Religion and Ridicule on Campus

Emile Yusupoff looks at political correctness, hypocrisy, and religion at the uni


Insulting or belittling a minority is a major taboo on campus. Making comments about someone’s gender, sexuality or race are unlikely to be well received. Likewise, offending minority beliefs is generally condemned. However, some minorities seem to be acceptable targets, and are exempt from politically correct protection.

Look enlightened lads, the lecturer’s coming!

Christians, as individuals and organised groups, are subject to constant ridicule and contempt on campus. It is standard practise to sneer and jeer at the people stood outside the library handing out invites to ‘Luncheon with Jesus’. Likewise, EUSA debates on abortion showed that deviation from the pro-choice line is apparently unacceptable for an Edinburgh student. Whilst I’m personally pro-choice, it’s a bit obscene that Christians who voice a pro-life position face aggressive dismissal and marginalisation.

Even if this is just a matter of etiquette, the difference between attacking a belief and attacking its advocates is a significant one. The first is legitimate (if applied to all creeds – religious, ethical or political), but the second is neither productive nor acceptable. For example, note the difference between referring to Jesus as a ‘zombie-wizard-rabbi’ and calling Christians themselves ‘retarded Jesus-freaks’. This mirrors the difference between drawing pictures of Mohammad (mocking a belief) and calling all Muslims terrorists (making offensive generalisations about people).

And never the two should meet…

If someone from a minority group were to advance, say, homophobia based on their religion, they would be (patronisingly) excused due to ‘cultural relativism’ and sensitivity. When a Christian voices similar views, they are aggressively shouted down and dismissed as ‘stupid’, ‘reactionary’ and ‘evil’. Similarly, a Christian who criticises pornography, prostitution or promiscuity is ridiculed, whereas feminists can make identical points with ease, and it’s even possible to be taken seriously when arguing that the burka is liberating.

Criticising these ideas is actually necessary and, where the target is the belief and not the believers, healthy satire is appropriate. But, its irrelevant whether homophobia comes from the Bible or the Qur’an, and it doesn’t matter if anti-sex hysteria stems from Christian morals or from feminist overreach.

These are just example; the same applies whenever you hold different people to different standards. If you’re going to criticise one set of beliefs, you need to criticise similar beliefs equally. The same goes for ridicule: either you can laugh at everyone, or you can laugh at no one. Anything else is discrimination.