Pox-ridden houses

I haven't commented on those Muslim cartoons so far. I'm conflicted.

Why, you might ask? It's a clear-cut case of religious insanity, exactly the sort of thing I ought to relish wagging an arrogantly atheistical finger at. And of course I will, in just a moment…but the difficult part is that there are actually at least two issues here, and religion is only one of them.

There are some things a cartoonist would be rightly excoriated for publishing: imagine that one had drawn an African-American figure as thick-lipped, low-browed, smirking clown with a watermelon in one hand and a fried chicken drumstick in the other. Feeding bigotry and flaunting racist stereotypes would be something that would drive me to protest any newspaper that endorsed it—of course, my protests would involve writing letters and canceling subscriptions, not rioting and burning down buildings. There is a genuine social concern here, I think. Muslims represent a poor and oppressed underclass, and those cartoons represent a ruling establishment intentionally taunting them and basically flipping them off. They have cause to be furious!

I've seen the cartoons, and they are crude and uninteresting—they are more about perpetuating stereotypes of Muslims as bomb-throwing terrorists than seriously illuminating a problem. They lack artistic or social or even comedic merit, and are only presented as an insult to inflame a poor minority. I don't have any sympathy for a newspaper carrying out an exercise in pointless provocation.

So on the one hand I see a social problem being mocked, but on the other—and here comes the smug godless finger-wagging—I see a foolish superstition used as a prod to mock people, and a people so muddled by the phony blandishments of religion that they scream "Blasphemy!" and falsely pin the problem on a ridiculous insult to a non-existent god, rather than on the affront to their dignity as human beings and citizens. Religion in this case has accomplished two things, neither one productive: it's distracted people away from the real problems, which have nothing at all to do with the camera-shy nature of their imaginary deity, and it's also amplified the hatred.

It also doesn't help that their riots are confirming the caricatures rather than opposing them. Once again, religiosity turns people into mindless frenzied zombies, and once again it interferes with progress.


Somehow, people are assuming from this that I'm "sympathetic to Islam". How, I don't know; I thought I'd always been quite clear in my contempt for all religion, and I thought the last two paragraphs above were plain enough. I am sympathetic to the problem of being a minority immigrant; that's one issue that is being ignored too much. As I said, the real problem is being exacerbated by bad religion that amplifies the hate.

I really don't think a Muslim would find me to be a friend to their religion.

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Wow, but this post has inspired so many misconceptions. I do not think Muslims should be insulated from satire. I do not think there is parity between a cartoonist drawing a picture someone doesn't like and a Muslim calling for the execution of the cartoonist. I am not on the Muslim's side here,…
Gallup has released a cross-national polling analysis that challenges the conclusion that Muslim extremism is at the heart of support for terrorism, that terrorism derives from a rejection of Western values and modernity, and that the solution is to replace Muslim faith with a Western secular view…
R. Joseph Hoffmann really doesn't get it. He's written an article that is basically doing nothing but decrying blasphemy on some very strange grounds: that it's stupid and pointless and cowardly. He also compares me and the desecration of a cracker with Terry Jones and the burning of a Koran that…
'I don't hate Muslims. I hate Islam,' says Holland's rising political star: A TV addict with bleached hair who adores Maggie Thatcher and prefers kebabs to hamburgers, Geert Wilders has got nothing against Muslims. He just hates Islam. Or so he says. 'Islam is not a religion, it's an ideology,'…

I'd agree that most of the cartoons are crap. However, consider the context. The newspaper published them specifically as a test of whether moslem fundamentalists had an improper lockdown on free speech in Denmark. On that front, I'd say that they've done their job of determining the true state of affairs magnificently...

What struk me first when I saw the cartoons, was the racist, ugly depiction, and like Prof Myers says, they are not really funny or clever. These cartoons show poor taste, and no wit.

As (European) Muslims already feel they are under attack, this was sure to anger them. Of course the religious aspect only exacerbates the offense in their eyes, and the violence that has been unleashed scares me.

"Muslims represent a poor and oppressed underclass, and those cartoons represent a ruling establishment intentionally taunting them and basically flipping them off. They have cause to be furious!"

No. Arabs might, in some cases, represent a poor and oppressed underclass. Being or not being Muslim is a totally seperate issue.

Religions are not ethnic groups. There are plenty of non-Arab muslims including non-Arab muslim fundamentalists. Some of the people in the background of the 9/11 attacks were European, not Arab, for example.

This equivocation between race and culture is one of the stupidest things that modern liberals do. Race is not culture, and culture is not race.

It is vicious and stupid to insult a race; it is something that someone cannot help and it does not in any way determine their ideas, personality traits, etc. Human behaviors are the result of ideas and conditioned habits. Even if there is any basis to the notion that certain races might on average have a *predisposition* toward certain behaviors, all human beings still have the cognitive ability to alter their behaviors through practice and will.

A culture on the other hand, and particularly a religion, is nothing more than a collection of ideas and habits and can be held or practiced by anyone. It is perfectly legitimate to criticize culture and religion. To make culture and religion off-limits to criticism is to place certain types of ideas outside the realm of debate.

Some UK papers have aready highlighted the issue that Muslim papers also print stereotyped racist cartoons (mainly aimed at USA & Israel) without any sense of hypocrisy involved in their being upset at these cartoons. It is also interesting in the UK that where someone is arrested for reading a list of names of Iraq war dead as an illegal protest an angry crowd of people suggesting we should be bombed for not condemning these cartoons is left alone. There is an issue @ free speech whether you like the content or not.

That's actually my point: that there is a social issue independent of religion (in a group that self-identifies as muslim), and they are wasting their time fighting over the religious issue of blasphemy.

It is possible to think the cartoons are bad and criticise the newspaper that published them, whilst at the same time defending the right of the newspaper to publish them and criticise the violent protesters. The cartoons simply should not be an issue on either side - if everything was okay then they would have been ignored. That instead we have the escalating situation we find ourselves in now speaks volumes about the state of free speech.

Boy, if you wonder what's wrong with the Democrats, look no further. When liberals are conflicted about burning down embassies in respose to free speech, it's no wonder our party can't find its ass with both hands.

PZ:

You are wrong to compare the cartoons to depictions of African Americans. People are Muslims, not because of their physicalities, but because they subscribe, volitionally, to a certain set of ideas. A Muslims can renounce Islam today - a black person cannot renounce his lips or the tone of his skin (even with surgery, you gotta shell out dough).
In short, comparing caricatures of believers, who subscribe to certain propositions - with people who are the way they are because they came into the world that way is just tasteless.
Believers can and should be caricatured. They must take responsibility for their beliefs by facing critiques of them. But why caricature biology? You are being overly sensistive here PZ: And *that* is the problem.

The riots do not represent the actions of all or even most Moslems. A number of Islamic leaders have comdemned both the violence and the threatening protests. As far as the cartoons and the protests that followed, both were tasteless, idiotic, and inflammatory. So is any statement by Phelps. We don't usually condemn all Christians because of Phelps' behavior or all anti-choice advocates because a few of them use bombs or arson to carry out their goals. Why aren't we able to differentiate between a few idiots, whether they be secular/Christian Danes or Moslems of various nationalities?

I'm not at all conflicted about the burning down of embassies: those rioters are idiots. That they've turned around and echoed the inflammatory stupidity of the newspapers 10,000 fold does not mean that original stupidity is nullified.

And moi, too sensitive? That's a first. I agree that caricaturing Mohammed is fine, not a problem, fire away. The problem here, though, is that that likeness is associated with the fact that the Muslim minority are treated like dirt, and becomes a proxy for other ills.

"There are some things a cartoonist would be rightly excoriated for publishing"

I agree that it would be societies right to verbally denounce (critique) or financially punish (stop buying) a cartoonist who's work was found to be offensive, but it is equally within the cartoonists right to create such images. This of course, is not true everywhere, and that is a shame. But, when we here in the US, are deciding how we feel about this topic, the question of censorship vs. free speech should be considered the primary issue. The motivations of the cartoonists and the paper that published them was probably inappropriate, but their right to publish those cartoons should be defended. If the US really believes that true democracy and "inalienable rights" belong to all people, we need to support those rights even for people we find reprehensible, and not just here but abroad.

Our State Dept has denounced the cartoons and the paper that printed them. To me that creates a double standard. That says we will tolerate some references to religion but not others, that says that free speech is OK, but only some of the time, and it says that we will force our democracy on the Middle East, but renege on true freedom as soon as it becomes inconvenient.

the thing that struck me about this uproar is how the muslim protesters are shouting things like "death to denmark" in their anger. of course the danish government had nothing to do with these cartoons--only danish newspapers. this tends to confirm a stereotype (i don't know whether it's true or not) that the islamic world sees no separation between a government and other institutions of society (the press, the church, etc.). if true, maybe they have been at the mercy of dictatorships for so long that they can't appreciate how, in a free society, the government has little power over the press. which makes me worry that they don't see why, in their society, the church should have little power over the government.

In the U.S., I have never seen a political cartoon in which Jesus himself is mocked, with the implication that Christianity as a whole is stupid or dangerous. That's out of bounds. You may see cartoons mocking liberal Christians, consistent with a fundamentalist viewpoint, or cartoons mocking fundamentalist buffoons like Pat Robertson, consistent with a liberal Christian view. Or maybe making fun of the Pope's more flagrantly silly pronouncements.

But never, ever an attack on Jesus himself, or on Christianity as a whole.

That bugs me. I wanna see a cartoon of Jesus himself cornholing an altar boy---or Jesus himself being very nice but destroying capitalism, by preaching about giving away all your possessions and not sowing or spinning.

I'd guess that such cartoons are not exactly common in major European newspapers, either.

And I can certainly understand why Muslims---even atheists of Muslim descent---would be disturbed by a double standard. To them, it's likely indicative of a general contempt for Muslims, which doesn't discriminate between theologies---if you can criticise their favorite guy, why not Jesus or Abraham?

And that is scary, because much of the support for U.S. foreign policy comes from fundamentalist Christians who demand respect for Christianity, and are quite contemptuous of even moderate Islam.

Of course, it is also true that people in Muslim countries tend to have double standards the other way, and they should grasp the concept of freedom of speech, and clean up their act, or just get over it.

These cartoons were meant to offend. It's the equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theater. In that regard, I have very little respect for the publisher. Doesn't mean I don't deplore the overreaction to this by Muslim protesters, however (though we've certainly seen similar behavior by Christians angered by depictions of Jesus in movies such as "The Last Temptation").

But thanks to our good friends in the White House, we're really not in a very good position to talk about freedom of information and the press now, are we?

By shinypenny (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Agreed, those things are broad, ugly, hardly deserving of being called 'comment'. As his editor, I'd have sent the cartoonist back to his desk with most of those.

(Well, with one exception. I think I'd have gone with the 'outta virgins' one. Kinda grimly amusing, I guess. Worth a low chuckle, if hardly a belly laugh. Too many 'martyrs'. What are ya gonna do. But I digress...)

Anyway. That's about taste. As PZ says, from outside the paper, that's worth a letter to the editor, not a bomb. I commented elsewhere: I'd happily run an actually funny cartoon about Mohammed. Folks got problem with blasphemy, they can tell me so by such avenues as the letters page.

And there's a third house I'd place a pox upon, following from what's coming up in the press now: the commenters predictably jumping up in response to the fracas to say oh, we must respect religion.

Nope. We mustn't. The fact that criticizing religious stupidity can and does get muddled up in classism and racism notwithstanding. Religions are ideas (and so far as I've seen very bad ones). Open to debate, open to critique. We still need to be able to call 'em the names they so utterly deserve.

PZ I have to disagree with you on this one for exactly the reasons that Chuckles provides. Ethnicity was not the target here.

Paul W.
I guess you don't watch South Park, then...

It's the equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theater.

How is it like shouting fire in a crowded theater, except that censors like to use shouting fire as an excuse to silence everything they don't like, and this is something they don't like?

I'd be more inclined to believe it was about religion and not ethnicity if there'd been a little equal opportunity belittlement -- let's see cartoons about Jesus and Buddha and the Hindu gods.

How is it like shouting fire in a crowded theater

Sort of obvious, no? Just because I -can- say something, doesn't mean I -should-, or that, more importantly, my reasons are "pure" for saying it. These cartoons were commissioned to offend. Their value as a symbol of a free speech ranks right next to the KKK marching through Evanston. I'll support their right to march, but it won't stop me from finding their behavior vile and hateful. Likewise in this case.

By shinypenny (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

And I can certainly understand why Muslims---even atheists of Muslim descent---would be disturbed by a double standard.

i'm not disturbed. islam as a religion sanctions via its shariat that apostates should have 3 months to repent before i am killed. why would i care about double standards when the one religion that poses and existential threat to me is islam? as one poster noted, religion = not blood. just because i am descended from muslisms doesn't imply i have a mystical attachment to muslim values.

yes, the double standard does exist perhahps, but i suspect that one reason you don't hear about hindu or christian caricatures is that they don't react so badly. for god's sake, the existence of jesus christ is being put on trial in italy. a friend of mine of arab origin told me about a cartoon in the arab world that was banned becauase a caveman was hit by lighting and he declared, "so there is a god." the banning was of the idea that someone could conceive of a world without a god.

racism is bad, but i sympathize with people like ayaan hirsi ali more than the majority of muslims in europe who, frankly, live reactionary lives. many of the bible thumping crackers are also the objects of contempt and economically deprived, but their snake-handling superstitions don't get a pass, the social issues are a separate consideration.

I,ve seen lots of scurrilous cartoons portraying Jews and Judaism from Arab/Muslim/Iranian websites and newspapers. It seems to be a matter of whose ox is being gored. Once again it is unprincipalled hypocritical whining licensed by delusional religious mental processes.

It was a matter of freedom of press and freedom of speech right from the beginning.

They were published as an answer to a concrete attempt by the minority of lunatic Muslim radicals here to curtail those freedoms. Those were the same people who later toured the Middle East with not just those 12 drawings but a bunch of other (worse) drawings in order to incite hatred against Denmark. One of the other Danish newspapers got hold of the material they used on their tour and got it translated. Pretty bad stuff. Very little of it true.

Hindus and buddhists (or Jews) have not tried to curtail the freedom of press in Denmark. Some Christians used to try that but they have lost more and more ground. And Jesus does get ridiculed and depicted in a non-respectful way.

The director of this film did that a lot, for example:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104551/combined

And no, Muslims are not treated as dirt here.

Offensive religionists are not treated with respect (but that goes for Christians, too).

Sure, immigrants are poorer with lower employment -- not surprising giving how our immigration politicies used to favour immigration through (arranged and often forced) marriage with no view as to the skills of the people involved.

It was not about ethnicity, it was about religion and freedom of press. In that conflict, religion must never be allowed to win.

By Peter Lund (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

What's this abour racism? As I understand it, the cartoons do not depict John Q. Muslim, they depict Mohammed. Mohammed was an Arab. You can look it up. As for any exaggeration of physical features, hey, it's a cartoon.

I heard a US State department spokesperson on public radio half an hour ago say that anti-Muslim images are unacceptable, as are anti-Christian images, etc. Funny how no one ever points out the horrendously inaccurate depiction of atheism by idiots like Pat Boone

I'm a believer in God and I trust the Bible implicitly � and he's a seething, militant atheist. At least he claims to be, though he was raised Catholic, and I sometimes think he's just mad at God because God won't do what my friend thinks he should.

(be sure to catch the bit about the Bible saying that slavery is evil)
and

Dale Reich

What I meant to say is that God is the basis for good and evil, and once you reject him and his rules, you're left with nothing but self-serving and self-preservation.

and Aso Rock and Femi Fani-Kayode

Aso Rock says it has made up its mind to dismiss whatever view is expressed by the Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, because he is an atheist.
...
�It is always very difficult to reason, debate or have any form of meaningful discussion or dialogue with any person who does not believe in God,� Fani-Kayode said.

