This Site is Banned in China

Posted by Anti Citizen One on June 8th, 2010

This site is banned in China (except for Hong Kong). I guess that is recognition of sorts… Test was done on (thanks). Sooo, Tibet: what’s all that about?

Anti Citizen One

Stuff I’ve Been Doing

Posted by Anti Citizen One on March 26th, 2010

I was going to review Darwin’s Origin of Species, but there is little I can add to the popular perception of it. He does address most of the modern objections, so anyone who talks of “gaps in the fossil record” without bothering to read him are just lazy in not reading his actual point of view or are wilfully ignorant. Refreshingly, he does not pull punches against his own theory and states very clearly the types of evidence that would disprove his point of view – for example, fossils not in the appropriate geological order or a single species originating simultaneously in two distinct areas. Many science writings don’t put the case against their view at all, or at least not as strongly, and properly, as Darwin. He the man.

I was invited to a bible study group, which was interesting as an outsider. They were much less “chapter and verse” than I expected. We discussed “love thy neighbour as thyself” and I made the point that what is meant by “love” is sightly ambiguous – in an interesting way. If it is taken in the “love unconditionally” sense, then it also is a commandment to love thyself unconditionally (and that is a rather big “if”). This might have been a pre-emptive strike against the idea of “total depravity”, but that particular issue did not come up. I decided against expressing Nietzsche’s “be not considerate of thy neighbour! Man is something that must be surpassed” view – that would not have been well received!

I attended the Big Libel Gig, which was a awareness raising, comedy event. It featured a few science writers and several comedians who were critics of alternative medicines and superstition, including Simon Singh who is being sued because he criticised chiropractors. The issue is it costs a vast amount to defend a libel case, even if vindicated and is therefore a way of large organisations to silence their critics. I also saw Brian Cox (for the second time) and Ben Goldacre. The whole event was very “yay for empiricism, science and naturalism” and “boo for alternative medicine”. I was strongly reminded of that world view in a rap song by Baba Brinkman (and is based on a Jay Z song). The video editing is very slick. I don’t normally listen to rap but its a good summary of the main themes.

I have two books by Karl Popper on order. I am looking forward to that. I am bogged down in Capote’s short stories at the moment. I have also been trying to explain the is-ought problem to people but most people just don’t get it. What did I miss? 🙂

Anti Citizen One

PS Since we are on the topic of ultra-naturalism, and if you prefer folk to rap, you might like this: Creation Science 101

PPS The philosophical issues around evolution are more than adequately covered on talk origins.

erratic thoughts on freedom of speech

Posted by on July 28th, 2009

The concept of free speech has been discussed and mulled over here on a number of occasions. So I apologise for any repetition. These are just some disjointed thoughts that I had late last night on the matter which I guess kind of represents my metanarrative on the whole topic.

Firstly there are two types of freedom of speech.

The first I would call a de facto freedom … this really is the simple fact that if I am able to think and to speak I can freely think and speak whatever I wish without hindrance.

The second is the notion of the right to freedom of speech and this relates more to our demand to exercise our de facto freedom of speech and thought in a social environment wherein for whatever reason (taboo, peer pressure, legal restrictions, tryanny) we are sometimes prevented or chastised and censored (and censured) for our exercising the de facto freedom of speech.

Nothing can limit our de facto freedom unless we are rendered mute. But the influence and the impact of our de facto freedom can of course be restricted, though it may be difficult (but not impossible) to control our thoughts governments and other nefarious agencies can limit the audience to which our thoughts when expressed may be recieved.

Now I am slightly suspicious of the “rights” discourse. As the great Utilitarian Jeremy Bentham once stated the whole concept of “natural” rights is nonsense. In truth rights are our own invention, and they are reified by us by attributing them to God or Nature or some greater thing than ourseleves individually.

Generally I have always argued that although “rights” have their social advantages (for example I am in no hurry to be killed therefore I jealously guard my right to life), the fact is that “rights” inasmuch as these abstract concepts are real in any sense, are in constant competition with other rights. One need only cast an eye over many contempory ethical debates to see conflicting notions of rights, right to life, right to choose when/how to die, right to choice etc… There is no such thing as a right that is cut and dried and so objectively obvious that you cannot think (even if it is ridiculous) that it may have an opposite and competing right.

