So many people have been saying so much that is right about the atrocious killings by Islamic extremists of staffers at a French satirical magazine, I don't feel that I can add much to the 100% justified outrage.
This is what happens when religiosity goes over the brink.
For me, the big question is: who is responsible for the possibility, indeed obvious likelihood, given the course of history, that religious true believers will act in murderous, violent, oppressive, or other unacceptable ways?
On the whole, my sympathies are with those, like Sam Harris, who argue that "moderate" religion provides the foundation for "extreme" religion.
That is, once we accept that A, B, and C are the must-obey commandments of God, it isn't that much of a leap for true believers to consider that X, Y, and Z also are required actions to curry the favor of the Big Guy Upstairs.
Including killing those who make fun of the Prophet Muhammad by drawing cartoons of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Drawn.
This is an opportunity to remind people that if you can't take a joke about your religion, or hear criticism of it, you shouldn't be visiting a blog called Church of the Churchless. Or if you do, accept that you're gong to be offended.
And if commenters on a blog post wonder why I usually give the last word to the skeptical faithless in a "you're a jerk; no you're a jerk" series of comment interactions, it's because -- duh -- this is the Church of the Churchless, not the Church of the Churched.
Making fun of religion always will get priority here over respecting absurd dogma.
Here's a few commentaries from other people that I resonated with.
"The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders," in The New Yorker. Excerpt:
A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique.
Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too—but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism.
For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.
"The Blasphemy We Need," in the New York Times. Excerpt:
In the wake of the vicious murders at the offices of the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo today, let me offer three tentative premises about blasphemy in a free society.
1) The right to blaspheme (and otherwise give offense) is essential to the liberal order.
2) There is no duty to blaspheme, a society’s liberty is not proportional to the quantity of blasphemy it produces, and under many circumstances the choice to give offense (religious and otherwise) can be reasonably criticized as pointlessly antagonizing, needlessly cruel, or simply stupid.
3) The legitimacy and wisdom of criticism directed at offensive speech is generally inversely proportional to the level of mortal danger that the blasphemer brings upon himself.
I have always felt ridiculing another to be a tad distasteful...I was taught a lovely poem as child, it goes like this....When I was at a party, said Betty aged just four a little girl fell of her chair, right down upon the floor, and all the other girls began to laugh, but me I din't laugh a bit...And why did't you laugh my darling asked her mother, or don't you like to tell, bless her little heart, that Betty had been so sweet and kind..I did't laugh said Betty, cause I'm the one that fell..
Posted by: june schlebusch | January 09, 2015 at 01:47 PM
June, humans are often ridiculous, and especially when they believe what they want to believe, in spite of there being no credible evidence to support their heartfelt belief. If it's wrong to laugh at such foolishness, if irrational believers can't be ridiculed, then only nonsense and wishful thinking can be taken seriously. Is that the world you want to live in?
Whether you believe what a vegetarian guru has declared as Truth, or what vengeful, murderous Islamists have declared as Truth, you're supporting madness and violence, no matter how non-violent you try to be. Wake up.
Posted by: x | January 09, 2015 at 04:38 PM
I am as appalled by the terrorism inflicted by radical Islamists as is the rest of civilization. My comments have been to point out that elements of Christianity are not above seeking to dismantle the barrier that we cherish between the functions of the state and the functions of faith. I have also tried to point out that these terrorist acts are political acts for which faith is the outer cloth and that we cannot stop such acts until we treat the underlying political issues.
I highly recommend Burning to Read by James Simpson (Belknap, Harvard, 2007). In Burning to Read Simpson analyzes the emergence of Protestant fundamentalism. While focused on the period of the Reformation, his message is clearly directed at the 21st Century. He writes to rebut the notion that the spread of the Bible in the vernacular should be seen as a foundation block of liberalism and to rebut the idea that the Reformation in any way led to the Bill of Rights and to religious toleration.