Where is the outrage?

I would like to note that I support the right of muslims to burn the Danish flag, so long as they buy their own rather than burn somebody else's (possibly attached to an embassy)

By Bayesian Bouff… (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Nobody should be surprised, really. Kevin Drum was also equivocal about the situation. Kos hasn't said anything about it.

Anybody know where I can find a pro-Enlightenment political party?

Squeaky squoke: Paul W. I guess you don't watch South Park, then...

Actually, I'm very fond of South Park, especially a few utterly wonderful episodes. The "Cartmanland" episode has about 10 minutes of absolutely exquisite exploration of the Problem of Evil; that's the most important philosophical point that most people Just Don't Get, and I've never seen it addressed so clearly on TV before. And "Starvin' Marvin in Space" was fabulous. Every American ought to watch those two episodes.

But I haven't been keeping up---no cable and almost no broadcast TV for the last few years. Have I missed something particularly good?

Unfortunately, last I checked, South Park wasn't a mainstream newspaper :-) Or general broadcast TV, or even basic cable, which is why I've been missing it... thanks to the "family values" people (read: anti-sex fundies) who insist on their inalienable right not to turn on their v-chips and still be offended by what they could watch on their TV's.

Anyway, what I was really saying was that I want to see is reasonable viewpoints (like Christianity is Dumb) expressed on the editorial page, along with the "acceptable" range of "serious" memes they do print, like Irreligious People have No Moral Compass, Islam Is Too a Terrorist Religion, and Environmentalists are Just Deluded Left-Wing Airheads.

There are editorials against Dark Age Christians in Danish newspapers. Indre Mission ("Inner (or Internal) Mission") is a common target.

Religious people are not seen as particularly moral people in Denmark. They are seen as people who ought to be moral because they themselves claim to be so -- which makes them great targets when they are not.

By Peter Lund (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

This whole thing is too ridiculous for words, so I'm off to the pub to down a pint of Calsberg. PZ, if you want some cartoons you can laugh at, try these.

By Tony Jackson (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

PZ wrote:
That's actually my point: that there is a social issue independent of religion (in a group that self-identifies as muslim), and they are wasting their time fighting over the religious issue of blasphemy.

Of course, the imams WANT their followers to waste their time that way; it burns off energy that should be directed at examining how strong religion's hold on their lives IS and what it might be doing to actually impede their political and intellectual freedom. Or, more accurately, not religion per se, but one version of religion spouted by a relative handful of the human population.

While many people participated in those riots (and some, including the leaders, should be rounded up as criminals for the arson attacks), the VAST majority of the Muslim world did not. Like most of us, they saw the "controversy" for what it is -- a dispute of IDEAS, however childishly expressed.

I've seen numerous references to this issue online over the last few days and you're the only place that has actually linked to the cartoons themselves (even the BBC & other news sources didn't). I'd bet many of the other blogs never even saw them. Thanks, PZ

Among the center-to-left blogs I watch, so far, Ed Brayton's the only person who's unambiguously standing up for the Enlightenment values here.

Summary:

* Papers have right to free press.
* But the cartoons were lame.

* Muslims shouldn't have gotten so mad, but some did.
* Even so, they have a right to protest.
* They don't have right to burn other people's stuff.
* Saying Muslims are only a culture and not a race so
therefore can be criticized is naive (talk to the
AntiDefamation League about marginalizing a religious
people)

* U.S. gov has a right to condemn toons for being
meanspirited.
* This is not the same as condoning a ban on free speech.

Sort of obvious, no? Just because I -can- say something, doesn't mean I -should-, or that, more importantly, my reasons are "pure" for saying it. These cartoons were commissioned to offend. Their value as a symbol of a free speech ranks right next to the KKK marching through Evanston. I'll support their right to march, but it won't stop me from finding their behavior vile and hateful. Likewise in this case.

The theater fire analogy is brought for exactly one reason: to support restrictions on free speech. You don't suppot people's right to shout fire in crowded theaters, do you?

Not that I'm a big fan of Mohammed, or even convinced that there was such a historical person, but -

Isn't the point of a ban on depicting gods, prophets, et al, to ensure that the believers focus on the concept and not the portrayal (much as with that "no graven images" commandment)? The prohibition on pictures of Mohammed was intended to emphasize the message above the messenger.

Yet here we have the believers waxing wroth over a few crude lines of ink on paper, howling with rage as if Indiana Jones had stolen the jewels from the brow of the great idol in the Temple of Doom. Allowing some caricaturist to dominate their thoughts and acts from a thousand miles away is succumbing to crude idolatry, a major leap backward in understanding on multiple levels.

However, any mullahs and imams (or political leaders) who might be expressing such thoughts are clearly being drowned out by their more simplistic and opportunistic brethren, who gain all sorts of social advantage by good old-fashioned us-vs-them rabble-rousing - rather like US politicians distracting the public from real problems by crusading against the meaningless menace of flag-burners.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Not that I'm a big fan of Mohammed, or even convinced that there was such a historical person, but -
.
Isn't the point of a ban on depicting gods, prophets, et al, to ensure that the believers focus on the concept and not the portrayal (much as with that "no graven images" commandment)? The prohibition on pictures of Mohammed was intended to emphasize the message above the messenger.

Not to mention that the rioters are applying this islamic rule to non-muslims.

By Bayesian Bouff… (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Just to be clear, the protests are not related to the content of the cartoons but to the simple fact that Mohammed has been represented in any kind of visual way. Whether you find the images ugly, controversial, or dull is irrelevant, they could show Mohammed simply watering the lawn and they would have the same effect.

The protest is not against the ideas represented in the cartoons but against anyone, anywhere, at any time, trying to produce a representation of the prophet no matter what they might be saying.

The entire thing started because the author of a children's book about Islam couldn't get any artists to do the illustrations involving Mohammed. So the paper wanted to explore the topic of artistic self-censorship, which is really what the cartoons are "about" if that's what you want to get into. It's an absolutely stark case of freedom of speech versus forces that want to squelch that freedom (and who are succeeding, cheered on by virtually every Western government out there, sadly).

Posted by: Adam Ierymenko | February 4, 2006 02:56 PM

This equivocation between race and culture is one of the stupidest things that modern liberals do. Race is not culture, and culture is not race."

Someone seems to be a bit unaware of even American history and the religous riots of the Catholics over the direct discrimination by Protestents from Philadelphia to St. Louis in the 19th Century. And let's not forget the persecution of the Mormons and difficulties that some others Christian sects have found as well. And, of couse, we have the shabby treatment of Jews (as both a religion and a "race") through-out much of the 20th Century.

Steve S,

Since when is tolerance not an enlightenment value?

All PZ is doing is objecting to the use of free speech to drive a wedge between the Danish Muslim and white Danish population, much to the satisfaction of the reactionaries at Jyllands-Posten and in the Dansk Folkeparti. It's hardly excusing the violence which has followed to analyze the social and political context in which these cartoons were penned.

If we refuse to condemn xenophobes when they wrap themselves in "freedom of speech" then we'll Enlightenment ourselves into another dark age.

Saying Muslims are only a culture and not a race so
therefore can be criticized is naive

Bullshit. Islam is a religion (with many variants), practiced by many races and people of many cultures.

Even so, they have a right to protest.
Peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Denmark? Sure.
Not so peaceful demonstrations elsewhere? Not up to me, I don't have much of an opinion on that.
Organizing a delegation that incites to riots in the Middle East with lies and propaganda? No, clearly not.
Attacking EU offices in Palestine over this, mostly because you just lost an election with a landslide, as Fatah and the Brigade of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs did? Not acceptable, either.
Burning embassies? Putting the lives of Danish Red Cross workers in danger so they have to be moved out? No, I don't think so.

This is not the same as condoning a ban on free speech.

It certainly looks a lot like that seen from this appartment, about 800 meters away from two of the most radical mosques in Denmark.

I am happy to note, however, that most Muslims are not that silly. The streets here are peaceful and I live on the fringe of one the areas in Copenhagen with the most Muslims and immigrants. The general consensus among Danes does not seem to be "look at those evil Muslims" but rather "look at those few radical Muslims, they are not good for us, we don't like those". Some of the previously silent Muslims are organizing now because they don't want to be represented in the media by the imams; they want sensible people to be the voice of Islam in Denmark, not half-crazed science illiterates who aren't allowed to enter some Middle East countries due to their radicalism. I find that one of the very good outcomes of this.

Denmark has been extraordinarily tolerant of radical imams but I guess that time is over now.

By Peter Lund (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

islam as a religion sanctions via its shariat that apostates should have 3 months to repent before i am killed.

As opposed to, say, Judaism?

The cartoons were originally published Sept 30, 2005 - why were they republished now? There seems to be a long history of growing tensions behind this.
E.g., these old articles:
http://www.danielpipes.org/article/450
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/04/15/wqueen1…
http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,398624,00.html

Anyway, I'd like to point out that the practice of any religion but Islam is illegal in Saudi Arabia for instance; why is that less offensive than cartoons?

To steve s, fritz, and anyone else trying to score cheap shots through willful misrepresentation:

I suspect I speak for the vast majority of left-liberals when I say:

We strongly support very broad free speech rights that expressly include the Danish cartoons as protected from any sort of state censorship.

But we're not shouting at the tops of our lungs on this one because we can recognize cheap political theater and manipulation pretty well, after 5 years of Bush. These cartoons were published simply to piss off Muslims and "prove" that many Muslims are intolerant of free speech regarding Muhammad. (Duh.) That's manipulation number 1.

In return, a bunch of religious and political leaders in the Middle East exploit this opportunity to fan the flames of hatred and distract from their own failure to provide for their people. That's manipulation number 2.

Who's "right" here? Well, the Danish publishers of these cartoons are clearly exercising their moral right to free speech. And the protestors calling for violence against them or burning down embassies are clearly very wrong.

You'll get no disagreement from us on those points. We're just not excited about it because the whole thing is engineered political theater. I know you all love that in the Rush Limbaugh/Fox News/Free Republic culture, but we're just a bit more tuned in to reality over here. Stop being a tool, and start thinking for yourself, if you really *are* children of the Enlightenment.

Sheesh.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Peter: They were published as an answer to a concrete attempt by the minority of lunatic Muslim radicals here to curtail those freedoms.

Ahh... that's some context I'd been missing; maybe I'm a victim of crummy reporting. Wouldn't be the first time.

Got an informative link handy?

The movie you cite sounds interesting, but movies and editorial pages are rather different; an editorial page has a narrower "approved range" of "acceptable" opinion.
And cartoons do tend to provoke more outrage than ideas in a column.

(And here, we do get organized protests against such movies---even "The Last Temptation of Christ", for suggesting that Jesus might have had an unchaste thought or two when he came to Earth and experienced being a man. Apparently, he was supposed to be tempted, but not by anything very tempting. An antisemitic gore-fest like "The Passion of the Christ" is great, though. BTW, I'm not equating picketing a movie with storming and burning embassies, or calls for beheadings.)

There are editorials against Dark Age Christians in Danish newspapers. Indre Mission ("Inner (or Internal) Mission") is a common target.

Do you get editorials critizing Jesus and anybody who'd follow him---and especially, cartoons ridiculing Jesus himself? (That's a serious question, not a rhetorical one. Maybe not all that relevant now, though, in light of your remarks to the effect that they were asking for it.)

Religious people are not seen as particularly moral people in Denmark. They are seen as people who ought to be moral because they themselves claim to be so -- which makes them great targets when they are not.

Yeah, I know. When I was on the job market, I was tempted to go to the U. of Copenhagen, instead of coming to Texas. The (ir-)religion issue was not a small factor. (If I'd known GWB would become President of the United States, I might well have gone to Europe.)

One subtlety there, though. In the U.S. at least, there's a moderate amount of criticism of hypocritical Christians, of the Christians-vs.-Christians sort that doesn't challenge Christianity itself. There is essentially no criticism of Jesus or of Christianity as a whole. That's what bugs me.

I think liberal Christianity is an intellecually corrupt attempt to make a silk purse out of a morally corrupt sow's ear. Christianity is so messed up that you can't be a Christian and not be some kind of hypocrite.

The entire thing started because the author of a children's book about Islam couldn't get any artists to do the illustrations involving Mohammed. So the paper wanted to explore the topic of artistic self-censorship, which is really what the cartoons are "about" if that's what you want to get into. It's an absolutely stark case of freedom of speech versus forces that want to squelch that freedom (and who are succeeding, cheered on by virtually every Western government out there, sadly).

If you believe that, then I have the Christiansborg Palace to sell you--cheap!

If they had wanted to test the waters of freedom of speech, then Muhammad with a bomb on his head wasn't necessary. It certainly wouldn't be a part of any conceivable illustration of a history of early Islam. They could have simply reprinted some of the Muslim works of art which do depict Muhammad (primarily from the Turkish, Persian, or Indian Islamic traditions) and written an article wondering if these works would have be censored, and a discussion of the illustrators who are afraid to work on books on Islam because they fear controversy.

The cartoons are difficult to construe in any other way than being deliberately offensive, and I believe that was their intent. If they could sow a Muslim backlash, then they could portray all Muslims as unreasonable and have them turned out of the country. Unfortunately, the Muslims took the bait and some, living in countries which have found this a heaven-sent excuse to distract their populations from their own appalling records (ex. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria), have even turned to extreme violence.

Both Jyllands-Posten and the fanatics who burned down the embassies are both responsible for making the a less safe and civil place today.

Tsk, tsk. I'm all for enlightenment values. I also think Mohammed should be mocked and reviled.

My objection is that the newspaper claims the cartoons were run as a matter of principle. That's a good thing; so why not demonstrate the principle by running cartoons mocking many religions and ideas, from atheism to zoroastrianism, with a few random pokes at popular Danish figures? I suspect there would still have been protests and riots, but I'd feel that the paper had been behaving responsibly...as it is, by focusing on just one religion instead of all of them, they look like they singled out one despised group for abuse, rather than a broader idea.

The cartoons were NOT lame. They were NOT ridiculous. They were CARTOONS. Odin Above - have we all lost our minds here?

Its not as if the cartoons depicted something historically false. Muhammed, was in fact, a roving aggressor against certain peoples. But that aside; it is certainly illogical to suggest, that simply because we dont see broadsides against Judaism and Xtianity, then somehow, we get to inveigh against a private institution in the way it chooses to exercise its right to free speech, in, get this:a conflict between murderous demonstrators calling for the destruction of entire societies and the entirety of Europe, singing praises to Bin Laden and torching embassies and a bunch of cartoonists!

To equate whatever supposed evil these cartoonists have committed with the response of these loons is to carry even handedness into paralysis.

We should not even be speaking of the supposed \"ill deeds\" of these cartoonists and the murderous response of these loons in the same breath!

Yet, what evil have these cartoonists done? Depicted a historical figure according to certain caricatures: A treatment that has been meted out to Xtianity and Judaism despite what some opine to the contrary. Jesus has been lampooned, lambasted, dipped in elephant shit, spit and pissed on, turned into a homosexual, Jeebusized: Churches have been burned - hundreds of churches are burned in the USA every freaking year - yet, some are still looking for \"even treatment\"? Synagogues are burned and desecrated by Europeans and many of them Muslims - yet, some are still looking for an even treatment between these caricatures and Xtianity/Judaism before expressing proper outrage at the reaction of these murderers?

Give me a freaking break!

The problem here is you all have ideological blinkers on: And your opposition to Xtianity/Judaism, or at least your skepticism of it vis-a-vis the current climate of science and enlightenment in the West is making you more sympathetic to Islam. The enemy of enemy etc.

