Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wink wink

Today I want to talk about a very confusing phenomenon in Coptic/Egyptian society. Maybe it's common among other religious groups too, but my experience dictates my blogging. Usually, it goes like this. A young adult is having a disagreement with a parent (we Copts are tied to our family's opinions and dictates far longer than other peoples, it seems). The parent will end the conversation with something along the lines of: inshalallah we'll see (if god wills it, ie ain't gonna happen).

This is infuriating! I know it's not just my family, I've seen it in other homes too. So just like that, the conversation is ended and the inshallah-er wins by default. Another variant favored by the younger set is the "have you prayed about it" approach. It's a lot less dismissive, but often accomplishes the same thing because the person receiving said attack is meant to go home and pray about it. Thus ensuring an easy victory for the attacker (forgive the violent term).

Now, that alone is fine. We can claim that it really is faith that drives people to say things like that, not a desire to make the conversation end, feel free to draw your own conclusions. I'm more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to the "have you prayed about it" people, but again their motivations may not be totally faith based.

What's a scientist to do? Test of course! So I take it upon myself to turn the tables. I will always say I have prayed about whatever course of action is under discussion. Of course I didn't. I have news for you, I didn't always fast every day of lent either. Seeing as I am now an apostate, a fib about prayer in the name of science seems far less deceptive.

So what happens? Invariably I get called out for bullshit! Maybe the inshallah or "pray about it" folks never actually expect a response. Especially one as facile and quick as mine.

In reality I think that they feel lost. Like they have been stripped of a social tool of shame. Their tone turns from one of religion (pray pray pray) to one of worldly incredulity ("if you prayed you did it wrong because what you want to do is stupid").

So I submit that this whole exercise can be had without reference to religion, because it doesn't seem to have a religious basis. Tell people that they're being knuckle headed, or come up with something more diplomatic if you like. But don't inshallah someone when what you really mean is, "hopefully you become less pigheaded soon".

Giving someone a figurative knock to the head when they do something silly is a time-honored Egyptian tradition, I'm not saying it should stop. But perhaps we can strip off the layer of religious BS no one seems to mean.

So to recap my thesis is: when you want to be mean, say what you mean, and whatever you do don't ask me to pray about it.

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