My right not to be killed stands opposite the right for someone to kill me… it seems silly but the latter right (though very rarely expressed as such) is evident all around us, from the psychopath, to military conflict, terrorism, to government sponsored murder (ethnic cleansing, eugenics, capital punishment).

But further to the inherently un-natural modus operandi of rights is the binary opposite of the concept of a “right” itself and that is an “obligation” or a duty.

There are those who would argue, as I have at times that the right to freedom of speech ought perhaps be tempered with an obligation not to unnecessarily offend or to incite actions that may infringe other rights.

It is alas something I have not argued fully or satisfactorily. Which in part explains this here ramble.

Lets take some social models to explain this binary opposite.

An authoritarian police state (Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Communist East Germany.. as examples) controls what can be published, or even spoken about by means of censorship, propaganda and a system of social informants that keep police aware of un-patriotic or ideologically unsound sentiments. In such a state we could say that there is no “right” to freedom of speech, but that there is an obligation to say, do and think what the ruling elite would want you to say, do and think.

In contrast we would point to to the ideal “democratic” society where freedom of speech is cherished as a right and we have no duty to think say and do what any authority tells us.

But is such an ideal attainable? and is such an ideal compatible with democracy?

In theory I would suggest it is attainable, by our simple mass civil disobedience against any laws that repress our freedom of speech.

But I am not so sure that total freedom of speech – or unregulated freedom (which is no freedom at all) is compatible with democracy.

Frequently our debates on this site have focused on what we might call the “offence” clause.

I have often argued that we have the “right” to take offence – and that this is a symptom of free speech and a fundamental corrollory of democracy. To argue that people should not take offence is an inverse tyranny, asserting one competitive right over another. But the discussion stalls over what actions the offended may legitamately take in response to free expression… Censorhip? Fatwa?

Here I think is where I will wrap things up (somewhat imperfectly). But firstly a closing thought.

Perhaps if the notion of the “right” to freedom of speech was more coherently presented as being part of double-sided coin, the flip side being an obligation not to abuse that freedom of speech i.e. by inciting hatred, violence, etc., then democratic society should not feel the need to censor.

If the right to free expression was tempered in the fire of the right to be offended then perhaps this would cease to be an issue.

But alas there is a pay off that needs to be made. If we are to talk about the responsible use of rights are we not in danger of quietism, of muting great works of art or political and philosophical rhetoric?

Probably we would.

But thats the democratic way, there is no real thing as a right, and likewise though democratic society pays lipservice to freedom of speech in truth that freedom is anything but free.

So what alternative? Well we could go the path of absolute duty (authoritarianism) or a free for all anything goes (chaos). The latter of which ironically is also a form of tyranny, i.e. if total freedom of speech is advanced at the expense of the “right” to be offended, then simply one abstract notion that we call a “right” is asserting its authority or its value over another abstract “right”.

At least we have a de facto freedom of speech and thought … unless we’re all automatons (but thats a whole ‘nother discussion!)

Defamation of Religion at the UN

Posted by Anti Citizen One on March 29th, 2009

The UN recently passed another non-binding resolution on “combating defamation” of religion. A quick check sees there have been several previous resolutions with a similar intent. Most of the supporting states are Islamic and most of the opposing states are Western. The mind boggles. Many states enshire the right to profess a religion but only a handful ban criticism of religion. This sounds awfully like Islam does not tolerate criticism – no other religions are mentioned in the resolution. I know criticism and defamation can be distinct but who decides the division? In many theocracies or media hysteria tend to lean on the broader interpretation of what is defamation.

Of course the resolution is worded in terms of “promoting harmony” and preventing incitement to hatred. Most of the articles are fairly standard UN-ism about protecting individuals from discrimination. But you might note the title of the resolution is defamation of religion; not defamation of its followers. Eventually, the resolution gets to the point:

8. Deplores the use of the print, audio-visual and electronic media, including the Internet, and any other means to incite acts of violence, xenophobia or related intolerance and discrimination towards any religion, as well as targeting of religious symbols and venerated persons

Yes, it says that relgious ideas cannot be “targeted” – which I take to mean “criticised in any way”. Of course, you might call me paranoid but considering the states that have the death penalty for blasphemy, I’d say their idea of “targeted” is what is intended.

