That Goddess stuff

A Hindu spokesman, Mr. Rajan Zed, recently criticized Blizzard for an Overwatch character that looks like a sexy melange of various Hindu goddesses. The character obviously serves as a player-controlled avatar in the game and is basically used to kill and get killed. His main points are that this is respectless, trivializing and unethical.

There are over one billion Hindus in the world.

I have to say, I do see his point. Does Blizzard have the right to include whatever artwork they want in their games? Yes, unquestionably. Is it the right thing to do? Not necessarily.

I do agree that video game characters like this are indeed direspectful of the religious people’s sensitivities.

Again, is that a problem? Legally, in many countries, no. Ethically? Yes, possibly. Because with something like this, you’re saying to some people: “We don’t care about what you think or want. Deal with it.” This is just not very nice – you’re being insensitive and possibly insulting, even if it’s just within the law. Maybe you just didn’t think it through properly. But you’re basically being a jerk. It’s not how grown-up, reasonable people should treat each other. Respect goes both ways!

Instead, you should listen to people’s opinion, and take some of it on board. Remember, in democratic countries you have the right to be an atheist, but you also have the right to be religious. It goes both ways. In cases such as this, where cultural sensibilities are involved, you should be able to see the conflict coming from miles away.

So yes, legally you have the right to be a jerk to other people. Ethically, you probably don’t want to be. And practically, you probably don’t want to disrespect one billion people who could be your customers.

The typical internet argument “but all religions suck because violence …” doesn’t hold much water, by the way. Not all religions are equal. Did Native Americans go on crusades? Does buddhism tend to create a lot of terrorism? Shintoism? Taoism? Wicca? How many Wiccan terrorists do you know? How many Hindu terrorists blowing themselves up in public? See, it holds no water. Most of the people who go “… Religion is for crazies” are thinking of Christianity, or Islam, because that’s all that is on TV where they come from. But that’s not the same as religion in general. People have been religious for 100,000 years before Christianity and Islam came along, and mankind obviously survived just fine in spite of, or maybe because, of its religions.

Hindus, you know, are these people who like to toss coloured pigment at each other on holidays and sink ginormous elephant-headed statues into the river Ganges.

Damn dangerous, those Hindus.

So you see, “religion is for crazy people” is actually untrue. Just because you think what we’re doing is crazy, doesn’t make it so. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t give you the right to ridicule it.

Hold on a moment, is this guy religious? He doesn’t usually sound that crazy?

Well yes, I sort of am, even though I don’t really talk about it. I’m what many people would call a neo-pagan. I believe that nature is, in a sense, holy and that humans shouldn’t take themselves too seriously. I believe that we are not the “crown of creation.” I’ve always liked the old Norse mythology, and even though I don’t really see gods or giants throwing fireballs around in shopping malls anytime soon, I like those stories in my life and wouldn’t want to miss them. Do I believe that a cow licked the first being out of cosmic ice? Not really. I believe in evolution, but I still like the idea.

You get my drift.

How serious do we take this kind of religion? Well, it’s officially recognized in Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Spain among other countries. Yes, you can have a pagan marriage in Denmark or Iceland if you want. So this is an actual modern religion.

And this is where the topic at hand gets personal.

Am I offended when I see ridiculous adaptations of pagan deities in videogames or movies? Well, slightly. I’m not offended enough to become angry. We tend to take these things with humour. But I am slightly concerned, for instance, about the new God of War game set in the North. I’m not saying they can’t do this. All I’m saying is when I imagine images of my own gods and goddesses being slaughtered and dismembered in an orgy of blood by Kratos, the series’ crazed protagonist, I don’t like the idea. I find it slightly disgusting. What have they ever done to deserve it? Is it respectless? Yes, you bet it is.

So I can see Mr. Rajan Zed’s point. It’s not illegal, but does it have to be done?

And then you’ve got issues of minorities and misrepresentation of certain mythologies and cultures and in the end, it’s just a question of respect.

Maybe we live in a time when everything has to be brought down, everything has to be ridiculed, and people can’t tolerate anything they don’t understand. It reminds me a little of the movie Agora, where in one scene the early Christians ridicule Pagan goddesses by tossing fruit at the statues with much fanfare. It is just a stupid thing. Am I insulted? No, I’m just disillusioned and kinda sad about the behaviour of the mob, both the film mob and our modern internet mob. You just can’t tolerate that someone has a statue or someone lights some incense at a shrine in the street? You can’t tolerate that someone walks around with what you like to call “invisible friends”? You get angry if the people who you see as weirdos voice an unpleasant opinion?

What happened to “respect your fellow human”?


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