This is an extremely necessary event. Governments and religions are trying to pass laws to prevent you from saying anything that would offend someone’s religious sensibilities. Such laws prevent the free and open exchange of ideas, and are often used against religious minorities. That’s why it’s important to take up your right to express even disrespectful views on important topics.
If you like Good Reason for the atheism, but not so much for the linguistics, then this episode of Talk the Talk might be for you. It’s about blasphemy, the recent Muslim film riots, and the need for Blasphemy Day (which is September 30 — get your costumes early!).
It’s a little soap-boxy, but I said what I wanted to say: The right to question — and even ridicule — religious ideas is important. There needs to be a way of saying, “This is a bad idea.” It’s wrong to give up that right just because it will hurt someone’s feelings. If someone is willing to resort to violence and murder when their ideas aren’t treated with kid gloves, then this is an admission that their ideas aren’t defensible using regular means, and are invalid. Muslims, I’m looking at you.
On the other hand not all religious people lose their shit when they get sent up. Even though I have no love for the Mormon Church, I do cite them as an example of how to respond to criticism and mockery.
It was fun to be a bit blasphemous on the radio, and it was fun to watch Jess Allen squirm more and more throughout the interview. The look on her face when she heard “Hasa Diga Eebowai” for the first time was truly priceless — I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
One-off show: Here
Subscribe via iTunes: Here
Show notes: Here
It was Orientation Day on campus. People can sign up for clubs (including the UWA Atheist and Skeptic Society), and there are always tons of church groups doing their schtick. So I like to see what’s out there.
Here’s a conversation I had. It went pretty much just like this.
May 20th was ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day’, part 2. It went nearly unnoticed, what with all the excitement over God’s latest mistake.
I didn’t draw Mohammed this year. For one thing, I did it last year, and I didn’t think I could improve on it. But the main reason is that the conditions are a little different this year.
I don’t have a problem with blasphemy, mockery, or confrontation. I think these tools can be valid and justifiable responses in cases where believers are making threats of violence or unreasonable demands for complicity or respect. But I do make decisions as to when I’m going to use such tools.
Last year, Muslims were making unreasonable demands that non-Muslims obey the rules of their religion, and some individuals were making specific threats of violence against Molly Norris (originator of ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day’) and against the creators of South Park. Under these circumstances, I decided that it was appropriate to join a concerted effort in direct confrontation to these demands.
This year, though, the issue hasn’t been on my radar. If there have been any credible threats made, I haven’t heard of them. Good. That’s how I like it.
Maybe not much has changed since last year. Many Muslims are still hypersensitive to criticism — witness their attempts to influence the UN to outlaw criticism of Islam — and this needs to be addressed until they learn that their religious views are no more entitled to respect than anyone else’s. However, I’m content to let the cartoon issue rest until such time as believers — Muslim or otherwise — try to use coercion or threats to curtail freedom of expression. When they do, it will once again be time to protest with pen or keyboard.
I’ve been ignoring the European burqa ban. It’s fraught. Nonetheless, the issue marches on. Recent attention has focused on France.
French burka ban: police arrest two veiled women
French police arrested two veiled women this morning just hours after the country’s new ban on wearing the burka in public came into force.
The women were arrested along with several other people protesting in front of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris against the new law.
Jourrnalists at the scene said the arrests came after police moved in to break up the protest which had not been authorised.
On Saturday police arrested 59 people, including 19 veiled women, who turned up for a banned protest in Paris against the draconian new law, the first of its kind to be enforced in Europe.
Earlier, French police said they will be enforcing the country’s new burka ban “extremely cautiously” because of fears of provoking violence.
To start off, I think the covering is a repressive religious tactic to keep women under wraps and under control.
On the other hand, if I wanted to flaunt my stuff rocking a burqa (or anything else that covers my bits), why should the government stop me? Good on those protesters for their civil disobedience. (Something one hasn’t always seen from certain quarters.) We don’t want the law to be just another form of coercion, unless some better good is served, like the liberation of women from religious tyranny.
Which brings up a point: Burqa bans do not automatically lead to female emancipation. When the Shah of Iran banned it (I am told), many women were accustomed to it, and would never have appeared outside without it. So they just didn’t go outside. But that just shows that religious tyranny, when entrenched, creates unfortunate situations of moral conflict for believers.
If there is a principle behind the burqa ban, it could be worded like this: People should be allowed to wear what they want, free of coercion. Unfortunately, it’s not simple to tell what someone ‘wants’, or when someone is being coerced. People can report that they want things that they have been coerced into wanting. The fact that the burqa is associated with religion tells me that, ipso facto, there’s some coercion going on. I have no doubt that women who wear burqas will tell you they ‘want’ to wear it, just as Mormon women will happily tell you they don’t ‘want’ the priesthood.
So, let’s give both sides their due. I think forced burqa wearing is coercive, and I’ll even allow that government prohibition of the burqa is also coercive. Which leaves Muslim women caught in the unenviable middle.
(Notice that I’m not touching the ‘security risk’ side of the argument. I think it’s bullshit, like all security theatre.)
But even though I can’t stand ostentatiously religious and/or oppressive clothing, I’m reluctantly coming down against the burqa ban. Two things are pushing me. One: Legislating against the rights of minorities is a Very Bad Thing, and I can only think of a few things that would justify it. Harming bystanders or children would be two. These women are adults. Maybe they are in a coercive environment. Yes, that is messed up. I wish it weren’t so. But we can fight this in better ways than controlling how people dress. If they can be told what not to wear, I can be told what not to wear. Will I be told not to wear my patently offensive ‘Gay Jesus’ t-shirt? Come on.
Two: The law also gives right-wing jerks the ability to push minorities around. Forget that.
Not everyone was so impressed. Former Utahn Daniel Midgley, an ex-Mormon atheist who writes the blog Good Reason — goodreasonblog.blogspot.com — argued that those who find anything miraculous in the fire are “cherry-picking” the facts.
“One might wonder why the Mormon god would allow a church building to be destroyed by fire as he watches, pitiless and indifferent to human affairs,” Midgley wrote. “One might even wonder what message he intends to send. Perhaps an Old Testament-style message of anger and vengeance! The fire and destruction symbolic of the wrath to come. … But wait! It’s a Christmas miracle!”
In Midgley’s view, those who saw God’s hand in the scarred painting of Christ were using the same sort of broken logic that would allow some to see a “miracle” in a plane crash in which hundreds die and one person survives. Believers are quick to make such connections, Midgley wrote, “because in the face of disaster, there are only two possible outcomes — either your faith is boosted or your faith is boosted more. You have to admire their optimism, at least.”
I like the sound of ‘Former Utahn’, but does it count if you were only going to BYU? Will my LDS relatives notice my name and discover I’m an ex-Mormon atheist? Of course not. They all read the Deseret News.
Anyway, a big hello to all Tribune readers! I hope you either chortle with unholy mirth, or are offended. Either way, have a look around and comment if you wish.
Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan ‘for blasphemy’
A Christian woman has been sentenced to hang in Pakistan after being convicted of defaming the Prophet Mohammed.
Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother-of-five, denies blasphemy and told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination.
Christian groups and human rights campaigners condemned the verdict and called for the blasphemy laws to be repealed.
I don’t know if this is for real or not (it’s the Telegraph, after all), but it makes no sense. Of course Christians blaspheme against Muslims. And Muslims against Christians. And everybody against everybody.
Every religion that makes exclusivist claims automatically and constantly blasphemes every other religion, by implying that those other religions are untrue.
I just hope it doesn’t get this person killed. Just another reason why blasphemy laws have no place in a world where ideas can be exchanged freely and openly.