The simple truth is that there is no case here. Cartoonists did their job - and you know what? There is this little thing called \"boycotting\" that people in Western societies have found to tackle this kind of thing: And yeah - lets bring up blacks. But guess what? Blacks sang \"We shall overcome\" - they made speeches. MLK did not call for anyones death, neither did he celebrate the death of whites in Vietnam. There was this little thing called nonviolent change - remember?

Stop apologizing for these barbarians and start thinking of how we can salvage what is left of the West\'s moral sanity from the clutches of a dark age that is already most certainly upon us.

PS: Bringing up persecuted mormons is hardly the point here. No one isnt saying they marginalized in the West: But how exactly does this translate into all the furor over CARTOONS? Muslims should be told:

1. This is the West, not the Middle East.
2. You dragged your asses up here into this place.
3. This is how we do it here.
4. You dont like how we play? Fine. Here\'s a one way ticket out - or better still, call a freaking congressman/MP.

This is the appropriate response, not moaning and groaning over some cartoons and saying \"well, ahem....but, , , what the cartoonists did was also wrong, ahem, ahem.\" It is highly inappropriate for a State official in the West to inveigh against free speech while addressing the riots of murderous loons. This is a sure sign of moral bankruptcy.

And really, I dont know what was so tasteless about those cartoons: I mean, even Muslims arent complaining about the bomb strapping - they are complaining about the very fact of depiction: It tends to tell you how certain people think and what they know about *their* religion\'s history.

BTW - I dont see whats wrong with a little political theater myself: This particularly has brought a poignant issue to the fore: And as for driving a wedge: Methinks it is the roving demonstrators and their burning of embassies that is doing just that.

PZ said:

... as it is, by focusing on just one religion instead of all of them, they look like they singled out one despised group for abuse, rather than a broader idea.

But other religions don't have a prohibition against any depiction of their prophet. And the newspaper had a case of a children's book where they couldn't find anyone to do the illustrations of Mohammed, not of Christ or Buddha or any other religious figure.

It is an illustration of a very core idea held by a specific religious group directly at loggerheads with a core Western value. Since other religious groups don't hold that particular idea, then it would be rather pointless to bring them into it.

Nullifidian said:

The cartoons are difficult to construe in any other way than being deliberately offensive...

Since any illustration of Mohammed is offensive regardless of what you might be drawing Mohammed doing, your statement is as accurate as it is trivial. That's the point they're trying to bring up!

You and I can have our opinion about the content of the cartoons and whether or not they're offensive for the ideas they attempt to convey, but it's utterly irrelevant. The core principle at issue is one segment of one religious group's stance that is completely antithical to even the most mundane Western understanding of freedom of expression.

Embassies were burned and death threats -- death threats! -- issued not because of the content of the cartoons but simply because someone made pictures -- any pictures -- of Mohammed.

That should be absolutely abhorrent to anyone who claims to hold freedom of expression dear.

Anyway, I'd like to point out that the practice of any religion but Islam is illegal in Saudi Arabia for instance; why is that less offensive than cartoons?

Who has said they are less offensive? Who is making apologies for the rioters shouting for the death of cartoonists? Who is saying we should limit free speech?

I'm sure not.

so why not demonstrate the principle by running cartoons mocking many religions and ideas,

Because the only serious threat to the freedom of speech comes from Muslims. The fight against backwards forms of Christianity is pretty much won here.

Muslims are not singled out for ridicule, quite the contrary, they have been treated with kid gloves for a long time in the media and in politics.

from atheism to zoroastrianism

Nobody here knows anything about zoroastrianism -- there are about 10 parsees in the entire country, I'd guess (I used to date one of them).

with a few random pokes at popular Danish figures?

Take a look at cartoon number 8 on the Brussels Journal webpage, the one with the lineup. Number two from the left, the woman, is Pia Kj�rsg�rd, leader of Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People's Party), a somewhat xenophobic populist party. The man at the far right is K�re Bluitgen, the author who had trouble finding an illustrator for his book. The sign he is holding says "K�res PR - ring og f� et tilbud" (K�re's PR agency -- call for an offer).

The goofy guy on the last cartoon is as far as I can tell also K�re Bluitgen -- the orange falling into his turban labelled "PR Stunt" is a reference to a Danish play called "Alladin" by the Romantic Poet Adam Oehlenschl�ger. It basically means that he got lucky and got some free publicity.

(scienceblogs doesn't like æ, å, and ä -- it's a xenophobic plot! I'm being repressed and disrespected! We shall burn your embassies and not buy your awful beer!)

By Peter Lund (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

"These cartoons were published simply to piss off Muslims and "prove" that many Muslims are intolerant of free speech regarding Muhammad."

Well then QED.

Anyway, don't let me stop you from taking on equivocal Kerryesque positions. Be for it before you're against it. Seems to be working well for you.

Chuckles: ... hundreds of churches are burned in the USA every freaking year ...

Evidence, please.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Actually, one major cause of this latest escalation started was the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. He had produced a short film about Islamic repression of women, and was gunned down in Amsterdam in 2004; two knives were left in his chest, one of which had a note calling for the destruction of the West attached. This had a polarizing effect on the whole issue of Islam in Western countries, with the Dutch government advocating tougher blasphemy laws, opposition parties advocating banning Muslim immigration, and the Muslim population becoming more insular. Obviously we have had many other developments since then, throughout Europe.

Pity this poor European: I see what's insulting about depicting anyone as being a thick-lipped, low-browed smirker, but, um, what's insulting about watermelons and fried chicken drumsticks? It's a bit odd to eat them together, but I'm sure someone's done it (probably in a kebab or something). Neither strike me as being particularly associated with any racial grouping...

Geez, those folks have no sense of humor at all. Poor devils.

By california_rea… (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Its not as if the cartoons depicted something historically false. Muhammed, was in fact, a roving aggressor against certain peoples.

So he should be represented as some cliched Disney villain? It's as simplistic and ignorant as drawing Jesus with blue eyes and chiseled abs. Perhaps cartoons are the appropriate medium in which to demonstrate the majority of the world's cartoonish view of reality, regardless of where they lie on the socio-political spectrum.

Were I a Danish cartoonist (and, god-willing, one day I will be), I would've drawn a stick figure with a smilie face and "Muhammad" pointing to it. It's easy to slip into obvious heavy-handedness, but it's another thing to use the opportunity to attempt some subtle irony which speaks far more about the silliness of ancient religious principles. Perhaps I'm expecting too much from the world's press these days.

Abiola Lapite has a way of putitng my teeth on edge whenever I read him, even when I agree with him. Unfortunately, I think he's pretty much right here. These violent acts aren't simply confirming a caricature; there really is a great deal to the notion that Islam is more violent, and more celebratory of violence, than other religions. You can know this without dispensing with sympathy for the poor and downtrodden in the Muslim world.

By C. Schuyler (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

I agree in general, but for one thing. I don't think Islam is worse than Christianity. What has ameliorated the excesses of religion in the Western world is secularism. Islam is a Christianity that has executed or suppressed all of its sensible freethinkers.

PZ said:

They lack artistic or social or even comedic merit, and are only presented as an insult to inflame a poor minority.

the full story and history of where these cartoons came from is available.Jeff Herbert said:

Just to be clear, the protests are not related to the content of the cartoons but to the simple fact that Mohammed has been represented in any kind of visual way.

well, that's not true, as the Wikipedia article explains. there have been visual depictions, just not recent ones. there is a flip side to a prohibition on visual depictions of anything. as in the case of the Jewish Yahweh, it heightens the mystery and power of the figure. as i'm sure someone else here has or will note, Islam has prohibitions on three dimensional representations of animals and people. actually, Judaism has a similar theme in its history and synogogues are pretty stark in decorations, excepting the Ark for the Torah, the Torah's cover itself, and the Eternal Light. certainly no paintings and such. there was a struggle about whether or not it was proper for Jews to do art as in sculpture. that's been resolved.personally, i can't see how anyone with a secular outlook can see the Danish publication of these cartoons and their syndication elsewhere as bad. i can understand religious folks, like Christians, Jews, even Buddhists considering this disrespectful and so not a good idea. but, then, of course so is the "Life of Brian". and there's a consensus that's okay. and it's not like this is a first-time-ever case of the Prophet being depicted with insult.
i also have seen much reporting on Islamisk Trossamfund which, after the cartoons were published in September of 2005 went on a tour of the Middle East to whip up opposition to Jyllands-Posten.my further comments are posted here.

Pierce Butler: "Evidence Please"

Google news "arson church" returns 975 hits with the first page all from 2006. Hardly a week goes by when there isn?t a mention on the news of some church burnt by an arsonist. Used to be just rural black churches but now it seems that it is any rural church.

LM Wanderer

By LM Wanderer (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Do you get editorials critizing Jesus and anybody who'd follow him

Sometimes -- but not in that particular paper.

---and especially, cartoons ridiculing Jesus himself?

Yes.

By Peter Lund (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Five churches in Alabama were torched Friday night. That's less than a dozen, but the year is young.

PZ, not only are these people enemies of freedom, they are also Creationists!

I spoke to some of them at an open house thingy at Islamisk Trossamfund (Society for Islamic Faith) two or three years ago. Their imam, Abu Laban, who is one of the current trouble makers, came across as a person who was personally likeable, deeply ignorant (despite an education as an engineer), very demagogic, and very used to being applauded by his flock no matter what he did or said.

I considered taking classes in Arabic and in the Quran with them -- and in fact I still do. Supplemented with independent studies as always, of course ;)

By Peter Lund (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

So, PZ, were you equally upset when Andres Serrano did 'Piss Christ'? As I recall, the left was uniformly of the opinion that Christians must not only submit to having their deity insulted -- not just depicted but smeared with excrement -- but also had to pay taxes to support it.

By Harry Eagar (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

You just don't get it.

I have no problem with "heresy" at all. Go ahead, sculpt a bust of Mohammed out of pig shit, or have Tom of Finland do an illustrated life of Christ. I don't mind in the slightest, and if it's well done, I might even applaud (Serrano wasn't particularly good, just as these cartoons aren't). I agree that Christians have to accept that non-Christians won't treat their icons with reverence, ditto for Muslims.

If you're thinking I'm arguing that we have to be respectful of superstition, you aren't comprehending well.

The sad thing is that if the (perhaps oppressed) Muslim immigrants and their children and their coreligionists outside Europe marched against discrimination in jobs, housing, and education, most everyone would sympathize and perhaps even want to help. Instead the biggest demonstrations seem to be over cartoons and head-scarfs.

Yes, I agree that the rioters are contemptible ignoramuses. I am not on their side, OK?

The problem, I think, is not that anyone thinks that you support the rioters; it is that you seem to imply (however lightly) that there is some sort of moral parity between the cartoonists and the rioters.

However offensive one might find these cartoons (for whatever reason), the "crime" of causing offense is not even in the same moral universe as the act of rioting and/or calling for the death of those who might offend you (in this case potentially hundreds of millions of people).

That you focus any attention at all on the minor issue of somebody potentially causing offense by drawing a cartoon when there are people rioting in the streets and calling for the deaths of those who disagree with them, is what people (including myself frankly) are having difficulty with.

By Troy Britain (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Fair enough: Christianity has been housebroken by the Enlightenment; Islam hasn't.

By C. Schuyler (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Without artistic merit? What?

Only a minority of the cartoons both a) actually depicted Mohammad and b) made critical political statements about Islam.

Several of the cartoons were well-drawn, and one (the gently-shaded one with Mohammad's head enveloped in a cresent halo) was quite lovely.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

what's remarkable to me is that cartoons are arguably the gentlest form of published criticism and have accomplished a lot of good in the United States, France, and Britain, and probably elsewhere. Boss Tweed supposedly riled against Nast saying "Stop them damned pictures. I don't care so much what the papers say about me. My constituents can't read. But, damn it, they can see pictures!"if indeed subjects can be declared off-limits to cartoonists, then they are surely off limits to other kinds of criticism. maybe that's what the Satanic Verses thing was about.but the trouble is, if cartoons are disallowed, it's really easy for an authority, like a king or royal family, to extend these limits to envelop their own shennanigans, particularly if they can shut down newspapers, and so the public never gets to ridicule them through laughter.
BTW, to respond to another bit put out there above, it's hard to imagine the Ayotollah Khomeni laughing at anything. it's equally hard to imagine a human being never laughing. if they don't that would be kinda sad.

PZ, I think you hit the nail pretty much spot-on. If the local time wasn't 4:45 am (and I wasn't drunk) I might have elaborated.

Rasmus / Denmark

Follow-up report: Skimming the 1,020 hits I got for "arson church" on Google News, most of the recent stories concerned the 5 churches torched Friday in Alabama. Quite a few of the others seemed off-topic: burnings on Church Street somewhere; "arson ruled out as cause of church fire"; concatenated police reports; arrests for a 2004 fire, etc. In one Arkansas case, a church secretary reportedly confessed to igniting her own workplace, possibly to cover up theft.
All this is interesting and disturbing, but not enough to support Chuckles's claim.
I'm reminded of a wave of church burnings over a decade ago here in Gainesville, FL. One pastor I spoke with was convinced that a local Satanist lesbian cult required each new initiate to torch a house of worship. I kind of regret not tracking him down for comment later when a mentally unstable drifter was convicted of all these crimes - motivated, he said, by sexual abuse experienced at the church of his childhood.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

"Anyway, don't let me stop you from taking on equivocal Kerryesque positions. Be for it before you're against it. Seems to be working well for you."

I fail to see anything equivocal in my argument above---Danish cartoonists' free speech rights should be asserted and defended, the rioters should be condemned, and everyone thinking this is the biggest issue since, oh, the last engineered moral uproar should try to be a bit less easily stirred into a frenzy.

I also have a hard time even translating your response from winger speak: "Kerryesque"? "Be for it before you're against it?". You do realize Kerry's unfortunate comment was made with reference to Senate procedures, not with respect to his own beliefs, right? Makes a nice wingnut sound-bite, and Kerry is a poorly spoken gasbag at times, but what does this have to do with *anything*?

If you have a point, make it. If you want to improve the condition of pretty much anything in the Middle East or Europe, explain how pushing this controversy is the right vehicle for change. If you want to take ill-informed, poorly argued cheap shots at your fellow posters or host, feel free to keep making a fool of yourself.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

PZ:

I agree in general, but for one thing. I don't think Islam is worse than Christianity. What has ameliorated the excesses of religion in the Western world is secularism. Islam is a Christianity that has executed or suppressed all of its sensible freethinkers.

There is another important difference you are ignoring. Secularists respond to Christian nonsense as if they'd had *balls,* whereas they suddenly lose them when faced with Islamic idiocy. Given this tendency, I doubt that secularists will be successful in reducing the excesses of Islam in the same way.

Jeff Hebert:
Since any illustration of Mohammed is offensive regardless of what you might be drawing Mohammed doing, your statement is as accurate as it is trivial. That's the point they're trying to bring up!

Ah, first the ignorance.

Obviously you didn't read my response carefully enough. So let's try one more time, in bold:

"If they had wanted to test the waters of freedom of speech, then Muhammad with a bomb on his head wasn't necessary. It certainly wouldn't be a part of any conceivable illustration of a history of early Islam. They could have simply reprinted some of the Muslim works of art which do depict Muhammad (primarily from the Turkish, Persian, or Indian Islamic traditions) and written an article wondering if these works would have be censored, and a discussion of the illustrators who are afraid to work on books on Islam because they fear controversy."