Anti Citizen One

PS It’s hard to think of any juicy insults for an entity I deem (provisionally) as non-existent.

PPS That last link was so relevant, I embed it below:

Censorship….. the Movie!

Posted by Anti Citizen One on February 19th, 2009

I was considering avoiding the controversy around Geert Wilders’ film “Fitna” but I have decided to brave the waters… The basic argument seems to be:

  1. The Koran contains statements that call for the spread of Islam and unbelievers to be killed.
  2. Act of violence are justified and inspired by the Koran (this is implied visually but not stated literally)
  3. Islam wants to impose its views on us [liberal Westerners]
  4. Being under threat, we must respond by defeating this ideology (as done to Communism)
  5. Muslims should renounce passages that call for violence.

Ban Ki Moon condemned the film for itself being extremist.

I want to add some observations that were not in the film.

  • The Koran has statements that non-believers should not be harmed.
  • Not all Muslims want to impose their beliefs on others. (On the other hand, extremists would say “then they are not Muslim” but anyway) See also 2:256, 18:29, 109:6
  • Getting inspiration towards violence from a holy book depends on the supply of the book, being told to read it and to take it seriously – and also to take a particular pro-violent interpretation. All this takes human influence. To say that words on a page are wholly responsible for violence is an over simplification.
  • Just because liberal views are “under threat”, it does not mean we should label the view as “evil” or attempt to defeat it. To do so is the antithesis of liberalism! As long as pressure comes from preaching and political action, why should a liberal society resist? Unless we don’t think liberalism can survive without being hypocritical? (Which is a possibility.)
  • Apparently some (most?) Muslim scholars do call for sections of the Koran to be interpreted and not to be taken literally.

When Geert Wilders attempted to travel to the UK to show his film, we was denied entry as he was deemed a “public safety threat”. I’ll tell you what is a public safety thread: a government who censors a descenting voice. If Wilders called for violence (he didn’t – I think?), he would be a loose canon – but it is the protests from hysterical people who feel themselves “offended” that are the threat to public safetly (even if there is a threat at all). The ironic thing is I probably would not have bothered watching this rather superficial film if they had not blocked his visit!

Anti Citizen One

PS There is an excellent audio episode of The Moral Maze concerning the origin of morality. (Titled poorly as “moral relativism”). Also, congratulations to them on the 500th episode broadcasted!

Thoughts on Recent News

Posted by on February 4th, 2009

I have been lacking in posts recently as I have been both lazy, mentally drained and suffering from sporadic cut-offs thanks to a shoddy modem/router.It is with pleasure then I announce “I’m back!”

I was interested to see AC1 comment on recent news as I was planning on doing so myself – and at the same time air some of my more unusual views.

There are really three main news items that are capturing my attention at the moment:

1) The lifting of the excommunication on a holocaust denying Bishop.

2) The Edinburgh “Gay adoption” row, and

3) The Christian Nurse.

Holocaust Denial

The first story is troubling for me as a nominal Catholic, although I should celebrate the hoped for “return to the fold” of schismatic Catholics to the church – a precursor for a greater ecumenical push between world religions – I am dissappointed that the Holocaust Deniar Bishop Williamson has not been publicly disciplined.

There is an interesting tension here that revolves around freedom of speech – a matter much discussed on this blog. We needn’t repeat the arguments over and again – suffice to say though that I feel extraordinary pain that in the name of freedom of conscience Bishop Williamson’s evidentially wrong and misinformed beliefs concerning the scale and nature of the holocaust should be permitted the oxygen of publicity that his office and his rehabilitation to the Church has afforded him.

A very interesting article concerning this tension between censorship and freedom of conscience can be found on the hermeneutic of continuity blog. Where a traditionalist priest struggles with the notion of freedom of conscience and the spreading of error. His resolution interpreted in the Church’s conciliar teachings are that freedom of conscience is a responsibility rather than a right and that we have the responsibility to pursue that which is true – therefore in the context of Holocaust denial the overwhelming weight of evidence and testimony to the horrors of the “Shoah” should suffice to encourage mass censure of this mans false beliefs.

