Blasphemy for the remedial group

A guest post by Professor David Spurrett

1 Timothy 2:12 - But I suffer not a woman to teach...but to be in silence.

It has come to my attention that some folks really don’t get it, at all. Some seem to believe some common but obviously wrong-headed views, some seem to be too lazy for more than 15 seconds of clear thinking, or possibly having the energy, sadly to lack the ability. I doubt this will help.

The reasons why the only stable intellectually respectable position is to allow a maximally wide right to freedom of expression, including expressing opinions others find offensive, aren’t new. There was a prolonged period (centuries ago) in which much of the population of Europe spent years and years pursuing wholesale slaughter of itself, mostly over different versions of Christianity. After that, as much out of exhaustion as anything else, attention was turned to the question how to stop this murderous stupidity. Leaving out many details, they hit on the (at the time) startlingly new idea of knowing that someone had different beliefs without feeling obligated to kill them.

After a good few more years of serious thinking, the arguments got worked out more clearly and plainly. I don’t know anyone who has ever given them a clearer and more compelling defence than John Stuart Mill. Here’s an excerpt from “On Liberty”:

“There are many who consider as an injury to themselves any conduct which they have a distaste for, and resent it as an outrage to their feelings; as a religious bigot, when charged with disregarding the religious feelings of others, has been known to retort that they disregard his feelings, by persisting in their abominable worship or creed. But there is no parity between the feeling of a person for his own opinion, and the feeling of another who is offended at his holding it; no more than between the desire of a thief to take a purse, and the desire of the right owner to keep it. And a person’s taste is as much his own peculiar concern as his opinion or his purse.”

It’s actually very simple. The fact that someone is offended by what another says just isn’t a good reason to compel the speaker to be silent. The same goes for offense over what people do. So the fact that great herds of tiny minded bigots in Sub-Saharan Africa are so offended by homosexuality that they may split the Anglican Church in two is NOT a good reason for North American Christians to be more tolerant. (Even though this means ignoring bits of what they claim is the word of God.)

Gods, according to the plain words of the texts religious believers regard as holy, seem very clearly to be a violent, bigoted and crazy lot. They positively encourage slavery. They explicitly condemn females to a second rate status in practically all matters of politics, law and domestic life. They stipulate that horrible violence be visited upon non-believers by believers, and promise vastly more horrible violence later at the hands of God. They insist that homosexuals are wicked and deserve ghastly punishment. They demand suffering or death for whole lists of minor penalties (such as shaving), at the same time as encouraging slavery, etc.

Blasphemy, at minimum, is not ‘revering’ at least one of these sets of bigoted, jealous and bloodthirsty demands.

Saying, plainly and clearly, “I revere no such bigotry”, or saying for *whatever* reason “I don’t believe this” is not tit for tat. It’s principled rejection, and it ought to be allowed even if it offends some.

– It is no more tit for tat than saying “Nobody should be a slave” was tit for tat against the slave trade.

– It is no more tit for tat than the suffragettes were engaged in tit for tat against legislative and political misogyny.

– It is no more tit for tat than the work of Stonewall (the UK organisation) is tit for tat against homophobic bigotry and violence.

There are far too many places on earth where the purported word of this or that God is the official justification for murder, the de facto enslavement of women, organised and premeditated mutilation of girls, and systematic abuse of what should be universally respected human rights.

I have to say it takes impressively muddle-headed thinking (I use the term loosely) to end up with the position that (a) religious people should be allowed to worship texts calling for all manner of mayhem and bigoted violence, yet at the same time (b) non-believers really are being a bit rude saying that they don’t believe, and ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Again, as so often, Mill put it stunningly well, and a long time ago. Thomas Carlyle famously argued that slavery was the will of God. In his reply Mill said “If the Gods will this, it is the first duty of human beings to resist such Gods”. That’s your quality blasphemy, right there.