There are already artworks depicting Muhammad and the Muslim community is not scandalized. If you want to see them, I can link you to examples or you can find a history book on Persian, Turkish, or Indian art and see for yourself. You're hiding behind Jyllands-Posten's justification to ignore the fact that these depictions of Muhammad were deliberately provocative.

The core principle at issue is one segment of one religious group's stance that is completely antithical to even the most mundane Western understanding of freedom of expression.

Then the generalizations. Of course, if you seriously believe this, then it's obvious that the West must protect itself or fall, and therefore any sort of xenophobic response, including turning all Muslim immigrants out of the country, is justified. That's exactly the fears these cartoons were meant to stoke, and you're being swung like a lariat just as they wanted.

Embassies were burned and death threats -- death threats! -- issued not because of the content of the cartoons but simply because someone made pictures -- any pictures -- of Mohammed.

So how many death threats are made to art historians who republish these religious artworks which depict Muhammad? After all, they're depictions of the Prophet, and they're being reprinted with what one assumes is indifference to what the Western media would have you believe is a taboo universal to Muslims, so where's the controversy?

That should be absolutely abhorrent to anyone who claims to hold freedom of expression dear.

And last the sanctimony. You've hit the trifecta.

I recognize that Jyllands-Posten has the legal right to print what they did. That doesn't make it morally right. A publisher who prints On the Jews and Their Lies is not more morally pure than one who refrains, and I'm not going to accept being sanctimoniously sneered at because I recognize that fact. I will call xenophobia for what it is, and telling me that these people have the legal right to be rank xenophobes is simply a non sequitur.

Why it is that religious fundies of all persuasions are so often so very touchy? From letters to the editor complaining that Christians get no respect to Islamic people rioting over the smallest slight to Jewish settlers violently resisting removal of their illegal settlements, they all seem to think the world is set against them. And of course they are, in truth, right. But why are they so attached to and driven by their religious lunacy?

In the fundies' defense I have to say that it's always struck me that poking fun at them might be a bit arrogant and fatuous. After all, there is plenty of evidence that "secularism", and certainly atheism, is largely a luxury available only to those who are intelligent and generally well off. A comfortably secular person taunting fundies is in some ways like teasing the retarded. It's not pretty or necessary, perhaps.

Or perhaps it is. As noted, it is very often the case that fundamentalists are significantly disadvantaged in one or many respects. Certainly third world fundamentalists, and often even those in these here United States, are regarded as being of no account, especially by the intelligentsia. The fundies are typically very aware of this, too, and boy, does it piss them off. It would me, also, were I them. For most, maybe all, fundies, their religion is the only thing that keeps them from having to confront the fact that they are largely non-entities. It makes them feel significant to someone, even if it's only to their imaginary god. Threaten that scrap of a sense of worth, and they'll get real busy proving to you and all your arrogant friends that indeed they are too important. And the cheapest, quickest, and perhaps easiest way to make oneself important to others is to be dangerous. For many, it's the only way.

That is why is it absolutely necessary to keep a very wary eye on fundies. They're not just idiots, often they're profoundly dangerous idiots. And a certain amount of nervous laughter by those they threaten is entirely understandable. But mocking them too much is very much like tormenting a rattlesnake. Beware.

Which is why those Danish cartoons are both understandable (nervous laughter) and ill advised. For many reasons, pretty much the entire Islamic world is profoundly down and out, especially compared to the infidel West. The gross national product of the entire Arab world is less than that of Spain. Hell, were it not for oil, the Arab world would likely be little more that a greater Somalia or Haiti. And nations very often behave like the people that comprise them. Humiliating peoples and nations that are of otherwise little notice (e.g. the two Iraq wars, and the various wars with Israel), and in any way challenging their profound addiction to the sacred opiate of Islam, can quite understandably result in some VERY dangerous reactions.

By Pastor Fuzz (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Interesting comments.. I think printing the cartoons was a baiting ploy, maybe kinda like poking a hornets nest with a stick - just to see what will happen. The reaction is very predictable - Muslim extremists are out in the street practically everyday - yelling, screaming, wailing, moaning - stomping and burning some countries flag or iffigy of the western "Satan" of the day. It seems like that's about all they do, they are extremely easy to offend - always rightously indignant and protesting every comment or action as being racist or insulting to their stone age religion - that's what they do, that's their only identity - perpetual victims. Who can blame us for getting tired of coddling them endlessly - especially when they don't respect other beliefs and lifestyles, but want everyone to respect theirs. I say screw them - eventually they will have to adapt their views to the modern world and they will never do that as long as we keep babying them and giving them free money like spoiled children. I say let's keep on poking their nest until they wise up and get with the 20th century. They already hate us - How much worse can it get??

There are already artworks depicting Muhammad and the Muslim community is not scandalized.

That would be why, in the quoted post, I said:

The core principle at issue is one segment of one religious group's stance

(emphasis added)

It's a part of the Muslim tradition, not all of it. The cartoons were aimed at this segment of Islam. Calling attention to one segment of a population is not condemnatory of the population as a whole. Just because my cousin Ed murdered someone does not mean that my entire family are murderers, nor is it inappropriate for me to say that I think Ed's a sorry bastard for having done it.

Then the generalizations. Of course, if you seriously believe this, then it's obvious that the West must protect itself or fall, and therefore any sort of xenophobic response, including turning all Muslim immigrants out of the country, is justified.

You're not furthering the discussion by reading things into what people say that simply aren't there. I said the values of free speech and the response of this segment of the Muslim community are opposed. That's a long ways from kicking out the entire Muslim community from any Western nation.

being sanctimoniously sneered at

If you think I was sneering at you or was sanctimonious, I apolgize, for that was neither my intent nor my attitude. I do strongly disagree with your position but it's not personal -- I don't even know you.

This entire episode proves the point -- a segment of the Muslim population (not all Muslims, a radical segment) has cowed large segments of the world with fear and violence into abandoning their right to say what they think. Freedom of expression, a core value of the Western world, is threatened. That is why the paper started this in the first place, and I think the reaction from people around the world prove that the exercise was warranted.

... these depictions of Muhammad were deliberately provocative.

I also reject this premise. How in the world is Muhammad standing in a peaceful desert scene deliberately provacative? How is a kid named Muhammed, not the Prophet just a kid with the same name, calling the editorial board of the paper "reactionary provocateurs" deliberately provocative?

Two of them are outright hostile to Muhammad, yes. The vast majority are either neutral or condemnatory of the paper that's publishing them.

Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged has an interesting take on this. She considers the original publication to have been nothing but a right-wing provocation, as the caption on one of the cartoons actually suggests, and their republication hardly better.

I feel that their republication across Europe over the last few days is primarily a defense of the freedom and independence of the press and of a long tradition of blasphemy.

It would be fun to have a paper in the U.S. print a cartoon of Jesus and Mohammed in bed together, just so we could find out exactly how sane our local fanatics are.

Josh Marshall also has some comments about this.

The price of blasphemy is death. And among many in the Muslim world it is not sufficient that those rules apply in their countries. They should apply everywhere. Perhaps something so drastic isn't called for -- at least in the calmer moments or settled counsels. But at least European governments are supposed to clamp down on their presses to heal the breach.

In a sense how can such claims respect borders? The media, travel and electronic interconnections of the world make borders close to meaningless.

That's an interesting and scary thought.

"There are already artworks depicting Muhammad and the Muslim community is not scandalized. If you want to see them, I can link you to examples or you can find a history book on Persian, Turkish, or Indian art and see for yourself." Nullifidian, I would be interested in these links. Can you post them here?

The reaction is very predictable - Muslim extremists are out in the street practically everyday - yelling, screaming, wailing, moaning - stomping and burning some countries flag or iffigy of the western "Satan" of the day.

No, that was not predictable at all.

It was likely that there would be cries of outrage from the not so smart radicals for a while here in Denmark and some "exciting" Friday prayers. Perhaps also some death threats to some of the artists (which did happen pretty much instantly, by the way).

That it spread outside Denmark was not predictable at all.

That the radicals organized a tour around the Middle East to spread inflammatory propaganda was not predictable at all.

That it was mighty convenient for Saudi Arabia to have people protest because it diverted attention away from the fact that they still haven't organized a way to have the crowds walk around the building with the meteor stone without a few hundred of them dying was also not something Jyllandsposten could have foreseen.

That it would come in handy for Fatah after losing an election (which was held after the publication of the drawings, and which Hamas won mostly due to Fatah being corrupt and nepotistic) was not predictable.

That the Egyptian parliament would call for a boycott because most of them are newly elected from the Muslim Brotherhood (as a protest, mainly, and because they are not corrupt) who couldn't do anything else and still claim to take their faith seriously was not predictable. Egypt probably faces stiff fines or a trade with the EU because of this -- a government is not allowed to call for a boycott, they must come from the people.

By Peter Lund (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Way up the list there, Paul W said he wanted to see some solid, tasteless cartooning of Jesus. Check out Hustler magazine. I've seen some serious tasteless cartooning of the Man from Galilee in there...thekeez

I haven't read all 85 comments to this point, but of the commentors who take a stern, "free-speech uber alles" POV, I'm just wondering how outraged they were when James Dobson and his freak squad hounded NBC into cancelling The Book of Daniel?

Elayne, if you google images for persian miniature art, you can see some examples of the style, although I didn't look through them to see which ones represented Mohammad. They aren't exclusively Persian, although I believe that is where the style originated.

IIRC the idea is that they are so small and stylized that they can't possibly have been taken for a life-size person, and therefore don't violate the representation prohibition.

I didn't even get through the pilot of "The Book of Daniel." The show had problems of its own.

Most of the folks who frequent this blog would be more likely to protest shows with supernatural content, of which there is sadly no shortage, by militantly not watching them.

Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged has an interesting take on this. She considers the original publication to have been nothing but a right-wing provocation, as the caption on one of the cartoons actually suggests, and their republication hardly better.

I took a look and she writes this herself in the comments:

So when I read all of those stories today about the boycott that had been going on since the pictures were published, I decided to do some homework.

I don't think she did her homework very well.

Jyllandsposten is not a capital C Christian newspaper -- we do have a small Christian newspaper, it's called Kristeligt Dagblad (Christian Journal), which writes from the premise that religion is important and worthy of respect even if it is not Christianity. It is mostly left-leaning and humanistic (but somewhat conservative). I like it a lot (and I am an atheist).

Jyllandsposten is right-leaning but it is not in any way extreme. We don't have extreme right-wing newspapers here. It is more Liberal (in the original, non-American sense of the word -- the major party in Denmark is also Liberal) than Conservative.

It is, however, culturally conservative, and has most of it's readers in Jutland (a peninsula atop of Germany, it is the Western part of Denmark), many of them in small villages in the country.

It is therefore in opposition to the other national newspapers which are all from the capital, which is situated at the far East of the country. Travel from Jutland to the capital involves crossing a wide strait which used to take an hour by ferry if the weather was good. Not something you did often if you could avoid it (there is a bridge now which has improved things a lot).

Some people in the province have an inferiority complex -- including many of Jyllandsposten's readers.

So the ulterior motive Jyllandsposten probably also had, in addition to their stated (and true) intentions regarding freedom of speech, was to spite the other national papers in Copenhagen.

It had nothing whatsoever to do with racism.

By Peter Lund (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Interesting that she would refer to Der St�rmer in the title, btw. Somebody scanned in a lot of material from it and put it on the net. Some other somebodies put some transcripts from Rush Limbaugh's radio shows up somewhere else on the net. I found both some time ago and compared them.

I was brought up with the notion that Der St�rmer was awful and hateful so I thought it was really extreme.

Actually, it wasn't. It was bad -- but not that bad.

Rush Limbaugh was far worse.

That shocked me.

(Yes, I read German)

By Peter Lund (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

Thanks, Peter. It's always good to hear from someone closer to the scene.

I've read elsewhere that France Soir reprinted the cartoons in order to boost its circulation. Even if it's true, so what? It is a newspaper, after all.

Actually, that Sisyphus Shrugged post is really, really bad. She writes:

The talking point of the moment is that the cartoons were mild, not intended to be interpreted as anti-islamic statements and merely a comment on freedom of speech. That is, of course, utter bullshit, as prominent liberal organizations the Vatican and the ADL agree. The ADL, by no means an apologist organization for radical islam, compares the cartoons in matter and intent to antisemitic caricatures in the muslim press, which is a fairly strong statement coming from the ADL. Both agree that the speech should have been suppressed.

Since when was the Vatican ever liberal, in any sense of the word? It is not right-wing, either, though. It is culturally conservative, repressive, and religious so it naturally isn't too much in favour of free speech.

Here's the relevant Vatican quote she indirectly refers to:

"The right to freedom of thought and expression ... cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers," the Vatican said in its first statement on the controversy.

It is precisely what it can. Indeed, what it must.

This is how the ADL statement starts:

ADL is opposed to religious, racial and ethnic stereotyping in the media. We found some of the cartoons in Jyllands-Posten troubling, particularly the direct linkage of Mohammad and violence.

And here's the juiciest part:

What has been overlooked in the controversy is the fact that despicable anti-Jewish caricatures appear daily in newspapers across the Arab and Muslim world. While invoking the supposed "freedom of the press" in their countries, Arab and Muslim leaders have refused to take any action to stem the drumbeat of anti-Semitism in widely circulated newspapers, many state-sponsored.

The Muhammed incident is clearly used by the ADL as a vehicle to complain about the Arabs and at the same time say "look, we have nothing against those Arabs, honest, and we feel their plight". They certainly have good writers.

One thing this circus has driven home to me is the degree to which all politics is local. I thought I understood that before but I realize now that I didn't :(

By Peter Lund (not verified) on 04 Feb 2006 #permalink

I'm not going to try to unravel the layers of history and motivation this cartoon thing has grown. I have a different question:

Why do believers get so worked up over blasphemy? It's as if they don't believe their God can take care of his own dignity, but needs their puny help to maintain it. I mean, if you insult me, since I'm a limited, vulnerable human, there is the potential to damage me in some way. But you'd think the Almighty was a bit beyond that, no?

Right up at the top, PZ posted: Once again, religiosity turns people into mindless frenzied zombies, and once again it interferes with progress. And, while this is true, there's an underlying assumption that being a mindless frenzied zombie is a bad thing even for the temporary MFZs as well as their opponents. That's not self-evident at all. A mob of MFZs tends to get what it wants, which is why I think that this one has to be opposed.

On purely atheistical grounds, I would argue that if enough people treat religion as true, it will become as true as money. One very important and successful way to get people to treat religion as if it were true is to threaten them for denying it. So we have to stand up to these threats. Cartoons of the prophet make Islam less true and less powerful, and that is a good thing.

The sad thing is that if the (perhaps oppressed) Muslim immigrants and their children and their coreligionists outside Europe marched against discrimination in jobs, housing, and education, most everyone would sympathize and perhaps even want to help. Instead the biggest demonstrations seem to be over cartoons and head-scarfs.

It's all about a civic tradition. In the West, there's a strong democratic tradition of changing things peacefully: of marching against oppresion, of marching against racism, of strategically boycotting newspapers, and of supporting friendly political parties. In fact, it's well-known that one of the driving forces behind anti-colonialism in most European colonies was the fact that the middle classes got Western educations, which exposed them to such ideas as nationalism and political agitation.

Now, in Islam, there's no analogous thing. The tradition in the Arab world and in its close satellites, such as Iran, Pakistan, and the Muslim parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, is one of violent change. I don't know that any country in Europe has succeeded in breaking the culture gap between its mainstream culture and its immigrant Muslim sub-culture; hence European Muslims are likely to view oppression as they're used to, which means in terms of religion and violent change. Since World War Two, there has been one large Western-style movement in the Arab world and its close satellites, the Ba'ath Party; but the Ba'ath Party failed to connect to the people or deliver on any of its promises, and subsequently became irrelevant as an ideology.

