Charlie and the Snowmen.
Let us imagine that I had the magical power to bring the dead back from the grave. It is, we can agree, an awesome power that should be treated with respect. Surely, there are things which are immoral to do with that power. It would surely be immoral, say, for me to trap a soul into a special jar and torture them. If I did such a thing, surely, there is a non-zero amount of force that should be exerted against me to force me to release the soul. Assuming you agreed that lethal force is justified when necessary to save a person from torture, you would agree that some person might believe it justifiable to kill me if I used dark magic to trap someone’s soul into a special jar to torture them.
Earlier this week, a Saudi sheikh pronounced a fatwa against snowmen. The fatwa itself is of little interest to us. Let us instead consider the Sheik’s argument :
“God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul […]”
Implying that the Sheikh believes that snowmen have souls. In that Sheikh’s worldview, if I make a snowman, I am using the sort of necromantic dark magic of the sort I was describing above.
Am I torturing the snowman ? What can a soul trapped in an inanimate object such as a snowman do, but suffer ? They cannot walk, sing, talk, or do anything of the sort that makes our lives interesting and worthwhile. They can only stay in place and get bored. Get bored, bored and bored, until the sun comes out and they are helpless and scared and melting and no-doubt agonizing.
Heck, if I thought snowmen had souls, I’d issue a fatwa too!
Don’t laugh – everything is possible. In fact, the notion that having the general anthropomorphic shape, «the form of God» is what bestows a soul upon a being is one of the least ridiculous religious ideas I have heard yet. It explains why we have souls and chairs don’t. It is certainly less bizarre than the body of Christ being the bread and his faithful eating it.
In fact, if I thought snowmen had souls, I’d applaud if a group of armed soldiers stormed an office where 12 people where having coffee over a discussion of what snowmen-souls they should torture next and I’d rejoice at the thought of all these snowmen-souls escaping their dreaded, snowy prison. Freedom of expression stops where it hurts others – If snowmen had souls, our freedom of expression would stop where those souls’ right to not be trapped in a human-shaped pile of snow to suffer within begins.
This bring us to last week’s Paris massacre.
If the sheikh believes that snowmen have souls, maybe he thinks that pictures of humans also have souls. Or cartoons. According to amateur footage, the killers have allegedly said «we have avenged the prophet».
Now, I don’t believe that the killers of the Paris massacre thought that they were freeing the prophet Mohammed’s soul from the horrible fate of being trapped in a newspaper cartoon. And I don’t encourage people who do so to kill anyone to free him – if only because it would cause multiple reprints of the cartoon (perhaps tearing his souls in fragments, Voldemort-style?). But I do believe that there exists judicial procedures in democratic countries that can be used to ban the creation of inanimate Allah-shaped objects.
And I’d really like to see the Supreme Court seriously consider the possibility that I might be a necromancer. That would make hilarious headline in the newspapers :
Extra! Extra! Supreme Court Asks : Are we Warlocks ? Extra! Buy it now!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m have to go make myself some snowmen, fashion them some dick and kick them in the groin. And may the Mighty Smiter smite me if that’s Evil in any way!