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What is blasphemy today? - Comments

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 1 by Jos Gibbons

Spencer's article is one of those that seems so unconvincing it leaves me wondering whether I, or he, correctly understood the points he was trying to make. He seemed to equate liking some things so much as to feel the need to punish any critic of it with managing to resist antisocial behaviour. The real relationship is the exact opposite. The alleged dangers of blasphemy-dropping asserted in the aforesaid equivocation seemed the only connexion he had between his (extremely vague and IMO not very accurate) history and the "is ... today" part of the question to which he was meant to be responding. His claim that blasphemy was once a form of hate speech seems pretty absurd, considering that even the kind of blasphemy for which people were executed often involved as little as a rival syntax for asserting doctrine. So, all in all, what little hope a man who thinks the armed forces are superb or a cultural icon had of persuading me he knew anything important about anything important amounted to zilch.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 15:24:00 UTC | #432098

Dark Matter's Avatar Comment 2 by Dark Matter

What is Blasphemy today?

An irrelevancy that belongs in the dustbin of history.

I imagine that some useful idiot will argue about shouting "Fire" in a crowded theatre but that metaphor relies on a series of unsafe assumptions that can be easily disproved by anyone:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shouting_fire_in_a_crowded_theater

In fact, as an experiment I would that everyone at home actually tries it - I have and absolutely nothing happens other than odd looks from other members of audience or members of staff as one would expect.

This is because, unlike the assumption made in the metaphor, people are not innately driven to panic or stupidity but take their cues from all the data they observe: IE, Why is there just one person shouting "fire"? Why is there no smoke? Why aren't the staff raising the "alarm"? And so on.

The biggest problem for the metaphor is that it deliberately confuses context with medium. For example, what if an actor on stage or on the Cinema screen shouted "fire"?

We wouldn't expect any panic at all because unlike a controlled environment (with the usual health and safetly considerations) like a theatre, the stage or screen itself is subject to no such controls - the stage / screen is already understood by the audience to be a designated "area" where free speech does have free reign and this is why we wouldn't expect any hypothetical panic.

Just wanted to get that off my chest because I am sick of having to carefully explain this to the morons who unthinkingly invoke this metaphor in order to excuse depriving others of their free right to express any thought, feeling or opinion that they wish.

BTW, Blasphemy is also incredibly great fun and I strongly recommend it for everyone. Here's some that I directed to a time-wasting troll on this website earlier on:



The Prophet Mohammed is a Paedophile who married a 6 year girl and had sex with her when she was 9:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aisha

The prophet Mohammed had sex with a child because he was no more than a sleazy, bigoted nonce.

It is also my humble opinion that the Prophet Mohammed sucked the cocks of filthy pigs whilst taking it up the ass from a rabid mongrel.



Isn't the right to absolute free speech a truly wonderful thing?

Some may say that this is disrespectful but, personally, I am very old fashioned and believe that respect is actually earned than something that should be automatically deferred.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 16:02:00 UTC | #432102

Art Vandelay's Avatar Comment 3 by Art Vandelay

Dark Matter,

I don't see any connection being made between blasphemy and shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre. Blasphemy is just about being offended by someone who doesn't share one's delusion- and says so.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 17:46:00 UTC | #432107

Mitch Kahle's Avatar Comment 4 by Mitch Kahle

Blasphemy laws are unconstitutional in the U.S. and thus not a matter of concern here.

Obviously the U.K. and Ireland need amend their constitutions to eliminate these archaic laws.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 18:07:00 UTC | #432109

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 5 by Peacebeuponme

Mitch

Obviously the U.K. and Ireland need amend their constitutions to eliminate these archaic laws.
We haven't actually got round to writing one in the UK yet.

Something republiucans like me would like to see, so that we can get rid of the monarchy.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 18:20:00 UTC | #432111

Dark Matter's Avatar Comment 7 by Dark Matter

@Art Vandelay

"I don't see any connection being made between blasphemy and shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre."


The connection is made by those who claim that we need Blasphemy Laws because Free Speech is not an absolute and they often use the piss-poor "shouting fire in a crowded theatre" metaphor.

The fact is that free speech is an absolute whether anyone likes it or not (the very existence of the internet happens to make it so) and that metaphor is simply false because it relies on a series of flawed assumptions.


@Peacebeuponme

"We haven't actually got round to writing one in the UK yet.

Something republiucans like me would like to see, so that we can get rid of the monarchy"


I second that.

One of the greatest lies is the "virtue" of the UK's unwritten constitution which is simply another way of saying that we have next to nothing to protect Citizen's from the very worst excesses of government.

We have much to learn from our American cousins about the true nature of freedom and what it really means to live in a free country.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 18:37:00 UTC | #432113

flying goose's Avatar Comment 6 by flying goose

Peacebeuponme

Written Constitution? No thank you, that really is a way of fixing things in stone and creating 'sacred cows'.