A publisher who prints On the Jews and Their Lies is not more morally pure than one who refrains, and I'm not going to accept being sanctimoniously sneered at because I recognize that fact. I will call xenophobia for what it is, and telling me that these people have the legal right to be rank xenophobes is simply a non sequitur.

No, he's not, but I'm not going to burn the flag of the country the newspaper is published it, or even call for a boycott of the paper's advertisers. I think even a bottom-up boycott hurts free speech, unless it's targeted at a practice and not at an ideology. Put another way: I think it's acceptable to boycott a business that discriminates against black people in employment, but not a business that donates money to the CCC.

I call bullshit.

OF COURSE the cartoons were offensive and insulting and denigrating to Islam - that's the whole point of the exercise. Every time we have successfully broken the back of a fascist clergy, it has begun with ridicule, with insults, and with denigration. Every. Single. Time.

In Scandinavia we have actually - unlike the US, I might add - managed to somewhat civilize our Christian clergy. They put up a nasty enough fight and it certainly isn't Christianity that we have to thank for the fact that we are now - again, I might add, unlike the US - living in a democracy.

An essential part of that process was systematic denigration of Christianity and organised ridicule of the Christian clergy. And if anybody is in any kind of doubt as to the truthfulness of that assertion, I direct them to the Wiki articles on people like Georg Brandes and Henrik Ibsen.

Why should we not begin the same process of breaking the back of our fascist Islamic clergy? For that matter, why shouldn't we have begun freakin' decades ago?

Certainly, there are racists who wrap themselves in the critique of religion (although they are fewer than most apologists insinuate - and it is my belief that neither JyllandsPosten nor the majority of Dansk Folkeparti's members, voters, or policy makers are among them).

But the way to deal with that is not to stop insulting religion. It is to destroy the clergy's power, so that the racists can no longer wrap their sentiments in legitimate complaints. And the first step on that path is to insult Mohammed, just as surely as the first step on the path to the Franch Revolution was insulting the Pope.

- JS

Certainly, there are racists who wrap themselves in the critique of religion (although they are fewer than most apologists insinuate - and it is my belief that neither JyllandsPosten nor the majority of Dansk Folkeparti's members, voters, or policy makers are among them).

If they weren't racists, they wouldn't argue so vehemently for draconian immigration restrictions. If I'm not mistaken, Denmark restricts immigration from Arab countries more than does any other European country.

Oh, and as an aside, ridicule of non-islamic religious figures and religions is common in Danish newspapers. And the Mohammed-cartoons are downright innocent compared to some of the stuff that's thrown at our politicians.

I for one, fondly remember the Roald Als piece where a parrot wearing former PM Poul Nyrup's head says 'the four Exeptions stand, the four Exeptions stand, the four...' while two of his fellow ministers are busy draping a length of cloth over his cage...

- JS

If they weren't racists, they wouldn't argue so vehemently for draconian immigration restrictions.

I could think of at least one other possibility: That the polls show that there is overwhelming support for tight immigration laws.

I for one happen to think that the rules we have are badly flawed in a number of ways - some are allowed in who should be kept out and some are kept out who should be allowed in (the most absurd cases being those where people are deported to places like Iran. Could you imagine deporting - say - Soviet dissidents to the DDR?).

But people like Seidenfaden aren't exactly helping the situation with their persistent attempts to cast the conflict into one between open-border immigration and racism and their insistence that we must 'respect' people's culture and customs, despite the fact that we have done our dead level best (and with not inconsiderable success) to stamp out those very same customs and traditions from our country and culture over the last fifty to a hundred years.

It is not so surprising, when any sensible position is denigrated by pseudointellectuals as racist, that people have a hard time telling the difference between racism and legitimate legislation.

- JS

The cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban unfortunately depicts Muslims as violent people, but even more unfortunate is that their reaction confirmed it.

I could think of at least one other possibility: That the polls show that there is overwhelming support for tight immigration laws.

So the Danes as a people are racists.

Before we continue, can you tell me what measures the Danish government takes to prevent discrimination against Muslimsin housing, employment, promotion, etc.?

I'm pretty sure that Chuckles is way, way off about church burnings.

Pierce wrote: Follow-up report: Skimming the 1,020 hits I got for "arson church" on Google News, most of the recent stories concerned the 5 churches torched Friday in Alabama. Quite a few of the others seemed off-topic: burnings on Church Street somewhere; "arson ruled out as cause of church fire"; concatenated police reports; arrests for a 2004 fire, etc. In one Arkansas case, a church secretary reportedly confessed to igniting her own workplace, possibly to cover up theft.

All this is interesting and disturbing, but not enough to support Chuckles's claim.

Presumably hundreds of churches are burned down every year, because there are hundreds of thousands, I'm pretty sure. But of the fires that are actually intentionally set for reasons other than insurance, I'm pretty sure that very close to none of them are set by anti-Christians.

If you have a church, it's far more likely to be burned down by a Christian who is upset with your theology, or personally mad at you or your congregation, or just crazy. Or a racist Christian who is all three. (There has been a fair number of burnings or even bombings of black Christian churches by christian white supremacists---though that was overestimated in the mid-late 1990s and made too big a deal for a while.)

And of course, if a Christian church mysteriously burns down, many white Christians will guess that it was burned down by anti-Christians---satanists or possibly atheists. This guess will almost invariably be wrong---it's far more likely an insurance
scam, and attempt to cover a crime, just an accident, or a personal vendetta.

On the other hand, if you have a mosque or an atheist group building, and it burns down, it's a somewhat better guess that it was burned down by a pissed-off Christian of the stupider/crazier sort. The only not-terribly-rare kind of religious violence in this country is violence by right-wing white fundamentalists. Even then, you should follow the money, etc.

Religious violence is relatively rare in the U.S., and anti-Christian violence is far, far rarer.

The religious right doesn't want you to know that. They continually push the meme that Christianity is under attack by rabid and dangerous anti-Christians. It simply isn't. It's under intellectual attack by reasonable non-violent people---and not nearly to the extent that it deserves.

So Chuckles, put up or shut up. I think you're pushing a myth that is the opposite of the truth. Prove me wrong.

Nix asked what's insulting about watermelons and fried chicken drumsticks?

Watermelons and fried chicken aren't insulting in themselves. However, stereotyped "black" characters tended to be portrayed as eating fried chicken and watermelon, so the fried chicken and watermelon are part of the negative stereotypes.

By Michael I (not verified) on 05 Feb 2006 #permalink

Freedom of expression is paramount in democratic societies, including the right to criticize, vilify and mock religion - all religions. No contest there. Having said that, so is the wisdom to not waste this freedom in making trivial and predictable points. What did the Danish cartoons accomplish in establishing? That medieval religious fundamentalism permeates Muslim societies much more deeply than any other religious group? That Muslims consider themselves under siege almost to the level of paranoia and are likely to resort to violence for real or perceived threat/insults to their faith? That most Islamic nations curtail freedom of speech in their own countries and want to do the same in others, in the name of religion? Ho hum. Which one of these came as a surprise to anyone? To all the freedom of speech purists here, PZ Myers and Nullifidian have it right this time. Their nuanced take on the issue is not a zero sum game - it is neither anti-free speech nor pro religion. To prove an intellectual point, when the adversary is operating on a purely emotional level, is not only unwise, it is a waste of energy. Islamic fundamentalism (like all others) has to be resisted, attenuated and eventually eliminated. But it will not happen by engaging in juvenile displays of provocation through theological football as Jyllands-Posten was attempting to do. The resistance will have to take place in the realm of universal human rights, rationality and common decency. "My democracy can beat up your prophet" is hardly a strategy that is likely to work. Mr. Lund, don't waste your breath.

While we are discussing fundamentalism, let us not ignore the context of racism which PZ Myers alludes to. It is perhaps worthwhile for most Americans to recognize the prevalent zeitgeist in Europe. Mr. Lund's erudite sophistry notwithstanding, Europeans as a whole, are much more racist and xenophobic than the average American. I say this as a brown skinned person (not Muslim, not uneducated) who has lived in both continents. European secularism and pacifism are results of exhaustion from four hundred years of oppressive colonialism (the Bible in one hand and a riding crop or gun in the other) and two great wars which nearly annihiliated the continent. All the calls for assimilation - "you are here - you must be like us" is BS. The non-Europeans are marginalized, ghettoized and the implicit message to them is "stay in your place." In spite of all overt racism in the US, an immigrant can hope to realize professional and social ambitions in the US - not in Europe. Mr. Lund would argue that the Scandinavian countries were not involved in either colonization or warfare. True. But the mindset of these homogeneous countries is not very different when faced with people who are "different". In fact, George Bush's disastrous action in Iraq and the middle east, is at some level, more honest than what the Europeans are up to vis-a-vis their immigrants. Kill a hundred thousand Iraqis to impose your values? Why not? How is that worse than treating minorities within your borders like s--t with the vestigial hauteur of ex-colonists? A much more honest course of action will be to deport all those whom you are not going to assimilate anyway -ever and go back to the idyllic existence of Hans Christian Andersen, milk, cheese, football and Lego. Why the pretense? Only to feel holier than thou - especially, holier than those unsophisticated cowboy Americans? Mr. Lund's expansive crack about dating one of the last ten Parsis notwithstanding, his "secular" countrymen are much less likely to date a Parsi, a Hindu, a Buddhist and god forbid a Muslim than the average "religious" American. 'Nuff said.

Straying somewhat off topic, I wonder if the French newspaper that published the cartoons as a demonstration of freedom of expression has also spoken out against the French government's prohibition on wearing a hijab in public schools (http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/islam/hijab.html), or the Dutch motion to ban women from wearing a burqa in public (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4616664.stm).

One can certainly make a good argument that these things may be demeaning to women, at least in their origin, but so are many other things in conventional Western society (breast augmentation comes to mind).

How does it help to integrate people into society by telling them how much flesh they are obliged to expose? (I am reminded of my (public) highschool in the 1970s, where girls were obliged to wear dresses and forbidden from wearing pants/slacks/trousers, the logical reasoning for which escapes me to this day.)

By Theo Bromine (not verified) on 05 Feb 2006 #permalink

Chuckles: Yet, what evil have these cartoonists done? Depicted a historical figure according to certain caricatures: A treatment that has been meted out to Xtianity and Judaism despite what some opine to the contrary. Jesus has been lampooned, lambasted, dipped in elephant shit, spit and pissed on, turned into a homosexual, Jeebusized:

What are you on about?

I don't think anybody here disagrees that Mohammed deserves such treatment. Some of us are concerned about double standards, especially in the U.S.

(And thanks to Peter for providing an interesting Danish perspective on the context there---but then maybe I'm a Kerryesque waffler in Steve S's eyes, if I take such information into account... I should have jumped to conclusions and stuck with them.)

From your tone it seems---and maybe I'm wrong---that you've swallowed some right-wing propaganda about Jesus being under widespread attack by government-funded arts programs. The vast, vast majority of U.S. government-funded images of Jesus are favorable, and nobody complains about that. A tiny fraction of one percent of the public arts funding goes to artists who dare to depict Jesus in an unfavorable or just not-clearly-favorable light, but that's what gets all the press. There are thousands of paintings of Jesus in museums, but if one or two of them bucks the trend of being worshipful, there's a national furor about it.

The simple fact is that anti-Christian sentiments are underrepresented in public and especially publicly-funded art. There is a bias in representations of Jesus, even relative to popular opinion, and it's a strong bias in favor of Jesus. But of course, the right wing doesn't want you to know that. They want to stifle free speech about Jesus, and present Christians as persecuted by those nasty secularists; that's the real story.

(They focus on government-funded programs, which are actually biased in their favor, because if they try to ban The Simpsons, too many Christians will say "hey, that's funny" and/or "you don't have the right to ban privately funded speech." They get more sympathy for the "but not with my money!" argument, even if it's based on a myth about the direction of the bias.)

You are right that Jesus is occasionally presented in a less-than-respectful light in some U.S. media. But only incredibly rarely (if ever) is he presented as a bad man whose personal badness explains the badness of his many bad followers. And never, to my knowledge, in a cartoon in a major U.S. newspaper in the last 70 years. (If I'm wrong about that, I'd be fascinated to hear it.) Even on South Park, the Jesus of "Jesus and Friends" isn't a bad guy; the "Jeebus" message on The Simpsons isn't primarily about Jesus---it's about Homer being an unthinking dope who has no understanding of religion.)

If things are different in Denmark, I'm delighted to hear it. (Thanks, Peter.)

What I find a bit disturbing about the reaction in the U.S. is the lack of recognition that there is a double standard that is politically important and quite relevant to Middle East policy. (And especially to international perceptions, and therefore our prospects of succeeding in our policies.) Your average American Christian will not notice just how offensive some of those images would be, if it was Jesus himself and Christianity per se being made out to be dangerously and maliciously crazy.

Worse, many wouldn't care; they do know they have a double standard, and think it's justified. Tens of millions of Americans are fundamentalists who think separation of church and state is a harmful myth---Christianity is right and that's all that matters.

Most of those people think that U.S. foreign policy should include almost unconditional defense of Israel, in order to fulfill Biblical prophecies, so that the Middle East can explode and Jesus will come back. Most of them think the world is likely to end in their lifetimes, starting with a cataclysm in the Middle East, and that it's a good thing. Those people are about a third of Bush's base, and he absolutely needs them. More foreign Muslims are aware of that fact about U.S. politics than non-fundamentalist U.S. Christians, and they find it rather scary; I don't blame them. There is some connection between double standards about religion, fundamentalist support for Republicans, and U.S. foreign policy. Most Americans are not particularly anti-Muslim, but the ones who are have a disproportionate effect on U.S. foreign policy; they are the people Bush panders to.)

Your average American Christian will not notice that he or she is kinda scary too, if only by being ignorant and complacent about many millions of even scarier Christians who vote like crazy.

Christians are less likely to go personally bomb somebody over religion, or burn down an embassy, but they're certainly stupid enough to elect somebody---for largely religious reasons---who will send troops to kill or control a lot of brown people, for what understandably seems like religious reasons, to many of those brown people.

If an outright anti-Jesus cartoon was printed on the editorial page of the New York Times, there would be a months-long furor about it in the right-wing press. Fox News would talk endlessly about the War on Christianity, and how the evil atheist New York Times is out to destroy everything that Good Americans hold dear.

Don't believe it? Look how much mileage they got out of "Happy Holidays!", which they spun into a War on Christmas. Hyeesh. Do you think the subtext wasn't a War on Christianity"? (Did you follow the Friend or Foe campaign---i.e., if you're not with Jesus, you're against Jesus?) If somebody actually dared to directly criticize Jesus himself and Christianity as a whole---and defended it as some individual cartoonist's "freedom of speech"---they would never, ever let it go. It'd be too good a liberal-bashing talking point and fund-raising tool; they'd go apeshit and pound it forever.

Freedom of speech just doesn't go that far in U.S. newspaper cartoons. It's not illegal to publish such things, but it's not feasible. The reaction would be too extreme. Maybe not storming the New York Times building and burning it to the ground... but bad enough that it's Just Not Worth It to buck the double standard.

If I were a Muslim, I'd notice that, and be bothered by it. Of course, if I were a reasonable Muslim, I'd be much more bothered by the fanatics burning embassies and confirming the stereotypes---of course that's far worse, but it doesn't mean there isn't a valid point about anti-Muslim bias in there somewhere, too. (If not on the part of Danes, in that context, at least on the part of American observers interpreting those events from afar without even worrying about that context.)

Churches have been burned - hundreds of churches are burned in the USA every freaking year

Yeah, right. See my previous comment.

