The Watering Hole, Monday, January 19, 2015: Freedom to Misunderstand Free Speech and Religion

If you’re the type of person who actually gets off his couch and finds out what’s happening in the rest of the world (i.e., the places beyond the reach of your couch), you know that Free Speech and Religious Freedom have been in the news lately thanks to a bunch of murderous thugs who can’t even read their own holy books correctly. (But who can? They’re full of contradictions.) After killers who violated their own religion’s teachings falsely justified their actions by blaming the victims, the public discussion turned to whether or not people have a right to make fun of someone else’s religion. Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Why not? Do the things religions tell you to do make any sense in today’s world? I’m not talking about the general things, like to treat other people the way you would like them to treat you. You don’t need a religion to tell you that. You don’t even need a god to tell you to do it. It’s my own personal “Golden Rule.” No, I’m talking about how God is all-powerful, and he loves us all very, very much, but he lets Evil take over because he gave us all Free Will. It doesn’t quite cut it for me. You’re talking about one psychotic god there. The story as a whole just doesn’t make any damn sense. Admit it. If you’re supposed to live as they did at the time those holy books were written (more on that later), then why are we even close to where we are today technologically? Why don’t we stone people to death today? Why didn’t we back in 1787 when our Constitution was written? Why weren’t all the laws mentioned in Leviticus incorporated into our initial set of laws when the First Congress met? Could it be that we had a thriving fishing industry in New England, and the Framers thought the idea of making shell fish illegal was stupid? And speaking of religious laws, why are there three major religions all worshiping the same God, but doing it in vastly different ways? How can they all be the “One True Religion”? Why were they all started by men who wandered in a desert, where it’s hot and there isn’t enough water? Do you know what that can do to a human’s brain? Why would anybody back then think that what they said made sense? Why would anybody think it does today? But even more importantly, why shouldn’t anyone be allowed to point out how silly this, or any other, entire belief system is?

Religion is an idea. And like all ideas, it should not be accepted blindly without critical thought. If someone walks up to you and says, “You can live forever, but only if you follow these rules,” why would you just accept that without examining it carefully? Why would you believe it’s possible to live forever? I can see the appeal for some of wanting to live forever (I have depression, so no such thoughts go through my mind), but why wouldn’t you want some kind of evidence that proves what the person is saying? Why accept it on nothing but faith? Why accept the stories about the origins of the universe on faith? Wouldn’t you want people who have studied the Cosmos with scientific instruments, documented their findings, compared them with those of other scientists, and came to an intelligent understanding of what really happened to tell you how we got here, instead of just being told, “An invisible, omnipotent being willed everything into existence”? Why is that more satisfying? I simply don’t understand that. Why don’t you live in fear of that same god deciding to just do it all over again? The Covenant, you say? Sorry, God only promised never to destroy the Earth “by flood” again. He didn’t rule out other methods. And I bet this never occurred to you, either: He’s an omnipotent being. He doesn’t have to keep his promises if he doesn’t feel like it. What are you going to do, take him to court? Can I be there when you serve God with a subpoena to appear in court? Oh, and make it the Ninth Circuit Court. That should make things really fun. The point is, all ideas are subject to scrutiny and counter-argument. And reducing the other person’s argument to an absurdity (i.e., a contradiction) is a perfectly valid way of proving that the other person’s opinion is wrong. So it can no longer be used in support of the viewpoint expressed by that person, by anyone. Ever. And remember, if one of the premises of your argument is something with which I fundamentally disagree, you won’t convince me. That’s how argument works. You begin with a mutually agreed upon set of facts or premises. Then you propose what you think is a logical conclusion of those facts and premises. And this is the most important thing that some people don’t get about Free Speech: In the United States of America, the government is not allowed to abridge your freedom of Speech, meaning you can’t be jailed for what you say. That doesn’t mean the rest of us have to accept it as a valid argument in support of social policy, such as, say, making our laws conform to someone’s religious text which, in case those folks haven’t noticed, directly violates the first part of that amendment they hold so dear. And something fascinating on that dear amendment later.

So when Pope Francis said, “You cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people’s faith, you cannot mock it,” it’s important to understand that he was not speaking for American values. He wasn’t speaking about his own, apparently, either. If you’re going to try to tell me that God will strike me down with a bolt of lightning just for saying he doesn’t exist, then I have the right to point out that I’m still alive after typing that sentence. See? The idea that Religion should be off bounds for satire, mockery, ridicule, what have you, is a suppression of the very idea of Free Speech. Besides, what happens when you try to convert people from one religion to another (assuming you’re not doing it stupidly, like by the barrel of a gun)? You try to convince them they’re making a mistake to believe what they currently believe. (While I would also try to convince them not to believe what you believe, either.) Some people find my arguments against Religion in general to be offensive, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be allowed to make them. I find the concept of Religion offensive. It’s never made clear to its followers that they should never take what they hear as literally being true, and that leads to dangerous people going around killing because they think that’s what will please their gods.