Gay Adoption

In principle I have no objection to Gay adoption. I am unconvinced by those arguments (usually motivated by a pre-existing heterosexually dominant bias) that the classic mother/father unit is always the best environment to bring up a child. There is no reason why a Gay couple (whatever their status in law i.e. married, cohabiting etc.) or indeed any couple (whether their relationship be sexual or not) cannot provide a safe, caring, loving and nurturing environment for the upbringing of children.

The role of sexuality and sexual orientation has minimal impact on the upbringing of children (indeed I may be understimating how positive such an upbringing may be in terms of encouraging a pluralistic attitude with regards human nature).

It is to put it bluntly “wrong” to suggest that a Gay couple could distort the emotional and sexual development of any children in their care. Homosexuality is a) not infectious, and b) not acquired. The sexual orientation of any children who have been placed in the care of homosexual couples is wholly incidental.

However. I am troubled by the Edinburgh case that has been in the news recently. Namely two young children have been placed in the adoptive care of a Gay couple, despite the protestations of their maternal grandparents who insist they are capable and willing to care for them themselves.

Generally where family is available – and they are deemed to be fit to bring up children – then priority should be given to the family – not because it is in the family’s interests but because it is in the childrens interests. Living with your grandparents (in theory) should be far less of a major upheaval than living with total strangers.

Edinburgh Social Services have deemed that the grandparents are unable to adopt the children because firstly they are too old (grandfather 61, grandmother 49), and secondly because they are too ill (grandfather has angina, grandmother type 2 diabetes). Having informed the grandparents of their decision they then told them that the children would be adopted by a gay couple. The grandparents claim they did not object to gay adoption (though they did not favour it) but they did object to their being disqualified. The reaction of social services was very blunt – the objection must clearly be homophobic and unless they changed their attitudes and became more open minded they would never be allowed to see their grandchildren again.

My opinions very briefly are that despite news reportage I may give some benefit of the doubt to social services – age and health should be taken into consideration regards suitability for adoption. However I would like to know if the judgement that disqualified them was made by a doctor or by a social worker. Are they medically unfit to adopt – or is this just an opinion formed by a non-medical professional?

I am also worried about the increasing power that the state is taking over society. To threaten the grandparents with permanent loss of contact unless they conform to an opinion that social services approves is potentially dangerous. Are we in thought police territory yet?

(I’m aware that in the previous section I was concerned with limitations to freedom of conscience yet here I am arguing total liberty – I’m not being inconsistent so much as highlighting the extraordinary tension between the two positions.)

My final concern is that the press have manufactured this into a homophobic issue.

Christian Nurse

This story fascinates me. The nurse asks a patient if she would like a prayer said for her, patient declines, takes no offence (though considers it weird), mentions it to the nurses colleague the following day, nurse gets suspended.

What is a nurse/nursing? My definition (which I consider fairly accurate) is that a nurse is a medical health practitioner who offers a more “holistic” service than that which can be provided by a physician.

Thus the nurse not only carries out the physicians instructions re: medication, dressing of wounds, general health care provision etc, but also provides support, basic counselling skills, caring observation of the patients welfare status and so on.

Part of this “holistic” approach focuses on the “spiritual” well being of the patient. I will post more on the beneficial uses of religion and spirtuality in health care soon (this story broke shortly after I started gathering materials for it).

The definition of “spiritual” well being in a multi-denominational and plural society necessarily needs be very broadly defined. Indeed one could describe the terms “spiritual” and “well being” as identical (i.e. not referencing any transcendent factor).

In this context then one would be hard pressed to suggest that asking a patient if they wished to be prayed for was a bad/wrong thing to do. One could argue that this approach (though overtly religious) was part and parcel of a holistic caring approach to the patient that a nurse ought provide.

Now for some problems and analysis.

1) The nurse had previously been warned about her behaviour (having been caught handing out prayer cards to another patient).

2) Though the nurse offered to pray and freely accepted the refusal such an overt statement may seem evangelical (forcing of ones beliefs).

