Blasphemy is legal, and should always remain so



20 Responses to “Blasphemy is legal, and should always remain so”

  1. 1 Bill Kerr

    It’s a mistake to confuse the right to blaspheme with the political error of the actual promotion of blasphemy. The latter avoids the truth that many religious people support a variety of progressive causes and / or there are positive practical outcomes arising from the application of some of their cultural beliefs. To actively promote blasphemy of the type above represents a denial of united front politics. It is like working together with a religious person on a common cause while at the same time ridiculing them for their beliefs. Well, obviously if you are going to piss someone off they won’t work with you.

  2. 2 Steve Owens

    I think that the question to ask is, Is the act of blaspheme an act of rebellion or an act of oppression?
    In a christian dominated society blaspheme against Christianity is an act of rebellion.
    If Christians blaspheme against Islam then this is not rebellion but just intolerance at best and racism at worst.
    So I guess that context is what matters in judging blaspheme as progressive or reactionary

  3. 3 tomb

    the issue here is that clearly there are not enough anti religious events. This debate would not exist if it is was a regular occurence. The religious fanatics have been successful in shutting people up and the political correcto’s have assisted in this. It is only blaspheme if you are a believer otherwise it is just a poor joke. Religion isn’t a race so one might be arrogant but not racist.

    If I am in a united front then it will be clear what we are united on and it won’t be religion. In a united front one doesn’t attack those they are united with but the political battle continues.

    The question for me is how do we get these people up to speed with modern society? Walking on eggshells won’t do it. The reality is it is an incredibly backward culture and people in the developed world that support religion are not supporting that religion but rather that culture are opportunists or crazy. We need to attack religion more than we currently do.

  4. 4 Bill Kerr

    Look at your final paragraph and then compare it with what was done by (a) Bush and co. (b) LastSuperpower in response to 9/11. The appropriate response was not attacking religion more as such but an analysis and policy that leads to draining the swamp. Bush’s re-election was a secular success. Perhaps as a Christian he had a better understanding of the role of the secular state then some of the atheists around this place.

    An unfinished critique of IslamoFascism (clumsy word) is not the same thing as a general call to attack religion. Bull in a China shop is an alternative metaphor to walking on eggshells.

    The response of Hitchens, Dawkins et al to start an anti religious crusade was not particularly effective. Religion tends to wither away as capitalist society develops. Getting mixed up with what is primary (development) and what is secondary (anti religion) isn’t all that helpful. Has anyone heard of Karl Marx?

    Nevertheless, Hitchens in his debates was erudite and didn’t resort to blamphemy or at least blasphemy as a fashion statement without any supporting argument, as this post does. It was just that they cherry picked the worst aspects of religion and distorted reality in the process. For example, the subtitle of Hitchens book, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Hitchens himself admitted that that was added by his publisher to provocatively increase sales.

  5. 5 Bill Kerr

    > In a christian dominated society blaspheme against Christianity is an act of rebellion

    Well we live in a secular society, not a christian dominated one. So what is your point?

    Galileo lived in a christian dominated society. Doing science was far more effective than blasphemy. The Church had to take him seriously and couldn’t dismiss him as a provocative idiot.

  6. 6 Steve Owens

    Bill the dominant religion in countries similar to ours is Christianity. Blaspheme towards Christianity in our society is an act of rebellion. Blaspheme in our society weakens one of the ruling classes main props. Yes it was a stronger prop when Galileo was alive and yes promotion of science is a better way to defeat religious ideas but we are not talking about science promotion we are talking about blaspheme and an appropriate response to it.
    Blaspheme towards minority religions and religions in foreign countries is usually a response of people who want to defend the worst aspects of our society. Blaspheme towards the religions of minorities can be understood as a racist response.

  7. 7 steve owens

    If you don’t think there’s a link between these prominent US blasphemers and racism how do you explain this
    Just a casual relationship I guess

  8. 8 Steve Owens

    Bill I dont see why you guys can’t see the racism connection.
    When an old white guy simulates a lynching in Florida I bet everyone there gets the message. When that same old white guy burns the Koran we are supposed to see some artistic or freedom of speech merit.
    BTW theres a great movie called Rosewood (I think) about the massacre of a whole community of blacks in Florida. Anyhow Im sure the people of Florida get the symbolism even if people in Australia don’t.

  9. 9 tomb

    When I say we need to attack religion that doesn’t mean actually fighting people. We need to attack religion and show how it is backward and expose why it is redundant and people can let it go. If others ridicule it then that is what happens when you believe in stupid things and I don’t advocate it but don’t care if it happens, again, a bad joke. I do see people who attack religion as being on the correct side and if they do it badly then they do it badly but are on the right side. Steve’s examples as usual way off the point religious people attacking each other is not racist!!!

