Ron Charles of The Washington Post discussed the Charlie Hebdo killings with acclaimed religious satirist James Morrow, author of The Madonna and The Starship and Shambling Towards Hiroshima.
Morrow has never shied away from making fun of religions. The Denver Post once called him “Christianity’s Salman Rushdie.” His “The Godhead Trilogy,” published in the 1990s, involves the discovery of the giant body of God floating in the ocean. Religious figures, relics and beliefs are all fair game in his cerebral comedies. His new novel, “Galápagos Regained,” which pits Christianity against Darwinism, is being released this week.
“I would be deluding myself if I imagined that I was doing anything as brave as what [the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists] were doing,” he says from his home in State College, Pa. “They knew that the sights of those rifles were trained on them, and they had the raw courage to keep on fulfilling that sacred obligation to be satiric. I’ve worked exactly the same side of that street: I see blasphemy not only as a right, but as a sacred duty.”
The problem, as he sees it, is that Islam never went through its own Enlightenment. “In the West, we’ve benefited from the great Enlightenment conversation. We enjoy the benefit of free speech — it’s the default,” he said. “But that’s a very recent and begrudging breakthrough on the part of religion. I don’t take it for granted.”
He’s quick to note that the gunmen in Paris on Wednesday did not represent the Islamic intellectual classes in any way. But he would like to see “the Islamic world educate its children in a plenary fashion.”
“Manichean dualism is the worst,” he said, “the single worst idea people ever came up with — this notion that you can divide humankind into the children of light and the children of darkness.”
He’d also like to see schools in the West do more to teach children about Islam and its extraordinary intellectual cultural heritage. “This was a world that kept civilization alive,” he notes, citing the lasting contributions of Islamic scholars to science and mathematics.
Read the rest of Charles’ conversation with Morrow at The Washington Post.
For more info on The Madonna and the Starship, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover and design by Elizabeth Story.
For more info on Shambling Towards Hiroshima, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Ann Monn.