3) Such an offer may be liable to offend.

The first issue is interesting – she has “previous” and has seemingly gone against the wishes of her local primary care trust. It is therefore (whether the policy is correct or not) an internal disciplinary matter. It is not a global persecution of expressions of the Christian faith (though one may argue it is a more localised persecution). What is more interesting though is that neither the prayer card, or prayer request patient made a complaint. Offence was neither intended nor taken – yet offence has been registered by a third non-interested party. Again (a common theme in this post) there seems to be a tension between freedom of conscience and institutional censure.

The second issue is a strange one. I dislike being evangelised (and yet I am a person of faith). Clearly a person who does not share the same faith or who is a non-believer altogether may feel irritated at being evangelised and preached to. This is a problem again with freedom of conscience and living in a plural society. Should a person of faith assume the “worst” and keep their beliefs private? Or should they be allowed the freedom to express themselves – partically when its expression has benign intent.

As I noted on a previous comment – a famous atheist once remarked (in suprisingly conciliatory tones) that if ones worldview was such that you believed in good/evil, life after death, eternal bliss etc., then you would have to really hate someone not to want to share the “good news” with them.

In this case I think offering to pray for someone – an expression of good will here – another way of saying “I hope you get better soon” – is not evangelising.

The late Irish comedian Dave Allen (no friend of organised religion) used to close his shows with the phrase “and may your God go with you.”

I think it is inevitable that in a plural society there will be a diversity of beliefs regarding God, the spiritual etc. Many of religion and many of no religion – it is therefore important that we recognise benign sincerity wherever we see it and understand though we may not share the same “language game” that good wishes may be expressed in a variety of idiomatic ways.

The third issue is curious and follows on from the other two. Offence may not be intended but may be taken – such is the fragile nature of intepretation and translation between language games. The patient in the story said she thought it unusual – insofar as though she wasnt offended she could see how some people might interpret the question “shall I pray for you?” as meaning “God you look awful – beyond medical help – you’re best chance is a miracle!”

My only comment on this is – (and again this reflects the overriding theme of this post the tension between freedom of conscience and censorship) – if were constantly vigilant to the fact that what we say may be interpreted in ways we never intended and that the seemingly benign may transform before our very eyes into something heinous – then most likely we would be struck mute for ever!

Personal Concluding Thoughts

I had the misfortune of being seriously ill a couple of years ago and of being thoroughly dependent upon the care provided by visiting nurses. None of them to my knowledge openly prayed for me or asked about my spiritual wellbeing. And yet in their actions a broadly spiritual concern was expressed – and I am perpetually grateful to them for it.

I did in my sick bed recieve from concerned individuals good wishes (of a secular variety) and also expressions of religious sentiment.

There is some research that suggests that praying for someone (and informing them of it) may be cathartic to their recovery. There is also conflicting research that suggests the effects to be negligible.

Personally I found it a) satisfying – it is nice to know people care, but also b) irritating.

I found it irritating for three reasons philosophical and theologically formed.

i) I am quite fatalistic – it is not so much that something happens for a reason, but that things happen and one must make do with ones circumstances – Although I was in pain, and distress I quickly came to be at ease with my situation – it was out of my control, therefore I let go of my attachment to suffering. Consequently my suffering became redemptive, enlightening even, and I learnt more about myself in a short space of time than I had ever known in all my previous years.

ii) I am quite cynical and humble – God (if you happen to believe in Him) surely has far more pressing concerns than to worry about little old me and my ailments. Don’t pray for me, beg him to stop earthquakes, floods, famines, war, pestilence, and so on.

iii) I am a philosophical and theological disciple of the Rhineland School of Mysticism – exemplified by the teachings of Meister Eckhart. Prayer is a human institution – a psychological reaction to circumstance – it is not bad of itself but it can become an object of fetishistic attachment. It can be an obstacle to letting go of attachments, a vehicle of selfishness and a barrier to simply “being.”

In the New Testament Jesus is reported as praying on only a handful of occasions. Usually they are private affairs. Throughout them though is one common theme – that of the resignation of the self-will –  not mine but “thy will be done.”

