Blasphemy, Redux

Two members of the United Nations, Pakistan and Algeria, have apparently introduced a measure to ban blasphemy. Actually they want an international treaty to protect religious symbols and beliefs from mockery.  This comes on the heels, and may be partially motivated by, the Islamic backlash a few years ago against the publication of certain cartoons depicting Muhammad. As most readers know, it’s taboo to make fun of the Islamic prophet. Indeed, a simple graphic depicting him is a no-no. So it’s a bit worrisome to people who live in countries such as ours that these religious wing-nuts in foreign lands think we should not be allowed to mock their religion.

Freedom of expression has long been the bedrock of modern western civilization, on the theory that ideas can’t suffer injury, only people can. The remedy for bad ideas is exposure to the marketplace of ideas. Religion is, at its heart, a series of ideas, often embodied in religious dogma. If one questions the validity of an idea, it only makes people think about whether the idea is acceptable. If one uses mockery to cause people to think about those ideas, there is no harm to anyone. A good idea can withstand mockery. Bad ones cannot, and shouldn’t.

So if one’s religious ideas, religious beliefs, or religious dogma are protected from scrutiny by formal treaties like the one being proposed here, or even by the informal threat of violence as happened with the Danish cartoons, those religious ideas are not really being protected, as much as being coddled, pampered and indulged. If the ideas are good, if they have value to society, then they should be able to withstand even the most virulent forms of mockery one can throw at them. If not, then they should be discarded. Let’s hope the US is successful in leading the way to seeing this proposal shot down.

Artificial protection of stupid ideas just preserves stupid ideas.

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!

19 thoughts on “Blasphemy, Redux

  1. If the ideas are good, if they have value to society, then they should be able to withstand even the most virulent forms of mockery one can throw at them.

    Some religionists think that mockery is a tool of Satan that leads fragile believers astray. Mockery and more serious forms of criticism make it difficult to control the flock and keep the sheep in their pens. And we simply can’t allow the sheep to wander off on their own – they might do something drastic, like reject religion!

  2. My main objection to a ban on blasphemy would be defining it suitably for all parties involved.

    [META] You’re not going to like this, but…

    Freedom of expression has long been the bedrock of modern western civilization, on the theory that ideas can’t suffer injury, only people can. The remedy for bad ideas is exposure to the marketplace of ideas. Religion is, at its heart, a series of ideas, often embodied in religious dogma. If one questions the validity of an idea, it only makes people think about whether the idea is acceptable. If one uses mockery to cause people to think about those ideas, there is no harm to anyone. A good idea can withstand mockery. Bad ones cannot, and shouldn’t.

    I agree, but this is pure hypocrisy in light of your treatment of Gideon. If there’s no harm in mockery to anyone, why did you get so harangued with Gideon that you censor and moderate him? Are you blind? If “bad ideas cannot withstand mockery” as you say, by definition this exposes your own ideas as bad ones, because they obviously couldn’t withstand Gideon’s mockery.

    So if one’s religious ideas, religious beliefs, or religious dogma are protected from scrutiny by formal treaties like the one being proposed here, or even by the informal threat of violence as happened with the Danish cartoons, those religious ideas are not really being protected, as much as being coddled, pampered and indulged.

    I agree, so quit coddling, pampering and indulging your own ideas about atheism by censoring those who mock them, else you’re no better than those you criticize here.

    If the ideas are good, if they have value to society, then they should be able to withstand even the most virulent forms of mockery one can throw at them.

    Again, I agree, and further opine that you should restore Gideon’s free reign – that is, if your ideas are good, and if they have value to society, such that they can withstand even Gideon’s most virulent form of mockery. [/META]

  3. I agree, and further opine that you should restore Gideon’s free reign

    Here’s the way I look at it.

    First, free expression is the right of the governed that cannot be infringed upon by the government. I am not a government, so Gideon has only those rights I grant him here. Period. He could have the same access everyone else does, including you, if he behaves properly, but he doesn’t seem to be able to do that.

    Second, if I invite someone into my house, and he proceeds to shit on the living room couch, I’m going to throw him out, never to return.