Simpson persuasively argues the contrary. Though I take issue with his suggestion that historians have drawn any linkage between the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Bill of Rights, Simpson’s analysis that the roots of fundamentalism lie in the weight given to Scripture as the literal Word of God helps to frame our understanding of religious fundamentalism of all stripes today.
Burning to Read stands as a warning to liberals and to anyone who assumes that Evangelical Christianity can co-exist with a secular world. Simpson’s analysis of what the Reformers preached is straightforward:
Mankind does not have free will;
Mankind is predestined to salvation or damnation;
Salvation is through faith and the Grace of God alone;
Mankind cannot achieve salvation or redemption through works;
Scripture is the literal Word of God. To add to or take away a single word is heresy. There is no history. History as determined from the outset and any action by man is merely confirmation or reenactment of a drama that replays itself from the Fall of Man to the End of Time.
Luther: Faith trumps works. Predestination - history is over before it begins.
The evangelical God has deterministically decided everything in advance.
Original Sin: Man is doomed unless saved by the Grace of God.
The Scriptures as the Word of God are literally true.
The reader is either saved or not saved. The reader, possibly damned from birth, cannot expect any reward from following the dictates of Scripture.
Evangelical history does not develop so much as manifest the historical drama of law and Gospel in each moment. In each moment God’s actions are immanent and legible - not as an unfolding history, but a sequence of moments, each of which replays the same intense drama.
For Luther “tradition” is pejorative, “the stinking puddles of men’s traditions”
Luther: “The Word of God and the traditions of men are irreconcilably opposed to one another, precisely as God and Satan are mutually opposed, each destroying the works and subverting the dogmas of the other.”
Though some suggest that I should get out of the 16th Century, the evangelical movement today shares many characteristics with radical Islam. Over the past 80 years we have seen millions die because they adhered to the wrong faith. Today we find a drive to use the powers of the state to impose standards on all of us that can only be justified by how the Bible ought to be read - and I see no difference whatsoever between that and the goals of radical Islam.
There is no room in their world view for satire. Anything that criticizes the foundations of their beliefs is heresy and/or blasphemy. You and I came of age when the final barriers to free expression came down. But Evangelicals and conservatives of any faith still adhere to values that find Charlie Hebdo offensive. I have been reading Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind.” Religions and the Right and Conservatism in general place a great emphasis on loyalty, authority, and sanctity while we degenerate liberals focus on care, liberty and fairness. He argues that this puts liberals at a disadvantage politically because we downplay the rôle of community. To violate community standards is to place oneself outside of the community, even if it is not your community.
What this means is that everything you write in this blog is blasphemy to anyone who believes that secular society needs reforming. Our society, that which our Constitution frames, needs to recognize how that Document seeks to reconcile the thorny relationships between secular and sacred. Each has to fundamentally accept the existence of the other though each may find the other to be an ultimate evil. This is something only the mature can do; and we have a tremendous shortage of mature individuals.
Posted by: Richard van Pelt | January 09, 2015 at 05:00 PM
Each has to fundamentally accept the existence of the other though each may find the other to be an ultimate evil.
The "existence of the other" is not in question, but the nature of evil is. If it isn't evil to forcefully assert and stubbornly insist on the existence of what there's no evidence of, it's certainly insane, and this kind of insanity is deserving of ridicule, at the very least.
Posted by: x | January 09, 2015 at 06:20 PM
How do you know there is a God not to believe in when He is so much part of your life that you talk about Him all the time. God doe not need a church, he needs a soul. So, your out of luck Brian! God loves you no matter what and you can't stop thinking about Him! LOL, I can see you know being dragged kicking and screaming into Heaven. As for me, I get kicked out of every church I have ever tried to attend. I stick to the forests, and God is good with that.
Posted by: Jayne Miller | January 09, 2015 at 08:54 PM
Kudos, Brian, for tackling head on the elephant in the room.
This is the sort of topic that most choose to simply ignore. And quite understandably too! The views of commenters like us are cheap, since we generally comment anonymously (most of us, that is). It takes real courage to come out with plainly stated views on things of this nature while in plain view of all. Which is why the elephant is elephantine in the first place. Kudos!
