What would you do if a religious fanatic starts yelling at you?

I respect believers in gods, even if I have no respect for their deities. I do not disrespect people for the sole reason they believe in Allah, Christ, Buddha, Shiva, or the River God of Nile while I side up with Darwin.

I would never ridicule a niqab-wearing woman who sees her mission in life as an exemplary second wife busying herself with cleaning the house when her husband is out shagging his first wife. That’s her way of life, and if she’s happy, who am I to judge? I simply don’t travel to places where they have many wives.

I would never look down at someone kissing a cross because I myself sympathise with the Christian concept of free will and being nice to other people at least once in a while. If for some people sticking to these principles requires kissing a cross, I am all for it. I would never think of joining an Easter procession to provoke a discussion of how and why a surge in the speed of informational exchange is related to a drop in the number of registered miracles.

What I hate is when believers want me to start wearing a metaphorical niqab, or kissing a metaphorical cross, or hugging a very real Nile crocodile. I hate it when believers want me to adapt to their views, their way of thinking and their path to salvation.

That’s exactly what is happening right now across the globe. Sharia police in London, Orthodox Kazak patrols in Moscow, Charlie Hebdo murders,  religious activists breaking into galleries, etc. Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote about it. And now they have come after me or rather one of my own.

There was no serious physical violence, only verbal abuse this time.

My son was riding the Tube (aka Underground, aka Metro). He was reading my post on Botero.

The one about the plump Christ.

The Flogging of Christ, Botero
The Flogging of Christ, Botero

An elderly lady sitting next to him forced his earphone out of his ear and started yelling at him. She went bananas because Botero’s painting insulted her religious feelings. She was traveling with a few similarly religious friends who joined in the chorus.

My son had to leave.

I wonder what would happen if there was a Charlie Hebdo caricature in his phone, and there was a similarly fanatical group of Muslims around him at the time. It’s not that I wonder, actually, I shudder.

What would you do in this situation?

Before you choose an answer, please note that a fanatically religious Russian woman is very likely to appear like this:


PS Please note I am talking about religious fanatics, not religious people as a whole.


  1. I dislike and disapprove of the idea of forcing your beliefs and your feelings on others.Whatever you believe is between you and your God. No-one should stop you from that.In your son’s place I would probably have shut my phone and, yeah, left the place. That’s probably the best and least problematic course, if you want to avoid trouble.

  2. I so share your fears about the ‘brave new world’ we re leaving for our children. Especially having lived in the many-wives section for a while… Even with many of the apparently moderate, the extremism is simmering under the surface. I don’t understand what went wrong with the world. With the advance of science and communication, niqabs and burqas were supposed to gradually fade away in a West to East direction. What we witness is just the opposite… Scary and sad.

  3. Either we were created by God or should thank monkeys and evolution, people used not to listen and not to talk to each other trying to understand. And our point of view change as often as our point of sitting changes. To continue your prologue I would say I respect atheists but hate when they are trying to convince believers it’s OK to dance in the church and it’s not any offensive (it IS and even for me, not religious person). Same with Charlie Hebdo – their sarcasm doesn’t have any limits when it comes to Muslims but where it was when their colleagues were killed (‘13th wage was close’, ‘Now I can use his mug!’ ‘More parking places for the rest staff’)? You say you respect believers but I’m sure you don’t agree with me on P.R. ‘ladies’, same with Hebdo. Here is the problem – claimed respect and true respect are not the same. As for your son’s situation – I would walk away thinking ‘idiots’, SAME way I would act with the P.R. fans or ‘Je suis Charlie’ clowns, none of them respect people with other opinion or way of living. Long talks is probably stronger position but I always say to myself ‘Never ever’, the wall would understand better. Now people are not too far from animals, instead of trying to understand Different, every group is sitting in their own nest repeating ‘yes. yes, it’s we to be right, yes!’ like parrots.

    1. Where all your arguments fall short is when it comes to retribution. Charlie Hebdo journalists were murdered, and Pussy Riot girls were sent to prison. Believers didn’t walk away from them thinking “Idiots”.

  4. I would tell the fanatic that he is not the messiah he is a very naughty boy 😉 haaha . I don’t have any religion. I’ve seen these fanatics and they are somewhat over ly passionate. I tend to ignore them and wonder what made them so over zealous. I am a respectful non believer. I get why a person would need guidance and a God in their life . I would rather take the credit for my successes and my mistakes and not leave it to the decision of an unseen God. II have actually said this in a post of mine a while back.

    1. I don’t think talking to fanatics is productive. Somehow, their reasoning abilities are severely limited, which is, perhaps, the reason why they become fanatics. And, believe me, reasoning with the ladies as shown in the photograph…can result in high blood pressure, ulcers, and, at least in Russia, imprisonment )

  5. There are so many wing nuts out there I would just turn and walk away. If you run they might chase after you. No point in arguing, you don’t know what part of the insane asylum you are dealing with.

  6. My dear friend, you and your son have all my sympathy.
    I am now old and when I was young I have been to school in a college of Catholic religious. I tried to study and understand all the different religions, monotheistic and polytheistic and at the end I realized that the human being is the only animal that needs to believe in something to survive.
    I do not believe in any god, I respect all religions, I never claimed to impose on others my ideas and I never bothered nobody, but I also expect others to respect me, my ideas and my way of thinking and living.
    I am a woman, already old, as I said, but I would fight like a tiger if someone wanted to force myself to live, dress, eat, work, think only on the basis of religious belief imposed by someone with the strength and arrogance.
    Unfortunately, ignorance and superstition are still part of our “civilization” and fanatics, of religions or other things, are also the most ignorant in any field.
    We must not forget all the religious wars and massacres in the past and unfortunately also still take place in many parts of this our poor earth.
    Good afternoon

  7. I am kind of in shock that a stranger intruded into your son’s life to the point of scrutinising what he was reading and then verbally and physically assaulting him because SHE was offended!

It would be grand to hear from you now!

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