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Is That an Octopus or is it Satan? September 24, 2008

Posted by sociallyacceptableinsanity in Atheism.
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The flip side of faith is hate, distrust and fear.

Human beings have always looked to demonize things that are unfamiliar or different.  We attribute evil qualities to other creatures who are ugly, or which remind us perhaps too much of ourselves.  People have been vilifying wolves for centuries:  we are all familiar with the venemous fear that these creatures engender.

Journalist Lynne Snifka explores this concept in her article “Eight Arms to Hold You”, about the octopuses at the SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska.  In the article she discusses how octopuses freak people out, since they are intelligent and have the ability to manipulate objects around them, in addition to their being alien in appearance.  Snifka quotes Victor Hugo in his story The Toilers of the Sea, in which he describes octopuses as “concrete forms of evil.”  She posits that Hugo’s “depiction of a malevolent octopus epitomized the natural human reaction to an intelligent unknown:  We demonized it.”

And isn’t that just what we do, people?  We hate what we don’t understand, affix labels and try to wedge everything in to tight little boxes, all so that we can try to make sense of the unknown or unknowable.  Religion provides a tool for those who like their worlds all nice and orderly, an answer to everything.  Religious belief is the equivalent of hiding under the blankets so that the monster can’t find you.  Pehaps it would be better, instead, to poke our heads out of the covers and take a longer look at the monster.  It just might be something beautiful, and not so evil after all.

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