(P.S. PZ, if I'm monopolizing your blog too much with my long-winded analyses, let me know.)

Jeff Hebert,

You're dodging one of my key questions. If any depiction of Muhammad is so inflammatory as to warrant this kind of response from even some Muslims--and I'm glad you recognize this is only a small portion of the Muslim community--then why aren't art history professors who reprint these ancient works from the Turkish, Persian, and Indian Muslim traditions being targeted? The issue is one of respect.

Now, while those traditions which do proscribe depicting the Prophet Muhammad do so because they think not depicting him is respectful, they aren't up in arms because depictions exist in general. These pictures were intended to incite a backlash, and your question about how a picture of Muhammad standing in a peaceful desert is inflammatory is a red herring, not least because it doesn't even exist as part of the pack of a dozen cartoons published in Jyllands-Posten. Unless of course you're referring to the one which has a halo around Muhammad's head which is controved to look like horns. No way that could be offensive. Had there been an ordinary illustration of Muhammad standing in the desert with no menacing looks, not gripping a scimitar, not with a bomb on his head, etc. then the reaction would have been one of complete nonchalance.

Lastly,

You're not furthering the discussion by reading things into what people say that simply aren't there. I said the values of free speech and the response of this segment of the Muslim community are opposed. That's a long ways from kicking out the entire Muslim community from any Western nation.

I'm not reading things into what you say, I'm drawing the logical conclusion from what you say. If your takeaway message from this is that Jyllands-Posten is as pure as the driven snow and that the Muslim response did not fit even the basic notions of free speech in Western civil society, then the obvious conclusion is that the West must protect itself by cracking down on Muslims and/or deporting them. You might not like that conclusion, but there are many thousands of people just waiting to make that conclusion for you: the Bloc Identitaire, the Dansk Folkeparti, the British National Party, and so on. That's the context in which these cartoons occured, and that's whose hand is being strengthened in this fracas.

Your condemnations are peculiarly one-sided: you want me to believe that it's morally wrong to burn down a set of embassies in response to an offensive cartoon (not to convince me that it is legally wrong, because that's obvious), which I do, and yet any similar discussion of whether Jyllands-Posten is wrong is elided because they've wrapped themselves up in free speech rights. But being legally permitted to do something and whether it's ethical are not always universally the same. I can call black people "niggers," thanks to the first amendment, but that doesn't make it the moral thing to do.

Personally, I'm glad that these cartoons have started a debate that is long overdue. Both for the facts that some groups want preferred treatment, and because they get it. :-)

"Mr. Lund would argue that the Scandinavian countries were not involved in either colonization or warfare. True."

Even though some of the other analysis seems excellent, this is wrong on facts. At least Sweden had a small African colony attempt, with slave trade and all, and has participated in wars against many european countries.

"But the mindset of these homogeneous countries is not very different when faced with people who are "different"."

I'm not an historical expert, but I believe there are two reasons for the homogenity - historically small and spread farming or fishing communities with little education, which were easy prey to the commonplace protestantic religion that kissed up to the kings to push out the other contenders for religious power. So naturally I blame religion. :-)

By Torbjorn Larsson (not verified) on 05 Feb 2006 #permalink

There is a genuine social concern here, I think. Muslims represent a poor and oppressed underclass, and those cartoons represent a ruling establishment intentionally taunting them and basically flipping them off. They have cause to be furious!!

I'm afraid I have to disagree with you here. Muslims immigrants may be a disadvantaged underclass in Denmark, but newspapers and cartoonists need not always represent a ruling establishment. Perhaps the fact that only 12 cartoonists responded of out of around 40, who were invited to send in their cartoons, indicates that whatever the offending cartoons represented, it was anything but the ruling establishment.

Regarding the taunting and flipping off, this is the explanatory article that accompanied the cartoons ( from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyllands-Posten_Muhammad_cartoons )

The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always equally attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is less important in this context. [...] we are on our way to a slippery slope where no-one can tell how the self-censorship will end.

By Halo Thane (not verified) on 05 Feb 2006 #permalink

JS wrote:
An essential part of that process was systematic denigration of Christianity and organised ridicule of the Christian clergy.......Why should we not begin the same process of breaking the back of our fascist Islamic clergy?

OK, granted Christianity was taught to play nice partly by external criticism, including satire. But I suggest that that level of critique must come from within the culture, not from another culture. The people who cut Christianity down to size were mostly white Westerners -- it was a case of Us criticizing Us. But for Europeans to trash-talk Islam, given the centuries of conflict and the recent colonial domination (explicit or economic) of the West over the Islamic world, is to clog-dance on very thin ice -- on the receiving end, it reads like just one more slap in the face from the oppressors. In the current situation, I see the religious insult as being a proxy for much deeper (and at least partly legitimate) feelings of grievance.

And the first step on that path [of breaking clergy power] is to insult Mohammed, just as surely as the first step on the path to the Franch Revolution was insulting the Pope.

But that only worked because, as I say, the insult came from within French society -- it could not be construed as external interference. The people who need to see the Muslim heroes cut down to size are not likely to listen to it, coming from a Westerner.

Yes, I think outside criticism of Islam should take place -- but it needs to be done very carefully, and I don't think open ridicule of this kind, from a culture whose past dealings with the target have already piled up a legacy of bitterness, is either morally right or practically effective.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 05 Feb 2006 #permalink

Perhaps conflating wahhab (which was a fringe group in Islam until the Saudis handed them lot of oil money to fund terror with in return for keeping the people in line while the House of Saud ripped off all of the natural resources in their country) with all of islamic thought might not be the best possible way to figure out what's going on here? Just a thought.

FYI, danish muslims were fairly restrained about this. Norwegian christian newspapers republished the cartoons in support of the Prime MInister's refusal to speak to ambassadors from islamic countries four months after the initial publication in late December, and then european newspapers picked them up. The insult was repeated louder and louder until it got to the ears of people who would respond barbarically.

Just remember, we put the House of Saud in place, and their ambassador, whose wife actually provided the money that was used to support one of the hijackers, spent the weekend at Our Fearless Leader's ranch after 9/11.

You know whose support is giving these people cover? Look in the White House.

Okay, I found the picture you were referring to, Jeff Hebert, so I was wrong in saying it's not part of the pack. Since all dozen cartoons are on the same page, however, I still say that it's a red herring to force me to address that cartoon specifically to the exclusion of the offensive cartoons. As it stands, the only thing I can say is what I said above: if it had been just that picture, then it wouldn't have been as big a deal, and we would have never heard of it.

Oops -- forgot to fill in the personal info. That was me replying to JS about three posts back. Wouldn't want anyone to think I'm reluctant to be identified with my opinions.

Professor, I understand that YOU wouldn't object to a Muhammed made of pig shit -- you linked us to the Fark cartoons of Jesus as, among other things, a pedophile. (Not part of the NT myth, though Mohammed actually was one.)

I don't know if you felt anything or spoke out about Serrano, but I'm ready to guess that you did not feel quite as deeply for the poor, oppressed Christians of Brooklyn as you seem to for the poor, oppressed Muslims of Copenhagen. Leftists, in general, were all for forcing Serrano down the throats of Christians, while they feel very differently about the same for Muslims.

YOUR reaction is, as someone above said, nuanced, but still you are finding some sympathy for the poor, oppressed Muslims. Other leftists are less nuanced. They simply are not applying the same standards to Muslims that they do to Christians.

Eugene Volokh has a rundown of a particular voice of leftism, the Boston Globe.

Professor Glenn Reynolds says it all: If you want your religion not to be mocked, it helps to have a reputation for senseless violence.

By Harry Eagar (not verified) on 05 Feb 2006 #permalink

Ahhh! Sweet voices of insanity.
Comparing yelps on Fox News about antiXtian art to burning down Embassies? Yep! There is a double standard here.

Look. You guys need to get off the apologist hobby horse. Those cartoons were not "racist" - that would be an oxymoron - like calling cartoons against Scientologists "racist" - and they were perfectly reasonable. They were not made to goad Muslims into fits of frenzy and I disagree that images of Jesus in the West generally tend to be more favorable.

Publishing those cartoons was not a display of double standards.

So now certain self-congratulatorily uncensored Danish cartoonists, having learned the results of poking at hornets' nests, may express themselves with greater circumspection for a while. (Sfaik, the primary Danish graphic expression - pictures of naked blondes - should remain in popular demand, this market being generally immune to ideological boycotts.)

No doubt the grumblings that usually follow scoldings have already begun, and will be amplified by factions which profit from cultivating resentments. The more highly organized of such groups should be sending their spokespersons to US media-manipulation workshops led by Karl Rove's proteges. After all, American hyperchristian leaders are still making major hay from the decisecond exposure of a nipple during a nationally televised football game two full years ago. (Europeans, please note: I am not exaggerating. Compared to US tub-thumpers, even the ayatollahs are pikers at milking offense from the utterly trivial.)

Irony meter alert: both the Muslims and the Danes will end up feeling oppressed by this incident.

This is the sort of lose/lose outcome that a functionally intelligent species should be able to avoid. Given observed behavior by h. sapiens, I predict repetitions with minor variations.

(Or possibly severe escalation - being excluded from the Rovebot system, how far might some jihadists go in exploiting this opportunity for glory?. Negative scenarios seem more abundant, and more probable, than positive ones.)

PZ is right again: a pox on every house from the Skagerrak to the Gulf of Hormuz!

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 05 Feb 2006 #permalink

Harry Eagar: ... a pedophile. ... Mohammed actually was one.

According to the hyperchristian smear machine, anyhow. Given that a case can be made - just as with Jesus and Moses - that the founder of Islam was a composite of myths (with the original person, if any, totally obscured by his legend), such specific allegations are completely speculative.

If there was a man named Mohammed who single-handedly created Islam, he was a man of his times and behaved accordingly. That may have included marrying girls of an age now considered too young for marriage, but to apply modern standards to the customs of 15 centuries ago doesn't leave Christians looking too virtuous either.

Chuckles! How 'bout that evidence, guy?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 05 Feb 2006 #permalink

Leftists, in general, were all for forcing Serrano down the throats of Christians, while they feel very differently about the same for Muslims.

An absurd accusation. I've been a "leftist" all my life, as have most of my friends and family, and I've never known anyone who wanted to force Serrano down anyone's throat. "Piss Christ" was stupid, childish, paint-by-numbers provocation...the problem wasn't that it was blasphemous, but that it was lousy art; one indication of this is that it's ultimately been of far more use to propagandist reactionaries like yourself than to humanity. (If Serrano hadn't existed, the fundamentalists would've had to invent him...he was, and is, a terrific fundraising tool.) That's true of these cartoons, as well; they're of use primarily to the worst, most irrational elements on both sides of the argument.

That said, there's a huge difference between attacking the dominant religion in one's own country - as Serrano did - and attacking the religion of a minority within one's country.

Personally, I don't think anyone who claims to believe in an omnipotent God should get upset about blasphemy, let alone try to "avenge" the Almighty in advance of Judgment Day. But I also don't think mere crude provocation is clever, interesting, or worthy of respect. One can support free speech without supporting an individual's choice to legitimize it; the KKK has a right to say whatever it wants about blacks, but if a major news network ran a puff piece on the KKK, I think I'd be within my rights to criticize them for that choice.

IIRC, Serrano's work was displayed within four solid walls, and anyone whose throat was exposed to it had to bring that throat through a door and a line of vocal but subviolent protesters. "Piss Christ" was hardly the greatest threat to New York throats during the time of its display, nor as aggressive or transgressive as the same display would have been in, say, Alabama.

Reportedly, this piece was one of a series which offered at least food for thought: crosses partially submerged within different fluids from the human body.

* A cross in blood - practically mainstream Catholic art.
* A cross in milk - a tidy evocation of the Pieta.
* A cross in semen - write your own caption.

I don't know if he did one in bile, or aqueous humor, or hormonal solutions, or ... Anyhow, within the context of this project, a cross in urine was hardly gratuitous.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 05 Feb 2006 #permalink

Why, Pierce, were you assessed to pay for the 'death to Danes' posters? And you paid happily, I suppose? No complaints, I'm sure.

And, Phila, are we to conclude that if Serrano had done a piece of great art on the same theme, the Christians would then not have had any reason to complain?

Serrano denied that he meant to attack Christianity. I don't believe he was being truthful, but that's what he said.

I defy you to find even one journal of even moderate liberal persuasion that did not excoriate Giuliani. As I mentioned, Volokh went to the trouble of running down all the Globe's comments. They were typical.

Pierce, Mohammed was a real enough person. Besides being a pedophile, he was a murderer, robber and rapist of adult women. But go ahead and excuse his crimes.

See 'Why I Am Not a Muslim' by the extremely courageous Ibn Warriq, who is under sentence of death from Islam for his apostasy.

By Harry Eagar (not verified) on 05 Feb 2006 #permalink

Islam is a bloody cult started by a murdering, camal-stealing, pedophile. It must be eleminated.

Islam is a bloody cult started by a murdering, camal-stealing, pedophile. It must be eleminated.

Along with orthography, apparently.

I'm no fan of religion in general, or Islam in particular, but in pre-Islamic Arabia, female infanticide was consequence-free, men could abandon their wives with impunity, and females could not inherit property. Islam's not perfect by any means, but by codifying the principles that you couldn't kill girl babies, you at least had to follow a nominal procedure to divorce your wife, and that women could inherit property, albeit at a lesser rate than men, it did give women an unprecedented legal status in that part of the world.

But history-free hating, which plays into the extremists' depicting all this as a war on Islam, is a lot less work for you than distinguishing among all the branches and historical elements of Islam, I guess. As for the irony of your calling for Islam to be "eleminated" [sic] because it's bloody, any idea of how many Moslem Iraqi civilian non-combatants we've killed to date?

Uh, nope. It depicts Mohammed as a violent person. In no more casts aspirations on Muslims than this picture

http://www.cafeen.org/forum/index.php?act=Attach&type=post&id=47135

portrays Catholics as being evil.

And

The cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban �unfortunately� depicts Muslims as followers of a violent person, but even more unfortunate is that their reaction shows they are too. I didn't hear of any catholic reaction (riots, call for beheadings, etc) because of: http://www.cafeen.org/forum/index.php?act=Attach&type=post&id=47135

You guys are aware of the difference between 12 pictures being printed in a newspaper in an attempt to make a point about a group of people/provoke said group of people, and some satire being posted in a forum connected to the friday bar of the Department of Natural Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, right?
Especially given the fact that the forum is not registered/indexed by the search engines?

Someone else said that they appreciated Peter Lund's take on it, as he is close to the scene - well, so am I, and I am much more in agreement with Julia, than him. She got a few facts wrong, but she got the general tone of the debate right.
And as I have said before, Danes are on a general level quite xenophobic, even though they have some kind of self-delusion of themselves being tolerant.

PZ is right, none of the parties in this case looks good - Jyllands-Posten is certainly within their rights to print those pictures, but the Arabic nations are also within their rights to boykott the Danish products and burn Danish flags.
People are not within their rights to burn down buildings, make bomb-treats, etc. no matter which side they are on.

It might be debated if the Imans that travelled from Denmark to the Middle East were within the rights to lie, but given the turn of things, I would assume that there are some possiblities of procecutions. That, however, is up to the lawyers to decide, not us.

By Kristjan Wager (not verified) on 06 Feb 2006 #permalink

Harry Eagar: ...Mohammed was a real enough person... See 'Why I Am Not a Muslim' by the extremely courageous Ibn Warriq...

Here's another Ibn Warriq title you should look into: The Quest for the Historical Muhammad (Prometheus Press, 2000), an anthology of excerpts from various historical essays suggesting that Islam was birthed in Syria & Mesopotamia as post-facto legitimation & ideological cement of Arab conquests, centered on a fictitious prophet. It's hardly conclusive, needs better copy-editing, and oddly lacks works by certain writers often cited in the included essays, but does raise important questions.