(And, on a personal note : Take it easy, friend! Kudos aren’t worth risking body blows. Principles—as opposed to simply kudos—may be worth that risk, I suppose, but then body blows are body blows. So take care! But of course, that’s the coward—if also the well-wisher—in me speaking.)
Like the Dickensian diner who keeps asking for more (without ever having to sign the check at the end of the meal), may I point out at another pachyderm lurking in the dark? (Can elephants lurk? Correct that to : standing there in plain sight, glowering silently, and challenging us to speak out if we dare.)
I refer to the Israeli nation. Built basis religion, built basis hot air. Text-book example of religion, politics, economics, and all sorts of complex forces coming together to create a center of power that leans on religion and blind faith as its primary support. No more than what the murderous Caliph is trying to do, except the former is a fait accompli, more or less. Very many dissimilarities between the two animals, of course : but also many essential similarities. If one’s a huge black creature with tusks and trunk, so’s the other (even if they do have very different personalities).
No, I have no political affiliations (where this issue is concerned). Wholly neutral to this issue, really, other than at this talk-talk (or write-write, no make that type-type) level. But I find it difficult to fix my attention on just one elephant when actually there are clearly two of them thrashing around. Even if just one of them is trampling innocent bystanders. Even if the other seems to have won some past battles decisively, through both wile and strength and happenstance. (Because, after all, so has the other one, in both instances : if you only widen your vision far enough. The status quo is a tactical landmark, not a moral or ethical one.)
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | January 10, 2015 at 04:32 AM
My my, x is it Malcolm x, x men, or just plain x marks the spot? You certainly take the moral high ground here with most of the bloggers..You most definetly sound like you are on a jihad against anyone that can,t prove anything you don't except as reality..Tell me have you ever met, and spent time with any of the gurus..Well those vegetarian gurus, by there practice, taught me not to judge anyone by there cast, colour or creed, and for that I am truly grateful..If you missed the point I was trying to make by my poem You Need to Wake Up.
Posted by: june schlebusch | January 10, 2015 at 07:55 AM
Appreciative Reader, spot on about the two elephants..The ancient battle between Ishmael and Isaac rages on....And we are caught in the middle...How about some balance here..One of the cartoonists at Charlie was fired because of anti semitic cartoons but the Muslims are a free for all...Double standards the way I see it.
Posted by: june schlebusch | January 10, 2015 at 02:28 PM
No one mentioned the possibility of a False Flag event, for France, for the Zionist Agents to seize the current Political conditions of France to start imposing the same type of Police State that the U.S.,has become since 9/11 events.
Posted by: Jim Sutherland | January 10, 2015 at 04:01 PM
Thanks, June. I’m glad you agree with some of the things I said.
You’re absolutely right about the ridiculously sacrosanct Holy Kosher Cow that everything Jewish seems to have become these days. The double standard is truly appalling. Think of—to take a jejune example that comes at random to mind—what happens when a drunk actor is found slurring out anti-Semitic cusses. Actors are not exactly the guardians of our morals, and excess of drink is not generally conducive to pious speech, we all know that. That a drunk actor will talk nonsense is obvious. The fact that Mel Gibson’s nonsense involved anti-Semitic cusses made the whole world turn on him as if he were some kind of child molester or similar unspeakable criminal. And yet we do merrily condone cussing Muslims, like you point out. Truly appalling double standards!
Had they really fired some cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo for anti-Semitism? Hadn’t heard of that one. Ironic! One really doesn’t know what to say to something as hypocritical as that!
