTION”. Just two months prior to completion of my year there, a competition was held to come up with a new name for the project. To take part, one had simply to reply on an email thread, supplying one’s suggestion for a project name, and an explanation of the given name.
One evening just before I left, an email arrived from one of the thousands of Indian contractors working there. His suggested name, which I can’t remember, was the name of their sacred cow god, capitalized, followed by a paragraph that explained the relevance of that sacred cow to the project. It was a serious suggestion and he made facets of his religious belief relevant to the project. I immediately typed my own acronym for a project name in a reply to all: Bringing Evolution Even Further – BEEF.
I didn’t send it. (For a number of reasons: I was already clean at that point, and thus thinking clearly; I saw no reason to piss off thousands of employees; as funny as the acronym was, it was not intended as a serious project name.) No doubt it would have got some laughs, but it was probably for the best that it remained forever in my outbox.
So what’s my point? It’s not that I can be sarcastic. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you already know that. My point is that people really believe that cows are sacred. I mean, seriously, cows! As in moo, for fuck’s sake. Moo! The humour of my unsent reply relied neither on my acronym that contrived a connection between evolution and cows, nor on my mockery of their belief. Rather, it relied on the absurdity of the belief itself. So there should be no doubt in your mind that the belief in sacred cows is silly…
And yet, how different is this particular religious belief to any other? How did that man come to believe this? The answer to the second question answers the first… He was indoctrinated. Taught this belief since childhood, he accepted it. It became part of his worldview. To him, cows have some religious significance and they really are sacred. I have recently even read about extremist Hindus who persecute people who trade in beef.
The fact is, as absurd as the belief may be, it is no more absurd that Jesus or Allah guides your life. Religious people find ways of making their religious belief relevant to their lives all the time, because their beliefs are tied so closely to their worldviews. In that way, claiming to be a follower of Jesus (or Allah, or any other god) is no different to sending an email that makes sacred cows relevant to a large IT project. Belief in all gods is belief without evidence. None of them are any less absurd than any other. So if you are a religious person and you mock anyone else’s religious belief, remember the holy cows… Your belief is just as crazy as theirs.