    That’s a better metaphor than trying to equate Gideons’ plight with the subject of the post. It has nothing to do with his mockery or his expression, it’s his civility I object to.

    When he shows he’s housebroken, he can come back. Time will tell.

    You, cl, simply encourage him in his incivility. Get your self a rolled up newspaper and whap him every time he gets out of line.

    That’s my last comment on that topic.

  4. SI

    I agree totally. If someone shit on my carpet and then laughed about it I would probably do a little more than kick him out of my house.

    cl

    Agree with me on this point. Gideon is a shithead, regardless of how nice he can be with you.

  5. Justify it all you want, SI. This isn’t your house, this is a blog. In the past you’ve said you “don’t have a comment policy” but you clearly do: you censor and moderate those who offend you. Then you write posts like this and I can’t for the life of me understand how you can’t seem to see the contradiction.

    The point is that your ideas should be able to stand mockery – just as you expect of the religious. You expect the right to be able to mock those who venerate Mohammed, right? You yourself reserver the right to mock religion, right? Then you should equally defend the right of anybody else to mock what you believe.

    It has nothing to do with his mockery or his expression, it’s his civility I object to.

    Oh, right.. but you never object to Philly’s “civility” now do you?

    You, cl, simply encourage him in his incivility. Get your self a rolled up newspaper and whap him every time he gets out of line.

    Why mislead? I can readily point to multiple links where I criticize Gideon for this or that. On the contrary, I bring you multiple links where your boy PhillyChief clearly crosses a line, or makes some undeniable breach of cogency, and you remain silent.

    I’ve shown on multiple occasions that I’m not on any team. Do the same to PhillyChief you hypocrite!

  6. Unlike actual fecal matter in the proximity of your own person and your family – which impose an empirical and hygienic burden one must work to remove – Gideon’s comments are mere words on a screen; in the final analysis, they pose no real threat except of course to the fragile egos of whoever they’re directed at, and require no work to remove.

    T4T,

    I thought I made my position on Gideon clear when you asked me here? Writing him off as “a shithead” is the same as Philly writing you off as “irrational” or “dense.” It’s futile. Gideon is a human being. Human beings can choose to act like shitheads at times. For reasons he felt justified, Gideon has acted like a shithead on this blog. It doesn’t make him any more of a shithead than we are when we act like shitheads on some point.

  7. cl

    I agree, but because of my sinful nature I typically beat the shit out of shitheads when they shit in my house. Do you kind of get what Im saying?

  8. Gideon’s not “shit in your house,” he’s not even on your blog, for that matter. He’s typed some words on a screen that offended a few egos. In that regard he’s no different than this blog’s host, or its resident AlphaMale, PhillyChief.

    However much somebody might mock or ridicule our ideas, they have a right to do so, and if we are going to mock ideas ourselves, we better suck it up when others mock ours.

    Do you get what I’m saying?

    • Says the guy who complains whenever someone treats him like Gideon treats others. Double standard noted.

  9. TOG,

    What you should note is this: I don’t complain because you or anyone else treats me bad; I couldn’t care less about what random people online think about me. Rather, I want to get to the bottom of things, and investing energy without reward is frustrating, so I complain about the diversion from logic encouraged that ensues when people treat others bad. Really, this is just what I’m always telling you: what’s the point in expressing the fact that we dislike another? How does it help solve any of the arguments? Seeing as it doesn’t, why is that so often your strategy?

    What is it that makes you want to lash out against me? You say you don’t have time to actually provide links to instances where I’m factually incorrect, yet you constantly seem to find time to express your dislike of me. Talk about double standards.

    • I expressed my thoughts on the post already: I disagree with those who censor free speech, because if their ideas have value, they should be able to withstand criticism.

      Artificial protection of stupid ideas just preserves stupid ideas.

      Indeed.

  10. I agree with the bulk of the post. I think the line we should draw is when it becomes hateful. Unfortunately some people’s skin is thinner than others.

