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2009-02-12 19:17

Andrew Sullivan, an avowed Christian, laudably defends the right to blaspheme. He draws attention to a vile situation: a piece on that topic, entitled “Why should I respect these oppressive religions?,” by Johann Hari, is published in India, an Islamic mob calling for the arrest (“or worse”) of those responsible riots outside the offices of the journal that published it, and in fact shortly thereafter the journal’s editor and publisher are arrested and charged with “deliberately acting with malicious intent to outrage religious feelings.”

I blogged about this issue a while back when the Danish journal Jyllands-Posten famously printed cartoons containing representations of the Prophet Mohammad. Personally outraged by the rabid backlash in some Islamic quarters to their publication, I myself posted a couple of the cartoons and linked to the others.

I went on to rant against the notions of religious “dignity” and “honor” and “respect” for causing some of the worst violence, warfare, and atrocities in human history. Needless to say, some of the commentary on that post was none too flattering, mostly consisting of “fuck yous,” claims that I will be punished for my blasphemy, and phrases in what seems to be transliterated arabic saying “son of a bitch,” among other things.

With the expectation that I will be vilified again by those sorts of commenters, I want to repost a bit of what I wrote then, to underscore my solidarity now with Johann Hari and my gratitude to Sullivan for lending his blog’s stature to this issue. Besides, this sentiment can never be expressed too often, to my taste:

For the salvation of humankind, notions like respect, disrespect, dignity, offense, and blasphemy need to be given much more serious consideration by secular Westerners than they typically have been in modern times. And, via a concerted effort by people of good will everywhere, thoroughly stomped out ASAP, completely eradicated like smallpox. These ideas do nothing but make people want to kill each other for no good reason.

Physically hurting someone is wrong. But offending someone’s dignity is a nebulous concept that shouldn’t be, well, dignified by use. And offending the dignity of someone’s god is the most poisonous notion ever allowed to gain currency. Blasphemy as a concept has no virtue at all but to make some religious people mad enough to kill others otherwise innocent of doing real harm.

politext  ·  ijustgoberSERK

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