Look at gun control in the US. Now that does seem like a sacred cow.

No give me our slowly evolved adaptable unwritten constitution any day.

BTW Fox hunting, which I hate, was a dying 'sport' given new life by an ill advised ban. Let the blasphemy laws die on their own, they will, lets not provoke the fundies into rallying to the cause.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 18:37:00 UTC | #432112

scottishgeologist's Avatar Comment 8 by scottishgeologist

Dark Matter

Your point about "shouting fire in a theatre" reminds me of a preacher who experienced just that.

CH Spurgeon , prob the most popular preacher in Victorian England was once preaching in the crowded "Surrey Gardens Music Hall" when someone shouted "Fire!" - in the panic, 7 people died and many were injured.

So it does happen. I wonder what the god-botherers made of that incident - what theology did they bring into play to explain that one?

No doubt some pish about preaching in a "sinful" worldly place like a music hall....

:-)
SG

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 18:43:00 UTC | #432114

flying goose's Avatar Comment 9 by flying goose

Dark Matter,

I live in a free country.

Free from maniacs with guns on killing sprees in shopping malls and childrens schools.

Free to leave my home without having to carry ID.

With healthcare free for all at the point of use.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 18:46:00 UTC | #432115

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 10 by Peacebeuponme

Dark Matter

I totally agree.

Flying Goose

Well, at the moment we have a sacred cow sitting in a big piece of central London real estate. We are not free to choose our own head of state, and the representatives we elect must go cap in hand to unelected others to get laws enacted. Something needs to change.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 19:13:00 UTC | #432119

flying goose's Avatar Comment 11 by flying goose

Peacebeuponme,

I am no real supporter of monarchy either, although the word President along with the words Thatcher or Bliar or God forbid Bush do give me pause.

The problem is how we get to a republic? Monarchies don't genarally come to end without a great deal of upheaval, French Revolution, no thanks, It took the First world war to end the Kaiser's and the Hapsburg's rule, no thank you again, Russian revolution, same, and so on even the American revolution took a war of independence.

The only other way is by act of parliament, or referendum. Don't wait up.

What we can learn from our american cousins is from their pragmaticism.

In reality Parliament is sovereign and our freedoms have evolved over centuries.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 19:32:00 UTC | #432123

JonathanWest's Avatar Comment 12 by JonathanWest

You might want particularly to take a look at the Jeremy Havardi article.

The article is sensible (it is against blasphemy being a crime) but there are some notably idiotic comments by regular CiF commenter SteveHep, who identifies himself as a Roman Catholic, who claims that blasphemy should be a crime punishable by the state if it "poses a threat to good order and civil peace".

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 19:58:00 UTC | #432130

Art Vandelay's Avatar Comment 13 by Art Vandelay

Dark Matter,

The connection is made by those who claim that we need Blasphemy Laws because Free Speech is not an absolute and they often use the piss-poor "shouting fire in a crowded theatre" metaphor.



So you say, but it seems something of a straw man argument in relation to these articles, where I just don't see this analogy being made. And your little tirade against Mohammed seems pointless here: maybe you should try it on Bradford High Street.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 20:00:00 UTC | #432131

blakjack's Avatar Comment 14 by blakjack

It might cause me to take offence if someone were to say: “I am offended by your comments about Jesus/Mohammed/etc”. I could claim that person had blasphemed against my sincerely held conviction that religion is irrational nonsense.

Of course that would be a ridiculous stance to take. I need no legal protection for my views; nor should anyone else.

Jack

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 20:31:00 UTC | #432134

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 15 by Peacebeuponme

flying goose

I am no real supporter of monarchy either, although the word President along with the words Thatcher or Bliar or God forbid Bush do give me pause.
I always find this attitude interesting. We get the leaders we vote for, whether we call them "Prime Minister", "President" or "Chancellor". Those who did not vote for an encumbent usually do have reservations over bestowing the title, but that's democracy.

If you are worried about potential greater powers of a president compared to a prime minister, then there are two points to make:

i) The whole point of a written constitution would be to keep these powers in check. Look how hard it was for Obama to get any kind of healthcare reform though. During Bush's presidency he was defeated many times at Congress, but when Blair was defeated in Parliament the first time, it was like the world was going to end.

ii) There is no reason we need to have the US system, the Russian system or any other existing framework. The point of having an elected Head of State is simply that - to get rid of unfair and anachronistic hereditary powers. An elected Head of State could potentially perform the same function as the Queen, with all other structures and powers remaining as they were. It's right to make sure any structure is the right one, and this would be part of any proper referendum campaign, but I am shamed to be living in a country where we still regard some as better than others on birth. The US are far ahead of us in this respect.
Monarchies don't genarally come to end without a great deal of upheaval
Do you really think citizens cannot simply vote on how they are governed? Nobody, monarchists or republican is going to want to take up arms!
The only other way is by act of parliament, or referendum. Don't wait up.
Oh, yes, you do realise that this is the way it will be done.