But there are double standards everywhere! Take the Muslims themselves. (I mean the visible ugly face of Islam. There are good and tolerant Muslims too, I well know that. But the “ugly Muslims” are generally the visible ones—the ones visible as Muslims qua Muslims, I mean to say, as opposed to visible as Muslim musicians or Muslim writers or whatever—and besides, these “ugly Muslims”, while no doubt in minority, are still large enough in numbers to be justifiably thought of as a significant part of what Islam actually is, de facto.) These Muslims merrily cuss out other faiths and followers of those faiths (the Jesus-religion, to take a recent example from Greater Arabia) ; and after all, Mel Gibson was merely ostracized (by some), while Jesus-worshipping Kuffars are often jailed and sometimes actually killed in Muslim lands. And the bearded ones merrily destroy holy shrines of other faiths, displaying a brutal barbarity that makes it difficult to believe these are men, human beings : think of those ancient giant Buddha statues these apes barukaaed to rubble some years back. I fully agree with you when you say that we are biased when we allow the dissing of Muslims, while at the same time blanching like outraged virgin maidens from some middle-age fable when something Jewish is so dissed. But still, for these Muslims themselves, who go around dissing everyone but their own precious religion and Prophet (PBUH), and actually killing when they can those that are not sufficiently kosher (sorry, I mean sufficiently halal) : for these murderous bigots to blush indignantly under their beards when their own faith is laughed at, that’s a bit rich, don’t you think? That is double standards with icing on top, that is hypocrisy on steroids!
Yes, we do need to do away with double standards. But the way to implement the doing away of this hypocrisy is not by further extending the reach of our hypocrisy. The solution cannot be to make every cow holy, to compensate for the one holy cow we’ve got in our midst. The solution is to look at all cows as ordinary cows, and have no holy cows at all.
I’m afraid, June, that I agree with the main thesis of Brian’s post here. The answer is that EVERYONE should be fair game for ridicule. There can be no holy cows in a free society. (I was only trying to point out, in my comment above, the direct and inevitable corollary of this No Holy Cows philosophy, that we generally don’t see, or perhaps refuse to see : that we need to stop saying “there there, don’t cry little one, we’ll kiss it away” every time an Israeli fighter pilot scratches his thumb when he presses the lever that will drop bombs on Palestinian women and children. That we need to stop whipping poor Mel Gibson, and leave him peacefully to his bottle—arresting him for rowdy behavior if called for, certainly, but not comparing him with Hitler just because he got drunk. As well as stop firing cartoonists who make anti-Semitic jokes.)
Charlie Hebdo did no wrong. They were guilty of nothing more than bad taste. And that last (their execrable taste) is an entirely subjective evaluation : there are at least ten thousand people or so (all subscribers to this weekly) who clearly find that brand of humor wholly to their own taste, and actually pay for a dose of that humor every week. There can be no excusing those murderers, and no empathizing with the other Muslims who go around feeling aggrieved at real and imagined slights to their faith, even as they do nothing about Muslims who go slighting and killing people of other faiths.
Although your own comment (the very first one in this post) is right too. There is certainly such a thing as good taste and bad taste. I myself wouldn’t dream of paying good money to read a rag like Charlie. I haven’t seen their work myself (except for some of the very commonplace stuff they’re showing on TV and in newspapers ever since the killings), but by most accounts they seem to be vulgar and crude and not particularly brilliant or witty or funny, and I myself probably wouldn’t waste any time on something like that even if it were delivered to me free of charge. Nor do I particularly like the sight of the faithful (even when they’re credulous believers) insulted and dissed out, generally speaking, by those who do not share their faith. But one man’s poor taste is another man’s culinary perfection, entirely subjective I mean to say. I don’t see what else we can do but agree to live with tastes repugnant to us, if we are not to descend to some kind of totalitarian hell. We can always choose to personally stay away from things and people that repel us.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | January 12, 2015 at 04:45 AM
Yes appreciative reader, Maurice Sinet 86 writing under name Sine was fired in 2009 for saying that Sarkozy son who converted to Judaism when he married a Jewish heiress did it for financial reasons..It caused a big fuss in Paris..He is reported to say "That little lad will go far in life" Its all on Google and lots more...I do not support terrorism either but subversive terrorism is just as dangerous....All of this makes the gurus look rather mellow, they at least don't get involved in such things.
Posted by: june schlebusch | January 12, 2015 at 11:30 AM