This is the crux of ‘Christian’ prayer as Jesus is supposed to have taught it.

Eckhart summed up the selfishness of our attachments and our abuse of prayer when he said:

but if they should fall sick they would wish it were God’s will that they should be better. These people, then, would rather that God willed according to their will than that they should will according to His. This may be condoned, but it is not right. The just have no will at all: whatever God wills, it is all one to them, however great the hardship.

Eckhart coined the phrase Abegescheidenheit which loosely translated can mean living without a why. The lucky man is attchment free and is content with whatever befalls him, sickness, health, weal or woe.

Therefore this nurse’s case is in my humble opinion – no great offence to society or to the healthcare profession. In fact I would propose that her goodwill is such that it overflows and she is a fine model of what the nursing profession can be. Her suspension is therefore heavyhanded and sad reflection of the ease of misinterpretation. I wouldnt mind betting that the patient who mentioned it in passing, now wishes she had remained silent.

What this does represent though is perhaps an immature approach to her faith and to prayer. We all wish the sick to get better, we all wish to live long and happy lives. But life is not like that – the evidence is all around us to see. For some people this is a damning condemnation of the supposed goodness of God and perhaps demonstrative of His non-existence. For others it is simply demonstrative of the selfishness of the human ego that we should seek to define God’s will as compatible with ours. Some people find the approach of the via negativa uncomfortable, is a God that allows suffering or who shows no inclination of goodness worthy of our attention and worship?

The nurse didn’t do a bad thing, and is being wrongly persecuted. But the nurse most likely should have persisted in her caring capacity without the need for a public expression of her faith. By her actions alone – and indeed by the actions of the entire medical proffession – we may judge for ourselves what manner of persons they are. And if a patient requests some form of explicit expression of benign goodwill such as a prayer then regardless of ones personal beliefs one should be willing to offer it knowing that it is part of a holistic approach to wellbeing.

Causing and Taking Offense: variations on a common theme

Posted by on October 9th, 2008

“But I don’t even believe in Jebus!”

A classic quote from the Simpsons, where Homer, forced into missionary activity for his failure to honour a donation to a PBS fundraiser, takes the path of Peter and denies belief.

Rowan Williams (now Archbishop of Canterbury) once said of the Simpsons it “is one of the most subtle pieces of propoganda around in the cause of sense, humility and virtue.” and continuing in his review of a book “The Gospel According to the Simpsons” says “Mark Pinsky manages to decipher the code without deadening the humour which is quite an achievement.”

All comedy, indeed all narratives and utterances and communications are according to the postmodernists codes.

And in that very Simspons quote above (biblically inspired and borderline sacrilege) lies the essence of the coding in humour. Who would have thought (I didn’t until recently) that Jebus was actually the name of the city of Jerusalem before King David conquered it?!

The theological value of the Simpsons lies in its ability to do three things in particular. It presents the Simpson family as a religiously observant family (note this does not make them saints) and thus reflects the reality of life in America and other parts of the world. Secondly it conveys a variety of moral dilemmas in its storylines (without being preachy or even committing to one particular worldview). Finally it treats institutional religion with the same satirical criticism as it treats all institutions – the “Church” has its faults just as does freemarket Capitalism, but it does not propose the abolition of religion nor promote Communism.

Laughing about religion is important – particularly in the abrahamic religions where humility is presented as a virtue. But is it possible to go too far?

I think the problem lies in an inability to decode the Gospel (if you are Christian) and an unwillingness to read the text existentially. Jesus as the scriptures point out is human, and a part of humanity is humour. But few people seem to talk about Jesus in the vein of a comedian or teller of jokes.

Why is this? Well three possibilities. Some of what Jesus says or some of the Gospel narrative is serious (Crucifixion is particularly difficult to satirize without arousing cries of insensitivity – irrespective of the religious aspect to Crucifixion it is one should imagine a fairly painful and nasty thing to have happen or to witness). Some of the humour that Jesus uses is perhaps lost in transcription (you had to be there to get it), lost in translation, or simply lost in encoding for the modern reader. And of course some religous believers amplify an aspect of their religious heritage to the dimunition of another (thus the divinity of Jesus is preciously guarded by the morally sensitive, but his teachings to turn the other cheek, his dire warnings of the persecutions suffered on his behalf are forgotten).