One more thing about your dear First Amendment rights. You’ve often heard the claim made (by both sides, I’m sure, but that doesn’t matter) that our Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech were so important to the Framers (or Founding Fathers) that they were enshrined in our very First Amendment to our new Constitution, a document so revered and so loved, that it was amended almost immediately after it was ratified. (I’m joking about it, but it was a condition agreed to in order to win ratification.) Except those rights were not so important to them as you might think. The 27th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on May 7, 1992. It’s supposed to be a way to ban annual pay raises, so that newly elected Members of Congress couldn’t immediately vote to raise their own pay as soon as they took office. If they did, that law would not take effect until they faced re-election and voters had a chance to punish them for doing so. They got around it some how. But it was first proposed on Sept 25, 1789. It was the second of twelve amendments proposed that day. The First had to do with the number of Representatives guaranteed in the House in order to make sure one person wasn’t representing way more people than reasonable (like, say, 700,000.) It was never ratified, which is a good thing because if we followed the formula in it, our House of Representatives could have as many as 6,186 people in it. What about proposed Amendments Three through Twelve? What happened to them? Well, that precious right to freely practice the religion of your choice and to criticize the government and other stupid people, was actually in the third proposed amendment. It’s only the First Amendment today because neither of the two before it passed by the time it did. And one of those eventually passed to become our most recent amendment. So it’s not really as precious to the Founders as you might think. They were more concerned with making sure you mattered to your US Representative, and that he couldn’t vote himself a pay raise his first day in office. But they somehow still get annual pay raises, which seems to directly violate the precious 27th Amendment.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you want. It’s your right. Don’t worry. I’ll tell you if it’s stupid.


66 thoughts on “The Watering Hole, Monday, January 19, 2015: Freedom to Misunderstand Free Speech and Religion

  1. Religion is the opiate of the masses and, just like real opiates, they need their fix and will do shitty things to each other to get it.

  2. Back in the seventies when I was working in a bio research lab, I had a ‘science’ discussion with a heavy-duty Christian. We agreed on all of science back to the singularity that preceded the big bang and the origin of the universe. When I remarked that the one thing science didn’t yet understand was the origin of the singularity, he said, “Oh, that’s easy. God created it.”

    I asked, “Where did God come from?”

    “God is eternal,” he answered.

    I asked why he thought that, and if he was going to accept an eternity, why not just save a step and agree that the scientific principles that drive all of physics and chemistry are “eternal” and then note the lack of need for a creator, a god.

    His answer was predictable and went something like this: “I believe in God because Bible.”

    Conversation over.

    As my old college roomie liked to say, “The problem is faith. If only we could figure out how to get rid of faith . . . ” He was right. It’s that blind and carefully taught faith that drives the overwhelming bulk of the human dilemma. Without it, our species might find the means to solve problems via conscious thought, science, logic — but no, “we” invariably fall back and rely on fear, superstition, and errant behaviors because the Bible.

    Proves that ‘intelligence’ is not THE major driving force in H. sapiens; also proves that if man was ‘created in God’s image’ and that the bible is the ‘word of God’, then clearly God ain’t all It’s cracked up to be either.

    • Bill Maher had a good line in one of his many rants on religion… I’ll paraphrase: I don’t want to follow the beliefs of ancient man who didn’t know where the sun went at night.

  3. Not for me to talk American football … but He has a point….

      • LOL I heard that just now! All I know is that the Colts are feeling a bit deflated today.

        And I was a Russel Wilson fan until the interview at the end of the game. Damn, can’t players keep their superstitions to themselves?

        • Yes, I mean when Wilson threw that touchdown pass in overtime…. clearly Jesus was guiding his hand and deserves all the thanks…. as He does for running a block on the covering cornerback as the Seattle receiver made the catch. Oh and that poor lad who couldn’t catch the onside kick, Jesus shone a laser pointer in his eye just as the ball arrived….I bet those Green players failed to pray sincerely before the game, or maybe they beat their wives or bet on dogfights or something.

          Superstition in sports is a zero-sum game – the believers who are good with jesus get uplifted to sporting glory so obviously the losers are goat-fookers and blasphemers to Jesus, it’s spiritually obvious.

  4. A Hasidic rabbi, talking about daybreak, the time for certain holy prayers, asked his pupils how they could tell when night had ended and day had begun.

    “Is it when you can see an animal in the distance and know whether it’s a sheep or a dog?”

    “No.” answered the rabbi.