I'm not sure what "don't wait up" is supposed to mean. Is that the general solution for anybody seeking reform that is not favoured by the current administration: suck it up 'cos there ain't nothing you can do?
In reality Parliament is sovereign and our freedoms have evolved over centuries.
Look, either the Queen has powers, which we should absolutely seek to transfer to an elected representative, or she doesn't and there is no point in having a monarchy at all (and I hope no idiot mentions tourism here). Either way, to have a family with or without executive power, taking an obscene amount of money from ordinary taxpayers, which they use to show us just how much of a higher class they are than us, is thoroughly shameful in the modern world.

I fail to see how monarchists (I know you are not one) can hold their position. Do they not look into business of The Duchy of Cornwall? Obscene wealth is being generated off huge swathes of British land for the benefit of that jug-eared, brainless, prick who has no real entitlement to any of it.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 20:41:00 UTC | #432137

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 16 by Peacebeuponme

Lendear

Though the financial aspects are a source of anger for me (and a lot of people actually, even some monarchists), my central issue is having unelected people having State positions which are transferred on a hereditary basis. No matter how the role or the finances operated, this issue would remain.

No modern country should have a system that treats certain people as more deserving by birth.

As for views from the telly, I'm not so sure the monarchy have such wide approval. I'd say most people are apathetic if anything (as they are about most things). Most people I talk to with any sort of opinion recognise the unfairness, don't like the amount of money that flows to the royals, though they do see something unique and "British" about the monarchy which they are not sure about losing.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 21:26:00 UTC | #432143

flying goose's Avatar Comment 17 by flying goose

Peace

Few years ago there was a very good In Our Time on Monarchy with Bea Campbell and an historian I can't remember the name of, any way the historian argued that monarchies need great upheaval to displace them and he did'nt see any such crisis happening any time soon.

It seems to me that we are stuck with monarchy for the forseeable. It's fairly toothless, I suppose I am happy to live with it. There are more important things IMO.

Sat, 16 Jan 2010 23:33:00 UTC | #432156

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 18 by Steve Zara

Comment #451148 by flying goose

It seems to me that we are stuck with monarchy for the forseeable. It's fairly toothless, I suppose I am happy to live with it. There are more important things IMO.


How can there be anything more important in our society than the removal of prejudice based on accident of birth?

How awful it must be for two young lads to have their lives followed daily by journalists. They are the sons of a father who has a failed business based on organic biscuits and amateur architecture consultancy. They have no privacy at all. It isn't even possible for one of them to dress up as a Nazi without people being shocked.

When the heir to the throne writes regular letters to ministers about policies, and wants to become a defender of the principle of religious faith when he is King, I think this is a very important political issue that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 02:09:00 UTC | #432166

mmurray's Avatar Comment 19 by mmurray

How awful it must be for two young lads to have their lives followed daily by journalists.


Excellent point. It has always interested me that nobody ever seems to ask this question. We take it for granted that there is nothing wrong with children being born into the royal family and forced to live that lifestyle. Yet we generally regard parents who try and make their children follow their own professions as a bit weird. I've always thought it was an appalling way to treat children and just as creepy as raising them in the parents crackpot religion.

Michael

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 02:28:00 UTC | #432169

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 20 by Steve Zara

I realise that this post is off-topic, but it is dealing with an urgent matter. The aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti has been the worst disaster in modern recorded history.

I am shocked that RD.net has, on it's front page a banner titled 'NON-BELIEVERS GIVING AID'. RD.net should be supporting whatever is the best channel for donations to help Haiti. Personally, I don't give a damn if the helpers are believers or atheists. Why the hell should RD.net think that atheists would NOT give aid unless there was a specific way of donating for atheists?

That front page banner shames RD.net. Just promote the best way to donate, and forget about promoting atheism. This is a time for saving lives, not politics.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 02:41:00 UTC | #432172

j.mills's Avatar Comment 21 by j.mills

(EDIT: responding to mmurray about the royals:) Plus, it's kind of expected of them that they do a stint in the armed forces; that they support monarchy(!); that they volunteer their time to help charities; that they keep their gobs shut about politics... Their lives are in some ways as constrained as that of an animal in a zoo. (Which is not to say there aren't perks.)

Peacebeuponme:

Do you really think citizens cannot simply vote on how they are governed?
But the system is set up to preserve the system. You can't enter parliament without swearing an oath of loyalty to the queen. The republican must therefore choose dishonesty or disenfranchisement (as Sinn Fein MPs did, and the UK's first female MP Constance Markievicz).