  10. 10 tomb

    Bill, think we have a different idea regarding united fronts. I don’t see them as clubs or groups of friends. I see them as groups coming together over an issue or issues. (that would never be religion for me)The groups are independent and have different views on a range of issues and pursue different politics. Within the united front we do not attack each other but focus on what unites us. Outside the united front we pursue our own political struggles and issues. If I am in a united front with people who support capitalism or feudalism and there organisation makes a joke of something my organisation supports then I won’t withdraw from the united front and won’t run crying from the room. Also I will continue to make jokes about capitalism and feudalism and expect they wouldn’t care either. Within the united front we would stick to what unites us not what divides us. We are both there because we see the advantages of the united front for all organisations in it. No eggshells!!!

    If an organisation will only join the united front if all involved subscribe to there philosophy or have to withhold any criticism of it anytime anywhere then they can’t join.

    I am not in a formal united front with anyone at the minute. I fail to understand why religion should get special treatment in a united front.

  11. 11 Bill Kerr

    hi tom,

    I am in a united front with Christian people on issues to do with indigenous education. Actually, some of them are in front because they understand the issues better. That’s the issue really, they are in front and I’m learning from them. Religion is a non issue, it’s not relevant and doesn’t get discussed. I suppose because I respect their work in general that I’m respectful of their beliefs too. I’d avoid anti religious remarks in their presence.

    This isn’t the first time. One that really sticks in my head was a group of Jehova’s who were the best students in a school where the surrounding environment was part working class and a good part lumpen. Think Snowtown, the movie. I came to understand that the reason aboriginal families joined this group was because it offered a place of stability in an unstable society. It was productive for the education of their children.

    I haven’t actually read Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton but I did hear him on the radio and found him interesting. He was saying that religion has developed various rituals and that humans need some of those rituals, that they are culturally rich. That is the sort of issue I would like to discuss. I’m willing to be persuaded either way on that one.

    I think YMs post failed to hit the nail on the head, given the current context. He’s making a generalised point about blasphemy being legal and should remain so. But should we on this site actually publish blasphemy that is offensive by our own standards? It’s immature IMO.

    I did look up some old material by Hitchens (about the Danish cartoons) and Salman Rushdie about this. Also the wikipedia entry on Innocence of Mushlims is worth reading. Rushdie has just published a memoir which is relevant. Anyway, there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm here to discuss the issue I have raised. But perhaps I didn’t express myself clearly in the first instance. Such is life. Move on.

  12. 12 tomb

    Bill I do think there is a lag between economic development and cultural change. I am not sure how to speed this process up. Perhaps rituals are necessary but doubt they have to be religious or stupid. A lot of people hang on to superstition. Think we need to help them move on.

    Agree if working with religious people I personally would not be initiating discussions re religion but would be aware they would be wanting to recruit people to religion and I would be wanting to get them out of religion. I haven’t seen the clip so don’t know how bad the joke was but can perceive many bad jokes re other organisations when in a united front and would be disappointed that the joke was immature or bad but not that it attacked the philosophy of another organisation.

  13. 13 byork

    I think the right to offend trumps the need to be polite to religious belief – be it majority or minority religion. But this discussion, the one in this thread, only happens because we’re not connected to any real struggle that involves actual effort to unite with others toward a common goal.

    During the Vietnam solidarity movement and anti-apartheid struggle in the 1960s and 1970s, I worked with heaps of religious individuals, including a few clergy, and the issue of God and the gods rarely came up. There were daily, weekly, activities to organise, meetings and demos to attend – and the issue wasn’t the supernatural but how we saw the war, and what best strategy and tactics to employ in building an effective movement. Usually, the clergy were not anti-imperialist but more often pacifist, and there was only one – a Catholic priest I knew – who supported the National Libration Front of South Vietnam. There was more likelihood of rank-and-file members of congregations supporting our solidarity line. But somehow, God just wasn’t important, because we were involved in actual struggle.

    Is God/the supernatural important anyway? I think so – because so many people still believe in it and this is a problem because it goes against a materialist outlook based on the assumption that the self-consciousness of human beings is the ‘ultimate divinity’ and it believes there is an absolute truth somewhere out there, waiting to be revealed, fully understood. But, to me, the problem is religious thinking these days – the idea that there is a source of absolute truth – rather than any of the religious gods per se. Some of the most religious people I’ve known have been atheists because they adhere to a religious way of thinking (there source of truth may be Marx or Gaia).

    Were any of us in a meaningful united front with others, including believers, God would be seen in a different perspective. I know that a united front is based on independence within it, as well as unity, but I find it hard to imagine a situation in which there’d be a need to assert independence on the question of religion. Politics trumps religion, even though religious believers maintain the opposite.