    “Is it,” asked another pupil, “when you can clearly see the lines in the palm of your hand?”

    “No.” answered the rabbi.

    “Is it when you can look at a tree and not too far away and tell whether it is a pear tree or a fig tree?”

    “No.” answered the rabbi.

    “Then what is it?” asked the pupils.

    “It is when you can look on the face of any man or any woman and see that they are your sister or brother. Until then it is still night.”

    Hasidic Mondo

    Happy MLK Day.

  5. Pope Frankie tackles the whole ‘If God loves us and is all powerful, why does he let children suffer?’ thing.

    “Why is God allowing such things to happen, even if it is not the fault of the children?” she asked the Pope, breaking down into tears as she spoke.
    “She is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer…” said Pope Frankie.

    Wait, he didn’t tackle the question, he punted it. Or did he just say there is no God?

    • Lots of ‘us’ non-theists started out right about there: “Why is God allowing such things to happen . . . ” and the concept of ‘free will’ invariably came up short. Still does. Shorter day by day till there ain’t nothing left. Took me about ten yrs., longer for some, including Frankie apparently.

  6. I love listening to the radio. Just spinning the tuning knob, and finding something that interests me (usually just music – talk radio is hard for me to stomach any more).

    While listening to a rural station that was playing some great 80’s and 90’s music, they cut to the farm report; fine. Horribly done local ads; amusing and fine. And then they cut to a short (about 3 minutes) Mike Huckabee segment.

    I hadn’t heard right-wing spew in a while, and it’s so grossly oversimplifed and self-serving. Anyone with half a brain (rhetorical point on my part) would be able to see right through it. But as frugal mentioned above, faith is blind. Be it faith in your myths, or faith in your doctrines.

    Along those lines, so tired of people complaining about the protesters and posting crap that seem to suggest that the police are dieties of some variety (not civil servants, with a less than stellar history in this country) and that these black people had it coming to them.


  7. No, you felon, it’s neither interesting or a parallel. Just velcro the back of your hand to your forehead and be done with it. And why aren’t you behind bars yet?

    • Right on, the nation that killed more Americans than all other wars put together and enslaved millions of others and came closer to destroying the Constitution than Hitler, Tojo, Prescott Bush and the Soviet Union put together….. let’s celebrate that bunch of bastardos….

    • I lived in Arizona when Gov Bruce Babbitt declared the MLK holiday. I was there when Gov Evan Mecham reversed Babbitt’s proclamation. I was there when the first MLK holiday ballot proposition failed, and I was there when the second ballot proposition passed and MLK-Day became a reality in the first state to put it to a popular vote and pass it.

      I was also there when my wingnut cousin said that to him, MLK-Day would be more appropriately called Black Monday.

      Here’s something I wrote about halfway through that process, after the first ballot issue failed, about the time the State Legislature refused to do anything:

      On Dr. King and His Holiday:>
      (“Let’s vote on it,” the bigots say,
      “We hate the spooks, so we’ll vote ‘nay.”‘)

      Some liked the Reverend, some did not,
      To many, Martin lived in sin,
      But while most rednecks have a pot,
      (Above the belt, you know the spot)
      It’s clearly not for pissin’ in!

      Now, Julian Sanders, Architect,
      Hates Martin’s foibles; deems himself
      As our ‘White Knight,’ to help reject
      King’s day (black sin, we can’t accept!)
      But white sin? Hide it on the shelf!

      Thus, drawing strength from Fascist Right,
      King’s holiday he did rebuff,
      Though ignorant, to our delight,
      That Kings are always Kings, despite
      The fact that once a “Knight’s” enough!

      Still, lawmakers, in reverie
      (Like babes in woods with no foresight),
      Enjoy their own soliloquy
      While fearing their constituency,
      With little ken of what is right.

      With stroke of pen, they could defuse
      Az’ image, seen as quite retarded
      By those with more enlightened views;
      But still, they say, they must refuse,
      Since ‘think’ in Az ain’t well-regarded!

  8. The Seattle Seahawks think winning the NFC championship is exactly like Martin Luther King’s civil rights struggle

    • She’s either forgotten history lessons or was never taught them.
      Tantaros would never think to actually study to expand her mind.
      It was her GOoPer clan that divided this country.

    • The mother tells the authorities it was a paint ball…turns out a .22 bullet.
      This is not accidental. Stupidity needs to be addresses and not excused.

    • Our neighborhood gets trash pickup on Monday. Mine was almost the only one not out, also. Of course, this is Alabama I’m talking about. (Robert E.Lee Day)

    • That was hilarious. And so spot on!
      By now Faux must realize no one takes its ‘news’ seriously and will mock for comedic reaction!

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