  11. This could turn around and bite the radicals in the butt. How many times have we had theists claim that atheism is a religion? Atheists keep saying, “No, it is not. That’s why we start it with a small ‘a’.” Does this mean that, since theists have defined atheism as a religion, that all mockery, insults, insinuations, etc. about atheism and atheists would become verboten? Would worshippers of Satan (or (vice Reginald Genovese) satin) be protected from all opprobrium? Would all religions (even ones which acutally aren’t but have been defined as such by some (many) theists) be protected from insult an abuse, or only the ones with enough political and military might to force protection?

    Would mocking Scientologists be punished? If so, why?

    Artificial protection of stupid ideas just preserves stupid ideas.

    Which explains the continued existence of many of the faith-based ideas which pass for conservatism in this sad age.

  12. Wow, it didn’t take much for the Douchebag to completely reroute the discussion away from the OP. Why you all let him play you like a fiddle is beyond me.

    So back to the OP…

    The reason why these measures aren’t simply laughed out of serious discussions is due to this extreme Lefty nonsense. Somehow the intent of fostering tolerance and inclusion has been stretched so far that it’s now protecting intolerance and exclusion! The irony would be laughable if the ramifications weren’t so potentially devastating. Yes, it’s wrong to discriminate against Muslims for being Muslim BUT if being Muslim means stoning women for getting raped for instance, then it’s not discrimination or religious persecution to oppose that behavior or punish those who engage in it.

    In this country, the Christians are taking cues from the Muslims exploited this misguided Lefty crap by trying to argue that their discrimination against gays is somehow religious expression and therefore a protected behavior. Hell, they’ve gotten away with killing their children for decades as refusing medical care was considered protected religious expression. Thankfully in WS at least, that’s no longer the case.

  13. The OP had to do with censoring those who mock beliefs. SI censors those who mock his beliefs. The discussion was not rerouted.

    • 🙄 Yep. And you had your say, I answered it, everyone else got to comment, now let’s move on.

      Philly makes a point that interests me.

      Yes, it’s wrong to discriminate against Muslims for being Muslim BUT if being Muslim means stoning women for getting raped for instance, then it’s not discrimination or religious persecution to oppose that behavior or punish those who engage in it.

      It seems to me that when religion is strictly about beliefs, then of course everyone should be protected by what we call our 1st Amendment rights, i.e. the free practice of religion. If someone wants to believe the nonsense in most of the scriptures (not just Christian, but Muslim, Hindu, etc) then of course they should have the absolute right to believe whatever they want – in the privacy of their own minds. The right to the free practice of religion should not extend beyond that. Go to church with your buddies, mumble prayers to your god, light candles, say rosaries, give to charity, whatever. But when you impose those beliefs in a manner that impacts my rights to believe otherwise, then…

      When beliefs cross that membrane that surrounds the brain, however, all bets are off. I think human rights trump religious rights every day (and twice on Sundays), because I think religion is used as a excuse to violate human rights. Anti-gay, anti-women, anti-non-missionary sex, anti-Muslim. It’s really all the same thing. Men in power trying to protect their hegemony, and they use religion, a patriarchal institution from the very beginning, to do so.

  14. I think human rights trump religious rights every day (and twice on Sundays), because I think religion is used as a excuse to violate human rights.

    Only twice? More seriously, if religion were only about what people believe, we wouldn’t be blogging, we wouldn’t have to contest stupid ideas like blasphemy laws and ID/creationism as science and on and on and on…. The problem is, people behave on the basis of their beliefs. Some behaviors are innocuous: they can go to church/mosque/synagogue/temple on Sundays, I’ll stay home and enjoy a leisurely brunch; they can tithe/sacrifice goats, I’ll donate to the cancer society, and so on.

    In secular societies, we have agreed that human rights trump religious rights, which means, at the very least, that religious behaviors should only be permissible as long as they don’t harm or endanger others. If religionists want to hate homosexuals, they’re free to do that. We can’t legislate attitudes any more than we can legislate beliefs. But, we can, should and do draw the line at indulging in discriminatory or harmful behaviors against homosexuals, or adulterers, or people who *gasp* have sex before marriage.

Comments are closed.