    None of this means denying one’s atheism. After all, our kind of left-wing position is based on dialectical materialism, which places humanity first and asserts that humans created God, not the other way ’round.

    The neo-atheists strike me as a mixed bag but generally I’m uneasy (especially with Dawkins) with those who suggest, either openly or through their tone, that believers are stupid.

    The question of the organised religions, the big and powerful church hierarchies that will side with those who protect their interests the best in a time of crisis, is separate to the beliefs of the members of church congregations who have shown that they are perfectly capable of rebellion.

    I have many Catholic friends and some of them gripe about the Church on this or that issue. When I ask them why don’t they leave the church, they respond that it is their church and they’re not willing to give it up to bad policy. That is how they see it. They are working class people, with as much objective interest in social ownership of the wealth they produce as any non-believing workers.

    Were we being effective in building a movement, God would fall into place as an irrelevancy or at best a side issue. At times, I’m reminded of Marx’s letter to Ruge in 1842, where he said the atheists remind him of children assuring everyone that they don’t believe in the bogy-man.

    We should stand for the right of free expression and the right to religious belief. This is a reflection of our democratic values as leftists.

  14. 14 Bill Kerr

    Thanks Barry.

    Tom, I’m talking about someone who didn’t turn their back on John Howard because of his practical approach to indigenous issues (alliance with Pearson), who actually reads and understands Peter Sutton where people here can’t even be bothered to go to his book launch, who worked out how to teach indigenous kids when it was totally unfashionable. So, frankly, I couldn’t give a shit if they are converting others to a religion that does these things. They just seem to be smarter to me than some followers of say marxist religion.
    They have thought deeply about a real issue and are politically active.

    Salman Rushdie quote is worth it:

    In Joseph Anton, Rushdie argues that there is a need for blasphemy: “The writers of the French enlightenment had deliberately used blasphemy as a weapon, refusing to accept the power of the Church to set limiting points on thought.” He stands in that tradition, though it is Muslim mullahs rather than Christian clerics whose power he contests. …

    … the Innocence of Muslims, that slurs Islam. “The film is clearly a malevolent piece of garbage,” says Rushdie. “The civilised response would be to say of the director: ‘Fuck him. Let’s get on with our day.’ What’s not civilised is to hold America responsible for everything that happens in its borders
    Salman Rushdie: the fatwa, Islamic fundamentalism and Joseph Anton

    I’d see the Danish cartoons as a legitimate expression of free speech and the Innocence of Muslims as the work of a provocateur (read the wikipedia entry)

    Hirsi Ali:
    Muslim Rage & The Last Gasp of Islamic Hate

    The Muslim men and women (and yes, there are plenty of women) who support—whether actively or passively—the idea that blasphemers deserve to suffer punishment are not a fringe group. On the contrary, they represent the mainstream of contemporary Islam.

    Youse must read the whole thing. Best commentary on this issue I have read. Nevertheless, Innocence of Muslims, still seems to me to be the deliberate work of a provocateur despite her rejection of that criticism for the work of the murdered Van Gogh. Beautiful expression from Hirsi Ali:

    … that was nothing compared with what happened when I made a short film with Theo van Gogh (titled Submission) that drew attention to the direct link between the Quran and the plight of Muslim women. In revenge for this act of free thinking, Mohammed Bouyeri, a 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan man, murdered van Gogh—shooting him eight times and stabbing him with two knives, one of which pinned a note to his body threatening the West, Jews, and me. As he was dying, my friend Theo reportedly asked his assailant, “Can’t we talk about this?” It’s a question that has haunted me ever since, often in bed at night. One side proposing a conversation; the other side thrusting a blade

    Yes, can’t we talk about this and get away from poster and slogan knee jerk politics?

    The main religions in our society are the Greens and Science (Steve, you are so formalistic in your thinking it is not funny). Nice marx quote, Barry.

    Another way where YM post is off is blastheming other religions, which are not a problem, in the same breath as promoting the work of a provocateur (fuck him but defend his right to be a fuckhead). Focus on the real issue and real problem: the political use of Islam to inflict terror. Don’t confuse it with another secondary issue of the general right to blastheme. What should I say to my Christian friends when they ask me why I associate with dickheads? All I can do is disassociate myself with it, as I am doing here.

  15. 15 patrickm

    Loved this ‘Marx’s letter to Ruge in 1842, where he said the atheists remind him of children assuring everyone that they don’t believe in the bogy-man.’

    I have never had to make a big issue in my adult life of the atheist issue. I became aware I was one in primary school at a Catholic school.

    I want to note that when atheists and socialists that I approached would not address my political persecution by a well funded university administration, led by an ALP supporting thug who is now Australia’s chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, it was only a few religious people who took a stand for me – knowing full well what sort of personal beliefs I held! They are more than welcome to their beliefs and I for one also disassociate myself from this kind of wrong thinking.

