Religion’s fair game – but lay off the raisins

Last week, during a conversation on Twitter about the relative merits of chocolate raisins and chocolate nuts, I was unexpectedly told that I wasn't to be trusted because I believe in 'an invisible man in the sky and a Jewish zombie'.

I confess that I was a bit taken aback at how such a trivial debate had suddenly turned into a personal attack on my Christian beliefs.

I can only assume that the man behind the message was a fanatical follower of chocolate nuts and was deeply offended by the way that I spoke against this abomination of a snack.

I fear that there will soon be as much hostility between the chocolate raisin devotees and the chocolate nut loyalists as between the People's Front of Judea and the Judean People's Front (splitters) in The Life of Brian.

Technically, I might have been a victim of religiously-aggravated abuse. And my human rights must have been breached.

Perhaps I should have made some placards, gathered a crowd of fundamentalists and staged a protest outside Twitter HQ, which is probably on Tweet Street.

But, having just spent some time with some fellow Christians in India, I decided it was best to 'turn the other cheek'.

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You see, among the people I call my friends in that remarkable country are a man who has been beaten severely on three occasions for believing in Jesus and another whose wife was murdered by her family because she converted from Hinduism to Christianity.

Remarkably, they both opted to forgive the attackers, so it'd be a bit rich of me to get my knickers in a twist about a near-the-knuckle comment on a social networking site.

Unfortunately, too many Christians do get worked up about their 'rights'.

Consider the furore about Jerry Springer: The Opera, which some Christians were so angry about that they kicked up enough fuss to ensure that everybody wanted to watch it.

Then there are the occasional employment tribunals about the 'right' to have Sundays off or to wear a crucifix. To me, such things are external decorations, and expendable add-ons to a faith that is about the inside.

Last week, BBC director-general Mark Thompson said Christianity was treated with far less sensitivity in Britain than other religions because it was 'pretty broad-shouldered'.

That has probably got millions of teeth gnashing, particularly among those who peculiarly tie Christianity up with our national identity. But I rejoice when I hear such comments.

Religions should not be exempt from satire, acerbic comment, cynicism or even outright rage. And they certainly should not be given a wide berth by the media just because there might be a reaction if a line is crossed.

If what they preach is true, they should indeed be 'broad-shouldered' enough to cope with it.

Christians should be able to roll with the punches, endure abuse and not become too perturbed. It's part of the job description drawn up by Jesus, who famously preached restraint.

When I was at school, I was an avowed atheist who used to make people's lives a misery for being Christians. Now I'm in the fold, so it's payback time.

Hopefully, I'm strong enough to let any teasing – or even anger – about my faith pass me by. Just don't have a pop at chocolate raisins.

•This article was first published on February 28, 2012.