Dark Matter, does your absolutism on free speech extend to incitement to violence? Only asking. Prime example being the radio station in Rwanda that for months promoted hatred and then, during the actual massacres, directed the Hutu attackers to specific places where the Tutsi were to be found.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 02:47:00 UTC | #432174

j.mills's Avatar Comment 22 by j.mills

Steve, the banner donation page explains that the funds are going to the Red Cross and Medicins Sans Frontieres. I could agree with you that the banner's phrasing is a tad crass, but those folks will use the cash as well as anybody; and I'm pleased to have a route to donate that will not involve anyone being pressed to pray or thank god or take aid from a uniformed cleric. Those things wouldn't stop me donating in the circumstances, but if they can be avoided then so much the better.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 02:53:00 UTC | #432175

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 23 by Steve Zara

Comment #451169 by j.mills

I have no hesitation in supporting the Red Cross, and Medicins Sans Frontiers, I will donate as soon as I have finished posting.

But I am deeply disappointed that RD.net did not feel that it could not have simply have requested donations for those organisations.

Do the admins seriously think that that fewer people here would have contributed to charities if they had not labeled those charities 'atheist'?

I still think the front page banner is far more than crass, it is shameful. I am disappointed that the web admins allowed it to be posted. In fact, I think that implying that there need be a special donation method for non-believers given the magnitude of this disaster could be one of the worst publicity mistakes this site has ever made. Personally, I'll donate to Christian Aid if it has a good record of saving lives.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 03:06:00 UTC | #432176

chewedbarber's Avatar Comment 24 by chewedbarber


Do the admins seriously think that that fewer people here would have contributed to charities if they had not labeled those charities 'atheist'?


Where is this coming from Steve? It doesn't follow from the presentation at all.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 03:10:00 UTC | #432177

j.mills's Avatar Comment 25 by j.mills

Catching up with the articles. Nick Spencer cites surveys:

...about the same time (1991) BSA asked people whether they thought "freedom of speech [was] more important than maintaining order in the nation". Less than 5% agreed strongly that it was and less a quarter agreed at all. In comparison, nearly 40% disagreed, the remaining third having no opinion either way.

Similarly, when BSA regularly asks whether "maintaining order", "giving people more say", "fighting rising prices" or "protecting free speech" should be Britain's highest priority, protecting free speech almost always comes last by some way.
These questions are based on a totally stupid premise, unchallenged by Spencer, that free speech erodes public order; or that maintaining free speech impedes "fighting rising prices". Which should the Prime Minister regard as more important, raising the state pension or giving interviews? ==> SHOCK SURVEY: Public thinks PM should stop giving interviews! The unscrupulous and irresponsible can make a survey produce pretty much any desired result.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 03:11:00 UTC | #432178

j.mills's Avatar Comment 26 by j.mills

Steve, what say you contact the admins with your thoughts on the banner? They won't necessarily read your comment here, and you clearly have your reasons for feeling strongly about it.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 03:20:00 UTC | #432179

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 27 by God fearing Atheist

24. Comment #451170 by Steve Zara


Its a political move. I assume lots of people, atheist and theist, will be donating to Haiti, but some of those donations will go via theist organisations, and some of those organisations, or other individuals, will make political capital of the money they raise as proving something about the merit of their particular brand of woo-woo. By collecting through an explicitly atheist channel, RD and others have political ammunition to defend/counter attack. The money still gets to Haiti.

Just in case any admin are reading, yet again this appeal is US focused. How about arranging channels by which the charities concerned can claim back UK income tax (and any other national income tax)?

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 03:31:00 UTC | #432180

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 28 by Steve Zara

Comment #451173 by j.mills

I am sorry for posting off-topic. I realise that what I have said it is of little concern to the majority of posters. I'm sure that a considerable number of readers of the site who would be concerned about helping out those in Haiti would not contribute unless there was some source of funding that was specifically labeled as not involving theists. My reasons for feeling strongly about things are that people are suffering and dying. This is not the time to play politics.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 03:38:00 UTC | #432181

j.mills's Avatar Comment 29 by j.mills

I am hardly one to object to off-topicness, Steve. It's just that you make a legitimate point and I figure you may as well make it heard where it counts. :)

For myself, I donated at DEC first, then saw the RD channel and threw in some more there. Before all of that, I checked out VegFam to see if they were geared up for Haiti-targeted donations that wouldn't involve animal products (they weren't). Point being, it does no harm to check out, and if possible utilise, the options that most conform to one's principles. Compromise is always on the table. [Shrug.]

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 03:44:00 UTC | #432183

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 30 by Steve Zara

Actually, I have no doubt that the majority of people here will donate no matter what the beliefs of a charity, just as long as it does good.

I just think that RD.net should support the most effective charities, and the idiotic 'NON-BELIEVERS' slogan is a problem.

Believers and non-believers should work together in this terrible tragedy. RichardDawkins.net should not be a source of division.

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 03:45:00 UTC | #432184