62 thoughts on “Apostasy and Blasphemy”

  1. petrushka Post author

    walto: FWIW, I’m not in favor of allowing people to yell “FIRE!” in crowded theaters either.

    There’s really not much similarity between yelling fire and making insulting speech or gestures.

    As other have pointed out, laws against insulting speech — based on the probability that insults will lead to violence — are counterproductive. All you have to do is threaten violence, and you shut down criticism. This is especially undesirable when violence is what is being protested.

    I have lived through at least two transformations of perception. In my childhood community, racist remarks were common and made in public without embarrassment. In my teenage years, anti-gay remarks were common and made with vigor. Both prejudices still exist, but have become shameful. Perhaps in a few generations they will be rare. Society has stopped reinforcing them.

    But there are differences between situations. Resistance to anti-gay and racial bigotry were nonviolent and incremental. Gays and blacks did not have anything like honor killing, stoning, lashings, or death sentences for heretics or apostates. They really did nothing to justify bigotry.

    The current problem with Islamophobia is that a significant percentage of Muslims in the world have political stances that are incompatible with western values. It is really actions rather than race or theology that instill fear.

  2. petrushka Post author

    George: I’m a pluralist. I think there can be assholes on either/any side of an argument.

    I tried to touch on that when I discussed fighting words. I have no respect for people who respond to words with violence, but I also think people who pick fights are assholes.

    The question I raise in the OP is about laws. Under the law, offended people just need to suck it up and demonstrate that they do not merit discrimination.

  3. waltowalto

    petrushka: George: I’m a pluralist. I think there can be assholes on either/any side of an argument.

    Yes. FWIW, I generally agree with your posts on this thread. I’d just lose the word “blasphemy.” It’s loaded with too much bullshit. But the point is that burning a book considered by somebody to be sacred is a lot like calling somebody’s mother a whore. It’s intended to be nasty. I don’t say it ought to be illegal, but I don’t see why there’s any a priori reason it ought to be allowed either. The merits and demerits have to be weighed–in consideration with current conditions and likely results.

    petrushka: I tried to touch on that when I discussed fighting words. I have no respect for people who respond to words with violence, but I also think people who pick fights are assholes.

    The question I raise in the OP is about laws. Under the law, offended people just need to suck it up and demonstrate that they do not merit discrimination.

    Each party needs to make its demonstrations that its view ought to prevail.

    BTW, I agree that yelling “Fire” isn’t exactly like burning books or flags or calling somebody a faggot or whatever. The point is that proscribing ANY of them is a limitation on free speech, which I think sometimes makes sense. Neither xtians, Muslims nor Randians should always get what they want.

  4. Kantian NaturalistKantian Naturalist

    petrushka: The current problem with Islamophobia is that a significant percentage of Muslims in the world have political stances that are incompatible with western values. It is really actions rather than race or theology that instill fear.

    I worry about how “‘western values” gets used in conversations like this.

    If “western values” means something like “the values of the Enlightenment” — respect for the rule of law, a secular state, a public sphere in which people of good will can discuss differences in worldview and arrive at consensus about which policies are worthy of support — then pleading for “western values” really means pleading for the secular/progressive side of “the culture war” internal to “western” societies.

    And, more importantly, the North Atlantic “Judeo-Christian” societies have no monopoly on that values. There’s no essential tie between contingent facts about geography and the values of tolerance, liberty, and rational inquiry.

    I highly recommend Appiah’s patient examination and criticism of the very idea of “Western civilization” here.

  5. PatrickPatrick

    George:

    I strongly disagree.Speech that is intended to incite people to violence is treated differently in the U.S. because the goal is violence.Blasphemy, which is nothing more than disagreeing about an idea, is not incitement to violence.

    Change the “, which” in the last sentence to “that” and I agree with you completely.

    I’ll stick with “which”. The definition of blasphemy is “the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk.” It’s a victimless crime. It is nothing more than refusing to treat religious ideas any differently than other ideas.

    But some speech that’s blasphemous can also attack the followers of that faith and in some cases can reach incitement to violence. For example someone criticising transubstantiation and then going on to attack Christians as cannibals. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s possible for attacks on religious followers to go under the cloak of blasphemy.

    Suggesting that Catholics are cannibals because they believe they are literally eating and drinking the body and blood of their god is merely following their positions to their logical conclusions (yes, I know the transubstantiation apologetics are more “sophisticated” than that). It’s certainly nothing that warrants the initiation of force. Make no mistake, force is exactly what you are advocating when you say “There ought to be a law . . . .”

    If you think there should be a law against incitement of violence, argue for that. We might have common ground there. Blasphemy is not a synonym.

    This is one of many problems with so called hate speech laws.“Hate speech” is free speech.No one should be arrested or killed for expressing an unpopular opinion.

    Yes, as I said above, no one has a right not to be offended. What I meant by “hate speech” (too loose, sorry) there was incitement to violence.

    Then just stick to “incitement to violence.” Leave out the thoughtcrime.

  6. PatrickPatrick

    George:

    It would show disagreement with the violation of freedom of expression by the Danish government.It would also likely start a conversation about militant Islamist reaction to non-violent expression.

    There are plenty of other ways to show disagreement, like protesting with placards or writing to your representatives.

    You would use force to prevent people from peacefully protesting in ways you do not personally approve of?

    In this case, I think burning Qurans would unnecessarily alienate Muslims (who might themselves disagree with the ruling), when you could reach the same obejctives with different methods. Also, I think the conversation about militant Islamist reaction to non-violent expression is already underway. Charlie Hebdo?

    Charlie Hebdo is an excellent example of why we have to stand up to militant Islam. Peaceful expression that criticizes religion should be protected. We shouldn’t give up our values because others might get violent.

    I’d say the assholes in this case are those who threaten to kill others in response to non-violent expressive acts.

    I’m a pluralist. I think there can be assholes on either/any side of an argument.

    Do you consider the assholery of the person peacefully burning a Quran or drawing a picture of Mohammed to be equivalent to that of the people who killed the Charlie Hebdo journalists?

  7. petrushka Post author

    I would not try to define western values as anything other than the common practices of “western” governments.

    There’s lots of variation, but basically the governments are secular and allow unfettered access to news, books, and information. They respect individual rights of conscience, and individual rights of privacy. Adult women have the same rights as adult men.

    Some rights are rather recent, so I do not wish to be self-congratulatory. I merely note that nations and organizations and people that do not yet respect these rights are considered somewhat behind the curve.

  8. George

    Patrick:

    You would use force to prevent people from peacefully protesting in ways you do not personally approve of?

    Do you consider the assholery of the person peacefully burning a Quran or drawing a picture of Mohammed to be equivalent to that of the people who killed the Charlie Hebdo journalists?

    You’re very good at reading far more into my comments than I intended. I’m merely observing that there all sorts of non-violent protests one might make and that setting out to offend large numbers of people might not always be the best tactic to use in getting your point across. Even if you do get that nice, self-righteous glow.

  9. PatrickPatrick

    George:

    You would use force to prevent people from peacefully protesting in ways you do not personally approve of?

    Do you consider the assholery of the person peacefully burning a Quran or drawing a picture of Mohammed to be equivalent to that of the people who killed the Charlie Hebdo journalists?

    You’re very good at reading far more into my comments than I intended.I’m merely observing that there all sorts of non-violent protests one might make and that setting out to offend large numbers of people might not always be the best tactic to use in getting your point across.Even if you do get that nice, self-righteous glow.

    You’re the one who said “there ought to be a law”. I’m trying to understand what it is you would use force to prevent.

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