If your other comments made any sense, I would respond to them.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 06 Feb 2006 #permalink

Is it really "essential" to engage in a "systematic denigration of Christianity" and "organised ridicule of the Christian clergy" in order to break the will and resistance of "Dark Age Christians"?

If it is, do you suppose the Muslims have already figured out the strategy? That would explain the burning buildings.

Or maybe the Christians have begun to catch on to the game. That might explain Fox News... maybe even George Bush.

Several have commented that the cartoons are of poor quality and should not have been published on that basis - let alone the fact that they are offensive.

However, I do not think the background has been explained properly: As part of its experiment, Jyllands-Posten asked 40 cartoonists to "depict Mohammad as they see him". 12 of the cartoonists responded with work of very differing quality and content - and all of these were published along with an article. Only some of the 12 cartoons even depict Muhammad the prophet.

An excerpt from the accompanying article explains it well, I think: The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always equally attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is less important in this context. [...] we are on our way to a slippery slope where no-one can tell how the self-censorship will end. That is why Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Muhammad as they see him.he modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always equally attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is less important in this context. [...] we are on our way to a slippery slope where no-one can tell how the self-censorship will end. That is why Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Muhammad as they see him.

So yes, it was insensitive to publish them. But in the context of sparking debate about freedom of speech in Denmark, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I don't think anyone anticipated the global reaction they would cause, which I still think is totally out of proportion to the perceived offense...

Yes, of course, Butler. Just as there probably was a wandering religious nut named Jesus but there was never a son of god who raised people from the dead.

Using the John Morris Rule (if you're going to put over a lie, all the supporting details have to be authentic to contemporaries), we have to conclude that there was a brigand leader, possibly even carrying the name Mohammed.

We are entitled to doubt that he had much to do with the Koran, and some western scholars say nothing at all.

That the brigand Mohammed was also a pedophile is unprovable, but the story has a pretty good pedigree. More to the point, modern Muslims accept that their Mohammed was a brigand leader and admire him for it.

Whether he really was or not, that reveals something important about modern Muslims.

By Harry Eagar (not verified) on 07 Feb 2006 #permalink

wrote, Pierce, Mohammed was a real enough person. Besides being a pedophile, he was a murderer, robber and rapist of adult women. But go ahead and excuse his crimes.

Perhaps. I don't know enough Islamic history.

OTOH, it's a historical fact that Joseph Smith was a polygamist, and perhaps also a pedophile (can't recall for sure).

Don't forget all the nastiness of many important historical Christian figures, e.g. Saint Augustine.

By anonymous (not verified) on 07 Feb 2006 #permalink

Let's also not forget those extremely nasty Hindu actions against Moslems in India.

IIRC Hindus are even trying to rewrite history books here in the US to make them more compatible with their religion. (E.g., stuff about the age of the universe, IIRC.)

By anonymous (not verified) on 07 Feb 2006 #permalink

"I see a foolish superstition used as a prod to mock people, and a people so muddled by the phony blandishments of religion that they scream "Blasphemy!" and falsely pin the problem on a ridiculous insult to a non-existent god, rather than on the affront to their dignity as human beings and citizens. Religion in this case has accomplished two things, neither one productive: it's distracted people away from the real problems, which have nothing at all to do with the camera-shy nature of their imaginary deity, and it's also amplified the hatred."

You assume, atheistic fool that you are, that a Muslim's standing vis a vis his fellow men should be more important to him than his relation to Allah.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 07 Feb 2006 #permalink

And what a big man you are, smugly wagging your finger at us "superstitious" sissies. A regular ubermensch you are, Professor.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 07 Feb 2006 #permalink

You assume, atheistic fool that you are, that a Muslim's standing vis a vis his fellow men should be more important to him than his relation to Allah.

You make "atheistic" sound like a bad thing. How quaint.

And what a big man you are, smugly wagging your finger at us "superstitious" sissies. A regular ubermensch you are, Professor.

Well, yeah.

Got a point, or an argument, or anything "ubermenschy" like that? ("Nuh-uh!" is kind of a sissy stance.)

If not, well, thanks for witnessing to us.

Let's not perpetuate the myth that moslems are all poor. Tell that to the sultan of Brunei (ok, maybe he's not a muslim- tho I rather suspect so).
There are many many millions of poor muslims, to be sure; and European muslims are partly- but far from wholly- an underclass. Islam- like most religions- :-) has been terrific at maintaining the economic status quo in favour of a few....
But the above not-with-standing, parts of the Middle East- especially the Sunni Arab heartlands- are awash with cash. They buy and sell academics at whim (several former colleagues of my institution are now in the United Arab Emirates, and they're not there for the parties.)

"Got a point, or an argument, or anything "ubermenschy" like that?" Paul W

Sorry, I thought I made my point clear. Here let me try again: Prof. Myers is a fool masquerading as a tough guy.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 07 Feb 2006 #permalink

Sorry, I thought I made my point clear. Here let me try again: Prof. Myers is a fool masquerading as a tough guy.

All righty, then. Thanks for sharing. Next?

Harry Eagar: That the brigand Mohammed was also a pedophile is unprovable, but the story has a pretty good pedigree.

The story that a ghost was responsible for some teenage girl's pregnancy also has a widely-respected lineage - but would you consider that grounds for using descriptors such as "actual" and "real enough"???

And how then shall we judge a nation which venerates a faction of oath-breakers, slave-owners & -dealers (and -rapers), genocidaires, and looters of the property of their neighbors who remained loyal to their pledged allegiance?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 07 Feb 2006 #permalink

Sheesh. You have Morris inside out. It is the natural explanations that surround the supernatural claptrap the writer is trying to put over that have to be exact.

That Muhammed was a pedophile was not part of the supernatural hoax.

Most leftists judge them pretty harshly. But most leftists don't know jack about that group. Most leftists -- I am certain you are among them -- do not know, for example, that those men were the first in history to legislate an end to the slave trade.

I bet you don't know who was second, either.

By Harry Eagar (not verified) on 07 Feb 2006 #permalink

"All righty, then. Thanks for sharing. Next?" Paul W.

Next would be you are a fool yourself.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 07 Feb 2006 #permalink

And why don't you mind your own business anyway, sycophant? Let the good professor try to defend the assumption I called into question. Tough guy that he is, I'm sure he can fight his own battles.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 07 Feb 2006 #permalink

Oh, that's easy.

You assume, atheistic fool that you are, that a Muslim's standing vis a vis his fellow men should be more important to him than his relation to Allah.

Since Allah doesn't exist, of course his standing with his fellow men should be more important to him.

"Fool masquerading as a tough guy," huh? I recognize projection when I see it.

If West countries believe freedom of expression, Why prison every talks about the myth Holocaust? I think freedom of expression is a lie.

If West countries believe freedom of expression, Why prison every talks about the myth Holocaust? I think freedom of expression is a lie.

"Since Allah doesn't exist, of course his standing with his fellow men should be more important to him.

'Fool masquerading as a tough guy,' huh? I recognize projection when I see it."

A philosophical thesis, which you, science man, have not proven. Moreover, its negation or, at least, the belief in a diety of some sort, is as well supported as any other philosophical thesis you might hold.

I never claimed to be a tough guy. On the contrary, unlike you, I am humble enough to realize that I am nothing without my Savior. Some day, though, you will have the same epiphany.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 08 Feb 2006 #permalink

"Sure, whatever." Paul W.

So you accept that you are a moronic sycophant? Most atheists have a much higher opinion of themselves.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 08 Feb 2006 #permalink

On the contrary, unlike you, I am humble enough to realize that I am nothing without my Savior.

Speaking as a dispassionate observer, I have to say you aren't amounting to much with him.

"Speaking as a dispassionate observer, I have to say you aren't amounting to much with him." Nulifidian

Why because I question the orthodoxy around here? Because I call folks like Prof. M. on his mean-spiritedness? And how would you know anyway, since the relationship in question is unobservable. As James Balwin wrote, you can see a man's fall, but not his wrestling. (Now tell me you have a materialist's solution to the problem of consciousness.) But, hey, at least you believe in Him. Or is this just more more snide comment along the lines of Mr. W's, you, like him, being incapable of forthrightness?

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 08 Feb 2006 #permalink

Those are all possibilities, but the reason I said that is because you think that insulting people into religion is the way to go.

If you want to call anyone on meanspiritedness, I suggest removing the plank from your own eye first before attending the mote in Dr. Myers' eye.

"If you want to call anyone on meanspiritedness, I suggest removing the plank from your own eye first before attending the mote in Dr. Myers' eye." Nulifidian

It is not mean-spirited to tell a sick person that they are sick, in no uncertain terms. On the contrary, if a smoker, say, persists in blackening his lungs, even after he's been told by a physician that he is destroying his health, you owe it to him to look him in the face and speak the harsh truth. Prof. Myers is spiritually ill and in another thread I tried reasoning with him- obviously to no avail.

Again, be a man and stop being coy- are you or aren't you a theist. Or are you just one of those atheists who likes to hypocritically throw Christ's words back at his followers to score rhetorical points?

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 08 Feb 2006 #permalink

Nufidian-

And if I can't get through to the good Prof., if he persists in being an agent for Satan- then I still have an obligation to marginalize him so that he cannot poison the minds of others- to warn others of his contagion. Spiritual warfare is not for nice guys.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 08 Feb 2006 #permalink

I have to hand to you. This was your funniest post yet.

Again, be a man and stop being coy- are you or aren't you a theist.

Geez, you have all the hints you need. You figure it out.

Or are you just one of those atheists who likes to hypocritically throw Christ's words back at his followers to score rhetorical points?

So you know his words, and yet you persist in being obnoxious under the delusion that you're engaging in some kind of spiritual warfare. That's cute, it really is.

And if I can't get through to the good Prof., if he persists in being an agent for Satan- then I still have an obligation to marginalize him so that he cannot poison the minds of others- to warn others of his contagion. Spiritual warfare is not for nice guys.

This one had me laughing out loud for a full five minutes. Thank you. Aside from the obvious fact that by being consciously obnoxious, you only alienate others from you, not from Dr. Myers, it's also the height of hubris to think that you will affect anything on a blog which celebrated its two millionth visitor last September.

Yeah, you go guy! Be a jerk online and maybe you'll get millions of independent visitors to stop paying attention to the good doctor. Bwahahahahahah!!

Why because I question the orthodoxy around here? Because I call folks like Prof. M. on his mean-spiritedness?

No, because you display such poor social skills.

You come to a godless blog and seem to be surprised to find PZ saying things that you don't find congenial, e.g., referring to religion as superstitious.

You should expect that. I don't go to Christian blogs expecting people to say the kinds of things I think. I would fully expect people there to express opinions that are offensive to me, e.g., that if I don't accept Jesus as my personal savior, I'm likely to be tortured forever, and that I deserve it. That would be incredibly offensive if we took it seriously, and if I wasn't used to hearing that sort of stuff from people like you.

So if I were to bother commenting on a Christian blog, written mostly for other Christians, I wouldn't start by getting upset and demonstrating my sheer scorn for Christian points of view. I wouldn't, for example, sneeringly call a minister "preacher man," or refer to Christians as "Christian fools," even if I thought they deserved it. (The way you call PZ "science man" and talk about atheistic "fools," and seem to show contempt for professors who disagree with you and don't pull their punches.)

If I did that sort of thing, I'd expect to be dismissed as an annoying loon by people who don't yet understand that my views actually make sense. I'd expect to either be ignored or made fun of.

Conversely, here the burden of proof basicallly on you. PZ doesn't have to prove that what he's saying is true, to your satisfaction. He's not here to preach to Christians. Most of us have the background knowledge to understand why he says what he says, and generally believe it's justified; we don't need the detailed explanations that you probably do. We don't need Atheism 101 or Basic Flaws in Christian Thought; we've heard all that before, and it's not very interesting anymore.

If you want any positive or serious attention from PZ or the many people like him here, you've got to show that you understand the basics of what's being talked about. If you can't, you have to be polite and sincerely curious even if what PZ says seems unjustified to you.

You don't seem to have a basic grasp of a scientific, humanistic point of view; you say things that you should know sound unconvincing, offensive, or even ludicrous to us.

To pick just one example:

unlike you, I am humble enough to realize that I am nothing without my Savior.

We could be offended by that. We don't have your savior, don't believe in you savior, and don't want your savior, and we don't think we are nothing without your savior.

Most of us find it pretty sad that you would say that about yourself.

We also think it seems kinda stupid. If your savior is so judgemental about who does or doesn't believe in him, under the circumstances, he's Not Nice and you shouldn't be worshipping him, even if he does exist.

We also think it's kinda unhealthy that you think you need somebody else, like Jesus, to make your own life into more than nothing. We have meaningful lives, without Jesus, and we think you're pretty clearly wrong.

And we think it's inconsistent of you to say that you're humble, and yet use your invisible friend as an excuse to condescend to us---you don't need a professor or a "science man" to explain anything to you, because you've got an "in" with The Big Guy.
You can be "humble" and still condescend to us, telling us we're worse than you---at least that our differing opinions and reasons for them are comparatively worthless.

(We find it ironic that Christians think we're "mean-spirited" or arrogant; we think they literally worship a mean spirit and use that as an excuse to condescend to people who have better arguments.)

I don't really want to discuss or explain, or justify the above points; discussing basic theology and atheism with utterly naive Christians is not generally my idea of fun.

The point of my saying those things is that it's a list of things you should not find surprising on an explictily "godless" blog. If you find any of them surprising, you are either a newbie in godless contexts, or a slow learner. You should either go away and study atheism 101 a bit, or expect to be annoyed by and annoying to atheists. If you find such points of view terribly offensive, you're probably not going to have a lot of fun here.

Most of us are far more familiar with the Christian point of view than you seem to be with ours. We think we know where you're coming from, and we are no more impressed with your views than you are with ours. If we condescend to each other, it's not surprising; it's just boring.

So if you want to talk with us, you just have to accept that here, the burden of proof is mostly on you. This is not an atheism 101 or Christians-vs-atheists web site; there are other forums for that. Don't stick around if you're not reasonably thick-skinned, patient, and sincerely curious about what people like PZ think.

And don't expect a lot of personal attention from PZ, telling other readers to "mind their own business." PZ is a busy man with many readers, and it's unrealistic to expect much personal attention from him.

Paul

BTW, I kicked the shit out of the Problem of Evil in a previous thread. If you can't find it, my article on the subject may be found at http://www.arsdisputandi.org/. Make my day, punk, and try to refute it.

Nufi,

I won't try anymore to justify my methods to you, let's just leave it at I know what I'm doing and so does God. He doesn't expect me to reach closed minds anyway, only His grace can do that, just to wage a good fight on His behalf

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 08 Feb 2006 #permalink

I know exactly what you're doing too. You're being an asshole. What's funny is a) you think this is acceptable, both socially and religiously, and b) you think it will work.

It is not mean-spirited to tell a sick person that they are sick, in no uncertain terms.

OK, if that's what you want.

YOU ARE ONE SICK MAN. And your little god, too.

And if I can't get through to the good Prof., if he persists in being an agent for Satan- then I still have an obligation to marginalize him so that he cannot poison the minds of others- to warn others of his contagion. Spiritual warfare is not for nice guys.

Yeah, good luck with that. You've got the Not A Nice Guy part down pat.

(Looks like our humble Christian commentator hasn't been taking his medication, and has morphed into Mr. Ruthless Spiritual Warrior again. Who is it we call to pick him up when he gets like this?)