I think the first and last point are the most relevant regards causing and taking offence and as has been discussed on this blog ad nauseum there is certainly room for a little leeway on both sides. One can cause offence but one can also seek to be offended and self-censorship (the only kind that has any worth) can be practised by all parties.

Elton Trueblood an American Quaker theologian wrote an interesting book called Humor of Christ (sic) on the subject of a joking Jesus. He suggests that indeed some parts of the Gospel narrative are intrinsically unfunny and that it may be rather difficult to find any humour in certain parts of the narrative. But he says it is a misconception (often peddled by humourless Christians) that it is all to be taken seriously and that there was no comedy at all in Jesus’s teachings.

He describes Jesus’s humour as being ironic, sardonic, and on occasions where needed sarcastic. Thus the inconsistent Peter (he of the prophesied denials) is nicknamed “the Rock”. The parables are full of sly, wry and absurdist and surrealist imagery, beam and mote, gnat and camel, camel and the eye of the needle (to mention just a couple of examples). Trueblood concurs with my suggestion (or vice versa) that there is probably also a great deal more humour that has been lost in translation.

I certainly will need to re-analyze many gospel texts in order to see if there is plenty more humour available. Matheww 24:28 for example is cited as an example of Jesus’s self-deprecating humour. Describing his ability to draw a crowd he says “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”

However as Pinsky argues a joking Jesus is not the same as a Jesus joke and perhaps it is at this juncture we must return to the problem of offence (caused and taken). Trueblood offers perhaps the best descriptive advice on the matter when he says:

” The only kind of laughter which can be redemptive is that which goes beyond scorn to recognition of a common predicament.”

It is for that reason that I have always found Father Ted funny, and find much in the Life of Brian that is virtuous. But it is that thin balance between laughing amongst ourselves (both believers and unbelievers together) at the hypocrisy, or idiosyncracies of those persons or institutions that hold themselves up as a paradigm of virtue, and the more sinister scornfulness that seems a predicate to prejudice of the most vulgar kind. How many ‘attacks’ on Islam are less about the religion and its values than about the cultures that have embraced it?

I guess I havent really added anything new to this debate. After all what price freedom? But perhaps I would repeat my old adage that the concept of “rights” is really a concept about competing values. The right to freedom of speech is put in peril next to the right to freedom of religious belief, or freedom from persecution. Once the debate turns to “rights” inevitably the argument becomes circular.

Well now I need to wrap it up – before this post becomes circular. Clearly some notion of balance is required but wherein can one find the common denominator that everyone of belief or nonbelief can adhere to and agree with? My only suggestion humbly proffered – but pessimistic of already – is a retreat from notions of objectivity and the embrace of subjectivity.

“Correlated” Facts and How Not To Play The Didgeridoo

Posted by Anti Citizen One on September 3rd, 2008

At the risk of repetition, there is a good piece on correlation on the BBC.

And a piece on offense overriding expression of ideas is also interesting.

I just finished The Gay Science. Really good and really quotable (unfortunately for you dear reader!). “April weather” is present in it.

Anti Citizen One

Photo Tampering

Posted by Anti Citizen One on June 4th, 2008

The Scientific American magazine has an interesting slideshow of Photo Tampering Throughout History.


Free Speech on Airlines

Posted by Anti Citizen One on June 4th, 2008

A man flying from Heathrow, London was recently told he could not board a flight wearing a t-shirt depicting a cartoon robot holding a gun.

An even more extreme case from 2006 was a man flying from John F Kennedy airport was refused boarding while wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “we will not be silent” in both English and Arabic.

My concern is any public statement can be suppressed if the forum of discussion is controlled by a private interests. We effectively sign away certain rights when we take a flight, go to the cinema, enter a shopping centre, visit someone’s home or comment on Facebook. We should choose companies that don’t ask for fundamental rights to be surrendered. If we cannot practically choose from alternatives, as with airports, our rights should be protected from the airport operator company.

Anti Citizen One

PS What is stopping the airlines demanding that no one wears the colour green on flights?