Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The "Right" not to be offended....

I really thought I'd leave "Crackergate" to bigger fish, the real bloggers, as everyone has already had their say and there are probably more posts on this than anyone could ever want to read....

...but hell, this is so much goddamn fun.

I'm going to assume that everyone already knows how the saga unfolded... PZ, inspired by some seriously ridiculous bullshit at UCF, threw a eucharist in the trash, which pissed a lot of people off.

A Eucharist is a consecrated cracker, believed by Catholics to LITERALLY the body of Jesus Christ. Yea, I was a fairly serious Catholic once upon a time, and I never managed to wrap my mind around that shit either. Some poor speaker tried to explain transubstantiation once... something about how wood is always wood, but if you build a chair out of it it, now it has chair-ness, or something. The cracker is given Jesus's "essence" some how.

Yea, I thought that was some crazy bullshit too. Um, dear, please stop, I think you're going to break your brain doing such poorly-executed mental acrobatics. Hint: you're never going to make this doctrine sense. Because it's ridiculous.

One last aside... why is SYMBOLIC cannibalism not enough? It works for most other Christians... but no, Catholics have to give their priests Magic Powers.

So obviously, there are two hilarious things about this situation.

Number one, people are seriously hurt and offended by this "kidnapping" of their savior (dude, what Catholic kid hasn't kept a host a bit longer than they should have to get a good look at "Jesus"...). It's crazy that anyone takes this doctrine seriously, and it's crazy to claim that cracker abuse is a horrible evil act. This one has been covered in detail and there isn't much to say beyond... yea, religions are just as crazy as we think they are.

Number two, not only people offended, they seem to thing that they have some kind of right to punish PZ by getting him fired or something, because he had no right to do what he did. And this goes beyond just crazy religious bullshit into the realm of a vast misunderstanding of the meaning of the right to free speech and freedom of religion, present in religious people but also in people involved in many other causes.

This is what the Catholic Clergy think our rights in this country entitle us to:

Lies and hate speech which incite contempt or violence are not protected under the law. Hence, inscribing Swastikas on Jewish synagogues or publicly burning copies of the Christian Bible or the Muslim Koran, especially by a faculty member of a public university, are just as heinous and just as unconstitutional. Individual freedoms are limited by the boundaries created by the inalienable rights of others. The freedom of religion means that no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership or ascribe allegiance.

What a... creative... interpretation of the constitution. To bad for them that it is total bullshit.

First of all... hate speech is a rather touchy issue, and I think many rules intended to stop hate speech can over step boundaries of protected free speech, but it is my understanding that "hate speech" rules, be they correct or incorrect, are intended to protect individuals from direct harassment. PZ did what he did in his own goddamn home, and though he did mean to provoke the crazy Catholics, all he did was post something to his goddamn website, he didn't do anything that any Catholic even had to see, much less be personally harmed by. So the hate speech comparison is bullshit, through and through. Purely an act invoked to play the victim.

But more importantly, the above quote invokes a completely imaginary right to not be offended. The scary thing is that groups of all kinds, though religions are the worst, have invoked this right so often and so noisily that many people actually believe that it is a right, or at least a courtesy required in all public discourse.

How many times have you heard "Well, I respect everyones' beliefs...," usually out of the mouths of well-meaning liberals. Hell, I know I used to say it, a lot. Apparently "respecting" others beliefs makes you open-minded and accepting and all sorts of other "nice" things to be (and saying it usually gets you brownie points whether you really mean it or not).

If there were one thing I could do to change the public discourse in this country, it would be to throw the tell-both-sides, all-ideas-are-equal, open-mindness-is-always-a-virtue BULLSHIT right out the window. I respect other people's right to HAVE whatever batshit insane beliefs they want. But no one can make me respect the beliefs themselves, or make me feel bad for not doing so.

And open-mindedness is great and all, but your mind should be guarded with a half-decent bullshit filter at the very least.

I've actually gotten into a disagreement about this with a very close friend of mine. She is also an atheist, although she doesn't exactly embrace the term, but she goes to a small liberal arts school that my boyfriend likes to say is "full of hippies." Her school has, on numerous occasions, had large battles or even cancelled classes because people were offended by something that one group or another posted... in the case that we fought about, it was some kind of vaguely anti-religion publicly posted signs implying that Jesus is an imaginary friend. She sided with the people who claimed that such signs were not appropriate because they're offensive. My response, so?

Now, if you want to have a debate about whether offending people is the best way to get them to change their mind about deeply held beliefs, we can do that. But the assumption that there is a simple right not to be offended is crazy.

Keep in mind, most of the groups asking for such special consideration think they have every right to offend people by "expressing their beliefs" (ex: You're going to hell because you're gay. What, you can't get mad, I'm just practicing my religion!).

And that's the thing. "You can't offend me" can be used to justify banning all sorts of things that don't actually HURT anybody. Gays holding hands or kissing in public places. Muslims playing their "call to prayer" loudly at their places of worship, much like church bells. Atheists publicly denying god. People choosing to have children outside of marriage and refusing to be ashamed of it. Throwing a cracker in the trash. You don't get to say that some of these things are more important than another (but religion is really important to people, can't we leave that alone so we don't hurt anyone's delicate sensibilities!), because the concept behind all of them is the same.

People have a right to have their beliefs. But I don't have to tip toe around dogma that I don't believe in because it's not "polite" to offend people. You do not have the right not to be offended. And all opinions do not deserve the same consideration or respect. You don't get a free pass because a "holy book" told you what to get offended at, or because your opinions are a couple thousand years old.

In the public square, we only have to abide by the rules of the country/state/city we're standing in, not the rules of each other's religions.
And those rules/policies have to be decided on based upon common reality... not bullshit you made up in your head. Calling it your "religious belief" or even your "personal belief" doesn't make it more special than any other idea. If you can't justify it out here in the real world, then we don't have to give a shit.

1 comment:

Timothy said...

Greetings! Saw your post in Google Blogsearch and came to read.

>"I never managed to wrap my mind around that shit either."

That's a shame. Its really very simple.

>"Catholics have to give their priests Magic Powers."

Um, no, Catholics do not give their priests Magic Powers. If one takes time to examine the eucharistic prayer offered by the priest on behalf of the congregation, one finds that the priest asks that the bread and wine become the Body of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The priest has no powers, but has the authority to ask (pray).

>"It's crazy that anyone takes this doctrine seriously, and it's crazy to claim that cracker abuse is a horrible evil act."

Nope. Its called faith for valid reasons. Catholics find sufficient scriptural, historical, and scientific proof for the Eucharist.

>"they seem to thing that they have some kind of right to punish PZ by getting him fired or something, because he had no right to do what he did."

While the agrieved should not take "punishment" into their own hands, the agrieved do have the right to file grievances with universities.

>"She is also an atheist"

Without a God, there are no atheists.

God bless...