Paul

BTW, I kicked the shit out of the Problem of Evil in a previous thread. [...] Make my day, punk, and try to refute it.

No thanks, I'm too thoroughly cowed by your vaunted humility. I quake in fear that you'll unleash your humility again.

I just can't take it any more--but it's not the heat, it's the humility.

Prof. Myers is spiritually ill and in another thread I tried reasoning with him- obviously to no avail.

you REALLY think that?

i think that people with strong religious views, even if held privately, can do overt damage to their non-believing "humanist" peers. how? because even if they don't express their beliefs publicly, whether in writing or not, these provide them a set of (often strong) values by which they make professional judgments when they don't have enough actual evidence. consider a psychiatrist who believes in a religious dualism of body and soul. to them, lobotomy might be a perfectly reasonable procedure if it, say, allows a previously violent patient to visit with their family. after all, the flesh is just a "container". on the other hand, if the patient actually believes that the brain is all their is, what's happening is that it is being grossly violated.

it's not like psychiatrists, doctors, attorneys, and others put their religious and philosophical viewpoints on their advertising or resumes.

so, offhand, i'd say it's the folks with strong, without-a-doubt, can't-be-challenged religious beliefs who are "ill".

death is the state when the environment no longer causes an organism to react. a person who doesn't change their viewpoints and beliefs through living is IMO emotionally and intellectually dead.

"eath is the state when the environment no longer causes an organism to react. a person who doesn't change their viewpoints and beliefs through living is IMO emotionally and intellectually dead." ekzept

Now, you see, you cliche mongering piece of shit, that's what I mean about folks like you being shallow: I've always believed, eg, that 2 = 2 = 4 and always will, never doubted it for a second. Does that make me "emotionally and intellectually dead?" Obviously not. Suppose the same were true of my belief in God? Would that count against me being alive? How about my values and moral principles? Should I reach equilibrium there, would I be dead for that reason? Now if you don't concede that I have provided counterexamples to your sophmoric generaliztion- YOU ARE THE ONE WHO IS INTELLECTUALLY DEAD.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 09 Feb 2006 #permalink

"Death is the state when the environment no longer causes an organism to react. a person who doesn't change their viewpoints and beliefs through living is IMO emotionally and intellectually dead." ekzept

Now, you see, you cliche mongering piece of shit, that's what I mean about folks like you being shallow: I've always believed, eg, that 2 = 2 = 4 and always will, never doubted it for a second. Does that make me "emotionally and intellectually dead?"

No, just overly literal-minded when it comes to other people's metaphors.

Obviously not. Suppose the same were true of my belief in God? Would that count against me being alive?

Not "alive," just "sane."

YOU ARE THE ONE WHO IS INTELLECTUALLY DEAD.

Right, Mr. "2 + 2 = 4" == "Jesus is Lord"

Nice display of deep, intellectually alive thought there.

(Actually, you wrote "2 = 2 = 4"; your slip is showing.)

BTW, the vet called. Your mangy little cliche-mongering piece of shit god died.*

(* Abject apologies in advance to any other Christians who might understandably take serious offense.)

Paul, ezkept, Nufi,

3 on 1 and in the words of Jake Lamotta "you didn't knock me down."

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 09 Feb 2006 #permalink

Paul,

It wasn't a metaphor either; he meant it literally. If not, then why should I take anything he says seriously. You make things too easy on yourself if every time someone comes up with a countereg to one of your principles you deny that it's to be taken literally.

You take delight, like your hero Prof. Myers, in insulting Christians; by itself that shows you to be warp-minded. Anyone, like Nietzsche, who gets off on malice is sick. And don't tell me that that it was I should expect here, because you folks would just love to expand your operation, so to speak. But those who oppose your efforts do not want to hurt you, unlike you and the good Prof. In fact, we pray for you, even as you spew venom in our faces, a la the Roman soldiers with our Lord Himself. You have been seriously misinformed about Christian theology too. God would not send anyone to Hell, they would consign themselves, freely choosing to reject His love and mercy. The "Christians" who told you otherwise are wackos who have provided you with a nice little straw man to kick around. If you are unwilling to seriously study the tenets of our faith, then you should refrain from bashing it.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 09 Feb 2006 #permalink

God would not send anyone to Hell, they would consign themselves, freely choosing to reject His love and mercy. The "Christians" who told you otherwise are wackos who have provided you with a nice little straw man to kick around.

So, if I were to die right now, being a disbeliever in your god, an outright unashamed atheist, and moreover against Christianity overall, would I or would I not go to Hell, according to your theology?

Please answer that question directly; no waffling. If you must, you can elaborate your answer, but I'd like you to start with "yes" or "no."

Keep in mind that I've committed the only unforgivable sin, according to your Bible---blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (I think the Holy Spirit is stupid bullshit... whoops, I did it again!; and I don't regret it in the least, much less repent for it.)

So, if I were to die right now, being a disbeliever in your god, an outright unashamed atheist, and moreover against Christianity overall, would I or would I not go to Hell, according to your theology?

No Paul, you would not, not unless you were to remain a disbeliever, rejecting Him, so to speak, to His face. But think about it, that would be impossible, like staring at your hand, to use G.E. Moore's eg, and denying its existence. No, you'd (probably) have to spend some "time" in Purgatory with other sinners like me.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 10 Feb 2006 #permalink

Paul,

One more thing. I believe that the key to understanding the whole Gospel message is to be found in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It's a small detail, easily overlooked, but notice that the father runs from the porch.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 10 Feb 2006 #permalink

Robert,

With all due respect your argument, although Im sure it makes you feel good misses the point to some degree.

Anyone, like Nietzsche, who gets off on malice is sick

How true, but it is not his thoughts that would allow someone to suffer endlessly.

The "Christians" who told you otherwise are wackos who have provided you with a nice little straw man to kick around.

One true scotsman.

God would not send anyone to Hell, they would consign themselves, freely choosing to reject His love and mercy

Thats just baloney, no one rejects love and mercy but even if they did that gives one no reason to make them suffer unless one has a HUGE ego problem. Would you love you children less if they didn't return the favor fullfold? Would you seek to make them suffer because of it?

No you wouldn't. There is no justification for anyone suffering in any form if YOU can prevent it. That doesn't change in this world or the next.

Me: ...would I or would I not go to Hell, according to your theology?

Robert: would I or would I not go to Hell, according to your theology?

OK, it looks like you're not the worst sort of Christian, which it sounded like you might be.

From that point, though, I think it's pretty predictable how this discussion would go, with you explaining your particular version of the Salvation story and me finding it utterly incoherent. Been there, done that, with too many versions. (Several while I was a Christian, a long time ago.)

Maybe I'm wrong about that, but at this point I think I'll just bow out. This doesn't seem like the right forum, and I'm pretty sure not many people are is interested in having that discussion here. I don't want to waste bandwidth on Christianity vs. Atheism 101.

If this seems like just wimping out, and annoys you, I can understand that, but I just don't have time for interminable wrangles with theists. (I generally avoid forums with that sort of thing going on; it got old for me 20 years ago. It is not why I read Pharyngula.)

Sorry if I've offended you. I should never have gotten into it.

Whoops... muffed the quote in the last one; it was supposed to show Robert saying No, I wouldn't go to Hell, rather than repeating my question. Sorry.

Anyone, like Nietzsche, who gets off on malice is sick.

Coming from you, the irony is so thick one can choke on it. The reason you can say such things without any hint of irony is because you firmly believe that your religion permits this sort of abhorrent behavior. That's enough reason for any thinking person to reject your religion.

It also caused you to miscue on your response to me: I'm not trying to knock you down, I'm trying to get you to take a serious look at how you're behaving and how counterproductive it is.

Nufi,

I am defending myself and my religion, not being malicious. Paul mocked me, then you jumped in along with Ezkept. What do you expect me to do- concede defeat? I did not start out by attacking you, but Myers for his mockery of my faith. As far as I'm concerned, that was none of your business. He's the one I wanted to fight. If you or anyone else want to dialogue with me, though, I would welcome it and remain as civil can be along as long as you dispense with your animus towards my faith. If you don't like me, I can live with that.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 10 Feb 2006 #permalink

I am defending myself and my religion, not being malicious.

"You assume, atheistic fool that you are...."

"And what a big man you are, smugly wagging your finger at us "superstitious" sissies. A regular ubermensch you are, Professor."

"Prof. Myers is a fool masquerading as a tough guy."

"Next would be you are a fool yourself."

"And why don't you mind your own business anyway, sycophant?"

"A philosophical thesis, which you, science man,...."

"So you accept that you are a moronic sycophant? Most atheists have a much higher opinion of themselves."

"Or is this just more more snide comment along the lines of Mr. W's, you, like him, being incapable of forthrightness?"

"Again, be a man and stop being coy...."

"You take delight, like your hero Prof. Myers, in insulting Christians; by itself that shows you to be warp-minded."

And my favorite:

"Now, you see, you cliche mongering piece of shit, that's what I mean about folks like you being shallow:...."

Uh huh. Yes, you're not being malicious at all.

Then I will say in a completely non-malicious way, that you're a dishonest, self-righteous and arrogant piece of shit.

Why on earth should Dr. Myers want to dialogue with you if this is what one can expect?

If you can't answer that, then maybe you'll understand why I'm going to ignore your rantings from now on.

All I can, Nulifidian, is he started it with his mockery- that's malicious- then you guys came to his aid when I fought back- that's malicious too. I don't have any malice in my heart- witness my willingness to go out of my way to help Paul- but I'm damn sure not a milquetoast either. Nor does our Lord expect me to roll over and play dead in the face of such provocation. On the contrary, my faith obligates me to resist evil ideas, like the atheism of Myers, with all the logical and rhetorical weapons with which the good Lord has armed me. Would you expect a man to stand by and allow another guy to insult his wife? If he fought back verbally, would you call him malicious? What you folks get off on- taunting theists- is beyond the pale. That's what you don't seem to get.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 10 Feb 2006 #permalink

"The good Christian should beware of mathematicians and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and confine man in the bonds of Hell."

St. Augustine (DZ Myers "Random Quote")

Nice try Professor. But a fair-mined reader- that is, someone who doesn't get off on bashing Christianity- would realize that Augustine has numerologists in mind here, not folks like Gauss and Euler.

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 10 Feb 2006 #permalink

Now, you see, you cliche mongering piece of shit, that's what I mean about folks like you being shallow: I've always believed, eg, that 2 [+] 2 = 4 and always will, never doubted it for a second.

statements of arithmetic fact aren't subject to belief or disbelief. they are, uh, facts.

Nice try Professor. But a fair-mined reader- that is, someone who doesn't get off on bashing Christianity- would realize that Augustine has numerologists in mind here, not folks like Gauss and Euler.

yeah, i'm sure that's precisely what the murderers of Hypatia thought.

ekzpept,

2 mistakes in one posting: yes they are facts, but also the OBJECTS of belief (or at least propositions representing them are). 2 + 2 = 4 is something that can be believed or disbelieved. Any philosopher would tell you so. Descartes, e.g., when searching amongst his BELIEFS for certainties, considered it. Also what do the murderers of Hypatia have to do with Augustine's thought?

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 11 Feb 2006 #permalink

"I was negotiating a contract to accept Jesus as my personal savior, but he refused to recognize my free sex clause."

[Al Medwin]

Nice straw man: there is not one sentence in any Gospel condemning "free sex."

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 11 Feb 2006 #permalink

2 + 2 = 4 is something that can be believed or disbelieved.

it can be disbelieved, but not without an immediate demonstration that the disbeliever is delusional. it is possible to believe or not believe someone's opinion, like "Even if the Devil says 2 + 2 = 4 I am going to believe him". that's about belief in an opinion, not in an underlying fact which, as i contend, is not subject to belief or disbelief.

Also what do the murderers of Hypatia have to do with Augustine's thought?

they provide a counterexample to the idea that Augustine did not mean mathematicians, as you claimed, being rough contemporaries and virulent Christians. there are other examples, especially of deeming women as witched because they were versed in philosophy, mathematics, and the sciences.

some Christians of today see the Christianity of that time as a purer sort, less distrated and influenced by "contamination" with un-Christian ideas. some see the Crusades as a rejuvenation of that spirit.

no matter, i think Augustine meant exactly what you're trying to claim he didn't. it certainly fits. that is, of course, merely my opinion.

i should also say the murder of Hypatia is pertinent to the subject of the column as they did it as part of a riot.

Ezkept,

So let me get this straight. Some wacko Christians rioted and killed Hypatia while some contemporary Christian crackpots yearn for new crusades all of which proves Augustine had it in for mathematicians rather than numerologists? If I ever write a logic text may I use this as an example of a non sequitur?

By Robert Allen (not verified) on 11 Feb 2006 #permalink

Some wacko Christians rioted and killed Hypatia while some contemporary Christian crackpots yearn for new crusades all of which proves Augustine had it in for mathematicians rather than numerologists? If I ever write a logic text may I use this as an example of a non sequitur?

i said it was a counterexample. i did not say it was "proof". proof is something far more difficult to attain and i don't see how anyone can ever attain it on any matter with this kind of subject.

also, there is no evidence at all, at least from Christian authorities, that the murderers of Hypatia were "wackos". they were never excoriated. indeed, the local Christian authority was later canonized. noone has ever apologized for the incident or found it important to apologize for. there was an attempt to whitewash the incident by claiming Hypatia converted to Christianity as she was dying. indeed. similar to later "conversions" of Jews and Muslims to Christianity under torture in Inquisition Spain.

as i wrote, this was not an isolated incident. the same kind of witchcraft killing of a woman philosopher-scientists-mathematician by a mob of Christians happened in Roman Britain.

and you didn't distance the Christianity of today from the Christianity of that day.

the Crusades i meant were the historical ones. i was not aware any Christian had announced the need for another set. thanks for keeping us informed.

I have just read you're entire argument.
Whilst you might see fit to argue about ideologies and riots that have occurred in the past, would it not be more efficient to fix the issues of today?
I have lived in Australia my entire life, I can no longer go shopping unaccompanied, for fear of being attacked. I have no problems with the Muslim religion itself, I think it's perfectly fine to practice what you believe in. However, these 'minorities' you speak of - I don't think there's only a dozen or so racist mobs.
It's far more wide-spread than that and racism and intolerance is coming from both parties.
I will openly admit I have prejudices about Muslim mobs yelling slurs at me constantly, but I also know that they despise my way of life, which has (over time) leadme to believe that they're not very nice people.
It is naive to pick one side over another, centuries of hate and continual conflict has only worsened the situation.
Perhaps if you were to stop arguing as to which 'side' the Government of the day is fighting for and educated your young people that intolerance is not acceptable, there would be no reason for derogatory cartoons appearing in newspapers or any such rubbish.
As educated and decent as you might be, there are many cases in Australia of girls being gang raped because of "indecent dressing", the Muslim Sheik quoted to the media something along the lines of "If you leave meat out the dogs are going to eat it".
And yet you wonder why the Governments are siding against you.
Atrocities like this need to stop. No-one deserves to be degraded in such a way.

I thought the cartoons were funny. They were not racist. They ridiculed terrorism and intolerance in the name of Allah. Muslims are hardly an "underclass" around the world. By and large, Muslims in Europe have left Muslim cultures to live in non-Muslim cultures by their own choice. Islam is colliding with the secular West and in many cases is becoming aggressively and even viciously anti-Western, engaging in riot and murder at the slightest offense to "the Prophet," whom they are making sacred, aginst their own theology.

I like secular humanist values. I don't feel the need to apologize for them. And I don't see why intolerant and violent fundamentalists, of whatever orientation, need or deserve to be "protected" from criticism and caricature.

By Alan Vanneman (not verified) on 15 Jul 2008 #permalink