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6 responses to “Blasphemy for the remedial group

  1. Clive’s the same kind of hate-peddler who comes to my door selling Jeebus on weekends. What he means by that statement is one of the myths that the christians tell each other to make them scared to question their “beliefs:” that Hitler and Stalin were atheists, and therefore could have been prevented if only they’d had the *correct* ideology browbeaten into them. christians tell each other this myth to “prove” that a world without their sick-in-the-head moral system is worse than one with it. you’ll hear this any time that people propose to break out of the bigot cycle – “but, if i don’t send my kids to sunday school, they won’t have a moral compass!”

    Well, here’s the truth: ideology is BAD when it trumps rationality. Hitler and Stalin weren’t atheists in the sense that rationalists are atheists. They merely weren’t christians. Not sharing your twisted morals doesn’t make people immoral or a-moral. Subscribing to ideologies, however, which take evils and call them good? That’s where you get your big, bad evils from, folks. In that way, Hitler, Stalin, and millions of worldwide christians, muslims, hindus, jews, and yes, even bhuddists, are DOING THE SAME WORK.

    A note to all religious believers out there: I haven’t yet found a non-facetious religion that doesn’t scare the crap out of me. They all, at some point, prescribe ideology over reality, and they all DENY their followers the ability to negotiate new morality as the situation arises. So when things change, religion isn’t allowed to change with them. So you become anti-science, anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-freedom. You’re the bad guys. Wise up.

    If your gods existed, it would be our duty as thinking creatures to find a weapon big enough to kill them.

    If some powerful creature in the sky flew down and said “well, I made you, so I own you, and you are required to go against your conscience and condemn women for driving cars and gay people for being in love,” then that’s not a god, that’s a bully.

    If that god then staged elaborate tax-free schemes to corral thousands and millions of flunkies into self-perpetuating money-making pyramid scams (churches) which purport to do good stuff but really only perpetuate ignorance, deny science, spread bigotry, and keep themselves going with an anti-birth-control, anti-abortion, pro-breeding program to make lots of next-generation tithers? That’s not a god, that’s a supervillian!

    If that god then threatened you and everyone on the planet with torture and death for noncompliance? that’s no god, that’s a monster.

    What part of this BS am I supposed to submit to, again? ALL of it? No way? And what do I get for it? The cognitive dissonance of knowing somewhere in the back of my mind that I’ve been duped, which then requires me to pretend to myself that I wasn’t actually duped, and redouble my efforts to prove to other people that I really believe this abusive pack of self-serving lies? WELL SIGN ME UP!

    And religious people wonder why the rest of us think they’re stupid. It’s cause we can see right through you. Google “cognitive bias” and then find the courage to let this crap go. Or, you know, don’t. And spend the rest of your lives terrified of sex or something useless like that.

  2. Clive: “No matter how hard you try, you cannot deny that the un-religious, or atheists, as one may call them, have attributed for far more deaths and destruction of human soceity than all the religions added together”

    Please cite some sources for this, I find it hard to believe.

    ~cough~ Inquisition… ~cough~

    • Just doing some simple googling and not claiming “extensive” research, it seems the people killed under Stalin’s atheistic regime totals from the range of 3 to 6 million and the and the estimation of the number of people killed during the SI about 150,000.

  3. Does a university qualification and the ability to use big words and write long winded opinions qualify one to become an un-bigoted(if there is such a word) person? Is knowledge power?, and perhaps the God of the enlightened few, like youself, who have such a clear view on all matters theological? If your argument is against mankind, using God as a cover for their own evil ends and desires, you need look no further than the mirror to round up enough ammunition to shoot down most theories about man being intrinsically good. No matter how hard you try, you cannot deny that the un-religious, or atheists, as one may call them, have attributed for far more deaths and destruction of human soceity than all the religions added together. So please explain how no god equals human rights, according to you, or who ever washes your brain. At the end of the day we have to answer for what we have done. Forget everyone else, what have you done to make life better for someone else?, not yourself, or for what you get out of it, nor for praise, but simply because you know it needs to be done? It is so very easy to look around you and see fault with others, that’s called religion by the way, but so very frightening to look into your own eyes and heart and see the depths thereof.

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