    Some people say it’s all part of ‘where the broom does not reach the dust will not vanish of its own accord’ thinking; but this has nothing to do with making more dust, so I think Bill is spot on.

  16. 16 byork

    Here’s the quote:

    “atheism” … reminds one of children, assuring everyone who is ready to listen to them that they are not afraid of the bogy man.

    Marx, Letter to 30 November 1842

    I do sometimes think of this quote when I hear the more shrill of the neo-atheists.

    I liked Hitchens because he linked his atheism, his absence of any belief in a god or gods, to a positive belief in humanity and, politically, to the greatness of democracy in which the people are sovereign, not god or gods – or secular dictators.

    When I hear Phillip Adams (for overseas readers, he is a prominent radio broadcaster on our government radio station, Radio National, and an atheist of the smug type), I ask myself who is more likely to support a workers revolution? The working class Catholics I know, who spent and spend the best parts of their lives in factories or on wharves, and who reside in the lower socio-economic suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney, or Phillip Adams – or Richard Dawkins, for that matter? The question kind of answers itself.

    If Marx was correct to say, later in life, that religion is an expression of alienation rather than a real solution to it, then a socialist society, in which alienation is reduced, should see a reduction in the need for religion. And that far off ‘communism’, in which alienation is reduced as far as is humanly possible, should see it voluntary end.

  17. 17 byork

    A point can be made too about the title of this thread – ‘Blasphemy is legal’. Various State legislation in Australia, and the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act, contain protections against ‘hate speech’ – racial and religious vilification- and these can serve as defacto blasphemy laws.

  18. 18 tomb

    I rarely find the need to say I am an atheist. If I wasn’t an atheist I would still defend peoples right to be blasphemous. I also defend peoples right to poor/immature/bad jokes. Perhaps we should have a list of acceptable jokes. I don’t think that people who believe in God are stupid I think the idea is stupid to me.

    AS for who will or won’t be up for a revolution I am not sure who will be but imagine it will be most of the population. Those up for a rumble and those up for revolution may differ but who is going to take society further the religious or the non religious? When I say religion should be attacked I never meant God!!!! I have seen a number of people here having a religious approach and have pointed it out.

    If you go to developing countries you might find the most backward elements the most helpful and friendly and you aren’t thinking they are stupid or attacking them personally but you do attack the philosophy that holds them back. This is important for them to learn.

    I assume that if I was in a united front with some people here I wouldn’t be able to point out the religious approach of others as a negative be they scientists or priests as it might offend!!!!

    I am not too aware of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in religious atheist circles and not too interested. I AM interested in combating religious beliefs.

  19. 19 Brennan

    Here is the Ruge letter.

    “…I requested further that religion should be criticised in the framework of criticism of political conditions rather than that political conditions should be criticised in the framework of religion, since this is more in accord with the nature of a newspaper and the educational level of the reading public; for religion in itself is without content, it owes its being not to heaven but to the earth, and with the abolition of distorted reality, of which it is the theory, it will collapse of itself. Finally, I desired that, if there is to be talk about philosophy, there should be less trifling with the label “atheism” (which reminds one of children, assuring everyone who is ready to listen to them that they are not afraid of the bogy man), and that instead the content of philosophy should be brought to the people. Voilà tout.”

  20. 20 tomb

    nice quote.

    Remember when I was in a united front with long hair. There were racists and sexists along with religious people. There were catholic workers. Most of my friends were either racist or sexist or most likely both. They supported me in my university struggles and later worker struggles. They didn’t call me a long hair poofta like a lot of people did and I didn’t call them racist or sexist. I didn’t call myself a feminist either. They knew I opposed racism and sexism and when the topic came up it wasn’t a matter of avoiding it but rather pushing the discussion forward. I told anti racist and anti sexist jokes, they told racist and sexist jokes and no one cried.

    The United front survived!

    I could have sat back in my armchair and let history sort it out but decided not too. Seems others had the same idea and there was a cultural revolution that put a dagger through the heart of racism and sexism in advanced capitalist countries

    This was well overdue as racism and sexism are feudal not capitalist.

    I am not sure exactly why but religion seemed to survive the cultural revolution, it shouldn’t have as it is also feudal. Rituals etc will survive people do not need religion they are just told they do. I have no intention of subscribing to this bullshit.

    Again I could now sit back in my armchair and think history will sort this out or I could actively accelerate the downfall of religion which is loooooooooooooong overdue.

    I liked this song then and do now

    “Don’t be too polite girls
    don’t be too polite
    show a little fight girls show a little fight
    don’t be afraid of offending in case………….”

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